Whiplash Movie Review

JK2Disclaimer: This review is largely spoiler-free

A few weeks ago I reviewed George Miller’s screamingly loud and bone-crushingly good Mad Max – Fury Road.

This week’s movie, Whiplash, breaks only a few bones, but is almost as loud, and is definitely as good.

I’ll start with an admission: I’m late to the party. Very late. 2014’s Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle, has already earned three Oscar wins and numerous other accolades. That said, it’s my opinion that not enough people have been exposed to it. So if this review convinces even one person to check Whiplash out, I’ll claim success.

So…

Like Jazz music much? Maybe? Maybe not so much? It’s ok. While planted on my couch during a 1AM Redbox DVD screening of Whiplash, my first worries were: ‘This is a jazz movie. What was I thinking?? I should’ve picked something else. Or maybe just watched some porn.” And yet, two minutes in, any fears of drowning in discordant jazz and wonky music vanished. Into. Thin. Air.

Early on, we see a different J.K. Simmons than we’re used to. Gone is the friendly guy from the Farmers Insurance commercials. Gone is the affable, calm dude from J.K.’s previous films. Instead we get a badass. And I’m serious. As Fletcher, the leanest, meanest jazz instructor ever, J.K. is shredded. He’s an all-black-wearing, door-slamming, fist-shaking maniac. He’s a force of f’ing nature.

And it’s apparent he’s made it his mission in life to mold Andrew (played to perfection by young and talented Miles Teller) into the planet’s best drummer…or kill him in the process.

JK3

“Faster!”

As an interesting aside, it should be noted that Miles Teller played ALL his drum pieces. He had a head start, being born of a musical family, but even so. His dedication to learning some of Whiplash’s more extreme rhythms is admirable, and adds tons to the movie’s realism.

So what’s it really about?

Whiplash is primarily a struggle between two men. Fletcher’s win-at-all-costs mentality are at permanent odds with AndrewFletcher wants perfection, nothing less, from his musicians. And perhaps no instrument requires perfection more than drums. Andrew’s willing to bleed to become the best, but still manages to be overwhelmed by Fletcher’s never-ending stream of F bombs and insults. As the movie drums on, literally, the questions become: “Is greatness only achievable under enormous pressure?” and “Is there a such thing as going too far to win?” I know what MY answer is. If you watch or have already watched Whiplash, I want to know YOURS. Because therein lies Whiplash’s soul. It’s Pain versus Reward. Sacrifice versus Greatness. Living a full life versus Having a Singular Dedication. The movie puts us in the proxy position of asking how far we’d go to be the best at something.

Would you bleed? Would you suffer? Would you give up every comfort? Most of us wouldn’t. But perhaps Andrew might.

The supporting cast is small, but more than capable. Veteran Paul Reiser plays Andrew’s concerned but ultimately powerless father. Beautiful Melissa Benoist charms as Andrew’s unfortunate love interest, Nicole. Austin Stowell and Nate Lang are formidable rivals in the studio for Andrew to wage war against. They’re all very good, but reduced to mere pawns in the Fletcher v Andrew struggle. And that’s ok. This isn’t their film. It’s J.K.’s and Miles’.

As another aside, if you like drums of any kind, you’ll love Whiplash’s talent, if nothing else. The speed and excellence demanded in the film transcend genres. It’s obvious this isn’t a movie about jazz at all. It’s about power, skill, and using means to justify the ends. But even if you don’t care about all of that, the drums…are…epic.

Let’s be clear. I Redboxed Whiplash on a hunch. I’d never heard of it prior to plugging it into my DVD player, and I’d no idea what to expect.

…which made it all the better when it turned out to be fucking awesome.

Rent it. Watch it. In the dark. Preferably alone.

And when you’re done, check out my latest philosophy title here.

Love,

J Edward Neill

Gotta Get Back In Time…

The season finale to The Flash was last night. While I’m going to try and avoid the BIG spoilers, there are some things that peeked my inner time-travel/butterfly effect interest.

3167440-the-flash-logo

The basic dilemma in the show was this:

Barry Allen (that’s the Flash to me and you) has the opportunity to travel back in time and save his mother’s life (she was murdered by his arch-nemesis when he was a child – hey, superheroing is complicated business!). Throughout the episode much of the thought process is on whether or not he should even try. Whether he should literally rewrite history. And he struggles with this, to undo one great act of evil will could then unravel time so that any good things which happened afterwards might never happen.

And here’s the thing, Barry is a hero. He’s spent the last year since becoming the Flash saving people.

What happens to those people? Will that one guy get pancaked by the truck… heck, will he even be in the same place at the same time as the truck?

Different doesn’t necessarily equate to better. There are going to be paths taken and not taken such that the world he comes back to may not exist in any form he recognizes.

What if he comes back without any powers? What if he comes back and his father is now the one who died rather than his mother? What if his life has gone completely to hell? The death of his mother shaped his life in a way that he can’t begin to comprehend.

And all of that is just a taste of what could happen if time is malleable in any way. What if that isn’t the case? Maybe time a stream that can’t really be altered? If you throw a rock into a stream, sure you’re going to get ripples, but the stream will continue on unabated. Meaning he could save his mother only to have her killed by some other random incident.

Is that what we’re dealing with?

And what if you back a dump truck of rocks to block the stream?

In fact, the last time he managed to change much of anything time didn’t seem to like it very much and made his “updated” life twist and turn such that it would have been better never to have changed anything.

time_travel

Throughout media whenever we are given these glimpses of the way things could be (or the way the characters contend they SHOULD be) it isn’t always the way we really wanted. Much like the wish from the Genie of the Lamp or the Deal with the Devil there is just too many variables and not enough constants to ensure that you are going to get exactly what you want.

The movie version of HG Wells’ The Time Machine (the one with Guy Pearce) had time such that the past could not be changed. It would self-correct almost immediately. And no matter how many times he went back to save his true love, TIME ensured that he could not.

Then again, perhaps Barry gets to have the Marty McFly treatment. His life was certainly changed for the better (at least after the original Back to the Future). His brother and sister are both employed (no longer layabouts), his parents are more in love than he could have hoped for, and Biff is relegated to a car washer.

Heck he even gets a brand new truck out of the deal!

However, Marty didn’t have a choice. In fact, he was simply trying to return things back to normal so that he wouldn’t cease to exist completely. The good stuff was a happy accident you might say.

Will Barry be that lucky? Could he be that lucky to get the perfect life? And even if he does, is it worth everything he knows. Because all those connections with his surrogate father, and his crush Iris, and his new-found friends and… and… and…

So many unknowns.

So many strings that could unravel.

Is it worth it? Is it worth it to play the ultimate What If Game?

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Mad Max – Fury Road Movie Review

ImmortanJoeDisclaimer: This review is mostly spoiler-free.

Last week I reviewed understated sci-fi marvel Ex Machina. This week I saw another sci-fi movie, Mad Max, Fury Road.

It’s a sci-fi movie. Sort of.

And George Miller’s battle-tastic epic is the opposite of Ex Machina in almost every way.

It’s likely the original Mel Gibson Mad Max was among the pioneers for how we treat post-apocalyptic stories in the modern age. Earth population: drastically reduced. Nuclear fallout: yes. Crazy people fighting for survival in a crazy world: check.

Fury Road honors that tradition…and jacks up the awesome by 400%.

So you say you like action films? And that you don’t have much patience for movies slowing down in the middle? And that you crave movies which pull zero punches? Yeah? Yeah. Fury Road is for you.

Tom Hardy’s Max Rockatansky, blood-bag to a cult of fallout-diseased but utterly badass oil and water hoarders, really gets the shaft. I mean really. Every situation he’s in is bad. I mean, not that there’s much good in living in a irradiated desert wasteland dominated by spiky-car driving warlords, but Max might have it worst than most. He’s a universal blood donor, meaning he’s viewed as nothing more than a fuel-sack for the baddies, who suck his veins nearly dry just to extend their short, violent lives. Good luck, Max. Good luck.

Even when Max meets a truckload of the most beautiful women left on Earth, he still gets no play. Sucks for him.

Enter Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, badass among all badasses. While her motivations aren’t really known until the end, her willingness to crunch bones is evident from the beginning. I suppose if I were driving a truck brimming with such hotties as CapableThe Dag, and Toast the Knowing, I’d have a completely different goal in mind. Luckily Furiosa is all business, all woman, all tough, all the time. And I confess, while the stunts she pulls are over-the-top, it’s all entirely believable. Fury Road wears no kid gloves. When people die, good or bad, it’s visceral. Just the way it should be. I’ve heard complaints that this is more Furiosa’s film than Max’s. Bullshit. It’s everyone’s movie. There is no one superstar. Everyone does awesome shit. No one’s left behind.

Now let’s talk about the bad guys. Hugh Keays-Byrne plays the skull mask-wearing, willing-to-do-anything-to-get-his-beautiful-concubines-back Immortan Joe. In a way I can’t blame Joe. He’s got water. He’s got a loyal-to-the-death cult. He’s got several stunning concubines. And he’s got a monster truck with a freakin’ cannon on the top. If someone stole your hotties, you’d probably go bat-shit crazy, too. And if you had a skull mask, you’d probably wear it.

Don’t forget Nicolas Hoult’s Nux. This guy is proof that matter how much white body paint you wear, how many times you spray your mouth with silver paint in preparation for the afterlife, you can still find redemption. And honestly, it’s in Nux we find the movie’s true soul. It’s there. I promise. You might have to squint to see between all the carnage, but you’ll see it, and when you do, you’ll love it.

Max

Max ridin’ shotgun on the hood of Nux’s battle wagon.

Where Mad Max, Fury Road really scores its win is in its pace, its ruthlessness, and its sense of purpose. It’s relentless. It’s the loudest movie I’ve ever seen, so loud that even if you’ve got jerks in your theater talking or whatever, you will not hear them. You’ll tune them out…easily. Junkie XL’s superb soundtrack backs the sometimes absurd, always entertaining feast of destruction. I’m listening to it right now, and it’s boomtastic. And when Fury Road does manage to ease up on the gas pedal, the moments between the world’s most epic chase manage to be meaningful, tense, and believable. You may find that hard to swallow. You may think, “Action movie = no plot worth caring about.”

You’d be wrong.

There’s both glory and substance here.

But even if you don’t care about that stuff, you’ll get all you asked for and more in what’s sure to be the best action movie of the year.

Go now. Drive fast. Put explosives on your hood and spikes on your fenders.

J Edward Neill

If you like violent, epic stuff, check out my Tyrants of the Dead series here.

Ex Machina Movie Review

Ex-machina-uk-posterDisclaimer: This is a mostly spoiler-free review

In the modern realm of wide-release films, it’s rare to see science-fiction movies that are:

A. Unabashedly intellectual

and

B. Not reliant on hyper-violent technological advances

Ex Machina is both of these.

I saw this movie in a cozy, nearly empty theater.  I felt torn about the empty part, because I worried it might mean not enough people were interested in the kind of movie I’d like to see a whole lot more of. Apparently that’s not the case, since to date it’s netted a cool $18.7M. That’s good news. Great news, actually. Meanwhile, the experience was almost ruined by a few stereotypical loud-ass movie talkers. But the offending parties managed to shut up long enough for the rest of us to focus.

Thank goodness for that.

At first, Ex Machina comes off as boy-meets-girl completely flipped on its head. Caleb (played to nerd-fection by Domhnall Gleeson) is an apparent coding whiz for a huge computer search engine company. When he’s selected to travel to a mysterious, almost CIA-like black box facility, he does so with glee. And who wouldn’t? For an opportunity to meet Ava, the world’s most advanced android, most of us would leap in headfirst. And the setting in Ex Machina is so realistic, one begins to believe something like this can…and will…happen someday soon. Go Caleb. Get some.

If Arnold Schwarzenegger was the perfect person to play the original Terminator, Alicia Vikander (who plays the aforementioned android) is perfect-er. She’s eerie. She’s beautiful. And she nails every little tic you’d expect from a woman-robot. It’s clear from the beginning who owns the dialogue between Ava and Caleb. And it ain’t Caleb. I have to believe Lady Vikander will score big based on her performance here. She echoes the strength of Game of Thrones’ super-heroine (Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen) and frosts it with the sort of intelligence you’d like to see Hollywood give more of its female roles.

Very quickly, the boy-meets-girl vibe melts away.

For those who aren’t aware of what the Turing Test is, I recommend you study the concept. It’s the frontline premise of Ex Machina, and quite possibly (in part due to this year’s epic The Imitation Game) a new piece of vernacular everyone will soon become familiar with. Essentially, the Turing Test is the methodology for determining whether or not an A.I. can behave human enough to trick us into no longer knowing it’s a computer. If the computer fools the human, it passes.

Turns out the one inviting Caleb to perform the world’s most important Turing Test (on Ava) is the buff yet emotionally FUBAR Nathan (played to frat-brother genius levels by Oscar Isaac.) Nathan is like a chessmaster working both sides of the board. He’s got tech game like no one’s business, and a penchant for working off his hangovers by pumping iron and intimidating the slim, non-alpha Caleb. Nathan’s motivation is the question of the hour. It’s clear he wants more than just a Turing Test. And it’s obvious he gets his rocks off by head-fucking people. But the lines between antagonist and protagonist are blurred, just as they should be.

Where Ex Machina really succeeds is in its pace, its dialogue, and its atmosphere. Caleb’s encounters with Ava are blocked off into seven sessions, each of them growing in intensity. Conversations between Caleb and Ava have a permanent shadow lying overhead, a subtle reminder that she’s smarter, quicker in her learning curve, and possibly deadlier. And the hyper-realistic, we-could-picture-these-moments-actually-happening, verbal sparring between Caleb and Nathan leave one needing to know what comes next. Even once our suspicions of dread become tense enough to snap.

Not to be underestimated is the melodic yet somewhat dark soundtrack. Composers Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow blend their music so well into the film I knew halfway through I needed to buy it and play it…over and over again. Which I did end up doing.

untitledAnd then there’s the end sequence. It’ll be hard to watch without wanting to see it again and then immediately becoming a part of the growing online discussion. I’ve read many takes on the path of evolution Ava takes. Some speak of sweetness, others of liberation, but I saw something darker. Watch it twice, I say. And tell me you don’t sense one possibility for how the world might end.

 

So if you crave MORE than robots with laser guns, spaceships doing things that are impossible in space, and over-the-top future battles, go see Ex Machina.  It’s a solid A, and the best sci-fi movie to hit theaters in a long, long time. And if I have a special love for it, it’s also because the director, Alex Garland, is also an author and screenwriter. Would that I were so talented.

From time to time, I’ll review more movies.

Sorry ’bout that.

Get into my coffee table philosophy series here.

J Edward Neill

 

Casting for Nether Kingdom the Movie

Nether Kingdom. Makepeace_DevourerofStars-500x358

The last movie book in the Tyrants’ trilogy.

Pretty much the darkest thing ever.

So the cast has to be perfect, right?  Kinda like this one.

 

Let’s get to it…

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Andelusia

Emmy Rossum – She’s back again as Andelusia Anderae. She’s more powerful and beautiful than ever. Everyone wins. Except her enemies.

 

Unctulu

Timothy Spall – Notable for his excellent and creeptastic work in Harry Potter and Sweeney Todd, Tim will make a sublime, wicked, and barbarous Unctulu come to life.  Part-time assassin, full-time vulgar sadist, I wouldn’t pick anyone else to pull this role off.

*

Tom Hardy Daedelar

Tom Hardy – Ladies, feast your eyes. Good acting lovers, feast your hearts. Tom Hardy has the chops to pull off pretty much any role, but in Nether Kingdom he’ll shine as the quick-witted, womanizing pirate Daedelar. Is he good? Is he bad? Wait and see…

 

 

 

*

Nephenia

*

Christina Hendricks – Of Mad Men fame. She’s strong. She’s badass. And she gets to play the no-BS role of Nephenia, Princess of Yrul. No man stands a chance with her, save for one…

 

*

 

Thresher

Nathan Jones – Remember this guy from Troy? He was only onscreen for about a minute before Brad Pitt killed him, but he definitely left an impression. A massive, dangerous, inhumanly strong dude is needed for the role of Unctulu’s sidekick, Thresher. Lock Nathan behind a few hundred lbs. of iron armor and give him a sword big enough to cut the world in half. And afterward, he can pull off double-duty as the undead horror, Myklokain. Get to killin’, Nathan.

*

Voice of the Ur

Benedict Cumberbatch – Most of you know about him. He’s killing it in Sherlock, and more recently, his leading role in The Imitation Game.  But in Nether Kingdom, we’ll never see his face. He’ll be voice-acting only, a la Sauron in the Hobbit movies. Only this time, he’ll be even more diabolical. He’ll be the one and only voice of the world…ending…Ur.

 

*

Grimwain

 

Richard Armitage – Mass murdering, swashbuckling, king-butchering, nation-destroying. Leave your Hobbit and Robin Hood roles in the dust, Richard. As the wicked Lykaios, you’ll pretty much get to be the worst dude ever. Have fun. If I could act, this is the role I’d want.

 

Marid

 

UnknownMarid of Muthem. Finally, I’m stumped. We’ll need someone young, British, and believably cast as Andelusia’s lover. He’ll have to be innocent, yet full of wanderlust. Plus pitifully in lust with our heroine. Suggestions??

