Saturday, December 06, 2014

John Wick Gets MAD

So while toiled away at varied and sundry, I've almost managed to catch a few movies.  Among those caught:

JOHN WICK: There was a brief internet firestorm when the first trailer for this appeared, partly because it looked like an awesome action movie, but also because it seemed to be slightly mocking the genre.  When a fierce Keanu Reeves growls that the bad guys are going to pay because they killed the dog his dying wife left him, well, it's hard to take that completely seriously.  But pay they do in this ferocious and fun action movie.  Wick is a retired hitman who, by sheer bad fortune and concidence, is targeted by some Russian mobsters who want to steal his cool car.  The aforementioned dog croaks and Wick decides to seek vengeance.  Turns out Wick knew these bad boys in his past life and suddenly things get complicated.  But boy, does he GET vengeance.  The body count in this movie has to be pushing triple digits, with assorted Russian goons shot, stabbed, hurled off high places, run down and otherwise dispatched.  It is a non-stop orgy of well choreographed violence... over a dog.

The action is extremely well done and Reeves is excellent as Wick.  Morally though, I'm a little dubious about a story that celebrates a sociopath lunatic wasting dozens of mob soldiers who had NOTHING to do with his doggie's demise. (Remember: he's avenging a dog.)  I'm also in awe of the fantasy city where a guy can go on a massive, city-wide murder spree without drawing the slightest police attention.  Imagine the tumult that would occur on real life news channels if 89+ people were violently murdered in one night by a single shooter/stabber/nut-kicker/neck-twister.  Also, it appears that the video tracking systems that have become a staple of television cop shows (24, Criminal Minds, etc.) have been totally dismantled in John Wick's world, since evidently not a single one of his murders is captured on surveillance.  But -- so what.  Any movie where the best line is "oh" followed by a dropped telephone works for me!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Well, That Was Awhile...

So it's been a few months.  Give a guy a break.  But with any luck I hope to be back with a little more frequency now.

Just to catch up, I've been working on a little show called Constantine for a little network called NBC.  Our first season wound up being 13 episodes and now we wait to see what happens next.  Contrary to some reports, Constantine was not cancelled by NBC -- all episodes will run, they continue to promote the show, and life is good. As far as what the future holds, well, we're not the only series waiting for a pick-up.  In other words, "we'll see."  I would report on other big doings, but doing Constantine was pretty much "it" over the last few months. 

What I will probably start doing is rev up my movie/music/book reviews... as always the goodies have been piling into the Verheiden manse, and where better to discuss them?  Keep watching FMVOF for updates!  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Constantine: So It Begins!

Months of writing, months of shooting, months of editing, 60 minutes of viewing excitement... the CONSTANTINE TV adventure begins 10/24/14!  Watch everyone's favorite dabbler in the dark arts take on all manner of demons, devils and undead spirits!  10PM Friday night on NBC, after Grimm, before the news (on most stations), but without a doubt at EXACTLY the right time.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Constantine! This Fall On NBC!

I'm so impressed with people who manage to post something every day.  Obviously I've taken a bit of a hiatus from my blog, mostly because... well, sloth when you're working 14 hour days is probably the wrong term.  But when you're at the computer all day writing/working, spending more time there versus staring into orbit becomes an easy decision.

So.  Catching up.  I am currently an executive producer on the upcoming NBC series CONSTANTINE, based on the DC Comics Hellblazer and Constantine comics.  As I write this I'm about to head to lovely Atlanta to kick up production of my first episode, co-written with fellow exec. producer and series co-creator David Goyer -- meaning we're well into shooting and making fun television.  All TV brings challenges, but we have a great group, studio (Warner Brothers) and network (NBC, obviously) who are all helping us making the best and coolest Constantine we can.

