Hello, Again

For those of you who don’t know me too well, I’m in my fourth semester with an MFA program called Stonecoast. Well, I’m stopping in to say that due to all the work associated with this program, I’ve been away for a couple weeks and over the next six months until I graduate, I’ll be working on my thesis – so I won’t be able to do as many reviews as I normally do.

Stonecoast has been amazing, thus far. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different and talented authors including Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Wench), Nancy Holder (Resurrection, Domino Lady, Buffy) , Michael Kimball (Undone), David Anthony Durham (Acacia: The Sacred Band), James Patrick Kelly (The Wreck of the Godspeed and Other Stories), Elizabeth Hand (Radiant Days) and Elizabeth Searle (Girl Held In Home) (. I’ve also had the pleasure of working closely with authors such as Mur Lafferty (Shambling Guide To New York City), Thomas Morrissey (Faustus Resurrectus), Laura Navarre (By Royal Command) and Magdalen Braden (Blackjack and Moonlight) among other many talented writers of all genres.

This is not to say that I won’t be doing any reviews, though. I have a backlog of both new and old pop culture items to post reviews on. Until then, here are a couple pictures of me at my residency in Freeport, Maine:

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Stonecoast Day 4 011 Stonecoast Day 5 030 Stonecoast Day 5 119 Stonecoast Final Day 024 Stonecoast Final Night 025

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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Following close on the heels of the previous installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), the adventure picks up as Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) and the dwarves – led by the king-to-be; Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) finally find themselves close to Erebor, which they must reclaim from the terrifying dragon, Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch).

After Journey, I honestly didn’t have much hope for the second installment. While the first film was “ok” – it felt bloated and it was pretty boring overall, even though Jackson tried to spice things up by throwing bits from The Lord of the Rings in there. Thankfully, they amped up the action in this middle chapter (which makes total sense because the content in the film covers the middle, and most exciting, part of the book). This is a good thing in many ways, but I honestly felt like they could have summed up the first film with only a few scenes included in this second film (that was almost three hours as it was, I’ll give you that) and tacked it on, rather than Jackson making three films out of the book (which people seem to despise). This second installment really only covers five chapters worth of material, so the development still feels a bit thin in the big picture – just when the steam starts gathering, the film ends.

The other side of this is that Jackson introduced a new character, Tauriel, (Evangeline Lilly) in order to “expand the world of the Elves” and to create another female character in a mostly male-dominated character cast – which has been proven to be pretty controversial.

To be clear: I love Tauriel. Evangeline Lilly is great to look at, is very dynamic and kick-ass, and although her acting style hasn’t seemed to change much since her days on Lost, she brings another dynamic to the stuffy ways of the Elves. If you’re a Tolkien purist, you’re going to probably hate Tauriel – but in terms of cinematic enjoyment, she is the epitome. The true adaptation was lost in the first film, anyway, with lots of different aspects that Jackson introduced. As a separate entity that still pays homage to the original, I believe this film and the Tauriel character succeeds.

Still, the movie could have been a little shorter and on a side note: did Orlando Bloom look kind of puffy and weird in this film, or was that just me? Also, keep an eye out in Lake Town to see if you can spot Stephen Colbert! Yup. He’s in it!

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, Vol. 1 (2012)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, Vol. 1 (2012)

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Creative Team: Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Dan Duncan

This TMNT reboot is set about fifteen months after the Turtles and their master, Splinter, were exposed to some slime which mutated them into humanoids. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, Vol. 1 collects issues 1-4 of the new IDW series, written by Kevin Eastman (co-creator of the TMNT) and Tom Waltz (Children of the Grave, Silent Hill: Sinner’s Reward) with art by Kevin Eastman (layouts) and Dan Duncan (Hulk And The Agents Of S.M.A.S.H.).

The Turtles, as you knew them, are no more. This new incarnation has the team split up after the ooze transformed them into humanoid creatures, but this time, along with a cat named Old Hob – who may turn out to be the TMNT’s greatest enemy. Raphael is split from the team and has amnesia and the others are searching for him before Old Hob finds him first to settle an old score.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this. I wasn’t aware that it was supposed to be a complete reboot, but with Kevin Eastman involved, how could I say “no” as a true TMNT fan?

I appreciated being able to see Eastman’s influence in the art style as well as on some of the covers and Dan Duncan did a good job trying to emulate the feeling of Eastman’s gritty art. The colors were okay, but they were sort of too muted or not muted enough to be super-effective.

The writing was decent enough, but I have to say that I wasn’t really surprised with where the story took me, even being a reboot. No big surprises, but that didn’t make it unbearable. It was just sort of predictable. (And somewhat anti-climactic.)

All the familiar faces can be found within the pages; Casey Jones, April O’Neil, Splinter, Raphael, Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo.

One thing I didn’t really like, and I need to read further on to make sure I really feel this way for sure, is Old Hob. Yeah, it’s cool to see another humanoid creature running around, especially if it’s an enemy of the TMNT, but Old Hob was not especially intimidating or powerful. Also, I thought it was really weird that nobody cared about a bunch of humanoid monsters walking around.

I’m pretty sure fans of the original TMNT comics might be a bit let down, but c’mon…it’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m sure it will only get better.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Here’s A Sample Page From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant Vol. 1
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