Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TWD Casting News -- the ranks of the not YET dead are growing...

Season 2 of "The Walking Dead" is going to feature a period of the comic in which the survivors wind up at a farm.  I can't tell you how pleased I was to hear that they were going that direction.  Those who have read any of the comics know that this period as integral to the way the story -- and characters -- progress.  Far more integral than the death of Shane (which, according to the comic and fanboys everywhere probably should've happened before episode 3).  While in the comic, Shane's death was important -- but nothing that couldn't be put off and written around.  The farm, however, will introduce characters and situations which will ultimately provide motivations and cause actions that will set the stage for the whole future of the franchise.

The farm is owned by a veterinarian-turned-farmer named Hershel, and is populated by Hershel's kids, along with a neighbor named Otis.

The Comic book character is the guy on the left.
In case you weren't sure.
I don't want to give away too much from people who enjoy the show but have not yet read any of the books, but suffice to say that Otis is a skinny redneck.  Recent casting news has Otis being played by Pruitt Taylor Vince.  Born in Baton Rouge, LA, at least he's got the accent down.  Actually, of the three roles cast (actually, of ANY of the casting decisions so far), Vince as Otis makes the least sense, at least as far as looking the part.

Having said that, Vince is a fantastic actor, and has both the chops and pedigree to play the role and do it well.  If he looks familiar, it's possible you've seen him as the perpetually drunk priest in another comic-based movie: "Constantine."  His was a memorable role, and he easily out-acted Keanu Reeves -- not that I'm suggesting it was difficult.  Hell, Shia LaBeuff out-acted Keanu in that film.  But he is very good, and I'm actually looking forward to seeing what he brings to the role.

Now TV Guide (via IGN) has reported on two more Hershel's Farm survivors: Maggie, and Hershel himself.  As Maggie, a face familiar to television viewers: Lauren Cohan.  Cohan had recurring roles in both "Supernatural" and "Vampire Diaries."  She also had a recurring role on "Chuck."  I confess I'm not as familiar with Cohan, so will have to withhold judgement on this pick. 

Finally, Hershel. This is an excellent pick, and I'm really not sure they could have found anyone better.  Scott Wilson is a great character actor, who can pull of the range of emotion necessary for this role.  Hershel will go from friendly to concerned to violently angry to manically depressed -- all within the span of a few moments -- and he'll need an actor who can not only provide the depth, but also just play the part.  Wilson, with career spanning nearly 40 years, has the chops to pull it off.  Plus, Wilson is also no stranger to playing comic roles (albeit of significantly less quality than this one): he played an uncredited role as Pa Angel in the 1995 travesty that was "Judge Dredd."

With every announcement, I'm getting more anxious for the preview of Season 2.  AMC has been taking a risk by waiting until the Fall for the debut.  However, they are marketing intelligently, by constantly releasing new updates and slowly allowing news to trickle out into the public. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Oh, Just One More Thing...

I'm not exactly sure why it is, but Columbo was sort of a rare treat in my household.  Maybe it's because the show was so long, and was on so late.  In any event, I loved staying up to watch Peter Falk's trench-coat wearing detective spin circles of logic around anyone who dared commit a murder in his town.

It was like watching a magic show, to watch Columbo solve his cases.  Endearingly absent-minded -- at least as far as a suspect was concerned -- he would disarm his opponents with a sort of puzzled charm, just enough to annoy them or lull them into making a mistake.  And then came that moment.  That moment you always knew was coming.  Columbo would start to walk away, and then pause, scratch his head, and turn back around, his ever-present notebook at the ready. 

"Just one more thing..." he would say.  And you knew he had 'em. 

Columbo was a special kind of character, and only a certain kind of actor could do him justice.  Peter Falk was that man, and though he's been an integral part of many youthful favorites (The Princess Bride comes to mind), I will always see him with a cigar perched in his knuckles, his rumpled jacket and lopsided grin belying the intelligence in his eyes, mid-turn and ready to spring his trap.

