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Comic Pick of the Week for November 20th 2013

Great Stories selects…..

 

Velvet #1 (Image)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, the team responsible for relaunching the successful Captain America title back in 2004 bring to the page a strong female character in the title Velvet.  Velvet Templeton is an office admin with some decidedly deadly talents, as will be discovered by readers in this yarn that is chalk full of espionage, assassination, and mystery.

 

There has been a wealth of female leads whose strength and purpose seem to hold significant sway of late.  Just look at Greg Rucka’s Lazarus and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Pretty Deadly (both of which were featured as Great Stories top selections in their debut weeks).  Velvet is no different in this regard.  If you are looking for the women’s equivalent of James Bond, you may have wondered onto her right here in these very pages.  Epting’s art is effective in its gloom and he draws his characters with an appreciated level of realism.  Too many books of late draw angular or disproportional characters that just take away from the visual storytelling (see Marvel’s Thunderbolts for a prime example).  The art in this book has enhanced the story beautifully and breathed life into panels that contain no dialogue whatsoever, and that is very much appreciated.

 

This book is seeing a second printing due to the highly successful debut just a couple of weeks back, and we are happy for that as you will have a chance to pick it up at a store near you (and we hope you do!).

 

Great Stories are everywhere!

 

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Comic Pick of the Week for November 13th 2013

Great Stories selects……

 

Wraith #1 (IDW)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does writer Joe Hill follow up his masterpiece Locke & Key in the world of comics and graphic novels?  We have the answer here with a story ripped from the soul of his work N0S4A2.  For those who have not read the novel, it is about a scary denizen of evil named Charles Talent Manx, who drives around in a Rolls Royce that carries unsuspecting children to a strange and terrifying place called Christmasland.  You need not have read the novel to enjoy the story he has written spinning off of the source material.  Warning that reading this comic may cause you to shell out the extra dough to buy the novel….you have been warned!

 

Featuring the art of Charles Wilson whose work has been seen in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and independent The Stuff of Legend, Hill’s story is wonderfully told both visually and in a wordier than usual way (by comic industry standards).  You won’t be flipping through this book in a few minutes, but that is just fine because readers will be able to savor a bit more from this opening salvo of what looks to be a great series.

 

Wraith #1 is on sale everywhere comics are sold today.  Check it out and let us know your thoughts!

 

Great Stories are everywhere!

 

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Fresh Popped Corn: November 2013 Movie Trailers

Once per month, we will be taking a look at movies released for the upcoming month, and telling our readers where we would be spending our movie dollars each week, based on the look of the trailers.  Links to the chosen trailers will be provided so you can see just what we are so excited about.  Movie release dates are subject to change.

 

November 1st

We are a little late this month with the movie trailer review, so for week one we are going to skip right to the chase and give you the trailer for Ender’s Game.  The movie was seen last weekend by one of our loyal readers (thanks Seth Dargan!), and his very positive comments about Harrison Ford’s return to science fiction has us excited as well!  So, without further delay, check out the trailer.  🙂

 

 

November 8th

Today, Thor:  The Dark World attempts to hammer smash its way to the box office roost, and we would be absolutely shocked to see a different result.  Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, and Anthony Hopkins all return to their roles in this Marvel Phase Two film.  In Ass Backwards, two women who became best friends after finishing last in a teen beauty pageant get to attempt to redeem themselves as adults in another pageant competition.  Casey Wilson and June Diane Raphael star as the bff’s with a not often seen Alicia Silverstone appearing in support.  Justin Long gets two movies debuted this week.  The first is Best Man Down, Justin’s best man tragically dies from alcohol poisoning at his destination wedding.  He and his new bride travel back home to find Lumpy’s loved ones and deliver the news and come to find out how little they really knew about him.  In A Case of You, Justin plays a lovestruck guy who changes his persona to match the dating profile likes of a cute coffee shop girl.  Evan Rachel Wood co-stars.  In The Armstrong Lie, a documentary filmmaker following Lance Armstrong during his final Tour de France stumbles upon the biggest sports scandal of our time when the legendary cyclist is revealed to be guilty of doping in pursuit of glory.  And Charles Dickens classic, Great Expectations gets the big screen treatment starring Jeremy Irvine, Heena Bonham Carter, and Ralph Fiennes.  The Starving Games looks to spoof the mega-hit Hunger Games franchise.  How I Live follows the story of an American girl (Saorise Riordan) who is forced to relocate to the UK with relatives just before a horrible event leads to martial law in the country.   Being the Marvel fans we are, there is no possible way to not pick Thor: The Dark World, but for those of you who are not into the comic book stuff, we would like to recommend Great Expectations.  Check out both trailers below!

