Tag Archives: Amazon

File Under #TwilightZone Movie Review: The Vast of Night

Everett and Fay light up the basketball court.

The Vast of Night, directed by Andrew Patterson, screenplay by Craig W. Sanger and James Montague, cinematography by Miguel Ioann and Littin Menz, Amazon Studios, release date May 29, 2020 (USA)

I enjoy exploring a broad range of topics but my core niche resides somewhere “between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.” Go back far enough and maybe it’s the same for you. It sure is with this film. It begins with a retro living room scene and an antique television with a flickering image. An announcer refers to a “frequency caught between logic and myth” and introduces Paradox Theatre and that night’s episode, The Vast of Night, which is also the title of this film. As an added bonus for any loyal Twilight Zone fan, the next scene is set in Cayuga, New Mexico. Rod Serling’s prodcution company during TZ was named, Cayuga Productions. So, the bar is set pretty high and it follows through. I simply could not stop once I began.

Fay picks up strange signals.

The camera proceeds to snake its way into that night’s basketball game at Cayuga High School. It’s the 1950s and it feels like it in a glorious way. Everett (Jake Horowitz) is a teenager set on becoming the next Edward R. Murrow. Fay (Sierra McCormick) is a teenager completely enthralled with Everett. They both wander around the high school gym with a tape recorder making the most of the latest technology. Everett is so poised and Fay is so frantic. It seems like anything is possible with an added tension that maybe more is possible than anyone could ever have imagined.

This film makes me think of some of my favorite period pieces, like Back to the Future or The Last Picture Show. What The Vast of Night does so well is completely embrace its time period and manage to give it new life, say something new about it. The viewer enters into a complete and fully realized world. In fact, some of the best moments are when the camera is set loose and, like a snake, slithers about town, taking us on a ground level tour through main street, back to the high school basketball game, and over to the local radio station.

The camera slithers along like a snake.

However, in the end, it’s the dynamic performances by both Horowitz and McCormick that really steal the show: the chemistry between them; and the lonely moments when they’re apart. McCormick is especially engaging as an expert switchboard operator. I don’t know if, in fact, operators could work from home but Fay does in this movie. Fay and that enormous switchboard are quite a sight to behold. And, of course, all of this is leading up to something. These characters can’t be too far from Roswell, New Mexico. And those strange sounds that Fay is picking up must mean something. Overall, this is one of the most charming and engaging movies I’ve seen in a long while. Oddly enough, it fits right in with the strange times we’re all currently living through. This film won’t be out until May so keep an eye out for it.

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Filed under Movie Reviews, The Twilight Zone

New Book: ‘Max in America: Into the Land of Trump’ by Henry Chamberlain

Max in America: Into the Land of Trump by Henry Chamberlain

A lot of my readers are familiar with my various creative pursuits. And I think a fair amount have followed a particular project I’ve been developing. It all began with a hot air balloon ride. Our hero, Maximo Viaje, a well-intentioned artist living in Mexico, suddenly finds himself an “illegal immigrant” at an especially heated time, the Trump era. We’ll revisit the progress of this book as it begins to make its way onto various platforms. As of this writing, you can find print copies at the Comics Grinder store right here.

We can always use a laugh and some food for thought.

Whatever your politics, it’s safe to say that we live in quite surreal times. I’m confident that readers will enjoy a narrative that incorporates light humor, food for thought, and a rollicking joy ride of road trip misadventures. No one ever said achieving the American Dream was going to be easy and it’s an even bigger challenge for Maximo, who had been happy to simply daydream! He can’t afford to daydream any longer.

Rico is ready for his Instagram close-up.

Once Maximo is in the United States, he meets Leslie, another lost soul who feels trapped and is ready for change. A series of eerie coincidences form an inseparable bond between Maximo and Leslie. If they can rely upon each other and rise to the occasion, they might be able to overcome adversity. One coincidence could prove fatal. Leslie is convinced that she is married to Maximo’s twin brother. And if that did not seem enough, Maximo strongly suspects he has some special connection to the Kennedy dynasty. Ultimately, Maximo and Leslie are on the run while also juggling a promising comedy touring act.

Will JFK save the day?

This book is fully illustrated which will definitely add a nice touch to the reading experience. The content here is mostly focused on satire and is suitable for any age. As both a writer and a cartoonist, I can clearly see this book having a lot of crossover appeal. It could easily be sold within the context of work in comics and illustration as well as prose. The humor and the hero’s journey will appeal to a wide range of readers.

No time to lose.

Max in America: Into the Land of Trump is currently available only at the Comics Grinder store.