"Oh. Just one more thing."

RIP Peter Falk 1927-2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sometimes, I love the heck out of my job: Ontario craft beer edition

The crew and I left work early today so we could do a couple remote broadcasts in Eastern Ontario.  Today's stops: Kemptville Ribfest and Thousand Islands Wine and Food fest.  Which, to me, meant two basic things: award-winning ribs and local craft beers.  Excellent food was eaten.  Several coasters were collected (a weird obsession I developed at last year's Wine and Food fest), and much beer was tested (or revisited.  Often). 

And so, because this blog is, at least partially, about beer, I figured I'd run down some of my favorites from the event.  Sadly, I wasn't able to taste every offering from every brewer: samples were purchased with tickets, and I just didn't have enough to sample every flavor.  Instead, I went with my personal tastes, and chose based on what seemed like would fit those tastes. So, that said, let's start with my favorite of the night, and work down.

Best beer of the event goes to a new brewer, Gananoque Brewing Co., with their Train Wreck Strong Ale.  The rep from the brewer called this the Charlie Sheen of beers, and while I don't expect it to start dating hookers and go on a whirlwind tour of trashtalk, it is a little more than you bargained for.  Train Wreck is a dark and hoppy ale with a bitter kick you don't quite expect.

The exhibitors offered their samples alongside free samples of a chili made from the beer.  The two complimented one another perfectly.  While you don't need the beefy chili to enjoy the ale, I do sincerely hope they start packaging the beer with the recipe.  It made the presentation that much better, and really set them apart from the other brewers. 

Coming in a close second, Mill St. Brewery, with their Tankhouse Ale. Already gaining popularity, there were more Mill St. cups left lying around than any other brewer's.  And this is their first year at the festival.  That has to say something.  The Tankhouse is brewed from five different malts, pours a deep copper, and blends the yeast and hops into aromatic magic. 

Mill St. also offered samples for a single ticket, which practically ensured repeat visits.  And yes, I went back.

I won't pretend I know enough of the terminology to sound like an experienced brewer: I don't.  So, I can't tell you about notes or nose... or really much beyond color and how it tasted to me.  It'll come with time.  In the meantime, I'm certainly planning a return trip to Ontario... I understand the ICBO keeps the Tankhouse in stock. 

At number three, Creemore Springs.  I was introduced to Creemore last summer and became an instant fan of their delightful Kellerbier.  A German-style, unfiltered beer, Kellerbier is hoppy and flavorful, with a citrus aroma.  I was surprised to find that this beer is canned, rather than bottled, which I suspect to be more about presentation than any practical usage.  When your only exposure to canned beer is your uncle's Whatever-was-cheap, it's hard to let go of those instant prejudices.  But this cloudy, golden beer is well worth getting rid of those preconceived notions. 

If my constantly faulty memory serves correctly, I've also tried Creemore Springs' Pilsner and urBock (I believe they had a bottle or two left, for those who were daring).  Like many local brewers, Creemore doesn't make a bad beer.  But if you've never tried a traditional unfiltered beer, the Creemore Kellerbier makes a darned fine introduction.

I'm still new enough to all of this that I'm not really ever sure what to expect of a brewer's flagship offering.  I guess I'm having trouble getting used to the fact that craft brewers don't seem to have an interest in competing with the watered-down stuff you find at the convenience store.  People who want that, want it.  People who have tried a decent craft beer, I've found, will rarely go back to the corporate brewers.  And that brings us to our number four, Beau's Lug Tread Lagered Ale. 

The first time I saw the Lug Tread, images instantly came to mind of the standard canned fare that kept me away from American corporate beer for my entire life.  I should explain that, as a rather pretentious college student, I had no desire to drink the same watered-down stuff fed to the proles.  I was convinced that dark ales and stouts were of more literary stock.  Were more worthy.  Because of this, pale and golden ales held no interest for me.  And then I saw it's beautiful hue, sunshine gold, with just a whisp of white foam.  I saw the sweat on the plastic cup, and licked my lips, wondering why I'd never tried such a wonderful-looking brew. 