*

And reprising their roles from Down the Dark Path and Dark Moon Daughter:

*

Saul

Daniel SouthernSaul of Elrain. Crankier than ever.

 

 

*

 

Garrett

Henry CavillGarrett Croft. Good guys gone bad.

 

 

Archmyr

Lee PaceThe Pale Knight, Archmyr Degiliac.  Bad guys gone…well…badder.

 

 

*

 

Ghurk Ghurlain

Daniel RadcliffeGhurk Ghurlain. A quick role, to be sure. But another one who’ll get to crush on Emmy Rossum. Better than Hermione, anyway.

 

It’s gonna happen.

It’s only a matter of time.

Nether Kingdom – Spring 2015

J Edward Neill

Creative Interview with Filmmaker/ Screenwriter Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins

I’m going to be straight up with you guys and gals, I’m kind of biased on how much I respect the subject of today’s creator interview. She’s talented, driven, and she’s my lil’ cousin.

Who I’m unabashedly proud of. 😀

Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins has studied the craft of film making internationally in London, on our own shores in the great NYC, and has honed her craft working on such indie productions such as “Alto” and “Global Tides”.  In addition to being an accomplished photographer, Gabrielle is currently conducting an Indiegogo campaign for a sci-fi dystopian short film she’s written and will direct called “Criminals”.

The filmmaker recently took the time to speak with the Tessera Guild about her career, the campaign, and indie film.

Can you start by telling us a little about yourself, your background in film, and just being a creator overall?

I became drawn to the arts at a young age, focusing on dance. After suffering a severe dance injury, I decided to continue my passion for arts and focus on filmmaking. I have always been drawn to films and when I was about 12 years old, I used to write stories that I wanted to see on the big screen. At that time, I wanted someone else to direct them. Then, I realized I could direct the stories I wanted to see.

I have a B.A in Film Production from Brooklyn College and a Certificate of Completion from the Met Film School in London where I studied film producing. I started working as a Production Assistant on music videos and feature films. I recently worked as an Assistant Director on a wonderful feature film called “Alto” directed by Mikki Del Monico.

What drew you to filmmaking? What about the medium drives you to create film?

Filmmaking is such a beautiful and powerful medium. It influences our society. As a teenager, I didn’t realize how much film and media influenced me. How I saw myself on screen or if I didn’t. What I watched influenced how I interacted with people without me even knowing.

That is one of the reasons that I became a filmmaker because I would like to see more diversity on screen. Not just in terms of race but also telling unique stories. I feel that watching a great film is like watching a painting come to life.

Talk to our readers about your short film “Criminals”, and the Indiegogo campaign. What about the science fiction/ dystopian future arena appeals to you as a filmmaker/ screenwriter in terms of storytelling?

I have always been drawn to abandoned buildings and characters that are seen as outcasts from society. There is great beauty in darkness if you can see the light.

The film takes place in 2040. Our characters, Ian and Ariana, are the last surviving members of an underground movement called the E.G.O. A massive manhunt for their capture takes place, in response to their infiltration of the notorious officer program and stealing confidential government files. They escape into the woods fighting to reach their last hope for survival. Will they make it to Nuevo Acuerdo, a society untouched by the government?

 I have always been drawn to science fiction/dystopian future films and novels. Octavia E. Butler is one of my Criminals Movie Posterfavorite authors and her work has greatly influenced me. For this particular film, I wanted to write within this genre because in some ways I feel  as a society this is where we are moving towards, unless we experience a serious wake up call. Climate change, violence and so much more is something that shouldn’t be ignored by the masses.

We currently have an Indiegogo campaign running to raise money for this film. All of the money raised will go to the making of the film. There is a breakdown on the site, and the campaign ends on April 2. Check out the link for more info here.

Is science fiction a particular favorite in terms of film genre’s to create in, or does this include a variety of other genre’s?

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres to watch and write but I am also heavily influenced by other genres, such as film noir and even comedy. So depending on the story, I like to combine genres.

“Criminals” is definitely science fiction but with a film noir touch. I have a super random taste in movies so I think that helps a lot. My goal is to write a film in every genre.

Once I write a story and create the characters then I come up with the genre. I always have an idea of where I want it to go but usually the characters tell me what type of film it should be. For example, “Criminals” started off as a modern drama, but once I knew the characters and developed the story further, the genre had to change.

 A common saying nowadays is that the field of independent filmmaking has become more level, with the advent of new technologies, greater access to information etc. Do you feel that this is the case? Why or why not?

I think there are two ways to answer this question. I think in terms of making an independent film, you do have greater access thanks to digital filmmaking. There are also so many ways for people to watch films now. You can upload to websites, like youtube or vimeo and people can view your work. Also there are so many festivals, that accept many different genres and stories.

However, if you want to have your film in theaters, I think that is still pretty tough for indie filmmakers. Not that it’s not possible, because it definitely is, but it’s harder for an indie film to get wide release in theaters than a Hollywood film. 

Are there any filmmakers, or films that you feel have been an influence on you as a creator? What about those creators, or works speaks to you?

Tom Tykwer is an incredible filmmaker and his film “Run Lola Run”, is one of my favorites. The story is just so different and the moment I saw it I was in love with it.

 Gina Prince-Bythewood directed “Love and Basketball” and most recently “Beyond the Lights”. I love her work because you become so emotionally attached to the characters. I love how naturally she writes and directs human interaction.

 The television series “Breaking Bad” to me was just pure brilliance. The writing, the acting, the direction, just everything. I was blown away by this series and needed a support group when it ended.

 There are so many other films, television shows and filmmakers that I can go on and on about because there really are so many. I love the classics like “All About Eve”, “Alien” to comedies like “Friday”. I love films that make me think and sometimes I just need a good laugh. I am all over the place with the types of films and TV shows that I watch.

 All of these artists work speaks to me simply because it makes me feel something and makes me think outside of the box.

What can fans look for from you in the future, and where can they find your current work?

After this short I plan on working on a web series, and then work on a feature film that I wrote. This would be my first short that I directed so the current work I have has been on some great projects where I worked in other departments. I am also a photographer and my work can be viewed on my website.

photo

Gabrielle Aliké Hawkins​​​​​​ as Assistant Director on the feature film “Alto”

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate ‘Build Your Own Bad’ Guy Quiz

MonsterForest

So.

Ever seen a movie and thought, ‘That monster was cool. But I can imagine cooler?’ Ever read a good book but wished the villain were more of a badass? Ever daydreamed up a monster more terrifying than any hero can handle?

Good. I think you’ll like this quiz.

Answer the following ten questions and tally up your points. A’s are worth 1 point each, B’s worth 3 points, and C’s worth 5 points. Once you’ve answered all the questions, scroll down to the bottom and see what kind of abomination you’ve created.

Here we go…

Which of the following is most terrifying to you?

A. Skeleton, ghouls, and zombies. Relentless, slow-walking horrors.

B. Psychotic criminal types. Leatherface, the Joker, Freddy from Friday the 13th.

C. Monstrous, skyscraper-toppling horrors. Godzilla, dragons, the alien ships from Independence Day.

Where does your monster live?

A. In a crypt, a dungeon, a basement, or a vast underworld labyrinth stuffed to its top with bones.

B. Right behind you. It’s watching you…right…now.

C. Far from mankind. Out in the wilderness where no one dares to go. Or perhaps even on another planet.

How does it prefer to kill?

A. Claws, teeth, swords made of bone, axes forged in Hades.

B. A projectile to the back of your head. You never saw it coming. Hey, at least it didn’t hurt.

C. By making you its dinner. In one bite.

How grotesque is this beast of yours?

A. Horrid, rotting, festering. I mean, this critter leaves pieces of itself on the ground as it crawls to get you.

B. Not grotesque at all. Maybe even beautiful or elegant. All the better to get closer to its prey.

C. Alien in nature. Chilling to behold. You’d be so petrified to see it, you might not even run.

Motivation, Motivation, Motivation

A. It destroys because it has to. It knows nothing but violence.

B. It’s cold and calculating, but hardly senseless. This monster gets a thrill out of ending people.

C. Because it’s hungry. And people are crunchy-good.

Look deep into its eyes. What do you see?

A. Death. Bottomless, frozen death.

B. Yourself staring back at you.

C. Hunger. Nom, nom, nom

When does it come to claim its victims?

A. Only in the dark of night. It haunts houses after the sun sets, stalks moonlit graveyards, and frolics in forests black and empty.

B. At any time. You’re never safe. Ever.

C. Once every 1,000 years. During which it destroys everything, and then sleeps in the core of a burned-out star.

How can it be stopped?

A. It can’t be. You can drive it off, banish it, or flee so far away it’ll take years for it to catch you. But kill it? Nah. You might as well let it kill you now, otherwise you’ll just die tired.

B. Guns, explosives, nuclear weapons. The bigger the boom, the better the chance it’s dead.

C. Go back in time. Destroy its home planet before it hatches. Or hope the luckiest shot ever hits this monstrosity’s one and only weak spot.

 If it could say one thing before claiming each victim…?

A. “Give me your soul…forever.”

B. “I could’ve ended you a thousand times before. But this time it’s for real.”

C. “You’re so small…so weak…so easily destroyed.”

Name your monster’s nemesis.

A. A monster hunter. Cold-blooded. As relentless as the terror he/she pursues. With arcane weapons, a low cowl, and no shortage of courage.

B. A lawman, a knight, or the poor sod whose wife your abomination slaughtered. It’s a little about justice, and more than a little about revenge.

C. A scientist, maybe even a wizard. Someone who knows when bullets and swords aren’t enough. Someone whose mind can engineer the perfect plan to topple the beast with brains, not brawn.

 ***

So…what abomination have you created?

0-15 points – A undead horror, but not a lowly zombie or skeletal swordsman. You’ve conjured up the lord of the undead, a lich, a monster with the might to summon whole armies of the dead. This baddie desires nothing more than to drag every living thing down into the underworld. Congrats, your nightmares must be epic. Collect bones much?

16-25 points – A demonic spirit. You probably enjoy movies like Evil Dead, Paranormal, and that awful Billy Zane flick with the Tales from the Crypt dude. Your monster has two forms: One is a fiery, twenty-horned demon lurking within a smoking hellpit. The other…a malevolent spirit content to haunt the minds of mankind. Forget taking over the world. Your monster likes causing mass pain. Just because it can.

26-34 points – Your monster is…a human. That’s right, apparently you think John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer are awesome guys. But seriously, you’ve made a demented, lighthouse-dwelling, prostitute-slaughtering freak. Living on society’s fringe, your messed up human might be a nutcase who dresses up as a clown and kills for thrills…or a sexy bombshell who lures men back to her apartment…and then icepicks them and strings them up for the crows to eat.  Good job. Seek help.

35-42 points – The aliens on TV and in the movies don’t hold a candle to what you’ve created. You’ve dreamt up a skin-peeling, flesh-wearing, human-liquefying extraterrestrial. Oh sure, they’ve got lava for blood, seven rows of teeth, and telepathic powers, but what really makes your alien beasts terrifying is their agenda. They won’t be content with subjugating a suburban city or a village in the boondocks. They want to enslave all of humanity, force us to build a doomsday machine, and then turn us into human oatmeal for a nutritious, delicious snack.

43-50 – Yep. You win. Your abomination laughs at all the others. Hope you’re happy. You probably high-five Cthulu whenever you get home or have a luxury condo in one of Smaug’s teeth. Your monster is big. Really f’ing big. Why mess around with killing a few dozen people when you can eat them all? In five minutes. If your tentacle-armed, ocean-drinking, city stomping monstrosity ever looked one of us in the eyes, we’d be helpless but to stand still and wait to be crushed, enslaved, or hurled twenty miles into the sky.

More absurd quizzes to come.

J Edward Neill

Author of this.

And this.

The World’s Greatest Comics Magazine…

The trailer for the new Fantastic Four was released today, and I really don’t have anything much to say about it. In fairness it was more of a teaser than it was a trailer. But I wasn’t upset by it, I wasn’t blown away by it… mostly I thought it was “Safe”.

fantastic-four

Through the grapevine over the last few months, in those places we comic nerds like to scurry to in order to read about the latest goings-on in comics, there has been a lot made of that this movie is a… I want to put this politely… a dumpster fire. They are currently (or maybe they are done at this exact moment) back in Lousiana to reshoot some scenes, which those who are anti-FF movie take to mean that things have completely spiraled out of control and the studio is even considering not releasing the film (yeah, I think the trailer today dashed that rumor). The others are out there waving their hands and telling everything there is nothing to see here, just standard operating procedure.

And so we’ve been left with a trailer that is ok.

But I was wondering as I watched it… are they trying to capture the imagination of those people far and wide? Do they assume that we know who those characters are? Even the final logo was just “FF”, not Fantastic Four.

All that seems weird to me.

I normally use my wife for these types of questions about comics and what the general public “might” know about them. This is less effective today versus about a decade ago, but I might ask her what Spider-man’s secret ID was and she’d respond with Peter Parker. If I asked (pre-movies), what the name of his wife was she’d probably shake her head.

And if I asked her to name the characters from the Fantastic Four, prior to the two previous movies, I know that she would have no clue about them. Even now, if I went into the bedroom, gently woke her up, and then popped that question I’m not entirely convinced she could name all 4 members.

This isn’t to say that Marvel (or Fox or Sony) shouldn’t do movies with characters that you don’t know. I believe Guardians of the Galaxy proved that if the story is good enough that we’ll fall in love with a walking tree and a talking racoon. But if you remember that particular trailer they went ahead and gave you a little bit of information about the characters within it.

Again, the FF trailer doesn’t do this. It is fast shot of people and moments that make little sense to me, and I know who they are.

Dr-Doom

I am worried about this character in the new movie. The term “social blogger” and Doctor Doom do not belong in the same sentence.

So it had me scratching my head more than anything else. Just trying to figure out what the marketing campaign for this one is all about.

And its a little worrisome because Fantastic Four was, for much of my life, either my favorite or second favorite comic that I read month in and month out. During college there was a stretch of about 6 months that the only three comic series I collected were Fantastic Four, New Warriors, and the Flash. It is one of those franchises I want to see do well. I want those characters to become household names in the same way that Wolverine or Iceman or Iron Man or Thor has become in the last decade.

The previous 2 movies don’t help with this either… though I will say that Chris Evans nailed the character of Johnny Storm (aka The Human Torch – another big-time favorite of mine) in every way through those 2 movies. But it is almost like people can’t figure out what the FF is about. They want to take one aspect of it and then change everything else, and it is seldom for the better. It even happens in the comics when new writers take over. They mention that they are going to go back to the core concept, back to those Stan Lee and Jack Kirby books… to differing success.

In my mind the Fantastic Four are different from all the other superheroes because:

They are a family!

That’s the biggest one. No matter how much they may disagree or f!ght amongst one another, I never doubt that they are that family, bound together by their love for each other. Too many times I think the stories are written so that the characters are driven apart because of some reason or another, and while that may work for a little while (very short while), they always come back together.

During Jonathan Hickman’s run on the book (I’m about 1/2 way through it as I’ve fallen behind on my FF reading) he made a bigger point of this by putting emphasis on Reed Richards and Sue Richards’ son and daughter. He made them integral to the stories that made them more than just another “superhero book”. In fact, one of my favorite moments in a comic was an issue he did just after the Human Torch appeared to be dead. Spider-man stops by to try and help Franklin deal with his uncle’s death… and does it in a way I wouldn’t have thought of immediately, but it is definitely one of those slap your head “of course” moments.

Fantastic Four-Spidey and Franklin

 

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Hickman got it. I hope this new movie does too.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

They Can’t All Be Bad, Can They?

Sometimes this blog of mine needs to become something of a confession. I feel like I live a life in the shadows where only the late night glow of the computer can sustain me. During the day I am one person, making decisions in my job, in my life, in my very conversations, and then there is the person that only a few people know.

He’s the one I want to talk about right now.

You see, this person has a problem. Actually that’s not entirely accurate. If you asked him he might not even acknowledge the problem as he sits there on the couch watching TV. We live at a time where almost every classic you’d ever wish to watch is available within seconds through some streaming service or by actually renting the item in question. Instant access.

And yet there he is, this version of me who I don’t want to claim, he’s watching the worst movies… over and over and over again.

It has to be a sickness. There is no reason that every time he sees movie X on the TV that he should watch it again. The only thing I can figure out is that he’s comforted by them in a way that others would not… could not ever understand. So in an effort to out this problem to the world, these are my favorite “Bad” movies. These are movies that without fail I find myself watching at 11 PM (who am I kidding, pretty much whenever they actually come on). And I understand that they aren’t good movies… I really do. I just can’t stop myself.

Note that this list does not include things that I actually feel are genius in some way – Office Space, Happy Gilmore, Tommy Boy, etc. nor does this list include romantic comedies that I would say are good – While You Were Sleeping. And it definitely does not include Side Out (the GREATEST VOLLEYBALL MOVIE OF ALL TIME – it is never on tv… ever).

No, these are just the worst of the worst… or maybe just the best of the best.

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Red Dawn – This is the original. I have no seen the remake, and I’m pretty sure it would only degrade the original in my head, so what would be the point.

