Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The House of the Devil

First off, sorry about the break in posts this week. If it's any consolation I've been catching up on some movies I missed in recent years: Terminator Salvation, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and The House of the Devil. In all, it's been a pretty frustrating week of movies.

Terminator Salvation had everything it needed to work and still managed to fail miserably. It was almost an experiment in anticlimax, with each scene building without anything resembling tension or a payoff. It was a nice looking movie (though more sunny than I would have imagined a post-apocalyptic world would look) with a great cast, and even sprinkled in a lot of novel ideas. None of those ideas ever blossomed into anything more than just ideas, though.

Bad Lieutenant was equally frustrating. Not only did it not have a payoff, but it never seemed to be heading anywhere. The film just meandered from scene to scene, buoyed by nothing more than an OK Nick Cage performance. For a movie that was supposed to be bugnuts crazy, his performance in Ghost Rider was more unsettling. And fun.

Which brings me to The House of the Devil, a film I just finished watching a few minutes ago. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know I'm no fan of summarizing  movie plots, so let me post a trailer in case you need to catch up.


The House of the Devil rubbed me the wrong way from the movie's first frames. More than 70% of Americans believed in the existence of Satanic cults in the 1980s, the movie warns in an opening scroll. As someone who grew up during the stupid "SATAN'S COMING FOR YOUR BABIES" bullshit of the '70s and '80s, I found the opening scroll to be a reminder of the kind of ignorance I'd thought we put behind us. I'm sure the majority of folks in 1492 believed the world to be flat, but that doesn't make it fucking true. Was I going to need a tinfoil hat to appreciate this movie?

By the time the credits began to roll I came to the conclusion that The House of the Devil was going to be nothing more than nostalgia fetish. It looked less like a love letter to horror movies of the 1980s than a love letter to Quentin Tarantino's fascination with dated cinematic styles. After watching the movie I still didn't have a real grasp on when it was supposed to take place ... I guess it was the 1980s (a song by The Fixx was a tip off, as was the walkman that actress Jocelin Donahue awkwardly handles like a piece of alien technology) but it's really just a collection of things that scream OLD! For example, here's the title card, which looks like something from a 1970s TV movie:

There wasn't much care put into the selection of clothes and haircuts, which are all just non-specifically bad. The women are all saddled with Farrah hair years after the fashion had passed, and the few men in the film ... well, check out the screencap to your right of an '80s TV anchorman wearing a wig that would look fake at a Rocky Horror screening.

The few period songs used in the movie don't serve any purpose beyond reminding the audience that the movie is set in the '80s. And why was the movie set in the 1980s? I have no idea. This movie had less to do with '80s horror (which only needed some nudity, a minor body count and a masked killer) than it did the proto-slasher films of Bob Clark and John Carpenter, not to mention the TV movies of Dan Curtis.

The House of the Devil is also erratically paced and has absolutely no forward momentum. When there's a shock in the movie it's usually surprising only because SOMETHING ACTUALLY HAPPENED (which is one way to create suspense, I guess.) None of the characters are asked to do much more than appear on screen and talk. The audience is never given an idea of who the badguys are or what they want, though you can make an educated guess during the final minutes of the film. And no offense to director Ti West, but I don't need to actually watch his movie in order to make guesses about a movie's plot. I can do that without his help.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Star Fleet Academy Class Ring

You know, I never got a class ring in high school. At the time I just wanted my diploma and to get the hell out. Wearing a reminder of those four years of hell wasn't exactly high on my list of priorities. (This attitude carried over to my college experience. When you're shoveling out tens of thousands of dollars for an education, is it too much to ask them to throw in a class ring for "free?")

Anyhoo, Quantum Mechanix is creating a Starfleet Academy Class Ring Replica and has a look at it (as well as a phaser replica from the recent film.)

Does my medical insurance cover this?

 $100 for 11 doctors! I wonder ... how long it will take someone to create a custom Father Brennan toy with the Patrick Troughton figure?

Who you gonna call? Not Bill Murrary, apparently ...

