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Comic Pick of the Week for January 8th 2014

Great Stories selects…..

 

Hoax Hunters #13 Season Finale (Image)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fans of X-Files and mythological lore rejoice this title from Image!  Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley have written a book for over a year now wit an impressive cast of strong recurring characters and a story that has us literally begging for more at the close of each issue.  With art by Christian DiBari and colors by Mike Spicer fitting the exact mood and tone necessary for the subject matter to hit home for readers, we encourage you to give this book a very hard look as they enter year number or should I say season number two!

 

Hoax Hunters #13 was released today and is available at your local comic shops.


Great Stories are everywhere!

 

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Fresh Popped Corn: January 2014 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.

 

January 3rd

Happy 2014 everyone!  May this year be one that brings us many incredible movies to discuss with friends and family.  Starting things off for us this year, we have the latest entry into one of the most successful horror franchises to have come along in some time.  Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones attempts to spin-off from the characters in the first four films somewhat in an attempt to make it seem fresh, but we are not holding our breath in anticipation.  The Best Offer is a drama about an antiques expert who has done his best to drive away any close human contact only to become infatuated by a young woman who lives a far more agoraphobic lifestyle behind the walls and doors of the antique-filled mansion he has taken assignment in.  Geoffrey Rush and Sylvia Hoakes lead the cast with Donald Sutherland in support.  Jamesy Boy is a true story of a troubled young man who gets sent to prison where he is mentored by an older convict played by Ving Rhames.  Yawn….oh, did I type that?  Open Grave is a thriller that seems to tie in elements of Saw and The Walking Dead to fairly creepy effect in the trailer.  No celebrity star power in this one to speak of, but it has us intrigued!  Our pick of the week, however, is going to be The Best Offer with the always great Geoffrey Rush.  Check out the trailer below to see why.

 

 

 

 

January 10th

Another week with a relatively short list of movies to preview.  We start things off with The Legend of Hercules starring Kellen Lutz and directed by Renny Harlin (the man who gave us Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger).  Next up, there is The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, starring Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, and Sam Neil in a story about a teen whose family vanishes setting him off on a quest to discover their fate.  A quest that uncovers strange magic, monsters, and supernatural artifacts.  Lastly, we have Banshee Chapter, a horror film starring Ted Levine and Katia Winter, about the effects of a research chemical by the CIA on civilians and a radio broadcast of unknown origin.  Well, it seems that last month’s Desolation of Smaug has ushered in a run of questy and adventury-type movie fare.  Whether or not The Hobbit’s success will feed the fire for audiences to see more remains to be seen, but our money would certainly be spent to support of Renny Harlin’s Hercules tale, whose trailer you can see below!

 

 

 

 

January 17th

It seems that January 17th features the most crowded field of movie premieres this particular month.  The Night Before Christmas poem is re-imagined by removing the Christmas elements and making of the animated entry The Nut Job all about a desperate squirrel who is banished from his Central Park home and will do just about anything to claim a stockpile of food for the winter.  Ride Along is a comedy that features Kevin Hart has a security officer who dreams of being a real cop like his brother-in-law (played by Ice Cube) so he can prove himself a worthy of the woman he married. Big Bad Wolves is a subtitled Israeli crime thriller that apparently has Quentin Tarentino’s creative admiration.  GBF is a lame story about groups of high school female cliques that seek out a token gay friend which grants them some sort of social advantage over their peer groups?  Life of a King stars the great Cuba Gooding Jr. as an ex-con who uses the game of chess to put struggling teens on the straight and narrow.  The character made famous by Tom Clancy and Harrison Ford, jumps back in time to his younger days as a CIA desk clerk in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  Chris Pine takes on the role with Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, and Keira Knightly in support.  Reasonable Doubt is about a prosecutor (Dominick Cooper) with a serious skeleton which compromises his ability to deliver a very dangerous man (Samuel Jackson) to justice.  Cooper pulls double duty as he also plays an English artist on the cusp of greatness if not for a fateful love triangle in Summer in February, which also stars Emily Browning.  While Reasonable Doubt looks pretty darn good with Samuel Jackson gettin’ medieval or maybe just plain evil all over the joint, we are going to have to go with the latest Jack Ryan movie in a nod to our beloved and sadly departed author extraordinaire Tom Clancy.