Put simply, Lug Tread is not your standard 6-pack fare.  The Lagered Ale, the flagship beer of Beau's, is crafted to quench thirst, but to do it in a way more memorable and pleasing than the stuff in the refrigerated section at 7-11.  The logo of Beau's is a tractor -- an acknowledgement that this is a beer for the hard worker.  The guy coming in out of the sun.  It's best served cold, as an acknowledgement of the refreshing flavors worked into the brew, and all-in-all, it's a darned good beer.  The reason -- the only reason -- it didn't end up higher on my personal list is that, for me, it's a beer I have to be in the mood for.  Though it's crafted as an everyday beer -- and probably is exactly that for many -- it's simply not the sort of thing I'd take out of the fridge at any given time.  Maybe it's because I still favor the heavier, darker ales, and the Lug Tread is so light.  But whatever the reason is, I also know that, when I do have that urge to pull the stopper on the long bottle, and to poor it into a chilled glass, I will enjoy the Lug Tread with all the gusto of a life-long fan.

Yes, by the way: I did notice that I spent more words on each beer, the lower it was on my list.  I suppose that with beer, like people (and food), my first tendency is to simply enjoy it.  And if I enjoy it less than another, then I suppose it is that, and not my original enjoyment, which must be justified.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Psycho Day!! No. Really.

Arguably Hitchcock's most famous film (and even though I wouldn't consider it his best, it certainly ranks right up there!), "Psycho" was released to theaters on June 16, 1960.

Controversial, creepy, downright scary... but perhaps the best thing about Hitchcock's "Psycho" is that, according to all conventional wisdom, it shouldn't have worked.

Honestly, if you can read this blog, and are not yet at least familiar enough with Psycho to have a basic understanding what what happens, I don't even know why I feel a responsibility to warn you: you don't deserve it.  But, I think Hitchcock would want me to.

The plot was disjointed and disorienting.  The majority of the first act (if not the whole thing) consisted of providing motivation to get the first victim where she needed to be in order to move the plot forward.  End of Act 1: we meet the main character, Norman Bates.  Of course we don't know Bates is the main character, in part because so little of the film is seen through his own perspective, and in part because it isn't until Act 2 that the person we think is the main character is murdered.  After the murder of Marion (Janet Leigh), the mystery portion of the movie commences.  We meet the heroine of the piece (Vera Miles) at some point into the second act as well.  As I said -- and ask any film scholar in the vaunted halls of academia, and he'll tell you the same: Psycho just shouldn't have worked.

But in fact, it was these elements and more that helped to make it memorable.  The reason it reaches into the psyche and captures the imagination, and throttles your subconscious while you sleep is exactly because it fails to work within the framework of your expectations.  Chances are, had the story been written by a modern horror auteur like Wes Craven or John Carpenter (not to denigrate their work by any means), Leigh would have been at the Bates Motel in five minutes; dead in ten.  Miles would have approached the motel and house with an entire entourage of thrill-seeking teens, who would have been picked off one by one until our heroine entered the final act to face Bates alone. 

Instead, We are allowed to get to know Leigh's "Marion."  We get to understand why she does what she does.  We see her struggle with fear and conscience.  In fact, if not for Bates, it may have been a halfway decent crime drama.  And then, after her own decision point, Marion's life is simply snuffed out, mid-story. 

Unsettling, isn't it?
I was going to talk about the effectiveness of Hitchcock's camera.  About the neat little tricks he added to the film to add to the feeling of vague dread, such as under-cranking the camera to make the clouds behind the Bates house move just a little faster, and intensify the unsettling image created in the mind's eye.  About the eerie superimposition of Bates' mother over the killer's face to symbolize her control, even in death, of his twisted mind.  And for sure, it all adds to the atmosphere: plot devices notwithstanding, it's just a darned creepy film.

