Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Walter White Wednesday 104

I've been enjoying watching Breaking Bad mashups and parodies lately - this is a show that inspired any number of highly creative fans to spread their wings.  (Remember "narvinek's" amazing "Ecstasy of Gold" creation?  Click here if you need a reminder.)  Ensley posted a great one over on his site this week - the attention that was paid to the sets just had me tickled in that one! During the process of writing Wanna Cook? it seemed that I never had time to explore this aspect of fandom, so I'm getting a real kick out of these.

Breaking Bad re-imagined as a sitcom, circa 1995.  That wacky White family!!

And Breaking Bad as a romantic comedy.  After all, weren't they really meant to be together, despite it all?

In Wanna Cook? news, the book continues to garner positive critical attention.  The UK blogger Book Addict Shaun liked it quite a bit, for instance.  And did I mention that we're being translated into Portuguese?  Yep.  There's enough interest in this incredible show that Brasil wanted its own version!  We're excited beyond belief - that makes three languages (English, German, Portuguese) on three continents (North America, Europe, South America)!  Maybe it's not an empire we're building, but it's a very nice community!

So - if you read the book and liked it, tell Amazon or Goodreads or post on your own blog - then send us the link!  Hope to hear from you soon!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Days of Future Past

The latest installment of the X-Men franchise is out and movie fans and critics alike are raving about Days of Future Past.

Then there's me - an almost-lone voice in the darkened theater spluttering into my popcorn about the mistakes, missteps, and overall misadventures of this film.  Let me say this upfront - it's not a terrible movie.  Quicksilver is a lot of fun.  Blink and Bishop are pretty cool.  Go see it, buy some popcorn and have a good time.  But it is not the Claremont/Byrne "Days of Future Past" and don't let anyone tell you different.  Quite frankly, this casual disregard for comics as source material, especially when served with a double scoop of "well, we have to do it this way; no one wants to see superhero pictures featuring chicks" is getting pretty darned old, so I'm just diving in to why I spent so much time over the last three days dissecting the movie and shaking my head at the results.

First - I despise and loathe putting real-life events in superhero movies.  I hated First Class for that very reason (well, that and poor January Jones who had no idea who Emma Frost was or should be and apparently there was no one on set to clear that up for her).  Just to be clear:  mutants were not involved in the Cuban missile crisis and when you set that up (or the Vietnam peace talks or the "bent bullet" theory of the Kennedy assassination), you're going to hear heavy sighing or outright groaning from me.  It yanks me out of the movie and (a far larger sin) it sets up a question that no American director or screenwriter wants to hear:  If the mutants could do that, then why didn't they stop 9/11?  Before you say it's a ridiculous question, go watch that scene in DoFP about Kennedy again. Don't foxtrot with history and then tell me not to take the situation you set up any further down that slippery slope, Singer & Co. (Also, I find it telling that Claremont does not have even a nod of a writing credit for the film - not even "inspired by."  Then again, I'd keep my name off of this, too.)

Second - I understand that changes will be made to the source material.  Again, I liked the portrayal of Bishop and Blink, two characters who aren't in the original story because they weren't introduced until the early 1990s.  That said - what in the name of Moira Kinross MacTaggert were they thinking by making this a Wolverine story?  Much less a Magneto/Prof. X frenemy tale?

Let me calm down and explain.

The Claremont/Byrne "Days of Future Past" is an extraordinary story.  I can easily see why Hollywood wanted to use it - you have a lot to work with here, including some amazing character studies.  But not the characters that you see in this film.  This is Kitty Pryde's story - both as middle-aged and war-hardened Kate and as her younger, unsure self.  It is this Kate who is sent back in time by powerful telepath Rachel Summers to prevent an assassination by Raven "Mystique" Darkholme that will eventually usher in the age of the Sentinels.  OK - how much of that did they keep?

Right.  I've said that watching this film for me was a little like going to see a movie called To Kill a Mockingbird and finding out that the story is being told through the eyes of Jem Finch.  Interesting, but not the story I read and loved and cherished.  And nothing - nothing - in the film version of Days of Future Past had the emotional resonance of this one single panel from the comic:

Instead of this - Kate's determination to do something so dangerous and hare-brained as attempt to change the present by altering the past to give the children she and Peter (Colossus) had together the slimmest chance of a future - I get two-plus hours of Kitty massaging Wolverine's temples.

