Posted on

Comic Genius: Morning Glories

Dear Readers,

 

Comic Genius is a brand new featured series at the Great Stories blog that shall serve to promote what we think are the best stories being told in the graphic novel format.  The suggested reading material may represent something quite fresh and new, or it may be a call to re-visit an old and forgotten yet classic book/tale. 

 

I must cop to being a gigantic Marvel Comic fan, and spent many years reading those books under the Marvel flag almost exclusively with forays into some DC Batman titles, as well as the occassional Dark Horse Comics project.  I was turned off by McFarlane’s Image Comics in the 90’s from a creative standpoint, though I was very sympathetic to the business reasons for its creation.  That being said, Image has really been impressing me of late with some very solid book series.

 

This month, Great Stories would like to raise your awareness of an awesome series called “Morning Glories” written by Nick Spencer with interior artwork by Joe Eisma and cover art by Rodin Esquejo.  Spencer wrote Existence 2.0 for Image Comics, also the flagship for Morning Glories, and it was well-liked enough to be optioned as a movie by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes studio and is currently in development.

 

 

 

 

Morning Glories was one that I happened upon when walking into a New England Comics store to visit a friend, and the conversation turned to the subject of the incredible TV show, Lost.  And with that perfect segue, he handed me a copy of the first trade paperback of the aforementioned title.  I opened my wallet and, after reading the first few pages, knew it had been money well spent.

 

Morning Glories tells the story of a group of very special students recruited from around the world to attend the prestigious Morning Glory Academy.  What the students don’t know is that Morning Glory Academy is not at all what it seems, and the students all share something in common that goes beyond the normal.  The characters, at first, seem like the typical line-up of high school archetypes.  Casey is the intelligent and beautiful blond with perfect parents who has it all going for her.  The Indian-American Zoe is the tough as nails, mean, and pretty cheerleader.  Hunter is the almost invisible book nerd raised by a single Dad.  Ike is the spoiled rich kid with a sordid past.  Jun is a principled and serious student from Japan.  And Jade is the moody emo-girl, also raised by a single parent.

 

 

 

Although the stereotypes are all typically present, the events that ensue are anything but.  The comparisons to Lost, as alluded to in the author’s own description of his book, are well founded and present in the flashback stylization that helps to flesh out the characters in awesome detail.  The characters have been written intelligently with actions that are consistent with the individual motivations and character traits born within.

 

It is quite simply very difficult to keep from being pulled into the writer’s world.  And the artwork by Joe Eisma is very good, capturing the essence of the story well within the panels and giving it a very clean look that suits the material well. His characters are drawn expressively, which I appreciate, and lends to more effective storytelling.

 

 

I want to say so much more about the book, but to do so would betray the great plot developments that author and artist have in store for the reader.  25 issues into the monthly comic, you can pick up the first 19 issues in trade paperback form in three collections starting with “For a Better Future” (collecting issues 1-6), continuing in “All Will Be Set Free” (collecting the second story arc issues 7-12), and “PE” (collecting issues 13-19).  The fourth collection, “Truants” will be released this May.

 

Spencer has mapped out a complete beginning to end story that runs 100 issues, which is eight years of comic life.  If the next six years of story are anything like the first two, we are all in for a treat.  Not to mention that you could very well be looking at a perfect candidate for a TV pilot, able to match the success of the last graphic novel to small screen adaptation that has taken the industry by storm.  Oh yes, that little show called “The Walking Dead” is exactly what I am referring to.

 

I sincerely hope you give this book a look and come back to let us know your thoughts!  Thanks for taking the time to stop by, and come back again soon for another visit.  🙂

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Posted on

Great Stories Business Update

Greetings to everyone in the blogging community!

 

We just wanted to take a brief detour from celebrating the creative aspects of our world to let you know that Great Stories has hit a major developmental milestone as a formally created corporation.  We are now officially Great Stories, Inc.  It is a very exciting time for our business, and we wanted to share with you all that the small seed of an idea that began in December 2011 has indeed grown into something more in these past fifteen months.

 

It all began as an e-Bay business, which soon expanded to Amazon.  Following the successful launch of a self-operated business retail site in July 2012 (www.shopgreatstories.com), the entity grew social media arms through Facebook, Twitter, and of course this very blog.  We have had a very eventful first year, and will continue to seek new venues and marketplaces to grow the Great Stories brand.

 

As we mentioned in the very first post on our blog, there are great plans ahead.  This is only the beginning of a journey that we anticipate will bring many surprises with it.  Thank you for being a part of the evolution of a brand new start-up company that shares your passions of creativity and adventure.

 

Our next blog will cover a very cool graphic novel series that we hope you may add to your reading list.  Look for it to appear here in the next few days!