 

 

 

 

November 15th

It is the dead week in between the Marvel and Hunger Games franchise blockbusters.  So, what films will serve as our bridge to these box office giants?  First up, we have Shia LeBeof in Charlie Countryman, in which a young man follows the directions given him by his late mother in a vision to travel to Hungary and falls for a young woman with a very dangerous ex.  Dear Mr. Watterson is a documentary covering the 80’s and 90’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strip and the following it created.  The Book Thief stars the great Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson and follows the story of a young girl who goes to live with a foster family in WWII-era Germany and find the power of words as an escape from the madness that surrounds her.  Best Man Holiday stars Taye Diggs, Harold Perrineau, Morris Chestnut, and Terence Howard as old friends who reunite 15 years later at Christmas and find that old flames and rivalries are not hard to reignite.  But our pick of the week is Sunlight Jr., starring Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon as an uneducated and impoverished couple (Dillon also being paraplegic) whose lives get even more complicated when she loses her job after finding out she is pregnant.

 

 

 

November 22nd

As prevously mentioned, the second installment in another hugely successful franchise, Hunger Games:  Catching Fire gets a release and an almost guaranteed number one placement at the box office.  Delivery Man sees Vince Vaughn discovering that a sperm bank he regularly donated to in the old days has made some errors that have led to him being the father to over 500 children, many of whom are suing the clinic to know the identity of their father.  Bettie Page Reveals All is a documentary that examines one of America’s most celebrated sex symbols.  Contracted looks to be a freaky flick that finds a young woman who is beset with an illness of unknown origin after a one night stand that is far more deadly than she can imagine.  And Philomena stars Judi Dench as a woman who desires the find her son whom she gave up for adoption many decades ago, and receives the help of a former journalist played by Steve Coogan who is interested in capturing a human interest story to put his career back on track.  While people flock to the theater to find out how Jennifer Lawrence disposes of a new batch of rivals, we are looking to put our money with Philomena.  Check out the trailer here.

 


November 27th

Frozen is Disney’s latest animated musical spectacle which features the voices of Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff.  In Oldboy, the American remake of the Japanese cult hit, Spike Lee directs Josh Brolin who plays a professional businessman who embarks on a trail of vengeance as he looks for a reason that he was kidnapped and held captive in solitary confinement for twenty years.  In Homefront, Jason Statham plays an ex-DEA agent who retires to smalltown USA to give his daughter a safe life when a twist of fate puts him in direct conflict with local drug dealer James Franco.  Black Nativity is a musical starring Forrest Whitaker and Anjela Basset that features a rebellious teen who goes to live with estranged relatives and gets a little divine inspiration to turn his wayward life around. And finally in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Idris Elba takes on the role of the famous South African leader who led a movement of change in the Dutch colony.  Over the Thanksgiving break, we are definitely looking at some family fare and Frozen looks like it truly could become an instant Disney classic, so we will be looking to please the kids in our lives at the end of the month.  Oh who are we kidding…we love this stuff too!

 

 

 

What are you most looking forward to seeing this month!?

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team) 

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Comic Pick for November 6th 2013

Great Stories selects….