 

 

 

 

January 24th

 I, Frankenstein starring Aaron Eckhart hits theaters on the 24th in the hopes of making us forget about the underwhelming Hansel & Gretel last year.  In this one, a new age Frankenstein monster finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between two immortal clans of angels, and is based on the graphic novel of the same name.  24 Exposures is a drama/thriller about a fetish photographer who is wanted for questioning in the murder of a glamour model, but strikes up an interesting friendship with a cop who takes a particular fascination with his work.  Gimme Shelter stars Vanessa Hudgens as a young pregnant girl who struggles with addiction and anger with the world around her.  Rosario Dawson and Brendan Fraser are in support.  Knights of Badassdom is about a bunch of gaming geeks who role play only to find out that one of their members has released a real life evil forcing them to unite and be the heroes they portray in their fantasy lives.  Peter Dinklage, Summer Glau, and Steve Zahn all star.  Graphic novels to the big screen is definitely something that we support wholeheartedly but in this case we have to go with the Knights of Badassdom as the winner this week!

 

 

 

January 31st

That Awkward Moment (starring Zac Efron) is a comedy about three guys who pledge to the single life after one of their own experiencing the end of a meaningful relationship.  All goes well until one meets the “right” girl.  Labor Day is a drama we previewed for last month’s Fresh Popped Corn, but was bumped to the post-holiday schedule starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet about a prison escapee who solicits the help of a woman and her son to make a new life.  Sinbad:  The Fifth Voyage is a long-delayed action fantasy film narrated by Patrick Stewart and just looks terrible!  Best Night Ever is the female equivalent of The Hangover series starring Desiree Hall and Samantha Colburn.  And finally, At Middleton finds two single parents, played by Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga reliving or regressing to their youth following a tour of a college for their respective children.  It’s a pretty weak finish to the month, but we will hedge our bets on the Brolin/Winslet drama as the best of the group.

 

 

 

 

And that does it for another edition of Fresh Popped Corn.  We would love to hear about which films you are excited for this month!

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Creative Insights: Interview with Max West

Creative Insights is a regular feature that take a closer look at authors, artists, developers, and inventors who inspire with their works through interviews and/or investigative profiles. 


Our first Creative Insights subject is the author/artist of Sunnyville Stories, a graphic novel that has been featured here at the blog as a subject of review as well as on sale at our companion retail site (www.great-stories.net).  We hope you enjoy this closer look into the life and work of a bright new talent in the comic industry!


We would like to welcome Max West to Great Stories.  Here is a little background on Max and his beginnings!

 

Max West was born and raised in New York City. He spent much of his youth making visits to his local library (starting a lifelong love of books) and watching much television – both cartoons of the 1980s on broadcast TV and a variety of movies and specials on cable TV. Earning a degree in creative writing from Baruch College in 2003 and taking night classes in art at the nearby School of Visual Arts, he created Sunnyville Stories in 2009 and completed his first adventure with Rusty Duncan and Samantha Macgregor in spring of 2010.


He currently resides in the Southern USA, where he works full time as a freelancer.

 


GS: First off, congratulations on your book distribution deals with Ingram and Baker & Taylor.  We also understand that your work can be found at Amazon, Alibris, and even in many public libraries throughout the nation!


MW: Well, I wouldn’t say “many” – but so far, I’ve landed my work in four public libraries, the library of the School of Visual Arts, and the library division of Alibris.  Anyway, the distributor I’ve landed has been very helpful.  They’ve sold copies of my book to some independent booksellers as well as the chain Books-A-Million, the second largest bookstore chain in the country after Barnes & Noble.  I also got my book listed on IndieBound, which can make Sunnyville Stories Volume 1 available through many independent bookstores across the country.


GS:  In your own blog at www.sunnyvillestories.com, you mention that Sunnyville Stories was inspired by an old Japanese Anime named Maple Town and your own move from New York City to rural North Carolina also served as the breeding ground for this invention.  What was it specifically about the old series and your change in scenery that moved you to create Sunnyville Stories?