 

Chris (on behalf of the Great Stories team)

Posted on

Fresh Popped Corn: March 2013 Movie Trailers

It is the first Friday of March, and that can only mean that it is time for Great Stories to preview and give our quick thoughts on the March movies release schedule based on the trailers we have seen.

 

March 1st

21 & Over (Relativity)- From the makers of The Hangover, comes the latest in trip down debauchery lane.  Just replace the wedding party with college-age kids intent on making their passage to 21 a memorable occasion.

 

Jack the Giant Slayer (Warner Bros)- Bryan Singer, director of the X-Men, brings along Ewan MacGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Stanley Tucci into the fabled world of Kings and Giant-kin, based on the well-known children’s story.

 

The Last Exorcism II (CBS Films)- Eli Roth produces the sequel to the successful original which sees the return of Ashley Bell as the young demon-afflicted girl who now deals with her condition in the aftermath of her family’s demise.

 

Phantom (RCR Media)- Ed Harris plays a Soviet submarine captain and David Duchovny returns to the big screen as a KGB agent with his own agenda in this underwater thriller.

 

Great Stories Pick:  Jack the Giant Slayer

The trailer to Jack the Giant Slayer had us genuinely excited for a big screen excursion.  Bryan Singer is a proven commodity as director, and the film just has fun written all over it.  Solid cast, and what it not to like about creating a “larger than life” representation of such a great children’s classic?  You may not be able to bring your overly young children to see this one with the PG-13 tag, but it is certainly something the older kids and you could enjoy!  21 & Over had that been there and done that feel to it.  Heck, the trailer had already screamed out The Hangover even without the crack marketing team telling you it was from the same people who brought you said movie.  The only thing that caught the eye was the appearance of a certain Dharma Initiative celebrity (for you Lost fans out there).  The Last Exorcism was an excellent movie, filmed in that lost footage style with plenty of atmosphere and good acting from a cast of unknowns.  The trailer for the second movie has us far less interested, as this sequel takes on a narrative style approach.  It is good to see Ashley Bell return to her role, but the premise seems to take away from the mystique of the origiinal’s surprise ending.  Phantom, on the other hand, had us very interested when reading the synopsis.  Another tale in the mold of Hunt for Red October screamed for attention, especially with Ed Harris, whose acting chops are well known and David Duchovny of X-Files fame playing the role of the antagonist.  But the lackluster preview trailer dulled our excitement.  Again, Jack the Giant Slayer looks to be the sure-fire winner of the week!

 

March 8th

Dead Man Down (Film District)- Colin Farrell tries to amend his ways after the terrible Total Recall remake with this moody mutual revenge flick.

 

Oz the Great and Powerful (Disney)- Another classic children’s tale re-done with a new spin will attempt to bring families flocking to the cineplex with James Franco and Mila Kunis taking the leads.

 

Emperor (Lionsgate)- Tommy Lee Jones plays General MacArthur as he visits Japan just after their surrender in WWII, charged with the responsibility on how to deal with Emperor Hirohito.  Matthew Fox (of Lost fame) co-stars as General MacArthur’s chief investigator.

 

Great Stories Pick:  Oz the Great and Powerful

Let it not be said that this was an easy call for us.  Emperor looks fantastic, and history/WWII buffs will probably be in for a treat with this picture.  But Oz the Great and Powerful looks to be another winner for Disney.  James Franco is one of Hollywood’s great young actors with many good roles to his credit, and this one seems to hold a bit of magic and wonder for all ages.  Add in the beautiful Mila Kunis, as well as supporting roles by Michelle Williams and Rachel Wiesz and it is hard to argue with the strength of the cast.  As for Dead Man Down, the trailer makes a strong case for some attention, but we are a bit trigger shy after the last two big screen appearances from Farrell in the terrible remakes of Total Recall and Fright Night.  It makes one wonder if his script choices are a reflection of a poor agent or his fading star.  Maybe we can be pleasantly surprised?

 

March 15th

The Call (TriStar)- Halle Berry stars as a 911 call operator who is witness to the repeated crimes by a sadistic killer and is forced to take a more active role in catching him before he commits his next crime.

 

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Warner Bros)- Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi star as childhood friends who are bonded together by their love of magic and make a carreer of it until their commercial appeal is replaced by a new magician in the public eye.

 

Spring Breakers (A24)- A group of wayward young girls (including Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens) steal some money to afford the spring break of their lives when they meet a local drug runner/arms dealer (James Franco) who takes them even deeper into the underbelly of the criminal world leaving the girls to ponder the choices that led them there.

 

Upside Down (Millenium)- Kirsten Dunst stars in the sci-fi drama about the inhabitants of twin planets who share incredible proximity and atmospheres but strangely different gravitational rules.  Also separated by socio-economic differences, a man and a woman defy their societies and risk it all to be together.

