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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.



“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.



“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)

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Comic Pick of the Week October 9th 2013

Great Stories selects…..


Coffin Hill #1 (Vertigo)







Vertigo Comics is DC’s harder edge comic line, and as the cover for Coffin Hill #1, you may agree that this is not for the average spandex super-hero reading comic fan.  But I admit an affinity for the horror genre when done right, and the Vertigo line has been offering up some pretty good stuff over the past year or so (check out New Deadwardians and Saucer Country to name a couple).  So, it is with this morbidly hopeful heart that I swiped this one off the local comic store shelf and forked over the $3 for a story spun by the mind of novelist Caitlin Kittredge (Black London series) with artwork handled by Inaki Miranda (Fairest).


Eve Coffin, the protagonist of the story, was a naughty little teenager into all of the wrong things in her home town of Coffin Hill (named for her more than well-to-do but very cursed family), including drugs and witchcraft to name a few.  When she returns to her hometown a decade later a gunshot survivor as a Boston police officer, she discovers that the sins of her past have caught up with her in the most supernatural of ways.




Coffin Hill is off to a terrific start.  Kittredge is already weaving a fascinating yarn and Miranda’s pencils are a perfect compliment to the mood and tone being set.  I’ll be on board for issue two when it hits, and I encourage you to get a copy today (if you are of the mature reading age, of course).


Great Stories are everywhere!



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Fresh Popped Corn: October 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.


October 4th

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock kick the month into high stratosphere with the outer space thriller Gravity.    Runner Runner sees Justin Timberlake take on gambling kingpin Ben Affleck.  Parkland retells the story of John F Kennedy assassination with a host of talent that includes Billy Bob Thornton, Zac Efron, and Paul Giamatti.  Giamatti pulls double duty this week as he appears alongside Paul Rudd in the off-beat comedy All is Bright.  Dario Argento does classic horror with Dracula 3-D with Rutger Hauer as Von Helsing.  Adam Scott stars as an unwitting subject of study in children of divorce who is forced to confront his parent’s fifteen year battle in A.C.O.D.  Bad Milo is a dark comedy/horror about a demon who lives in the intestines of a man in one of the weirdest movies you may likely see.  Grace Unplugged has a young church performer (AJ Michalka) rebel against her reformed rock singer father to make her own way in the big wide world.  Nothing Left to Fear is a atmospheric horror from new producer Slash (of Guns ‘n’ Roses fame).  While Gravity certainly looks to be great, and will almost certainly rule the box office this week, Parkland is looking like a pretty compelling look into one of the darkest moments in modern American history.  Check out the trailer for a closer look.


October 11th

This week was the most release-heavy of October, including all of the limited release films.  Starting things off, we have the sequel Machete Kills with Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Alexa Vega, Amber Heard, and many others.  Robert Rodriguez writes and directs all of the mayhem.  Captain Phillips tells the true story of a Somali pirate takeover of an American freighter with Tom Hanks starring and Paul Greengrass in the director’s seat.  Romeo & Juliet is a classic re-telling of the Shakespearean tragedy, and also features the third movie this month starring Paul Giamatti. This guy is busy!  Not to be outdone, by Amber Heard is also seen in two movie releases as her much delayed horror spin All the Boys Love Mandy Lane finally gets a release.  Sweetwater is a frontier grudge match between a fanatical preacher, renegade sheriff, and a butt-kicking prostitute starring Ed Harris, January Jones, and Jason Isaacs.  Brad Dourif plays the voice of the famous killer doll in Curse of Chucky (yes, it is Halloween people!).  I Will Follow You Into the Dark continues our scary movie trend in time for the holiday and seems to be a more sophisticated ghost story starring Mischa Barton.  CBGB tells the story of the rise of the famous New York City punk club with Alan Rickman and Malin Akerman.  Zero Charisma seems to be Napolean Dynamite for fantasy game geeks.  And Escape Plan is the Schwarzennegger/Stallone pairing in a prison action movie everyone demanded, right?  Captain Phillips is looking like the clear winner here.  Greengrass is best known for the Jason Bourne movies and his standout United 93, and this one looks to be of the same quality we have come to expect.




October 18th

All is Lost is about a solitary man sailing solo across the ocean when disaster strikes, starring Robert Redford.  Hellbenders with Clifton Collins Jr. is about a group of dysfunctional exorcists who take on the toughest jobs the Vatican is asked to handle.  The Fifth Estate tells the story of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his war on the establishment.  Torn is a drama about two women who lose their sons in a mall explosion, only to find out that each of their departed is suspected of being the perpetrators of the crime.  Stephen King’s Carrie gets the remake treatment, this time with Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz playing the role Sissy Spacek made famous.  Ja Rule stars as a drug dealer who confronts his demons for a woman in I’m In Love with a Church Girl.  Kill Your Darlings has Danielle Radcliffe shed his Harry Potter image as poet Allen Ginsberg.  Ben Foster also stars.  The Counselor stars Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Michael Fassbender in a Ridley Scott film about a lawyer who get in over his head with a drug dealer.  Finally, Paradise gets the Russell Brand kiss of death in a “comedy” about a repressed church girl (Julianne Hough) who breaks loose in Sin City.  Make it three for three in the serious drama category this week, as we hop aboard the SS Redford for his scary seafaring adventure.  Check out the trailer for All is Lost below.



October 25th

Ok, we promise not to pick another ocean drama for you folks who are subject to sea sickness this week.  Bad Grandpa from the crew that brought you the Jackass movies is up first.  Johnny Knoxville is out to shock you again with more crazy inappropriate antics as he dons the old man makeup and takes his 8 year old “grandson” out on a cross-country trip.    Spinning Plates is a documentary about three incredible restaurants and the various forms of tragedy their proprietors meet, and how they move past it all.  Blue is the Warmest Color is a foreign movie about a young girl who attempts to learn about love through a relationship with a blue-haired girl with a similarly unorthodox view of life.  But what better way to celebrate Halloween than checking out the creepy Skinwalker Ranch, a found footage film that attempts to explain the legend of a rural Utah community with a potentially supernatural problem.  Check out the trailer below.



