MONSTER HUNTERS Now Available

Monster Hunters CoverOnce upon a time, some readers on Amazon said some nice things about the short story Road Trip. It reminded me how much I liked writing Shan and Parker too, and that I’d left the characters far from home. I sat down with the intent to write another short story about their trip home, and ended up with the novel MONSTER HUNTERS.

It didn’t make much sense to release a novel size sequel to a short story, so I included a heavily revised version of Road Trip to the beginning for a better reading experience–their whole trip in one magical shotgun blast.

The Walking Dead 3.13 “Arrow in the Doorpost” Discussion

There’s the concept about creating drama that goes something like “if you introduce a gun at the beginning that gun better fire before the end.” The Walking Dead has this bad habit of introducing figurative guns that never fire. A couple weeks back it was the suggestion that Andrea assassinate the Governor in his sleep. This week it’s not just a literal gun. It’s two literal guns that never fire. One strapped to Hershel’s leg. The other hidden under the negotiating table by the Governor. That’s the last we see of either and it’s vaguely unsatisfying.

So this was very much like some of the episodes in the middle of season two. Perhaps I’m getting impatient, but coming on the heels of a wheel-spinning episode, and a stand-alone episide, it felt like a bit too much to spin the wheels again. By that I mean we end the episode right where we start–the war is coming. Rick, of course thinks he’s got a way out, and has a moral choice about whether to take it, but we the audience know it’s a false choice because the Governor is a backstabbing scumbag.

Enough of the downsides though. We do get a small bit of forward progress. Andrea takes a step closer to understanding who the Governor really is after a short discussion with Hershel. Milton and Martinez build a bit of empathy with the good guys. (What’s up with the stump festish though, Milton?) Martinez and Daryl got the only action/zombie scene and while some will probably prefer the arrow through-and-through kill the one that got me was the bat to the head, “exploding punkin,” kill by Martinez and especially yanking it free from the battered skull while flashing a toothy smile. Yikes.

It was also nice to see the Glenn/Maggie relationship get back on track. The timing felt about right. I’m happy the didn’t drag it out further.

Backtracking slightly, the subplot with Merle wasn’t my favorite. Why is he allowed near the guns at all? And after a bit of teamwork to subdue him, the let him right back near the guns and with the option to take some and go off anyway? Maybe I missed some detail, but it all seemed pointless.

So we’re left with the main throughline of the episode, the meeting between Rick and the Governor. It creates some decent tension. The Governor’s “negotiating” tactics are neat. First deflect blame about the past by blaming Merle. Then when that doesn’t work, well, the past is the past and let’s move forward. Well, not really because the only thing I’m going to discuss is the terms of your surrender. No white flag? Let’s try metioning you may not even be the father of your new baby. Oh, not backing down, well real men like us can settle it over whiskey. Not drinking? I’ve got a sob story that’ll make you want to drown in my sorrows. (I’m kinda surprised it worked given the horror that Rick and pretty much everyone has gone through. Rick really should have let that glass sit on the table untouched.) And then we finally get to the final offer, trade Michonne for a truce. But after all the BS that the Governor has tossed his way in this short period Rick really should know this guy is not the pinacle of sincerity. He’s not even on the same continent with sincerity. It seemed like Rick wasn’t buying into any of his nonsense, but that last offer is eating at him.

So we exit where we entered–the war is coming. Sigh.

But it wasn’t boring, nor bad for the most part. It was actually entertaining between the bouts of mild frustration. What we’re left with is the weakest episode of this block of season three, perhaps all of season three. It’s still better than most of the episodes in the middle of season two.

The Walking Dead 3.11 “I ain’t a Judas” Discussion

We get the best scene of the episode right out of the gate. Hershel tells Rick to suck it up and lead in front of the whole group. And then Carl follows that up privately by telling Rick he needs to step down as leader. Nicely done. (I’m with Carl.)

After that we get our first real filler episode. Things shift around and get in place for the coming confrontation, but little actually changes. Somehow Merle is accepted into the group. They touch on the friction, but it’s a stretch. At least Glenn wants

Underseen Gem: The Brothers Bloom

So Looper comes out this weekend and I can’t wait to get to the theater. And it ain’t that I’m big on time travel stories. The truth is I don’t like most of them–too many “if they can do that, why couldn’t they just have done this…” holes in the plot and internal consistency stuff tends to bug me, tends to mar otherwise fine movies for me. So no fondness for time travel.