Why do I love this movie? Well for starters it has C Thomas Howell in it, so it has that going for it. Seriously I think that this was one of those movies that capitalized on that inate fear of many in the 80s… this could actually happen. But the real reason is probably that it was teenagers who were fighting off the Cuban/Soviets. That sense of trying to think, even for a moment, that if the shit went down, maybe you could make a little bit of a difference. That appealed to the 12-18 year old me (and still appeals to the 38 year old me).

And who didn’t want to shout WOLVERINES? Put your hand down, you’re lying. We all wanted to do that.

Point Break

 

Point Break – I think this movie is amazing, if only for the most stilted line in movie history:

“You crossed the line. People trusted you and they died. You gotta go down.”

Considering everything that’s occurred between them, Keanu couldn’t muster a little more effort in delivering that line (or maybe they could have gone with another line).

But really, I love every moment of this movie. From the idea that the Ex-Presidents are surfers, to the fact that the FBI is paying Johnny Utah to go undercover, to the very real possibility that having a top notch college quarterback be “undercover” in anything would be a terrible idea (at least it seems like a terrible idea).

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The Replacements – Hey, Keanu makes the list twice. I love sports movies. Hoosiers is one of my all-time favorite movies, The Natural is amazing, and Bull Durham makes me wonder exactly how it is on those minor league teams. I love the idea that the majority of the time the guys we are watching are going to succeed and yet I still am engrossed in the movie.

And then you take these misfits, these cast-offs, and watch them come together under a washed up QB and a coach that was out of the league. I mean, these are the storylines they focus on every week on ESPN and here it is in a film. Make those over-paid divas the bad guys and let’s mix it up with those guys who are just happy to be there on the field.

Those are the guys I want to watch.

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A Knight’s Tale – I have no defense for this one. It is blasphemus to have Rock and Roll music as the soundtrack to a medieval adventure – though the dancing to Bowie’s Golden Years is good. It is terrible to have Geoffrey Chaucer in this film and make it seem like he wrote some of his stories based on Sir Ulrich Von Lichenstein’s adventures – though I like how they make him a gambling addict. There is so much bad that if I just talked to you about the movie in person, you’d wonder if I was preparing a Mystery Science Theater style mocking of it.

I still watch this one EVERY TIME it is on. I like the stuff with the Black Prince throughout the movie and then when Will is knighted. I like that this guy is trying to figure out what being a knight is all about, when he just needs to be himself.

I know, I know… very sappy. I can’t help it.

Bedazzled

Beddazled – This is the Brendan Fraser one, not the original one, which I feel like is much more sinister in its approach. I had forgotten about this movie until this past weekend when it came on and suddenly found myself watching it. This is one that actually has inspired me in my very first attempt at trying to write a novel. Now, not much more than the basic outline of a few chapters took place, but I love the idea of portraying the Devil as someone who is not just the boogeyman in our minds, but as someone who could actually have depth and caring.

But I also think that the Devil would try to screw over someone making wishes to the best of their ability. You’d need to be a top of the line lawyer in order to actually be able to make a wish and not have it backfire on you. And I’m guessing that the person/being who has been around since the beginning of time might still have more experience.

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Roadhouse – “Pain don’t hurt”

“I want you to be nice until it’s time not to be nice.”

“A polar bear fell on me.”

Patrick Swayze at his most Zen-like (well maybe 2nd most to Point Break). Let’s go through the checklist? Bouncer who is legendary? Check. Falls in love with the local doctor who patches him up? Check. Evil rich guy who controls the town? Check. To the death fight on the shore of some creek/river with the number 1 henchman? Check. Everyone getting a one-liner? Check.

If that’s not enough for you, then I don’t know what you want.

So that’s my demons. My skeletons in the closet. Exposed for all to see. I don’t claim that I will stop myself from watching them the next time they are on. I don’t claim that I won’t love them just as much. I mean, why deny ourselves the things we love…

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Stuck in the Middle with…

*Spoilers for a 75 year old book to follow.*

I finished up my little adventure with The Hobbit a couple of weeks back. With the end of the 3rd movie I actually felt a tug a my heart thinking that there more than likely wouldn’t be any more movies. After over a decade worth of watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy and then the Hobbit trilogy that just seems wrong somehow.

Stranger still is the fact that I didn’t like the Hobbit when I read it. Even walking out of the first movie I turned to a friend and asked, “Was the White Orc in the book… I don’t remember him.”

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

This guy, right here. How could you hate that face?

“No, they added him for the movie.”

“Oh… he should have been in the book. I would have liked it better.”

It’s terrible, terrible, terrible that I say any of these things aloud. Though it might be easier to understand if I was anti-Fantasy, but I’m not. In fact, most of my early reading was on the D&D pulp fantasy of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. There was probably a stretch during high school where I read pretty much anything TSR put a stamp on. I borrowed books from friends, scrounged extra change to buy the latest paperback, and so on. I immersed myself in those worlds. I loved it.

And yet, I hadn’t read Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. That was wrong and something some of my friends couldn’t stand for. Here I was reading all these novels that can trace the direct line back to Tolkien and how could I say I liked fantasy when I hadn’t read the original?

(Technically I think that is an argument for a different time. I maintain that you can like something now without knowing everything about how it came to be… and it doesn’t make the experience lesser for you.)

So I broke down. I borrowed the Hobbit and set out to read this watershed novel.

hobbit cover

I got about 100 pages in and put the book down…

for about six months.

I almost NEVER put a book down once I devote 100 pages to something. But I’m sorry, I was BORED. A level of boredom that I have only experienced one other time while reading – Interview with the Vampire where they first reach Paris (nothing happens for like 30 pages). When I finally got back to the book I settled in. I mean, they were off to kill the dragon! I can get behind that.

And then this nobody, Bard, ends up killing the dragon. Who?

What a rip-off!

So yeah, that was my experience with the Hobbit. I never bothered with Lord of the Rings because of that. So when the Jackson movies were announced I thought that I would certainly see them, but it wasn’t Star Wars or something. It would be nice to see something that was Fantasy on the big screen.

And of course I loved those three movies. And when the Hobbit was announced as three movies I didn’t growl and moan because of it… I was happy because there would be three more movies. And when he deviated from the novel I was glad again, because I didn’t like the novel.

And I liked that I could put a face on Bard and at least have some understanding of who he was and why it works if he kills Smaug. The movies add a breadth to the worlds that capture my imagination in a way the book never was able to.

And maybe I was too old to read the Hobbit, being in high school rather than at age 10 or 11 (or possibly younger). After I had finished I told my friends what I thought, and their response was that I should have read Lord of the Rings first as it was the “adult” series.

Sigh.

But even if I loved the novel, I have yet to figure out the reason for the vitriol that people have against the movie(s). They don’t like that certain things aren’t brought in, but then they bitch about the extra stuff. They don’t want 3 movies, but…

I’ve read plenty of books that have been turned into movies and I treat them as different entities. Just because I think movie version of X thing isn’t as good as the book… it doesn’t ruin either of them for me. If the movie was god-awful, then I would just go back and hug my copy (or Kindle nowadays). And if the movie did something better… great.

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After Lord of the Rings I expected a bevy of fantasy movies, and I’m pretty much still waiting. Luckily Game of Thrones made it to tv and I was turned on to that series, but overall it is sad that in all these tomes and texts nothing else has been adapted and taken off. And a part of me wonders if it is the fanboys (and girls) who have complained it to death? More than likely that’s not the case.

So my journey through Middle Earth is at its end. I still do have on my to-do list a Saturday session where I watch all 6 extended versions of the movies and not leave my house for the day. Maybe, maybe after that day I might be ready to leave those movies behind.

But probably not.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Creative Interview With Novelist/ Comic Book Writer/ Bobby Nash

For today’s creator interview installment, we sit down with the prolific, and award winning author, Bobby Nash. The author of such works as Alexandra Holzer’s Ghost Gal: The Wild Hunt, Snow Falls, Evil Ways, Domino Lady: One Shot, and the recipient of the 2013 Pulp Ark Nominee for Best Novel, Earthstrike: Agenda, Nash show’s no signs of slowing down, with a host of other titles scheduled to be released in 2015.

 To begin with I just want to say this: you write like a mad man! And I mean that in a good way. Do you get that a lot? 

I have heard that a time or two, yes. [smiles]. When I decided that this was the path I wanted to travel, I set goals for myself and headed toward them. My stubbornness came in handy with helping me to keep going and I never looked back.

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Tell us about yourself. Where you’re from, what got you into writing professionally, and some of your training.

I was born and raised in Georgia, which is where I still live. I fell into writing, oddly enough, because of my desire to be a comic book artist. Turns out that my art skills leave a little something to be desired, but I was writing stories that I could draw. Somewhere along the way, other artists I knew started asking me to write for them so I decided that maybe I could be a writer/artist. Thankfully, a friend of mine pointed out that writing was my real strength and suggested that I focus on it instead of splitting my time between writing and art. He was absolutely right. Then one day I sold a comic book story to a publisher. It’s been a roller coaster ride ever since.

I don’t really have much in the way of formal training. I’m mostly self-taught, although I’ve picked up some hints, tips, and tricks along the way from others. I took some night classes at UGA focused on creative writing, which were quite useful. We would bring our writing in and read in front of the class. That instant feedback came in handy plus there was the happy side effect of helping me to get past being shy and awkward in front of a room full of people.

What’s the first thing that you remember writing?

WOW. That is a tough one. I wrote some truly horrendous comic book stories back in my elementary school days, but the less said about them the better. I started writing short stories in high school. I remember we used to be given a list of words each week to use in a sentence. I was bored one week so I actually wrote a story and used the words in it. The teacher thought it was neat and encouraged me to keep it up. I had fun doing it and even set up the challenge of ending stories on a cliffhanger that I would have to resolve the following week when we received our list of words. I learned a lot about writing doing that.

Is there a particular genre that you prefer to play around in, and why?

I do like to play in multiple genres, but I always find myself drawn back to crime thrillers, although they can have other descriptions added to them like pulpy crime thriller, action crime thriller, sci-fi crime thriller, you get the point. I grew up with PI’s on TV, books, and movies so I developed a love for the genre. I like solving crimes, at least in my writing. It’s not something I really attempt to do in real life.

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How does a typical writing session work for you? Do you have any “tools of the trade” that you use?

Typical is a relative term. I used to write full time so my day generally went, wake up, write for several hours, take a dinner break, watch TV, write, go to the gym, watch TV or read, bed, then repeat. Now that I’m back among the corporate working life, my writing time is pretty much limited to the weekends, which goes much the same as before. I spend a lot of time sitting in front of the laptop.

Not sure if I have any specific tools of the trade handy. I write on an old laptop using an outdated version of Word. Everything else is just in my head.

You’ve done a bit of screenwriting (the web series Star Trek: Farragut), and acting (Camp Massacre, The Following, Fat Chance). How have your experiences been working in this realm both behind and in front of the camera? Do you feel the practice of speaking in front of your writing critique groups prepared you for jumping into this arena?

Well, I’ve dabbled. I have a few screenplays under my belt, but three produced, two with my name on them and one that I did a script doctor job on that doesn’t bear my name. Each was unique in the way they were worked. Of those three, 2 have been produced and the third, a short film, is in production. It’s a lot like writing comic books in terms of how I set up the pages, focus on dialogue, and things like that. I will say though, that it is really cool to see actors delivering your words. I hope to do more screenwriting in the future.

I don’t think of myself as an actor. Most of what I’ve done on The Following, Satisfaction, Dumb and Dumber To, Halt and Catch Fire, Three Stooges, etc. is work as an extra. That involves a lot of walking back and forth most of SF COI BN banner3the time, but I’ve had some fun times doing it. Working with Kevin Bacon , almost knocking Matt Passmore down with my carry on bag, and standing next to Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey as they did a scene are definitely three of my highlights.

Working as an extra also gave me a chance to meet a real life FBI agent (while I was playing an FBI agent on The Following) and that led to a nice meeting where I got some really interesting insight into the FBI for my upcoming Evil Intent novel. That was a nice bonus.

Learning to read my work out loud absolutely played a role in helping me do this type of work. If you can’t look up and stare straight ahead on a set, you’re no good to the filmmakers. It’s hard to be shy on set.

Congratulations for receiving the 2013 Pulp Art Award for Best Author. Can you talk a little about winning the award?

GG FINAL CVR frontThanks. It was quite an honor. As you know, I’m not often at a loss for words, but when I read off the list of winners on the old All Pulp site, I actually scrolled past it before it sunk in what I had just read. I was literally speechless for several minutes as I tried to digest the news.

Winning an award is an odd thing. Even though you don’t write any differently than you did before winning, having an award adds a little extra something to your work for many readers so hopefully, it helped open up my work to a wider audience. The biggest change is having people refer to me as “award-winning author Bobby Nash,” which is pretty darn cool, but it did take some getting used to as well.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from a fellow writer?

I don’t remember exactly who told me this, I want to say it was Beverly Connor, but I could be remembering it wrong. Regardless, the advice was that no one was going to care about my work more than me so I should not expect anyone else to promote it more than me. There is a lot of truth in that and it’s one of the reasons I taught myself how to market my books.

What can folks look forward from you in the near future?

Oh, 2015 looks to be a good and busy year. I don’t have dates for any of these yet, but here are some books to be on the look out for in 2015:

Prose: Snow Storm, Alexandra Holzer’s Ghost Gal: A Haunting We Will Go…, V-Wars vol. 5, The Ruby Files Vol. 2, Evil Intent, Blood Shot, Freelancer: The Traveler Sanction, an as yet untitled Nightscape novel, and a few others I’m sure I’ve forgotten.

Comics: the graphic novel adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ At The Earth’s Core (art by Jamie Chase), 000 ATEC CVR FRONT smDomino Lady Threesome (a new team-up series I’m co-writing with Nancy Holder with art by Marco Santiago and others), Operation Silver Moon (art by Rick Johnson), Strong Will (co-written with Mike Gordon with art by Wendell Cavalcanti and Rob Jones), All-Star Pulp Comics #3 (a Lance Star: Sky Ranger story with art by Rock Baker and Jeff Austin), and a few others in the works.

Yeah. Looks like a busy year ahead of me.

Readers can keep up with the progress and release dates for all of these projects and more at www.bobbynash.com

Thanks Bobby for taking the time to sit with us and talk about your career.

Thanks Robert.

Let’s All Go To The Movies!

Like many of the Tessera Guild members, I love movies. I love watching them, discussing them, buying them, collecting them, etc. Being able to chill and enjoy a great flick from the comfort of your home is always great. On the flip side, catching a great movie at a theater can also be fun.

Going to the movies has always been an “experience” for me. Whether it be a crappy slog of a film, or a great, bombastic summer time blockbuster, I enjoy catching flicks at my local multiplex. Maybe it’s the high priced popcorn. The trailer’s for upcoming movies. The expectation created when the theater lights dim. Or the collective sigh, laughter, or clapping from the crowd when a movie hits its mark.

More than likely it’s a combination of all of the above, with some other things added to the mix. Whatever it is, I love heading to the theater. So if you’ve got a moment or two, sit back and read on as I do quick run through of some of my most enjoyable experiences at the cinema.

::Cue lights dimming as the projector reel starts::

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Jurassic Park, June 11, 1993

Shortly after my brother and I moved to Georgia, the summer movie season was in full swing. Standing out from the pack like an alpha-movie blockbuster was Stephen Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel “Jurassic Park”.

Let me lay something out at this juncture: I was never a big dinosaur fan as a kid. Learned about them in school, thought they were awesome looking creatures, but never got caught up in the dinosaur obsession that apparently a lot of boy’s hit growing up.

So with this little nugget of personal history, my mind was still seriously blown when I began to see commercials for Jurassic Park.

Jurassic_Park_posterSpielberg had once again mined movie magic from the awesome depths of Crichton’s popular novel, and created a film that could possibly kick butt on a variety of levels. I distinctly remember going to a sold out show at the AMC Northlake Theater,in Tucker, GA.

As usual, Spielberg killed it. I remember the sense of wonder the first time I saw the Brachiosaurus grace the screen. Or the terror when the T-Rex destroyed  the roof of the SUV with Hammond’s grandchildren in it. And the joy of the numerous Jeff Goldblum-ism’s.

I primarily remember just having fun with my family, as everyone else around us jumped at the appropriate times, laughed during the light parts, and gripped their seats in nervous anticipation of what monster might appear around the next corner.

Thanks Mr. Spielberg.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phanton Menace, May 19, 1999

So we started with the good. Let’s move on to the opposite end of the spectrum.

I was in the home stretch of finishing high school, and it was a glorious time. I’d been accepted into college, I was working with my school’s literary magazine, and life was just friggin’ awesome.

And then there was The Phantom Menace.220px-Star_Wars_Phantom_Menace_poster

Not saying that this one movie destroyed my life, as many fanboys often declare. But it left a sour taste in my mouth when it came to the Star Wars franchise for a while. I’ve always been more of a Star Trek fan, but the sense of adventure and wonder that you get from watching the original trilogy is one that can’t be matched.

The Phantom Menace was billed as being the start of this generation’s Star Wars trilogy, as Episode’s 4-6 were for folks who’d been there at the series’ inception. Episode I was getting face time on MTV, Entertainment Tonight, a Weird Al Yankovic music video, and was just appearing all over the darn place. People were buying tickets in droves. It was insane.

And I’d never experienced anything like this. It was basically pop culture overload to the maxed out level.