 

Great Stories Pick:  The Call

The Halle Berry movie seems to have enough tension and excitement to carry us through the weekend without falling asleep in that nice comfortable stadium style seat at the local theater.  And after playing it safe with two family-style films in the previous weeks, we felt the need to charge up the adrenaline a bit.  As for the other releases, Steve Carrell’s comedic take on the business of magic and illusion had some appeal, but not enough to sway us.  After all, comedies are just as good on the small screen, so we can wait.  Spring Breakers makes James Franco a bit of a commercial cannibal as he will have had two straight weeks of film release.  His portrayal of a scummy drug dealer is certainly a far cry from his wholesome image in Oz.  While the film has potential, we will just have to wait and see.  Upside Down screams art-house independent  and introspective.  We love that movies can have a higher level of sophistication, but we prefer to read those types of things as opposed to seeing them on the big screen.  Maybe good for a rental?

March 22nd

Admission (Focus Features)- Tina Fey stars as a Princeteon admissions officer who visits an alternative high school on a recruitment assignment and discovers a previously unknown connection to a very gifted student, as we as finding romance along the way.  Paul Rudd also stars.

 

The Croods (Dreamworks)- Animated family feature about the first pre-historic family and their first adventure together as they travel from the safety and confines of their cave home.  Stars the vocal talents of Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Nicolas Cage, and Emma Stone.

 

Olympus Has Fallen (Millenium)- Gerard Butler stars as a haunted secret service agent on the President’s (Aaron Eckhart) detail.  When a full scale invasion of the White House by terrorists threatens the leadership of the country, it is up to him to set things right and find redemption.  The ensemble cast also includes Morgan Freeman, Cole Hauser, Ashley Judd, Dylan McDermott, Rahda Mitchell, and Angela Bassett.

 

Great Stories Pick:  Olympus Has Fallen

We are locked and loaded for a a pretty exhilirating looking thriller, and Gerard Butler has a certain appeal in these types of roles.  We haven’t seen D.C. threatened like this since Jack Bauer was all over our TV screens, which seems like forever and a day.  And who didn’t like Jack Bauer?  That’s right!  As for the other releases, The Croods family fare is great for the little kiddies, and is sure to drum up some decent ticket sales.  As for Admission, well, what can be said?  That is one that we will be refusing to pay for at the Box Office.

 

March 29th

The Host (Open Road)- Teen dramas just got another potential flagship franchises as Saoirise Ronan takes on alien hosts that are taking over earth one body at a time, in this Body Snatcher-type sci fi flicks.

 

Tyler Perry’s Temptation (Lionsgate)- Brandy Norwood, Vanessa Williams, and yes, Kim Kardashian, appear in this drama about an unhappy wife in a marriage that is going through the motions when an attractive stranger enters the picture threatening to turn everyone’s workl upside down.

 

Family Weekend (Arc Entertainment)- Matthew Modine and Kristen Chenoweth star as a couple of very unconventional parents whose child-rearing style are rubbing their eldest daughter (Olesya Rulin) the wrong way.  The motivated teen gets the idea to re-educate her parents in this quirky comedy.

 

The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus Features)- Ryan Gosling plays a carnival stunt motorcyclist who returns home to rekindle romance with his old flame (Eva Mendes) and is surprised to learn he has a son.  Meanwhile, star rookie police officer (Bradley Cooper) is out to make a name for himself as well as a difference under the shadown of a corrupt police chief (Ray Liotta).  The paths of the two men are inextricably linked when Gosling chooses a life of crime to provide for his new family.

 

The Evil Dead (TriStar)- The remake of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead promises big scares and a new facelift to the franchise which spawned the cult-classic Army of Darkness.

 

Great Stories Pick:  The Place Beyond the Pines

The trailer for Pines looks fantastic, and the talents of Gosling and Cooper as two of Hollywood’s fast rising stars is undeniable.  Factor in a dash of Ray Liotta, and you are in for some great entertainment.  It is a little bit funny that Drive was a movie that starred Gosling as a Hollywood stunt driver who turns to criminal activities.  Is he risking being typecast as a stuntman?  LOL.  But the story looks solid and we can’t wait to see how it all plays out.  As for the other entries for the last weekend in March, The Host looks to be one of those tween movies that could go either way.  Movies marketed towards the teen audience are a tough game, as they tend to be what a Snackwell is to the dessert world.  A treat that just isn’t all that fulfilling without the real ingredients.  In this way, the stories they tell tend to lack edge and sophistication.  Family Weekend might be a good rental, in that same vein as the off-beat Juno.  We refuse to see anything with Kim Kardashian in it, so Tyler Perry’s Temptation is off the list.  The Evil Dead remake is intriguing, but we are more interested in a sequel to Army of Darkness and a continuation of Ash’s story as opposed to yet another Hollywood reboot.

