Friday, August 30, 2013

A Fistful of Summer 2013! (Matt’s Picks)

    OK, so I’m a little depressed.  This has been a pretty rough year.  Admittedly, it’s been getting a bit better.  But after last year’s parade of awful, to get hit with another pretty terrible batch of movies has gotten me down.  I’m in a bit of a movie funk, that is made all  the worse because there isn’t much on the horizon to get me all fired up.

    Anyway, the Summer did finally produce some movies of note.  So that’s something.  There have been some stinkers, and some world class failures.  Star Trek Into Darkness killed my excitement for that franchise.  White House Down was even more boring than it looked.  The less said about 2 Guns, the better.  But there was some good, too.  And several of the bombs weren’t actually all that bad.  Heck, I didn’t even hate After Earth (though I’m not gonna say it was good, it was passable).  The Lone Ranger was pretty good.  And while not amazing, Pacific Rim was a nice Kaiju adventure film.  While I am relieved that I had more than five movies to choose from for this list, I’m sad that I didn’t have much more than five, and I don’t know that more than one or two of these feel top ten of the year worthy.  So, let’s hope the end of the year is better than it looks.

5.  The Lone Ranger:  ???  Yeah.  I don’t know.  It was pretty good.  A fun Western adventure movie.  Comparisons to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are only natural, and completely fair.  But I liked it.  Had America (and the world) not turned upon it like rabid dogs, I would have been perfectly happy coming back every couple of years to watch another entry, just like with the Pirates films.  Nothing amazing, but fun enough for a good time.

4.  Europa Report:  Was it a great movie?  No.  But I give them full marks for making a fairly realistic look at early exploration of the Solar System.  It’s also probably the best ‘found footage’ film I’ve seen, both in the actual footage, and the presentation (the film is assembled to look like a documentary, with interviews and such inter-cut).

3.  The World’s End:  The third film in the so called Cornetto Trilogy (Sean of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and this) is all kinds of fun.  But it’s also the weakest of the trilogy.  Even as the weakest, it’s still quite good.

2.  Elysium:  See, this is what I’m talking about.  Elysium is a pretty good William Gibson type cyberpunk film, with plenty of cool bits and good use of tech.  But it’s also full of shaky cam, extremely heavy handed, and has an unsatisfying conclusion.  So, why is it my number 2 film of the Summer?  ‘Cause this hasn’t been a good year.  Elysium is fine.  It’s pretty good.  It’s just not all that great.

1.  Only God Forgives:  Did you like Drive, but think there was just too much talking?  Do you like metaphors with you symbolism?  Do you like seeing hands get cut off?  Much more like the director’s pre-Drive Valhalla Rising, this hypnotic nightmare ride through the Thai underworld may be about a guy who wants to fight God…who may be an unassuming Thai detective…or something.  Oh yeah.  And karaoke!

    Holy crap.  Putting this list together makes me even more sad than when I started it.  This has been a bad year.


Baltimore Comic-Con 2013 part 2B – more preparation

When last we met, I briefly discussed preparation for exhibiting at a comic convention, with a focus on your table display.  Now, let’s talk about the books, specifically mini-comics and chapbooks, as simple as one with little artistic talent can get.  We will look at this from the point of view of the writer, as that’s where all my experience lies.

(an aside:  if you have ideas of creating a comic that looks like a comic book check out the Ka-Blam! site; they can help you with that)

So, you’ve written your stories and need to find someone to bring your masterpiece to vivid, delineated, inked life.  Easier said than done.  First you need to find the artist.  You can check websites like Deviant Art or Digital Webbing (though I’ve heard DW isn’t the go-to place it once was, but that’s where your due diligence comes in) or do a search for “comic book artist.”  Keep in mind the tone of your story and seek out an artist who best fits that without breaking the bank (yes, you should be paying them in monetary notes and not the promise of “exposure” or “back-end money,” as those are as ethereal as your dead gramma’s ghost).  A generally accepted rule of thumb is that it takes a comic artist a day to create a single comic page.  From there, as Dennis Culver noted on his twitter feed, the bare minimum page rate can be extrapolated from the “norms” of an 8-hour work day at a minimum wage of $7.25/hour, which comes to $58 per page.  Of course, it’s all negotiable.  Be up front with your artist and do not short-change them.  You will also want to discuss ownership of the story.  A best practice, in my opinion, is to share creation and ownership evenly with your collaborator(s).  But, again, it’s all negotiable.  Just do your homework, be up front with your collaborator, and don’t take them for granted.

Once you’ve found an artist and negotiated a fair price, prepare for the wonder of finished art pages in your inbox.  I can almost guarantee every one will be far better than what you pictured in your head while you typed away in the dark.  Once the art’s done, you’ll want to get high-resolution, print-ready scans from the artist – at least 300 dpi.  And if your artist doesn’t also letter, you need to find someone to do that or, better yet, learn how to do it yourself.  There are numerous tutorials and fonts available from places like Comicraft’s Baloon Tales site and Nate Piekos’s Blambot site.  These sites have everything you need to get the job done.  From here, it’s time to begin formatting your book.

