Tagged: drama

REVIEW: Bones the Complete Seventh Season

Bones has carefully straddled the line between light-hearted crime drama, ala Hart to Hart and taut melodrama. Over the seven seasons, showrunner Hart Hanson has carefully brought the main characters, Special Agent Seely Booth (David Boreanaz) and Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel), together, nicely balancing the “will they or won’t they?” romantic tension until finally, in the last season, they finally became a couple. Probably quicker than anticipated, thanks to a real life pregnancy, Brennan was with child.

The seventh season of Bones, now out on Blu-ray from 20th Century Home Entertainment, is a shorter than normal thirteen episodes because of the circumstances, but Hanson did not slow down the pacing, setting things up for a dramatic cliffhanger that left fans really hanging for the spring and summer.

Along the way, the supporting cast at the Jeffersonian Institute Forensic Sciences Department was also given their moments in the spotlight, proving they are one of the richest, most interesting ensembles on prime time. With all the personal issues surrounding the cast, it’s pretty impressive they still manage to fit in unique corpse of the week stories. Things kicked off with a body at a paintball event and continued forward. The forensic testing results remain ridiculously fast in arriving and Angela (Michaela Conlin) never meets a challenge whose butt she can’t kick so there are definite stretches of credulity, moreso this season than in the past. Sweets (John Frances Daley) lost some of his boyish charm as he grew deadly accurate with his service revolver.

The series nicely rotated the usual interns, freshening the group dynamic with regularity and the addition of southern gentleman Finn Abernathy (Luke Kleintank) was a nice addition. His flirtation and dating of Cam’s (Tamara Taylor) daughter was an interesting development that ultimately went nowhere.

The most unusual episode of the season has to be “The Suit on the Set” where Booth and Brennan travel to watch a film based on one of her books is being made. They skewer Hollywood’s inability to faithfully adapt a novel, going for busts and pyrotechnics over plot and characterization. A little silly but a refreshing change of pace.

The finale sees the return of criminal Christopher Pellant who goes out of his way to frame Brennan, turning her into a wanted felon. The problem here is that the circumstantial evidence mounts so high so fast, at least one of the characters should have at least questioned the absurdity of all this damning information pouring out at once. But nope, never happened. Instead, Brennan and her dad (Ryan O’Neal) take the baby and go on the run, leaving Booth behind.

Given the shortened season, one would have expected either additional special features to compensate or fewer given the dearth of material to work with. We get more of the latter than the former with two deleted scenes, commentary on one episode, a four minute Gag Reel, and two small pieces on the Hollywood episode. First, there’s Creating The Suit on the Set (10:59) on how the episode was made then a fun, fake Bone of Contention: On the Red Carpet (3:18)

I was late to the series and was able to plow through the first five seasons to jump on board but you cannot start cold with this season. It’s too involved in its continuity and character relationships to be totally accessible to a newcomer. But for those of us who are fans of this show, adapted from the novels by Kathy Reichs, it was a slid if flawed season and worth a second look.

Review: Mike Baron’s Helmet Head

Helmut Head • Mike Baron • Amazon Kindle book, available in all e-book formats • 206 pages • $4.99 download

The premise of Helmet Head is simple: Young Jewish motorcycle cop Peter Fagan inadvertently stumbles into the path of someone or something that stalks bikers and leaves them headless. Although there are plenty of outlaw bikers in the story, the killer targets anyone on a motorcycle. Right after he dispatches a member of the local southern Illinois biker gang, he pursues Fagan with frightening singleness of purpose. He pursues Fagan all the way to the biker hangout, a rundown, out of the way bar, where Helmet Head doesn’t kill anyone. Instead, he orders a drink. When the bartender refuses to serve him, he leaves. This sets the tone for a rather long stretch.

The action kicks into high gear again in the last third of the story, and if you can get past the mad scientist angle and the obligatory damsel in distress, it’s a fairly entertaining ride. The climactic conflagration is a smorgasbord of horror movie clichés – which might have worked, despite the rather offhanded way one of the main characters dies, if it weren’t for the rather anti-climactic (and inevitable) scene in which the villain meets his end.

