What Makes “The Walking Dead” So Great?

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I know I’m late in the game by about six years, but thanks to Netflix I just got hooked on The Walking Dead. I don’t know why I’ve put it off for so many years, to tell  the truth. I like zombies, I adore suspense… maybe because I have yet to watch a major drama series that’s held my attention for more than a few seasons… I still haven’t finished Lost.

But, crap, I’m a couple of episodes into season 2 of TWD, and I am severely impressed, and officially hooked. The tension is thick enough for me to have to swim if I need to get up for a potty break. The character development is spot on, the pacing is never too slow or too fast.

But what makes the show great isn’t the gore or the horrific monsters wandering the earth. In fact, that’s probably why I’ve put the show off for so long, because I’m easily turned off by gore and blood and guts. And this show has tons of it, mind you. But I realized that it’s never there just for show. It’s there to serve a purpose for the greater story, and it serves it well. The way a war movie has plenty of guts and intestines in order to highlight the gravity of the war’s hell.

But what makes TWD captivating and a well-baited fish hook, is the show’s vast dynamics of characters. Each person from a different walk of life, contributing to a different demographic, representing different beliefs about God and the world as they know it.

No one is completely good or completely bad.

They’re all human. And they’re all just trying to survive this plague.

Sarabeth and I were just discussing the other night, what’s more important in a story? The plot or the characters?

I believe it’s the plot that reels us in. It’s the characters that keep us there. So they are both equally important.

As with The Walking Dead, I want to see how these characters will cope with the travesties heaped on them and how their relationships with one another will either strengthen or break them apart.

Are there any other Walking fans? Am I in for a continual good time to the end? And as you watch or read your favorite stories, ask yourself, “What is keeping me hooked?” Is it the story or is the characters?

Read the first installment of the exciting new serial blog: The Underneath

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Make This Your Next Netflix Movie

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Hilarity ensues in the Netflix original The Fundamentals of Caring. It’s the first Netflix original I’ve ventured to watch, but wow, I was impressed!

I expected just another melodramatic indie film that attempts to tie everything together at the end just for the sake of closing out smoothly. But this Paul Rudd-led film was anything but a half-hearted effort. It was hilarious from the very beginning.

And for me to call a movie hilarious is pretty impressive. There are only three movies I think are actually funny. This makes four.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into the specifics except that you’ll want to watch it when the kids are in bed due to the excessive amount of F-bombs dropped.

So if you have 90 minutes to spare, or if you’re like me and your work schedule has completely changed and you don’t know how to adjust to no longer having to wake up at 5:00 AM, then get your Netflix on and enjoy this gem of a movie. The book is on my Christmas list.

Cable Company Games

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I just finished up a stint working for Time Warner Cable. Pretty soon, you’ll know them as Spectrum.

Here’s a little background on that merger, and if you have Time Warner, the pieces will fall together, explaining why your bills have taken such drastic jumps, why your cable keeps cutting out for no logical reason, your internet is slower than racing amoeba, and why your cable boxes still have fifteen cords sticking out of the back of them.

When Rob Marcus inherited Time Warner from his late predecessor a couple of years ago it was no more than a couple of short weeks before he issued out a statement saying that Time Waner was being bought out by Comcast.

Yes, as a newly appointed CEO, he didn’t get to work on furthering the company’s bottom line, or advancing its services to enhance customer experience. Markus jumped head-first into a long line of corporate negations to woo a competitive company for a major buy-out (and a quick and fat paycheck).

Government laws eventually dictated that the buy-out would create a monopoly and therefore was not given the green-light. Well, just days after this “mutual agreement” as Marcus deceivingly put it, it was announced that Charter Communications was going to take Comcast’s place and buy out Time Waner Cable. (The new name will be Spectrum.)

The corporate games continued without skipping a beat.

All the while Time Warner’s venders kept raising their prices, forcing customers to foot the bill, the already-old equipment was growing older, there were few advancements in the services (and even those bright spots came with major hiccups and laughable faults).