So at the time I had a group of friends who were big Star Wars fans, and we decided to head over opening day to see it, right after school. We piled into someone’s car, swerved out of the high school parking lot like maniacs, and made it to the AMC at North Dekalb Mall with plenty of time to spare.

To say that being a part of something like this, on opening day, kind of shocked my nerd senses is putting it mildly. See, I’d always been sort of by myself when it came to such geeky pursuits. Sure I had friends who were into some of the same stuff that I grew up loving, mainly comics. But I found that before I hit middle school it was hard to find those guys and gals who were as hardcore about comics, sci-fi, cartoons, fantasy, videos games, etc. as I was.

fanslineupatSo when we hit the lobby of the theater, and I saw numerous folks dressed as young Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, or even Princess Amidala I thought to myself, “I’m home”. This was further solidified when we were let into the theater, and some of those same fans ran down the hall to get to our screening, as if compelled by the Force itself.

The geek expections were at a heightened pitch, as fans held mock light saber fights in front of the movie screen, and talked amongst themselves with excited voices.

Shortly after, the lights dimmed…….

That familiar word crawl began…….

And………

Well, you know the rest.

At least the light saber fights were awesome.

starwar1

The Matrix, March 31, 1999

It was spring of 1998. My cousin Tia was visiting from Chicago, and we’d decided to check out a movie. I’d been seeing a lot of commercials for an action movie with a lot of leather, slow motion, back flips, and the dude from Point Break. I thought it might be ok to check out, as I don’t remember anything else catching my eye. At least if it sucked, I could get a student discount on the ticket, and get a chance to hang with my cuzzo.

The movie was The Matrix.

Everyone in the theater had their collective mind’s blown. I mean, dammit, I’d never heard so much gasping, clapping, excited whisper’s, in a theater before that point. The experience I had watching that flick was a great one, and has only been topped by one other.

The_Matrix_PosterThis particular film has gone a long way in influencing my writing career, but also just kicked so much butt as a film going experience. I think that for most folks the movie was like nothing they’d ever seen before. Sure, Hong Kong martial arts filmmakers had been doing this style/ brand of fight choreography in the years preceeding The Matrix. And maybe a lot of folks saw the mash-up of the goth/ techno/ computer hacker culture hybrid and said “its been done before”.

But to get a movie of such stature, created by two nerdy brothers from Chicago who seemed to have filmmaking swagger for days, was a helluva beautiful thing to watch.

And to anyone who tells me that when they saw Neo fly away at the end of that flick, sort of saying “yeah, you just saw all of this mind bending awesomeness, but here’s a little something extra”, they didn’t collectively clap at the end of this flick, as it happened in my theater, y’all are lying.

And the biggest thing that stands out about this movie is that this came out pre-Internet, or at least pre- SPOILER era. I was genuinely surprised at what I saw, as I feel most folks in my theater were. And our movie going experience was all the better for it.

So those are some of my top movie going experiences. I’ve got a couple of others to add to the mix, but for now, I’ll leave you all with these to reminisce over, Please add your own movie going experiences to the comments below, and hope you enjoyed this.

Don’t trip Tiny Tim!

I didn’t grow up with Christmas for a portion of my early life. Being raised as a Jehovah’s Witness (yes, I probably knocked on your door at some point) meant that when it was time for the Christmas party at school, I went home instead. When other people were decorating their houses in lights and trees, I didn’t really think much about it.

Note, I’m not saying any of that because I’m sad about it. We still got gifts, just normally it would be in January instead (our “Gift Day” where I might have gotten extra gifts due to the post-Christmas sales… sneaky Mom there). And it just was how things were.

As I’ve gotten older and married Christmas seems to have grown up around me as well. But sometimes little traditions are completely lost on me. For example, I was probably 17 before I knew that Noel was another word for Christmas. Honest. I’d never even seen the word before and then suddenly it was everywhere I looked.

Songs… yeah I know some of them, I can probably tell you the names of most, but I don’t know that I could sing you more than a couple of lines of Rudolf the Rednose Reindeer or name the others who pulled his sleigh.

I can’t wrap a gift to save my life. Though that could also be due to the fact that I’m a guy.

Even Christmas lights… we don’t put them up at my house (much to my wife’s chagrin) because while I think they are neat enough, they don’t equate to the holidays like some people.

That said, there have been a couple of things about the holidays that have become my own traditions over the years in a way to get into a more “correct” mood about it.

leg lamp

Who wouldn’t want that lamp!

The Christmas Story

Yes, it is run into the ground by TBS showing it on a loop for a full day. Yet somehow I always end up on that channel watching the kid stick his tongue to the pole for probably the 100th time in my life. I never had a Red Rider B.B. gun because I probably would have shot my eye out.

Scrooged

I am not a fan of Charles Dickens. A Tale of Two Cities is one of the few books in high school that I ended up not reading at all and somehow managed to score just high enough on the test we had for it (I still don’t know how I accomplished that since I didn’t read the Cliff Notes either). I read somewhere that the more words he wrote, the more money made its way into his pockets… and I believe that 100%.

I’ve never had a desire to read his Scrooge story… and I’ve seen versions of it over the years that tell me I’m not missing much of anything…

scrooged1

They are going to do the Curly Shuffle Next!

Until Bill Murray showed up in Scrooged. Maybe Bill Murray just makes things better and I’m blinded by my love of him, but I love everything about that movie. But the Ghost of Christmas Present is my favorite. She’s like something out of the WWE, beating Murray’s ass.

The Small Town Decorations

Yes, I know I said the thing about the lights, and I meant it, BUT when I was younger my Dad would come to Waycross, Georgia and take me to Dawson, Georgia. The trip was about 3ish hours long, but the route you take forces you to go through every small town in Georgia. And each town puts up their own decorations. And those little touches were what really told me that Christmas season was here.

Christmas-Vacation-Clark-Griswold-Lights

Not a picture of a tree, but Clark’s expression matches my own when we finally get the dang thing to light up.

The Christmas Tree

Don’t tell my wife this, but I do like the tree. Having it up. Seeing all the crazy decorations from over the years. What I don’t like is bringing it down and setting it up. This year was the first year that the lights all came on with the first try. Normally we spend all this extra time trying to find cord A to stick into outlet Z or some such nonsense.

Seriously, could it be anymore complicated?

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

What if… Last Action Hero was a Good movie?

I told J Edward Neill that I was going to steal his blog one of these days and today is that day. But I am going to do it in a way that would make him proud. I’m not going to use this blog for good but instead for evil.

That said, I wanted to look at a movie that could have been something more, but was tied to an aging actor and an annoying kid and only wanted to be tongue in cheek about the whole “Cop” movie thing.

lastactionhero

So What If…. Last Action Hero was a GOOD movie?

I know what you’re thinking: “John, there is no way to salvage anything within that movie!”

And you know what, random person talking to their computer screen, you’re probably more right than you are wrong… but let’s give this thing a try anyway.

Note, the one thing I am not touching is the soundtrack. Say what you will about the movie, Alice in Chains (2 songs!), Anthrax, AC/DC, Megadeth, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Cypress Hill, Tesla, Fishbone… it is one of those albums that I still listen to from time to time.

lastactionhero2

For those of you who don’t remember, the movie was supposed to be a parody of the 80s action movies (anything with Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Russell, Gibson, etc). A kid manages to get a magical movie ticket that puts him directly into the movie he’s watching. Eventually he brings Arnold back into the real world where suddenly Arnold realizes that the rules here are not the same as they were. And worse yet, his arch-enemy has somehow made his way into the real world as well!

That’s actually not a horrible idea on the surface. That core concept of what is real and what is fantasy. And that’s what my version would focus on as much as anything else. Those little moments that appeared in the movie, but were glossed over due to the need for another catchphrase or yelling boss or even cartoon cat.

My version would still begin with Danny watching the movie, getting the magical ticket, and then getting sucked in. But our hero, Jack Slater, wouldn’t be a goofy parody spouting one-liners left and right; no, this would be someone who had seen the worst in people and still managed to keep going (think Se7en for an idea of the feel I’d be going for). He’s a person who is barely holding on to his sanity and is constantly wondering why all these terrible things always seem to happen to him.

seven-movie-poster-500w

So when Danny reveals that he’s a character in a movie series our hero lashes out. The idea that someone has been dictating the horrors of his world, tearing his marriage apart, killing his son, keeping him estranged from his daughter… that would be too much for him. And even though Danny would try to plead with him to follow through on his latest mission, Slater ignores the kid and then goes on a spree of his own. If the world is always going to be terrible, then why bother with it, why bother with saving anyone… let it all burn… and he uses half of the ticket to go into the real world (Danny rushing in after him)…

While the second piece of the ticket manages to fall into his enemy’s hands, Benedict. This is a man that has stood by and watched Slater destroy his boss’s empire, and only by luck was Benedict able to escape. Once he finds out about the ticket he sees it for what it is – a way to go to other worlds than these – to recruit like-minded people to his cause, giving them the freedom in the real world that has been severely lacking for any of them.

In the original Benedict has a monologue where he talks about the real world being a place where the bad guys can actually win. He talks about going to get the villains and bring them out. But we never get to see that moment in the original. And I believe that is a huge missed opportunity. So in my version we not only see some of it, but these villains coming out are not treated as just randoms… no, Benedict would have begun to research who might be able to help him.  And freed them. And the Ripper would be one of them.

Now the real world is suddenly going to Hell and somehow Danny still believes in the HERO that Slater was. He convinces him by telling him that while it is terrible that all those horrific things have happened, he always knew that Slater would still try and do the right thing. That he could still be the man Danny always knew him to be.

Last-Action-Hero-Magic-Ticket-1

And that would set up an ending where Slater not only has to deal with Benedict, but with the random assortment of baddies that are out in this world. It gives Danny a chance to assist in figuring out those characters who Benedict might have contacted in the first place (what the people are like, what their weaknesses might be, etc.).

We end with Slater and Benedict squaring off, Slater run through the ringer, but somehow finding enough strength to finish his enemy off. A beaten and bruised Slater limps back to the theater with Danny helping him, ready to go back to his movie life again… Danny fires up the movie, but instead of Slater IV, it is something nicer – perhaps a romantic comedy. A just reward for the life that Slater has led.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. Each episode is only $0.99. But you can go ahead and purchase the full novel (all 6 episodes) right now for $4.99 with the above link!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Ten Real Life Locations for the Tyrants of the Dead movies

As I sit in the dark and daydream terrible things, my mind wanders to the far-off hope of finishing the screenplay for the Tyrants of the Dead series. It’s ever in my thoughts. It’s not quite a realistic goal, but it’s more than just a dream. Previously, I imagined the cast here and here. But to capture all audiences everywhere, I’ve come to understand that the setting is of utmost importance. In Tyrants, readers explore snow-capped mountains, dismal swamps, glorious medieval cities, and grounds hallowed long ago by the Ur.

It’s a lot to digest.

Given the rampant use of CGI in modern film-making, I’d like to dial it back a notch. Budget notwithstanding, and actors’ travel concerns set aside, I’d prefer to use the most realistic locations available. Nothing is as magnificent as what nature already offers. Nothing…

And so I offer the ten locations I’d use as settings for the darkest fantasy series of all time:

Gryphon

Gryphon CityMonreal, Spain

Let’s start with a happy place. Gryphon, with all its white houses and cobbled lanes, is a sanctuary in which our heroes rest briefly before wandering back into the abyss of war. Monreal is a gorgeous medieval hamlet surrounded by green thickets. Sounds like a match.

 

Moors Eye

Mooreye CityPingyao, China

Now let’s head to Gryphon’s vile neighbor. The Moor’s Eye, home of traitors and scene of countless murders, has high walls and towers not unlike Pingyao. Think China will let us borrow it to catch a few shots? Think they’ll let us hang black banners from the walls?

 

 

  GraehelmPrairie
Graehelm PrairiePalouse Prairie, Idaho

To get anywhere in Graehelm, one must travel grasslands far and green.  To get anywhere in Idaho, one must travel grasslands farther and greener. Just look at all that grass!

 

 

Grandwood

Grandwood ForestCalaveras State Park, California

 The world’s biggest trees. Acres and acres of giants dominating all the small sights below. Of all the places, Calaveras is one I actually plan to visit before I die. Anything that makes man feel smaller =  good.

 

 

Nightmare Forest

 

 Nightmare ForestAokigahara Forest, Japan

Speaking of woods… Nightmare is the setting for Andelusia’s black magic awakening. Unspeakable horrors wander the glooms, sniffing out mortal creatures to dine on. Aokigahara is perfect. For those who’ve never heard of it, it’s the eerie forest in which many Japanese commit suicide every year. No CGI needed, folks. This place is spooky enough as-is.

 

Undergrave

The UndergraveMammoth National Cave, Kentucky

Vaulted ceilings ribbed with daggerlike lime formations. Narrow corridors to march men to their deaths in. It’s like nature knew what I needed…and spent millions of years crafting caves to fit it in. Happiness is being three days underground without food, light, or hope. Right?

 

Mormist

MormistHimalayan Forest

Mormist is the scene of peace and war, of tranquility and slaughter. In what landscape more glorious to film it than the verdent slopes and white-crowned peaks of the Himalayas? None, I say.

 

 

SelhauntSea

The Selhaunt – North Sea

Many a wise mariner fears the choppy, deep, and bitterly cold waters of the North Sea. Such a fine, dark, dreary body of water will serve perfectly to mirror the Selhaunt. Nobody wants to cross either unless they have to. And they will.  

 

Cornerstone

CornerstoneWiencke Island, Antarctica

It’s too pretty a place to serve as a vast Ur graveyard, you might think. But cap a special colored lens on the camera, and I say no place could be better. In Cornerstone, pale snow drifts across dead stone, concealing stairwells that lead to tombs for millions. Commence filming during Antarctica’s long twilight, and find perfection.

 

Malog

MalogBig Sky Mountain, Montana

At last we come to it:

The obsidian citadel, larger than all the fortresses of men combined, was as hideous as it was massive. Its body looked as though hewn from the belly of the world’s most massive mountain, a place where the sun never shined.”

Malog is where the worst villains in the series reside. Ghosts, ghouls, all manner of bad, bad men. Sure, we’d have to cheat a little and CGI it to look like obsidian. And we’d have to pock it with a few thousand haunted windows. But even so…

* * *

Will it ever happen? Who can say?

One can always dream…

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Down the Dark Path

 

Route 3: The Movie

Remember when Wizard Magazine would do their dream movie casting feature for comic book movies? It was one of the sections of the magazine that I honestly got hyped about, with the hope that these flicks might one day see the light of day.

Sure, these features were probably little more than staff writers having their chance to play a little bit of fantasy casting. But at the time, when casting news wasn’t available at the drop of a dime, this was a big thing for comic book fans like myself.

So following in the footsteps of Wizard Magazine, and my fellow Tessera blogger J. Edward Neill, I’ve decided to do my own fantasy movie casting for my creator owned project, “Route 3”.
Route 3 Logo

 

These are the actors and actresses that immediately jump to mind when I think of the “dramatis persone” of the epic tale of Sean Anderson and company. As the story expands in future issues, I’ll come back and add more actors and actresses.

But for now, think of this as my big Comic Con announcement for the casting of next summer’s blockbuster, “Route 3”.

 

Sean 3

Sean Anderson: For our main protagonist, it’d be a toss up between Donald Glover (“Community”) and  Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”)  I know Sean’s age would have to be adjusted for the sake of the flick in Glover’s case (maybe make him a senior in high school), but heck, if Toby McGuire can play a high school student in his early 30’s, why not Glover? Childish-Gambino

 

Williams would also make a great Sean Anderson, as we’ve already seen him play a down on his luck teen in Chris Rock’s “Everybody Hates Chris”. Add to this, such roles in “Dear White People” and an upcoming stint in “The Walking Dead” I think Williams could put on an awesome performance.

Tyler+James+Williams+bLQBrZrrfnLm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sean 2

 

316 2316: If Marvel or Star Wars won’t have him, “Serenity’s” scene stealing actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, can join the Route 3 ranks as Sean’s main nemesis.

 

 

CE1I loved this guy in “Serenity”, and “Inside Man”, and would love to see him do his thing in this epic flick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Nathenson: Adding to the list of Sean’s list of antagonists, comes the puppet master himself, Richard Richard Nathenson 2Nathenson. He would be played by Neal McDonough. McDonough is a guy that you’ve seen in just about everything including “Terrier’s”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, “Walking Tall”, and “Minority Report”.

 

Neil M

 

 

 

 

He can bring definitely bring it when playing the Washington D.C. power broker, who makes Sean’s life a living hell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Punching

Charles Reily: No one, and I mean nooooo one would fit this role better than Mr. Liam Neeson (I almost pulled a Key & Peele and called him Neesons). Neeson would be able to bring the kick-assery of “Taken”, with the TAKEN 2dramatic gravitas of “Schindler’s List” to the mysterious, and lethal figure at the heart of Sean’s tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samie 1

Samie: Sean’s potential love interest would be played by the talented KeKe Palmer. With such credits as “Akeelah and The Bee”, and “Grey’s Anatomy” she’d be a perfect fit for the Route 3 universe. Just imagine this scene between Palmer and Williams. Box office gold.