Mike Baron is a good writer, and that shows early on in Helmet Head – and based on my extremely limited sample of self-published works of fiction, Helmet Head is the best-written one so far. The first few chapters are tightly paced, with just enough colorful metaphor to give the narrative depth. But good writing and good storytelling are not the same thing.

Helmet Head apparently started as an idea for a “slasher film,” and that unfortunately also shows. Unlike a non-stop action film, a good novel, even a slasher/horror/thriller novel, requires some characters with depth. Even if you don’t like the characters, you need to have some sense that they are real. For good or ill, you need to care what happens to them; otherwise you won’t keep reading to find out. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, but interspersing the main story with unrelated stories from the characters’ pasts only works if it gives the characters more depth or motivation or something that gives the reader a sense of empathy. In the case of Helmet Head, it just gives the characters … well … pasts. Fagan’s early life and Jewish heritage are apparently supposed to be significant in some way. As it turns out, not so much.

Helmet Head reads like a screenplay padded out to make a novel. The pieces just don’t fit together very well. The pacing is uneven. Aside from the occasional overly long asides into the various characters’ back stories, some scenes just don’t seem to make any sense at all. What does Fagan do after the biker gang takes off in pursuit of the monster that has just chopped off the head of their friend and tossed it through the bar window like a basketball? He goes in the back room of the bar and … takes a shower. Freshly showered, he “… stood in the doorway and scanned the room as he’d been trained to do.” This is because the entire bar is a potential crime scene … one in which he’s just taken a shower. And only after that does it occur to him that maybe he should find a vehicle and get the hell out of there and do something, anything.

To be fair, maybe I expected too much. I’m a big fan of Baron’s work on the comic book Nexus, which seamlessly weaves action, drama, humor, and moral conflict into compelling storylines. The most enjoyable aspect of my brief tenure in the comics industry was working with Mike on that book. Unfortunately, those qualities are sadly lacking in Helmet Head.


The Point Radio: You Are Warned – Don’t Miss LAST RESORT

Shawn Ryan (THE SHIELD) is back on TV, and with what might be the most unique premise of the season. LAST RESORT is not your standard drama, and Shawn explains why plus Clint Eastwood & Amy Adams talk about making the first fun baseball movie in years, TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE and more on why DREDD 3-D will be exceeding most fan’s expectations.

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By Riana Telgemeier
Scholastic Graphix, 233 pages, $10.99/$23.99

Despite being an adult, Raina Telgemeier has not forgotten what it was like to be an eighth grader when everything, from your body to your relationships, change with startling regularity. She demonstrated this in the wonderful memoir Smile and returns with Drama, a story across a school year.

Callie adores the theater and while isn’t comfortable on stage given her horrible singing voice, relishes her backstage work. This year, the final one of middle school, she’s now charged with the set design for Moon Over Mississippi. Her devotion to Broadway fills her head with larger-than-life ideas, almost impossible to pull off with a school budget coupled with her inexperience at things like hammering. What she does excel at is making friends  and she forms some new attachments during the course of the production.

She’s gaga for Greg, the older brother of her best friend Matt, but he has eyes for someone else. Then she meets twins Justin and Jesse; one wants to be the star, the other is equally good but more comfortable working behind the scenes. Their integration into the school’s theater culture forms a large chunk of the story, especially as it becomes apparent one of the twins is out and proud. Of course, drama kids tends to be more accepting of gay friends, but in middle school it’s never easy and Telgemeier doesn’t shy away from, ahem, the drama inherent in this.

The entire graphic novel is set within the framework of a play with opening and closing curtains and even a brief intermission. Aided with subtle and effective coloring from Gurihiru, Telgemeier’s accessible style makes this an easy, entertaining read.  She doesn’t crowd her pages and makes her characters look and speak in distinctive ways, yet retaining that youthful exuberance we all recall from those years in school.

There is plenty of tension during rehearsals and performances and Callie’s attempts to perfect a cannon going off is a metaphor for the entire experience. There is a lovely rhythm to the character arcs as things go from complicated to easy and then veers into the “it’s complicated” territory. By the end of the play, bonds have been forged that helps prepare all of the cast members for the leap into high school. Growing up is never easy and you survive school thanks to your friends and Telgemeier sees to it Callie is well loved as people respond to her devotion to theater and all its trappings.

