Wednesday, May 31, 2006

To Buy: The Book of the Dead

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's new book came out yesterday. I have a lot of catching up to do on their stuff before I'm ready to read it, but I loved The Relic and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of their stuff.

My understanding is that most of Preston/Child's books are self-contained, even though characters cross over from book to book. This one is the third volume of an honest-to-goodness trilogy though, featuring FBI agent Pendergast and the New York Museum of Natural History again in a story about Pendergast's violent rivalry with his brother.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Lost: Season Three spoilers

Spoilers Below!

In an interview with SCI FI Wire, Lost executive producer Carlton Cuse didn't reveal any particular plot points, but was pretty liberal about the direction of the show next season. The Others will be a big focus, especially since this season's finale left Kate, Jack, and Sawyer as the Others' captives. For that reason, Henry Gale will continue to be an important character.

Cuse also promised that we'll learn more about Desmond's gal Penelope and that there'll be plenty of lovin'. Claire and Charlie are obvious subjects for romantic stories. I'm rooting for Desmond and Pen's relationship to be explored, but that's just 'cause I want to see the excellent Henry Ian Cusick featured more on the show.

Speaking of actors, The Hollywood Reporter says that the show's looking for a couple of new actresses to join the cast now that Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros's characters are dead.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Speaking of mucking about with old movies...

Warner Home Video is releasing Blade Runner: The ACTUAL Director's Cut, We Really Mean It This Time. Everyone knows the story of how Ridley Scott didn't get to make the film he wanted with the original version of Blade Runner, because he ran over budget and the money guys took over and gave it a crappy voiceover and happy ending. That's where the first Blade Runner: Director's Cut came in.

What I never knew was that Scott wasn't completely happy with that version either, claiming that he was rushed and unable to give it the attention it deserved. Anyway, the For Real Director's Cut will be released in theaters in 2007, the 25th anniversary of the film. A special edition DVD will follow with all the versions of the movie and other bonus material.

LucasFilm, you need to be taking notes.

No good! No good! It didn't go in.

I've already explained my apprehension about buying the upcoming releases of the original, theatrical versions of the first Star Wars trilogy. Looks like I was right to be nervous.

According to sites like Video Business and The Digital Bits, the prints for the original versions come from "laserdiscs of the films released in the mid ’90s." Video Business explains, "This means that Episodes IV-V1 will be presented in widescreen but not anamorphic, thereby not making full use of modern TV screens."

LucasFilm defends the move by saying that they "felt there was little need to invest resources into sprucing up films that have already been restored to pristine form." Forgetting, of course, that the films that were restored are not the original versions, but "the late ’90s theatrical versions (that) represent George’s vision for Star Wars." Lucasfilm also stated that they "hoped that by releasing the original movies as a bonus disc, it would be a way to give the fans something that is fun. We certainly didn’t want to be become a source of frustration for fans."

That's what bugs me about this whole thing. There's obviously a huge market for the original versions, but LucasFilm treats them as throwaway material. That shows a large disconnect between LucasFilm and fans. Whereas fans were far more excited about the ability to buy the original versions of the movies than they were about the two-thousandth release of the Special Editions, LucasFilm thought of the Special Editions as the main event and the original versions as a fun throwaway item.

LucasFilm goes on to say that "at this time, there are no plans to release the original ’70s Star Wars versions in high-definition." That's actually the best news of all, because it's exactly the same thing that they said about releasing them in the first place. My hope is that the large fan outcry about this whole thing will make LucasFilm realize the demand for quality versions of the original movies. It's not an unfounded hope. That George does love a buck.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Three little words

Lost. Action. Figures.

Okay, two more words: McFarlane Toys.

Shannara graphic novel and prequels

When I first read Terry Brooks's The Sword of Shannara, I was torn about it. On the one hand, it's a total rip-off of Lord of the Rings. Change the Ring into a Sword, the hobbits into a couple of innocent, young brothers, Gandalf the Wizard into Allanon the Druid, and you don't even have to change anything about Legolas, Gimli, and Sauron but their names.

On the other hand, it was completely entertaining. Tolkien-lite, maybe, but face it: there are parts of Tolkien that can use lightening.

When the sequel The Elfstones of Shannara came out, I liked it a lot more. Same entertainment value; original story. I got kind of sidetracked after that, but I've always wanted to revisit the world. (I did read the prequel First King of Shannara, but that was sort of like seeing the Star Wars prequels after already knowing what happens in the original trilogy. It was kind of neat, but didn't move the story at all.)

