Archive for books

Movie novelizations that should exist

Posted in books, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , on August 22, 2016 by Paxton

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If you’ve read this blog or my Twitter feed for any length of time, then you know I’m a huge fan of movie novelizations.  As a matter of fact, several years ago I started a feature where I read and reviewed a few of the more obscure movie novelizations like Clue: The Movie, the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie as well as a bunch of old rare horror novelizations like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th VI and Return of the Living Dead.  I’d like to eventually continue that feature but right now, I want to talk about movie novelizations that never got made.  That should have been made.

It seems almost every genre picture from the mid 80s to the mid 90s received a novelization.  It was a simple way for studios to extend someone’s movie going experience outside the theater.  Plus, in the age before the ubiquity of home video, it allowed you to revisit your favorite movies over and over.  I loved novelizations and I read them fervently growing up.  I still do, but to a lesser extent.

However, as with anything else, there are gaping holes in what movies did and didn’t get novelized.  Maybe the movie studios didn’t have a lot of faith in the movie’s success.  Or were deciding not to spend the money on an author to translate the script.  Whatever the reason, like I said, there are movie novelizations that I wish existed that don’t.

One of the first big novelizations I’ve already talked about wishing existed were both of the Young Guns movies.  My buddy Shawn and I wanted them to exist so much that we created our own.  These were previously displayed when Shawn and I collaborated on Young Guns vintage trading cards.

YG novelization YG2 novelization

Awesome, right? Well, that’s what I want to do, start creating my own custom movie novelization covers for movies that I wish had novelizations.  This feature is going to reveal a totally eclectic set of covers, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

Another set of movie novelizations I created and previously revealed on Twitter involved the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies. The reason those novelizations don’t exist (novelizations for both Part III and Part IV do exist) is because of Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather.  Puzo wrote the original screenplays for both of those first Superman movies and as a clause in his contract, no one could write the novelizations of those screenplays except him.  And he never wrote them.  Kind of a dick move, Mario.  So all I have are these fake covers of what could have been.

Mario Puzo Superman novels

These covers were created from two Superman novels written by Elliot Maggin that were released because there were no Puzo novelizations.

Okay, so those are some covers I’ve previously shared. How about two brand new covers? Let’s start off this Fantasy Movie Novelization Library with two of my favorite 80s genre movies. Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.  I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but I made these junior novelizations which are lighter in page count and are taller and more square in shape.  You can mostly tell by the Scholastic logo I put in the bottom left.

Breakin' novels

I love the idea of having these two break dancing centric movies get junior novelizations because I imagine the books would be like 120 pages long and breezy fun to read.

So that’s the gist of this feature.  I’ll make a few novelization covers for movies that don’t have them and post them right here.  It’s sort of a fun sister project to my Vintage Comic Throwdowns feature.

Hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoy making them.

Keep reading those movies, my friends.

High Fantasy Month is back with a magical kingdom for sale and a crippled midget

Posted in books, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on March 7, 2016 by Paxton

High Fantasy Month

Click the above banner to see my other High Fantasy Month reviews.  I had recently picked up a new omnibus of a fantasy series and read the first book, so I thought I’d follow it up with a few more fantasy books and knock out another High Fantasy Month.

It’s interesting, the collection of books this month are all sort of similarly themed.  I really didn’t even plan it out that way.  Each of the books in this months collection are novels mostly set in a fantasy world, but have some twist to the story.  They aren’t straight up fantasy, they have a little something extra.  It’s an interesting mix this month.