Spielberg’s Lincoln One-Sheet Unveiled

1-sheet_lincoln_v81-300x444-8896758When we saw the first image of Daniel Day-Lewis in his Abraham Lincoln makeup, we thought it was pretty impressive. Considering this is a two-time Academy Award winner in Lincoln, a film from director Steven Spielberg, we know this is one to see. That it is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s wondferul book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln is all the more reason we’re more excited about this than we were with Abe the Vampire Slayer.

According to DreamWorks, which releases the film on November 9, the movie is a “revealing drama that focuses on the 16th President’s tumultuous final months in office. In a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, Lincoln pursues a course of action designed to end the war, unite the country and abolish slavery. With the moral courage and fierce determination to succeed, his choices during this critical moment will change the fate of generations to come.”

The cast includes Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln along with David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook and Tommy Lee Jones. Lincoln is produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, with a screenplay by Tony Kushner. The film is a coproduction between DreamWorks Pictures/Twentieth Century Fox film, in association with Participant Media.

The Remake Chronicles: Rear Window

The Remake Chronicles: Rear Window

First Commentary by Adam-Troy Castro

Rear Window (1954). Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Screenplay by John Michael Hayes, from the story by Cornell Woolrich. Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Raymond Burr, Thelma Ritter. 112 minutes. *** 1/2

Rear Window (1998). Directed by Jeff Bleckner. Screenplay by Larry Gross and Eric Overmyer, from the story by Cornell Woolrich. Starring Christopher Reeve, Darryl Hannah, Robert Forster. 89 minutes. **

Other Related Films:  Too many ripoffs and homages to count, among them Disturbia (2007), which is so similar to Woolrich’s story that the owners of the film had to go to court to get a ruling that they hadn’t violated Rear Window’s copyright.

This one’s an oddity, folks: a remake that was actually based on a breathtakingly brilliant idea for a variation on a movie that was a classic to begin with, that nevertheless utterly failed to live up to its promise.

The source was the short story “It Had To Be Murder,” by suspense great Cornell Woolrich, all about a man temporarily laid up with a broken leg who has nothing better to do while he heals than look out the window and watch the lives of his neighbors. As it happens, one of those neighbors has a murderous secret involving the sudden disappearance of his wife. Our hero gradually pieces together the clues – all predicated on his neighbor’s odd behavior, all of which has other potentially innocent explanation — and ultimately brings the malefactor to justice.

There is no girlfriend in the story, no great emotional character arc linking the mystery to a pivotal crisis in the hero’s life. It’s just something that happens to him, something that makes his brief existence as an invalid a little more interesting than it might have been otherwise. (Other Woolrich stories are more emotionally fraught: the failure of SOME great moviemaker to adapt his horrific stunner, “Momentum,” remains a mystery.)  The subsequent movies required more, and are in at least case significantly more satisfying.


The Original

The 1954 version written by John Michael Hayes and directed by Alfred Hitchcock presents us with the case of one L.B. (nickamed “Jeff”) Jefferies (James Stewart), an international action photographer who is laid up in his rarely-used Greenwich Village after getting a killer photo of a race car wreck, which he evidently got from standing in the road while the twisted wreckage spun ass-over-teakettle toward him. (In a sense: serves him right). We gather from much of the dialogue about his activities, taking photos in hot spots around the world, that getting the impossibly dangerous shot is his specialty. The man is a danger junkie, now confined to a wheelchair and about to go crazy as he waits the last few days for his cast to be taken off. He’s an action hero reduced to inaction hero. He has nothing better to do than to look out the rear window and watch the lives of his neighbors.

The courtyard his tiny apartment overlooks is one of the great indoor sets in the entire history of the movies. It is a complete, living neighborhood in and of itself, comprised of a number of different buildings of different design, overlooking a central area where the inhabitants have carved out flower beds and little patches of lawn. There’s even an alley, through which Jeff can see the street, and passing cars. For the 112 minutes of the movie, the action never moves from this place, except to pull deeper into Jeff’s apartment where he has conversations of varying import with his visiting nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter), his old war buddy Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey), and his socialite girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), who is pressing him for further commitment.

