Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Walter White Wednesday 95

I'm just getting so excited!!  Wanna Cook? will be officially released in just five weeks, plus one day!  As regular readers of this blog know, it's available for pre-order from a number of outlets, so pick your favorite.  Heck, I've even done some of the work for you . . . Try Amazon, Powell's, Barnes & Noble, or Books-A-Million!

And, because I can, here's a look at the spread-out cover.  Ensley and I both think it looks fantastic and we hope you'll agree that it'll make a snazzy addition to your bookshelf, desk, entertainment center, coffee table, or the back of your toilet.  (Hey, multitasking by reading books while utilizing the facilities has a respected history in Breaking Bad and if you can't immediately put your hands on some Whitman, why not some Wanna Cook?)

I'm meeting with the bookstore today to finalize details of the launch, so I can't say anything just yet, but check back for news - I should have specifics to share with you about the official launch by the end of the week, along with details about a few giveaways that could score you a copy of the book before the official release date - yay!!!!!

Also, if you haven't checked out my co-author's blog, you ought to.  Ensley needed to take some time off from regular blogging (graduate school does make some demands on your time), but he's back and this week's "Meth Monday" catches you up to speed, so go over there and ponder a bit, won't you?

More coming soon.  Promise!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Time to Play the Music . . .

OK, this is not going to be an unbiased review. I've loved the Muppets since they taught me how to count on Sesame Street lo those many years ago, and I'm pretty sure that a steady diet of The Muppet Show had something to do with my decision to pursue a backstage life throughout my early 20s. I relate a little too well to Kermit, who's always supposed to run the show, but is usually at the mercy of the asylum's inmates and spends a large amount of his time either sighing deeply or flinging his flippers in the air and screaming incoherently.

(Sorry, Jennifer Lawrence, I guess Kermit really is my spirit animal.)

In 2011, the Muppets were relaunched for a new generation.  I wasn't sure about this without the direct involvement of Frank Oz and Jim Henson (who sadly passed away in 1990) but my fears turned out to be unfounded. The sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, picks up quite literally at the end of the 2011 movie.

This is a caper movie - Kermit is supplanted by a lookalike frog who is a criminal mastermind. He promises the troupe their heart's desires, so they squash their suspicions that "Kermit" isn't acting quite like himself. Like all Muppets movies, much of the charm comes from guest spots and cameos - in addition to the trifecta of shine that is Ricky Gervais, Ty Burell, and Tina Fey, Most Wanted has walk-on roles for Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, and that's before the opening credits roll.  Look quick and you might spot Tom Hiddleston, Frank Langella, Salma Hayek, Josh Groban, Stanley Tucci, and dozens more, including a hilarious Danny Trejo who bills himself as a "triple threat.  I'm a singer, I'm a dancer, and I'm a murderer." (For the really deep cuts, click here.)

Is it a fantastic movie?  Probably not, but I was having too much fun to care. The Muppets are meta pop culture, which is my favorite dish. References to The Shawshank Redemption, A Chorus Line, Ingmar Bergman's Seventh Seal, Princess Beatrice's horrendous fascinator from the last royal wedding, and the legend of the ravens leaving the Tower of London are thrown in there, just for laughs from a few audience members.  There's plenty for the kids as well - I took my goddaughter to get that perspective (her dad, Victorian Marxist, came out to play as well). It's rated PG, although I'm not entirely sure why.

Indeed, it's time to play the music.  It's time to light the lights. Go buy your popcorn and relive your childhood.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Walter White Wednesday 94

 The Breaking Bad cast has been busy lately!  Bryan Cranston is both trotting the Broadway boards as Lyndon B. Johnson and has Godzilla coming out in May. Aaron Paul is starring in Need for Speed, which I wrote about in the previous post - I adore Paul, but the film is lousy.  I can sympathize with his desire to do something goofy and ridiculous after years of playing Jesse, but . . . then again, Paul has a role in the upcoming Ridley Scott film Exodus, so I'll hold out hope.

Better Call Saul continues to pick up buzz - see what Jonathan Banks has to say about reprising his role of Mike in the spin-off.

Meanwhile, we're working with our publisher, ECW Press, on some fun events leading up to the May 1 release of Wanna Cook? and we should know more about the official launch event soon.

I'm already picking out my author outfit.  What do you think about Kawaii's Breaking Bad for the opening event? (It's pictured at the top of the post.)  She runs an Etsy store that you can access here and she's got some lovely, creative ideas.  The green is only one of four in her limited Breaking Bad collection - here's a picture of the whole cook!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Charm and Dreck

The first few months of the calendar year can be considered the "dumping ground" of new releases.  That's not to say that all films released in the first quarter are bad (Lego, anyone?) - that's simply not true and certainly the rest of the year has its share of dogs. But there is a certain concentration of so-so movies galloping around loose in mid-to-late winter.