Bill Murray seems happy in his role as full-time speedbump in the road to Ghostbusters III.While part of me would love to see another movie, I've seen enough cinematic trips down memory lane in recent years to know they rarely ever work out. When Rambo is the best of the bunch you know there's a problem.

Murray recently called the idea of a Ghostbusters III "a crock" and told GQ:

"Harold Ramis said, Oh, I’ve got these guys, they write on The Office, and they’re really funny. They’re going to write the next Ghostbusters. And they had just written this movie that he had directed. Year One. Well, I never went to see Year One, but people who did, including other Ghostbusters, said it was one of the worst things they had ever seen in their lives. So that dream just vaporized. That was gone."

It looks to me like this project is DOA, and not just because of Murray's lack of interest. It appears that the creative elements of this movie are moving in a lot of different directions and aren't really communicating. And that's never a good sign when you're working on a collaborative project.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Here comes The Goon!

Despite having been founded by someone in the movie biz, Dark Horse Comics hasn't had the best track record in Hollywood. On one end of the spectrum are the murky accomplishments of Sin City and Hellboy. At the other are Barb Wire and Dr. Giggles.

So I wish them luck with the animated version of The Goon. I'm not sure that Eric Powell's visual style lends itself well to the current fashions of 3D computer animation (his style calls back to guys like Walt Disney and Vaughn Bode) but I wish them well. I'll certainly be in line opening weekend for this film ... assuming it gets an opening weekend (unlike The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.)

The first video from The Goon feature is below, courtesy of MTV.

A few words about Spider-Man

I'm not a big fan of comic book reviews. As a subculture, we're an opinionated lot ... and our opinions are frequently tainted by our misguided sense of ownership over these properties. Think about it: how many comic reviews have you read that began with an explanation of how long the writer has been reading the adventures of a particular character? It's as though buying a comicbook is the same as buying stock in a character. Some folks think reading a book for more than a decade gives them a controlling interest in it (the same goes for Star Wars fans.)

So I won't bore you with how long I've been reading Spider-Man comics because it's kind of irrelevant.

That being said, I returned to Spider-Man not too long ago after a lengthy break. I hadn't paid much attention to the character but thought Brand New Day was a good chance to get back in touch with Web Head. Some good writers and artists were attached to the new direction so I decided to give it a shot. It also helped that the three-times-a-month publishing schedule meant I wouldn't have to wait six months to read an entire story arc, which was nice.

I didn't read One More Day, the story which "launched" Spidey's new direction. But I got the gist of the story: Spider-Man makes a deal with Mephisto blah blah blah. Who gives a shit? One More Day could have been a story about a hamster deciding he really, really liked cabbage for all it mattered. It's only reason for existing was to justify the new direction for Spider-Man. The rest was all bullshit. Ever since Crisis on Infinite Earths DC and Marvel have had an obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to justifying every editorial decision with an "event" story arc. Batman gets a new costume? Let's do a 12-part story spread out over six different monthly titles to explain the wardrobe change! Want to replace Green Lantern? Let's cancel the title, print a mini-series "event," lead into a new series (and oh-so-important new #1) and spend the next year celebrating how "new" the new series is!

"Event" stories aren't really stories. They're business plans with fight scenes.

But I digress.

I've really enjoyed the new direction of the Amazing Spider-Man title. Even better, when there have been occasional stories I didn't like, I didn't have to wait long for them to end. With three issues a month the duds never lasted long.

Which is why I was so distressed by the recent Shed story. Spoilers ahead: the Lizard goes berzerk and murders his own son. It was so ridiculously "dark" that I thought it was a joke. It read like a parody of the "grim and gritty" stories of the 1990s and I kept waiting for some kind of reveal that cleared things up. It never came.

Next was the Grim Hunt story, and the title should have been a warning. Amazing Spider-Man has been building to this story for some time so I was a little let down to see the point was just more murder (this time of Madame Web and one of the many "Spider Woman" characters ... who is used as a human sacrifice.) The Heroic Age appears to be over before it even began.