My interest in things Shannara is renewed with the recent announcement that Del Rey books is planning to publish a Shannara graphic novel by Terry Brooks. Not an adaptation of an existing novel, but an all-new story that doesn't exist in any other form. Del Rey says that retailers tell them readers don't want adaptations, but new material. God bless retailers, and God bless Del Rey for listening to them.

Actually, Brooks is writing the story for the graphic novel (called Dark Wraith of Shannara), but Robert Napton will be adapting it to comic script form. Edwin David will be illustrating it. Both guys have done work for Image Comics.

Publishers Weekly did a nice story about all of this and you can also read more about it here. Brooks himself talks about it a little in this interview about his upcoming series Armageddon's Children.

Neither the interview nor the website for the series says so, but Brooks's description of Armageddon's Children make it sound like something he mentions on his site. In the interview, Brooks asks the questions: "If this world that we’re living in actually follows its thread that it’s currently on and eventually implodes under the weight of its own mistakes, mismanagement and poor decision-making, what would happen? What would be left and how would the world rebuild? And what shape would it take?" On his website, Brooks says that he's working on "a set that will eventually link the Great Wars of the Shannara pre-history to the advent of the First Council of Druids at Paranor." As anyone who's read any of the Shannara stuff knows, the "Great Wars of the Shannara pre-history" were, in fact, the result of a world that imploded "under the weight of its own mistakes, mismanagement and poor decision-making." Even though the marketing is vague, the math is pretty easy.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Re-Runs Get Lost

There's a nice AP article about all of the mysteries and thrillers that are coming out in the Fall on TV. Honestly, most of the descriptions don't do anything for me, but once we start seeing ads and TV Guide has had a chance to look them over, I could change my mind.

The coolest part of the article for me is the news that Lost will go re-run free next season a la 24.

In other Lost "news," several blogs are "reporting" that the Lost season finale will answer some questions, while leaving others unanswered and raising still others. I also understand that the episode will take place on an island.

Friday, May 19, 2006

To Buy: Jim Henson Fantasy Manga

Cinescape is reporting that TOKYOPOP will be releasing manga sequels to both Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.

Return to Labyrinth will debut at the San Diego Comic Con in July and picks up with the Goblin King's (David Bowie) still keeping a close eye on Toby, the baby he stole from Jennifer Connelly in the Jim Henson-directed, George Lucas-produced movie. Only Toby's no longer a baby and, unbeknownst to him, the day has finally come for him to take his rightful place at the Goblin King's side.

Jim Henson's other popular fantasy story, The Dark Crystal, will also get the manga treatment from TOKYOPOP in early 2007. The series will be called Legends of the Dark Crystal.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fall TV and What It Means for Me

I've struggled to stay interested in Smallville for the last half of this season. The show's gone completely over the top with various Kryptonians possessing various Luthors and the desire to drag out and beat to awful, bloody death the Clark-Lana relationship angst. Honestly, the only reasons I've kept watching have been Chloe and Lois. The final nail in the coffin for me though is that ABC is moving Grey's Anatomy to Thursday nights.

Grey's is going up against CSI, in the hour following Smallville, but I'm never home on Thursdays and my DirecTV prevents my being able to set up the VCR to change channels in between shows. That means that I either get TiVo or I make a choice about what channel to record on Thursdays. With as good as Grey's Anatomy is, there's no contest. I'll be recording ABC. (My youngest brother is a big fan of Smallville, so I'm sure he'll keep me in the loop if the show starts to get good enough that I need to borrow someone else's VCR.)

Another change in my TV viewing this fall is that Surface has been cancelled by NBC. It wasn't a great show, but of the three new "alien" shows this season (Threshold and Invasion being the other two), it was the only one to keep my interest. It got pretty hokey by the end of the season though and I was pretty much only watching it for Lake Bell.

Other shows that I currently watch -- Gilmore Girls, The Unit, and Lost -- all seem to be staying where they are. The only new show (so far) that has my interest is J.J. Abrams's Six Degrees about "a group of strangers brought together in New York City by a series of mysterious coincidences." Frankly, I'm not as excited about that as I was by the concepts of Alias and Lost, but I'm always willing to give J.J. Abrams a shot.

I've Got a Bad Feeling About This

Lucas is trying to kill my excitement over the DVD release of the original versions of the first Star Wars trilogy. Not only is he tying them into the Special Editions (which I'd hoped to buy in a fancy box set along with the prequels and be done with it all), but he's also putting some very silly cover art on them. Not only can I not have the whole series collected as nicely as I'd hoped; they're not even going to look good.

30 Days of Night Movie Update

According to Fangoria, there are some very exciting developments on the 30 Days of Night film.