 

 

KeKe Palme

 

Khenan & Salma: Rounding out 316’s covert ops force would be Malcolm Jamal-Warner and Michelle Rodgriguez. Sure, most folks remember Malcolm Jamal-Warner from “The Cosby Show”, as Theo Huxtable. But K S 1he had a great leading role in the post-apocalyptic television series “Jeremiah”, and other roles in “ Community”, “Sons of Anarchy”, and even “Dexter”.

Michelle Rodriguez personifies bad-assness in everything she does. “Resident Evil”.  “Girlfight”. “SWAT”. “Avatar”. “The Fast and The Furious” series. You’d be hard pressed to find a more epic action movie actress than Ms. Rodriguez.

 

MJW

 

MR2

Khenan and Salma 1

 

 

Larry Anderson:  Idris Elba. “Pacific Rim”. “The Wire”. “Luther.” “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom”. “Thor.” Lenny 2Dude is a talented, talented, ta-len-ted actor, and he’d be able to bring a set of supreme acting chops to “Route 3”, playing Sean’s father.

 

 

Idris

 

 

Shane 1

Shane Watkins: The head of the Watkins drug cartel, Shane would be played by who I think would be a wild card to most: Dule’ Hill (“Psych”, “The West Wing”).

Hill was a hilarious straight man on “Psych”, but it was on “The West Wing” as Charlie Young where his dramatic acting skills shone. I think he’d be able to pull off the business minded, ruthless antagonist who gets caught in the wake of the epic “Route 3” story.

 

DE2

So Hollywood, look how easy I just made your job. I’ve done the casting, and have given you a template for a script.

Just need you to cut a check so we can make some magic.

P.S If you want to read the book before seeing the potential movie, head here to pick up the current three issues of Route 3.

Sean 1

What if…? The Wizard of Oz were a dark fantasy movie

Witch

 

Welcome to the fourth installment of the What if…? series. Previous entries include dark remakes of The Lord of the Rings, Sleeping Beauty, and Star Wars. Like Mick Jagger, I see a red door and I want to paint it black.

Recently, I sat down with my son to watch The Wizard of Oz. I had plans to let him watch while I cooked, cleaned, and otherwise carved my way through the day. He’d watch a classic, and I’d get stuff done. It was a perfect plan. Etched in stone. Stronger than the foundations of the world. Right?

Wrong

Twenty seconds in, we were both hooked. I’ve never seen a kid so rapt and silent, and I’m not even talking about my son. Every cool memory of watching The Wizard of Oz as a boy flooded my wee black little heart. I never got to my chores. We sat there, my son and I, and soaked the movie up in all its glory. We loved it. There’s no other way to put it.

So what’s the deal? How could The Wiz get any better? How dare I dream of what it’d be like to change it? It’s already perfect in every way, right? Right??

Maybe…

What if I tweaked the movie? A lot. What if it was a dark fantasy epic, an adult, R-rated, midnight-hearted feast? What if, instead of an American classic families crowd on couches to watch every year, it was a movie that dropped your jaw open, terrified you, and made you geniunely fear for Dorothy and her friends? What if…indeed?

 Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. First and foremost, and I know I’ll get killed for this, but the dark version of The Wiz can’t be a musical. It just can’t. Instead of songs about rainbows and yellow brick roads, dark Dorothy needs to dream these things. As in dream them between her nightmares. Because let’s face it, this poor little girl almost lost her dog, ran away from home, whirled through an imaginary (or real?) tornado, and fell under the constant threat of a wicked witch. If she has dreams, at least some of them will be bad. So instead of cheery songs, I want scenes of her dreaming of the good life sandwiched between scenes of her dreaming of the horrors (let’s face it, Oz is a pretty messed up place) surrounding her.

Now that the singing is gone (or at least changed) we move along to the Witch. The bad one. The bad one who doesn’t have a house on her. She’s pretty creepy in the original. She’s got the evil castle, an army of flying monkeys, another army of British-guard looking dudes, and some nasty ideas for using her magic. So yeah, the foundation is laid. What we need now is screen time. More of it. I want to know why everyone hates her. I want to know why she’s wicked. Moreoever, I want her to win once in a while. Instead of getting walked on by Glinda, mildly splashed by Dorothy, and dismissed by Oz, I think she needs to kick some ass first. Why do the Munchkins hate her? Is it her green face and hook nose, or did she enslave an entire Munchkin city to build her castle? Why does Oz want her gone? Because she’s un-dateable as a fellow practitioner of magic? Or because she’s threatened to use her spells to corrupt all he’s worked to build? Give us 700% more Witch. And let her F things up in ways that obnoxious Glinda can’t just dismiss with a wave of her wand. Please?

And while we’re on the subjects of Glinda and Oz…

I’m fine with Oz the way he is. A megalomaniac. A king by way of opportunity, but not birthright. A techno-genius in a otherwise medieval-ish land. A liar and a faker, but ultimately not too terrible a guy. But once again, I need more of him. The movie is named after this dude, so let’s give him his due. I want secret labs beneath Oz. I want technological devices meant to destroy the Witch (and her sister) but not yet ready for service. If she has evil spells and armies of nasty critters, perhaps he has equally formidable forces. Fewer critters, but better weapons. More power, but more reluctance to use it. C’mon Dark Oz. Step it up.

And Glinda… Oh Glinda. If you can undo anything the Witch does with a wave of your wand, maybe you should do more. As in lots more. As in use your magic to take the bad Witch down. Otherwise, I need a reason. Maybe Glinda is a coward at heart. Maybe she’s only allowed to (total cop out) use her magic for good. Or maybe she once was a bad witch, and now she’s having doubts about destroying someone she used to be. Or maybe, deep down, she knows the Wicked Witch would crush her in a duel. Yeah. That’s the reason I’m going with. Glinda’s good ain’t good enough. She’s nothing but a meddler, a poker in the fire, but ultimately unable to stop the bad girls.

OzDirtRoad

The brown-scale stays. Eeriest part of the movie, in some ways, the colorless plains of Kansas.

Who lives:

Since it’s all just a dream (I think) and Dorothy’s friends are manifestations of the people she knows in real-life, we can’t kill off as many good guys as I usually would in a dark fantasy movie. So…the Scarecrow, Lion, Tin Man, ToTo, and Oz are all spared, as is Dorothy herself.

Who dies:

 Enslaved Munchkins who build the Wicked Witch’s fortress. Glinda’s sister, in a flashback being cooked by the Wicked Witch. Some of the flying monkeys and Oh-E-Oh! soldiers, cut down by the newer, badder Tin Man.

  And last but hardly least: the scenery. To grit up The Wiz, we need sharper, more monolithic representations of the wholesome set pieces in the original. The Wicked Witch’s Fortress: Smoking, haunted, macabre, and surrounded by a poisonous lake. The Emerald City: Huge and bustling, stuffed to the nines with Oz’s devices, inventions, and gadgetry. The Munchkin Village: Cute and merry as ever, but lying in the shadow of the previous village, turned to ash by the Wicked Witch. The Yellow Brick Road: Clear and easy to follow in some places, shrouded in darkness at others.

Oh, and btw, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are at heart magical beings. I mean…a metal man, a dude made out of horse food, and a talking lion…I figure all three were created either by Oz…or quite possibly even by the Witch herself. Dark Wiz of Oz will explain. Even if briefly.

Final disclaimer: the original movie kicks the shit out of my dark imagining. Don’t for second think I hope otherwise.

Catch you later,

Buy this.

J Edward Neill

 

 

Duane Jones: A Horror Film Pioneer

“Now get the hell down in the cellar! You can be the boss down there, but I’m boss up here!”-Duane Jones as Ben/“Night of the Living Dead”

Growing up in Chicago, we had one of those late night B-movie programs, where some obscure horror flick would get shown every once in a while. This is where my love of zombie flicks beganwith George Romero’s “Night of The Living Dead.”

NOLD1

This film was my introduction to one of the greatest horror films of all time, and a film that gave birth to a sub-genre that has influenced the creation of numerous films, television series, novels, comics, video games, and even music videos.

At the age of 28, Romero and writing partner John A. Russo crafted a solid script that followed a group of individuals who find themselves trapped in a remote farmhouse, as the dead rise around them.

The film featured some of the most suspenseful filmmaking of its time. It was a forerunner for the use of gore effects in horror films, and featured an omnipresent sense of despair that left viewers tense throughout the film. In light of all this, what sealed the deal for me with this film was one character: Ben.

BenPlayed by Duane Jones, Ben was the take charge survivor, who used his wits and resolve to get through the hellish night. One thing that was awesome about this guy, outside of being such a resourceful and intelligent badass, was the fact that he was Black.

We often find African American characters being the first to die in such films. It’s even become something of a joke. If they weren’t inspecting a dark corner where the killer obviously was, the character was often relegated to being the comic relief or sidekick. This got old pretty quick.

Imagine how it felt to finally see a strong Black male lead taking hold of the catastrophic situation, attempting to keep things from getting worse. Add to this, and I know it’s been pointed out numerous times before, that it’s amazing that a film like this was made during the late 1960s. This was during a time where the idea of a competent African American character as a leader was anathema to a large swath of America.

In the film’s script, Ben was described as a blue collar truck driver, where his race was not specified. The character wasn’t fully fleshed out until Duane Jones was cast in the film, causing Romero and Russo to perform rewrites for his character. Romero explained he simply cast the best actor for the role, highlighting the amount of acting skill that Jones brought to the role of Ben.

As Jones explains in an interview featured on Dimension Films 40th Anniversary release of “Night of The Living Dead,” “Ben didn’t really have a biography. Ben was just passing through.”

As Jones further explains in another interview, “It never occurred to me that I was hired because I was Black. But it did occur to me that because I was Black it would give a different historic element to the film.”

Ben never falters in his resolve to survive the night, even coming to verbal and physical blows with the other NOLD3survivors. Now I know in today’s world we have a wide variety of African American leaders in a host of industries, but once again, you have to place this in the context of the time in which the film was made.

Others might even argue why even focus on something like this? What’s the big deal when we’ve got countless examples of African Americans making it to the finish line of many of today’s slasher/horror films?

Whether it’s Naomie Harris in “28 Days Later” or Ving Rhames in the 2004 remake of Romero’s “Dawn of The Dead,” there are a number of individuals making it to the end of the major studio films. This doesn’t even include numerous examples that may abound in independent films.

I’ve just taken the time to just show some appreciation for the guy who set the standard (whether he meant to or not), for those who’ve come since.

If you’re looking for a great horror flick, with a standout performance courtesy of the film’s star actor, definitely check out “Night of the Living Dead.”

 

Ben 3

Casting for Dark Moon Daughter the movie

Dark_Moon_Daughter-Boobs

 A few weeks ago, I geeked out and created a dream cast for a film version of Down the Dark Path. Upon reflection, it’ll probably take two movies to bring DDP to life (but definitely not three – a la Peter Jackson’s catastrophic dissection of The Hobbit.) No matter. Reality isn’t a problem.

The whole exercise proved so engrossing and fun that I’m taking it a step further. Therefore, if only in my dreams, I’m bringing Dark Moon Daughter – Book Two in the Tyrants series, to the big screen. Ultimately, I plan to write a real-life screenplay, but that’s years away, and by the time I get it greenlit, my current cast of stars will likely be halfway in their graves.

So…

Given complete and utter freedom, and without concern of money or actors’ schedules, my roster for Dark Moon Daughter is:

Andelusia

 
Emmy Rossum – Repeating her performance of Andelusia Anderae, the ridiculously good-looking Lady Rossum will have to dye her hair black, wear raggedy dresses, and wield world-melting magic. It’s cool. I’m sure she’s up to the challenge.

 

TheWarlock

 

Tom Hiddleston – Forget Loki. Forget anything even remotely comic-booky. In Dark Moon Daughter, Tom will be asked to play the angsty, tormented, and sinister Warlock. He’ll wear dozens of different costumes. He’ll narrate off-screen. He’ll conquer entire nations without so much as touching a sword. Bad men require great actors. Tom is unspeakably good for this role.

 

KingOrumna

Robbie Coltrane – You’ll know him best as the furry, hulking good guy from Harry Potter. But I think Robbie is perfect to play the corpulant, lethargic, and piteous King Orumna. Imagine him filling up a throne, stuffing his gullet with wine, mocking everything and everyone who attends his court. It’ll be beautiful.

 

 

GhurkGhurlain

 Daniel Radcliffe – While we’re on the topic of Harry Potter actors, I stumbled across another one well-suited for Dark Moon Daughter. Daniel is thin, pale, and dark-haired. He’s the quintessential Thillrian, meaning he’s perfect to play Ghurk Ghurlain. Yeah, ok…he’ll have to smear his face with Undergrave dust and read most of his lines in the dark. And yeah…he’ll be far from heroic. But being a Thillrian nobleman ain’t what it’s cracked up to be, especially when you’re forced to dig to the bottom of the world.

 

Ona

 

Jessica Brown Findlay – Who better to skulk the hallways of the fortress Midnon, crooning her miserable songs? What lovelier face to seduce the noblest hero? Downton Abbey’s JBF, especially the pale, haunted version we see here, was born to play the role of Ona. Treacherous yet impossibly honest, young yet guileful, the actress suits the role….or is it the other way around? 

 

Grimwain

Richard Armitage – And now for the serious stuff. Richard has always struck me as slightly aloof, slighty cold (in his acting roles, not real life.) It’s also known that he’s a skilled swordsmen, as proven in The Hobbit and his Guy of Gisborne role in the Robin Hood tv series. Given his skills, I’d cast him as the interminably cruel, utterly irredeemable Grimwain. He’ll get tons of screen time…and the chance to be the baddest bad guy who ever lived. You don’t have to talk much, Richard. Just get to butchering.

Mogru

 

Dave Bautista – He won’t get any lines. He won’t even get to show his face. But someone with a terrifying presence needs to play the horror Mogru. Imagine this dude decked out fully undead, fully armored in obsidian plate mail. He’s just a tiny droplet of the awful magic the Ur intend to release. And based on his skill shown in Guardians of the Galaxy, Dave can add just the right amount of thuggery and fear to Mogru’s dread-inspiring role.

 

Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro – He’s not an actor. I don’t want him to be one here. I only need him to be a part-time producer…and the costume designer for both the deathless Uylen and the horrific Sarcophages. His work in Pan’s Labyrinth inspired me in many ways. Need ya, Guillermo. Money is no object.

 

And of course, the roles these fine actors played in Down the Dark Path will need to be reprised:

Henry CavillGarrett Croft

Chris PrattRellen Gryphon

Daniel SouthernSaul of Elrain

Joanne WhalleySara Gryphon

So who’s up for helping me finish the screenplay?

Let’s do this.

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Down the Dark Path

My Top Ten Horror Movies

Ah, October (I’m a week early, forgive me.). This month is one of the best of the year. Football season is a go and we’re beginning to see where our favorite teams stack up. Baseball playoffs are in full bloom (or for some we are looking forward to Spring as there is always next year). And yes the leaves are falling, but I am called to focus on something else:

Fear.

I’ve talked about Fear before… mostly as it relates to writing and my own personal goals. But in October I like to focus on that external Fear. Those movies and books and video games which scare me in a way that I not only don’t always understand, but that I actively search out.

These are my horror movies of choice. Some because they were the first movies to scare me, others because I was so blown away by what I saw it disturbed me for days, and then a few that I just love even when they no longer offer the scares they once did. Some I’ve seen only once and others I’ve seen dozens of times (one I might have seen over 100 by this point).

scream_xlg

Scream

I don’t think Scream ever “scared” me. From those opening minutes I wasn’t scared. Through the twists and turns of the movie I wasn’t frightened. So why is it on this list?

Because I think Scream did something for Horror movies that had never been done before. It deconstructed the late 70s and 80s slasher movies in a way that poked fun but still allowed it to cap off that era. The idea we all sat around and discussed (why are they running back into the house? why do they wander off alone? etc.) – Williamson and Craven made that movie. They made “our” movie.

I saw this twice in the theaters. The first time was an advanced screening at Georgia Tech by myself. As soon as it was over I made sure to get a couple of friends to go to its release. And after that first scene ended my buddy Lee leaned over and said “If nothing else happens for the rest of the movie, that one scene was worth the price of admission.”

jaws

Jaws

I joke and say that Jaws prevented me from becoming an Oceanographer or marine biologist, but really it is just that terror of the unknown which truly does it for me. Again, what I want to be able to see and hear – all of that disappears under the water’s surface. Every moment of control you have is an illusion, and really it is only luck that a large predator doesn’t have its way with you.

I don’t randomly go into the jungle and hope to avoid large predators, but for some reason I do it at the beach every year. And yes, I know the odds are slim… but…

That’s why, even after maybe 100 views, this movie sticks with me.

the strangers

The Strangers

“Because you were home.”

That’s why that movie frightens me on a level I cannot even fathom. Why do bad things happen? Is it luck? Is it just a matter of doing sketchy things that eventually catch up with us? Horror movies like to pose that question. And they give us the answers.

Don’t stay in the haunted house.

Don’t have underage sex.

Don’t drink and do drugs.

Don’t have your car break down in the middle of no where.

Don’t mess with things that you hear dark rumors about.

And if you follow all of those rules… guess what? The Strangers let you know that it might not be enough.

“Because you were home.” chills me like no other line could.

The-Conjuring-2013-BluRay

The Conjuring

I was surprised by this one last year. I expected another run of the mill haunted house movie. I figured it would be ok at best, and at worst we’d get a good laugh in our annual horror movie night.

