Archer and Armstrong 1-4

Pendant Production’s audio drama adaptation of Valiant Comics’ series, Archer and Armstrong is both for the fans and a wild ride in general for everyone else. The four episode arc titled “The Michelangelo Code” is filled with humorous gags such as ninja nuns and a secret order of nazis with a ridiculous name. If you’re getting a Dixie Stenberg vibe, you’re not alone.

If you’re fan of the comic, you’ll no doubt enjoy this. If you have no idea who Archer and Armstrong are, you’re at a slight disadvantage. It’s like watching Avengers: Age of Ultron and not seeing the phase two films leading up to it. You’ll understand the main plot, but almost half of the characters will be unknown. Even more so if you haven’t read or know about the source material. Archer and Armstrong lies somewhere in between the DC Extended Universe and the Marvel Cinematic one, but much closer to Marvel in terms of tone.

The creativity and attention to detail in the production and sound scape alone were incredible. The moments where Archer is explaining the fighting style he’s about to use on someone were pure gold and felt right out of a comic book. Its execution played out like the first fight scene in the 2008 Sherlock Holmes film, starring Robert Downey Jr., making the listener go wow that was fun and cool. Something which is lacking in entertainment these days.

4.5/5 Stars

Archer and Armstrong is available for purchase on Amazon/Audible and iTunes.

Phantom Canyon

Phantom Canyon succeeds in being horror. A horror-western is a bit of a stretch. Yes, the story is set in the old west, but I felt this was a much better horror piece than it was a western. That’s all good, because those two genres almost never work well together. I’d pin this audio drama at 75% horror, 25% western.

How good of a horror is this? I slept with the lights on for a few hours after listening to it. Horror films don’t scare me. It’s only after they’re done that my mind begins to play tricks on me. Phantom Canyon had that same effect.

The actors and actresses did a great job of bringing life to their characters. That, combined with the fantastic production value, made for a truly immersive story. Without any spoilers, the final scene succeeds in achieving the want for a sequel without promising there will be one. Such a balance is hard to get right.

Aside from the tiny genre complaint, there’s not really much to criticize this for. As Pendant’s first “Prestige” show they did a bang-up job and was worth the small amount of money that was shelled out to get it.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

Tabula Rasa Season One

One of Pendant Productions’ newer podcasts, “Tabula Rasa” has all the audible stylings that make Pendant shows great. The show was written and created by Jack Calk and directed by Anna Rodriguez and they are a force to be reckoned with. The premise of the story is short, sweet, and to the point—but not overused that it’s a cliche: a woman has no memory of who she is and has the uncanny ability to predict danger. Sounds like an interesting supernatural mystery, right? For example, how can she know the things she knows just in the first two episodes alone?

Most is explained, but a few loose ends are left hanging for future seasons. Perhaps a bit too much. Jack Calk never explicitly says how she knew about some of the dangers. It’s sort of implied by the characters and the situation that, yes, there is an explanation and here it is…maybe. That’s the thing. Since there is not a definitive answer given by the characters, one can’t know for sure—at least not now. It’s the perfect blend of ambiguity and concreteness. It kept me on my toes.

Listening to the first season more than once will enhance the experience for the listener. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy it on the first try. Perhaps if I’d listened to it while it was being aired, instead of the whole season all at once, this review may have been different. It’s impossible to know. But knowing the ending of the first season and then going back and listening to it again gave me a much better understanding of what was going on—which, I admit, was a big problem for me on the first listen. The episode before the season finale made me want to go back and listen to the entire thing, once I finished the next episode. That could be a problem for some people who expect a powerful opening.

If there’s one complaint I have it’s that the final episode doesn’t feel like a season finale. It ends on such a big cliffhanger and so many problems are created, rather than resolved. In fact, most of the the revelations and closure scenes happen in the episode before. It’s an interesting choice to structure the season like that. Kind of like what “The Kingery” did when they opened up a season with a certain character’s death, rather than at the end of the previous season. I know it’s a serialized story, but the way it came to a sudden halt was a bit of a letdown. Some more closure would have been nice. That or a longer season. Ten episodes didn’t feel like a whole lot of content. Again, that’s probably due to my listening to it over the weekend rather than one episode per month.

