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The Compelling Narratives of Video Games

The Compelling Narratives of Video Games

The poster for The Last of Us, the HBO adaptation (left), and one of the posters for the original game (right)

My love of gaming is well known amongst my friends and friendly acquaintances, and has since before I could afford my first console. In news that would surprise absolutely no one, my preference has always been for narrative games; where the story plays as much a role in the gaming experience as any tests of skill or intellect. The best games for me strike a delicate balance between challenging gameplay — combat and puzzles — and narrative. In short, I game for the same reason I read. I game to find myself immersed in another world, diving into a story that will delight and move me.

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Skybound Moves Forward With Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber

Skybound Moves Forward With Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber


The Great Book of Amber, containing Roger Zelazny’s 10-volume
Amber Chronicles (Avon EOS, December 1999). Cover by Tim White

Molly Templeton at Tor.com is reporting that Stephen Colbert has joined forces with Skybound Entertainment to develop an adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, bringing much-needed hope that the long delayed-series will finally be brought to the screen.

In 2016, Skybound Entertainment announced that the series was in the works, with The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman also on board. Though it’s been nearly seven years, this team is still in place, alongside Vincent Newman Entertainment and now Colbert’s production company, Spartina. Variety reports that Colbert said, “I’ve carried the story of Corwin in my head for over 40 years, and I’m thrilled to partner with Skybound and Vincent Newman to bring these worlds to life. All roads lead to Amber, and I’m happy to be walking them.”

Roger Zelazny was one of the greatest fantasy and science fiction writers of the 20th Century, and The Chronicles of Amber was his magnum opus. If you want to dip your toe into the original novels, Rajan Khanna has a splendid book-by-book reread at Tor.com.

From the Golden Age of TV Anthologies: Boris Karloff’s Thriller, Season One

From the Golden Age of TV Anthologies: Boris Karloff’s Thriller, Season One

William Shatner in “The Grim Reaper,” in Season One of Boris Karloff’s Thriller (1961)

The late fifties/early sixties was THE golden age TV anthology genre series. Best remembered, still wildly popular and influential today is The Twilight Zone, of course, followed by Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Outer Limits. There were others, including the interesting TZ precursor One Step Beyond, and a show hosted by one of the legends of classic horror cinema: Boris Karloff’s Thriller.

Like Outer Limits, Thriller had a short run — just two seasons. But TV production schedules were much different then. Those two seasons gifted us a whopping 67 episodes — equal to somewhere between six and TEN seasons now, in the streaming era. Sixty-seven hour-long episodes crammed into two nine-month production periods, each shot on a five-day schedule. It’s no surprise then that the episodes vary in quality, but the series contains some real gems — episodes that hold their own alongside the best Twilights Zones and B-movies of their era.

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Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: Moonraker! (No, Not That One)

Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: Moonraker! (No, Not That One)

The Moonraker (UK, 1958)

In many ways, 1958 was a peak year for British screen swashbucklers. On the TV screen, The Adventures of Robin Hood continued its popular run, and was joined by other series, including Ivanhoe, William Tell, and Sword of Freedom. On the big screen, the swashbuckler hit of the year was The Moonraker, a fine cloak-and-sword production that did well in Europe but didn’t really make it across the pond to America. This week, let’s take a close look at UK swords ’58.

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Bob at the Movies: ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ & ‘Glass Onion: Knives Out’

Bob at the Movies: ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ & ‘Glass Onion: Knives Out’

So, I’ve gotten back into reading Sherlock Holmes again, after being away from Baker Street for a couple years. And I’m still posting shelfies over at that subreddit. One, depicting a bookshelf collapse disaster from a couple summers ago, got over 36,000 views! But today, we’re gonna look at couple mystery movies I watched over the weekend.

THE PALE BLUE EYE

The Pale Blue Eye is based on a book by Louis Bayard. Christian Bale is a world-weary detective, who is brought in to investigate the death of a cadet at West Point. He is aided by a young Edgar Allen Poe, who was there in 1830-1831. So, we’ll put the movie in 1830.

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Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: Samurai Stocking Stuffers

Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: Samurai Stocking Stuffers

Master Swordsman Hirate Miki (Japan, 1951)

If you’re just getting into watching older samurai adventures movies, you can’t go wrong picking those directed by Akira Kurosawa or starring Toshiro Mifune and/or Tatsuya Nakadai. However, eventually you’ll run through all those, and then where do you look?

Fortunately, in the ‘50s through ‘70s, chambara action films were as common in Japanese movie theaters as Westerns were in America, and a lot of the very best samurai features are available with fairly decent English subtitles. This week we’re going to look at four lower-profile samurai films from the 1950s, the first three of which, though obscure, are well worth the trouble of seeking them out.