MW:  Yes, it was.  Maple Town (which is hard to find in the USA since there’s been no DVD release and videocassettes are long since out-of-print) fascinated me as a child and as an adult.  The setting of the series was a remote area where time seemed to stand still.  For an anime made and supposedly set in the 1980s, I was amazed at how the characters and towns seemed to be without video games, personal computers, or popular music in the era of “I Want My MTV”.  In a way, that helped make the series timeless and give it a particular charm.

 

This unique setting in Maple Town was one that I sympathized with.  At the end of the 1980s (the end of an era for me), I left New York City for a rural town in North Carolina.  It was a jarring change going from one of the largest cities in the world to a town that was small and spread out.  Whereas everything I needed was within walking distance or accessible through mass transit (in New York), the small town was a contrast in that you needed a car to get everywhere and I didn’t have many of the things I took for granted in NYC like movie theatres, shopping malls, video arcades, and so on.  This is reflected with Rusty, the star of Sunnyville Stories, as in the first episode and even as time goes along, he remarks how different the town feels and how he doesn’t have everything that he had in his former home city.


GS:  Do you think that your change in environment was a necessary component of Sunnyville Stories origination?  Would this idea have been found had you not uprooted yourself from the city?

MW:  It definitely was.  I may have eventually created Sunnyville sooner or later as I found inspiration from the Maple Town anime.  However, had I not moved, it may have lacked the unique perspective I had in moving into a completely different environment.


GS:  It sounds as if the main character in Sunnyville Stories, Rusty, could be an extension of you, Max West.  But Sunnyville Stories is chock full of other characters in an ensemble supporting cast.  Are these characters manifestations of your own life experience and reflections of people you know and have met?  Or are they loose interpretations of a variety of expected personality archetypes that reflect a world exclusive to Sunnyville? 

 

MW:  Many of the characters that make up the world of Sunnyville were inspired by the characters from Maple Town.  When I first started putting the world together in 2009, the supporting cast were indistinguishable from many of the Maple Town characters.  But for obvious reasons of originality and copyright, I started individuating the characters, changing their names, and giving them short histories.  I want to drive home the fact that these characters are not simply drawings on paper.  They are living, breathing creatures with birthplaces, childhoods, goals, and life-shaping experiences.  I’ve always felt that Sunnyville and its inhabitants are very real.  That’s probably why the work is so strong and has much potential among the reading public. 


GS:  Can you give us any insight as to what other adventures may be in store for Rusty, Samantha, and the gang?


MW:  We’re going to be delving more into the world of Sunnyville, meeting even more characters, learning about the character backgrounds, and more wild stories.  I have a grand total of fifty stories planned to be spread over a total of ten trade paperbacks.  While many of these stories will be slice-of-life, I’ll occasionally delve into the realms of the fantastic.  I have notes for a ghost story, an incident where an energy-based lifeform is accidentally created, and even a time travel episode!


GS:  Switching gears, you attended the School of Visual Arts in New York.  Can you share your feelings on this experience?  And would you consider such formal training and learning to be a necessary step for aspiring artists today, both from an artistic and business perspective?

 

MW:  I wasn’t a degree student at SVA.  I went at night to take continuing education classes.  I specifically took classes that I felt would help my work rather than the full range that a degree student would have had.  I not only took classes in making comics, but also in other skills like painting, perspective and life drawing.  That’s when I really started to come alive.  I felt an awakening that I hadn’t felt before and I had a supportive environment that embraced my ideas rather than scorn them.

 

As for art school being a necessity, I can’t give a straight answer of “yes” or “no”.  While art school and an art degree can give you skills and connections, it’s no guarantee that you can get any paying work in comics, illustration or any branch of commercial art.  It all depends on your goals, your educational options, and ultimately, you.


GS:  Can you speak of your artistic influences (not necessarily limited to your own trade as a writer and illustrator)?


MW:  My influences are many.  I’ve done a lot of reading, I’ve traveled a lot, and I’ve taken much in during the course of my life.  I’ve taken much influence from the 1980s, the decade of the my childhood, and I like reflecting this retro-style universe in Sunnyville.  As for artistic influences, newspaper comic strips were the very first and foremost thing that affected my work.  While I read superhero comics and manga, I was exposed first to newspaper comic strips since my parents bought copies of the New York Post and the New York Daily News.  The first thing I turned to was the comics pages to read up on what was happening to Garfield, Peanuts, etc.  Charles Schulz was (and still is) the biggest influence on my drawing.  Like him, my own work is simple and relies on its writing to carry everything.  To a lesser extent, the work of Jim Davis (Garfield), Gary Larson (the Far Side), and Bill Keane (the Family Circus) also was an inspiration to me.  I’ve looked to the world of illustration for inspiration; Marc Brown (Arthur) and Richard Scarry (Busytown) have given me many ideas from what to work with.

