Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Horror Film Roundup

Every year I try and do a week-long run up to Halloween where I spotlight and talk about some of my favourite horror movies. Since I'm coming in a little late this year, and seeing as I've been watching a lot of horror movies in the last few months, I decided I would make a list of those movies and post clips (via YouTube) for your viewing pleasure.

To start off with, I've just finished watching George A. Romero's Martin, a strange little vampire picture that is more of a mood piece than a senses-shattering shocker. Similar in pacing to Night of the Living dead, I think. Slow and atmospheric.

Anyway, here's the trailer:

Dark Water I sort of came to by accident but I'm glad I did. Proper moody ghost stories are in short supply these days and to see one executed this well and taking itself seriously made me happy. The cast is top notch with Jennifer Connelly putting in a great performance as the haunted mother, Dougray Scott playing her estranged husband and Pete Postlethwaite as the creepy superintendant. It may be dark and a little oppressive, but it's not gory and it's not torture porn so it's the kind of movie you could show to a group of people who may not be big on horror movies and still keep them as friends.

Here's a scene from the movie:

Clive Barker's Hellraiser was a movie that really left an impression on me when I was younger, but it wasn't what I would call a great one. While I would never forget its blood, its visual design or its crazy looking Cenobites, I always remembered it as being a little over the top. Watching it again, recently, I've changed my opinion of it somewhat. Sure it's over the top, but it's meant to be that way. Barker weaves this twisted love story that is very operatic which is evidenced in the design and the music of the film. It's bombastic, not moody, and coupled with some great performances by the cast it makes for a classic horror flick that I'll be sure to revisit before the next Halloween rolls around.

Here's the opening scene of the movie:

Pulse, like Dark Water started life as a Japanese horror film that was adapted for an American audience. Kristen Bell (known around Jozic HQ as Veronica Mars) was the main draw but the movie turned out better than I expected it to be. Another non-gory mood piece that does, sometimes, slip into 'teen horror flick' territory but manages to hold itself up on the strength of its visuals, its cast and it doesn't have a bad story.

This clip is a bit longer than the rest:

The next two movies are both classic Werewolf movies. The Howling and An American Werewolf in London both made it into my DVD player earlier this month and it had been a while since I had seen either of them so it was a bit of a treat. Both movies hold up after many, many years, and are both funny and scary in equal measure. Different flavours to each one but when you have Landis and Dante at the top of their games, it's hard to go wrong.

Both of these clips are the famous in-camera transformation scenes from each movie. First clip is from The Howling with effects by Rob Bottin:

And American Werewolf with effects by Rick Baker:

I found Resident Evil: Apocalypse for a bargain so I picked it up. I liked the first one for what it was and, although I'd heard terrible things about #2, I figured I would try it out. Turns out it was better than I thought it was but still wasn't good enough to top the first (which should have been no mean feat) despite opening the story and environment up to reflect more of the game elements. It gets better with further viewings, but you kind of have to want to watch it again for that to happen which, I'm told, most people don't.

Oh, well, here's the trailer:

Last on the list is Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors. The third in the series and the second of the Craven written ones (although his script got a serious once-over on this one), Dream Warriors features the return of Nancy to the series and a group of teens who are willing to track Freddy back to the dreamworld where their imaginations give them powers with which they hope to combat and destroy him. Not a bad concept, not a bad film. It's a fun popcorn slasher flick if ever there was one.

Here's the opening scene of the movie:

I haven't quite made it to the 10 I was aiming for, but if I count the 'getting to them' discs, that will flesh it out perfectly. So, while I haven't watched them just yet, I have Evil Dead (the original) and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (I know, I know, but I haven't seen it in years and I found it for a couple of dollars in a bargain bin) sitting on my desk and I plan to watch those in the next 24 hours.

So, with that, Happy Halloween, folks. Have a great October 31st!


"My City Screams"

Further proof that The Spirit movie will likely be terrible.

"This is not a tribute to Will Eisner, this is a tribute to The Spirit!"


I'm all for being proven wrong, but there's only so far I can go with all the scenes, interviews and trailers that have been released.