 

Chris & the Great Stories team

 

Posted on

Comic Genius: Capital Punishment

Greetings Dear Readers,

Today’s post has nothing to do with civil rights or the justice system in America.  No, that is better left for other blogs.  This post is dedicated to Greg Rucka and his run on The Punisher/Punisher War Zone for Marvel Comics.  As a huge fan of Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, I could not be more thankful for the incredible storytelling and characterization of my favorite comic personality over the past two years.  When Marvel handed the reigns of Frank Castle’s lore to Greg Rucka, I am not quite sure they even knew or appreciated the depth of talent, thoughtfulness, and inspiration that resided in this man’s mind.  Rucka also had the help of Marco Checchetto and Carmine Di Giandomenico who took Rucka’s vision and brought it to life on the page in a way that this fan had never before seen.  These are undoubtedly two of the fastest rising stars in graphic novel art today!

 

 

The character I love so dearly has been through a sort of creative purgatory over the course of the past twenty years.  Originally appearing in Amazing Spider-man #129, in the 1970’s, Punisher began as a mercenary hired to end the famed hero.  Gaining popularity after more guest appearances in various stories, a limited series was launched in the mid-80’s at a time when gun-toting action stars ruled the big screens.  Modelled after Charles Bronson’s Death Wish character and Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, Frank Castle was a Vietnam vet who came home from one war and found that he could not escape it when his family was gunned down after witnessing a mob execution.  He survived to wage a one-man campaign against organized crime, murderers, and deviants of all stripes.  Somehow becoming what he despised most, yet keeping a code of honor simultaneously.  The perfect Great White Shark of graphic novelty.

 

 

 

After many years of popularity, the Punisher went through a bit of a transformation as Marvel saw fit to have Castle go off the rails and assasinate Nick Fury (as known to most audiences as the cool head of SHIELD portrayed by Samuel Jackson in the current Avengers series).  This led to Marvel coming up with the terrible idea of making him the head of a crime family.  That short-lived incarnation later led into the character becoming some tool of divine judgement using angelic weapons (in a thankfully shorter lived series), before Garth Ennis saved The Punisher character by returning him to his roots…..fighting a dirty mob war without the supernatural enhancement package (sarcasm mode off).  Garth Ennis righted the Punisher ship for many years giving fans just what they wanted.  It was a no holds-barred Frank Castle.  A force of nature doing what he does best.  But he kept him mainly in his own little corner of the Marvel world, separated from the larger Marvel cast of characters.  And when he did write Castle in a space occupied by the superhero community, he did so in such a way that reflected the writer’s own feelings on spandex-clad characters.  He just didn’t like them, and it showed.  Following Ennis’ departure, Matt Fraction took over the Punisher storytelling to mediocre result, followed by Rick Remender who in spite of his talent decided to drop the character down one of the weirdest rabbit holes in all of comic history.  Killing the Punisher in one of the most epicly horrific ways, and having him reassembled into some Frankenstein creature.  ACK!  Somebody stop the madness!

 

 

 

Enter Greg Rucka!  Returning Castle to his roots, Rucka created a world heavy on supporting cast, which was a huge departure from the previous 10-15 years of Punisher storytelling.  Fleshing out the world around him, and allowing Castle to be a shadowy force of nature working in the story’s backdrop proved to be masterful.  Introducing characters that people could care about (two detectives assigned to solve the Punisher killings, the lone survivor of a mob execution that wiped out an entire wedding, the leadership of a new crime syndicate called The Exchange), while also intergrating in existing supporting characters from other Marvel books, and then having some very logical appearances from other featured Marvel heroes, Rucka’s Punisher run can only be considered a shining moment in history for the character.  Sixteen issues of a regular series returned Castle to being what I believe he always was at the heart of the character.  A highly principled killing machine that also happens to be a brilliant field strategist and soldier.  Rucka knows Frank Castle, and it is apparent that he holds the character in the highest respect by not minimalizing his attributes.

 

By the end of the 16 issue run, we are left with a sincere and deep interest in Frank, his relationship with Seargant Rachel Cole-Alves (lone survivor of her ill-fated wedding), and where the story would go from there.  There is some real gut-wrenching stuff in these pages.  And the artwork is spectacular.  If gritty could ever be beautiful, it is demonstrated here.

 

 

 

After finding out that Marvel was going to add Punisher to a team book, Rucka knew his run would have to come to an end and he delivered the 5 issue Punisher War Zone to bring his story to a grand finale.  What happened in the pages of the preceding 16 issue run causes The Avengers to stand up and take notice.  Something would have to be done to solve the “Castle problem”, and Rucka masterfully develops a condensed character study on each of these Avengers, which is reflected in the progression of events and in the actions/words of the heroes with respect to dealing with the Punisher.  It is great to see a writer go to great lengths to honor the histories and motives of the many characters in the story.  In life there is rarely the black and the white.  Most live in the gray, and I think the sophisticated storytelling by Rucka relfects in this work perfectly.

