Review: American Vampire – Second Cycle

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I’ve posted about this comic book series before.  It took me a while to get it but I’m a fan now.  The series has been on hiatus for a long time but it’s back with a new story line.  We’re up to 1965 and Pearl Jones is living a quiet life (for a vampire).  Except she’s busy protecting a small group of child vampires from…I’m not really sure.  But I’m intrigued.  What’s it like to be a child vampire? (Creepy if you’re Kirsten Dunst.)  What’s in Kansas that can terrify vampires?  And what’s with all the vampire genealogy? It looks like story and art are as good as ever.  So if you’ve liked any previous American Vampire comics, get ready for more thrills, chills and suspense.  We’ve waited long enough.

Review: Buffy – Season 10

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I wasn’t a big fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer comics from the beginning.  I gave them another try with the “Season 8″ series because Joss Whedon was more involved.  I reviewed that series on my Reviews page and also posted about it on this blog.  To sum up, it was disappointing.  The characters weren’t quite right, the dialog wasn’t quite right, the art wasn’t quite right and the story was a jumbled mess.  I tried Season 9 for a few issues hoping for a fresh start but didn’t see any improvement.

Can you believe I’m such a Buffy fan that I just tried the first issue of Season 10?  After probably 100 disappointing issues, I actually paid to try another! And………I liked it.  Near as I can tell, Whedon has no involvement and none of the TV writers are directly involved and somehow, it’s better.  First, I liked the art (by Rebekah Isaacs) much better.  It isn’t flashy.  There aren’t splashy pages or moody panels.  But the characters look like they should.  I can follow the action.  There’s a flow from panel to panel.  It’s old fashioned sequential story telling.  Why isn’t anybody else doing this in comics anymore?

The story is just getting started so I can’t really comment on the plot except to say that I could follow it.  This is a noticeable improvement over the last two seasons.  And the dialog felt like it did on the TV show.  Why is it that people who worked on the TV show could never get the dialog right in the comics?  Maybe the timing needs to be a little different when writing for word balloons than for actors.  Whatever, Christos Gage got it right.

Bottom line?  I’m sticking with it and looking forward to the next issue.  Buffy is finally back!

Review: Johnny Alucard

This is the latest in the Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman.  I reviewed the last one here.  Like the previous books in the series, it exists in an alternate world that’s much like ours except that vampires and humans knowingly coexist.  It uses a lot of characters from history and fiction, or their vampire versions.  In this book, we get a vampire Orson Welles, a human Francis Ford Coppola and an Andy Warhol we’re not sure about.  From the fictional world, we get a bizarro version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Count Orlok.

This is an incredibly ambitious book.  Newman juggles a lot of characters along with political and social commentary.  He creates an alternate world with a rich history.  He blends people and events from different decades and centuries.  And he does all that in a book that’s more like a series of interconnected novellas than a single novel.  Somehow it all works.  Too many fantasy series start strong and quickly get into a rut.  Newman keeps getting better with every Anno Dracula book and I look forward to the next.

Can Werewolves Jump the Shark?

Normally I don’t review TV episodes every week.  This isn’t that kind of blog.  But I can’t let last week’s Bitten pass without pointing out how stupid it was.

Let’s see, we’ve got a gunfight at the OK corral.  Jeremy heads to an abandoned factory to fight a werewolf hitman.  He brings along his pack with orders not to interfere.  (Why bring them and why tell them not to interfere?)  The fight begins and then the bad guy takes off into the corridors of the factory.  Why?  Probably because it allowed the director to create moody shots but why would a supremely confident alpha werewolf do that?  Would it give any advantage when fighting someone with extremely sharp hearing and sense of smell?  Later, a woman shows up for no reason other than to be an innocent victim.  Why was she at an abandoned factory?  Who cares?  Nick steps in to kill the bad guy even though he’s been ordered not to interfere.  Later, Jeremy congratulates him on the kill even though it violated Jeremy’s orders.

This episode is a classic example of the “Ain’t it cool!” style of screenwriting.  That’s where the writers just think of what would be cool regardless of whether it contradicts earlier plot points, doesn’t fit existing characterization and generally makes no sense.  I see it all the time on TV and it’s really annoying.  This TV show was marginal before.  I’m giving it one more episode to win me back before I bail.

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series

I really don’t want to review this series after a single episode so let’s call this “first impressions.”  When a movie gets adapted into a TV series, the first question is “How are they going to get dozens of hours of TV from a two hour movie?”  Often, the TV series extends the movie by showing what happens after.  Robert Rodriguez seems to be taking a very different approach.  It looks like he wants to stretch the movie to fill a complete season.  The pilot took about ten minutes of movie and expanded it to nearly an hour.  Rodriguez accomplished that by adding a lot of details and back story.  If I had known that going in, I would have dreaded watching the pilot.  To me, the opening third of the movie is slow and a little boring.  The movie comes to life when they get to the Mexican bar.  Why would I want to stretch out the boring part?

Amazingly, it worked.  All the added details and back story were fascinating.  I barely noticed the lack of vampires.  The pilot looked more like an adaptation of Pulp Fiction than From Dusk Till Dawn.  I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m OK if it takes a few episodes to get to the vampires.