The first thing to note here is that this is a guy who honestly cannot decide whether he wants to be married to Grace Kelly. This is a plot point that has appalled friends I’ve shown the film. But some men do flee domesticity, and one of the grand, subtle jokes of the vast multi-layered tableau that fes Jeff as he looks out his window and spies on the outside world is that every single life he spies upon presents him with another possible future, depending on whether he says yea or nay to Lisa. There’s the pair of ardent honeymooners, pulling down the shades and initiating an implied marathon love-making session that seems to go sour after only a couple of days; there’s “Miss Lonelyhearts,” the miserable woman stuck in a particularly miserable and increasingly despairing singlehood; there’s “Miss Torso,” the good-time party gal who always has men hanging around and represents the erotic opportunities Jeff might enjoy if he ever lets Lisa go; there’s the middle-aged couple with the little dog, who every night drag their mattresses out to the fire escape and snore away in relative comfort, all sense of passion gone; and finally, there’s the Thorvalds, whose marriage has turned toxic, and who have so little to say to one another that they’re almost always visibly in separate rooms, framed by different windows. It’s worth noting that nowhere in this slice of life are there any children. Children would fall outside the metaphor, which is like all great dramatic metaphors felt without any particular effort to underline it. What Jeff sees is very firmly the face of Jeff’s dilemma.  The second thing to note here is that all of these spied-upon characters have an arc of sorts, played with perfect modulation as the drama in the Thorvald apartment – where the much put-upon husband (Raymond Burr) appears to have offed his wife – takes center stage. Almost all of them pay off. So does the drama in Jeff’s apartment, where in between banter with Stella and romantic complications with Lisa, he resists and then embraces his obsession with Thorvald’s apparent crime. It’s a marvelously layered film, with comedy and relationship drama and even questions over the creepiness of Jeff’s activities all braided together in a tapestry of remarkable design. These days, some viewers may find it requires patience. But it rewards that patience. I don’t think it has a single dull moment, and key among its best attributes is the way the clues to Mrs. Thorvald’s murder don’t just pile up in some facile way, but at times offer competing explanations, and reasons to turn away.

Nor is Jeff given a free ride on the moral issues. His voyeurism – hardly asexual, but certainly bored – is criticized by everybody in his circle, and the movie takes delight in using this to indict the audience. The moral issues are so nuanced that it is even possible to feel sorry for Thorvald, after everything Jeff has put him through in order to prove his case. Thorvald is not an evil man, per se; just a very unhappy, very weak, very trapped one who has done a horrendously evil thing, and when he confronts Jeff (who he presumes to be a blackmailer) with an anguished, “What do you want from me?”, that one line is likely the most empathetic moment of Raymond Burr’s career.

But then all the performances in the film work at an equal level. It is among the best films of James Stewart’s career and one of the best of Grace Kelly’s. Even the supporting players across the courtyard inhabit their roles with grace and a deep sense of humor. It’s very nearly a perfect film, and though it’s been imitated a dozen times, it’s hard to think of any wrinkle that would even stand a chance of improving on it.

Enter Christopher Reeve.

The Remake

The sad but stirring twist in the life of Christopher Reeve is so well known that it need not be recapped here; suffice it to say that I concur with author Brad Meltzer’s take on the man, that he achieved fame by playing the indestructible Superman and greatness standing in the mortality of all of us Clark Kents.

I don’t hold with the popular wisdom that Reeve was never great on screen except as Superman; I would argue that he was pretty damn chilling as a sociopathic playwright in Deathtrap, and pretty damn good a couple of other times. He was certainly no liability in Remains Of The Day opposite Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. performed in front of the camera on several occasions following the terrible accident that made him a quadriplegic, and was therefore a natural when somebody hit upon the startling brainstorm of casting him as the lead in an updated Rear Window. Why wouldn’t it work? Jeff in the original is pretty damned vulnerable as a man of action who has been sidelined by a mere broken leg; how much more helpless will his character be, when he cannot move a muscle under his shoulders, and requires live-in help just to get a cup of water when he wants one? Wouldn’t that ramp up the scares even more?