 

I also have a relevant theme that recurs in my work and that is isolation.  In some of my past work and with Sunnyville, I’ve dealt with characters who are isolated somehow or setting that are the same way.


GS:  What do you find interesting in the world of pop culture, including movies, TV, music, and literature?

 

MW:  What I find most interesting are the older works, mainly from the later half of the 20th century.  Most contemporary music and TV shows don’t appeal to me much.  In fact, the theme of isolation is tied in part to the constant fluctuations of modern pop culture.  The world, the latest fashions, the hot ticket at the moment, etc. is always changing month to month, week to week, and day to day.  Whatever pop singer or trend was popular one day may transform into yesterday’s news another day.  This rapid change is one I find overwhelming and with Sunnyville, I deliberately try to make things stand still in that setting in an attempt to bring order to the chaos.  I want to make sense of the constantly changing world.


GS:  I’d like to take a moment to talk about your future projects.  You have mentioned on your blog that you are preparing a horror-themed book called Von Herling, Vampire Hunter as something you are preparing for a 2014 release.  Does this project bare any relation to Sunnyville Stories?  What can we expect from this project?  And when can we expect the Sunnyville Stories Volume 2 release?  Are there other surprises fans of your work can look forward to?

 

MW:  Von Herling is a completely original graphic novel that’s in a different setting from Sunnyville; don’t expect any crossovers.  While Sunnyville is more of a general audiences title, Von Herling is intended for older readers; there’s some blood in there as well as profanity.  This work is more of a classic vampire tale and Gothic horror.  I was influenced by the original Dracula text by Bram Stoker along with Hammer Films (maker of the 1958 classic, Horror of Dracula).  August Von Herling is a protagonist that, like Rusty Duncan, is a fish out of water.  He’s a precocious teenager who’s arrived in rural Tennessee in pursuit of a vampire he’s chased all the way from Europe.  His accent, his precise way of speaking, and his dress immediately set him apart from the close knit community that he settles down in.  Anyway, I feel that I’ve achieved a real feel of Gothic horror that missing from contemporary horror works that rely on buckets of gore and gruesome deaths.

 

As for Sunnyville volume 2, that’s on schedule for March 2014.  I’m sure fans will like it because it continues to reveal more of the world of Sunnyville and more of the characters.  I introduce the older brother of Sam Macgregor as well as a little of the seaside town, Solton, that he lives in.  Rusty continues to settle into Sunnyville and gets involved in local activities.  And I continue to find my voice and develop my style.  There will be even more surprises in 2016, when the third volume will hit stores.


GS:  Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!


If you are interested in buying Sunnyville Stories Volume 1, please visit this link………

http://www.great-stories.net/Sunnyville-Stories-Volume-1-Oversized-Trade-Paperback-SVS-TPB.htm

Happy New Year Everyone!

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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The Honor Roll: Best Christmas Movies (Part One)

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 six picks for the best Christmas features of all time!  A total of twelve films/specials you should consider watching in preparation for jolly old St. Nick sliding down your chimney.  

 

Here is part one of the list with Jim’s picks!

 

 

Elf

“This holiday, discover your inner elf!”

 

 

 

The most recent Christmas flick on the list, this was Will Ferrell’s first starring role after Saturday Night Live. He’s at his best here in a role that’s tailor-made for his man-child persona. This is a sweet movie that doesn’t become icky-sweet, with just enough cynicism for the Scrooges among us. A great supporting cast consisting of James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, the appealing Zooey Deschanel and Peter Dinklage (who makes a classic out of his one scene). And look for a cameo from Peter Billingsley, star of my next entry!

Chris’ Comment:  I remember heading out to see this one with my family after Thanksgiving dinner and having a great time.  A hit with the whole family in fact.  I had not been familiar with Will Ferrel’s man child brand of acting and comedic delivery at that time (not having been a view of SNL for some years) so his great performance came as a pleasant surprise.