I also have to bow in the direction of the great people at DC, especially Geoff Johns, for allowing me back into the TV DCU for the first time since SMALLVILLE. They have been totally supportive of the writers and producers and if this thing works (of which I have no doubt), no small credit goes to them and all the folks who realizing the best way to do John Constantine was to, well, do John Constantine!  Replete with sarcasm, ciggies and the occasional moral ambiguity.

I'm also thrilled to be back in the saddle with composer Bear McCreary... I got to suggest blues lyrics for a very special song the other day, a rare treat.  You'll get to see the results when this episode erupts on screen this Fall!

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Brand New Stalkers Review?! What th -- ?

These fine folks review "Stalkers", the Epic book I co-created and wrote along with my pal Jan Strnad way back in *mumble mumble*.  And they like it!  They're really like it!  Click the link for all the gruesome details...

Blue Ruin

A cool indie movie currently in limited release and available on pay per view, BLUE RUIN has the structure of your basic revenge film, but done with a different sense of style.  The lead character, Dwight, is hardly a Charles Bronson surrogate.  Instead, he's homeless, spending his time alternating between the beach, breaking into homes to take a bath and sleeping in his hideous blue car (hence "Blue Ruin").

Then things change.  A friendly police officer informs Dwight that the man serving time for murdering Dwight's father is being released from prison.  That sets in motion an escalating series of increasingly violent events that draws heat not only on Dwight but also his (innocent) sister.  Even though Dwight is our nominal "hero", he does a lot of thoroughly non-heroic things, screws up repeatedly and ultimately makes some discoveries that suggest his quest for justice (or whatever it is) may actually be wrong-headed.  The movie's also not about steely super soldiers.  There's a very sensible scene in the film where an injured person tries to fix a wound on their lonesome, Rambo style, only to fail miserably and resort (sensibly!) to the E.R. You'd never see Stallone do that!

Blue Ruin is very quiet for this sort of film, with several scenes of real tension that reminded me of the recently concluded True Detective series.  There are a few eyebrow-raising moments (I'm either impressed or unnerved at how many people in this film don't seem particularly gob-smacked by murder) but overall it's a nice, tense piece of work.  I liked it!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Great And Crazy Movies...

A new (?) cable-ish network called EPIX is throwing up a bunch of really lousy 70's/80's horror and sci-fi that pretty much is like sitting in my living room circa that era and going through my VHS tape collection.  Just randomly grabbing things, I found LADY FRANKENSTEIN (poor Joseph Cotten stars, "from Citizen Kane to THIS?!"), the Traci Lords version of Roger Corman's NOT OF THIS EARTH, Umberto Lenzi's grotesque zombie epic NIGHTMARE CITY (in subtitled Italian!), and perhaps the most grotesque, WILLIAM SHATNER'S GONZO BALLET, a dance film based on William Shatner's musical collaboration with Ben Folds.

The Shatner piece is recent, but the other stuff appears to be taken directly from the original fuzzy VHS copies. This is not some archival effort ala Blue Underground's Criterion-like restorations, but down and dirty and the exactly the way I remember them.  Since the channel comes in over whatever crazy cable package I'm getting, I'm not sure what I'm paying for this stuff, but it's worth it!

OLDBOY: A bit more recent (as in "last year"), I finally caught up to Spike Lee's remake of OLDBOY.  The original version is an insane, completely perverse masterpiece.  The remake is more or less faithful (must less toward the end), but for some reason, despite some amazing talent, it just doesn't come together.  Josh Brolin plays the title character, a bore who finds himself locked in a hotel room-ish prison for 20 years, with no idea why he's there or who's holding him.  He gets to watch plenty of TV during his incarceration and learns he's been framed for his wife's murder.  20 years in, he's suddenly released and goes on a mission of vengeance.  Somehow 20 years in stir has given him the chance to develop some keen martial arts skills, which he definitely needs as he takes hammers and fists to an assortment of folks who don't want to give a guy a break.  Eventually he discovers the magnitude of the mad plot that led to his incarceration, a plot that required some impossible to predict alliances to succeed.  I can't quite put my finger on why this doesn't work better than it does... it's not bad, it just doesn't have the crazy sizzle of the original.  And that's too bad because I would LOVE for more gritty, crime-ridden movies from Hollywood...  