 

Alex & Ada (Image)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image does it again with another book that we are pretty excited to get into.  Alex & Ada starts off with a look into the post-mortem of Alex’ relationship with a girl named Claire,  and his painfully uninspired view towards life in the wake of its destruction.  Not without his caring friends and family, who do their best to lift his spirits and help him shake off the despair.  Now, this is no ordinary relationship gone bad and heading towards the predictable victorious rebirth tale.  You see, Alex lives in a world where artificial intelligence is all of the rage, and robots are beginning to become the new face of human interface!  Even Alex’ well-to-do grandmother has “hopped” on the bandwagon so to speak (in what may be the most cringeworthy scenes in comic this year), and her efforts kickstart her grandson’s social life on his birthday of all days may change his world forever.

 

Alex & Ada is penned by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, and can be found at comic retailers everywhere!  Check it out and let us know what you think!


Great Stories are everywhere!

 

-Chris (for the Great Stories Team)

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The Honor Roll: Best Scary Movies (Part Two)

The Honor Roll is a Great Stories feature column that gives you the best in class movies, books, and multimedia from the Great Stories team.  This month Jim and Chris make their top five picks for the best Halloween movies of all time!  A total of ten movies you should consider watching after all the candy has been given out and the cold chill of darkness has settled in.  Here is part two of the list with Jim’s picks!


Psycho

“The Essential Alfred Hitchcock”

What can you say about Psycho? This was the forerunner of all of the slasher/maniac-on the loose movies, both good and bad, that succeeded it. It’s story is, of course, old hat by now (how many headlining stars have been offed 40 minutes or less into the movie?—see Angie Dickinson in Dressed to Kill or Drew Barrymore in Scream), but the artistry of Alfred Hitchcock and his associates still remains. It’s there in the ghostly black and white images of Anthony Perkins watching Janet Leigh and her car sink into the swamp, and it’s there in the ragged harshness of Perkins mopping up Leigh’s blood beforehand. The loneliness of Leigh traveling on the highway (accompanied by Bernard Herrmann’s famous score),  along with the famous house silhouetted against the sky set a mood that would sadly be lost amongst today’s shockers. As effective as it still is, can you imagine how it went down when it was released during the peachy- keen Eisenhower years?

Chris’ Comment:  Hitchcock was undeniably influential and I count Rear Window as one of my favorites.  Psycho no doubt shocked audiences when it was released to theaters, as it had no real cinematic equal.  A precursor to a new breed of horror that did not involve giant insects or alien invaders, it has to be considered an innovative and controversial movie exposing the dark nature of man.

 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

“The seed is planted….terror grows.” 

 

 The 1956 version was certainly effective for it’s time as a well-made  low-budget shocker, but this Me Generation update expands upon the ideas of Jack Finneys’ novel. It’s one of the best black comedies ever made. Donald Sutherland is an unusual (and sometimes creepy) choice for a hero and Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy both turn in iconic performances—gotta love the eccentric Goldblum! And whatever happened to the lovely and appealing Brooke Adams?  Director Philipp Kaufmann serves up a moody succession of shadowed imagery, along with still top-notch (though not overused) special effects. And who can forget the wonderful sound effects provided by Star Wars’ Ben Burtt?  That ending—wow.

Chris’ Comment:  Donald Sutherland’s mouth agape and pointing stance still haunt my memories from childhood.  I never knew that Leonard Nimoy could perform any non-Vulcan role before seeing this movie in my teens.  I have not seen the original for a comparison, so for me this version was the genuine article.  

 

Dead of Night (1945) 

No Tagline

 

 

 

 

 

This scared me silly when I was a kid. This was one of the first horror film anthologies, beating similarly-styled British horror films from Hammer and Amicus by nearly 20 years. An excellent cast (hey, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s Sally Ann Howes as a teenager!) and wonderful atmosphere set up by several directors. A great, surrealistic ending that’s not to be missed.

Chris’ Comment:  One of the two movies from Jim’s favorites that I had not previously seen, I looked forward to getting into a movie from a generation of films very under-represented from my own viewing archive.  What I found was a story that I could sincerely appreciate (think Groundhog Day meets Twilight Zone), but ended up being a very mixed bag experience.  Set up as a loosely connected group of short tales, the characters in the film share their spooky experiences before the ending that brings it all together.  A couple of the stories are truly creepy and effective including a race car driver’s near death experience and the final story about a ventriloquist who may or may not be in control of his dummy partner.  Other than that, I found the stories to be not so compelling.