 

 

 

A Christmas Story

“Sometimes Christmas is about getting what you really want.”

 

 

 

Well, what can you say about this one? Middling box office when it was released 30 years ago, eventually becoming so popular through television viewings that some stations run it non-stop on Christmas Day. The merchandising, the Broadway show. Watch the face of anyone that you mention this movie to break into a grin. “You’ll shoot your eye out!” “Ralphie just lay there like a slug.” “I triple –dog-dare-ya!” My favorite scene: the visit with the department store Santa. HO HO HO!!!

Chris’ Comment:  See Part Two of this blog (appearing tomorrow)

Scrooge (1970)
No tagline

 

 

Colorful musical version of A Christmas Carol, with a memorable performance by Albert Finney, Alec Guinness as the best Marley ever, and with a rousing rendition of “Thank You Very Much.” I usually save this one to play on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Chris’ Comment:  I chose another version of Dicken’s tale to present on my top list, but this one is a fine choice and almost won out.  You can’t go wrong with this musical version, or Albert Finney’s Ebeneezer!

 

The Shop Around the Corner
No tagline

Expertly played by a talented ensemble (James Stewart, Margaret Sullavan,  Frank Morgan, Felix Bressart and William Tracy stand out), Ernst Lubitsch’s gentle classic has made way for several remakes (even a Broadway play), but it’s still by far the best version. What’s more, it’s a Christmas movie that doesn’t keep hitting you over the head that it’s a Christmas movie.

Chris’ Comment:  I have to say this is an odd choice for a best Christmas movie list.  Is it a good movie?  Sure, it’s OK.  It did spawn a remake of sorts in the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan “You’ve Got Mail”.   James Stewart is widely recognized as one of the greatest leading men in Hollywood lore, but man does he offer up one of the weakest tough guy shoves in movie history in the movie’s most confrontational scene.  As occupational rivals, Margaret Sullivan and Stewart are entertaining in their roles in a movie that is certainly telegraphing its plot twist from the very start.  Ah, the innocence and simplicity of Hollywood in the 1950’s!  Yes, the thoughts of a jaded movie-goer who feels he has seen it all.  Once was enough for this guy.

 

The Bishop’s Wife

No tagline

 

 

 

Forget the dull remake, 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife with Denzel  Washington and Whitney Houston. This is the one to watch for good old-fashioned holiday cheer. With the deft Cary Grant as the angel who might not be 100% angelic and the luminous Loretta Young. Add to that an effective performance by David Niven, one of the best supporting casts ever assembled (Monty Woolley and Elsa Lanchester included) and Gregg Toland’s deep-focus cinematography. The filmic equivalent of a glass of egg nog and a plate of Christmas cookies (and much less fattening!).

Chris’ Comment:  Bravo Jim!  Cary Grant playing God’s dutiful angel who is tempted to leave his work for the love of a woman.  A fine Christmas selection that weaves a tale of heartfelt life lessons and the dangers of temptation.  With an ending full of redemption and restoration of balance, it makes for a satisfying cinematic experience.

 

 

 

 

March of the Wooden Soldiers

No tagline

 

 

Like many of the choices on my list, this may be extremely corny and old-fashioned to some.  However, I think that we have to lament the fact that movies such as these have been passed over in recent years in favor of those containing vulgarity and cynicism. It might aid your enjoyment of this movie to transport yourself to 1934 to forgive some of the broad acting and the dated special effects (although please feel free to skip past the dreadful singing duets between Bo Peep and Tom Tom). With the great Laurel and Hardy, wonderful (non-digital!) sets and a general feeling that a storybook has just come to life right in front of you.

Chris’ Comment:  This movie makes me wish I picked Jingle All the Way (yeah, I liked that one…laugh all you want) as a measure of “corny” revenge on my good friend Jim.  I had not seen this movie and so borrowed it from his collection.  My wife and I were saddened by how bad this one was.  I know it is not in the Christmas spirit to say this,  but “Bah Humbug to this utter trash”.  Remember folks, just because it’s old does not make it a classic.  Maybe I just don’t get Laurel and Hardy.  I like to think of myself as having a sense of humor and wonder, but this Babes in Toyland story makes Robin Williams’ Toys look like a fine cinematic triumph.