What I’m excited about is a new movie regardless of subject matter from Rian Johnson, the guy who made The Brothers Bloom. I love this movie. I look over at IMDB and it just makes me sad that it only made 4 million at the box office. Nobody saw it in the theater. Unfortunately, me included. I caught it on DVD and am kicking myself for it. It’s a mistake I won’t repeat. So the movie… Mark Ruffalo and Andrian Brody are the titled brothers and con-men. Brody wants out–tired of living a life where he’s never himself, always a character in their current scheme. But Ruffalo convinces him to go along for one last con, taking a fortune from a lonely heiress played by Rachel Weisz. Of course, the con does not go as planned. The brother’s history comes back to haunt them as their former mentor and nemesis Diamond Dog shows up. You start wondering who is conning who in the best possible way.

Ruffalo and Brody are fine in their roles, but Weisz is absolutely charming. It’s her enthusiasm that pulls everything along. Rinko Kikuchi as the brothers silent associate Bang Bang also manages to steal a scene here and there without a word. The movie is quirky at times but never gets forced about being quirky for quirk’s sake (though you may disagree when the costuming makes you ponder briefly if it’s a period piece). Even the darkest moments manage to stay breezy. It’s a fun time at the movies and you might just find yourself getting conned along with most of the cast.

And since I started with Looper, I may as well bookend this with a quick nod to Johnson’s earlier film, Brick. I don’t like it as much as The Brother’s Bloom, but it’s still an interesting debut film even with its tiny budget. The premise is bizarre: a noir thriller with dialog right out of The Maltese Falcon and its ilk, but set in a contemporary high school with a teen protagonist. The contrast in tone is probably closest to Romeo + Juliet and at times it’s similarly jarring. But even here you can see the promise in the sharp writing.

Unlife of the Party Reviewed

Short Fiction Spotlight put up a nice review of Unlife of the Party yesterday.I’ve been reading the site for a while and Jason Varrone has a concise, pleasant review style (not to mention an exemplary first name) that leaves you with a clear sense of why he did or didn’t like a story. Even when the reviews get critical, they never get mean-spirited. If you like short stories like I do, I think you’ll enjoy the site.

The Cabin in the Woods is my Favorite Horror Movie in Years

The Cabin in the Woods is just plain great. And in a way that’s frustrating to talk about because much of the joy is in the discovery. The less you know, the better off you’ll be. And so there’s almost nothing I want to share for fear of revealing some element that you may not know that you could discover for yourself.

Heck, I didn’t even watch the trailer until after I’d seen it. Seeing it recently it shows more than I would have preferred. I read one review that, in retrospect, is startlingly like what I’m writing now. It talked in frustrating vagaries while giving a gushing recommendation and I’m happy it was written that way having seen the film basically from trusting that reviewer and trusting in Joss Whedon’s involvement.

But I’ll at least try to give some sense. First, you have to like and watch a lot of horror movies. The movie is ostensibly about a group of teenagers that encounter a nightmare scenario when they get away from their normal lives for a weekend at the eponymous cabin. But more than that, it’s about movies where teenagers encounter such nightmare scenarios in remote areas. The closest analogue would probably be Scream, where they deconstruct the rules of slasher movies in movie to both humorous and clever effect while still producing an actual slasher movie. Cabin is a similar love letter to a broader array of horror movies including supernatural themes that Scream never broached. And it’s hilarious, smart, and gory. The one thing it isn’t is particularly scary. It doesn’t try too hard for jump scares, or to unnerve the viewer like the recent spate of torture flicks or Japanese (and Japanese-influenced) moodies. You won’t walk out depressed about humanity, or unsettled by some concept or visual that will haunt you.

The film’s happier being a crowd-pleaser. I’m not kidding when I say people were talking in the theatre and it was a good thing. The crowd was engaged, and when someone shouted out “Oh my god!” or “Did that just happen?!” it was more cathartic than annoying.

Another thing worth mentioning is it’s not a “twist” movie per se. It’s not like Sixth Sense (feel free to insert your favorite offender) where once you know the twist there’s little incentive to revisit the film. It’s about discovery and building on the situation they set up in the very earliest frames, before the title even. I walked out intending to buy it the day it’s released for the home so I can watch it again, and share it with anyone willing to invest the time that I couldn’t convince to see it on the big screen. I hope you aren’t one of those people…