A New Day for Virgil’s All-Night Diner

31 Oct

Although we’ve enjoyed our stay at WordPress.com, the All-Night Diner has made the move to a self-hosted site.  If you’ve been using http://virgilsallnightdiner.com, then nothing will change.  If, however, you’ve bookmarked the wordpress.com extension, then you’ll want to update.

The new site allows us to do more with the visual content of the site.  Our podcast is finally up and running and in the next week or so we’ll be debuting Virgil TV.

Come along for the ride!

First a Villain, Now Batman Gets a Title (And Loses a Villain)

27 Oct

So…it’s The Dark Knight Rises, is it?  In a story that is being widely reported around the internet, the LA Times Hero Complex blog has dropped some major news regarding the third Batman film.  I could hardly do it justice, so click on the link and read the exciting news, then come back here for my brilliant observations.  Go on…I’ll wait… Continue reading

Web Series Profile, Part 2: Riese

25 Oct

Riese is coming to Syfy!

Just about a year ago, in November 2009, Riese: The Series debuted and proved to be  a game changer for the whole web series genre.  Shot on RED One cameras, the series introduces viewers to a unique fantasy landscape with a heavy steampunk influence.  The show tells the tale of Riese, a wanderer who travels with a wolf across the dying lands of Eleysia, pursued by a dangerous religious group.  Riese is on a quest to learn her true destiny and how that destiny ties to the ultimate fate of Eleysia.

Solid acting, beautifully shot footage, an epic story, and appearances from popular names in scifi programming like Ryan Robbins, Emilie Ullerup, and Allison Mack:  elements that have converged to form a perfect storm of fantasy television.  The show has grown so quickly and has garnered such critical praise that Syfy will begin airing the show exclusively on their own web platform starting tomorrow, Tuesday, October 26 at noon. Continue reading

Web Series Profile, Part I: Vampire Mob

24 Oct

Over the next few days, Virgil’s All-Night Diner will present interviews with three prominent creators of web series.  We’ll learn about how their shows came about, how they’ve managed to grow their audiences, and what their hopes for the future are.  In Part 1, we talk to Vampire Mob creator Joe Wilson, whose show debuted earlier this year and has found a loyal following known as “the V-Mob.”

Vampire Mob is one of the reasons why I love the Internet.  I was bouncing around Twitter one day a few months ago (@virgilsdiner if you care to follow) when I came across a tweet for a web show called Vampire Mob.  The title itself intrigued me enough to want to see what it was all about it.  I loved the first episodes so much that I immediately wrote a quick post plugging the show.  If you’re not familiar with the show, which you can watch here, the story follows Don, a mob enforcer who has also been turned into a vampire.  In an act of devotion, he turns his wife into a vampire, who in turn makes her mother a vampire as well.  Now Don must now literally spend eternity with his mother-in-law.

Since watching those initial episodes, I’ve had the good fortune to exchange some friendly emails with Joe Wilson and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions.  What follows are his direct answers to the questions posed to him. Continue reading

Four Lions: Too Soon or Not Soon Enough?

21 Oct

Check this trailer out…

Four Lions, the debut movie from Christopher Morris, will go into limited release in US theaters on November 5.  Initially rejected by the BBC for being too controversial, the film found an audience at Sundance and received a great deal of favorable praise from critics.

It’s not a movie that’s garnered much attention in this country yet.  I stumbled across the trailer perusing IMDB this morning and I personally haven’t seen any major publicity on television.  (Has anyone?  If so, when and on what channel?)  Let me be up front about this – I laughed out loud.  There was indeed LOL’ing in excess.  Yet the entire time I thought to myself, “I shouldn’t be laughing at this.”  We see wanna-be terrorists strapping bombs to crows, wearing silly costumes, singing Van Morrison in unison…It’s a cross between a Three Stooges  short and an Al-Qaeda training film.

The film bills itself as a satire.  The main characters, however, are likeable.  There’s a dim naivete to them that puts them on par with the members of [insert favorite Christopher Guest movie here]. Is America ready for this kind of sweet-faced satire, one where we may very well sympathize with wanna-be suicide bombers?  The trailer clouds this question.  In one shot, after a crow explodes, we see a shot of plane taking off.  It gave me chills the first time I watched it.  In the very next image, two of the men are talking about leaving the country for “training,” hence the plane image.  Still, the structure of those shots was hardly accidental.  Without the context of the second shot, I’m sure many would have assumed the plane was a target, not a mode of travel.  How will the film balance these extremes?  How do we as an audience rectify these likeable, Van Morrison singing buffoons with their intended actions?  Does the movie keep us in mind of just how horrific their plans really are?  Will the movie mock and deride terrorists as uneducated stooges, or will it put a human face on those who perpetrate atrocities?  Ultimately, how will an American audience process this message (whatever it turns out to be), especially in light of the recent controversy over the New York mosque?