And with that, Great Stories would like to ask what you are most looking forward to seeing at the movies?


Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Comic Pick of the Week October 2nd 2013

Great Stories selects……


 Whiteout Vol 1 (Oni Press)





This week we are delving back to 1998 for a story created by the one and only Greg Rucka.  Great Stories must admit a sort of love affair with Rucka’s writing and we sincerely hope that the perception of rose-colored glasses does not dissuade you (the reader) from seriously considering the purchase and enjoyment of this awesome tale.  The picture above is actually from the graphic novel collection that was released by Oni Press in 2007, and can be found on Amazon as well as the Great Stories retail site (at least for now).  The story caught the eye of Hollywood as well, as it was optioned for a movie release starring the lovely Kate Beckinsale in 2009, but took some serious liberties with the characters.  As well, the movie did not even come close to capturing the quality and feel granted us by Rucka’s words and Steve Lieber’s art, but it did grant the story some extra exposure to the commercial market elements.








Whiteout was originally released as a four issue series (cover art can be seen  above and below) and the story features two very powerful female leads.  U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko is stationed on Antarctica, and she has a problem.  A killer is on the loose in one of the most harsh and dangerous environments on the planet.  And the presence of an undercover British agent may complicate matters even more.  The claustrophobia and isolation of the setting is palatable, especially as visually presented through Lieber’s pencils.  And Rucka has a gift for making characters come to life while making a connection to the reader.  He moves the action and plot development along at a satisfying pace as well as closing the story with a really great final panel.  Hardcore mystery bloodhounds may balk at the lack of a total misdirection, but I think Rucka’s more direct storytelling approach is more a result of wanting to give us a character piece (the subject being a wounded and displaced Carrie Stetko) as opposed to a swerve that would overpower the true star of his story.  Suffice to say, it works well and leaves the reader wanting more (which Rucka & Lieber kindly provide with the sequel Whiteout: Melt, which is not previewed here).









For novelist Greg Rucka, Whiteout was his first foray into the world of comics.  And he obviously caught the attention of the DC and Marvel brass with this debut.  Before long, he would be writing Batman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and Daredevil books.  Greg Rucka had arrived, and you can recapture his debut on the comic scene with Whiteout, a creator owned independent work worthy of your attention.


And for added entertainment, you can go rent the Hollywood version with the aforementioned Kate Beckinsale.  Just don’t expect that one to measure up with the source material.  😉




Great Stories are everywhere!


Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Comic Pick of the Week September 25th 2013

Great Stories selects…..


The Trial of the Punisher #1 (Marvel)







For Punisher fans, we are by and large still lamenting the loss of the last unlimited series, written by the talented Greg Rucka.  Marvel decided to pull the plug on that wonderful series in favor of putting Frank Castle into the Thunderbolts team book.  And with it came an update to the characters physical appearance as well as the introduction of a red skull to blend with the team composition.  Fashion faux pas aside, the character just does not belong in a team book.  Castle has always been a more solitary figure.  He is a lone wolf that has never played nice with others.  So, fans such as me, continue to buy Thunderbolts to support the marketability of our beloved anti-hero without actually enjoying the journey of the story as we should.  Enter the 2-issue Trial of the Punisher.




Debuting today, this particularly satisfying Punisher yarn was actually written more than two years ago by Marc Guggenheim (Arrow).  Finally, after visits to various editors over time, Marc’s story was finally given the green light.  The art is being handled by Leinil Yu in the first issue with a seamless transition to Mico Sauyan for issue two.  And the story, in true Punisher style, will hit you pretty hard right off the bat with a very cool opening confession by Frank Castle himself in a local NYC precinct.  This story is a court-room driven tale, but that does not mean it is without its visual and contextual excitement.  In fact, the first issue is ripe with fantastic sequences and plot development.  And the last panel is really going to have you guessing what Frank is scheming in a situation that voluntary places him in the cross-hairs of an execution for a capital crime.


So, while Marvel fumbles around with their long-range Punisher plans, sink your teeth into this mini for some awesome traditional Punisher action with a twist.  Trial of the Punisher #1 is on sale today at your local comic shops!


Great Stories are everywhere!


Chris (for the Great Stories team)

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Comic Pick of the Week September 18th 2013

Great Stories selects…..


Century West (Image) in Trade Paperback




In a week featuring lots of continuing stories from long-running series, and not much new stuff to peak the interest of yours truly, I happened upon the trade paperback new release of Century West, a story of the American West in a transitioning world of technological breakthroughs that ushered us into the 20th century.  Eagle Award winner Howard Chaykin provides the story and art for the book, indicating that this should be viewed as a true labor of love-type project from the man responsible for the art in the first ten issues of the original Star Wars film adaptation series, as well as the cutting edge movie Heavy Metal.


Century West is a story of cowboys, outlaws, and a law man’s struggle between a world being left behind and the brave new world ahead of him.  Century, Texas used to be the quintessential frontier town, but it is transforming before Robert Ford’s eyes and things will never be the same again.


So, listen to the sounds of a boot-born spur, the roll of the tumbleweed, and the brazen call of an outlaw challenging the authority of a badge once more.  Mr. Wayne and Mr. Eastwood would be proud of you.


You can find Century West in a comic shop or book store for a fair bargain of $7.99.  Shoot, if that ain’t a deal.


Great Stories are everywhere!


Chris (for the Great Stories team)