The Conjuring was legitimately good and scary.

Color me shocked.

All the tricks of other movies seem to be used to better effect in this one. All the things we’re accustomed to in “these types of horror movies” still gave me the creeps when I watched this one. They hit all the notes. Definitely one of the best in the last few years.

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The Ring

The image of the woman after she’s watched the video. That’s the one.

This movie sought to disturb me. And it did an excellent job of exactly that. And yes, I’m only referring to the American version, and that may be blasphemy, but I have to go with what I watched.

The image of the woman crawling out of the tv.

Yes, this one ushered in the J-Horror movies for better and worse, but still… something about the Ring.

The images presented in the video itself.

Maybe that’s just it. It is disturbing. And sometimes that’s enough.

28-days-later

Dawn of the Dead (Remake) & 28 Days Later

The speed zombie movies. The beginning of the current zombie craze in films. The end of the world.

Post-apocalyptic movies like these show me the best and worst of humanity. They show how quickly all our work and dreams and desires could be ripped away. And while I don’t believe that zombies are going to do us in, I think ever since we discovered the ability to destroy on the level of a nuclear bomb, ever since we’ve found diseases with no cures, and space rocks that could create another extinction event… these are things outside of our control. And that’s what this is – if there is no control, no rules left, then what does it mean to be a person? What does it mean to be human?

In the mouth of madness

In the Mouth of Madness

I’ve written about this one before. Check it out.

invasion of the body snatchers

The Thing (John Carpenter’s version) & Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The idea of something not being who or what they say they are hits me in a way that I’m still not 100% sure of. It is one of the oldest fears available to us, because we want to trust those very people who we know and love. And when that gets taken away from us. When we are no longer sure who we can or cannot trust. When our hearts and minds cannot rationalize a way out… then we are truly screwed.

The thing about both of these movies is that even though they take place in two very different environments, the story is still one about isolation. Sure it is more blatant in The Thing, but Invasion pushes it to the point where surrounded by a street-full of people, you still are not sure who to trust.

These are ideas that will always be there, regardless of the current climate of life.

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week two of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Casting for Down the Dark Path the movie

StormIn the beginning, I dreamed a story.

The dream began deep below the earth. In a mine at the world’s bottom, I saw slaves chiseling away at obsidian stone, unearthing an artifact destined to destroy the world. The image remains as clear as though I’d dreamt it only yestereve. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the slaves’ horror…and the storm brewing. What they’ve done has doomed millions to die, and they know it.

It’s a far different opening scene than the beginning chapter of Down the Dark Path the novel. It’s raw, unedited, and perhaps the way the story was meant to be told.

Someday, hopefully not long from today, I’ll sit down to write the screenplay for DDP. I’m thinking a pair of movies, rated R, the type of films for the anti-Twilight, more-mature-than-Harry-Potter crowd. There’re be no one-liners, no slow walks, no good-guys-get-off-scot-free battle scenes. DDP the movie will get back to our 13th Warrior, Willow, Conan the Barbarian roots, with a little LOTR epic-ness heaped on top. Yeah, I know. Hollywood will laugh in my face. That’s ok. Doesn’t matter.

In order to make this thing happen, I’ll need actors. Good ones. Gritty ones. Believable for  a story about a world-ending medieval war ones.

And so…here’s my dream cast.

AndeEmmy

Emmy Rossum – I’m not the type to ever have celebrity crushes, but if I were… Emmy is beautiful, talented, and in every way perfect to play the role of Andelusia Anderae. Hers would be a tough role. She’d have to pull off the lone feminine hero in a war stuffed chock full of horrific male villains. I’d like to think she could handle it.

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GarrettHenry

Henry Cavill – In the role of Garrett Croft, I’m not looking for the shredded Man of Steel guy (though I’m sure the ladies are). I’m talking about the subtle, reserved guy from The Tudors. He’s tall, his acting chops are solid, and he’s dangerous-looking enough to pull off the role of deadliest swordsman in the world.

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RellenChrisPrattChris Pratt – If I were younger, handsomer, and infinitely more talented, I’d cast myself as the sarcastic, brooding, hopelessly head-over-heels for Andelusia Rellen Gryphon. But since I’m not, you get Chris Pratt. Honestly, this was the hardest role to fill.

 

ChakranDavies

John Rhys Davies – If I could go back in time and make this movie in the late 80’s, I’d pick Pat Roach (Willow’s General Kael, Temple of Doom’s huge Thugee.) But John Rhys is more than capable of growing a wild beard and playing the psychotic Emperor Chakran. No echoes of Gimli here. Just a Furyon with a sword capable of butchering millions.

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LeePaceArchmyr

Lee Pace – He played the wicked Thranduil in The Hobbit series, and even more recently, the diabolical Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy. In Down the Dark Path, he’ll be asked to step up the evil even more. Playing Archmyr Degiliac (aka: the Pale Knight) will call for a quiet, sublimely calculating performance. Plus we’ll need a black wig and plenty of training with dual swords.

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BrucedConan

Conan Stevens – You know him best as The Mountain from Game of Thrones and Azog from The Hobbit. But in the role of Bruced (Broo-sed) Conan’ll be asked to play a cheery good guy with a penchant for beating evil’s ass. He’s seven feet tall. I’m sure he can handle it.

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SaulDaniel

Daniel Southern – From The 13th Warrior, only one dude possesses the beardness and grumpy badassness required to play Saul of Elrain. Yep. This guy.

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DacinJason

Jason Momoa – Much to every woman’s dismay, we’re going to ask Jason to keep his shirt on and grow a crazy/ugly beard. It’s the only way to play the role of Dacin of Dageni. But when you see him dressed in black Furyon armor carving his way through dozens of Graehelm knights, you’ll love him even more. I promise.

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A few secondary roles:

Christopher Lee – As the voice of the warlock/ghost Revenen (who’ll need to be mostly CGI)

Joanne Whalley – She’s aged nicely, and will serve as an authentic and wise Sara Gryphon (Rellen’s mom)

 James McEvoy – Maybe…if we can get him to tone down the Scottish accent, we’ve got our diminutive warlock, Dank.

 Sure, there’re plenty more roles to fill. I’ll need the vicious traitor, Nentham Thure, the wise, conflicted Furyon, Arjobec of Dageni, and the blustering, plaintive Gryphon captain, Marlos Obas. But that’ll all come later. Hell, by the time New Line Studios finally approves my pitch, a whole new crop of actors will be up to bat. My only hope is to get this done while Emmy is still in the biz…

Until next week,

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

What if…? I turned Sleeping Beauty into a dark fantasy novel

Spoiler alert: For those who haven’t seen Maleficent, beware…

A few weeks ago, I fired up the What if…? series with my dark reimagining of this

Today I’m reworking the classic animated film Sleeping Beauty, and to a lesser degree, Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent. What if, instead of a sometimes-for-kids, sometimes dark, but just as often musical and cheery film, I penned Sleeping Beauty as a full-length dark fantasy novel? And what if, instead of Maleficent’s decidedly PG rating, I poured a decanter of thick, soupy shadow juice all over it and gave my pretend new novel a solid R? The original film is a classic, the new film not so much, but between the two I believe there’s a grimmer tale yet untold. Two movies. Two stories. One blender. One book.

Well? What if?

DragonSB

Fear not. In the book, she gets WAY more screen time.

 As far as darkness, the movie Maleficent sets a good tone in the beginning. Stefan is a thief, albeit a terrible one, and his doomed romance with our heroine sets the stage nicely for his betrayal. But let’s get doomier. Let’s get tragic(er). In my pretend book, King Stefan never hates Maleficent. He loves her. Always and forever. Even after he carves off her wings, even after she curses his child to die, he pines for her. His wife and queen, Aurora’s mother, will suffer long bouts of depression due to his love for another woman. His subjects will think him mad. For what woman could ever hope to compete with Maleficent, whose beauty, majesty, grace, and power are second to none? Stefan will always lament his sacrifice. He gave up the truest of loves for the dubious honor of becoming king. Aurora’s curse is his fault, and rather than become an irredeemably evil monarch (the easy way out), he is tormented to the last of his days by what he has done.   

In the movie, I liked the twist of Maleficent watching over Aurora and eventually wishing she could undo the curse. But after that one act of kindness, I want no redemption for her. In Dark Sleeping Beauty, our favorite evil sorceress will do far more terrible things than in either movie. After realizing she cannot undo Aurora’s curse, she’ll raise up her goblin armies, send out storms of crows to spy for her, and destroy city after city in dragon form. (Because, you know, we ALL want more dragon.) Prince Philip’s father, the wonderfully plump Hubert, will perish in an ocean of her green fire. Her thorn thickets will cover most of the realm. Castles will fall to her and her alone (But not Stefan’s). The Hobbit’s Smaug will have nothing but envy for the horror Maleficent wreaks. She’s lost her heart. She’s going to lose Aurora. A woman’s vengeance is like nothing else on this earth.

maleficent2

I wonder if Brad asks her to dress up like this after the kids are asleep…

Fallen at Maleficent’s hands:

Two of the three faeries. Cooked to crisps while helping Prince Philip break free of Maleficent’s fortress. For the record, I’m sticking with the animated faeries. The ones in the new movie…awful

King Hubert. BBQ’d. Gives Prince Philip all the more reason to hate Maleficent

Stefan’s wife, the queen. Hangs herself from a gibbet. “Alas, I’ll never be but an afterthought in your eyes,” she’ll write in her death note. “No matter the horrors of what she’s done, you’ll always wish Maleficent were queen. And perhaps one day she will be, albeit without you.”

King Stefan. Of grief and sickness. And only days before Price Philip escapes and kisses his daughter

Who gets to live:

Prince Philip. Though wounded terribly and gravely ill after spending a decade in Maleficent’s dungeon

The blue faerie, Meriwether. She alone will put Stefan’s kingdom into a ten-year sleep. In fact, the closing narrative will be hers, lamenting Stefan’s foolishness and Maleficent’s wrath

Aurora. She’ll still get her kiss. But she has to sleep for a decade first. And when she wakes, her parents are dead and her kingdom is the last standing

Maleficent’s crow. Dude worked too hard to die 

The End Game: The last battle in the animated film Sleeping Beauty is fairly epic. After enduring the best villain’s speech ever, Prince Philip flees his dungeon, battles hundreds of goblins, carves through walls of thorns, and duels Maleficent in dragon form to the death. In Dark Sleeping Beauty, it’s a little different. A weary, sickly, and ten-years-older Philip crawls from his cage. He takes up his new magical weapons, but instead of a glorious sword and unbreakable shield, the faeries give him a wicked, dragon-slaying blade and an ugly fireproof shield, forged over the last decade in the lowest furnaces of Stefan’s castle. Due to Philip’s weakness, two of the faeries are cooked during his escape. He trudges away from Maleficent’s fortress, and for the next week he’s hunted by goblins. Only after regaining some of his strength and seeing Stefan’s castle surrounded by a thorns a mile thick does he dare confront his enemy. “With this blade will you her heart pierce,” Meriwether will tell him. “Else your love forever sleeps and the last kingdom shall fall.”

The aftermath: I like a good, cheesy, happy ending. Not. In Dark Sleeping Beauty, when Philip awakes his darlin’, he’s ten years older than her. Ten tired, painful years. Yet poor Aurora remembers nothing. All she knows is that she is now queen, her prince (and soon husband) is beset by shadows, and all the kingdoms around her are destroyed. She must mature quickly (she’s only sixteen) and rise to the challenge of rebuilding a ruined land. If you think about, it’s a nobler ending. Sweet as pie, the kiss and easy oblivion of the movie, but sweeter still a queen rising above the ashes of her father’s malcontent. And no, it won’t be without struggle. Not with her new pet crow sitting lightly on her shoulder.

Next week? I have no idea what next week’s blog will bring. I’ll think of something.

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

What if…I directed the original Star Wars trilogy?

vader87

 

 

 I’m pretty sure Vader had better days.

 But while being x-rayed by the Emperor probably hurts, it also makes for a perfect skull…

 …and a perfect lead-in to Part II of my new What if…? series.

 Last week I What if’d The Lord of the Rings, and what it would’ve been like had I written it as a dark fantasy. This week I’m jumping over to film. To Star Wars. To the original three movies. A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and so forth. Yes, I know it’s heresy. Deal with it.

So…what if? What if, instead of George Lucas’s sometimes fantastical, ocassionally sci-fi (ish), and oftentimes made-for-kids space drama, F’n J Edward Neill stepped in with total creative control? What if I’d fashioned all three movies into a deep, dark, end-of-the-universe, not-at-all-for-kids series?

Well…what if? How would I remake one of the most beloved series of all time into a thick, soupy, shadowy epic?

First up: the bad guys. I demand more competence, more lethality. From the ground up, I’d reinvent the Stormtroopers. Gone would be the slow, bumbling, easily-confused cannon fodder. Dark Stormtroopers would come complete with 500% more terror, skill, and slavish devotion to their purpose (murdering rebels). Instead of nice, clean, shiny…and entirely useless white armor, I’d pack them in matte black. Their armor would amplify speed, aiming, and strength. They’d hurl wookies aside like rag dolls, pick rebels apart with terrifying precision, and sweep through ships like locusts. I was never afraid of the Stormtroopers, not even as a child. But I wanted to be.

Moving along…

An effective way to cast a deeper shadow across any story, especially a sci-fi space drama: give the villains superior weapons. And I don’t just mean bigger guns, scarier costumes, and huger numbers. I mean truly terrifying technology. Red lasers, big ships, and tractor beams are all well and good, but I want to feel a true sense of dread when the bad guys slow down to approach a planet. Give me Star Destroyers launching millions of explosive nano-projectiles. Give me Stormtroopers firing silent, invisible death rays. Give me good guy x-wings not bursting into flames when shot (wouldn’t happen in space anyway) but falling quietly to pieces when Tie Fighters roll up behind them and launch volleys of death particles. Any villain worth his salt (aka Darth Vader) should have a plethora of ways to annihilate his foes. In Dark Star Wars, even one tiny little Imperial ship would scare the shit out of a planet packed with helpless good guys.

 A few small quick hit ways I’d darken up Star Wars:

Ewoks: Scarier

C3P0: Talks less

Star Destroyers: Can actually destroy stars

Darth Vader: Chokes out dozens at a time using the Force. Who needs Dark Stormtroopers when you’ve got a Sith lord capable of slaying ships’ entire crews from afar?

Death Star: Doesn’t blow up planets or blast ships to smithereens, but kills all living things with a big invisible death ray (silent death for everyone!)

DeathStar

Now with a new, darker, scarier paint job…

Perhaps blurred in the fantastical-ish nature of Star Wars are the horrors of extreme technological advancement. Imagine if you will the sheer amount of labor (likely slave labor) and economic sacrifice needed to build a Star Destroyer, a herd of Imperial Walkers, or two Death Stars. To darken up the series, I want everyone to pay the price of building the Empire’s army. Entire planets stripped of resources: Check. Vast automated space stations manned by droids and guarded by ship-killing probes: Check. Star systems enslaved: Check. Alien species wiped out due to inefficiency: Check and mate. The Empire’s truest evil is not in wanting to kill rebels, but in creating the conditions that make the rebels want to rebel in the first place. Compelling my dark reimagining of the series is a vision of galactic-scale misery. I want us to hate the Empire like never before.

And lastly, it has always been one of my contentions that  good guys get off too easy. In modern movies and books, it seems (aside from Game of Thrones) that most if not all protagonists survive their ordeals despite hurling themselves into danger again and again. In my darker, graver vision for Star Wars, the good guys suffer more. In Cloud City, C3P0 meets his doom. He doesn’t get to come back after being blasted by imperial agents, but gets reprocessed with the rest of the junk droids, perhaps even being hacked to provide the Empire with information. And then there’s Lando. In Return of the Jedi, Han foretells the destruction of the Millenium Falcon (piloted by Lando against the second Death Star) but once again fate intervenes and the MF survives. Let’s darken it up. Lando and the Falcon get caught in the big explosion, and Han sees his ship plummet to Endor’s surface in ruin. And Luke. Poor Luke. In J Edward’s What if…? version, he dies with his father in the Death Star. Much like I needed Frodo to perish in tragic fashion with the One Ring, Luke needs to make the ultimate sacrifice. Leia gets to be the last Jedi hopeful…ever.

 Blasphemous enough for you? 

Join me next week when I reimagine Harry Potter’s Voldemort as an agent of Cthulu. No, I’m not serious. Or am I…?

J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

Down the Dark Path

My Top Six Darkest Movie Moments Ever…

Recently I watched and reviewed The Revenant. Which got me to thinking; what are the gravest moments in cinema? During what scenes does it appear all hope is lost and the bad guys about to win? What’re the deepest, darkest places movies have dragged me? Hmmmm…

Yeah. You guessed it. Here comes a list. I’m gonna wander some pretty random places with this. If you hate spoilers, you may want to move along. If not, let’s roll:

Gluttony

 

 #6. Gluttony – Se7en

Honestly I could’ve mentioned almost any of the rainy, dark, grisly scenes in Se7en. The Sloth scene especially comes to mind, but I didn’t want to post the ick-tastic image of the dude dying in his bed, lest I gross everyone out. The Gluttony scene does just fine. It sets the tone for the entire movie. It’s scary and disgusting. It’s everything most of us never want to be: alone, corpulent, filthy, and dead. Yikes. If this scene doesn’t put you in a grim mood, nothing will.

