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2013 Features

The best TV series of 2013: The start of the 2012-13 TV season was little more than a barren wasteland. Of the few new shows I checked out last season there wasn’t any I stuck with for more than a few episodes. To say I was depressed this time last year at the state of TV would not have been an understatement.

But then something happened. Once ’12 ended and we rang in ’13 all sorts of interesting TV series began appearing, to the point that I’d call 2013 one of the better years for quality TV in recent memory.

What to watch: Winter ’13/’14 edition – Is it just me, or is the fall TV season just a poor lead up to the winter one, when the interesting series launch?

The Best Movie and TV Posters of 2013 – I think many underestimate just how hard it is to create a good movie or TV poster. There are a plethora of amateur designers with Tumblr accounts turning out cool movie posters for fun every day. And if an amateur can create a cool poster for (say) Star Wars or Pulp Fiction, then surly they’d be great at creating real posters for upcoming releases too. Right?

Ten years on and Battlestar Galactica is still one of the best – Back in late 2003 the newspaper the Fort Wayne Reader was just starting up and I was asked to write a pop-culture column for them. Work was started on the paper months in advance of the first issue being published and one of the things the publishers of the Reader did in those early days was to reach out to TV networks and cable channels for screeners of TV series and movies to review for the paper.

That’s how I got to watch the new Battlestar Galactica TV mini-series a few weeks before everyone else.

2013/14 Winter movie preview – It always used to be that the winter movie season was meant for prestige projects that were gunning for Academy Award statues come March. But over the last few years things have changed a bit. Movies are still released this time of year that are looking for Oscar gold, but there are also quite a few films released from around Christmas break to the first of the year that makes winter look a bit like a miniature summer movie season in the snow.

Doctor Who, the great sci-fi hipster wanna’be – I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who nearly as long as Matt Smith, the current actor in the title role, has been alive. Back when I started watching the series in the mid-1980s, it was a show barely popular enough here to air late Saturday nights on our local PBS station just before the nightly sign-off. Now, nearly 30 years later, Doctor Who has become a bonafide pop-culture phenomena where series actors are mega-celebs and the show has a world-wide audience.

Ender’s Hunger Games – Over the last decade young-adult books turned to movies have become one of the most popular franchises at the cineplex. The Harry Potter and Twilight films have both earned something like a staggering 3.5 billion + at the box office alone, so it’s not much of a surprise that others have jumped onto the YA book turned movie bandwagon.

Maximum Overdrive – I can declare that Maximum Overdrive is almost, very nearly, but not quite, a great movie. It’s close to being in the same league as the original Night of the Living Dead and Halloween films but comes up just a bit short. Writer/director Stephen King is nearly able to give Maximum Overdrive an underlying message to make the movie more than just the sum of its parts while at the same time delivering the gore and scares but in the end falls short.

The Online TV Revolution – When I first started writing this column nearly a decade ago, legally watching TV shows online wasn’t possible. Slowly, over the years, that started to change and TV series that had already aired on traditional channels became available on iTunes and then Netflix and Amazon in a kind of online syndicated format.

My writing process – 10 years in – Each year I write 24 columns for The Fort Wayne Reader along with a handful of other longer pieces that I post to my site. Since I know the publishing schedule of the Reader throughout the year I can plan ahead. I write most of my stuff in WordPress which is the CMS for my website.

The X-Files, one of the greats, turns 20 – There are a few TV series that I consider “mine.” These are the series that I started watching before they were cool, before they were featured on the covers of magazines, before the actors became international superstars, before the series were spun-off into movies… One of these shows I consider “mine” is The X-Files.

How I made $1,500 selling 3 comic books on eBay – Typically I don’t collect things because I think they’ll increase in value, I collect things because I think they’re cool. That’s why I bought the first issue of the comic book The Walking Dead back in 2003, because I thought it was cool and was interested in the story. After I’d read the comic a few times, I bagged it up, filed it away in one of my comic book boxes and all but forgot about it. Until recently, that is.

2013/14 TV Preview – New Shows

2013/14 TV Preview – Returning Shows

2013 Fall movie preview

What the heck was that? Pop-culture stumbled upon moments – I used to love channel surfing. I was the kid who went through the TV listings each Sunday in the newspaper and circled every program I wanted to see that week. And in the pre-DVR era this meant that sometimes I’d have to stay up late in order to see Night of the Living Dead or get up early to watch The Mighty Orbots Saturday morning cartoon.

But when there wasn’t anything on I specifically wanted to watch I’d randomly surf the dial looking for anything interesting. Most of the time this was a bust, but sometimes I’d stumble upon some interesting TV series or movie that I’d never heard of before that I’d end up loving to this day.

The Thing about The Thing about The Thing – A few weeks back I re-watched the 1982 The Thing for the dozenth(?) hundredth(?) time. I was struck that three decades after its initial release The Thing still works from story to cast to setting and that the special effects of the movie didn’t look dated in the least. And last fall I re-watched the original 1951 The Thing From Another World and it’s still one of my favorites too. What’s not to love in the original’s post-WWII “aww-shucks good ol’ American know-how can whip anything when we put pull together” theme?