 But when you strip it all down, I think it's really the plot that gets us: the story of the fall of the beautiful Marion.  The truly frightening thing about Psycho, I think, is that it shows us, in stark relief, that no matter what we have going on, what choices we make, where we are or aren't going in the stories of our own lives... it can all come to a sudden end: bled out of the world, and circling down a drain of memory, in the blink of an eye and the flash of a butcher's blade.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

AMC is whetting my appetite for the Dead. Did that sound weird?

AMC has released two production photos for Season 2 of The Walking Dead -- which, if it isn't among the most anticipated series premiers for this fall, certainly ranks in my top.... one.

Says writer/director/exec. Producer Frank Darabont:
"At this moment, I'm standing on a stretch of post-apocalypse interstate in Georgia, littered with abandoned cars and blessing my good luck to be reunited with our amazing cast, and our fantastic directors and crew. Across the board, there are none better. It's great to be shooting again. I think we've embarked on a great season."
And, even though we have to wait until some unknown date "this fall" (I'm guessing Oct. 31. Again.), we at least have the consolation of knowing it's a full 13 episodes this time around.

To say I'm excited about Season 2 would be a bit of an understatement, I think. I've been excited since Season One ended.  How much did I enjoy Season 1? Enough that I forgave Frank Darabont for "The Mist" (I'll explain my disappointment, sadness, and anger with that film at a later date) and am willing to again allow him to lead my fragile mind through the fictional world.

Already, Season 1 has taken the original story in new and interesting directions, different from the books.  Directions with which not everyone agreed.  Kirkman Fanboys lit up Facebook and Twitter complaining about everything from Shane's continued existence to the group's stop at the CDC, in spite of the fact that Kirkman himself not only agreed to the changes, but has gone on record championing those changes

(By the way, keep an eye on "An Unfinished Life" for an upcoming post about the controversy that seems to surround every screen adaptation ever.)

Finally, for a pretty good interview with Kirkman about the show, and Season 2 in particular (including certain widespread rumors about firings in the writers' room), check out today's post at Screen Junkies.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I had a really hard time getting this post finished. Normally, I don't have a problem discussing my weaknesses -- including this one. The real problem for me was the realization that, in order for people to properly understand, I was going to have to find and post pictures. For an arachnophobe, staring at enlargements of spiders can get pretty uncomfortable.

Yep. I'm scared of spiders. I'm a pretty large guy, and in my lifetime, I've overcome fear of the dark, fear of heights, fear of bullies, of shame... even the fear of public speaking. But those little, furry, eight-legged bodies just scare the hell out of me. 

Let me put it this way: Eight legs!  Eight! What the hell needs eight legs?! And eight freaking eyes? Are you kidding me?!  It's like God wanted to make a creature just for the singular purpose of staring down a man and saying, "Hi, puny 2-legged, 2-eyed person.  I'm literally 4 times the creature you are, AND I'm still small enough to get under your shirt or up your pantleg before you have any idea I'm even there!" 

In general, I'm a pretty intelligent guy.  Intellectually, I understand that most spiders (i.e. the kind I'm going to run into on a day-to-day basis) really can't hurt me.  I know that, if the little freaks even bother with me, at most I'll get a couple little bumps on my skin for a day or two, and life will go on.  In my head I understand this. 

That's why they call it a "phobia." 

Now, don't get me wrong... the fear of some spiders is perfectly rational.  Brown Recluse, Black Widows... it's perfectly reasonable to be afraid of run-ins with these critters.  And as I said, when it comes to the others, I get it: normal people aren't afraid of them. 

Of course, when normal people see a spider, they see a vaguely creepy, eight-legged little thing that eats houseflies and mosquitos.  A regular, by-gosh boon to humanity and indeed the entire world.

I see this:
Tell me you aren't terrified right now.