"Location scouting and casting is currently on (director David) Slade's plate, and it's no secret that most of the action is happening in New Zealand. This makes perfect sense, because Fango has learned that Academy Award-winning Kiwi FX workshop Weta (Lord of the Rings, King Kong) has aligned with Slade to provide Night its array of ferocious bloodsuckers."

The article goes on to say, "No word yet if Weta's designers are working from the original source material as a conceptual diving board," but artist Aaron Sims says on his website that he's working as the concept artist for 30 Days of Night. (He's really good, by the way. That's his work in the picture, though it's not for this movie.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I've Got a Good Feeling About This

Still catching up on some news from when I was sick. I know you've heard about the impending release of the original versions of the first Star Wars trilogy. I'll save you the usual, vindicated, "Han shot first," "original is best" verbage that's accompanied most of the blog posts about this news. Instead, I'd just like to offer up a big "I Told You So" to all the nay-sayers who thought that Lucas's revisionist hubris was greater than his love for a buck and believed him when he said that the Special Editions were going to be the only versions available.

The original versions will be available individually in two-disc sets that also include the 2004 digitally remastered versions. They'll come out on September 12, stick around for Christmas, then disappear again (for a while, at least) on December 31st.

In other Star Wars news, producer Rick McCallum has announced that the TV series is still a long way off (at least a year-and-a-half) and denied the reports that it would be based on the Skywalker family. Instead, he said that it would focus on all-new characters and added, "Think bounty hunter."

The most telling comment of his though was that "it's still really, really early stages. (Lucas) hasn't really sat down to think about which direction (he's going in)." Reminds me of the days during the original trilogy where we'd hear all this stuff from Lucas about things he hoped or planned to do in the movies, only to find out later that he'd had to go a different direction. At the end of the day, the TV show will be whatever it turns out to be. Trying to keep up with its progress along the way will probably be useless.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Happy Oz Day!

Frank Baum would've been 150 today. He was born in Chittenango, New York and published a children's book about witches, spooky trees, and evil flying monkeys in 1900.

I've never read any of the Oz books (though I hope to once my son's old enough), but I saw the movie often enough in my childhood that the scarier images from it became significantly seared into my imagination and directly led to a later love of chilling, creepy stuff.

To Buy: The Faithful Spy

I like spy stories, but I'm picky about them. I grew up reading Ian Fleming's stuff and frankly, I don't really care if I never read another spy novel. I can always go back and re-read those. But every once in a while someone comes along with something new to say about the genre other than "the Columbian drug lords are the new Soviets" or "Muslim extremists are the new Columbian drug lords." Alex Berenson seems to have done that.

Berenson's The Faithful Spy doesn't exploit the events of 9/11 and the War on Terror. It uses them to create a situation that couldn't exist at any other time. Well, maybe it could, but not as powerfully. According to Bookgasm, "CIA agent John Wells is pretty deep undercover. He’s immersed himself among the mujahedeen of Afghanistan, gone to fight for Muslims in Chechnya, converted to Islam, and done what no other agent has been able to do: infiltrate al-Qaeda to the point that many of the terrorists believe he’s on their side. He might have done too good a job, because after failing to provide an alert about 9/11, the CIA isn’t exactly sure what side he’s on."

I don't think I'd be interested in reading an entire series about John Wells, but watching him get out of this particular mess sounds like something I definitely want to do. And who knows? If Berenson comes up with another adventure that's just as intriguing, I'll probably be up for that too.

Coming Soon: Red Sonja Movie Redux

Gonna spend a little time this week catching up on news from last week when I was laid up. You may have heard that there's a new Red Sonja movie in the works. Not much is known about it other than that it's being produced by the same guys who brought you 16 Blocks.

Has to be better than that Brigitte Nielsen nonsense though, eh?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Cough Hack

No, I'm not a smoker. I just like that picture. I am however, a recovering pneumoniac, the revelation of which is supposed to explain just where the heck I've been all week.

I'm not only behind in blogging; I'm also behind in reading and watching the things that I usually talk about on this blog. You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to read and watch things while laid up, but you'd be wrong. There was much too much sleeping to be done.

I'm feeling much better now though, thanks. It's amazing what drugs can do for a proberly diagnosed condition. Yay, doctors! And nurses!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Captain Nemo Returns to the Big Screen

No, not the version from the horrible League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie. This one (according to Variety, again via Ain't It Cool News) is a new adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Craig (Scooby Doo, Cheaper by the Dozen) Titley is the writer, and though his filmography isn't impressive, his take on the property is sound. He's writing it as a period piece set at the time the novel was written and promises to "put some of the novel's classic scenes that have never been filmed in any version onto the big screen for the first time. That and a few surprises along the way."