 

Happy Holidays!-Jim

 

Stay tuned for the second half of our honor roll blog celebrating our favorite Christmas movies later in the weekend!

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Comic Pick for the Week of December 18th

Great Stories selects……

 

Thunderbolts Annual #1 (Marvel)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pick came as a very big surprise to us since we have been following this title since its debut well over a year ago.  A title that has left us feeling empty and disappointed I am sad to say in spite of the wealth of great characters (Deadpool, Punisher, Elektra, and Venom among them).  We were big fans of the book back in the day when the title featured true c-level characters like Atlas, Mach V, and Songbird.  Since then, it has gone through various iterations with the latest being led by General Ross/Red Hulk.  Nineteen issues of indifference finally has given way to what was the most entertaining issue of the series thus far as Ross assembles his anti-hero unit to take out Doctor Strange, who has seemingly gone rogue.  The writing is with the perfect dose of humor and sufficient action sequences.  Ben Acker and Ben Blacker fit in a lot of characters and plot in the pages they are given and the results are quite satisfying.  Heck, you even get an appearance from Elsa Bloodstone the Monster Hunter!  How is that for reaching into the archives of Marvel lore? Artist Matteo Lolli provides better art than we have been accustomed to seeing in this title of late as well!

 

Thuderbolts Annual #1 is onsale every where comics are sold!

 

Great Stories are every where!

 

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Comic Pick of the Week for December 11th

Great Stories selects…..

 

Manifest Destiny #2 (Image)

 

 

 

 

 

OK, where were we a month ago when the first issue hit all of the local comic shops?  Oh yeah.  We were right there in line buying.  If it were not for some fierce competition that week, you would have been hearing about this one much sooner.  No better time than the present, however, to push the heck out of this one.

 

Lewis and Clarke are on their journey of discovery in the New World and what they come across is not at all what you would expect.  You see, this is an America that is not quite the one you would recognize from your history books.  And for the members of this famous expedition, it may be a tale they don’t live to repeat.  Historical fiction has not been this much fun in graphic novel form since we can remember.  Writer Chris Dingess and artist Matthew Roberts are your navigators as you head west into the great unknown as the sun sets.  The expedition is still accepting volunteers, so come along for the adventure!

 

Great Stories are everywhere!

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Fresh popped Corn: December 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.

 

December 6th

Ah, December…..between all of the holiday preparations, shopping, and time with family and friends, there may be some time to take a break from it all and head out to the movies, right?  Well, we have quite a month and it all starts with Christian Bale v Woody Harrelson in Out of the Furnace.  A blue collar guy who is caring for his terminally ill Dad gets even more thrown at him when his brother (Casey Affleck) just returned from active duty gets involved with some unsavory characters and activities in their home town.  The Cohen brothers present a story of the 1970’s folk music scene in Greenwhich Village with Inside Llewyn Davis.  Josh Lawson and Ron Perlman spook you with CraveJosh plays a crime scene photographer who starts experiencing from very dark thoughts following the end of his relationship.  A woman (Rhada Mitchell) and her husband struggle to conceive and almost lose hope until her best friend (Michelle Monoghan) becomes pregnant after a one night stand.  The friend agrees to give up the baby to them in exchange for living with them, but things get complicated in Expecting.  A sci fi thriller, Last Days on Mars has a team of astronauts accosted by a menacing presence.  Liev Schreiber and Elias Koteas star.  And finally, Khumba is a half-striped zebra who gets banished by his herd and goes on a great adventure to earn his stripes (yeah, I said it). Laurence Fishburne, Liam Neeson, and Steve Buscemi all contribute voice talents to this animated film.  Out of the Furnace looks like a perfect way to kick off  the month and we have the trailer for you right here.