 

 

 

I just read the final issue, which was released to stores today, and I have to say that it is the finest run of all Punisher stories.  I say that with great joy and also a feeling of great remorse.  Knowing that it is not likely that we will ever see Greg Rucka deliver another Punisher story to the masses is a bitter pill, but I am most thankful for his time with the character that got me started in comic books so many years ago.  I raise a celebratory glass to you Mr. Rucka (and to both Marco Checchetto and Carmine Di Giandomenico) for two years of graphic novel bliss.  Thank you for returning Frank Castle to such a high place creatively, with honor, respect, and dedication to your art.

 

As for me, I will be seeking out Greg Rucka’s past, present, and future projects with eagerness.  And I encourage any of you readers out there to do the same.  The Punisher trade paperbacks would be a great place to start!

 

Chris (for the Great Stories team)

Posted on

Storm of the Century

Greeting Everyone,

I’d like to apologize for the extended absence, as it is my intention to update this blog at least once per week.  Some weather patterns that moved into the New England area caused some changes in our update schedule as we worked to unbury ourselves and our neighbors.  That being said, we are right back to it, and thankful in some ways to this recent storm and the additional snowfall we are getting at this very moment to inspire the next topic of discussion here at the Great Stories blog.

 

For me, these winter days make me want to find some warm and comfortable place in the house and open a good book.  In between the shoveling, frostbite, and watching the neighborhood kids laugh and play, there really is nothing better than to grab some hot chocolate and some peaceful reading time…at least for me.  In keeping with the theme of winter storms, Stephen King has provided us with a great haunting tale sure to keep your eyes glued to the page and pull your family a little closer to you.  “Storm of the Century”.

 

 

 

King originally wrote this story back 1999 and it was released as a screenplay with a TV movie released to viewing audiences directly after.  The book form is actually in screenplay form, which is exactly how King wrote it, which makes for a vastly different reading experience.  The premise of the screenplay centers on the community of Little Tall Island, off of the coast of Maine which is in preparations for the biggest storm to hit in 100 years.  With access to the island being blocked off by the impending blizzard, the town suffers a tragedy as one of their residents is brutally murdered by a mysterious stranger named Andre Linoge, who seems to know all of the dark secrets of the town and makes a promise to spare the town if given a young child in exchange.  You see, Andre is an emissary of Satan himself, and he needs to train another soul to take his place in this unholy mission.  As King reveals the true nature of the antagonist and the hold he has over the town, we the readers are left with only shock, amazement at the plight of this town, and a shiver in our bones as if the cold of the Storm of the Century was ours to experience.

 

I cannot recommend this decade plus old story enough to you all the next time you are snowed in, and feeling warm and cozy in your favorite chair, under your most comfortable blanket, and sipping at your mug.  Escaping into the imagination of a great storyteller can be just the thing to pass the time.

 

What story can you recommend to those of us, who don’t mind feeling a bit of a chill in the comforts and safety of our own homes?

 

Until next week,

Chris & The Great Stories Team

Posted on

Fresh Popped Corn: February 2013 Movie Trailers

It is that time…..Great Stories previews the cinematic releases for the month of February.  Movie trailers are our source, and here are our choices for movie dollar spending!

February 1st
Bullet to the Head (Warner Bros):  Sylvester Stallone sets out to prove that old action heroes can still rake in the dough at the box office in this film about a hitman (Stallone) teaming up with a cop (Sung Kang) to hunt down the people responsible for killing their respective partners.
Stand Up Guys (Lionsgate):  Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Allen Arkin play old friends who reunite after one of them is released from a 28 year prison sentence.  Rekindling their friendship, they make up for lost time with more mayhem in this comedic drama.
Warm Bodies (Summit):  A zombie falls in love with a human survivor after the apocalypse and sets off a chain of funny events that might change their world.
Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (Lionsgate):  A family moves into a historic Georgia home inhabited by some restless spirits.

Great Stories Pick:  Bullet to the Head
We have to go, once again, with the re-emergence of the classic action heroes of the eighties.  After Schwarzenegger’s lackluster box office in The Last Stand, we are rooting for a Stallone success to help preserve a moral victory for that generation that brought so much joy to our movie palates so long ago.  Though, the Pacino/Walken coupling is quite intriguing as well  and could prove to be a winning combo.  As for the zombie apocalypse done for laughs and love?  Well, zombies are just starting to get a little too played out, and we will wait for the DVD in spite of the presence of John Malkovich.  And what does  A Haunting in Connecticut have to do with a Haunting in Georgia?  I would love to hear the explanation for that title, or not.