UPDATE: Now available at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Books, Comics, Henry Chamberlain

Review: ‘Resurrection Perverts: Hunter’s Point’ by Danny Hellman

Harry’s Comeuppance Over Manhattan

Harry Homburg was a porn magazine mogul. His life was not poetic or refined. But he could always rely upon making money and getting laid. That’s all that seemed to matter. And then the bottom fell out of the traditional porn industry. This is the basis for Danny Hellman’s new book that follows one man’s attempts to claw his way back to the top. I believe Danny Hellman to be one of the hardest working illustrators in the business. He has secured his place in his chosen field of illustration with a singular style and sense of humor. “Resurrection Perverts: Hunter’s Point” is his first long-form work in comics.

Is there more to life than sex and money?

I’ve seen various short comics narratives from Hellman and I’ve always enjoyed them. I do appreciate his often ribald and provocative stuff and this new book about a fading porn publisher fits right in with his jaded big city tough guy brand. The book is set up at one panel per page. The introductory remarks attached to the book state that it is “one scene per page, like a series of smartphone screens.” The premise is that, in order to save his failing Harlot magazine, Harry will do anything–except change with the times. And why should he? As far as he’s concerned, the typical Harlot reader not only is tech clueless but can’t even afford a computer. This comic itself, interestingly enough, mirrors Harry’s cynical view. Like a really goofy skit on SNL, you just roll it and Hellman has the balls and the skill to get away with it.

Almost like father and son.

There’s a moment in the story where Harry Homburg is preparing to have dinner with his elderly business partner. Harry calls over the waiter: “Jimmy, listen. This guy is macrobionic. No menu. Just bring him a bowl of moss.” It’s a sharp and funny little moment. And I could very well see Hellman writing the whole book just to include it. The book really feels like a wiseguy giving everyone the finger and that’s not easy to do well, and with style. If you’re a fan of Howard Stern (and, at this point, who isn’t?) then you’ll relate and rejoice to the humor found here. If you’re looking for the next cutting-edge work in graphic novels, this is not that kind of gem. That said, it is a gem, all the same.

A night out at Papageno.

Much of our story takes place in Lower Manhattan at Restaurant Papageno. There is excitement in the air with the anticipation of Homburg’s publishing exclusive photos of a sex scandal involving a US President. Add Homburg’s struggles with the digital age and it all feels circa 1998. But that’s neither here nor there. Basically, Hellman would tell you, it’s the present–deal with it. And, you know, I can deal with it. If you’re someone who has explored NYC with any depth, you know there is plenty of activity lost in a time warp. This is all fun and gritty stuff that rings true. And, sure, I’d be happy to see people reading this comic on their smartphones. As of this writing, this book is only available as a hardcover. A Kindle version will be available as of June 1, 2017. This is part of a series so I am eager to see how things develop with this project.

“Resurrection Perverts: Hunter’s Point” by Danny Hellman

“Resurrection Perverts: Hunter’s Point” is a 112-page hardcover, in full color, published by Dirty Danny Press. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Comics, Comics Reviews, Danny Hellman, Illustration, Kindle, New York City

Review: Girl Over Paris #1 (of 4) (The Cirque American Series)

Jules Maroni out to prove them wrong.

Jules Maroni out to prove them wrong.

Jules Maroni is a celebrity tightrope walker connected to the supernatural in the latest comic from Amazon’s Jet City Comics. I love a good story with complications. Part of the fun of reading a comic that is hinting at something spooky around the corner is how it creates its trail of breadcrumbs. “Girl Over Paris” sets the tone for a spooky adventure with style and joie de vivre.

Part of Gwenda Bond’s CIRQUE AMERICAN universe, this story, written by Kate Leth (Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, Adventure Time: Seeing Red), follows Jules and the gang as they fly from the U.S. to France in order to perform at a big event and allow Jules to regain her stature after a long hiatus. Artwork by Ming Doyle (The Kitchen, Constantine: The Hellblazer) and colors by Andrew Dalhouse enhance the pixie-romantic quality to this tale.

Reading "Girl Over Paris #1"

Reading “Girl Over Paris #1”

There’s a lot of luscious detail to this comic that sets it apart. I like the gentle pace too. Ms. Leth does a wonderful job of allowing us into the innermost thoughts of Jules: she is making a comeback, opening up to her new boyfriend, and confronting a supernatural entity. That’s quite a lot for a first issue.