Other than the finale, the first season “Tabula Rasa” is a wonderful addition to Pendant Audio’s collection and promises to be so much more in the coming seasons. With a company like Pendant, there’s no doubt that they’ll make good on that promise and entertain the masses with a wonderful story, acting, and sound effects as the series progresses.

The Line: Angelus Arc (Part 3)

A brief subplot that introduces a new conflict that will sadly never be answered. Of course I’m referring to the meeting of the angels and their plan.

It’s very interesting, dark, and mysterious. It borderlines on confusion, for me, because I have yet to listen to the entire series in order. I was given a short role in episode 10 of arc 1. Then, in the second arc, I got another role—also in the tenth episode. Conspiracy theories aside, I feel the need to mention this useless piece of information, because it justifies the reason why I haven’t listened to the series from start to finish. And I use the term “justifies” very loosely. I knew how it was going to end (for the most part) before the final episode aired. Such is the way of a company like Pendant Productions. Organized and on-time.

Just to clarify, I have listened to all the episodes—I think. I just listened out of order, because I lost my place several times and might have accidentally skipped a few. I think I know why people dislike Itunes. I’ve never had a problem until all my podcast downloads got deleted. The story blended together so well that I couldn’t recall what episode had which plot point. As someone who enjoys movies, it’s very hard for me to watch one without breaking it down into beats. I can almost always say when the act transitions occur, even when first seeing the movie.

The fact that it’s hard for me to pinpoint the story beats in The Line further proves my point that this audio drama is like an independent film. Hollywood is notorious for having screenplays break down in very specific ways. In terms of a two hour movie: On page 10-11, x happens. On page 60 is the low point. Page 90…you get the idea. Structure seems to be king in Hollywood.

Again, not much to talk about in terms of story. I just hope my ramblings are enough to keep people interested.

Seminar 41: “The Burrower”

This seminar short won two pendy’s in the seminar category over at pendant productions. And, it goes with saying, it deserves the award. I haven’t laughed so hard in a seminar short since the “Detective Mac” storyline. A lot of shorts this past year have been kind of dark and sometimes depressing to listen to; Bed 667 from Seminar 37 is a prime example. It was nice to relax a bit with this nice little villain origin story. Even though the concept may sound cliche, the closest thing in recent memory that comes close to being categorized as an origin story for a villain is Dr. Horrible. Other than that movie, I can’t think of any more examples of a villain origin story where the hero isn’t the main focus.

In this story the hero of Hugeopolis, Uberdude, plays secondary to The Burrower. Frank uses the same trump card twice to get Uberdude off his back. Frank is one of those characters that you love to hate. Sterling Archer from the FX television series, Archer, is a recent character in popular culture where you laugh at the jokes, but you have to admit the character himself is kind of a jerk.

I feel a need to mention the actor who played Frank, Jack Calk, as I was the one to cast him in that role – back when I was still directing Seminar. When Jack won the pendy for best actor/actress in a seminar short (This exact one), I felt a sense of pride… or maybe that was my ego showing? Probably the latter.

Pendant Kickstarter Campaign

Probably all my subscribers know about the kickstarter campaign for Pendant Production’s Dixie mini-comic, but for those who may not be, the link is below.

Let’s help make this a reality!

 

Campaign against the Nazis here

The Line episode 2: “Fides, part 2”

Episode two of the line hooked me more than the first episode. It felt like the first two episodes went together and maybe during the script editing phase it was, but the way the first episode ended made me feel unsatisfied and this felt like it should’ve been part of it. But, then it would be over an hour long and most people I know don’t have that kind of time to kill. So in that retrospect, I think it was a good decision to split them up. I would’ve just chosen a different place to cut the episode that made me want to keep listening and not feel like one of those stories that goes like: “She opened the door and she saw…” It doesn’t do that, but it walks the line very carefully (The Line pun intended).