Oh, and that's not all.  Rachel isn't even mentioned.  Charles Xavier, the world's most powerful telepath, isn't the one to send Wolverine back - it's Kitty, whose powers never worked that way!  (I'm told that there's a scene in the DVD that will explain that. No.  No, it won't. It wasn't on the screen this weekend, Singer, and you've retconned too much for me already.) Female characters in this version exist solely to aid the male characters (Kitty keeps up the psychic connection with Wolverine, despite being grievously injured by his claws, because, you know, that's what she's there to do.  Also, trust me, Storm is a much more powerful fighter and leader than this version would lead you to think) or to provide something for the male characters to argue over (Mystique).  Poor Mystique, who is only given the choice to be Erik's bad girl or Charles's good girl.  Won't they be surprised when she decides to be her own woman thankyouverymuch, only I doubt Singer will ever let that happen. After all, then she might decide she'd like to try wearing clothes. Egad, there's enough casual sexism in here to choke a goat.*

And also - Mystique's DNA is not what you want to incorporate into a Sentinel - she's a shapeshifter, which is indeed pretty darned cool, but she only takes on the appearance of a person, not their abilities.  Really - you want Rogue's DNA but then that would involve giving a woman a meatier role in this picture and that's just Not. Going. To. Happen.

Honestly - this movie was, for me, a disappointment and I'm saddened by that.  The X-Men have been quite important to me for decades.  I'm basically Kitty Pryde's age and I would have loved to have seen the "Days of Future Past" story, which is collected in Uncanny X-Men #141 and #142, on screen.  I went back and re-read it after watching the film and it is, I promise, a wonderful story.  The lead characters happen to mostly be women.  It's just a crying shame that makes it not good enough to film as is.

*Not a surprising attitude, unfortunately.  David Goyer, who's largely in charge of putting Wonder Woman on the big screen, has no clue about as major a character as She-Hulk.  At least Stan Lee slapped him down for his remarks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Walter White Wednesday 103

. . . the Godzilla one!  I had meant to post about the new reboot of the ultimate monster franchise, but then got tied up in a project over at the college and missed it, so - hey! here it is!  Bryan Cranston has a starring role in the movie, so it fits.  Cranston plays Joe Brody, a scientist determined to uncover the truth about what happened 15 years ago when . . . well, just go see the movie.  And know that "Joe Brody" is a nod to the hero of the original summer blockbuster Jaws.  People will disagree with me and Godzilla is certainly not a flat-out perfect movie, but as summer monster movie blockbusters-with-popcorn go, it stacks up just fine. It lacks some of the human drama of the original, although it tries.  (And be on the lookout for the pocket watch.  I'll say no more.)

Really, do yourself a favor and watch the original - not the Raymond Burr version, but the actual 1954 original, sometimes titled Gojira, which I maintain could ONLY have been made in post-WW2 Japan. Yes, it's a monster movie, but keep in mind it was made less than ten years after Japan had the singular experience in human history of having two atomic bombs dropped on its soil. Godzilla ushered in the atomic age of movie monsters - we'd get mutated spiders, grasshoppers, and (ridiculously) rabbits before the trend mostly petered out.  (The rabbits had something to do with that, I suspect.) As a species, we weren't too sure about the benevolence of the genie we'd let out of that bottle and our fears came out in all sorts of ways - would this new force be destructive in the way of these monster movies or could it be a good thing, a la Spider-Man, who gained tremendous powers from the bite of a radioactive spider but was on our side?

In more closely-centered Breaking Bad news, the show is up for its last round of Emmy consideration this year. The final eight episodes (which include the sublime "Ozymandias") are up for consideration this year and I predict sunshine and meth sorry - much love for the show.

Wanna Cook? continues to be available through fine booksellers and through direct Internet sales, both here in North America and across the pond, where it's been published in the United Kingdom through Myrmidon Books. (The German edition is being published next month - just hang on!) Ensley and I are working with the fine folks at ECW to set up a few summer signings - let us know if you'd like us to appear in your town - we'll bring the blue!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Walter White Wednesday 102

We're going to have to keep this post short and (hopefully) sweet - it's bedlam around here today!

It's always fun to get evidence that Wanna Cook? is out there in the wide world - the picture for this week's Walter White Wednesday was taken in the bookstore on the concourse at the Pittsburgh airport.  Yep, Ensley and I have written a a book for airplane travel (although I'm not sure how I feel about that, given the events of season 2 - "Seven Thirty-Seven . . . "Down" . . . and so on!).

Also, yesterday was publication day for Wanna Cook? in the United Kingdom and our publisher there, Myrmidon Books, has made quite a fuss over us - look at their Twitter feed and Facebook page. We're also thrilled to be included as part of Myrmidon's first foray into non-fiction publishing, so it's a bit of a mutual admiration society.

