Friday, April 6, 2012

Okay... So...

Okay, so addressing some of the comments that have been made on my previous post, I wanted to take a quick minute to update the readership about what is going on for this blog, and what's been going on for me in general.

Since I last posted in November (sheesh!), I have been busy working at a major publishing house. I still work in e-book production, and I'm getting my fingers into all sorts of aspects of digital publishing - high-design cookbooks, novels, children's book, a little of the future technology keeps crossing my desk now and then...

But because of the (wonderful) amount of time I spend on my job and on tasks related to it, my independent producing has fallen by the wayside. As it is likely to do, I imagine. But the lack of these things in my life left me feeling a little confused about what to do with this blog. I tried for a while to make it a place for reviews, but that wasn't quite the most satisfying thing for me to be doing. And I said it would be a place for my rants, but that didn't seem right either. Besides, the name of this blog was "Script in Hand" and related specifically to acting and producing, so was it the right place to post reviews of things? But with no acting and very little producing, I didn't want to take to this blog and talk about all the projects I might be working on, or things I wanted to do. That didn't seem like good reading, either.

All of these were the questions I was dealing with (albeit lazily), so I'm not sure what this blog will be in the future. It might still feature the adventures in the non-professional acting  and producing trade, or it might venture into new territory. I also think it may officially end, and I might start an entirely new blog with a new focus on reviews, rants, observations, etc.

So while I said I'm back... I'm not back. I am still around, and I am still wrestling with what SIH should be. When I have an idea, I'll be back. But until then, just as with the RHP podcast, please consider this an indefinite extended hiatus.

Monday, November 14, 2011

We're Back, Baby!

Okay, I know I was away for almost two months. But those two months have been very busy for me. I'm getting my life in order up here in NYC, working in the e-book division for a major book publishing house. But don't worry, I've been collecting comics, watching TV, going to the movies, reading books, and having many loud opinions about things that very few people care about. Opinions that I've been dying to share, but no one is interested in hearing me rant.

Then I remembered I had a blog!

So this is it! We're back! I'm back!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I'm sorry, actor-friends. You might not like this entry. For you see, something happened to me a few weeks ago that would have been cause for celebration if I were still an actor in Philadelphia. But in my new career in NYC publishing, the email was a non-issue.

I got an email and a phone call from a casting associate at one of the larger Philly theatres, asking if I was interested in being an understudy for an upcoming show that would open their season. This was on a Friday, and I even got a follow-up call on the next Monday before I could sneak out of the office to give a call back with my answer, saying that I was no longer in Philadelphia and could not be considered for the opportunity. He thanked me for an answer, and (I assume) went to call the next person on his list. 

My casual attitude toward the whole thing surprised me a little. Such an offer would be a relatively huge deal in the Philly theatre scene, the chance to get my food in the door and make connections at one of the big theatres. Since all of life is networking, the foot in the door could lead to larger roles, union membership, and eventually the prospect of continuous work. A year ago this would have been cause for celebration.

But as casually as I may have rejected the offer, I found that I did not have the heart (or guts) to tell them that I had quit acting. I've been feeling the lure of the stage lately, and I want to find a way to get involved with that side of me again. I want to find a project that seems like fun. There are a few prospects coming up, actually, so I might be coming back to performing, since I couldn't break the link completely. But I don't think that's a bad thing - acting is a big part of my life, and I'm excited to re-integrate it back into my life in NYC. However and whenever it happens. Til then, I'll be at my desk.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Justice League #1

Justice League #1
Geoff Johns, writer & Jim Lee, artist
DC Comics

The big event is here, and the new DCUniverse has now hit the shelves. I picked it up and I flipped through it a few times before I sat down to read it. And I read it a few times before writing these comments. I wanted to love it. I went into this whole reboot with my arms wide open, but the book didn't make it easy for me.

Don't get me wrong: there are things to like here. There are things not to like here. But ultimately, the issue falls squarely in the middle of both. It's not just average, it's aggressively average, as if Johns and Lee came out and said "Let's make the safest, best, safest, most dynamic, safest, and safest comic that we can." And, as far as I'm concerned, they hit that mediocre nail right on the head.