The corporate games continued and the millions of cable, internet, and phone customers were the dispensable pawns.

I always described Time Warner as a rock sitting beside a rapidly flowing stream. While the future and innovation swept past us into a world of wireless cable boxes, advanced cell phones, and fiber optics, Time Waner Cable sat idly by placing more emphasis in a bigger paycheck for corporate leaders once a buy-out took place.

To be sure, there are some happy Time Waner Cable customers out there. Somewhere… I’m sure. But a majority of people are disgusted by their services. And honestly, it’s not just Time Warner Cable. The cable industry as a whole is corrupted in the sense that we as a people have let them get away with increasing our bills every few months.

They play this game where they’re all in on it. Time Warner Cable knows that they’re going to lose customers to ATT, but after their bills go up after two years, they’ll come back. It’s a giant game of catch, and the customers are the balls. Except, they don’t have any.

You’ve heard the expression, “Your promotion has ended, so your bill is set at the new rate of [$30, $40, $60 more than you were paying].” And yet, people still keep cable! When it’s more than obvious that the next step in TV is online streaming, anyway.

People don’t seem to understand that if enough customers cancel their cable, cause the cable companies to shake in their boots a little, lose some revenue, they’ll rethink their unethical campaign games. Every single person would agree that cable bills should be a set price for life. End  of discussion.

But no one wants to cancel because they’ll miss the next episode of Walking Dead or the next big game. Even though that episode will be available to view on most online streaming outlets in just a few weeks, or that game will be on Youtube shortly. Yet, because you wanted to watch your show, you’re having to call in to your cable company again to put up a big fight about how your bill should not have raised.

But, at least you got to watch your show. Hope it was worth the $40 a month increase in your already-overpriced cable bill.

“But they make it so hard to cancel,” you say. Put your foot down. Don’t accept the bribes of $200 gift cards which, deep down you know you won’t qualify for due to some minor technicality. Stop giving in to the gimmicks.

I’m interested to know where my readers stand with all this. I know it’s way off topic from writing and adoption, but I’m seriously curious to know if you’ve all had a bad experience with your cable company, what you use it for, and what’s your preferred source of entertainment when it comes to TV? Leave your comments below and let us all know your thoughts!

Silly Rabbit, Animated Movies Aren’t (Just) for Kids

 

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Zootopia is Disney’s 55th animated feature film, and it broke records as being the highest grossing Disney animated opening of all time.

Why is that? Personally, I think it’s because Disney has been delivering better and better films after their decade of mediocrity (1995-2004). The animation powerhouse, with the help from Pixar geniuses, has worked hard over the past twelve years to regain the world’s trust. Each film, from Bolt to Big Hero 6, has steadily gotten better and better, and diving deeper and deeper with substance and superior quality.

After seeing it with my son today, I can see why it’s garnered a near 100% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes by both critics and audiences alike (many even claiming it’s the best Disney film ever), and why it’s broken the record as the studio’s highest grossing opening.

Zootopia is not your typical animated film. Sure, it’s anthropomorphic, which is not uncommon in the medium, it pulls as many quips as it can, and… well, that’s pretty much where the similarities stop. Outside of that, it’s a seriously fun and entertaining crime drama.

In fact, it’s so reminiscent of my favorite buddy-cop movies, Lethal Weapon, that I no lethal_weapon_3longer feel a need for Riggs and Murtaugh to team up for a fifth installment because a sly fox and a “dumb bunny” beat them to it.

If you’re one of those closed-minded weirdos who write animated films off as being “kid movies,” you need to rethink your approach. If this movie doesn’t convince you that select animated films can be way better than your typical live-action release, then you’ve got some rewiring to do. (There’s a scene where a main character cries and it’s better than any crying I’ve seen any real actor pull off…yeah, I watered.)