Disaster Du Jour: By Dawn’s Early Light – After the Soviet Union began to collapse and the cold war started to wind down in the late 1980s and early 90s fear of a nuclear war between “us and them” began to diminish. Surly with the United States and the Soviet Union on good terms a nuclear war would be out of the question. Right? The main crux of the movie By Dawn’s Early Light (1990) was that no, in fact the possibility of a nuclear war was actually GREATER now that controls over these weapons were slowly being relaxed in the Soviet Union.

Doin’ the Godzilla stomp with Pacific Rim – For the last 50 or so years, gigantic monster movies (GMMs) like King Kong or Godzilla have been ignored at best and derided at worst. The only thing worse than their “dude in a rubber suit” level of special effects were stories they told that seemed only to exist in order to get the monster from point A to point B where it could stomp some unsuspecting city and its citizens to smithereens. Though there were a few gems here and there in the genera, most GMMs were simply dopy movies designed for kids to enjoy on a Saturday afternoon.

World War Z: Zombies, Zombies Everywhere – Somehow during the early part of the 21st century zombies in popular culture became downright…dare I say!?…respectable. It wasn’t too long ago that zombies were mostly confined to the movies and even then could only be seen on TV late at night or via VHS.

Man of Steel: The Fantastic Untold Origin Story (Not Really) – This summer, DC Entertainment is set to try and launch a new superhero movie franchise with Superman. Again. For the fourth time. And while I’m happy to see this strange visitor from another planet return to the big screen in Man of Steel.

Disaster Du Jour #4: Deep Impact – Deep Impact was the first of two comet/asteroid disaster films that summer with Armageddon arriving (he-he) a few months later. While Armageddon was a super-charged more action than disaster flick, Deep Impact was sold as the thinking person’s end of the world film. Even the taglines for the two movies played these differences. Armageddon ran “Earth, it was fun while it lasted” while Deep Impact had a level of seriousness with, “Heaven and Earth are about to collide.”

Is it time to cut the cable TV cord? – So I wondered, could Bert Ehrmann, a bonafide TV junkie “cut the cord,” cancel my satellite service and being using legal web TV services only like Netflix, Hulu and iTunes instead?

Marvel Movie Madness Starring Iron Man – Marvel Entertainment is a studio accustomed to making hit movies. Last summer they released The Avengers that raked in $1.5 billion in ticket sales, the year before that Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor $359 million, the summer before that Iron Man 2 $312 million… And this summer brings Marvel’s Iron Man 3.

Click here to read my columns on the Evil Dead movies (slightly edited) on one page, or you can read them separately in their original forms below:

Part 1: The Evil Dead, Join Us!– What would become a trilogy of movies began with The Evil Dead in 1981, continued with Evil Dead II in 1987 and was completed with Army of Darkness in 1993. While The Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness would introduce varying degrees of slapstick humor and comedy into the Evil Dead mythos, the original The Evil Dead was instead a straight-up horror movie literally billed as “the ultimate experience in grueling terror.”

Part 2: Evil Dead II, Dead by Dawn! – There are differences in how Evil Dead II tells The Evil Dead Story and its mix of a bigger budget and slapstick humor make the tone and feel of the two movies completely different from one and other. The beginning of Evil Dead II is much more over-the-top, goofy and is funnier than The Evil Dead and after this retelling Evil Dead II continues the story of The Evil Dead in some pretty interesting ways.

Part 3: Army of Darkness, Hail to the king! Army of Darkness was a movie that came along at the perfect time for me. I first saw it on VHS as a teen and its mix of comedy, humor and downright goofiness totally clicked with my sensibilities back then. In fact, I only sought out and saw Evil Dead II then watched The Evil Dead again for the first time in years after seeing Army of Darkness.

Lost & Unmade Superhero movies of the 1990s – These days superhero movies are some most popular types of films. Flicks last year like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man grossed a staggering $1.3 billion combined in ticket sales alone. But superhero movies weren’t always this popular. While there were successful superhero films in the 1970s and ’80s with Superman and 1980s and 90’s with the Batman films, superhero movies pre-21st century were a rarity rather than the norm.

2013 Summer Movie Preview – I cannot describe to you how much this time of year I look forward to the summer movie season. From now until May I almost literally count the days until the first movie premiers. This year, as it has the last seven years, the first film of the summer season will be a movie from Marvel Entertainment; Iron Man 3 on May 3.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the Best Trek Series Turns 20 – I wasn’t always a fan of Star Trek. I’d watched the original Star Trek series as a kid in syndication and never cared for it all that much. I still don’t. And when Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) first started airing in 1987 I didn’t watch it because it was something my dad was into. And I was at the age that I thought anything my dad was into was positively lame. In fact, it wouldn’t be until I was in high school and the third series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) premiered that my love of all things Trek would be born.

The Best Movies of 2012 – I can’t quite believe it myself, but this year I only went twice to a movie theater. Not that I didn’t see a lot of new movies, but in 2012 I saw the vast majority of them in the comfort of my own home, on-demand, via digital download like iTunes or on Blu-ray. And, honestly, I don’t feel like I was missing anything skipping the theater “experience” since new movies transition from theater to home in just a few months and at no time did I have to pay extra to see anything in 3D.