 

An American Werewolf in London

“Beware the moon.”

 

 

 

The classic hipster comedy from John Landis. Funny and scary, a wonderful combination. A great soundtrack and Oscar-winning makeup effects by Rick Baker. “Have you ever talked to a corpse? It’s boring!”

Chris’ Comment:  One of my early favorites too, and only narrowly missed my own top five, American Werewolf contains one of the most visceral and scary werewolf transformations you are likely to see on film. And the relationship between the afflicted and his dead ghost of a friend is classic!

 

 

Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein

“More howls than you can shake a shiver at!”

 

 

 

 

 

The old-school funny and scary and still great fun. Too many great Lou Costello moments to mention. Bela Lugosi back as the Count for the second and final time! And Lenore Aubert as….SANDRA!!!  Fondly remembered as one I used to watch with my dad every time that it was on TV. And wait a minute—what’s the deal with the Count’s reflection in the mirror as he’s biting Sandra?! Didn’t they study their vampire lore?

Chris’ Comment:  The other movie from Jim’s top five I had not previously seen (at least from start to end) is truly a fun experience.  Harkening back to a more innocent time when comedic laughs did not have to be drawn from something grossly inappropriate or shocking behavior, Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein certainly will give a nice option to the feint of heart who can’t quite handle a true scare but want to relish a film in the spirit of the season.  The famous duo actually tackle Dracula and The Wolfman played by Bella Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr as well.  Have fun!

 

Honorable Mentions from both Jim & Chris include:

Slither-the most recent movie on the list, this gets kudos for keeping CGI effects to a minimum and relying on amazing, full-scale make-up effects. Boasting a great cast, it’s one of the funniest and least self-serious horror movies to come along in years.

 

 

The Raven (1963)—more scary-funny hijinks (though mostly funny). A low-budget treat with the great Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, plus Jack Nicholson as the young hero (man, would he change!). Script by the great Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Shrinking Man) and tongue-in-cheek direction by exploitation movie maestro Roger Corman.

 

When a Stranger Calls (1979)—“Have you checked the children?”  Forget the 2006 remake and go find a copy of the original.  And then try to steel your nerves to an unexpected phone call the next time you are all alone in the dark.

 

The Exorcist–William Peter Blatty, who fashioned himself more a writer of comedy, is best known for this terrifying novel and movie.  This one sent people streaming out of theaters in terror and shows us a true test of good vs evil in the battle for a little girl’s soul.

 

Thanks everyone for reading! And Happy Halloween!!!

 

-Chris & Jim

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Comic Pick of the Week October 30th 2013

Great Stories selects……

 

The Trial of the Punisher #2 (Marvel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last month we recommended Guggenheim’s first issue of this two-issue limited series…..go see our comments from that entry to see what we are raving about.  And if you have not, go pick up both issues for a unique Punisher story.

 

Enuff said…… 🙂

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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The Honor Roll: Best Scary Movies (Part One)

Honor Roll is a Great Stories feature column that gives you the best in class movies, books, and multimedia from the Great Stories team.  This month Jim and Chris make their top five picks for the best Halloween movies of all time!  A total of ten movies you should consider watching after all the candy has been given out and the cold chill of darkness has settled in.  Chris’ picks are up first and we will have Jim’s picks out to you tomorrow morning.

 

 

Session Nine

“Fear is a place.”