Most of the jokes are subtle. Many of them I won’t notice until future viewings (and there will be many…by choice), but I caught enough to know that they’re there. And yes, it’s got that warmth and heart Disney is known for, but it never, ever feels cheesy.

Judy-Hopps-disneys-zootopia-38966363-777-777I can foresee myself choosing Judy Hopps as my favorite Disney character after a more timely analysis of her character. I want her to be my daughter’s role-model. She is strong, humble, and determined to be the best she can be doing what she wants to do. And no bull-headed water buffalo is going to get in her way.

Is Zootopia my all-time favorite Disney movie? I don’t know, but it’s way up there. But then again, A Goofy Movie isn’t technically considered part of the Disney animated movie lineup. So… of the official 55 releases… I guess I’ll just have to watch it a few more times to decide. And I can’t wait!

Disney does not make kid movies anymore, and this is just one more proof of that. If Hollywood didn’t segregate animated films in their award ceremonies, Zootopia would easily be in the running for best film categories just as Inside Out would have been earlier this year.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorite short story to cap off Endever’s first writing contest!

Could “The Force Awakens” be the GREATEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME??

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Let’s all be perfectly clear – The Force Awakens is NOT just for Star Wars fans. It’s not just for geeks or sci-fi buffs. The Force Awakens is a genuine love letter to anyone who loves the movies and has a soul.

That said, let me back up.

2015 has brought us some of the greatest movies in years. From Mad Max to Jurassic World, I can’t remember when we had such a solid lineup of films.

I recently decided that this summer’s Inside Out was the greatest film ever made, dethroning The King’s Speech from the coveted spot in my heart. And then, just a few short months later, the “Best Movie of All Time” seat is challenged yet again with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

Few will argue with me that the movie was absolutely mind-blowing and fewer would argue that it was just really, really, really damn good.

But am I jumping the gun by saying it could possibly be the greatest movie of all time?? Do I just need to get a grip and wait for the hype to pass? Am I forgetting greats such as The Return of the King or the emotional surprise that was Toy Story 3? 

I don’t think so.

Even if it’s not your favorite film ever, I don’t think I’m far off the mark by asserting it’s the greatest film of all time. Here’s why:

1. The High Expectation

J.J. Abrams and everyone that worked on this movie had something going against them that no movie crew has ever had to deal with ever. Three generations of movie goers with impossibly high expectations and demands. I’m talking about a significant population rate of people who have been deeply wounded by the release of the previous trilogy. So not only was the audience-base expecting a good Star Wars film, but they expected their pain to be remedied. The reviews and audience reaction shows that Abrams and co. has indeed gone beyond wowing everyone and bandaging up our wounds, but they cut an incision in Star Wars fans and precisely and deliberately removed the cancer that was George Lucas’ prequels. Order has now been restored in the galaxy.

2. Big Risk; Little Effects

The Force Awakens team went against the Hollywood grain by going back to set pieces and costumes and minimizing on CGI effects. They replaced the needless cartoons with something of importance and substance: Story. And a damn good one to boot!

3. Emotions Run High

The writers knew who our favorite character(s) would be going in, and they punched us in the gut, and pulverized our hearts. One review on Rotten Tomatoes said it perfectly: “The Best Disappointing Movie Ever.” There were some high risks in some major decisions as well, but it was all carried out so deftly, so perfectly, so cleanly that audiences will love J.J. Abrams for stabbing them in the heart and leaving them for dead. Folks, this Star Wars film made me cry! That’s never happened to me in George Lucas’ galaxy. It’s also by far the funniest film in the franchise, which only heightens the experience.

I might try to come up with more reasons why this could be the greatest film ever made. But so far, that’s what I’ve got.

Share your thoughts! Come on, you know you want to talk about it and spoilers are allowed in the comments! Go!

My Favorite CD’s Part 1

You know how it is. You get a CD and it turns out only half the songs are worth keeping. That’s how it usually is for me, no matter how good the band or singer is. I’ve been going through my music and compiled a list of albums that didn’t need to be cut down because at least 90% of it was just pure awesome.