Girl Over Paris #1 (The Cirque American Series) is available as of July 6, 2016. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Amazon Publishing, Comics, Comics Reviews, France, Gwenda Bond, Jet City Comics, Paris, Young Adult

Book Review: DISPLACEMENT by Anne Stormont

Anne Stormont Displacement

“Displacement,” the recent novel by Anne Stormont, brings us close to a woman in crisis. Rachel’s son has died in combat in Afghanistan. That tragedy has spun her life out of control. She is recently divorced. Her daughter, Sophie, is estranged from her. And, now, with her own mother’s death, Rachel feels cast adrift with a loss of self and purpose. She feels utterly displaced. Perhaps one negative form of displacement can be countered with a positive form of displacement. And so Rachel decides to awaken her Jewish roots and make a pilgrimage to Israel. But not before she’s put her affairs in order at the small family sheep farm in rural Scotland. And not before her she meets an intriguing new man, Jack. So much going on in the life of someone who felt at the end of her rope!

I love fiction that brings me into the lives of vivid characters, especially from different backgrounds and cultures. That is what drew me into Stormont’s novel. It is on that first night back on the family farm that Rachel nearly drowns during a torrential storm and flood. And it is Jack who saves her. If Rachel’s life had been more in balance, this could have been the start of a new relationship for her. However, Rachel is in dire need of meaning in her life. And so off she goes to Israel. It wasn’t as if Jack was exactly available either but, whatever the case, Rachel is following an internal flood of turmoil that won’t release her anytime soon. And, in Israel, Rachel will find many opportunities to be out of her element and test herself.

Stormont has an assured way of rendering scenes and creating engaging exchanges between characters. It is easy to get swept up in Rachel’s journey. I share here with you a scene midway deep into the novel as Rachel navigates Israel and a potential new beau:

“Now, come and see the view.” Eitan, grabbed me by the hand. He led me first to the western edge of the crag’s flat summit. There below was the Judean Desert with its terraced golden hills. Then we looked east out to the Dead Sea and I was surprised at the water’s colourful beauty. To the south, Eitan pointed out how the crag’s tail led eventually to the Syrian edge of the African rift valley.

“Enough!” I said, laughing. “I can’t take in any more. This place is amazing!”

“Better than home?”

“Hmm, I don’t know about that. We have some ancient and very bloody sites too, even just in my tiny patch.”

“Ah, yes, your island–Skye?”

“Yes, Skye.” I was caught by a sudden twinge of emotion. Was it homesickness? But homesickness for what exactly? I wasn’t sure. I pushed it away.

Stormont favors a straightforward naturalism to her narrative that she handles quite well. One layer builds upon another. We get to see our protagonist Rachel Campbell at her worst, at her best, and everything in between. It is a pleasure to see where she goes and what she makes of it. All things considered, I would welcome another book on the next journey that Rachel takes.

“Displacement” is a 352-page novel available in print or on Kindle at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Amazon Publishing, Anne Stormont, Book Reviews, Books, Kindle

Book Review: WE INSTALL and Other Stories by Harry Turtledove

Miss Murple astride a caitnop.

Miss Murple astride a caitnop. Illustration by Henry Chamberlain.

“We Install and Other Stories” offers up an impressive showcase of the work of Harry Turtledove, known for his virtuoso writing of alternate history novels. Among all the gems in this 282-page collection of fiction and essays, the one that stole my heart is “Hoxbomb” for its quirky storytelling. It grabbed me right from the start like a cross between “The Wizard of Oz” and “Blade Runner.”

“Hoxbomb” is a sci-fi police procedural and a study in race relations: the Humans and the Snarre’t. We find ourselves a hundred or so years in the future with two competing species who must make nice for the sake of their own survival. Humans and Snarre’t must work together as they colonize Lacanth C, a new planet and a new lease on life for both races. Much like “In the Heat of the Night,” tensions run high but differences must be set aside for the greater good of solving the case of a heinous crime.

That’s really easier said than done since the Snarre’t are so different from Humans. Of course, that begs the question, Are they really That different? Well, yeah, they are. For one thing, there’s a huge difference in technology: Humans favor machines; Snarre’t favor biotech. There’s also a war of the senses: Humans rely upon sight and sound; Snarre’t rely upon smell. And Snarre’t ride strange animals instead of motorized vehicles and enjoy eating the excrement from these animals.

However, Snarre’t prove to be just as capable of being star-struck as Humans. They are also as gullible and prone to being manipulated by the media. When you really think about it, the Snarre’t aren’t that different from their Human counterparts. It’s something that becomes more apparent to the two detectives from opposing races during the course of this story: The Humans’ John Paul King and the Snarre’t’s Miss Murple make for very entertaining frenemies. This fiction is very much at home with other works in this book. There’s a jokey and sentimental quality tempered with just the right amount of thoughtful contemplation.