We can all use more of those!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Walter White Wednesday 101

Whew! With the excitement of the official book launch now behind us, it's time to concentrate on a few other things as Ensley and I both wind down our semesters. For me, it's gradegradegrade and he's putting the finishing touches on consolidating the "mountain getaway" graduate school apartment into our house. It'll take us a few more days to figure out where everything goes (to Goodwill in the case of a few doubles of things - you just don't need more shower caddies than you have bathrooms!) and we hope to then spend a few days just being together after four years of a commuter marriage.  He also walks across the stage in his snazzy graduate school robe (you know, the one with the funny sleeves) and I expect to beam with pride.

Ensley's "Meth Monday" post this week detailed two things I want to emphasize - the first is Vince Gilligan's appearance at the Sydney Writers' Festival.  Turns out that Australians are the biggest pirates of Breaking Bad, which isn't too surprising when you consider that the country basically started as a penal colony.  And just how cool are those garbage trucks?

The second piece of news has to do with the German translation of Wanna Cook?  Seems that European ideas of "fair use in copyright" are considerably different from our approach in the good ol' U.S. of A. so we get this as a cover (and title!) -

That's right - Guffey und Koontz!
I squeed out loud - I'll admit it.  Seriously.  That cover is fantastic!!

Here in the US, Wanna Cook? continues to get good press. I've mentioned a few in earlier posts, but any review that says "There are a lot of books out there that say they are the unofficial companion guides to whatever television series, but let me say up front, Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz have found the perfect formula.  Wanna Cook? is the primer for how those books should be written" is going to get a mention from me!  Go read the full review over on the BiffBamPop Website.

We also have several five-star reviews on Amazon.  So please - if you've read the book and liked it, take a few minutes to go on a site like Amazon, Goodreads, or your own blog and tell the world - then tell us!

In a week or so, we'll start putting our energies to setting up some appearances and book-signings. Drop us a line - here in the comments, over on Facebook, or on Twitter (@KDaleKoontz or @EnsleyFGuffey) - if you're interested in seeing us and maybe scoring a little of the blue!  Remember - the first one's free!

Monday, May 5, 2014


As is true of all art - both high and popular (a distinction I loathe, by the way), people are going to have different opinions and I'm not interested in proving to anyone that I'm "right" or that someone else is "wrong" about this movie. But I didn't like Amazing Spider-Man 2 and I needed some time to really figure out why. What made Amazing 2 so bad for me - and make no mistake, I think this movie is bad - is that the writers and director (Marc Webb, who helmed the first movie in the reboot) could never decide in what direction that wanted to travel - is it a broad, really "comicy" comic-book movie? Is it a tender exploration of love and commitment? Is it some sort of industrial spy thriller? - so it wound up not going anywhere and taking two-plus hours to not do so.

In fact, there are several scenes that come soclose to working - and I can't say more for fear of spoiling, although why you'd pay $10 or so to go see this is beyond me - that it's depressing when the scenes lurch into completely unworkable territory and then linger like the last party guest who can't take a hint even though you're running the dishwasher. There are plot holes that are just unforgivable and they're made worse by the fact that a line - a single line of dialogue could've explained them. (Example - if Harry was sent to boarding school at age 11 with no mention made of keeping up with Peter, they sure are bestest friends. And if they did keep up, why is it Harry doesn't know anything about Gwen?) Also, there's just some sloppy storytelling - Peter hangs out at that cemetery long enough for the leaves on the trees to go through all four New York seasons, yet the newscaster tells us only five months have passed. And that's nothing compared to how, by the end of the movie, Oscorp - a publicly-traded (there's a mention or two of concerns about how the stock price will be affected), multi-billion dollar enterprise is being run by someone who is clearly clinically insane, yet no one seems to mind.

My other main objection to Amazing has to do with apologists. Look, I'm a big believer that a good movie is a good movie. Period. Full stop. It's not a genre thing, although those categories are useful shorthand, but a good Western/scifi/romance/thriller/whatever needs to be a good movie first and foremost. Maybe the film has an added burden of working within the restrictions of that chosen genre (a musical needs songs, you know), but at its heart the question is always - is this a good movie? For my money - and going to the movies these days is a financial commitment - both Captain America movies are solid movies. Not solid "superhero movies," mind you; solid movies that work within their genre, but also work outside of it. On the other hand, Amazing winds up being the sort of film that even has fans of the superhero genre scratching their heads a little and then saying things like, "Well, it's a comic movie, so they're going for that sort of feel and you have to understand that." Fine by me, but then go for it. Shove your chips into the middle of the table and really go all in. Webb didn't and the movie suffers as a result.

I could go on, but really - there's no point. I like Spidey. I like the cheesy animated series of my childhood and I think one of the most gut-wrenching tributes to the horrors of 9/11 is contained in J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr.'s Amazing Spider-Man #36. "Frost," the story told more recently in Amazing 700.1, is a thoughtful piece of storytelling. And some neat things are happening in the Ultimate universe with Miles Morales wearing the suit.

Go read any of those. Skip this.