What I've liked about the new direction of Amazing Spider-Man is that it's been a very character-driven series. Peter Parker has the best supporting cast he's had in 30 years and the book has been both challenging and lighthearted. So Shed and Grim Hunt came as a bit of an unwelcome, anticlimactic surprise. With the rise of single-issue comic prices I've been giving a lot of subscriptions the axe lately. I shouldn't have to wait too long to see if the bad old days of heavy handed melodrama have returned. If it has, me and Spidey might be parting ways again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Big Bang Big Boom

BIG BANG BIG BOOM - the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Stop-motion video of ....  I don't even know how to explain this. Just WATCH IT. NOW.

I need a bowl of Grape Hutts ... STAT!

And don't miss Raisin Han, Count Dookula, Troop Loops and Greed-Os here,

HeroesCon Booty:
Teenagers from Mars

We do a lot of wretched things just to get through the day. Civilization is a prison without bars, but its abstract (and often stupid) nature is no less confining because it lacks physical form. Try living for a week without money, law or the most basic of social etiquette and see what happens. The results are frequently fatal.

One of those "wretched things" we do to survive in our invisible prison is to participate in the lie that it doesn't exist. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, even though freedom and courage almost always fly in the face of domestic law. By its definition "civilization" demands  limits to all aspects of life. Those who ignore these rules are branded perverts, outlaws and terrorists - and treated accordingly.

I picked up Teenagers from Mars a few months back at the Charlotte, N.C., HeroesCon, from writer Rick Spears. I try to buy at least three indy books each year at the HeroesCon and stopped to talk to Spears after the title of this book caught my eye. I'm a big Misfits fan and asked him point-blank if the title was inspired by the band (he responded in the affirmative.) Flipping through the book I saw more punk iconography, zombie references and other imagery that hit me where I live. It occurred to me that a reader's relationship to comics is a lot different than our relationship to other media. You don't pick a novel up and flip randomly through it, and you don't start a movie at some arbitrary point to see if it catches your interest. But that's what I was doing with Spears' book ... and right in front of him, no less. It seemed a little rude of me.

But the title of the book had me hooked, so I bought it without knowing anything about it. Halfway through the trade I realized I STILL didn't know what it was about. In retrospect, Spears' signature on the inside of my book (seen to your left) was a big, big clue.

That's not to say that it's without plot, but Teenagers from Mars is one of those rare comics that lacks a high-concept narrative. There's no simple way to talk about the story of the book without dealing with its ending. It's a character-driven piece that inhabits a fairly real world (and if you miss the inspiration for the story's setting, just Google some of the names on the tombstones in the opening segment ... such as Armin Tamzarian.)
I'm going to skip the usual story summary (everything you need to know can be found at its Amazon listing or click here to watch a trailer.) Teenagers from Mars is a rich story, but I did take a few exceptions to the way its themes were expressed through occasionally thin characters. It's funny that the villains of Teenagers from Mars are presented like James Bond baddies (complete with eye patches and prosthetic limbs) but they seem a bit obvious in their J. Jonah Jameson-level hatred of youth, comics and individuality. And Madison - the story's uber-goth heroine - falls firmly into the category of manic pixie dream girl.

Still, so much of this story is archetypal to the experiences of comic fans. Anyone who's been reading comics for more than a year has heard tales of angry parents raising hell about comics bought by their kids (for me, it was the removal of Marvel's Hellstorm comics from the shelves at Homefield Advantage in Greenwood, S.C., after a parent complained.) It was also interesting to see that my experiences with punk rock, comics and vandalism weren't especially unique.

At its heart, Teenagers from Mars is about that struggle against society's invisible prison and its interchangeable collection of wardens - parents, supervisors, cops, government - and how their needs rarely ever align with your own. It's a love letter to comics fans and, in its own way, a pep talk for a segment of society that takes a disproportionate amount of shit. If you love comics you really need to check this book out.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Captain America has a question

From Thisisrabbit's ficker stream, A Doodle a Day,

Batman's Bad Guys

(And yes ... that appears to be King Tut in the bottom corner.)