Does anybody think this will be okay?


Monday, October 27, 2008

Hey Kids, Comics! For 10/29/08

Another pull-list for the week. The legend, as always, is as follows:

Bold is what I will grab for sure.
Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.
Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricy to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #575 (Bachallo's back, baby)

HELLBOY IN THE CHAPEL OF MOLOCH ONE SHOT (99.999% of the time, Hellboy is just a no-brainer)

LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #47 (basically spinning wheels until the reboot)

X-MEN FIRST CLASS GIANT SIZE SPECIAL #1 (Parker and crew always deliver good fun in First Class)

That's all she wrote, folks. Have a great Wednesday at your LCS!



Friday, October 24, 2008

Believe It, Or Not

I have a long history of shaking my head at the CW's (previously the WB's) super-hero teen soap, Smallville, but despite giving up on the show in its third season I still kept up with it in the off-chance that it might pull itself out of soap-opera hell and return to some semblance of watchability. I think I finally gave up in the middle of season 6 after enduring things like the coming of Lois Lane, Lana becoming a mystical avatar for Jane Seymour who happens to be her boyfriends mom and a witch, the on-and-off-and-on-and-off-and-on again relationship dance of Clark and Lana, seeing Lana eventually hook up with Lex, seeing a junior Justice League form, and Lana's pregnancy to name the ones I can remember off the top of my head. As far as I was concerned, I was done with the show, even as a guilty almost pleasure. And hearing that Supergirl joined up in season 7 had me thinking I made the right choice.

So, why am I posting about Smallville now?

The other night, I watched Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut for the audio commentary and it got me in a Superman sort of mood. I thought about it for a bit and decided that I was going to track down which episode I left off with and, at the very least, finish off season 6 for better or for worse.I thought I would take it on an episode-by-episode basis and after the first major irritation I would just pack it up and be done. If the hankering ever hit me again, I'd pop in the old Adventures of Superman with George Reeves or Lois & Clark for my fix.

Turns out that episode 14, "Trespass", was the next on the list so I threw it on hoping I didn't regret the decision. The plot revolved around a stalker following Lana around and continued developing the politics and relationships between the main cast members until the stalker's identity is revealed and Clark, as usual, saves the day. Surprisingly, this was a decent episode even though every fabric of my being is opposed to the Lana/Lex pairing (not that I ever wanted her with Clark, I just think the other two are wrong on so many levels), the pregnancy, and Clark still being hung up on her. I think what ultimately saved this one, though, was the fact that it was Clark and Chloe playing detective and not having to deal with a lot of super-soap-operaish stuff. It made me think that this is what I would have liked more season 1 & 2 episodes to be like. Chloe should have learned Clark's secret loooong ago, I'm telling you.

The lack of Erica Durance as Lois (one of the most awkwardly shoehorned characters into the show from her debut onward) probably helped, too.

That episode was followed by "Freak", then "Promise" and "Combat" (which I just finished today) and I have to say, I'm still enjoying them. Every one of these last handfuls of episodes heavily feature the Clark/Chloe dynamic, are light on co-stars, are a mixture of genres and we get to see Tom Welling portray more than one emotion (I love Lana so much...sob) and it works for both him and the character. Lana has gotten downright medieval (and not in a Jane Seymour witchy sort of way), Lex is acting like Lex Luthor should be acting (duplicitous, powerful, calculated, prone to rages), Oliver Queen is mentioned but never seen and Lois makes only one appearance in all four shows. Not a bad formula, as far as I'm concerned.

There are four or five episodes left to the season so I'm likely to finish it. I'll probably come back on and give an post-season wrap-up report, see if I lasted through to the end or if Gough and Millar finally take me over the edge and I gouge my eyes out.



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm a Sad Robot No More, Thanks to Jeff Parker (Sort Of)

I'm browsing around over at Jeff Parker's website and after catching up on his recent posts and making a comment I found my attention drawn towards an item located on the top menu bar. Sitting there next to his Wiki and RSS links was the word "Periscope" which, at the time, seemed out of place and felt somewhat submarine related. So, like the proverbial cat I clicked through to discover that "Periscope" was, in fact, a link to the blog of Parker's studio whose name had been changed from Mercury a while ago (something I actually knew and somehow forgot) and was neither mysterious nor submarine related.