 

 

Man, they got that tag line right.  The Danvers State Mental Hospital served as the Massachusetts locale for filming this absolute gem of a horror movie from Brad Anderson.  Peter Mullan plays the struggling owner of Hazmat removal company bidding on the job to clean up the old abandoned hospital which contains some horrifying secrets.  Also part of the team are David Caruso, Josh Lucas, Stephen Gevedon, and Brendan Sexton III.  As the team draws closer to their deadline for finishing the job, things begin to unravel for the team.  David Caruso gets hacked on quite a bit for his work, but he is perfectly cast in this role.  Alongside Peter Mullan, both turn in a great performances playing off each other as they struggle for control of the group.  This is one of the Josh Lucas’ earlier roles before he gained a measure of stardom, and his philosophical and morally conflicted role as Hank is dead on as well.  There are plenty of unsavory undercurrents and sub-plots between the characters to add some context to the unfolding events that transpire.  Director Brad Anderson really nails the atmosphere and tension, and his sets and location almost serve as another actor in the film itself.  Lots of tension and skin-crawling moments in this one.  Check it out!

Jim’s Comments:
Chilling movie, kind of reminded me of Kubrick’s The Shining in the way that it was filmed and scored. Don’t see this one when you’re home alone like I did.

 

Halloween

“The night he came home.”

 

 

In 1978, John Carpenter gave my generation the boogeyman.  Babysitting on Halloween has not been the same since.  We were introduced to Jamie Lee Curtis and the presence of Donald Pleasance lent a credibility to the cast of relative unknowns.  No doubt about it, Halloween (with an assist from Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre) gave birth to the slew of slasher films that invaded theaters and late night television for the next decade, but what Carpenter managed to do was create an effective film without gratuitous gore and left much to the viewer’s horrified imaginations.  This film had audiences quaking with a building tension and dread, leaving us all to wonder what lurked within every shadow.  A classic that remains the standard bearer of the genre!

Jim’s Comments:
The most successful independent film ever made. I’m not convinced that this is the “classic” that many regard it to be, but there’s no denying it’s effectiveness. It could be held up as a model for low-budget filmmaking technique. My favorite part was when we see the station wagon that Myers is in drive past the girls, stop, then start off again as if he is biding his time.

 

The Thing

“What you fear most is among you.”

 

 

 

After Halloween, John Carpenter moved on to do an Elvis TV biopic, The Fog, and Escape from New York before releasing The Thing to an unwary public.  Kurt Russell headed a great cast for Carpenter, who went away from his usual style by letting the special effects crew go wild.  Some of the most grotesquely horrific sequences in the history of movie cinema are captured in this film.  Combine that with the moodiness, isolation, and paranoia that this film delivers the stuff of nightmares.  My parents actually claimed that I woke up with nightmares for about two weeks following a viewing of this movie as a child.  Yes, it is that scary.

Jim’s Comment:
A critical and box office flop when it was released in the summer of 1982, this has gone on to become one of the most popular horror films of all time. Rob Bottin fills the screen with one eye-popping makeup effect after another (the “spiderhead” sequence still makes my jaw drop) and John Carpenter fills the running time with a sense of menace. Unlike the 1951 original (another great movie), these research scientists clearly don’t like each other.

 

1408

“Some rooms are locked for a reason”

 

 

 

John Cusack delivers a fine performance as the somewhat notable author of books such as “Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Castles” and “Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Houses”.  His works seem to be a fruitless search for hope in an afterlife, following the tragic passing of his daughter to sickness, which has destroyed his marriage and left his own heart and soul barren.   His next work’s material leads him to the Dolphin Hotel in New York City and the events that transpire are far beyond anything he would ever expect.  This was John Cusack’s show the whole way, as for much of the movie, he is the lone character.  Samuel Jackson provides some support as the hotel’s manager very effectively.  But clearly this is Cusack v one incredibly evil room.  The director (Mikel Halfstrom) amps up the tension, and the repeated soundtrack use of the Carpenter’s song, “We’ve Only Just Begun” is brought towards a terrifyingly maddening effect.  Pull your loved ones close when watching this one!

Jim’s Comments:
Saw this one a few years ago. I don’t remember much about it, but I remember liking it.

 

 

The Fourth Kind
“There are four kinds of alien encounters.  The fourth is abduction.”