A Star Wars Toy Story

Artist Otis Frampton (who probably got tired of hearing "Comes Alive" jokes by the time he was 12) posted this bit of art over at his homepage. I think it represents what Star Wars really means to most fans, especially to those of us who grew up in the days before home video was so freely available. In the days before Star Wars became an institution, most kids spent a lot more time playing with their toys than watching the movies (which you could see only in theaters.)

Follow this link to a video of Otis coloring this piece.

iPhone Star Trek app!

How do I get one of these for my Droid?

My car plays the Star Trek theme ... what's yours play?

One of the stupidest controversies concerning electric cars is that their engines aren't accompanied by the obnoxious sounds made by traditional combustion engines. As expected, the idiots in the mainstream media present any change -- no matter how positive -- as some radical deviation from the norm. You know ... a perversion.

Instead of touting all benefits from reducing the levels of noise pollution in the modern environment, we get stories about how people might get hit and killed while cross the street because they aren't accustomed to looking both ways before walking into traffic. If you want to know what the media thinks of their audience, look no further than this.

People get killed in traffic everyday without aid of electric cars. But that's just not sexy.

Want to know what is sexy? An electric motor that plays the theme to Doctor Who. Check out these "mobile ringtones."

 "The system is totally customisable either by territory or individual. You could have Star Trek sounds for the US market and Doctor Who for the UK.

"If you take it to its extreme it could be like ringtones for mobile phones. If someone wanted the sound of the car in the latest James Bond film, they could have that."

Heat Wave

The above video took two weeks to shoot and required "a lot of fire, A lot of smoke, a lot of heat, and a whole lot of frustration."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Batman Vs. Donkey Kong

The Brave and the Bold that never was (but should have been) by Dean Kotz.

Happy Birthday, Tron!

On this day in 1982, Disney's Tron was released. It was the first CGI-heavy motion picture from a major studio and was so ground breaking at the time that it failed to garner a special effects Oscar nomination. Apparently, the effects were considered have more in common with animation than traditional SFX. Oh, the irony.

Meanwhile, we've got 161 days until the release of the sequel, Tron Legacy.

The Expendables: Video Featurette

The first in a series of five featurettes for The Expendables, which opens in August. It's always a good sign for an action movie when it's promo materials contain R-rated material.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Have we still learned nothing from Kick-Ass?

This real-life superhero stuff is getting ridiculous ... but things will start to get really interesting when folks start dying. It's just a matter of time before one of these knuckleheads get stabbed by a crackhead.

Machete posters appearing online

There's an assortment of new art from Robert Rodriguez' upcoming Grindhouse sequel Machete, some of which are (gasp!) official. Chud has an exclusive look at the Robert DeNiro character poster, while Coming Soon posted a less-than-official pic of the Jessica Alba poster. JoBlo also got a character poster of Michelle Rodriquez. Follow the links in this post to find them.

The Case of the
Haunted Aquaman Doll

When it comes to the traffic at this site, I prefer to keep things confidential. Who you are and how you find me is really nobody's business, but I had a recent hit off some incredibly random keywords that I thought I'd share:

"Haunted Aquaman Doll."

 Yes, indeed ... someone found G33K4L1F3 while looking for something concerning a haunted toy depicting the King of Atlantis. I did a quick Google search and found nothing relevant to these key words, so I have NO idea what they were looking for.

Granted, I do have a post about an Ebay auction for a doll claimed to be haunted by a naughty spirit. I also have a few random posts mentioning Aquaman, so it's not unlikely that these different concepts could lead directly to my site. But seriously ... a haunted Aquaman doll? What's that about?

VIDEO: Beatles - Left 4 Dead

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that yesterday was the 70th birthday of the last surviving Beatle, Ringo Starr.

Daft Punk's TRON score coming in November

Looks like we'll get to hear the soundtrack to Tron Legacy a little earlier than expected. Daft Punk's music for the film is set to be released Nov. 23, according to Consequence of Sound ... putting it on the racks a month before the film's release. (Amazon already has the album ready for pre-order.)