Here are the reviews:


Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! (Landover Book 1) (1986) – Terry BrooksThe Magical Kingdom of Landover is a series, written by the great Terry Brooks, that has, currently, about 5 books.  I’ve read only one other Brooks novel and that’s the Star Wars Episode I novelization.  But it’s good, it really is and it made me want to read more Brooks.  I thought I was going to start reading Brooks’ other magnum opus, which sort of spawned this whole idea of High Fantasy Month, The Sword of Shannara, however, I found the first three books of the Landover series in an omnibus for super cheap so I snapped it up and started reading without much thought.  The basic premise is that a lawyer, disappointed with his life after his wife dies, finds an ad in a catalog to buy a magical fantasy land called Landover for $1 million.  Spontaneously he decides to do it, but it doesn’t turn out to be exactly what he expects.  Initially, that premise spoke “satire” to me. I fully expected a massively tongue-in-cheek parody of fantasy novels.  What I got was surprising.  The novel takes a while to really get started, but once it does, it’s really good.  It takes the premise honestly and earnestly.  It’s not a satire or a parody.  It plays the entire plot straight and is a better novel for it.  I liked it much more than I thought considering my expectations were completely wrong and the first 80 pages or so were kind of slow to get through.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.


Fool: A Novel (2009) – Christopher Moore – I have read two other Christopher Moore books and thought they were okay (A Dirty Job, Lamb).  He has interesting premises, but sometimes he’s a little too droll for my tastes.  Like the other Moore books I read, the premise of this book sounded pretty great.  A satire of William Shakespeare’s King Lear told from the point of view of the fool.  It has lots of mad kings, backstabbing daughters, witches, lusty maidens and, of course, a ghost (there’s always a damn ghost).  After years of wanting it I finally grabbed the eBook for cheap a year or so ago but just couldn’t get myself to start it until this month.  What did I think?  Similar to Moore’s other books.  Well written, very dry, sarcastic, British humor.  This feels like a BBC mini-series.  I wasn’t laughing out loud but I chuckled a lot and enjoyed the ride.  For the most part.  And now I can pretty much say I’ve read Shakespeare’s King Lear.


Sir Apropos of Nothing (2001) – Peter David – I love Peter David’s novels and for years I tried to read everything he’d written.  I originally read this book back in 2005 when I randomly found it on eBay.  I loved it.  The story is a parody of fantasy books in general.  It uses a lot of the tropes and has fun with them.  Peter David is great at humorous dialogue and he doesn’t disappoint here.  Essentially, it’s your traditional epic hero fantasy, except, instead of focusing on the hero, the story focuses on one of the side characters.  And that side character is well aware he’s in a hero’s tale and that he’s not the hero.  In fact, he prefers it.  Lots of fun with the fantasy genre.  Also, I’m surprised at how similar this book was to Moore’s Fool.  I guess it’s sort of the same idea, except David’s idea goes a little more broad with the concept.  And, honestly, I think it’s a better book.

The debut of new Western podcast Hellbent for Letterbox

Posted in Genres, movies, podcast, pop culture, Western with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2016 by Paxton

Hell Bent for Letterbox cover art LG

My good friend (and Nerd Lunch Fourth Chair Army officer) Mr Michael May asked me to co-host a podcast with him.  And I must be crazy because I said, “Sure, why not?”  And let me tell you why I said that.  First, Michael is awesome.  We love him on Nerd Lunch, in fact, we just recently finished up several episodes in a row with him (Janu-May-ary).  Second, Michael and I have a similar love for the Western genre.  So, Michael asked if I wanted to start an all-Westerns podcast.  There was no way I could say “no” to that.

So, this podcast is going to watch and review a different Western every month.  We will probably also watch and review certain Western TV shows as well as discuss a few Western books.  But the focus will be mostly movies.  I’m really looking forward to it because I have a few holes in my Western viewing that need to be filled.

Which, for this first episode, Michael and I set the table for the podcast.  We talk about our introduction to the Western genre.  We talk about some of our favorite Western movies, stars and directors.  We talk about what we hope to accomplish with this show and what types of movies and stars we want to “catch up” on.  And, at the very end, Michael reveals what our first movie review will be in our second episode.

So come check out the beginning of Hell Bent for Letterbox.  I don’t know if you can get it on iTunes just yet. but if not, it will be there soon.  Maybe even Stitcher at some point.

Regardless, you can listen to the show right here.