 

 

December 13th

I am not even sure it is a fair fight in week two from our perspective here at Great Stories.  So, before we even state our OBVIOUS choice for our movie dollars, lets run down the elephant in the room’s competition.  Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas has yuletide cross-dressing comedy lined up for those non-fantasy fans and he even recruits a dose of Larry the Cable Guy for good measure.  In American Hustle, Christian Bale sees his second major release in as many weeks and brings along Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and the always lovely Amy Adams along for this 70’s era tale of political favoritism and corruption, which looks to be a solid film.  In Saving Mr. Banks, Tom Hanks…yes, I said Saving Mr. Banks (not Private Ryan)…ahem. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney in his longstanding bid to convince P.L. Travers to allow him to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen.  Emma Thompson plays the creator of the classic icon.  Whether it is by accident or calculated design, Paul Walker appears in the film Hours as a man who struggles to save his newborn child from a hospital in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina bears down on the city.  And in Some Velvet Morning, Stanley Tucci plays a man who leaves his wife to be with a younger woman he has not seen in years in a tragically comic and quirky romance.  In spite of some interesting films debuting this week, you will find us in line for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug which is destined to be another box office hit.  Check out the trailer below and celebrate the return of Legolas!

 

 

December 20th

Ron Burgundy and the team return for Anchorman 2.  It is out of the 70’s and into the 80’s (my favorite era) in this comedic outing.  Walking with Dinosaurs is an animated tale following the migration of the now extinct beasts (Justin Long and John Leguizamo providing voices).  And our pick of the week is the movie Her, which could put Jaoquin Phoenix back on the map as he plays a man who favors the relationship of a female voice born of advanced technology named Samantha following a hurtful collapse of a long and deep companionship.  I know the crowds will be flocking to see Will Ferrell, but check out our pick below.

 

 

December 25th

And Christmas is finally here.  Once you are done opening exchanging gifts and eating fine banquets with loved ones, there is a host of movies appearing at cineplexes everywhere including Scorcese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which is sure to make that joke of a Wall Street 2 movies look ever the awful movie it was.  Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConoughey, and Jonah Hill, it is a strong candidate for our bottom dollr (and it will have been since we’ll be thinking of the first credit card bills that arrive on the 26th)!  47 Ronin has Keanu Reaves and 46 comrades battle mythical enemies in the Orient in a very captivating adventure with some potential.  Grudge Match pits the stars of two of the most famous boxing films in Hollywood history against each other as De Niro throws down with Sly Stallone in what could be a pretty amusing comedy romp.  Labor Day has Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin star in a film about prison escapee who solicits the help of a woman and her son to make a new life.  In August: Osage County, an incredible cast featuring Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Julia Roberts, Ewan MacGregor, Abigail Breslin, and Benedict Cumberbatch tell the story of the powerful and influential women of the Weston family.  Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig star in the strange comedic drama of a man who fantasizes about of heroic acts with a girl who in his office who barely knows he exists in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  And finally, Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in The Invisible Woman, which recounts the real life story of Charles Dickens 13 year affair with his mistress.  Kristen Scott Thomas and Felicity Jones co-star.  Having our fantasy quoted sated by The Hobbit, we will have to forgo 47 Ronin in favor of Scorcese’s latest, though the unbelievably stacked cast of August: Osage County has us very intrigued.  Hey, it’s Christmas, so why choose?  Check out both trailer here!

 

 

 

 

And that does it for another edition of Fresh Popped Corn.  We would love to hear about which films you are excited for this month!

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Comic Pick of the Week for December 4th 2013

Great Stories selects….

 

Fever Ridge (IDW)

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we approach Pearl Harbor Day, what better way to honor the Greatest Generation than to pick up a copy of the Fever Ridge Trade Paperback collection that hit stores this week?  This is the story of the 6th Army’s 6th Infantry Division, called the “Sightseein’ Sixth” and the Alamo Scouts under the command of General Walter Kreuger and a secret that could have changed the world forever.  Nick Runge (Half Past Danger) provides the art for the Mike Heimos story.  Check it out!

 

Great Stories are everywhere!

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Comic Genius: Sunnyville Stories by Max West

Comic Genius is a regular column dedicated to reviewing recommended graphic novel format books.