William Friedkin's SORCERER is finally out in a fully restored, approved by Friedkin blu-ray that looks AMAZING. The previous DVD was a pan and scan nightmare, but this edition has gorgeous color and is probably as good or better than the first 35mm prints.  Released at the same time as STAR WARS and with an unfortunate title that promises some supernatural element that doesn't exist, this was considered a big disappointment back in the day -- but it is one of the best 70's movie out there, easily in my top ten of the time.  A remake of the French film WAGES OF FEAR, this is a sparse, gritty crime/adventure drama with some of the most harrowing trucking sequences ever filmed. (I know what you're thinking, how can a "truck sequence" be harrowing? Watch this movie and see!) Anyhow, five stars, thumbs up, highest recommendation, etc.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Fateful Return...

It's been awhile since I posted, partially out of ennui, being busy, being sick, and partially out of "can't think of anything to say."  Sort of a conundrum for a guy who writes for a living, but hey, that's fiction.  I suppose I could fill this up with imaginary tales ("After knocking the knife out of Don Rumsfeld's hand, it was just the two of us, mano a mano...") but no, I save that "brilliance" for paying customers.

I guess there's a reason why there aren't a lot of movies about the act of writing.  Most of it is sitting and thinking and typing and rewriting and sitting some more.  Interspersed with downloading the latest Springsteen show from his official site and taking time out for watching Chris Hayes and shaking my fist at the world.  Not exactly scintillating drama. I suppose I could extrapolate on the writing experience, but process-wise, I tend to operate on a very intuitive basis. I would not be good at teaching this nonsense, because my main advice would be "write interesting stuff and keep writing enough of it to fill X number of pages." I'd feel bad charging $200 for that. (Not THAT bad, but bad.)

I've been taking some trips down memory lane recently as we clean out my parents house to prepare it for sale.  My Mother kept EVERYTHING, including piles of old homework, stories, artwork, etc. As I flip through stacks of my old art pieces, I am vividly reminded why I switched to writer, but it's fun to look back at what my 13 year old brain was creating.  We also found some early rejection slips and other ephemera that only has meaning to yours truly.  And still make me STEAMING MAD.

Anyhow, I'll try to be back with work updates and reviews as the mood strikes.  Meanwhile, happy Easter!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mr. Springsteen And His Shows

Yes, I know it's been over a month since my last post.  What can I say, I've been busy on various fronts and that focus comes at a price.  Besides, when you download a new official Springsteen show every couple of days, there goes the weekend, baby!

So, as I write this, there have been 11 official releases from Springsteen South Africa/Australian tour.  Out of those, Springsteen has elected not to put up one of the nights (2/16/14), at least not yet. The theory from fans is that Springsteen admitted on stage that he was a little buzzed that evening, and the show, one of the longest in awhile, was not exactly up to his standards.  Of course, this just makes that night a holy grail among fans, many of whom enjoy the idea of sloppy as much as perfection.  I have no doubt that some enterprising taper will eventually throw that night into the morass known as "the internet", but I do hope B.S. reconsiders and puts out an official version.

Meanwhile, anyone even vaguely interested in this nonsense should check out at least one of the shows. It's hard for me to pick a favorite, since the set lists vary drastically night by night, so your best bet is to peruse the set-lists and make your choice off that.  Born in the USA fan?  One night he does the entire album.  Darkness On The Edge Of Town devotee?  Same deal.  Sound quality is more or less equal (tho some nights feature a LOT of crowd) so that really isn't an issue.  Here's the official website...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stuff I Like!

Ahh, Amazon, how you fulfill me... here are a few of the latest and greatest goodies to pass over the MV transom...