If you’re super excited about subscribing in iTunes and it’s not showing up, here’s the RSS feed you can drop into iTunes to subscribe manually.

Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2015

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , on January 11, 2016 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

And here we are again, my year end wrap up articles.

Queue Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”.

I say it every year, how did we get here already? The year just flies by. Anyway, the particulars: If you’ve read this year end round up before, you know I keep my book logs online in a Google Spreadsheet. I’ve been doing it since around 2009.  Only “new to me” reads in 2015 are eligible, no re-reads.

This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list.  I really had an off year for books.  It was really hard to get a good list of 5 books that I really enjoyed.  This year as I combed through my list of books I realized I had been in a slump of “didn’t like” and “meh” books that I just didn’t feel comfortable forcing into this year’s “best” list.

Conversely, this was a phenomenal year for comics.  I had SO MANY comics I read that I just LOVED that it became very hard for me to pare it down to only five.  So, I think this year I’m going to cut the book list to maybe three and increase the comic list to 8.  This would be a better representation of the good stuff I’ve read this year.

Looking at the log I see I read around 106 books and comics over the course of the year.  That total includes books/comics I’ve read for the first time as well as any re-reads I did this year which I’ll do from time to time.  Also, I see, after two years of reading 4 books released in the current year, I uptick to 5 books I read this year that were current releases.  Wow.  And none of them are going to make this list.  One of them almost did, but, in the end, I decided no.

Here’s the list!

Books


Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1987) by H. F. Saint – I read and reviewed this book for AWESOME-tober-fest this year.  See my full review there.  But this hands down makes my best of year list and looking at my book log, it’s probably the best book I read all year.


Troll Mountain (2014) by Matthew Reilly – Matthew Reilly is no stranger to my “best of” books list.  His Scarecrow and James West Jr novels have both made it on here.  I read this fantasy novel back in February for the second installment of High Fantasy Month.  It was a serial novel in three parts, each part about 55 pages long.  And it’s junior fantasy, aimed at a younger audience.  But like I said in my review, I really enjoyed it.  The story reminded me of L Frank Baum.  Lots of fun and adventure, full of hope, believing in yourself and believing that good will triumph over evil.  Definitely worth a read.


Mistborn: The Final Empire (Book 1) (2006) – Brandon Sanderson – I really had trouble picking this final spot.  A few things could’ve gone here.  Rick Riordan’s tenth Percy Jackson book, The Force Awakens novelization, Stephen King’s Needful Things or Brad Meltzer’s The Inner Circle.  And I liked all of these choices but I didn’t love them.  So, I flipped a coin and the first book in Sanderson’s fantasy series gets the nod.  It’s a great piece of fantasy world building with a cleverly different system of magic.  Like Troll Mountain, I reviewed it for the second High Fantasy Month back in February.  I just felt that this book runs a little long.  But I liked it and I plan on reading the second book, even if I’m hearing that the second book is even longer.  And unnecessarily so.

Now, let’s move on to the comics I read this year that I LOVED.  And there are lots of them.

Comic Books/Graphic Novels


Aquaman (The New 52) by Geoff Johns and Jeff Parker – I’m including all six of the currently released collections of this title.  This first entry was probably the most relevatory comic I read all year. I’ve never been an Aquaman fan, even with the Peter David series and the hook hand/long hair iterations. I just didn’t like the character. However, I heard such good things about this take on Aquaman that I decided to read the first trade.  The next thing I know, I’ve read all six of the trade paperback collections encompassing the first 40 issues or so plus annuals.  Geoff Johns writes the first four collections and Jeff Parker takes over for the next two.  And they are AWESOME.  All of a sudden, I’m an Aquaman fan.  I even dove into and read the entire side series, Aquaman and the Others, which is not as good, but still enjoyable to read.  I can’t recommend this title enough.  I think Cullen Bunn has taken over the writing from Jeff Parker as of issue 40 or so.  I look forward to more adventures with the King of Atlantis.