February 8th

Identity Thief (Universal):  Jason Bateman plays a family man victimized by an identity thief (Melissa McCarthy).  He tracks her down and gets more drama than he bargains for in this comedy.
Side Effects (Summit):  Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum star as a couple whose world is turned upside down after a new psychiatric drug is prescribed to Emily(Mara) by her doctor (Jude Law).

Great Stories Pick:  Side Effects
After a week of mindless action, following it up with a thriller starring the talents of Jude Law and Rooney Mara (who comes off the gripping The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), seems to be in order.  We are fans of psychological thrillers here at Great Stories, and this one promises to be worth a look.  That is not to take anything away from Jason Bateman’s adult comedy effort, which certainly had some good moments in its trailer.  Only two movies this week, and they both look solid!

February 15th
A Good Day to Die Hard (20th Century Fox):
  John McClane (Bruce Willis) teams up with his son to defeat terrorists in Russia as the Die Hard series continues on.
Beautiful Creatures (Warner Bros):  A young man meets a beautiful and mysterious young girl as he plots to escape the confines of his small town, and in so doing learns some dark secrets.

Safe Haven (Relativity):  Julianne Hough plays a woman running from her past where she meets a widower and has to deal with her secrets.  From the author of The Notebook.
Escape from Planet Earth (Weinstein Co): Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Jessica Alba lend their voices to this animated feature from the makers of Hoodwinked about an alien who comes to Earth to rescue his brother from Area 51.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (Film Buff):  Charlie Sheen returns to the big screen and is joined by Bill Murray.  Sheen plays a graphic designer whose world spirals into despair after his girlfriend breaks up with him.

Great Stories Pick:  Safe Haven
Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, and as much as we would love to see Bruce Willis save the day again, Safe Haven’s trailer makes it look like a movie you can enjoy together.  And you and your loved one should be on this of all weekends.  With the story coming from Nicholas Sparks, author of The Notebook, there is even more promise to be had.    On the other hand, if you prefer to be served up another dissatisfying dose of teen schlock, you could always jump on the Beautiful Creatures bandwagon.  Or if you want to see an actor circling the drain of life in a movie where he portrays a man going much the same direction, go check out Charles Swan III.  As for Escape from Planet Earth, it feels one part Monsters Inc. and one part Toy Story to me.  I am sure the kids will eat it up like cotton candy!

February 22nd
Snitch (Summit):  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a Dad who goes undercover for the DEA to help clear his son’s name in this action/thriller.
Dark Skies (Momentum):  Keri Russell stars in this horror/thriller about a family that is accosted by strange phenomena in their neighborhood and seek to uncover its origin before it tears them apart.

Great Stories Pick:  See Below
After spending our money on a sugary romance movie last week, we were all set to admit to you that we would be foregoing the February 22nd releases in favor of that Die Harderest of Them All movie, or whatever it was called.  Bruce Willis is the man, after all!  But wait….Snitch and Dark Skies both delivered trailers that have set our genre-meters buzzing in excitement.  What should we do?  I think the only natural thing is to take a vacation day from work, start counting all of that loose change in your car and around your room to spend it on an extra tub or two of popcorn (make sure you ask for extra butter while you are at it) and wash it all down with a nice cup of satisfaction because this week is looking like the definition of a good time at the theaters.  Yeah!

Chris @ Great Stories

Posted on

Super Episode 7?

A long time ago in a galaxy not far away by any means, a young boy joined by his loving parents took a journey into the darkness of a movie theater in 1978 and witnessed the spectacle of Star Wars.  His world changed along with many other children, young and old alike as they witnessed the birth of one of the most storied and successful franchises in Hollywood history.  With the release of that movie, a generation of loyal fans followed.  Three movies, full toy lines, lunch boxes, clothing, and just about every other merchandising scheme you could dream up was used to Lucasfilm’s advantage.   The Empire was indeed strong, and a commercial juggernaut.

Fast forward almost two decades, and the loyal fan base was energized to hear that George Lucas was set to resurrect the cinematic legend with three more movies would serve as a prequel trilogy to the original.  Taking total creative reigns with the scripts, Lucas released The Phantom Menace to massive success but very mixed reviews.   What followed from that were two more Lucas “solo” creative efforts that also received very mixed reviews leaving the fan base decidedly split on the results.  While some of the luster seemed to have worn off from the Star Wars legend, a new generation of young fans was introduced and what cannot be denied is that in spite of it all, Lucasfilm had continued it’s amazing record of financial dominance.

Now, about eight years removed from the last film release, word is that the franchise will live again with Episode VII scheduled for release in 2015.  Lucasfilm has since sold the rights to future Star Wars releases to Disney, truly giving the franchise the shot in the arm that I believe it needs.  Disney, one of the few film studio juggernauts that could match Lucasfilms’ success, also owns major properties such as Marvel.  And I can’t think of too many people who have been displeased with the creative efforts of the films they have churned out in the last few years.