Browsing around the Periscope site I scrolled down and stumbled across a post from the beginning of October titled "Band adopts Boilerplate as mascot for North American tour". The post discusses how Paul Guinan's Victorian robot, Boilerplate, has been adopted by an indie Toronto band for their upcoming NorthAm tour. Very cool, I think to myself. Boilerplate has always been a visually interesting character and the cover for the EP, titled Sad Robot, looks great with Boilerplate and Lily Campion looking out at the Machinery Hall of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. And, hey, there's the band name in the upper left hand corner; Stars.


What the hell?! I wish there was an emoticon for 'startled-bug-eyed-double-take' because I could probably find a use for it right now. Man, I had no idea that one of my all-time favourite bands had released any new music post-In Our Bedroom After the War, Stars' last full length effort. What rock have I been hiding under? Now we have five brand new songs and an unreleased live track? This is freakin' sweet news.

Investigating it further I note that the EP had actually been released way back in September. Huh? On the first of September, no less, a mere week before my birthday. I ask again, how did I miss this? It pretty much goes without saying that it would have been a real treat to have some new Stars music to celebrate my 3-5.


I actually subscribe to the Arts&Crafts.Inform newsletter but I'm guessing it probably was sent to my other e-mail account, the one direct from my service provider. An account which I haven't had access to since the middle of August, unfortunately, due to a work-related computer switcheroo and haven't bothered checking in on since because I'm pretty much a Gmail user these days. That'll learn me.

Yup, looking through the backlog of old e-mails there are definitely a couple of notices from A&C. Tour dates, contests, information.


Oh well, at least I know about it now.

So, further down the rabbit hole I went, linking through to the Stars official Sad Robot page featuring a nicely designed animated image/blueprint of Boilerplate's various pieces with an embedded audio player in his heart. The player streams clips of all the tracks on a constant loop and, of the six, it's "A Thread Cut With a Carving Knife" and "Undertow" that really stand out for me. A return, I think, to the romantic melodrama that I haven't heard so fully since their first full-length album, Nightsongs, and their sophomore effort, Heart, the album that first got me hooked.

Now, if the music moves you as it has me, I encourage you to click through to the store (as I have) and purchase the EP. It's a decent primer for the uninitiated and, really, the whole thing only sets you back $4 for the digital download. How can you possibly go wrong with this stuff?

There's also some really cool exclusive merch available for fans of either the band or Boilerplate. There are some cool T-Shirts and I love the tour poster, but I was probably most impressed by the chain and pendant they had made featuring Boilerplate in all his glory with a little plaque featuring the Stars logo, circa Bedroom.

Also, if your curiosity has been sufficiently piqued, check out Paul Guinan's site where he has some pictures of the album art, various bits of merch, concert pics and images from the Stars show after party. There's also a blurb at the bottom from Amy Millan explaining how the two ended up collaborating on this project.

For more info on Stars, hit their website (duh).

For more info on Boilerplate, check this link out.

And, lastly, Jeff, you had virtually nothing to do with this but had I not been cruising your blog I don't know how long it would have been before I figured this out. If it was any other band I probably wouldn't have bothered with the post and all the gushing, but it's Stars and I don't respond to their stuff on a very intellectual level.

So, thanks.



Hey Kids, Comics! for 10/22/08

I haven't done one of these in a while but I've been reading a lot of comics and trades lately so I wanted to get 'back-in-the-saddle', as it were. Like last time the legend is as follows:

Bold is what I will grab for sure.
Italics mean it's something I want, but won't necessarily pick it up right away.
Regular text indicates something that has caught my eye but is either too pricy to be reasonable, or I would only pick up as an impulse buy.


That's all she wrote, folks. Have a great Wednesday at your LCS!



Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Late to the Game as Usual

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usBased on a sort-of recommendation I got through Rob Williams' blog I decided to give Captain Britain and MI:13 (a series that, until now, I have almost completely ignored) the ol' college try. I had seen the wonderful Bryan Hitch covers on the shelf and peeked at the artwork of Leonard Kirk (which I thought was quite good) but not knowing anything about the writer, Paul Cornell, I just passed on the thing expecting it to be no better than previous attempts to keep this character around and operating in the Marvel U. To my surprise (and to Cornell and Kirk's credit), however, I found that I really quite enjoyed it.

Considering my track record, I think it's typical of me to have initially ignored this series when it first hit the shelves (I can't tell you how many times I've caught on to a good title late - and even sometimes too late - in the game). In addition to my general unfamiliarity with the project and it's writer, I also had trouble sussing out what the point of this book was? What purpose did it serve for Marvel other than keeping Captain Britain around even though there were a number of recently failed series behind him? The Secret Invasion tie-in was just as likely to turn people like me away as it was to attract their attentions. With comic book funds at a low, experimenting on a book that I couldn't bring myself to care about was just not a consideration.

And look at me now, shouting out into the blogosphere after reading only two issues that I'm a total convert and ready to evangelize on its behalf. I think it's just so uncommon for me, these days, to find a book within one of the established super-hero universes that I can enjoy purely on the creative team's overall talent at telling good, interesting stories.

Part of my conversion has to do with just how much I love Leonard Kirk's work on the book. Leonard is rarely a let down and his Agents of Atlas work was some of the best coming out from any company at the time of that series' release. It reminds me, in spirit, of the old Alan Davis and Bryan Hitch days of Cap in his own title or either of their work on Excalibur. The layouts are easy on the eyes, his linework is clean and expressive, and his ability to show everything from drama to comedy in his characters is top-notch.

I should also point out how very pleased I am with the writing of Paul Cornell. He has taken a group of characters that haven't been very compelling (or even made much sense) since Davis left Excalibur the second time (with the exception of Wisdom who wasn't present at the time), and he's made them genuinely interesting. The dialogue is crisp and feels natural, the story has the definite feeling of going somewhere rather than padding things out for the eventual trade collection, and his collaboration with Kirk appears effortless. These guys appear to be pretty much in sync.

Looking at how my pull-list has been shrinking these days (I'm sure I've lost a half-dozen titles in as many months, mostly Marvel and DC books) it's a nice feeling to be able to find a diamond in the rough like CBaMI:13. Now, if issues three and four turn out to be just as entertaining as the first two, consider me on board for the long haul.

Thank you Cornell and Kirk.



Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Indiana Jones Comic Book Revue#3

All books are rated on a 0 to 5 Fedoras system.

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #4
(Marvel Comics Group)

Written by: David Michelinie
Pencilled by: Ron Frenz
Inked by: Danny Bulandi
Cover by: Ron Frenz & Mike Gustovich

"Running's good for ya! Sometimes it keeps ya alive!"

Dateline 1936

"Gateway to Infinity!" kicks off with our intrepid hero airborn and on his way to London. His purpose there is to assist with a very important translation job relating to an artifact found in one of the Stonehenge blocks. In a scene reminiscent of the Lao Che Air Freight incident from Temple of Doom, Indy runs afoul of the Germans whose interest in the artifact leaves Dr. Jones, once again, a Nazi target. After taking a dip into the English Channel, Indy gets picked up by a Navy patrol boat and manages to keep his date with British intelligence.

Once there, he is introduced to Professor Karen Mays, the woman who he will be working with on the project. Mays is, like so many women in Indy's romantic life (at least in the expanded universe), a redhead and is also their top expert on ancient languages. Indy takes a shine to Mays and turns on the charm, convincing her to go out for dinner with him where the Nazis take another crack at eliminating the good doctor. Failing to poison him through his soup as Indy sees through the ruse, Jones and Mays leave the restaurant and spend the next few days translating the artifact.