ROCKPILE: Live At The Rockpalast: An imported CD/DVD of an early 1980 show by the late, great Rockpile.  Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams owed my rock and roll world back in the day, and this concert is pretty much the boys at their best.  Think a dab of rockabilly combined with a dollop of 60's rock, amp it all up to 11 and there's Rockpile.  The band broke up WAY too soon, though the principles went on to storied solo careers.  But there are always archival releases like this to remind us of past glories...

DAVE EDMUNDS "Alive": Speaking of storied careers, this is the first new Edmunds material in years.  Unfortunately there are only five new tracks combined with some goodies from previous releases, but the old stuff is only old if you've heard it before, and most of the songs are from Edmunds' more obscure releases.  The new stuff shows he hasn't lost a step, and here's hoping for a full-on new CD soon...

STOP YELLIN': Ben Pivar And The Horror, Mystery and Action Adventure Films of His Universal B-Unit.  Well, the book's subtitle kind of says it all.  Pivar produced dozens of movies in the 30's and 40's, but is perhaps most remembered for his contributions to the Mummy series and "The Brute Man", one of the more disturbing movies to emerge from the 40's.  Not because of the subject matter, per se (standard serial killer stuff), but because the star was Rondo Hatton, a sadly deformed man who evidently piqued Universal's interest after he appeared in a Sherlock Holmes movie.  This 500+ page tome absolutely tells you everything you ever wanted to know about Ben Pivar, and since you probably didn't want to know anything, some might call all that overkill. Me, I found it a fascinating slice of life from the trenches of 40's filmmaking with some Barton Fink overtones.

SPRINGSTEEN Live: Well, he's finally doing it.  Evidently every show from Springsteen's upcoming tour is going to be released 48 hours post-concert to an eager Bruce-loving world.  That's the good news.  The slightly less advantageous news is that the concerts are being distributed (at first anyway) through a system where you have to buy a 2GB memory stick either at the concert or from Springsteen's site for $40, which will them allow you to download Mp3 medium-resolution concerts from the internet.  Want more concerts, you gotta buy more memory sticks. Want higher resolution flac files, forget it (for now).  Look, I'm not gonna bite the hand that's finally giving fans what they've been clamoring after for decades, but here's hoping a non-memory stick, high quality downloadable version is hot on the heels of this initial effort!

ADDITIONAL INFO HOT OFF THE PRESSES!  Turns out Springsteen is also offering Mp3s and flac files from his website for $9.99 and $14.99 respectively.  FANTASTIC.  Now I wish I hadn't jumped in and bought a wristband already (*sob*). 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tranquility The Series!

So my long gestating television project was finally announced last week in the various trades by my friends at Bell Canada.  Here's how the Hollywood Reporter put it:

Other police dramas being hot-housed by... (Bell Canada)... include Sonar Entertainment teaming up with Double Nickel Entertainment and Mark Verheiden (Battlestar Galactica) on Tranquility, a sci-fi series about a troubled ex-cop with a new gig on a moon colony.

The wonderful thing about a blog is the ability to "augment" this release with a tad more detail.  First of all, from the world of "sometimes you just have to persevere," I've been fussing with Tranquility off and on since 2005.  It began when the two principles involved with Double Nickle, former DC publisher Jenette Kahn and her partner Adam Richman, approached me with an idea from writer/editor/director Stewart Schill.  We developed a pitch for a series that year, but the world was not ready for Tranquility... yet...

But the project stuck with me, and as time passed it felt like there was more of an appetite for science fiction in the television world.  Aside from the change in the market, I had hatched some new story thoughts that expanded the original Tranquility world beyond the initial pitch.  Jenette and Adam and Stewart liked the fussing and so it was time for "take two."  And this time the folks at Sonar Entertainment and Bell Canada came on board.  I hesitate to get into too many more details about the show itself, but suffice to say there is more going on than your standard "troubled ex-cop" tropes.  I mean, it's on the moon, for cryin' out loud.  There will be mystery and heart and action and surprises galore...

And I will continue to report as developments ensue!