This is not a unique idea. As it happens, there is an entire subgenre of what we’ll now call “handicap thrillers,” involving physically impaired characters who must overcome their limitations in order to overcome the evil intentions of various murderers and thugs. Among them: the terrifying Wait Until Dark, which starred Audrey Hepburn in the adaptation of the Broadway play about a “world champion blind woman” terrorized by gangsters searching for a cache of drugs in her apartment;  See No Evil, which pit a blind Mia Farrow against another murderous plot; and Mute Witness, about a woman who…well, you can figure out the rest. There are even other thrillers featuring lead characters in wheelchairs. Hell, thriller writer Jeffery Deaver has written a pretty damn terrific series of novels about his quadriplegic forensic scientist Lincoln Rhyme, one of which was made into an unfortunately not-very-good movie with Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.

The inherent claustrophobia of Rear Window should have worked wonders with the predicament applied to a quadriplegic, and with a quadriplegic we all loved in the lead.

And this much needs to be said: in spurts, Reeve is terrific. He always excelled at the dazzling smile during an emotionally vulnerable moment, and has several opportunities to pull off that trick here. Throughout this film, he has scenes that play off the heartbreaking realities of life as a one-time vital person reduced to immobility, including one where he regards a closet teeming with clothes that he will likely never wear again. Early scenes, with him in the hospital bleakly wishing he was dead, are downright painful to watch, in light of our certain knowledge that Reeve lived those moments and felt those feelings.

But – and boy, do I feel like a heel for advancing this case – he also sabotaged this movie’s effectiveness as a thriller from the get-go.

The problem is that, by the time it was made,  Reeve was quite rightly an advocate for spinal cord research, and for state-of-the-art medical treatments for people with spinal cord injury…and as such, acutely aware that this movie, by far his most substantial acting role after the accident, was the best place to advocate for his cause. So he made demands, and nobody involved with the production had the heart or the good sense to say no to him. So it begins with him in the hospital, features him declaring that he will walk again someday, and includes scenes of him undergoing arduous physical rehabilitation to triumphant music long before he even gets to the apartment where he will observe the murder across the way.

This is absolutely fine if you’re making an issues drama of the challenges faced by quadriplegics, less fine if you’re making a thriller – a short TV movie, no less – where all these scenes take time and bleed tension from the story you’re supposed to be here to tell. Another problem arising from this is that, as a result of all this can-do spirit, the character he plays is exactly the same at the beginning of the movie as he is at the end; he doesn’t rise to the occasion, and he doesn’t learn about himself. His character arc is a straight line.

The story might have worked better if Reeve had been a despairing recent quad who imagined he had little to live for, for most of the film, and was brought back to some interest in life by his engagement with the murder scene across the street…a natural plot development given how many quads attempt suicide in the early years of their disability – but such attention to emotional realities, or at least dramatic ones, would have interfered with his personal mission to make this a hidden advocacy film.

Reeve’s advocacy harmed the film in another way. At the time, he also said he wanted to show the kind of tech available, to aid quadriplegics in living fulfilled lives. So there’s a lot of that, in his character’s home: including voice-activated computers that control the lights, the elevator, the phones, and so on. His character has an attendant in residence at all times, a fulfilling career with partners who respect him, and a beautiful woman who by the end of the movie will fall in love with him. This is all nice stuff to have. It doesn’t replace a functioning body, but it makes the transition to a disabled life as easy as it can be. So what we have, here, is quadriplegia as Christopher Reeve lived it – which, while it functions as drama, is absolute death when it comes to a film of suspense. Imagine he was a quad of more modest resources, living on disability, in a cramped space with only limited assistance – and THEN suspected that a murder was taking place across the street. This guy can afford to set up surveillance equipment, just in case he misses anything – and, by the way, unlike the original film’s protagonist, whose voyeurism bothered his nurse, his girlfriend, and his cop buddy, this guy’s video cameras are treated as cool stuff by almost everybody concerned. The voyeuristic aspects never receive substantive criticism.