“We Install” proves to be a great introduction to Harry Turtledove, full of humor and rich in historical and philosophical musing. “We Install” is available as of August 25th and is published by Open Road Integrated Media where you’ll want to check out their Hugo Award Collection right here. You can also find “We Install” at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Book Reviews, Books, Harry Turtledove, Hugo Award, Open Road Integrated Media, science fiction

Review: KING #1, published by Amazon Publishing’s Jet City Comics

King-Amazon-Fialkov-Jet-City-Comics

It’s all in a day’s work for King as he yet again searches for the “life seed” and avoids being eaten by some mutant. King is the last human survivor of the apocalypse. And that doesn’t mean he can do whatever he wants, not when the entire fate of humanity rests on his shoulders via the bureaucracy that is the Los Angeles Department of Reclamation. Funny stuff thanks to critically acclaimed comic book writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (The Bunker, Echoes, and I, Vampire). And it all jumps out vividly thanks to superstar artists Bernard Chang and Marcelo Maiolo (Green Lantern Corps, Batman Beyond). Where did this crazy good comic come from? It’s from Amazon Publishing’s Jet City Comics!

Fialkov-Jet-City-Comics-King

KING is truly an exciting comic in all ways possible. It’s a trip into a wild, hilarious, and incredibly awesome world. For seasoned comics readers, and newcomers alike, this one will blow you away with its combination of wit and beauty.

I’m really impressed with the audacious irreverence to Fialkov’s script which often will evoke a spoken word authenticity with its spontaneity. Don’t we all want our hero to succeed and lead everyone to the Garden of Barbara Eden?

King-Jet-City-comics-Chang-Fialkov

Check out the above panel excerpt. King is describing the perennial quest for the life seed. And here, out of the blue, he says it can sometimes involve a sexy creature but, all too often, is more about a rock with some purple sparkleys. Who thinks like this? Very funny.

King’s journey is nonstop whipsmart action and sharp humor. It’s going to be a sheer pleasure to keep up with this series as this first issue is impeccable.

Joshua-Fialkov-Bernard-Chang-comics

KING #1 is a 31-page comic and is available as of August 19, 2015. The KING graphic novel is a Kindle Serial published in five issues for one price of only $5.99. This serial will run for a total of five issues, with each issue delivered monthly at no additional cost until the collected series is complete.

And, of course, you can always get the paperback when it’s available on January 20, 2016 for only $14.95. Check out the details by visiting our friends at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Amazon Publishing, Bernard Chang, Comics, Jet City Comics, Joshua Hale Fialkov, Los Angeles

Review: ‘The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism’

Mark-Crilley-Realism-2015

You may know Mark Crilley from his manga series, “Miki Falls,” or his series with Dark Horse Comics, “Brody’s Ghost.” Or you may know him as the internet viral sensation. Crilley’s drawing demonstration videos have received well over two hundred million views on YouTube. You’ve probably seen them. The challenge is to create hyperrealistic versions of common objects that look just like the real thing—something humans have been trying to do for thousands of years. The French call it “trompe l’oeil.” And now the secrets behind creating this art have been collected in one book so you can see for yourself what it takes to do your own hyperreal drawings.

The Realism Challenge is easy in a lot of ways. Just follow the step-by-step instruction, and you’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve. Even if you don’t fancy yourself an artist, getting to see the process is fascinating. But chances are that, once you become familiar, you’ll want to try your hand at it too.

Toast--from The Realism Challenge by Mark Crilley--2015

We hear a lot about the hyperreal world we live in. The realistic work of Mark Crilley is perfectly in step with a zeitgeist that revels in intense, vivid, and urgent reality. That said, realistic art is as timeless as the pursuit of realism.

Mark-Crilley-Hyperrealism

“The Realism Challenge: Drawing and Painting Secrets from a Modern Master of Hyperrealism” is published by Watson-Guptill, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It is a 160-page trade paperback, with 200 illustrations, priced at $19.99 (Can $23.99). You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Art, Art books, Comics, Hyperrealism, Illustration, Mark Crilley, Penguin Random House

Book and TV Pilot Review: ‘The Man in the High Castle’

Philip K.Dick's 1962 novel, "The Man in the High Castle"

Philip K.Dick’s 1962 novel, “The Man in the High Castle”

One nice perk at Comic-Con in San Diego this year will be Amazon unveiling a new episode of their adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1962 alternate history novel, “The Man in the High Castle.” The pilot episode, in a nutshell, is pretty awesome in how it presents a world in which the Axis powers won World War II. The ten-episode thriller comes to Amazon this fall. I think it should prove to be one of Amazon’s best offerings. It inspired me to go ahead and read the original novel. I was ready to expect it to be a different animal, much in the same way that the “Bladerunner” movie and novel differ. And I was pleasantly surprised.