As an independent British comedy about Muslim extremists who dream of becoming suicide bombers, I doubt the movie will go into wide release.  In fact, given the scant attention the movie’s received, one senses that it may just slip under the radar, make a few dollars in limited release, then drift quietly into Netflix.  Perhaps I’m wrong.  Perhaps this movie will strike just the right chord and become one of those strange little sleeper hits like Little Miss Sunshine, or, worst case scenario, the movie will become yet another lightning rod for ill-informed debate, with pundits cherry picking the film to inflame more useless hostility.

What I do know is this – truly “dangerous” comedies come along so rarely that it would be a mistake for this one to slip away without any discussion.  Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, which tackles such topics as political corruption and social responsibility – both highly relevant to our world, is rarely produced partly because most don’t know how to handle the particular brand of gallows humor found in the play.  It’s a terrible pity; Shakespeare has much to teach us in that play.  Sometimes, comedy can be used to unsettle us – to make us laugh when we shouldn’t, because we know deep down that this writer is giving us something to talk about.  Perhaps Four Lions is just such a story, we laugh though we shouldn’t, because deep down we know that those who do terrible things are still human and to put a human face on evil is indeed a most unsettling experience.

Is Depp Getting Thin?

20 Oct

Watch this clip…

If you’re not familiar with the above clip, The Thin Man series is a film franchise from the late ’30’s that features William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles.  Nick is a successful detective who retires when he meets and marries the very wealthy Nora.  Nick’s desire to enjoy life as a retired socialite is perpetually jeopardized by Nora’s desire for adventure.  The alcohol-fueled repartee is a staple of the franchise and a large part of its popularity.

Now imagine Johnny Depp playing Nick Charles.  An unconfirmed rumor from Vulture, has Johnny Depp putting the full court press on  Rob Marshall to direct a new version of The Thin Man with Johnny in the lead.  I don’t doubt Depp could do the role ample justice.  He’s a magnificent character actor who wears his quirk on his sleeve.  In fact, I doubt there are many other actors who could fill William Powell’s gin-soaked shoes in this role. Continue reading

Batman Brings Aboard a Bad Guy (maybe)…

19 Oct

 

Tom Hardy: Trading in Powdered Wig for Mask?

 

Tom Hardy, most recently of Chris Nolan’s Inception, has been cast in a major role in Nolan’s third Batman film.  Natural speculation is that Hardy will play the as-yet unnamed villain of the movie, but perhaps that’s jumping the gun a tad.

It’s hard-ly surprising Nolan brought Hardy over from Inception.  He’s an actor on the rise, playing quirky heavies for both Matthew Vaughn and Guy Ritchie, and his performance in Inception surely caught Nolan’s attention.

Now the speculation begins … which of Batman’s rogues will Hardy take on (if he is indeed playing a villain…)?  Nolan’s painted himself into something like a corner.  The first two movies have been heavily grounded in reality.  Ra’s al Ghul is the leader of an international cabal devoted to a new world order – no mystical overtones, no immortality, no Lazarus Pits.  The Scarecrow is a deranged psychiatrist with a penchant for dangerous pharmaceuticals.  Then, the Joker – an enigmatic psychopath whose only motivation was chaos and whose only “superpower” was unpredictability. Continue reading

Will the Revolution Be Televised … On the Web?

19 Oct

The Guild, Vampire Mob, Riese, Mind’s Eye…they may not be household names yet – but they’re getting there.  Over the past few years, a revolution of sorts has been taking place.  Creators have taken their ideas to the web, seeking alternative funding sources in the process, to deliver a new brand of programming that is starting to draw attention from both fans and networks.

Defining a “web series” can be difficult.  It is still young in form and there aren’t exactly rules about what constitutes a web show.  There are, however, certain characteristics they share.  Web series eschew traditional 30 or 60 minute episode formats for less structured 3-8 minute segments.  Sometimes these episodes are self-contained, but more often these episodes string together to tell one story, in some cases, what might amount to a single episode on traditional television.  This short “micro-episode” format is well suited to internet audiences who may be seeking quick diversions.

