Photo: IMDB

In Case You Missed It: The Terror

If you are anything like me, the moment you saw the trailers for AMC’s new show, The Terror, you couldn’t help but be intrigued. The horror. The history. And the name Ridley Scott at the end, I was sold long before I even knew the plot. The show is based upon the novel of the same name by Dan Simmion, which provides a fictionalized account of the ill-fated expedition by the British Navy to map the Northwestern passage trough the Arctic.

In real life, Sir John Franklin brought two ships – the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus – into the Arctic Circle in the 1840s, only to disappear. Those ships, and their crew of 129 sailors were lost for more than 160 years. Simmons books, published in 2007 (a decade before the real-life discovery of those two ships), provide a fictionalized account of what may have happened. However, the books are more than just historical fiction, they provide a supernatural-horror account of how the expedition may have met its grizzly end. Needless to say, when the first two episodes premiered, I simply had to watch.

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Walking Dead

Super Comics: The Walking Dead #1-6 (2003-04)

the-walking-dead-comic-book-cover-01You might have heard about this little show on AMC called The Walking Dead that’s based on a comic book series of the same name, which has been going strong for something like 138 issues now.

For now, let’s just look at those first six issues, which are collected in the Days Gone Bye trade paperback, and compare them to the first season of the AMC show, which also happened to number six episodes. SPOILERS ahead (but just for that first season/first TPB).

Though they are different beasts, the similarities don’t end there.

The comic was created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore. Kirkman has written every issue of series, though Moore left after issue #6, and Charlie Adlard has kept things going from then on. The television show was brought to life by Frank Darabont of Shawshank Redemption fame (though he’s no longer the showrunner), and Kirkman has written some of the episodes.

That short first season of television is a mixed bag. The pilot episode is masterful. The second episode has some great tension. And then it’s a steady slide into mediocrity from there. The comic is more consistent in its quality level, though reading the first issue after watching the pilot makes the source material feel like the abridged version. An hour-long television show simply has much more room to breathe than a 20-or-so-page comic.

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Happy 20th, TCM

Today marked the 20th anniversary of a cable network.   Who would give a damn about a network anniversary?  Frankly, my dear, the rabid fans of Turner Classic Movies do.  In fact, this past weekend thousands of them from all over the country descended on Hollywood to attend a film festival hosted by said network.  Not even Fox News or MSNBC can boast of that kind of partisan dedication.

TCM festival

Kicked off by media mogul Ted Turner on April 14, 1994, the Atlanta-based network has shown uncut, uncensored, un-reformatted (as in aspect ratio, a touchy subject with classic movie buffs) classic movies ever since.  Interspersed between the movies are fascinating shorts from back in the day (the studios made a lot of shorts, ranging from comedy to news reels), along with TCM’s own mini-documentaries on related topics.

Missing from their lineup?  Commercials.  That’s right, TCM is totally ad-free.  Take that, AMC!  When TCM says their movies are uncut, they mean it.  Watching TCM, you will never have the delicately calibrated flow of a story ruined by a Life Alert commercial.  And unlike AMC, they don’t consider movies like Alien vs. Predator or The Core to be classics.  Most of the movies TCM airs were made in the ’30s-’70s.  Watching TCM is like taking a film history class but with the cool professor, the one who holds class on the lawn on really nice days.

Which leads to my theory about why some people don’t like old movies.  Classic film is an acquired taste, like fine wine, abstract art, or Belgian porn.  A mind steeped in nothing but contemporary fare will find the switch jarring, even off-putting.  It’s a different mindset, pace and tone.  As the English novelist L.P. Hartley wrote, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

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