Turns out the crystal's markings were carved by a civilization that pre-dated man on this Earth and claims that 'they' will return when needed. 'Their' return just happens to coincide, astrologically, with "midnight tonight", according to Mays and the two set off to meet the would be visitors, but not before being attacked, yet again, by the Nazis who are desperate to be the first to meet these creatures. A chase ensues throughout London and the cliffhanger ending leaves Indy and Mays trapped in a Rolls sedan and going off one of London's many bridges. The next issue blurb reads, "What Lurks at Stonehenge? (And Will Indy Live Long Enough To Find Out?)"

I know the recap sounds a little dull, but "Gateway" is a surprisingly entertaining issue. The characterization of Indiana Jones by David Michelinie is, in hindsight, not perfect, but when you consider he was basing everything on Raiders and what he knew of the pulp/serials heroes of the period that influenced Indy's creators, he does a commendable job. Indy has a bit of that Raiders smarminess when dealing with people he doesn't like very much and shows tremendous ingenuity in getting out of a scrape. I like how things move along quickly in the story which keeps the energy up and doesn't let it get too bogged down in the otherworldly creature storyline that drives the A plot. I think, even at this stage of the game, if they tried to intellectualize an alien story, the whole thing would have just fallen apart.

I should also give kudos to Ron Frenz, new artist in residence, who shows that he can take Michelinie's story and turn it into a fun, well-paced read. I've always kind of liked Frenz' earlier work (which can also be seen in some great Amazing Spider-Man issues not long after this) and he is a welcome addition to this series. He also does a good job of capturing the period and injecting some stylistic flourishes that give the whole thing an old adventure strip sort of feel.

I should note for fans of the expanded universe (meaning Young Indy, the novels and comics) it's kind of neat that Indy was sent on a translation job since that was his specialty when he was younger and it's not something that gets mentioned much in the films (he does a lot of reading and translating, but his aptitude for it is rarely brought to anyone's attention). While Dr. Jones is, indeed, an archaeologist, he is first and foremost an expert at languages, modern and ancient. That he was brought in for expressly that purpose (something Michelinie couldn't have possibly foreseen at this stage of the game) is a nice little added plus to the proceedings.

A good effort overall, although I'll admit that I'm dreading the extra-dimensional beings that are going to materialize through Stonehenge in the next issue. I can't see anything good coming of that. Still, it was better than the last issue but not quite as good as Byrne's so I'm going to go with a three fedora salute this time around. Until next time...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Clone Thoughts

I just finished watching the feature film and the first two episodes of the brand-spanking-new Clone Wars animated series and, I must say, I am very much impressed. More by the show than the film, really, but when you think of my biggest complaints with the prequel trilogy being the fact that we did not spend enough time with Anakin to give a rat's ass about his fall, this whole endeavour is just a godsend, you know? All we saw were the whingy bits with Anakin pining away for Padmé and none of the bonding with Obi-Wan, or the heroic efforts he made during the Clone Wars to rate 'potentially greatest Jedi ever', so having the opportunity to go back and spend some time with the guy is something I'm looking forward to.

So far, the show has just about everything I would have expected or wanted from this particular material covering the time period between Episode 2 and 3 of the Star Wars saga. The feature was paced in such a way that we spent a LOT of time watching battle scenes interrupted briefly by characters moving location to engage in more battles (which is a funny thing to complain about when you're talking about a war movie) so it's not my favourite of the two projects but I can say with some conviction that I'll be watching it again soon (and with any luck on Blu-Ray in the very near future). The half-hour series, however, is pretty exceptional and I hope it has a long life on the network because I think they might be able to save Episodes II and III from themselves if they do a good job on the character writing.

Anyway, I just wanted to chime in and give a happy thumbs up to the show and encourage those who have not checked it out to go and do so. You can watch them for free on the official Star Wars site and on Cartoon Network's site.



Friday, October 03, 2008

The Most Dangerous Game

I ran across this video while visiting John Rogers' Kung-Fu Monkey and I just had to stick it on the blog for two reasons: this happens to be me and my cat's favourite game (usually played around the corners going up/down the steps) and I don't really have a longer, more captivating post to offer y'all.

In my defense, I was helping out installing a bathroom window on my second floor today, if that counts for anything.

Anyway, enjoy the Ninja cat.