Time hasn’t been kind to the concept, either. In 1954, the rarity of air conditioning – a factor in other Hitchcock movies discussed here in the past– meant that it was perfectly reasonable for the residents of a middle-class apartment complex to live their lives in full view, playing out entire dramas in view of their windows. In 1998, it doesn’t make nearly as much sense…especially since the Hitchcock provided a far more spacious courtyard with apartments set at varying angles and not the direct-line-of-sight posited by this movie. Also – as any thriller writer will tell you – the invention of the cellular telephone has been absolute hell on plotting, and its inclusion in the remake is no exception. Too, the killer here is a one-dimensional designated asshole, not nearly as interesting or as oddly sympathetic as Raymond Burr was in the original.

Finally, there is no wonderfully complex courtyard across the way: just a single dull edifice that fills Reeve’s line of sight and offers him what amounts to a collection in television sets in the form of conveniently-placed windows. There is no comparison to what we were given in  1954. It’s flat, in every sense of the word. This was not Reeve’s worst remake of a notable film: his last movie as a fully-abled man was a terrible version of Village of The Damned, and we will someday cover his participation in a truly unfortunate version of The Front Page. (It was called Switching Channels, and he played opposite Burt Reynolds and Kathleen Turner.) All we can say of this one is that it just didn’t work.

The View From The Apartment

1954 version, an undisputed classic. 1998 version, a missed opportunity.


And now, I watch from cover as the wife engages in sinister activities…

Second Commentary by Judi B. Castro

Rear Window (1954). Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Screenplay by John Michael Hayes, from the story by Cornell Woolrich. Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Raymond Burr, Thelma Ritter. 112 minutes. *** 1/2

Rear Window (1998). Directed by Jeff Bleckner. Screenplay by Larry Gross and Eric Overmyer, from the story by Cornell Woolrich. Starring Christopher Reeve, Darryl Hannah, Robert Forster. 89 minutes. **

Other Related Films: Too many ripoffs and hommages to count, among them Disturbia (2007), which is so similar to Woolrich’s story that the owners of the film had to go to court to get a ruling that they hadn’t violated Rear Window’s copyright.

I so wanted to like the 1998 rethink of Rear Window.  I mean come on it had Superman starring and proving he just might really be.  Besides, the original was really showing a few grey hairs (not just the one’s previously claimed by Jimmy Stewart). But, alas, it was not to be.

In 1954, and even up to the mid 70’s, it may have been commonplace for someone to become a temporary voyeur via injury or illness.  Boredom had fewer releases than today, little television, no computers or video games.  Books were limited at most libraries by budget and distance to said library.  And most magazines came out monthly, so a long convalescence had a lot of downtime.  So its believable that the Stewart character could easily start watching his summertime neighbors and playing mind games with himself.  Its even possible that those same folks might not notice him watching, or could pass it off as just a friendly guy at his window.  Creepy neighbor watching became the meme much later.

The things I find totally unbelievable for that time or EVER, is that any straight man, whether injured or not, rich or poor, or whatever, could have Grace Kelly in her most gorgeous state, throwing herself at him (and wantonly at that) and he can resist and actually ignore her!  PUHLEEZE!  Dude didn’t have a broken leg, They were feeding him large quantities of saltpeter.  Next, the home nurse never insists he leave the apartment, just cleans him up and lets him hobble about his two rooms.  Six to eight weeks in solitary confinement?  Is that doctor recommended?

Now, how about that remake?  I can believe that architect Christopher Reeve has enough cash reserve for all the wondrous toys both medical and electronic he buys after his accident.  I’m sure he had much better access than the average newly paralyzed patient and just figured he could walk back into (so to speak) his job and most of his old life.  Ummm…  ??? How?  Most of his firm’s partners would attempt to block him from anything to do with the job or the public and claim it was for his own sake.

Now, how about the crux of each thriller, the supposed murder of the neighbor’s wife.