Daft Punk's involvement with the film is one of the idea that first got me excited about returning to the world of Tron. When you let fan favorites stew over the course of multiple decades it's almost impossible to return to the well without disappointing just about everybody (The Godfather Part III, The Phantom Menace, Indiana Jones, etc.) When I saw DP were doing the music it became clear that the Tron sequel would probably be more than just lazy Hollywood nostalgia ... and that the new film had a shot at becoming something special in its own right. Time will tell if the movie comes together the way everybody hopes.

Nic Cage threatens us with more Ghost Rider

For the record, I kinda like Ghost Rider. That doesn't mean I think it' a good movie, because it's certainly isn't. In my mind, though, the movie's only real failing is not being dumb enough. This is a Bronze Age comic come to life, complete with obligatory fight scenes, unnecessary carnage and a fuck-it-let's-have-fun attitude. All that was really missing was a wall-to-wall soundtrack by Blue Oyster Cult, some gore and lots of gratuitous nudity and this movie would have been a black light masterpiece (instead of the glorified collection of video game cut scenes that it is.)

Above, Nicholas Cage expresses his enthusiasm to MTV news about returning to the spirit of vengeance.

The Daily Wire

Holy language barrier, Batman!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Dark Knight: The new Gold Standard for sequels

It wasn't that long ago that The Empire Strikes Back was the sequel to beat. But The Dark Knight managed to accomplish something that even The Best Star Wars Movie Ever(TM) failed to do: make more cash than it's predecessor. It was both a step-up in story and profit.

Which is why movie folks are so quick to namedrop TDK for just about every sequel in development. Bryan Burk, the producer of Star Trek II/XII (depending on how you count) said they're aiming for that most inaccessible of brass rings. This might be the first time in history that anybody has ever compared Star Trek to Batman. Burk said:

"We had a lot of conversations about Batman Begins and how that movie kind of re-invented that franchise, and we looked at what The Dark Knight did and how that really ramped it up and they went to a different place with that film, and how those two films keep re-inventing themselves and are not the same thing every time."

Which means two things: either Khan is coming back (which is unlikely but not impossible) or the Klingons will be the next Star Trek baddies. My money's on the latter.

Read the whole thing here.

Whedon's "Woman"

Sci-Fi Wire has a look at production designs for the aborted Wonder Woman movie scripted by Joss Whedon. While producers passed on Whedon's pitch, apparently the process got far enough along for artists to sketch some rough costume designs for the character. Apparently Whedon's vow not to use the "star-spangled panties" was true. Artist Shawna Trpcic (Angel, Firefly) posted her work at Twitter.

See more here.

Robotic origami can fold itself

Programmable matter by folding is an interesting concept, but its most practical applications probably haven't even been devised yet. In short, its metallic paper embedded with circuitry that can be programmed to fold itself along  set of "universal creases." Here's an explanation in something that appears to be English, but falls just short of casual comprehension.

The sheet is able to fold into a set of predetermined shapes using embedded actuation. To implement this self-folding origami concept, we have developed a scalable end-to-end planning and fabrication process. Given a set of desired objects, the system computes an optimized design for a single sheet and multiple controllers to achieve each of the desired objects. The material, called programmable matter by folding, is an example of a system.

Read more here.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tron viral postcard, game trailer

There's nothing like getting mail from 1982.

A Tron-related postcard arrived in my mailbox over the weekend from the good folks at Disney. There are at least four different cards being delivered this week showcasing the various games created by the fictional Encom corporation from Tron Legacy. I received the postcard for Astro Gunner which features some amazingly accurate '80s-style designs. This is easily the most fun I ever had being hustled by a soulless corporation (by that I mean Disney, not Encom.)

Meanwhile, enjoy this trailer for the upcoming Tron Evolution game ... one more reason reality is overrated.

Neanderthal males
could kick your ass

To paraphrase ZZ Top, cavemen had forearms like Popeye and knew how to use them. They were also fans of the tush, but that's neither here nor there.