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Robbie Williams, Swing When You’re WInning

This is a jazzy set of the best of Robbie Williams’ songs. They’re fun to listen to because it feels like they could be sung in some classy old-time musical. You’ve certainly got a mood-lifter in this album. And if you can’t relate to the first song, then I’d consider you a liar.

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Sister Hazel, Fortress

As far as bands go, Sister Hazel is one of my favorites. Hailing from Gainesville, Florida, they have consistently risen up in the charts over the years. In my opinion, they hit their peak with their third album, Fortress. This CD, like their others, is bluesy and folksy, but this one is the most contemporary in terms of rock. It’ll definitely give you a “champagne high” even without the champagne.

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Elvis Presley: Elvis 75

My readers may not know this, but I’m an Elvis fan. If I had thick black hair (or more hair, for that matter) I’d either be in Nashville or Vegas making a living doing impersonations of him.

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Caedmon’s Call, 40 Acres

It’s a Christian CD, but a fun one to listen to as you drive through the countryside with the windows down. Great traveling music, this one.

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That Thing You Do! soundtrack

Remember the Oneders? Remember that little-known Tom Hanks film about that fifties band? The soundtrack is still rockin’ and it’s here to stay!

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Blessid Union of Souls, Walking Off the Buzz

If The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was the one TV show that got me through high school, then this third Blessid Union of Souls CD got me through those years musically. I’m surprised my disc hasn’t worn out after probably at least a couple thousand repeat listens.

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The Very Best of Rod Stewart

Judge me all you want, but yeah, this guy made the cut. Easily.

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Mr. Holland’s Opus soundtrack

This was actually the very first CD I ever owned. I got it for Christmas 1996, along with my first CD player, after my sister convinced me that CD’s were way cooler than cassette tapes.

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Tim McGraw, Set This Circus Down (and Greatest Hits)

I’m gonna go country on you here for a minute, and if I’m gonna do that, it might as well be because of Tim McGraw. This is my favorite album of his, besides his greatest hits CD from 2000.

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Wicked, broadway musical soundtrack

If you haven’t seen the play, at least get the soundtrack. It’s wicked awesome!

Keep a lookout for Part 2 of this list and join my Facebook Author Page for more fun stuff in the meantime.

The John Grisham Challenge

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If you were to ask me who my favorite fiction writer is, by default I would have to say John Grisham, probably because I’ve read more of his books than any other fiction author. That’s not to say others don’t live up.

Suzanne Collins hasn’t written as many books, even though I’ve read all eight (actually, nine) of her works.

Jeff Smith is a graphic novelist, so he can’t count as a fiction author.

And Stephen King just wasn’t the right fit for me.

Plus, I love courtroom action, and I think Grisham does it best.

But somewhere in the middle of his writing career, he kind of lost his touch. Sure, most of us can agree that his books set outside the courthouse are left wanting a little more substance (or plot), but the most recent trial books I’ve read by him haven’t necessarily lived up to par, either. I remember loving one of them immensely (The Broker, maybe?), but the ending was so sudden and unsatisfying that I ended up hating it.

So I want to find out what went wrong. At what point did America’s favorite storyteller lose his knack for captivating his john-grishamreaders? (Or hasn’t he?) You see, I want to avoid whatever mistakes he made, and capitalize on his strengths (and there are many), because I may or may not be writing my own courtroom book currently. And in order to do it well, I want to learn from the best.

I’ll be reading them in order of release from A Time to Kill, which I’m almost done with, to Rogue Lawyer. 

Some of them I’m very excited about revisiting, like The Firm, The Client, The Testament, and others not so much, like A Painted House and Playing for Pizza.

But we can’t expect a perfect 100 from someone’s who’s given us almost forty titles. So, Mr. Grisham, here’s to the next couple of years spent together in thrilling courtroom (and sometimes sports, rural, and Christmas) bliss.

Share your favorite John Grisham novel below!

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