Without George Lucas monopolizing the creative direction, who might take this franchise into the future….or should I see a new “ frontier”?  Enter the rumors that JJ Abrams has been offered the directorial chair for the next installment.  The man who created what is in my mind the most inventive, interesting, and entertaining TV show in my lifetime (Lost)….the man who took a sci-fi property that I personally did not like (Star Trek) and actually caused me to enjoy its relaunch….the man who has given us some of the most mystery-shrouded marketing campaigns for films like Super 8 and Cloverfield.  Yes, this man who just might be (for me) the biggest creative shooting star in Hollywood today.  What could JJ Abrams do for the Star Wars franchise?

Color me excited.  Of course, this assumes that the rumors are true.  Well, this wannabe Star Wars fan can hope.  “A new hope” for a better Star Wars future, if I may coin another phrase, with apologies to you readers.   Disney and JJ Abrams could be the winning formula to puts Star Wars back on my personal radar, and maybe even win back some of those old fans who have felt the diminishment of a legend.

Are you intrigued by the prospects of a JJ Abrams-directed Star Wars film?  If not, why?  And who would you like to see bring the franchise back to the big screen?

Until, next week!

Chris & the Great Stories Team

Posted on

Fresh Popped Corn: January 2013 Movie Trailer Preview

We are already a few weeks into the 2013 movie season, but I wanted to take an opportunity this week to talk about the films on the schedule before we hit the summer blockbuster season.  Great Stories will be previewing Hollywood’s offerings every month on this blog, and it is genuinely a fun subject for us (as we are very big movie fans).

The post Christmas holiday movie schedule is traditionally known as a dumping ground for films that studios either could not fit into their summer/fall plans, or films that the studio does not have a lot of confidence in for one reason or another.  It is generally a time when the industry is talking about Oscar nominations and awards, and even re-releasing the supposed year’s best films to audiences that may have missed the first time around.  We aren’t so impressed by Oscar nominations and all the hoopla over here at GS.  We like to keep all of the fawning and glory-seeking to that Hollywood crowd.  What we are about over here is enjoying two hours for the $10 movie ticket price we just paid.  That can be had with movies that would not garner Oscar nods too (who are the people who decide who gets nominated anyway?).  That all being said, I have found that it is this time of year that I most look forward to in the movie release schedule…..movies that have not been over-hyped!  Hey, we take a chance, and we may be surprised by what we find!?  So, without further delay, here are the movies we have our eyes on for the remainder of January.

January 18th
Last Stand (Lionsgate):  It is Ah-nuld’s return to a leading role on the big screen as he and Johnny Knoxville take on some undesirables who invade their quiet southwestern town.  Cue the explosions!

Broken City  (Fox):  Mark “I don’t talk with animals” Wahlberg and Russell Crow star in a thriller about a private eye who investigates some marital infidelity for the mayor and uncovers a real estate scandal.
Mama (Universal):  Guillermo del Toro produces this horror picture about two little girls who disappeared into the woods after their parents were killed and are rescued years later.  But…hit the scary music….some caretaker of unknown origin still has an interest in them.

Great Stories Pick:  Last Stand
Speaking (however unfairly) for the rest of the team at GS, we are big horror fans (OK, I admit to being the only horror hound on the team).  Mama strikes me as a rental, however, and the draw of a classic Schwarzenneger film is just too good to resist.  I want the old action movie heroes to rise up again!  Broken City looks like a nice moody drama/thriller too, but it will take the runner’s up.

 

January 25th
Movie 43 (Relativity):  A shock and awe comedy with an ensemble cast that includes the likes of Gerard Butler, Emma Stone, Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Uma Thurman, Kristen Bell, Richard Gere, and Julianne Moore and many more.  One of those loosely-related series of sub-plot type of movies is the word.
Hansel & Gretel : Witch Hunters ( Paramount):  Famke Janssen and Jeremy Renner play the famous siblings who survived the gingerbread house of horrors and grew up to become the butt-kicking pair dedicated to vanquishing evil.
Parker (Film District):  Jason Statham stars as a professional thief who is some kind of modern day Robin Hood.  After getting double-crossed by his not-so-merry men, he tracks them down with the help of J-Lo minus the back-up dancers.
Johnny Dies at the End (Magnet):  Two college drop outs have to save humanity after a new drug on the street (soy sauce) sends its users across time and dimensions and then back again in not so human form.