In both films the murder is based on the supposition that a disappearing wife meant a murder had been committed.  Neither is proven conclusively, but both disabled leads taunt the murderer into a full on attack.  In the 1954 film, I honestly believe that Jimmy Stewart, hobbled or not, had a fighting chance against Raymond Burr. Not so with Chris Reeves.  How could he?  His ability to defend himself was purely run and hide.  he couldn’t draw a gun or knife on his attacker, he could only call 911 if that.  The suspense was only if he could breathe long enough for help to arrive.  In other words, uhh, no really.

So, to sum up.  1998 had a good try at an update, but needed less disability to keep the suspense alive.  1954 needed a leading character who wasn’t wearing a giant “L” on his forehead for the whole film.

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The Bootleg War is now Available

Latchkeys #4, “The Bootleg War”, is now available for Kindle and Nook. Author Paul Kupperberg talks about the writing experience.

By Paul Kupperberg

For writers, ideas are like stacked up airplanes circling the fogged in airport. We want desperately to have all of them land safely, but some are going to have to stay up in the air a little longer than others until the weather clears or a runway opens up. As a result, we’ve all got lots of ideas circling our brains but no opportunity to bring them in for a landing on paper as quickly as we would like.

A few years back, Steven Savile, on a writers email list to which we both belong, suggested that a bunch of us join forces to take some of those high-flying ideas, throw them into a hat, and pick a few on which a dozen or so of us could work together. The idea was to hasten the development and writing of these various concepts by sharing the workloads. The result of Steve’s suggestion was a collective we came to call the HivemMnd.

While Steve has already related the secret origin of the HiveMind in an earlier post here on the Crazy 8 Press blog, the work of actually writing Latchkeys takes place not as a community activity, but in the individual workrooms, offices, and minds of our fourteen writers. The current episode, “Chapter 4: Speakeasy, Part One: The Bootleg War” began with a story by Kris Katzen, which landed on my desk for fleshing out and was a particularly fun story for me to work on. It incorporates elements that play to several of my strengths as a writer: It takes place in New York, the city in which I was born and about which I have an insatiable curiosity (I have shelves containing nothing but histories and biographies related to this, the greatest city on earth), and is set against a historic backdrop, in this case the Prohibition era of the 1920s (coincidentally, I recently read Daniel Okrent’s fascinating history, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition).

I love to pepper period stories like “Bootleg War” with interesting little historic tidbits, whether about its locale or some incidental information (did you know Converse All-Stars sneakers were introduced during the First World War?)…just enough to give it the right flavor and a dash of verisimilitude. Of course, stories have to come from out of the characters first, but those characters need to be rooted in a world that’s as real as they are. The use of the wrong slang or an anachronistic prop and the reader is yanked out of the moment and all the mood and drama the author was hoping to set up is ruined.

And speaking of characters: Latchkeys stars a roster of good ones. I was already familiar with two of them, twin sisters Mercy and Marguerite, from writing one of the later Latchkeys episodes (#13, “Emmett”), but “Bootleg War” gave me the opportunity to get to know a couple of the other fascinating teens who populate this world. I hope you’ll find their intelligence and resourcefulness as interesting as I did while writing them.

So, to torture my opening airplane analogy just a little further, bringing Latchkeys in for a landing has been, in some ways, a long and sometimes bumpy ride, but now that we’re safely home, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a moment of the trip. For readers, on the other hand, there’s nothing but clear skies and some good reading ahead.

“Midnight Hour” puts a retro comic-book spin on Father’s Day

On June 17, millions will celebrate Father’s Day with a card, a gift or a dinner. But “Lee Martin’s The Midnight Hour” has a unique way of saluting dad: with a chainsaw.

In this month’s all-new episode, “How I Dismembered Your Mother,” a grassroots family man named Bruno (Didrik Davis) discovers that his rebellious wife plans to divorce him and take with her their young son, he goes on a chainsaw-wielding rampage of death which ends with the show’s signature twist at “The Midnight Hour.”

This entry airs as the show’s fourth season draws to a close (the season finale, “Secret of the Blood Children,” airs in August) and is rife with drama, dismemberings and death. Watch for a powerful performance from leading man Davis as well as some stomach-churning special effects courtesy Brian Schoof.