 

 

KillLucy

#5. Killing Lucy – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

When I say killing Lucy, I more or less refer to the entire 45 minutes during which Lucy descends from being Mina’s pretty BFF into a depraved, child-eating, blood-barfing vampire. Cary Elwes lopping off her head is only gravy on the grimness. Lucy begins the movie as a cheerful soul swimming in an ocean of dour, unhappy Brits. And by the end, she’s ruined. Every part of this movie is enough to put me in the mood to write horror, but Lucy’s fall from grace is just plain…delicious.

 

 

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#4. Hugh Jackman killing his clone (repeatedly) – The Prestige

It’s no secret. The Prestige’s atmosphere always puts me in the mood. It’s my personal fluffer girl. It’s the ‘uh’ to my ‘huh’. The slow sense of despair that builds throughout the movie sets a tone like no other. That said, the darkness really starts when the Great Danton starts murdering all his doubles. He shoots himself. He drowns himself. He leaves his clones in huge vats of grey water. And then, at the end, as he breaths his last few breaths in an alley of clone-corpses, we wonder which Danton really died during all his magic tricks. The clones? Or the real Danton? Are you watching closely?

 

 

No Country for old men

#3. Anton Chigurh ‘visits’ Llewelyn’s wife – No Country for Old Men

The first time I watched this movie, I never saw this scene coming. I figured we’d already broke every rule, every expectation. What was left to do, right? Chigurh had already killed the good guy (and pretty much everyone else). So what else can I say about this scene? It’s chilling on so many levels.

After Llewelyn’s wife (Carla Jean) says, “You don’t have to do this.” Chigurh smiles and says, “People always say the same thing.”

Does he kill her? Does he let her live? I mean…damn…

 

the counselor

 #2. The Counselor gets a DVD in the mail – The Counselor

 Most people I know haven’t seen this movie, so I won’t spoil it here. Let’s just say that there are no good guys, only grey, fuzzy shades of morality all too prevalent in the real world. As the Counselor sits in a grungy hotel room, praying for good news, we get a payoff that’s much darker than we expect. The theater I watched this movie in emptied in stunned silence at the end. Meanwhile my brain buzzed with all sorts of new ideas for messing with readers’ minds.

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 #1. Grenouille accidentally kills the apple girl – Perfume, Story of a Murderer

 I’m convinced I’m the only person ever to watch this movie. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. I had no idea what I was in for when I sat down to swallow this little gem. When Grenouille, the creepiest, crawliest, skinniest villain ever, snuffs the apple girl early on, I only just began to grasp where Perfume was taking me. The scene wasn’t particularly graphic or gut-twisting, but sometimes a glimpse of darkness is all a mind needs before the gears start turning. I think perhaps after my kid falls asleep tonight, I’ll pop this one in, watch a little bit, and then get to work.

It’s probably worth mentioning I write some pretty dark scenes of my own.

Until next week

J Edward Neill

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does Whatever A Spider Can

With the release of the Amazing Spider-man 2 I feel like there is something I should say. I have a confession to make. Well, maybe not a confession, but more like a moment of truth. Spider-Man is my favorite comic book character.

That’s not the confession.

This revelation does not make me unique or anything. Plenty of people love Spider-Man (as evidenced by the sheer amount of money the movies alone have made). The fact that any kid might have something Spider-Man themed in his closet. Or that dozens of figures of the guy are released every year.

No, the confession is that I have not read a Spider-Man comic in quite some time (5+ years).

Now if Spider-Man is my favorite character why would I forsake him in the very media that I profess to love beyond probably even my wife’s understanding?

One name: Mary Jane Watson Parker.

Many of you will know the name Mary Jane Watson from the Sam Rami movies of the 00s as she was played by Kirsten Dunst. As you can tell from the movies, she is an important cog in Peter Parker’s life.

I personally think she’s the true love of his life, not Gwen Stacy, but that’s mostly because I don’t know Gwen. She had been dead for a decade before I picked up my first issue of Amazing Spider-Man. I only have the occasional flashback to let me know who she was.

Though, one of my favorite stories came from a “Gwen” moment. Spider-Man Blue by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale tell a story where on Valentine’s Day Peter is feeling reflective about how much he misses Gwen, and proceeds to talk into a tape recorder about the two of them falling in love. He talks to her about how her death messed him up for a long time, but through Mary Jane he learned to love again. And then this happens…

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Spidey Blue 2

 

And if you were to pick up a Spider-Man comic from around 1987/1988 until about 2008 you would have probably seen Mrs. Parker in the comics. As Peter’s wife she’s been with him through think and thin.

However, if you picked up a Spider-Man comic today you might notice that Peter is no longer married.

More on that in a second…

Spider-Man appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. By the time I started reading the comic was approximately 25 years old. During that entire time Spider-Man was a single guy. Yeah, there were girlfriends: Betty Brant, Felicia Hardy, Gwen Stacy, and Mary Jane, but he was a single guy. For 25 years those writers got to weave stories featuring a single Spidey. But that changed in 1987 (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21) when the two of them tied the knot.

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I was 11 at the time this happened. I think I had read about 6 issues of Spider-Man before he got married. Spider-Man getting married did not change how I saw the character. It did not make him my “Dad” all of a sudden. It didn’t make him the “winner” of life because he married this gorgeous model (these were some of the reasons for getting rid of the marriage, but more on that later).

Growing up I never saw myself as a good-looking kid. I was taller than all the other kids, maybe a little clumsy, and shy around girls. There were plenty of times I would think about the fact that I would never find a girlfriend.

Comics are a great escape from life. When you get down on yourself, get depressed about something that’s happened to you, they are there waiting for you, month in and month out. Ready to take on the worst of the worst bad guys.

So how did it make me feel when Spidey got married?

It actually made me feel like, maybe, just maybe, there was a girl out there for me. That even if I felt awkward and ugly that it wouldn’t matter. I’d find that person who I was meant to be with. Maybe that girl next door might take a shine to me.

It’s probably silly to think that way. These weren’t real people. And yet… because Mary Jane and Peter weren’t just two people who started dating and decided to get married. These were two friends from way back. They’d suffered through tragedy on both sides. And where he had never confided in Gwen about his alter-ego, Mary Jane knew (she figured it out – girl is smart). Because she was his best friend. Moreso than Harry Osborn (when he wasn’t the Green Goblin) or Flash Thompson (in the later years), MJ was the one that he could always turn to.

So, no, it wasn’t a bad thing that this happened. Not for me at least.

And so it went that from 1987 to early in 2008 Spider-man was a married character.

But apparently this was a problem for the people in charge. Apparently having Spider-Man married meant that they couldn’t have Peter date the Black Cat or whomever they wanted him to. Apparently being married… wait for it…

Made Spider-Man OLD.

They felt like the truest form of the character was that of a single guy. That him finding love with his best friend meant he’d won and was no longer the loveable loser everyone thought he was.

They (the writers) felt like they were hamstrung on stories because he was married.

Counselor, I present Matt Fraction’s take:

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During J. Michael Straczynski’s run on the book I told my wife that I could have read 22 pages of just the two of them talking. But more than that, I think JMS understood how to approach the relationship. Mary Jane being married to Spidey is the life many women (and some men) live when their spouse is a police officer (or firefighter or in the military). There is always that chance that they may not come home that night. I don’t think that means they love them less, though. I think that means they try to fight for every moment they get.

But the powers that be didn’t like the marriage. And I’d heard the same argument about Superman and Lois Lane. And I think it is complete crap. It’s lazy writing to say you can’t come up with a story for the character because his connection to another person is marriage. Because, let’s face it, Peter Parker, single, was not going to be running around banging every chick that he meets. He’s not that character and never will be. So if he had a girlfriend he’s not going to cheat. So what the heck is the real difference there?

There isn’t one.

One other point about this that I’m not sure people really thought about. 25 years as a bachelor and 21 years married. That’s effectively the same amount of time, and one could argue that there were far more actual comics with him married than single (more titles in the 90s, etc.). But it wasn’t like this marriage had been around for only a couple of years. For all intents and purposes Spidey was a married man (or at least a committed man).

But the decision had been made. They came up with a story line that had Aunt May on the brink of death (yes, that old chestnut of a story – never used that one before!), and the only way to save her was to make a DEAL WITH THE DEVIL.

And the Devil wanted their (Peter and Mark Jane’s love).

Wait, that’s not right. He wanted their marriage.

Let’s toss aside the fact that Spidey lives in a Universe where superheroes come back to life on an almost daily basis. Let’s ignore the fact that there are mutants who have the ability to HEAL other people, and even if he doesn’t specifically know those people, he knows people who know those people (confused yet?). And let’s even forget about the fact that Aunt May is OLD and has lived the good life, and would NEVER want her nephew to make a DEAL WITH THE DEVIL.

The fundamental problem with this is that Peter and Mary Jane would never make such a deal. They just wouldn’t. Peter would find another way. He’d triumph through some angle we hadn’t thought of.

But no, he made the deal and the marriage was undone.

Amazing_Spider-Man_545

The last issue of Amazing Spider-Man I own.

And I haven’t picked up an issue of Spider-Man since.

The place I now get to read about my favorite character is in the pages of the Avengers when he happens to be on the team, or when he makes a guest appearance in a comic I read.

Now we’re 6 years into my “strike” on reading the character. They just finished a 30+ issue story where Doc Ock swapped bodies with Peter and then tried to use the powers for good. There’s a new story (that could have been told with him being married I’m sure), and one I would like to read.

But I can’t. Stupid principles.

So now I have to be content with watching Amazing Spider-Man 2 this weekend to get my fix. Fingers crossed its a good one.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

 

Little Things Mean A Lot, Don’t They?

A strange thing happened to me on the way to work this morning. Normally along my route I pass any number of police cars. I’m not sure whether this is due as much to the recent (months ago) change in speed or if it is just good “hunting ground” for all manner of traffic violators. Regardless, I passed one of the 2 today (it is 11 miles to work and I have passed as many as 5 in my trips to and from work so I know better than to speed) and suddenly found myself being pulled over.

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And for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what it could have been for. When he actually got behind me I was at a dead stop… in my old car I’d been pulled over for a faulty taillight, so maybe…

Expired tags. That’s why he pulled me over.

Except, had I the money, I would have bet him tons of money that my tags were not expired (my birthday is in January, so this would be 2 1/2 months overdue). I could see, in my mind’s eye, me placing the new decal onto my plate. No doubt in my mind.

Of course, I might have been in a different kind of trouble had I broached that aspect with him. Still he double checked, and as the ticket in my hand states: Expired Tag.

How in the world did this happen? My wife and I are pretty good about dealing with the various bills that come with the not-so-fun aspects of being an adult. And in this case it’ll cost me probably a couple of hundred dollars to “learn this lesson”.

Not the best way to start your day.

The thing is, there are so many distractions in my (everyone’s lives) that something as “small” as making sure I have the right decal on my car slipped through the cracks. We got so caught up in LIFE that we allowed this mistake to happen.

***

When I’m reading books or comics or watching movies the big bold moments are the things that we all remember and all come back to, but sometimes it is the smaller things, the subtle things that make the bigger difference in a scene.

One of my favorite moments in all of the Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies is a moment where he has made up his mind to tell Lois that he’s Superman (of course, in this second, I can’t recall if it is Superman 1 or 2, but that doesn’t matter as much). She has her back turned to him and he takes off his glasses, stands up straighter, and that awkward Clark Kent is suddenly gone and in his place is Kal-El. But it is only for a couple of beats before he chickens out, puts the glasses back on and BAM, there’s Clark again.

Christopher-Reeve-Superman-1

It’s probably the only moment in the Superman mythos where I bought into the idea that Superman could hide in plain sight right beside Lois and her not realize Clark and Kal were the same being.

And it was one small moment.

***

What if I had gone to work thirty minutes earlier? Would the cop still have been there? Would he have noticed my tag from his position on the side of the road or would it have been blocked by another car? Could I have gone a whole year without paying, maybe not realizing it until it was time to deal with taxes next year (or possibly when I got my 2016 Decal and saw that I only had a 2014 one on my car)?

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Not trying to over analyze via the Butterfly Effect or anything. Really this is going to make this month tighter on the wallet than the wife and I would have liked, but in the grand scheme of things my life isn’t going to be fundamentally changed by this thing.

***

I’m a little scattered today/tonight, dealing with the aftermath of my little moment. Hence this blog feels a little scattered, and yet there is a connection in there somewhere. At least I think there is.

And I know that tomorrow is going to have some other little moment that I may not even notice, but it’ll be there. But what does it take? When do the little things become the big things? How can you tell?

I’m not even sure what answer I’m looking for. Maybe I’m not writing the right question?

We shall see…

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

It F***ing Sucks Bein’ Green

The-Avengers-Climax-Hulk-the-avengers-34726224-1920-1080

signal_ver2_xlgIt was announced last week that David Bruckner, a long-time acquaintance, friend of a dear friend, and fellow Atlanta-ite, is going to direct the next Friday the 13th movie. Dave directed one third of the Atlanta-based horror film The Signal as well as the first (and in a lot of people’s opinions, the best) segment of the anthology V/H/S. It will be his debut feature as a solo director.

I congratulate David and wish him nothing but the best. I’m very excited for what he’s going to do.

Oh, and also, fuck him.

My friend Jake Goldberger‘s second film, Life of a King is available on DVD now.

His first film, Don McKay, was an off-beat dark comedy that was so off-beat that most people didn’t get how funny it was. It starred two Oscar nominees and a future Oscar winner. It wasn’t treated very well by critics and not very many people saw it. I liked it, but I also read the script about a decade before and was elated to see it make its way to the screen.

life-of-a-king-posterLife of a King is a much more high-profile film. Starring another Academy Award winner, Cuba Gooding Jr, it is a moving tale about an ex-con that teaches a group of inner-city kids the value and beauty of the game of chess. It’s kind of Stand and Deliver with a Karate Kid finale (with a Rocky twist). It may not sound like your type of film. It’s honestly not mine. But I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. More than anything, I was impressed by the performance by Gooding and by how much Jake has grown as a director. He told me the other day that it was shot in just 15 days, which astounded me for how good it looks. Dakota Skye had more time to shoot and it felt like we had no time at all.

I have known Jake for over a decade. I’m proud of him and congratulate him on his success and hope his next film is even bigger and better and I can’t wait to see it.

Oh, and also, fuck him.

Lake-Effect-Brochure-Small-728x1024I don’t know Tara Miele very well. But I do know her husband, Dakota Skye cinematographer Brett Juskalian. Right after Dakota Skye Tara made a lovely little film called The Lake Effect and has since then made a couple other films (I’ve lost track) for the Lifetime Channel.

Tara is a talented writer and I’m happy her career as a filmmaker is taking off.

Oh, and also, fuck her.

 

An old collaborator of mine, Charlie Ebersol, with whom I worked on many projects that never quite got off the ground (see my tale about pitching a show at the Sci-Fi Channel), has been hired to write a sequel to Space Jam. Charlie is more of a producer than writer, and it’s not a project I would necessarily kill to be a part of, but still. It’s a big opportunity.

I wish him and his brother all the luck with the film.

And, yes, fuck him.

One of the first friends I made upon moving to Los Angeles was a funny kid from Tulsa named Bill Hader. I don’t need to explain to you who he is. If you don’t know, just Google him. I’ve heard Mel Brooks praise him. Mel. Brooks.

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He also does a pretty good impression of me.

Fuck him.

Even within this very guild, on this site, my friends are bugging the shit out of me. J. Edward Neill, having released Down the Dark Path last year, has just finished the follow-up. This would be less impressive if his books weren’t approximately seven million pages long. Likewise, John McGuire just put his first book, The Dark That Follows (we like the word “dark” in our titles, don’t we?) up on Amazon but I also happen to know that he’s currently revising his second novel, having already finished the first draft. Plus, John has some comic books out in the world, with more to come, and that’s awesome.

Fuck both of them.

I, of course, don’t mean any of the profanity I have hurled at my friends and peers above. Good people, all of them. Some of them amongst my favorite people.

Wait. No. I do mean it.

Fuck all of them.

Envy is a hell of a thing.

I’m not a religious dude but if Morgan Freeman has taught me anything (other than how hard it is to be a penguin, how to smuggle a rock hammer into the slammer, how to be the quartermaster for a vigilante, how love is worth dying for, how not to storm a Civil War fort, and how to embrace my inner Master Builder), it’s that Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Brad-Pitt-and-Morgan-Freeman-in-Seven

You remember those. I think they go: Being Fat, Being a Child Molester, Being a Lawyer, Being Pretty, Being a Hooker, Envy, and shooting Keyser Söze.

Envy. That big green monster that sometimes beats me senseless worse than…

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“Puny Self-Worth”

I like my life. This is not about that. I wouldn’t trade places with anyone not named Clooney or Timberlake and only then if I can take a few people with me.

This is professional envy. Comparing where you are at in your career to that of your peers. I know better than to give into it, but I’m a human being and not a very good one at that.

Of course, envy leads to doubt.

At 25, I hadn’t done X. At 30, I wasn’t even close to accomplishing Y. At 35, I had pretty much given up on Z.