Great Stories Pick:  Hansel & Gretel
Following his roles in “The Avengers” and the latest Bourne installment, what is there not to like about Jeremy Renner? Add in a little ex-Bond girl, some sinister fairy tale lore, and you might be onto something entertaining!  Truth be told, action movies just look better on the big screen too.  Hansel & Gretel looks like the kind of cheesy action/special effects movie that makes it fun to go thrown down your Andrew Jackson , toss popcorn in your mouth, and smile until the end credits.  After seeing the trailer for “Parker”, I quipped to my fiancée that I had already seen that movie (and I sincerely meant it, thinking it was a DVD advertisement and not a new film).  I guess there is just something too familiar about Statham’s roles.  “Movie 43” just looks like an utter mess in spite of the respectable and talented actors that are all over the credits.  And “Johnny Dies at the End” screams of Billy Bob Briggs’ Movie Channel  grade-C movie fare (not that we don’t like that kind of thing!).

Are you planning to hit the box office and catch a flick this month?  What has caught your eye of the films that are in theaters now or to be released in the next couple of weeks?  We want to hear from you!

We’ll check back in with you next week…have a great weekend!

Posted on

Icon or Identity?

Christmas went by in a blur as 2013 dawned on us all, and we were reminded that even though we may have checked out of hobby-land for a couple of weeks, a very major event was happening in the world of Marvel…..the death of Peter Parker as the iconic Spider-Man.  Yes, another comic hero passes before our eyes ushering in a new era.  Is Spider-Man gone?  No….just the man behind the mask.  Fan spoiler coming up here in the next sentence, so beware!  The man who was Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius) is the new man behind the mask and spandex.  You can read the book to find out all of the nitty gritty details and theorize on how Peter Parker may once again be resurrected in the future.  After all, that is what is bound to happen.  Comic books are famous for such plotlines with major characters.  Shock and awe is good for business!

Pop culture has seen its share of identity-changing stunts for some of its biggest icons.  Obviously, Spider-Man is not the first.  It has happened with Batman (see Azrael), Captain America (Steve Rogers out and John Walker, who later became U.S. Agent, in), and even Hulk (Grey, Green, or Red).  Outside of the comic book world, we have seen cultural icons like James Bond, Obi Wan Kenobi, Peter Pan, Willy Wonka, and Dracula portrayed by multiple actors to much success in the world of film.  All of these actors have had the gift of fame which begs the question of who we love more.  Is it the people behind the mask or the characters they play?

We live in a very disposable world where the flavor of the month has sunk the biggest pop stars the music industry has served to a ravenous public, yet others have carried on past the expiration date and remain gigantic even as their performances wane.    We have seen political stars rise and fall at a whim, while some endure regardless of the tarnish they bring to their legacy.

How can it all be explained?  What is the difference between those that burn bright and those that fade away without a whimper?

Truth be told, every successful individual in the public eye needs a good role, a good character, or a good story to build around them.  Without these ingredients, talent and good intent is sadly not a recipe for longevity.  In the end, the mystique that surrounds the individual is what transcends!

Madonna created a brand, image, and a personality.  She was no longer Madonna Louise Ciccone.  She made herself into a character that has become the story.  The Kennedy name has brought with it guaranteed political success through a series of great tragedies, no matter the individual or the deeds.   And Arnold Schwarzenegger will always have a following regardless of personal troubles and time because people have fallen in love with his fictional roles (such as Conan and the Terminator).  Stories give life to our memory.  And we cannot deny these effects on our psyche.  We are as bound to them, as we are to our families and friends in many ways.

Spider-Man will survive without Peter Parker.  Dracula has outlasted the great Bela Lugosi.  James Bond is still saving the world without Sean Connery.  The legend and lore are enough to carry us all on the many more journeys of fascination and adventure.  We are ready for 2013 to be another year of Great Stories, great characters, and making great memories.

We, at Great Stories welcome your thoughts on this topic, and we would also love to hear who your favorite cultural icons are!

Posted on

2013: The Year of the Great Story

Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the story of a start-up business that began officially in July 2012 with the launch of our website (www.great-stories.net).  Great Stories is taking to the blogging community with a mission.  That mission is to spread the good news that creativity and imagination is alive and well within us all.  While the family business has a foundation in retail, we have much broader goals than just being some ordinary place of commerce….not to say that what we sell is not interesting.  Far from it, since our store features some rare and hard to find treasures for collectors and kids of all ages!

No, Great Stories is far more than that in the minds of its creators and proprietors.  It will be far more than that in a future time that remains to be seen.  And the beginnings of that vision will unfold within this very blog.   It is our hope that you stick around, bookmark this site and come visit us time to time so you can see for yourself the metamorphosis that Great Stories takes on over time.  We will do our best to make this blog an interesting place for collectors and fans of all of the things we love so dearly to discuss, contemplate, and immerse ourselves in.

We don’t want to say too much about what the future has in store for Great Stories and our friends from all over, but we are excited to take this journey with you and see where it leads.  So, here is to a wonderful 2013 for everyone out there.  We hope that you have a year that matches the dreams we have for Great Stories.  Love, honor, and courage be your companions as we write new chapters of life together!

 

We’ll see you on the blog soon,

Chris (for the entire Great Stories team)