“How I Dismembered Your Mother” airs every Thursday and Saturday night throughout the month of June, 2012. Visit www.leemartinsthemidnighthour.com for channels, times and a live streaming video simulcast link.


(A Walt Longmire Mystery)
By Craig Johnson
Penguin Books
309 pages
“Hell Is Empty” is as much about the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming as it is about the people who live within their shadows.  Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire is transporting several prisoners to an out of the way wilderness locale to unearth the remains of a slain Indian boy murdered by one of the convicts; a psychopath named Raynaud Shade.  Upon meeting Longmire for the first time, Shade tells him he hears ghosts and believes the sheriff possesses the same ability.  Longmire, having fulfilled his duty in getting this human monster to the site, packs it in and starts down the mountain.
Within hours of digging up the boy’s bones, the convicts, following a plan devised by Shade, escape; killing several federal agents and marshals in the process.  When the news reaches Longmire, he realizes he’s the only lawman left on the mountain able to give chase and sets out after the killers alone.  Thus begins his incredible journey that will ultimately test both his body and his spirit as a savage winter storm is descending on the mountains and becomes a deadly participant in the drama.
Johnson’s title; “Hell Is Empty,” is an homage to Dante’s classic fantasy, “Inferno,” where the lowest levels of hell are not hot but numbingly frozen over much like the very peaks Longmire must conquer to capture Shade and save the female marshal he holds  hostage.  Now a resident of Colorado, I am daily reminded of the power and majesty of these mountain ranges and threat they pose to any who venture into them naively without the proper outdoor skills.  This book is more an adventure odyssey than a mystery. Longmire must confront his own inner demons while climbing higher to reach the snow blanketed Cloud Peak which is Shade’s final destination where both will confront each other in a primal contest of good versus evil.
The book is multilayered and despite it Heminwayesque narrative style, Johnson adds a new twist by having his protagonist guided by a giant Crow warrior called Virgil White Buffalo; his version Dante’s Roman poet guide. There is a crucial connection between the giant Virgil and the fleeing killer that Longmire slowly uncovers as the pair make their way through the brutal storm.  Soon the physical suffering the sheriff has to endure begins playing tricks on his consciousness until the reader realizes his companion may simply be the hallucination of a fevered mind.
“Hell Is Empty,” is the seventh book in the Walt Longmire series by Johnson and a terrific, gripping read unlike anything else on the market today.  It is fresh with interesting characters and skillful in its economic storytelling.  As the book’s cover announces, the series has been turned into a new A & E television series that will soon premier on Sunday evening June 3rd and features Australian actor Robert Taylor as Walt Longmire with Katee Sachofff of Battlestar Galactica fame as his chief deputy Victoria “Vic” Moretti and Lou Diamond Phillips as best friend, Henry Standing Bear. If the show is as much fun as this book, then we’re all in for a treat.


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AudioComics’ first Pulp Adventure now available on iTunes and Amazon Mp3

The AudioComics Company’s first production in its Pulp Adventures series is now available as a digital download through iTunes and Amazon Mp3: The Domino Lady: All’s Fair in War was released May 1, and has now gone worldwide through iTunes and Amazon, with Rhapsody, eMusic, and Nokia to follow.

Written by Rich Harvey, directed by Lance Roger Axt, and recorded in San Francisco, CA, The Domino Lady’s first-ever audio adventure takes us to 1935 San Diego, CA where she investigates the disappearance of an actual one million dollar bill from an International Exposition. Already the program has garnered excellent reviews from Airship 27’s Ron Fortier, who called it “a superb audio treat with great writing, perfect acting, especially by Karen Stillwell as Ellen Patrick/Domino Lady and Peter Carini as (Roge) McKane,” and comics legend Steve Englehart: “this is not a scratchy MP3 made from an old acetate – this is radio drama at its finest, with real actors and real writers.”

The cost for the twenty-minute work is $2.97, and can be found by entering “The AudioComics Company” into the provider’s search engine. AudioComics’ productions of Honey West, The Batsons, and Titanium Rain will follow before month’s end; also available through iTunes and Amazon Mp3 is the Company’s premiere work, Starstruck