According to Discovery News, neanderthals had overdeveloped forarmes like Popeye and were quite adept at killing. Excerpt:
"The common method for killing animals was direct contact with the victim," said Mednikova, a professor in the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Instead of shooting prey, such as mammoths, with a bow and arrow from a distance, Neanderthal males would engage in face-to-face contact, jabbing long, thick spears directly into the animal's flesh.
Read on.

International GREEN HORNET trailer

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of Seth Rogen. That's not to say I dislike the guy or anything ... I just think he hit too big, too fast before developing the skills needed to fully anchor a film. He followed a short string of hits with a short string of flops, and it's kind of unclear exactly where his career is headed next.

His role in The Green Hornet just makes things that much more confusing, but I wish him the best... Rogen starring in a superhero film is no less crazy than casting Michael Keaton as Batman. (And certainly more reasonable than an idea I had back in 1988 to cast Tony Danza as The Punisher. Don't ask.)

The Daily Wire

Monday, July 5, 2010

Everything must go!

Well, not everything, I guess. But I've got quite a few comics now listed on Ebay which might interest you.

The strange thing about comic collecting is the non-financial value of books. When there's demand for a title, you might have to spend a little money but you'll have no problems finding a copy. On the other hand, if the comics you love have little value to other collectors, then you can build a collection for pennies.

Assuming you can find those comics at all.

If a series is worthless, comic stores rarely keep them in stock. For the same reason, this situation also makes it hard to find these books on Ebay. Why go to the trouble of listing comics that won't sell for more than a few dollars?

So, when people ask me how much my comics are worth, I usually answer "not much." But it took me a lifetime to build, which you can't really put a price on. If I were to lose my Human Fly, Power Pack or Micronauts comics in a fire, I wouldn't be out much money. But the idea of trying to locate those individual books a second time would be a nightmare.

I've only got four Ebay auctions posted now, but there are a lot of comics in them. Dozens of JSA books, Sin City: That Yellow Bastard and Hell and Back, 39 issues of The Demon and a full set of Bite Club. These aren't comics that will take care of you in your retirement, but they're great reads. These lots might even save you some shoe leather, given how thorough they are. Check them out!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

An Open Letter to the Grim Reaper

Dear Grim Reaper,

2010 has been a busy year for you and the funeral industry. We've had to say goodbye to a lot of interesting folks, among them Frank Frazetta, Dennis Hopper, Al Williamson and Dio. It appears you've recently been harassing Gene Colan, which prompts the following request:

Go eat a bag of dicks.

I know it sounds rude, maybe even a little hostile and juvenile. Honestly, I'm still smarting from 2009. I mean, really ... Ron Asheton, Jim Carroll AND Lux Interior? That's just fucking greedy, man.

So here's a list of people who are off limits to you, at least for the rest of 2010:

Iggy Pop
Clint Eastwood
Paul Ruebens
Buck Dharma
Stan Lee
Courtney Love
Ernie Hudson
David Bowie
Mickey Rourke
Garrett Morris (or anybody else in the cast of SNL from 1975-1979)
Patti Smith
Nick Cardy
John Waters
Stephen Hawking
Samuel L. Jackson
Michael Moorcock
Robert Downey Jr.
Glenn Danzig
Max von Sydow
Pam Grier
H.R. Giger
Gene Hackman
Sid Haig
Harry Dean Stanton
Alice Cooper
Bobcat Goldthwait
Juliette Lewis

New TRON toys raise bar for awesomeness

Not only does this toy for the new Tron movie DRIVE UP WALLS, and ... there's more, but I need to go change my pants. I actually think I've fallen asleep and this is all one big Inception-related fantasy.

From the creators:

"TRON: Legacy is a cutting-edge film with a unique futuristic feel, and we wanted to create products with new technology and high-end design that live up to what you will see on screen," said Chris Heatherly, VP of toys and electronics, Disney Consumer Products.

"This is not a typical movie line. We're working exclusively with trailblazers who normally do not do movie merchandise, but they believed so passionately in TRON that they jumped at the chance to help us make great products."
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