Avengers vs. X-Men (2012) – This is the 12 issue maxi-series Marvel event from 2012.  It launched the Marvel NOW! line of comics.  It’s written by a murder’s row of my favorite comic writers; Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Johnathan Hickman, Ed Brubaker and Jason Aaron with lots of awesome art by John Romita Jr and Adam Kubert.  The story is epic, it’s awesome, it’s everything you want in an Avengers vs X-men title.  I loved it.  And the conclusion of this entry leads directly into…

Continue reading

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Smoke (1995) – Donald Westlake

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2015 by Paxton

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Donald Westlake is a famous crime novelist probably most known for his series of novels about relentless professional thief, Parker, written under the pseudonym Richard Stark.  Westlake is also well known for his comic heist novels about charming master thief John Dortmunder.  Parker debuted in The Hunter in 1962 and Dortmunder debuted in The Hot Rock in 1970.

In 1995, Westlake took a break from straight up crime novels and wrote a comedic crime novel with sci-fi elements called Smoke.

smoke_westlake

I was aware of Westlake before I discovered Smoke when researching “invisible man novels” for this Halloween. I’d seen the movies based on Westlake’s “Parker” character (Payback in 1999 and Parker in 2013) and I’ve had my eye on the first Dortmunder novel, The Hot Rock, for a few years now.  So, I thought Smoke would be a great opportunity to read Westlake to see if I like his style before committing to either the Parker or Dortmunder novels.

The gist of the story is that Freddie Noon, a small time thief burgles a research lab late one night and is caught by the two research scientists that live there. They are testing two melanoma formulas and they blackmail him into testing one of them. Freddie mistakenly takes both formulas and then escapes the research lab and makes off with a bunch of the doctors’ equipment. Later, Freddie discovers that the formula has turned him completely invisible. Freddie, along with his girlfriend Peg, has to get used to him being invisible, attempt to continue stealing and fencing goods in his new condition and stay one step ahead of the shady organization that had employed the research lab in the first place who want nothing but to exploit Freddie for their own gain.

This book is sort of a spiritual cousin to HF Saint’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man which was published about 7 years prior to this.  Similar plot lines, only a few details are different, but the tone of the books are completely different.  Saint’s book is a taut suspense thriller from beginning to end.  Westlake’s book is a comic caper with a very light, humorous tone.  The characters are funny and interesting for the most part, but I prefer Saint’s edge of your seat thrill ride to Westlake’s easy going pace.

I’d mostly recommend this book, but if I’m picking my favorite, HF Saint’s Memoirs is a much more satisfying read.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Fade (1988) – Robert Cormier

Posted in books, pop culture with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2015 by Paxton

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In 1988 Robert Cormier published the novel Fade. It is about a boy named Paul who discovers that he has the ability to turn himself invisible, or fade.

fade_cormier

Since this book’s publication it has consistently been on the American Library Association’s list of Most Challenged Books for it’s depiction of violence, murder and incest.

The book begins in a small town outside Boston called Monument during the late Depression era.  As a teen, Paul is fascinated by tales of his uncle and this mysterious photograph from which everyone says the uncle was there but he isn’t in the photograph.  When that uncle visits, Paul learns his secret.  Certain male members of his family gain the ability to fade. It is typically passed down from uncles to nephews.  His uncle has it, and so does Paul.  This ability has been kept a strict secret.  Only the individuals with the power actually know about it and never reveal it to the rest of the family.  Or anyone else.  The uncle warns that it is not the gift it appears to be.

invisible

That’s the basic setup in the beginning, but the book is structured very different and goes several different places than you would expect from the first 100 pages or so.  It took me by surprise.  There are essentially 5 parts of the book, each focusing on a different character and each part jumps around in time forward many years into the future and then back again.  And honestly, for the first 2/3 of the book, the ability to fade is almost incidental to the story.  The story is really about Paul and his relationships with his family and especially his Aunt and how these relationships affect him later in life.