Things to like:
  • First meetings. It's always fun to see characters meet each other for the "first" time. Green Lantern doesn't believe Batman is real, Batman deduces the source of GL's powers, and none of them have any idea what Superman is all about.
  • Mystery plotline. There is a little mystery developing about who is behind the attacks that Batman is investigating. Of course the ultimate answer is revealed to the audience (although the heroes don't recognize the bad guy's name), it seems that Johns might be setting up a mystery among the fist-pounding heroics.
  • Final splash. The final splash page is excellent. Sure it sets up a scene that we've seen thousands and thousands of times in the last six years of comics, but it's a great page. I'd hang the poster on my wall.
Things not to like:
  • Set-ups. And nothing but set-ups. The whole book is setting up a long story arc that will play out over the next six months, if not longer. And this is the first part of that story, so characters and plot points are being set-up for the future. As a result, not a whole lot happens that doesn't make me wish I had the next issue (or the trade) in my hands so I could keep reading.
  • Most of Jim Lee's art. Jim Lee has great character designs, and I might be screamed at by the comics community for saying this, but: I don't care for his art in this issue. It's all a little busy, a little hyper, and more than a little unclear. His characters always look great, but sometimes it's hard to tell what they are doing. But the Green Lantern constructs are fun, as is a single panel of GL half-changing back to Hal Jordan. And I already mentioned that final splash.
  • (Too) Familiar ground. A friend of mine mentioned this to me, and my next read really brought it out for me. This book relies on my previous knowledge of the DC Universe, as much as Johns and Lee want to pretend it's a fresh start for new readers. It's not. It's actually a terrible way to introduce characters we've never met before (like my experience with Vic Stone), but it's a standard way to introduce characters we haven't seen in a while (think: Casino Royale or Batman Begins). I can't help but feel that the issue's content is not well-matched to the relaunch's intention.
Things in the middle:
  • Everything else. Okay, maybe that's a little snarky, but seriously, there weren't many things that stood out about this book, either good or bad. A lot of it felt very... functional.
Ultimately, it's a solid issue. Is it exciting enough that I'll pick up the next one? Sure, I guess... And that's the biggest problem. I wanted that answer to be a resounding "HELL YES!" but it isn't. At the moment, I'm committing myself to the first story arc. But if it keeps going like this, I'll have to play it by ear for the second. Good? Yes. Great? No.

NEXT TIME: Superman in "Action Comics #1..."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Thoughts on the DCnU

Sitting on the couch next to me is a signed copy of Justice League #1, the first comic book released by DC Comics as a part of their company-wide relaunch. If you haven't heard, DC has completely re-branded their line of comic books, starting every series over with a new #1 issue. Many characters (Superman included) are getting an all-new backstory, history, costume, everything. They are hoping to reinvigorate their comics, as well as grab new readers. And in a post in May, I laid out the circumstances that would bring me back to monthly comics. In that post, I challenged DC to put out something that I wanted to buy, and now they have. So I am there. I subscribed to my books today at my local LCS.

And now, with the first step of the DCnU in my hands but still unread, I'm still excited. Are there some press releases that make me nervous? Yes. Do I think I might be switching to the trade paperbacks in a year? Maybe. But do I think they have "ruined" Superman with this move? Not at all. Comics are a fluid medium, and the Superman from two years ago bears almost no resemblance to the Superman from the 1940s. So the changes don't really scare me. I'm ready for them. Hell, I'll even buy the action figure! (That costume is growing on me...)

What I'm worried about are the stories. If they are good stories, well-told and captivating, then I will be a part of the series. If the stories aren't compelling, then this will seem like a publicity stunt to attract attention. If the writers and creators use this opportunity to capture a new spirit of adventure, it will be perfect. But with Geoff Johns involved, I'm afraid that the "new" universe is going to be largely derivative of the old one. But if these stories and books keep the feel of the characters while giving them a whole new coat of paint, I'm in. To me, at this point in DC history, the worst thing for these books would be if they merely recycle the old material and try to pass it off as something new.

Well, time to break the book out and see which way the nU goes....

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Carte Blanche: The new James Bond novel

Carte Blanche: 007
Jeffery Deaver
Simon and Schuster, 2011

Since I now work for a publishing house, I want to start including books reviews and discussions on this blog as well as movie and theatre reviews. Those posts will continue for sure, but I'm also branching out and tackling fiction, non-fiction, comic books, and whatever else I get around to reading and writing about. First up, a recent release that I received while I was studying at NYU. I didn't get a chance to read it until the program ended, but I'm glad I made the time to sit on the couch, drink a beer, and read this new Bond novel. "Reboot" has become a dirty word when referring to recent films, but this is an excellent "reboot" of the literary James Bond.

Things that worked perfectly:
  • Echoes of Film Bond. Deaver's story would fit perfectly into the list of James Bond films. The story takes Bond to exotic locations, involves three beautiful Bond women, a diabolical villain with a real-world plot, and a psychotic henchmen. Action sequences were drawn right from the second unit team, and even John Barry's scores were running through my head as I read them. In fact, Deaver draws so much from the film Bond tradition that he even includes the next bullet point.
  • A pre-title sequence! The book actually starts focused on other characters, including the engineer of a locomotive through the countryside. We're introduced to Bond a few short chapters in, when he is involved in a shootout, the destruction of the aforementioned locomotive, and a car chase across the countryside. I could almost hear the title song kick up, and I loved it.
  • Echoes of Book Bond. As much as Deaver connects to the cinematic Bond history, he also has his feet planted in Fleming's tradition as well. From the description of Bond's eyes and the lock of hair that falls over his eyes to Bond's occasional melancholy and genuine sadness, Deaver knows his Fleming history. It's great to see such a wonderful blend of the two elements of Bond's history.
Things that worked out okay:
  • Bond's new backstory. Drawing on the backstory of the literary Bond, Deaver brings back the idea that Bond is an orphan whose parents were killed in a ski accident when he was a boy. I thought it was going to originally stay as backstory, but Deaver expands on it and starts creating an intrigue-laden story for Bond's parents that is more than Fleming ever intended. It is an interesting idea, and I like the attempt to make this more of a modern thriller than Fleming's books. It comes off as a little obvious, although Deaver does include a twist on it that makes it more interesting that just the cliche.
  • Pacing. I love books with short chapters. I don't know why, but the chapters come across like popcorn and it's almost impossible to stop reading. Deaver uses this technique really well during the action scenes, but it's one of the those styles that can't help but call attention to itself. In short, it works really well, but there are small places where it feels forced.
Things that didn't work so well:
  • Nothing. Literally, nothing. There are some pieces that don't work as well as others, but no element fell flat on its face. That surprised me, but my standards for books are much more flexible than for films.