Do no make the mistake of assuming that “micro episode” means fluff content.  The other characteristic that many of these shows share is that they are highly imaginative … maybe too imaginative.  The reason these producers seek a web platform is because their shows often don’t cater to a mainstream audience, or the concepts are so involved that networks are leery to back them.

Sanctuary and The Guild are two different types of success stories.  Sanctuary started as an eight episode web series that was quickly picked up by Syfy and brought to television.  Sanctuary had the distinct advantage of star and producer Amanda Tapping, who gained a sizable fan base from her years playing Samantha Carter on Stargate:  SG-1.  Felicia Day, who has become Queen of the Geeks in recent years, developed The Guild but felt the concept was too niche for network fare and chose to pursue the web route.  Now The Guild is in its fourth season and is one of the most popular shows on the web.

These two shows represent two distinct paths for any web series:  network acceptance or network independence.  Either become successful enough to sell the show to a network, or become successful enough to never have to worry about network support.  The three shows mentioned in the opening are all in different stages of trying to carve out their own path.

Riese: The Series is perhaps the furthest along of the three.  After a successful initial run, the show has been picked up by Syfy to be streamed as a web show on their site starting on October 26.  The initial episodes have been repackaged and now feature a voice-over by Amanda Tapping.

Vampire Mob has just finished its first season and is gearing up for Season Two.  Creator Joe Wilson is keeping the show independent for now and is attempting to secure funding through a Kickstarter campaign, which you can contribute to by clicking on the link.  They only have ten day left to hit their goal – so donate now!

Finally, Mind’s Eye is the newest entrant in the web show pageant.  The trailer for this series will be released in the next couple of weeks.  I had a chance to preview it at New York Comic Con and it’s an ambitious series to say the least.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to interview the creators of each of these shows and I will sharing their insights with you in the coming weeks.  This will be featured as one of the first videos under the “Virgil TV” brand.  Given the timely constraints facing each of these shows, I felt it was important to get this article out before then.  Riese is set to debut on Syfy.com in a couple of weeks; Vampire Mob is under a fundraising deadline; and Mind’s Eye is close to the debut of their first trailer.

It’s an exciting time.  It seems the Internet is finally coming of age and there are producers giving us quality programming in a manner more democratic than traditional network programming.  Like any good democracy, however, it takes active participation to succeed.  I encourage  you all to check out the links to these shows to see if any of them strike your fancy.  If so, please support them by helping to spread the word.  Also, should you, noble reader, encounter a web series worth checking out, please send me the link.

Marvel Posts New Trailer for Amazing Spider-Man #638

18 Oct

Who says trailers are just for movies?  Marvel has released a trailer for the new upcoming Amazing Spider-Man #638.  It basically takes a motion comics approach in trying to capture the viewer’s attention.  I haven’t been keeping up on the Spider-Man books very much lately, but it looks like they might be kicking the story off into a new direction.  A trailer like this might attract eyeballs and bring in some new readers.  I definitely grabbed my attention.  What do you think?

New York Comic Con Rolls out the Trailers

17 Oct

 

NYCC Founder Greg Topalian Introducing Trailers

 

This year’s New York Comic Con features a mix of upcoming movie trailers, bringing a mix of cheers, yawns, and the occasional sideways glance.

First up is an extended trailer for The Green Hornet.  I know reaction is mixed to this film.  The criticisms are many:  nobody wants to see a skinny Seth Rogen being all action-hero; they’re turning The Green Hornet into a spoof; the studio is using 3-D as a band-aid for a bad film.  Whatever…I still want to see it.  There isn’t a ton of new stuff in this trailer:  we meet a ne’er-do-well who takes action when his father is murdered and pairs up with Kato, his father’s mechanic/martial arts expert.  We see a little more of the action and we get a sense of some of the 3-D effects we might encounter.  They clearly want people to see this as a “buddy action-comedy”, in the vein of Lethal Weapon or those Chris Tucker/Jackie Chan movies or Owen Wilson/Jackie Chan movies or …oh, you get the idea… If you weren’t diggin’ the Hornet before this trailer, I doubt this one would do anything to change your mind.  If, however, you like trailers that preach to the choir, then this one is right up your alley. Continue reading