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle"

Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle”

Comparing the pilot episode with the novel, I appreciate just how action-oriented this Amazon TV offering is. I admire what Amazon has done since they truly adapted the work from one medium to another. It really comes down to one big thing, that was taken from the novel, and will power the television series. That is to be found in the title itself. The novel treats it one way. The television series treats it another way. I won’t spoil anything for you, but if you’re one of those types who doesn’t want to know anything beforehand, then consider yourself warned.

What it takes the length of a novel to explore can be distilled into a compelling visual lasting only a few seconds on film or television. For the purposes of television, the essence, as it were, taken from another medium, cannot only be distilled but then stretched out to infinity, or for however many seasons. Here we have characters living in a world where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won the war and carved up the former United States. But there are pockets of resistance questioning the status quo. The biggest pocket of questioning resides with “The Man in the High Castle.” In the novel, this individual is easy enough to find. In the television series, this individual is cloaked in mystery.

And here’s the thing, the thing that makes the novel such a great read and which gives the TV show every opportunity to succeed: this business of questioning can get pretty interesting. At the end of the day, the questioning is about reality itself. Now, here’s the kicker: in the novel, Philip K. Dick was perfectly content to have a novel that raises these questions about what is going on and suggests a world where the Allied forces won the war. It is readily available in any bookstore and it’s even a bestseller. In the TV series, it’s not a novel but copies of newsreel footage showing the Allies as victors. This is totally an underground thing. And spooky. How do you fake newsreel footage showing such elaborate scenes? Sure, they could be faked but they sure don’t look faked. And so this hints at something supernatural. It sure hints at something that is not explicitly in the novel. What it does, however, is instantly evoke that delicious uneasy feeling of suspense that you get from reading the original novel. And that could very well prove a recipe for one successful run on Amazon.

At this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, Amazon will host a special screening of the first two episodes of The Man in the High Castle. No worries if you can’t attend this year since the entire event will be live-streamed on EW.com. Check out Entertainment Weekly’s interview with Ridley Scott and his role as an executive producer on the TV series right here.

The special event takes place on Friday, July 10 at the San Diego Civic Theater. In addition to the first two episodes – the second of which has never been seen before – there will also be a Q&A with the cast at the venue.

Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle stars Alexa Davalos (Mob City), Luke Kleintank (Pretty Little Liars), Rupert Evans (The Village), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat Legacy), Joel De La Fuente (Hemlock Grove), Rufus Sewell (Eleventh Hour) and DJ Qualls (Z Nation). David Semel (Heroes) directed the pilot episode, which was written by Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files). Both serve as executive producers alongside Ridley Scott and David W. Zucker.

Check out a teaser for The Man in the High Castle above. You can see what I mean about the spooky newsreel motif. The pilot episode can be seen over at Amazon right here. Suffice it to say, you can expect the 10-episode thriller and original novel to prove to be very distinct animals all the way to the end. You can find Philip K. Dick’s novel, The Man in the High Castle, over at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Amazon, Amazon Originals, Philip K. Dick, Television

Comic-Con 2014: George R.R. Martin Signing Game of Thrones Graphic Novel Prequels

The-Hedge-Knight-George-R-R-Martin

As part of a full roster of exciting events from comiXology, you can expect the Game of Thrones scribe himself, George R.R. Martin. Yep, Booth #2547 is the place to be.

On Sunday at 12:30pm, author George R.R. Martin and artist Mike S. Miller will be making a special appearance at the comiXology booth to promote and sign copies of The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel and The Sworn Sword: The Graphic Novel published by Jet City Comics. There will be 200 copies of The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel available for free, first-come, first-serve. Signing will be limited to these two titles.

ComiXology will be in full swing at Comic-Con International giving away $5 Amazon Appstore credits toward comiXology content, moderating 8 news-making panels, providing free limited edition art card signings at their booth all during the con, and, yes, hosting an appearance by author George R.R. Martin! More information, including full signing and panel details, follow. Judging by the line-up of talent and speakers, you really could make this a ComiXology Comic-Con.

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Filed under Amazon, Comic-Con 2014, Comics, Comixology, Game Of Thrones, George R.R. Martin