The performances were generally good and I particularly like Don Johnson as the veteran Ranger.  I’m not sure how I feel about D.J. Cotrona as Seth Gecko.  That’s the role played by George Clooney in the movie.  Cotrona seemed to be doing an impression of Clooney rather than bringing his own take on the role.  Every voice inflection and facial expression seemed identical to Clooney.  It was both impressive and creepy and I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.  I also wonder whether it was Cotrona’s choice or Rodriguez’.  Zane Holtz brought a little bit of Tarentino’s style to Richie Gecko but he was actually better.  Let’s face it, Tarentino is a better writer and director than an actor so it’s not surprising that Holtz is an upgrade.

Bottom line?  The series is off to a very promising start and I’ll be watching faithfully.

Review: Dracula Cha Cha Cha

This is the latest in the Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman.  I’ve discussed it before, most recently here.  The latest entry, Johnny Alucard, is now available so I wanted to get caught up by reading Dracula Cha Cha Cha.  It takes place in Rome in 1959.  The previous entry, The Bloody Red Baron, was as serious as it could get.  It took place in the trenches during World War I and it was non-stop misery interrupted only by terror.  Cha Cha Cha is as light and frivolous as possible.  I don’t remember laughing during either of the previous novels but I laughed a lot while reading this one.  Some of the original characters are still around from the Victorian era.  This isn’t surprising when dealing with vampires, it’s very surprising that some of the non-vampires are still around.  As usual, there are appearances by many figures from history and literature.  The more you know, the more you get out of it.  Bottom line? I recommend it but you should read these books in sequence and be prepared for a dramatic change in mood.

Review: Bitten

As I’ve mentioned here, werewolves are my 2nd favorite monsters.  So I’m going to review this werewolf show on the SyFy channel even though it’s vampire-less (so far).  And that’s one of the things I like about it.  It takes place in my world, except with werewolves.  No vampires, zombies, witches, leprechauns or yeti.  It seems like having werewolves in the world would be a rich enough source for storytelling that all those other things are unnecessary.  So far, the producers seem to agree.

The show follows the modern approach to werewolves, emphasizing pack social behavior as opposed to the Lon Cheney Jr. loner approach.  I like this approach although all modern werewolf fiction seems to be on board and all other styles have gone away.

So what do we have here.  There’s only one female werewolf in the world and she’s trying to pass in the human world.  Then she gets called back by her former pack to help investigate a murder.  This turns into a series of murders and she gets drawn deeper into the pack that she’s trying to get away from.  So far, the story is interesting, the characters less so.  There’s some classic Romance as the female werewolf is torn between two men: the respectable, human lover and the scruffy, bad-boy werewolf.  I think we can all figure out where this is going.

Overall, I’m giving this a positive review.  The female lead is too gorgeous for the role.  Whenever she walks down the street, I wonder why everyone isn’t staring at her.  Well, this is TV and people are supposed to be better looking than you or me (no offense).  If the worst I can say about the show is that the women are too attractive, that’s not all bad.

Review: The Bloody Red Baron

This is the sequel to Kim Newman’s “Anno Dracula” and it’s as good as the original.  It uses historical and literary figures as characters and combines actual history with fantasy.  If you like Alan Moore’s books about “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, you should give Kim Newman’s books a try.  (If you liked the movie version of “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, shame on you.)

It’s 1918, the last year of World War I.  Vampires and humans fight and die on both sides of the Western Front.  Dracula is highly placed in the Kaiser’s government and he has a plan to win the war with a secret project involving the Red Baron.

It’s a terrific story that swept me along but also gave me greater insight into “The Great War”.  I particularly liked the subtext of picturing the war’s leader’s and generals as vampires.  The more you know about the actual war, the more you’ll get out of this novel.  And reading Anno Dracula beforehand will probably be helpful.  But I think you can enjoy this book regardless of your background.

Review: Vampire Diary

Don’t confuse this film with the similarly titled TV series.  This one is an artsy, British, independent film mostly shot with a handheld camera.  The story?  A filmmaker is shooting a documentary on the cult of vampire/goth wannabees in London.  But one of them is different than the rest.  She claims to be a real vampire!

This movie reminded me of Cloverfield.  Yes, it had the the jerky camera work and clumsy cuts to make it look homemade.  But it was also a relationship movie pretending to be a horror movie.  Did it work?  I think so.  It was more of a chick flick but it kept my attention.  Unless you’re a complete neanderthal, give it a try.

Review: Valemont

This was a webcast/mini-series/movie (I think it appeared in all 3 formats) produced by MTV in 2009.  I missed it when it came out but just finished watching the version cut as a movie.  A young woman (or maybe late teen) investigates her brother’s mysterious death by enrolling at the strange university where he was last seen.  There, she finds dangerous fraternities, more dangerous sororities, an annoyingly clingy roommate and vampires.  And then things get weird.  The story gets ever more convoluted while the guys pursuing her get ever hotter.

I know I’m too old and have too many Y chromosomes to be the target audience for this movie, but I kinda liked it.  It had a relatively fresh spin on vampires and kept surprising me with plot twists.  No, it didn’t really make sense and had plot holes you could send a marching band through.  The ending set up a sequel and I’m OK if it never gets produced.  Still, I had a good time.