And of course you can’t have a show about religion without having a natural selection vs creationist battle. Well, if you can count a school board meeting as a battle? Joe is probably my favorite character in the show, because in high school I was in the kid who would bash creationism simply because they bashed evolution first. And that is debatable and it really depends on your perspective. Luckily this isn’t www.bibledramareviews.wordpress.com (which I’m sure actually exists, but am too lazy to look it up).

I know Joe doesn’t bash it for the same reason as I do. His reason is more how I view the issue today, though with some differences. In addition to Joe we have another character, Kitty Shadow (played by Genesis Avalon creator, Kathryn Pryde), who embodies the “suicide is a sin” archetype. And I know that’s probably not an archetype, but in the case of this show there are many modern christian archetypal characters that go against the christian belief such as the evolutionist, suicidal person, the homosexual man, woman or transgendered person are just to name a few.

Which is actually why, after restarting this series from scratch, I enjoy this show. It’ kind of an audio version of the bible for the modern age. I mean let’s face it, if the people that the church thinks are going to hell are actually the good guys and the members church are the bad guys, then it really makes you think and I enjoy and respect shows that do that.

The Line Episode 1: “Fides, part 1”

The first episode of The Line is one of those episodes where not much happens until the very end and the episode ends on a cliffhanger. Typical thriller genre behavior, but the tone of the episode is sort of like an art house film. The opening scene is one that invoked a sense of horror, with Colin Kelly at the center of that scene playing the pendy award winning demon character. That whisper by itself is creepy on its own, but when put into context it just took it up another level for me.

The cliffhanger is that a lead character, at least I assume it’s a lead character seeing as she had the most lines, dies. That being said I didn’t really feel for her death and I mean who would, you’ve only had one episode to get to know her and I didn’t really have that much empathy for her. I assume the writer, Chris Brittain, is going for the redemption character arc and starting with an unlikable character. Even though she is unlikable, she does have qualities that I can relate too. If they weren’t present in the character then I wouldn’t be tempted to listen on at all.

In fact, when this episode first premiered at Pendant Audio I only half listened to the episode. And this is one of those shows where you can’t do that or you’ll miss key points or you’ll just consider it boring and dull. In my case however, I was just scared, like on the verge of having nightmares scared. So, after about the third or fourth episode I stopped listening to regain my sanity. But more on that once we get to those particular episodes.

Red Sands Investigations

My first listen of this four part series was on the high quality mp3 files off of Pendant Production’s CDbaby account. I have to say that I enjoyed it. It gives a sort of China Town feeling at the beginning and then goes into the not so used elements of film noir. It steers away from the typical film noir character troupes and focuses on the grittiness and feel of a film noir movie. It wasn’t even a neo-noir experience as those films generally have at least one of those character types and  all three are usually present in the movie.

"The Tin Thomas"The story itself is quite original, despite the multitude of old and new radio detective stories out there. I was totally digging Marleigh Norton in a lead role that really brought her talents as an actress to the forefront for me. I’ve heard and liked her on other Pendant shows. However, this really brought it home for me. The writer/director, Fiona Thraille has a way with making the character’s personality and mannerisms unique and different. A single word like “chicken” adds a natural personality to a character and the voice acting just takes it up an entire gallon of awesomesauce."The End of the Pier Show"

I was kind of expecting Pete Milan to do the voice of mob boss, Victor Treskillin. After all, he does a fine job in The Kingery as Tommy Arkell. What I wasn’t expecting was that he would have a british accent. It totally gave me chills when I heard him speak the first time. There is also a reveal that blends voice over narration and the story together seamlessly in a way that you weren’t expecting. In fact I wasn’t expecting it at all, but the way it’s pulled off is quite rewarding. Giving it a second listen I picked up on the clues and enjoyed it even more.

This is the kind of story where you get something new every time you listen. Which, I imagine, is much easier to do in a visual medium than an aural one.