This is a very enjoyable book. I grew up watching the Bond films, and I read all of Ian Fleming's original novels. "Carte Blanche" is a great way to update the Bond series and bring 007 into the 21st century, and there are even rumors that this book might form the basis of the next Daniel Craig film. I'd be all about that, especially since this book is a lot better than Quantum of Solace. Ultimately, I was up late at night reading as much of the book as I could, and that is the best recommendation I can give it.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Captain America: The First Avenger"

"Captain America"
A review, in bullet-points

Before I headed into the theatre, the only thing I knew about Captain America was that there would be trouble when Captain America throws his mighty shield. I didn't know exactly what that trouble was, but anyone who throws a shield at me is going to get me to yield rather quickly. I'm a little late to the party where this movie is concerned, but since it was directed by Joe Johnston, who also directed The Rocketeer, I was on board for some old-fashioned action adventure fun. And I didn't know how right I would be!

Things I loved:
  • The action. The action sequences were amazing. They were realistic (for the most part), exciting, and seeing Cap throw his shield was worth the price of admission. The first sequence after he becomes the super soldier is incredible, and he's not even wearing the uniform yet.
  • Chris Evans. I wasn't sure that Evans was a good choice for Cap, but he won me over almost immediately. I quickly forgot that I was watching the star of other films, and I only saw him as Captain America. The haircut and the overall styling helped a lot as well. The computer effects to make him smaller were mostly convincing, too, and although it sometimes looked like a strange bobblehead, it always felt like the same character.
  • The script. For the most part, the pacing of this movie was dead-on. There was enough character development that made it clear why Steve becomes Captain America, and there were good comedy beats exactly where we needed them. And perhaps most importantly, there were no characters that existed only to be ciphers and provide backstory or plot development. Very well structured, very well written.
  • The old-fashioned style of film-making. Aside from the visual effects, this film felt like it could have been made twenty-years ago. There is no shaky-cam, no lens-flare, no quick-cuts, all elements of modern cinema that drive me crazy. Instead, Johnston uses long tracking shots, wide pans, giving the film the feeling of a much older, more "classic" Hollywood. Not only does it mirror the 1940s setting, but it makes it that much more exciting for me.
Things I liked less than I expected:
  • The costume. When the first few photos of the movie costume came out, I was really excited. I thought it was really cool. I liked how it combined the comic book design with the reality of WWII-era uniforms. But unfortunately, it didn't look as good in motion due to bizarrely padded shoulders and a strange helmet that didn't look as good as his USO look.
  • Hugo Weaving as Red Skull. In the opening scenes of the movie, Weaving is understated, subtle, and truly creepy. But as the the film continues, not only does his performance become downright mustache-twirling, but his accent starts approaching "moose and squirrel" territory. Maybe it was the Halloween mask they made him wear.
The less-would-have-been-more file:
  • Montage, times two. It's strange to see a montage in a film these days. And this movie has two of them. Both of them fit the story, do a good job of showing the passage of time, and contain a lot of exciting imagery. However, both of the montages were a little long and they robbed the film of some momentum.
  • The love story. I don't know why every superhero movie needs to have a love story, especially when it feels tacked-on in movies like this, Thor, Iron Man 2, and The Dark Knight. It gives the opportunity for some jokes, some intentionally tender script moments, but overall it felt tacked-on by the marketing and publicity department.
Things that seemed on-loan from another movie:
  • The timeline. Captain America is a hero from WWII. And according to the comic books, he somehow winds up in the present day, as a part of the team that includes Hulk and Iron Man. But the pieces of this story are thrown into this movie is such a strange way that I don't see how you could understand it unless you already knew the character's comic history. It felt like they should have saved it for The Avengers movie next summer.
  • Samuel L. Jackson. I'm sorry, fans of Marvel Comics, The Avengers, and Mr. Jackson in general. He is completely out of place in these movies. He's there just for fan service, and when it comes to acting, he's not even trying. Reminds me of his comically awkward turns in the Star Wars prequels. This movie (and maybe the entire Marvel movie universe) would be better if they deleted Nick Fury and replaced him with the wonderful Agent Coulson.

I loved this movie. Loved, loved, loved this movie. I wish that all movies were this good. Does it have some problems? Sure, of course it does. Almost every movie does. There are places where the film bogs down in the love story, or where the pace feels a little off. But if more movies were made like this, I would not complain.