The "surprises" comment may concern purists, but frankly, I've never met a purist when it comes to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Everyone I've ever talked to about the book agrees with me that it's an overly long, tedious read with a weird ending. There are some cool sequences along the way though, so if Titley can bring those to life while making the rest of it more exciting, it could be a cool movie.

Either way, it'll be interesting to see how they cast Nemo. If he'll be an Eastern fellow as depicted in Verne's sequel The Mysterious Island, or Western like in the Disney movie.

Dracula Sequel May Not Bite

According to Variety (via Ain't It Cool News), there's yet another Dracula movie in the works. This difference between this one and the thousand others before it is that it's been Officially Sanctioned by Bram Stoker's estate as a sequel to his novel.

What's confusing to me is that Ain't It Cool News also calls it an Officially Sanctioned sequel to the 1931 Bela Lugosi movie. That doesn't make any sense because the Lugosi film was based on the stage play version, which differed radically from Stoker's novel. And the Lugosi film was set in the 1930s, while the novel is Victorian. This new film (called The Un-Dead, after the dropped sub-title to Stoker's novel) could be the sequel to one version or the other, but not both.

It reminds me of Boom! Studios' claim that their War of the Words: Second Wave comic picks up "where the novel and all the other adaptations – the movies, the radio show - left off." It's just not possible once you realize that the novel and it's various adaptations all take place in vastly different time periods. But I digress.

At any rate, the fact that the Stoker estate likes it is good news. The fact that the director is Jan de Bont may not be such good news. He did Speed, which was a good action film, and Twister, which was an okay action film, but he also did Speed 2 and the Tomb Raider sequel. His only horror directing credit is for the remake of The Haunting with Lily Taylor and Liam Neeson, and that doesn't bode well.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Convention Report: MicroCon 2006

MicroCon turned out to be a great show. I expected to have as much fun as I usually do at these things, but it far exceeded my expectations.

I was supposed to meet Grant, Jess, and Darla at McDonalds for breakfast at 7:00, so I'd set my alarm clock for 6:00 to give me time to get by the bank for some change in case someone actually wanted to buy something from me. But like the kid in the Disney commercial I was "too excited to sleep" and I woke up before the alarm.

I love driving early on Sunday mornings. Even though I live in a large metro area, the interstates are completely empty. So, already in a great mood, I zoomed to the bank and got to McDonald's in plenty of time to meet the guys.

It had been raining for two days before the convention and was still raining the day of. That turned out to be the best possible scenario for attendance. Folks were tired of being cooped up inside their homes, but it was still too nasty for them to play outdoors. What else could they do but go to a comics convention? As a result, we had a steady stream of visitors all day long.

I usually sell a few comics at conventions, but unheard of anthologies by unknown authors are tough sells, especially when one of them is a $10 trade paperback. For that reason, I'd put together some cheap mini-comics, thinking they'd sell much better. Not so. People wanted the expensive stuff on Sunday. I even sold a Cownt Tail (my first venture into merchandising).

Best story of the convention was a young kid, maybe ten or eleven, who was very excited about Tales from the Inner Sanctum #1 (the $10 book). After flipping through it and barely containing himself, he rushed off to grab his dad. Dad came back and flipped through it, they talked a bit (I didn't eavesdrop) and walked away. So much for that sale, I thought. Then they came back with mom. More looking; more talking. At that point I jumped in and explained what the book was and that while there's no nudity, it is a horror book and that there's some blood and profanity. I told them that I didn't want to make the decision for how appropriate it was for their son, but that I didn't want them to take it if they weren't comfortable with it. Not only did they buy it; they got my website address so that they could order the second issue if they wanted.

I've complained before about my stuff not being suitable for kids. I've no one to blame but myself, but I wish that I could draw more kids to my table like Grant does to his with all his cool Star Wars and Lord of the Rings stuff. There's nothing like seeing a kid excited by comics, and that feeling is exponentially heightened when the comics are ones you helped make. I don't expect to get a big kid following with the stuff I've done so far, but it was really great to see that young fella so thrilled.

I also made some nice networking connections at the show. A couple of different publishers were making the rounds and I got some promising business cards when they came by my table. Nothing I want to share yet, but my creative wheels are turning as I try to think of appropriate pitches to submit to them.

After the show, Grant and Jess and I went to Perkins to debrief over breakfast food. Even though Grant wasn't feeling well, we had a great conversation about the comics biz and I was inspired to start taking the business part of it more seriously. I am not a business man, but at some point I'm going to have to start keeping track of my earnings and business expenses. Expenses far outweigh earnings right now, but hopefully that'll change at some point and I might as well start disciplining myself for it now. I started by saving the meal receipt.


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