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What I’m Watching: December, 2022

What I’m Watching: December, 2022

Last week, I spent 5,000 words talking about Dark Winds and the Tony Hillerman series it is adapted from. I even watched it twice – as I said, it’s a good series: just not good Hillerman. Recommended.

I continue to look forward to Tulsa King every Sunday. That may be the best show out there right now. I talked about that in the November post.

I did a series of posts on The Rings of Power – it was a ‘meh’ series. Better than The Shanarra Chronicles, not as good as The Wheel of Time. For over a half-billion dollars, it should have been better than fan fiction.

First half of season six of The Rookie was fine: though the new boot is easily the worst character in the history of the show. Season one of the spin-off show, The Rookie: Feds, was okay.

My son and I are watching Lethal Weapon: I’m not totally crazy about Damon Wayans in the role, but he and Clayne Crawford work well together. I think Crawford is the key to the show. I know there was a cast change after season two, so I’m leery. But overall, it’s a fun buddy cop show.

Moving on.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Dark Winds – Good Show, Bad Hillerman

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Dark Winds – Good Show, Bad Hillerman

So, I wrote a three-part series, covering about 5,000 words, on Tony Hillerman and his Navajo Tribal Police series. I said this at the end of the third one: “Somewhere down the line, there will be a post about the four movies (and several failed attempts at such) made from these books.”

Back in July of 2021, I wrote this essay, optimistically excited about AMC’s upcoming series based on Hillerman’s books.

The six-episode series aired back in June, but I just got around to watching it. So, this seems like a good time to write a fourth-installment in my Hillerman series, talking about Dark Winds.

If you want to know more about Hillerman and the books, click on the link above. You can find all three essays. I’m a HUUUUGE fan of his books.

I am not a fan of the continuation novels written by his daughter, Anne.

Dark Winds is set in the seventies, on the reservation in Four Corners country. That’s where Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee police procedurals take place. Joe Leaphorn is the boss of this Navajo Tribal Police sub-station. Bernie Manuelito is his number two. Jim Chee is a young officer newly assigned there. These are the three main characters in the books,and in the series.

THE STORY

Season One’s story is based on Listening Woman; the third book in the series. They use enough of the basics to recognize the source material – though they definitely change things up a fair amount. And Hillerman didn’t create Chee until book four. Or Bernie until book six. But it makes sense to have all three in the series: it all works. Listening Woman is a good novel, and I think, the best of the first three. So, a good choice to start the series with. They also worked in elements from book four, People of Darkness, which is one of my favorites. Nice!

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Goth Chick News: Predator Meets The Dirty Dozen Meets Werewolves? Sure, Why Not?

Goth Chick News: Predator Meets The Dirty Dozen Meets Werewolves? Sure, Why Not?

I’ve often observed here that horror, like all forms of pop culture, moves in trends. Generally, this means an ebb and flow between the various sub-cultures of monsters. For example, 2010 saw the beginning of zombies rise in popularity with the premier of The Walking Dead, just as the Twilight movies with angsty vampires, were winding down in 2012. Since then, we’ve been through witches, clowns, ghosts/evil spirits and more traditional vampires. The odd thing about these trends is that, like black nail polish, werewolves have never been so much of a trend, as a staple of the horror genre which occasionally hits the mainstream.

Werewolves in film over the last decade tended to be in two categories; either as part of a larger story (ala Underworld, Hemlock Grove and Wednesday) or as the solo subject of indie films (The Cursed and The Forrest Hills). As a dog lover myself I find this kind of sad, and wish werewolves would get to be the stars of contemporary big-budget films like short-lived but glorious days of the early 80’s which brought us American Werewolf in London and The Howling (1981), and The Company of Wolves (1984).

Sigh…

Well, until then we will have to be content with the bones we are thrown from the small budget production houses, and this brings me to today’s news.

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Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: The Princess Bride Redeems the ‘80s

Ellsworth’s Cinema of Swords: The Princess Bride Redeems the ‘80s

The Princess Bride (USA, 1987)

George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg: we may love their movies, but those guys have a lot to answer for. Their early fantasy action blockbusters, especially the Star Wars series, were such global mega-hits that they spawned countless imitators making noisy, busy, and sadly shallow films that flooded the theaters from the late ‘70s throughout the ‘80s. Everyone was chasing the golden youth market that was supposedly hooked on broad, colorful action enhanced by flashy special effects — and this pursuit infected not just Hollywood, but European and Asian studios as well.

There were some worthwhile films that followed that formula, of course — Excalibur, Time Bandits, Highlander — but in general, we got an endless series of loud actioners bloated by chase scenes, slo-mo heroic leaps, and large explosions (so many explosions). But then, in 1987, along came The Princess Bride, a small miracle of a movie with brains, heart, courage, sly wit and sharp dialogue, a film that made it possible to forget all about Red Sonja. And suddenly, the ‘80s didn’t look so bad after all.

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