While using his ability, Paul finds out the fade can actually be a curse when he witnesses things he shouldn’t.  And it becomes apparent to him that the fade may be creating in him thoughts and urges he wouldn’t have otherwise.  This sets up what happens later in the book as we fast forward into the future.  There are other aspects to the fade that are interesting.  Paul can somewhat control the ability at first, but it sort of takes on a life of its own later.  Also, unlike other invisible men, Paul’s clothes become invisible when he fades.  Which is doubly interesting because other physical objects he’s touching, like a knife, won’t turn invisible.

Did I like the book?  Yes.  It was definitely not what I was expecting, but the characters were interesting as was the aspect of fading.

 


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1987) – H.F. Saint

Posted in books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2015 by Paxton

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In 1987, H.F. Saint would write his first and only book, the sci-fi thriller, Memoirs of an Invisible Man.

memoirs of an invisible man

It’s essentially a more modern, comedic take on HG Wells’ classic story.  The book had great success after it was first published and subsequently Saint would receive an unusually high sum for the movie rights in the early 90s.  This lead to Saint deciding he would rather retire than write a sequel that potentially wouldn’t live up to his first book.

Like most everyone else, I was aware of the 1992 Chevy Chase movie of the same name, but not that it was based on a previous book.  I have thoughts on that movie that I’ll reveal in a separate review, and, consequently, I was a little reluctant to start the book because of those thoughts about the movie.  But I sucked it up for AWESOME-tober-fest 2015.

So, the plot.  Essentially, like I said, this is a new, more modern take on the concept of the invisible man.  Nick Halloway is an investment banker.  He travels with his sometimes gal pal Anne to a scientific demonstration at MicroMagnetics Labs and becomes caught in a massive explosion and wakes up several hours later completely invisible.  While sealing off the area, a shady government agency discovers that Nick survived the explosion, and is invisible, so they do everything they can to capture him.  Now Nick must stay one step ahead of his pursuers led doggedly by Colonel David Jenkins who seems to be several steps ahead of Nick who only narrowly escapes being caught on several occasions.  Can Nick keep from getting captured and becoming a lab rat/covert government agent for the rest of his life?  He’ll certainly try.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

The book, to put it bluntly, is pretty damn awesome.  Luckily, I haven’t watched the movie since it was in the theater, so I went into this book mostly blind.  The events take a while to setup.  It’s about 60 pages before the lab explosion.  It’s over 100 pages before Nick escapes the labs of MicroMagnetics and goes on the run on the streets of New York.  Throughout this book HF Saint really dives into explaining the unique problems Halloway encounters because he’s invisible.  Not just the physical stuff like seeing through your eyelids, watching your food digest and walking without any visual body references.   Most of this stuff gets mentioned briefly in the original HG Wells book as well as the Universal Invisible Man movie.  No, it’s living on the streets as an invisible man where Saint really digs in.

How would Nick find a place to sleep?  Sneak into one of the many Manhattan men’s clubs?  Or vacant apartments?  What about food?  How do you walk the crowded streets of New York without bumping into other people and revealing yourself?  How do you shed your previous identity and acquire a new one when you are invisible and can’t provide ID or show up to meet anyone?  There are lots of problems Nick has to overcome which would be hard enough even without a determined government agency out to capture you at all costs.

The book has periods of Nick living rogue within New York and how his whole “system” works (how he acquires places to live, food and learning about the nature of his invisibility).  And then the government agency finds him and we have quick, thrilling periods where Nick is all of a sudden forced to drop everything and go on the run again.  It’s a roller coaster ride and one I thoroughly enjoyed which had me guessing and anticipating how it was going to end.

Another thing I like about this book is the way it’s setup.  It’s written by the main character sometime in the future.  He’s relating the events of the book to us as they happened in the past (like the title states, it’s a “memoir”).  This allows the book to drop small hints about how things turn out in the future.  Now that the book is over, I wish HF Saint would have continued with Nick Halloway’s adventures.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

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