40 is coming on really fast and I’m out of fucking letters.

And what do people tell you when you’re feeling green? Not with seasickness. Not with lovable singing felt frog-ness. But with the feeling of wanting what someone else has…

They say “Keep your head down and do your work.”

And I say—

I’ve been swearing a lot this post, huh? Well, you fill in the blank.

giphyI have gotten so much better over the years in dealing with this. A while back I wrote a piece on here about Livin’ Small, based on the mentally of my friend Jonah Matranga. It’s about being happy with what you have and embracing what you have accomplished, not what you haven’t. It’s a perspective I cherish. And try to hold to.

But I can’t always. Sometimes it stings. Badly. Sometimes it sears a hole in my heart.

Sometimes in makes me hate my friends.

Because they’re not as smart as me. Not as talented. I’ve read his stuff and I’m such a better writer than him. I could absolutely do a better job behind the camera. What’s so special about her? What’s so important about him?

WHY DOESN’T ANYONE REALIZE THAT I’M THE BEST PERSON IN THE WORLD AT WHAT I DO?!?!?!?!?!?

That is what envy can do to. Take all my insecurities and turn my brain into a hornets’ nest. The awful thoughts I keep just beneath the surface, born of doubt and fear and narcissism and frustration, they seep out of my pores and turn me into something I don’t like very much.

That’s my secret, Cap…

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…I’m always an asshole.

It’s not an original tale, a writer struggling with egotism and doubt. Hell, they’re job requirements. They can fuel you. Only someone with an enormous ego thinks their thoughts are worth people paying money for; only someone full of doubt needs the love of millions of strangers to validate them as people.

Like I said, though, this has gotten a lot better over the years. I can actually now feel genuine joy at my friends’ successes. Sure, it’s joy laced with a little vitriol, but it’s joy all the same. I want everyone I know and love to do well at whatever they do. But it is hard when what they do is also what I do. Because I can’t help but measure myself up to them. And, rightly or wrongly, every step they take forward feels like a step back for me.

I also know that there are people that envy me. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a produced feature film in the world, no matter how small and indie. Not everyone has the time, endurance, or will to write a novel. Some people are better writers than me, but many are not.

What has been the point of this? I don’t know. Do I get off on exposing this jealous and angry part of myself? Maybe. Am I using this as an outlet to vent my frustrations? Certainly. If you take anything from this, other than a deep dislike of me, I hope you check out the work of my friends that I listed above. They’re all talented and hard-working people. And they’re good people.

Boy, I’m in a bad fucking mood.

I promise next week I’ll be a better person. Because, luckily, this feeling will fade and I’ll go back to this:

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No, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go keep my head down and do my work.

Taking a stab at the Marvel Movies

This is the Golden Age of superhero movies. It is flat-out ridiculous to think that not only has so many of these type of movies been made, but they have grossed tons of money. They aren’t a joke, but actually movies that non-comic book people will go see.

So we’re a couple of weeks past Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s release and a couple of weeks before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (though I must admit I’m a bit worried about that one), so it feels like a good time to post my rankings of the various Marvel movies. Note that I have not seen Punisher: War Zone, Elektra, Blade Trinity, and both Ghost Rider films (I’m guessing from most people’s thoughts that I haven’t missed anything.

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26. Wolverine: Origins – I didn’t see this one in the theater, so when I finally sat down to watch it I knew that it was supposed to be “bad”. Then the first five minutes of this movie went by and we saw Wolverine throughout the 20th Century and I thought that was all sorts of awesome. Sadly that is the only highlight of a movie whose big way to not invalidate the X-Men movies was a memory erasing bullet. Seriously. And Professor X didn’t notice the metal lodged in Wolverine’s brain… really?

Just terrible.

25. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – My one take-away from watching this movie was: “Was that actually an hour and a half?” If ever there was an example of doing a movie “just because” this may be it within the confines of the Marvel Universe. I would say more bad things about it but I honestly can’t remember much about it. Ranked higher than Wolverine only because the Silver Surfer looked cool.

24. X-Men 3 – I can sum up my dislike of this movie in one way: they killed Cyclops off-screen. I was watching the movie and about 40 minutes after the non-scene I realized what exactly had happened. And I still was shocked that is how they managed to do it. I know X-Men: Days of Future’s Past is tying these movies with the First Class movie, but they could forget about X-Men 3 and be better off for it.

23. Daredevil – I liked this one more on the first viewing than on subsequent viewings, but regardless of all of that I think that people have maligned this movie more than it really deserved. Bullseye’s battle with Elektra on the roof was nice. Michael Clark Duncan, while not the Kingpin from the comics, worked perfectly in the role. Yes, there is bad in there, but it isn’t all bad.

It isn’t all good either.

22. The Hulk – This is the first one, with the radioactive dogs. This is a solid movie for the first 2/3 of the flick, and then everything falls apart in the last act. Completely. I also think this one suffers from trying to be something different. It’s not a superhero movie, it is a 1950s style monster movie with a bit of 24’s multiple cameras thrown in. But, yeah, the Absorbing Man stuff at the end was shoehorned in horribly.

And radioactive “Hulk” dogs… that’s not a good idea ever.

21. The Incredible Hulk – More along the lines of the old tv show and the second of the Marvel Universe movies… something was just not 100% on this one, and I can’t put my finger on it. I love Ed Norton. I love Liv Tyler. It had the Abomination in it. It even set the Leader up for a future movie.

And somehow it is just ok. A head scratcher.

20. Fantastic Four – I’m saddened by this and its sequel mostly because after Spider-Man and The Avengers, I have more Fantastic Four comics in my collection than any other Marvel titles. The good – The Human Torch. Chris Evans nailed Johnny Storm… 1000%. As to the rest, it’s more blah than outright bad to me (they saved all the true suck for the second movie). In fact, this movie does what it set out to do, but it suffers from probably the worst thing: being boring. Regardless, this could never be ranked very on my list since they completely screwed up Doctor Doom.

19. Spider-Man 3 – I like the emo Peter Parker. I like the goofy dance. I think Venom is an excellent character (and story)… from the comics. This one suffers from the oldest problem in the Superhero movie bible: too many villains. Venom, Sandman, and Green Goblin is at least 1 villain too many. I know part of the issue was the studio wanted Venom and Rami did not, but this one just gets too cluttered at too many times. And really Gwen Stacy is wasted in this movie.

18. Iron Man 2 – Another one that kinda falls apart at the end. I don’t know what Whiplash’s “plan” really is, and I really don’t care. Let’s be honest, we were just watching for another 2 hours of RDJ playing Tony Stark, right? That’s what I thought.

17. The Punisher – I know that tons of people hate this one. I don’t read the Punisher comics. I don’t like the character of the Punisher in the comics. Just never understood why he was so popular. But this movie gave me exactly what I wanted from a Punisher movie – 80s action flick. I dig this one if only for his last interaction with Travolta. “You killed my son.” An explosion goes off in the distance and Punisher says, “Both of them.” Come on! That’s some Clint Eastwood badassness!

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16. The Wolverine – I needed this movie to be good. It needed to get the taste of the first Wolverine and X3 to a lesser extent, out of my mouth. So for that, it worked really well. It also showed that Wolverine didn’t need tons of other characters running around to make a movie… he’s the only focus the audience needs.

15. The Amazing Spider-Man – Loved the quips from Spider-Man in this one. Loved his interaction with Gwen Stacy. Loved that some of his movements in costume were very “spider-like”. I liked the Lizard’s look. I liked that they chose to focus on his parents some (at least in a background way, and more than anything they did in the Rami movies). Still, I didn’t need the origin again. I’m not sure the Lizard battle at the end holds up to any of the other Spider-Man movie fights. I wonder if the Rami movies didn’t exist would I like it more.

Too bad for it that the Rami movies do exist.

14. Iron Man 3 – I really need to rewatch this one because with more distance from it, I find my opinion of it lessens. It’s still a good movie. Again, any chance to see RDJ as Tony Stark is well worth the price of admission. I like the Mandarin swerve… did not see that one coming. But blowing up your armor, Tony? Really? You know there is another Avengers movie on the horizon, right? Let’s think this stuff through, ok?

13. X-Men – I didn’t see X-Men for a month or so after it initially came out. I was completely sure that it was going to be awful. There was no way any of it could work. So it wasn’t until my friends started talking it up that I finally broke down and saw it. I was stunned that somehow they’d made an X-Men movie that worked. The casting was just about perfect (even Hally Berry seems like she should be a decent Storm… seems). They were smart enough to focus on Wolverine and Rogue, to have them provide us our eyes into the world.

12. Captain America: The First Avenger – I liked the first Cap movie. They really nailed all the stuff I wanted to see in a WWII Captain America movie. If anything I think that the section where we delve into montages hurt this one more than anything else. They could have scrapped that and had a much tighter movie on their hands (and maybe use that time to get to know Bucky and the Howling Commandos? Just a thought). In light of The Winter Soldier, I do need to sit down and rewatch this one to see if my memory of the Bucky related stuff pays off in the second one the way I think it does.

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If only… if only…

11. Blade 2 – I flip flop between the two Blade movies. Sometimes I think the first is better and other times I think the second one is superior. But I think it comes down to the second one is more “fun”. Blade having to work with his enemies to ward off a new type of vampire… I’m in.

10. Blade – There is no reason this movie should work. It just shouldn’t, but it does. It captures the spirit of the Blade comics while being a little bit frightening at times. Pitch perfect adaptation in my mind.

9. X-Men: First Class – I could watch young Magneto and young Xavier wander around recruiting mutants for 4 hours if they’d let me. The stuff with the actual “First Class” was alright, but what made this movie sing was the friendship of two men who were destined to be on opposing sides of the coming war.

8. Thor – How in the world were they going to get Thor to work? How would they managed to tie in the Asgard stuff into the Earth (Midgard)? Would they get the character of Loki? This may be the biggest surprise of any of these movies (maybe the first X-Men is a little more because it had never been done, but I digress). Somehow they managed to paint a portrait of Thor’s home that made it where the connection it had to Midgard and the people there… well, it worked. But more than that, I think that the overall storyline, exiling Thor to Earth, teaching him humility. I don’t know if he learned a full lesson, but I dug it.

7. Thor: The Dark World – Again the theme of heroes and villains teaming up shows itself. Thor not only needing Loki’s help, but the fact that Loki needs to help his brother. I think I’m going to be sad when I watch Avengers 2, just because Loki won’t be there.

6. Spider-Man – I walked out of the first Spider-Man and you would have had to use a jack hammer to get the smile off my face. I loved this movie so much. That said, it isn’t ranked higher because the middle portion of the movie drags a little bit on rewatches. That being said, I will still watch it anytime it comes on tv, so that little bit doesn’t bother me all that much.

5. X-Men 2 – This might be the most “perfect” superhero movie of any on this list. I don’t think I have any complaints about it. Loved the interaction between Cyclops and Wolverine. Loved the good guys having to work with the bad guys. Loved the initial sequence with Nightcrawler teleporting around the White House. Had they never made another X-Men movie, this would have been a fitting one to end on.

4. Spider-Man 2 – Though my wife doesn’t like this one as much as the first, I just love it when we don’t have to worry about spending 45 minutes on the superhero origin. We get to focus on the characters and their interactions. And while I don’t know if I agree with the idea that Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man’s greatest villain. It is not the most obvious thing, like the Joker to Batman. But given that the Green Goblin became a legacy more than just one guy in a mask trying to beat our hero up.. well, Otto’s got the longevity.

3. Iron Man – Inspired casting of RDJ as Iron Man. Wait, this is a character with addiction problems and you’re getting an actor who has addiction problems. I wonder if he can bring anything to the character? A friend of mine always says he thinks Iron Man has the best origin story of any of the heroes, and after watching (and rewatching) this one, I don’t get sick of it. The first of the Marvel Movies really set the stage for something special to come down the pipeline in the years to come.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I may be riding the wave on this one, but that was all sorts of crazy. Falcon = awesome. Black Widow = awesome. And Steve Rogers = awesome. This was the inheritor of the Avengers movie mantle more than any of the other Phase 2 films. I would say more, but to say much more might open the door to spoilers and I don’t want to ruin any moment of this one for anyone.

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1. The Avengers – The pinnacle. Chad called me the moment he exited the theater and the message on my voicemail was simply. “Joss did it.” When this one was over I could only grin like an idiot. When you are 11 years old reading about these characters, you figure the best they might be able to do is a cartoon with them all in it. But a live-action version. Not in a million years. No, younger John, they just needed like 25 years. 25 years to make a movie that was both the beginning of a trilogy and the defacto sequel to 4 different franchises. Shouldn’t have worked, and yet it did.

 

Anyway, that’s my list, which will get at least 3 longer after this year and maybe more if I could bring myself to actually watch Ghost Rider. He’s a guy with a flaming skull on his head! How did they mess that one up?

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week one of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

A Long Time Ago… We Used to be Friends…

My wife is obsessed.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

If you were a writer and you happened to know a Chemist, the best thing for you when you need to insert a generic scientist into your story MIGHT be to make that character a Chemist. I mean you have the access to that knowledge (so your story can be a little more authentic). It just makes sense.

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With the TV show Veronica Mars, I have access to an expert as well.

Now I’m not 100% on this, but I’d be willing to bet that she’s watched the show (3 seasons and 60+ episodes) more than anyone else on the planet (at the very least she has to be in the top 1% of Veronica Mars fans when it comes to watching episodes) (which probably means I’ve watched every episode 6 or 7 times). We own the DVDS and she’s manged to wear 2 of the seasons out from the repeated play (yeah, I didn’t know that could happen either with DVDs). When the SOAP Network (RIP) began showing the series in order during a 2 hour block every day (and then on the weekends as well) there was many a day I would come home from work to find V-Mars playing on the TV. Think about it, she’d watch episodes with commercials in them because she loved it so much (well, maybe there was a bit of laziness in there as well, not wanting to hunt down that particular episode).

A little obsessed…

So when Veronica Mars had a chance of returning to the world through a movie with their Kickstarter Campaign about a year ago, it was never a question of IF we’d be supporting the project. The only question was “how much would we pledge”. And when they passed 2 million dollars she squealed like a teenage girl. Then the countdown was on, and on March 14, 2014 at 7:15 we sat in a theater, about 1/2 full, and watched Veronica appear on the screen for the first time in about 8 years.

We also have a digital copy of the movie. Don’t ask how many times she’s watched it (I ran out of toes and fingers counting).

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Then when Veronica Mars was announced as being a part of the Amazon Kindle Worlds program, whether we were going to do a project was secondary to who the story would focus on, when to place it…

For those that may not know, Kindle Worlds is a way for you to write Fan Fiction in a world in a more legit manner. They license the properties and open them up to anyone to contribute. Whatever your opinion of fan fiction might be, it still strikes me as a kinda cool way to be more apart of the world(s) we all know and love.

With this opportunity and this particular World, my wife and I had to do something.

And that led us to Mac.

Veronica Mars

 

Mac is Veronica’s friend. She’s sorta the Q to Veronica’s James Bond. And since we weren’t going to write about Veronica directly she jumped out at us.

Collaboration is always tricky when writing comics or prose or whatever, but collaboration with your spouse… well, it was actually fairly easy. We spent a couple of weeks after the initial announcement in early February just talking about plot lines, possible angles to take. Which characters would appear? Which season would we set things? And so on. Then once we had the rough beats for things I started writing and over the course of about 2 weeks pounded out the first draft. She read it in 2 parts, the first 3 chapters and then the last 3 chapters. I then took her edits and did another pass on the story with her sitting beside me to really go over any places I had questions about.

The final step, after multiple drafts, was to read it aloud. I’ve read about other writers who do this in order to make sure that the sentences aren’t too awkward. The idea being that if you stumble over it as you read it aloud, then it probably needs to be rephrased. I gotta say, that after doing it I not only noticed more than a couple of odd sentences, but also caught a couple of simple errors, double words, that sort of thing.

So maybe there is something to this technique.

Anyway, we hit submit on the novella Sunday evening and last night I got the email from Amazon that it was now live! Right Here!

That’s right, you can now read a Veronica Mars story by me and the wife, if you happen to be into that sort of thing. And you should be, especially if you were ever a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon appeared in the show and at one point said it was his favorite show on tv (at least while it was on the air). So that’s gotta count for something, right?

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This guy likes Veronica Mars, you should too.

And now a little excerpt from the novella (just a taste)…

Get away from Beaver. Now. He’s a killer. I’m in the lobby.

The words scream at me from my phone. Veronica’s attempt to help me. To save me.

It’s been two weeks, and I’m not sure exactly what those words mean.

Oh, I understand the big things. The newspapers had part of it, and Veronica filled me in on the rest. Beaver was the one who killed all those people on the bus. Beaver tried to set Veronica up. And that night, he tried not only to kill her, but almost killed her dad with the bomb, which blew up Woody Goodman’s plane.

Get away from Beaver. Now. He’s a killer.

The words are in English, and yet they make no sense. Nothing about that night makes any damn sense. Try as I might I can’t wrap my head around it. What was supposed to be a special night became a nightmare. Since then, the days have been the better part of a blur. So I sit here at Java the Hut and stare at my cell phone, hoping through sheer force of will the phrase will make a little sense at some point.

I’m not holding my breath though.

He’s a killer.

What does that even mean?

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

am.