Sunnyville Stories by Max West

 

What has been missing from the field of graphic novel storytelling for some time is the innocence and journey of American discovery that has been embodied in the work of Charles Schulz and in a different medium, Norman Rockwell.  As newspaper circulation slowly declines with the advent of 24 hour TV news stations and the world wide web, where massive amounts of information are at one’s fingertips, one of the victims is the comic strip.  I remember waking every morning, grabbing the newspaper and reading Garfield, The Far Side, Peanuts, and The Wizard of Id to name a few.  Those three panel comics were the source of many smiles to start off the day before school, but fast forward many years and I now don’t even get the newspaper delivered.  Regular visitations to the comic store produce plenty of Marvel and DC superhero stories and no shortage of creator-owned mystery and action stories of the non-spandex variety, but lacking is the more innocent comic fare that served as my true introduction to the art.

 

Enter Max West’s Sunnyville Stories.  The tale centers around a young feline named Rusty and his parents who move to a rural community from the big city.  For Rusty’s parents, the move is one of opportunity, but is only a source of stress and unwanted change for their son.  Moving away from everything he knows (community and friends), Rusty must develop new relationships and adjust to life in an environment that is completely foreign to him.  Rusty may be a cat, but he is more like a fish out of the water on his first adventure to meet a new friend.  The writing is infused with a touch of  humor while dealing with an array of very real issues that many families face each and every day, which is all part of the charm of Max’s flagship creative work.

 

Rusty gets a little more than what he expects when he meets Samantha MacGregor who takes him under her wing and introduces him to life in Sunnyville, starting with her family as well as the Tanuki’s (a family of racoons from Japan).  New adventures are just around the corner for the two, however, and Rusty comes face to face with a female canine (Rose) who is pretty unhappy with all of the attention Rusty Duncan has been receiving by the town.  The two decide to settle their differences over an overly competitive game of pinball.  Next, Rusty and Samantha get caught up in a criminal plot by some train robbers who steal a shipment of laundry detergent from the local launderers (a family of Greek ferrets).  Will the kids help Officer Carl (a dutiful bulldog) apprehend the weasel thieves?

 

To complete the first volume, there is a small bonus story which was actually a treatment made for art school featuring the two main characters of Sunnyville stories.

 

There are many more stories Max is going to tell that will continue to flesh out the world of Sunnyville.  Volume 2 is due to land (as of this writing) in March of 2014, which will contain four episodes and bonus vignettes and sketches, which we are looking forward to seeing.  Further, Max is releasing Von Herling, Vampire Hunter sometime in the next calendar year which will serve as his first commercial departure from the Sunnyville brand.

 

Max West is offering the comic world something that is decidedly different and something that is sorely lacking in the industry from our perspective.  As the art of graphic novels has decreased in circulation (much like most print media), companies seem to be serving a more mature audience.  The themes and content of a majority of works on bookshelves and comic racks are a reflection of this aging audience, leaving not as much room for newer and much younger fans with more discerning parents to identify appropriate material to enjoy.  And most of the age-appropriate material to be found is of the costumed super hero variety.  Sunnyville Stories is a perfect book through which to introduce children to the comic world and reading as a whole.  Kids will relate to some very real themes that will resonate with them and have the opportunity to learn some important life lessons along the way (just as Rusty has through the first three episodes of Max’s work).

 

You can find Sunnyville Stories Volume One on sale here at www.shopgreatstories.com and other select retailers of fine creative works!

 

-Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Comic Pick of the Week November 27th 2013

Great Stories selects…..


Conan & the People of the Black Circle #2 (Dark Horse)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark Horse has been doing a fine job with Robert E. Howard’s creation.  They have re-released a ton of the old Marvel material under their own brand, while maintaining the regular Conan monthly title along with the occasional four to six issue King Conan story arcs, all in very capable hands from a story and art perspective.  Last month, Fred Valente and Ariel Olivetti began the adaptation of Howard’s novella “The People of the Black Circle”, with painted art as opposed to the standard pencils and the product is truly top notch.  The subject material works well with the artistic style, proving that beauty and grit can go hand in hand.

 

The first issue which we read last month was relatively Conan-free as the set-up of the story featured a King succumbing to dark magics and the tragic action that his sister was forced to commit in its wake.  Swearing revenge for her brother’s death has caused her to deal with the man who she believes can bring about the end of those responsible, but things do not go as she anticipates.

 

You can find Conan &the People of the Black Circle #1 and #2 at your local comic shops.  Check it out if you are a fan of action-oriented fantasy done in beautiful painted art!

 

Great Stories are everywhere!

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team)