 

 

 

Generally not a fan of viral campaigns and found footage movies, this one happens to be a very big exception.  Milla Jovovich stars as psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler.  The setting is Nome, Alaska where a series of disappearances have afflicted the frontier community.  As Dr. Tyler begins to see some similarities in her patients experiences during hypnotherapy sessions, she digs deeper to find the ultimate truth of some very sinister happenings in their quiet community.  Parts of the movie juxtapose “actual” footage with re-enactments from the actors in an attempt to help the viewer believe all that they are seeing.  And what we do see is a very convincing and disturbing display of otherworldly phenomena.  White knuckle syndrome is sure to hit you at points of this movie.  I am a sucker for a good alien abduction story (loved Fire in the Sky too…check that one out as well), but I also have to say that this is the best acting we have seen yet from Milla.  On top of that, Will Patton appears as Sheriff August and Elias Koteas as Dr. Tyler’s colleague, Dr. Abel Campos.  A superb cast, and a thrill of a movie for sure, in spite of the panning it received from critics.

Jim’s Comments:
Well-acted and intense. I wasn’t a big fan of the “faked” footage vs. the “ real”—both cross-cutting and split screen. Such a presentation can’t help but call attention to itself, with the effect of it taking me out of the movie. I’m also not infatuated with the harsh, fast editing of many horror films today. But you can do far worse than this film for a nerve-wracking 90 minutes. There are some extremely intense sequences (my phone rang during one of them and made me jump) and a somber and eerie mood is kept throughout.

 

 

Check back tomorrow for Jim’s Top Five!

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Comic Pick of the Week October 23rd 2013

Great Stories selects…..

 

Pretty Deadly (Image)

 

 

 

Image does it again, this time enlisting the pen of Kelly Sue DeConnick who recently worked for Marvel on the latest Carol Danvers (former Ms. Marvel turned Captain Marvel) relaunch, which we can recommend highly as well.

 

A western theme and a tale of tragedy turned vengeance is what you will get as the words meet the art work provided by Emma Rios.  The female tandem do a great job in setting up the storyline with some very interesting characters and a plot line that has us genuinely intrigued.  No shortage of mysterious and dangerous women abound.  Who knew the wild west was not just a playground for the adventurous and unruly men of their time?

 

Provided at the back of the book is also a wonderful insider’s view from the writer on how both career and story came to be.  One can truly gain and understanding of where inspiration takes root and just how long the creative process for a story can take to mature.  We appreciate the writer’s expose into her own personal story, which in this case, is like getting a bonus story for free!

 

You can pick up Pretty Deadly at a comic store near you!

 

Great Stories are every where!

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

 

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Comic Pick of the Week October 16th 2013

Great Stories selects…..


Mind the Gap Volume 1: Intimate Strangers (Image)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, another collection is our pick of the week, even though it is not a new release.  Great Stories got on the Mind the Gap bandwagon a little late, and quickly discovering it to be a worthy read full of intrigue and compelling characters.  The first volume collects the first five issues, which finds a young woman left in a coma after some very sinister foul play.  To make matters worse, her families motives and perhaps their very involvement may have something to do with the poor woman’s predicament.  But what no one seems to know is that the victim, Elle Peterson, is very much aware of what is happening around her in the hospital and having an out of body experience that places her in the realm of the in-between where she can reach others in similar states.  And she is doing her best to return from this beyond and find out who is responsible.

 

We are tearing through the second volume, Wish You Were Here, as of this post.  Hope you do the same!

 

 

 

 

 

Great Stories are everywhere!

 

Chris (for the Great Stories Team)

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Getting Into the Spirit

Hey Everyone,

Just a fun little update that shows a bit of the behind the scenes action in the lives of the bloggers here at Great Stories.  Jim Cannizzaro of  “The Front Row View” column here shows his personality for co-workers at the day job.  Going with a video store theme for the upcoming Halloween season, Jim is happy to help you pick out a flick from his own personal collection of favorites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Browsing Jim’s Shockblister DVD selection has me itchin’ for a scare.  We’ll be giving you our thoughts on the best scary movies of all time coming up soon.  Have a great weekend!

Chris (for the Great Stories team)