Case in point - Need for Speed. I'm honestly not going to say much here - Aaron Paul played Jesse Pinkman in Breaking Bad, a show you know I hold in high esteem and Paul's ability to find the vulnerability in Jesse was a large part of that. So maybe the director (Scott Waugh, far better known as a stuntman) is an old friend or maybe Paul's a lousy poker player and had a bad night in Reno. I have no idea, but this movie is bad. As in "don't bother renting it to snark your way through" bad. As in audible groaning in the theater bad. And I like bad movies - with the rise of the teenager as a target audience in the prosperous 1950s, pretty awful movies aimed at teenagers were a distinct subgroup of the industry and those old B&W can be fun to watch for their sheer awfulness. (Disposable income plus the car culture of America led to the drive-in, a venue that screamed its need for fresh creature features every week, thus leading to by-the-numbers awful movies like Teenagers from Outer Space, a bad movie that nevertheless has a certain charm because it seems to know that it's nothing more than This Week's Flavor.) Need for Speed takes itself too seriously, relies on too many cliches (both in characterization and dialogue), and ignores the reality of street racing. (Just one example - Paul's character, Tobey, goes to jail for participating in an illegal street race that kills his "little brother," in part because the rich cretin who actually caused the death crash has friends lie for him. Really? None of the dozens of other motorists who swerved, stomped on brakes, and often crashed their own cars avoiding you jerks could count to three to report the number of souped-up illegal-in-this-country-yet-still-registered-to-the-rich-cretin cars in this race?) Seriously, if not for the movie show, I'd have left the theater on this one, and I never walk out. (By the way, Dominic Cooper plays the villain in this one. You know him as Howard Stark, Tony's dad, in the first Captain America movie. He's reprising the role in Winter Soldier, which is out in a few weeks.) Best part? Catching a glimpse of Aaron Paul's "No Half Measures" tattoo on his right arm in a shot. Take your ink's advice - wait for better material. You're worth it, and heaven above knows I don't deserve this sort of schlock.

Fortunately, I also saw Mr. Peabody & Sherman this weekend. As a fan of the original Rocky & Bullwinkle series, which gave the world Frostbite Falls, Cold War intrigue, Dudley Do-Right, and Fractured Fairy Tales, in addition to the super-genius dog and his boy, I wasn't sure. 1950s charm has a hard time translating to our more cynical time. It's a tough sell - kids today have no clue who these characters are, so the filmmakers had to relate to them as well as to the folks who took the kids to the movie in the first place. I have to say, Mr. Peabody has a certain charm to it, as well as some solid vocal talent designed to delight the older fry among us. The original Jay Ward shorts never really focused on the father-son relationship here; Mr. Peabody was a dog who had a boy and that was that. However, in this version, that relationship is really at the heart of the movie and that provides us with the "hook" to get into the puns and the history and the fast pacing of the original shorts. A few slightly crude jokes regarding the behind of the Sphinx, sewer gas, and Trojan Horse droppings might make you cringe, but at its core, Mr. Peabody is a family film that just might cause a kid or two to pick up a book. I doubt anything is gained by seeing it on the big screen, but if your choices are Mr. Peabody or Need for Speed - go see the dog cartoon and do a good deed and buy a ticket for any poor schmo who's in line for the other.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Walter White Wednesday 93

My handsome and talented co-author, Ensley F. Guffey, and I are currently away in an undisclosed location.  While we could be putting the final touches on the official book launch, it's the first time in four years of marriage that we've had the same spring break.  Remember if you will, Gentle Readers, that Ensley and I are both full-time academics, albeit on different sides of the desk.  We haven't lived in the same city during any of that time.  So discovering that we both had the same few days off - well, that's like a planetary convergence.  I might not know all the ramifications of it, but I'm taking advantage of it!

So we're busy this week being married, rather than being writers or teachers or students.

Forgive us, if you will.

However, don't forget that it's seven weeks now until the official launch of Wanna Cook?  Why should you buy this book?  Easy.  The Richmond, Virginia paper just ran this story about Breaking Bad's creator, Vince Gilligan.  The headline trumpeted that the article "reveals [the] show's connection to central Virginia."  I read the article and said, "Well, yeah.  We put that in the book ages ago!"  This thing is complete.

And don't forget - Wanna Cook? is available for pre-order from a variety of outlets.  Try Amazon, Powell's, Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Walter White Wednesday 92

This marks the beginning of the official countdown!  By my reckoning, this blog will hit the 100th post of "Walter White Wednesday" the day before Wanna Cook? becomes publicly available in the United States on May 1 - unplanned, but a very happy coincidence!  

With only eight weeks to go, I need some help from all of you.  Please - scratch that, pretty please - every week, make it a mission to link to this blog, to retweet, repost, and re-write-it-on-a-turtle-in-the-desert so we can get the word out about Wanna Cook? before the official release date of May 1!  ECW is working with Ensley and me to have some special things happen before the official release date for loyal readers, Tweeters, bloggers, etc.  (Not sure about the turtle thing - still working the details!)  Please use the hashtag #wannacook so we can track your tweets!  If you include us (@KDaleKoontz and @EnsleyFGuffey) in your tweet, that's even easier!  Comment on this blog as well so we get to know you!  After all, you can't win if you don't play! 

And Wanna Cook? is going to be a must-have for your Breaking Bad collection.  I don't just say that because I helped write it, but since I have the inside track on the content of the book, I can say with confidence that this book is going to increase your understanding of the show as well as help you amaze your friends and win nearly every Breaking Bad trivia contest that comes your way!  Beat the rush and pre-order!  It's the best way to show you're a fan without going to the lengths of this guy (who really shouldn't be imitated).

Don't believe me?  Sigh.  We live in a skeptical world.  Then how about this advance praise from David Lavery, English professor and TV academic and All-Around Muckety-Muck:

"To call Ensley Guffey and Dale Koontz’s Bad-to-the-bone guide Wanna Cook? a page turner is certainly true but somehow media inappropriate. For obsessed fans (and is there any other kind?) of this all-time-great, every carefully crafted word will bring back to cerebral life the characters, dialogue, hats, “bitches,” mise-en-scene, locations, violence of the rise and fall of Walter White. As such, I propose that this book, another terrific contribution by ECW Press to television studies, should be deemed “binge reading.” As pure as a batch of Heisenberg’s Blue Sky, Guffey and Koontz’s critical chemistry has given us the most addictive companion to this TV masterwork we will ever get."

Wanna Cook? is available for pre-order from a variety of outlets.  Try Amazon, Powell's, Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million!