Most likely, your mini-comics will have smaller dimensions than the typical comic book.  With my chapbooks a single page is 4.25” by 5.5”, or half the size of a standard letter-sized piece of paper.  Since my chapbooks include a lot of text, I use Microsoft Word to format my books.  If I were only including comic stories, I would use Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop for formatting, since they are image-based programs, but why bother doing anything simple, right?  But I digress

Once in your formatting program of choice, you need to layout the pages so they have a nice flow, while keeping in mind that any “reveals” in the comic pages need to land on a page-turn, or an even-numbered page (of course, this only applies to those creating books with multiple stories, but really, the text that follows is so scintillating, you’re going to want to continue).  First, you should plug your stories into a single word document in the order you want, using the same layout and margins as the final product.  Understanding that a half-letter format requires a total page count divisible by four (because you have four pages to a single sheet), you can now see how many story pages you have along with the number of blank pages.  At this point you can move things around to make the page turns (even-numbered pages) and story opens (preferably odd-numbered pages) work.  From there, if you have blank pages, you can decide what extras to include – an introduction, script pages, background on the stories, character sketches, or nothing at all.  With the layout finalized, you can begin placing each individual page into its corresponding page in the final print-formatted document.  The diagram below shows the first two sheets – front and back – of a 9-sheet, 36-page chapbook:

Having done a number of these, the page layout seems obvious, but it took me a few tries before I was confident I was doing it right.  Paginating your mini in the manner above relieves you of any need to re-order the pages once they print.  Just pull the sheets from the printer at Staples – or, if you’re lucky, the one at your place of employment – and fold them in the center to create your mini-comic.  Of course, you’ll need a long-arm stapler at this point, but they’re relatively inexpensive, especially if you’re in this for the long haul. 

Now, let’s backtrack a step, before moving onto the final step.  If you decide to number your pages and you’re working in Word, as I do, then it takes some work to get it right because the program wants to automatically number pages according to your initial header on page one.  You need to separate each page to create individual sections (that’s important, you’re not inserting a page break but a section break for the “next page”).  Once you’ve created your sections, you need to sever the header links to the previous sections.  Double-click the header and look for the “link to previous [section].”  Uncheck that box – depending on the system and version of Word you’re working with, it could be in any number of spots.  Now you can create a header with page numbers distinct from the rest of the document.  But be careful if you’re placing text and images into the main body of the document after doing this because if pieces in the main body are copied in and bleed into the following page, all the work to separate the headers could be deleted, and you’ll be forced to do it all again. 

So, you’ve got your mini formatted, page numbers are in place (if that’s how you roll), and you’ve printed off the interiors of your books.  Now you need a cover.  I’m certainly no artist, but I’ve gathered some good advice from friends who are, and the two main things I’ve taken to heart are:

1 – use a single, bold image for your cover
2 – incorporate a singular image to brand yourself (more about that in the following paragraph)

The first mini-comic I ever put together had a powerful and evocative image on its cover, thanks to Sergio Martinez.  I was so impressed with it I modified it slightly to use for my business cards, my online avatar, and, when I conceived my Mainelining chapbooks, it became the cover image for each volume, with varying color schemes to differentiate them.  As Baltimore approaches, I have six volumes of Mainelining that will be available for purchase at our table and am finalizing the contents of a second volume for editors and artists with whom I would like to collaborate.  These latter two volumes are my writing portfolio and include only stories published outside of Warrior27 – stories other editors have deemed worthy of publication.  As an aspiring comics writer, you need to be able to show what you can do, and the best way to do that is have a collection of finished comics, and/or short prose, to share (and they needn’t have been published elsewhere, they just need to be completed).  Because the reality is no editor has the time to read your script, especially if it’s your 200-page OGN masterpiece.  So, you write short stories, you get them drawn, you print them, and you share them.  Not only are finished stories easier for editors and artist to assess, but they also exhibit a seriousness that a vast majority of your peers lack.  And that can make all the difference in the world.

Once more, I’ve gone on at lengths unimaginable for the internet.  So I will cut it short here and continue with convention preparation in the next part, where I’ll discuss what I’ve learned about standing at the table and “hocking my wares.”  Until then…

{You can (and should) read more from Chris at Warrior 27. -Matt}

A Fistful of Summer 2013! (Brad's Picks)

That's it folks.  Summer's over.  Back to school.  So what grade do we give 2013's Blockbuster Season?  I'm thinking a big, dud of a C.  As always, when April pushed into May, my heart was filled with joyous anticipation for the titanic tent poles Hollywood was churning down their production line.  I like all kinds of films, from the smallest micro budgets to the embarrassingly corpulent Baytrocities.  I vote YES on Proposition Transformers 4!  And with 2013 offering Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, Pacific Rim, The Lone Ranger, Man of Steel, and The Wolverine my fanboy hard-on was throbbing with an intensity not felt since...well, last Summer when The Avengers & The Dark Knight Rises ruled my soul.  And frankly the films leading into these Blockbusters only ranged from the "Ok" to the "Pretty good."  I needed a great crop of Extravaganza to feel solid about this cinema year.  Oh well.  Of the bloated behemoths listed above, only one movie makes my Fistful of Summer list.  They weren't all bad - heck, some were pretty good - but, nearly every flick this year has left that bitter taste of disappointment on my tongue.  None more vile than...

Star Trek Into Darkness.  It's been nearly three months since my last viewing, and JJ Abrams's So-Damn-Dumb sequel still manages to enrage this Trekkie.  And that's just annoying.  I hate being that asshole.  Rereading my angry, incoherent review of the film all I can do is shake my head at the fanboy cliche Into Darkness brought out of me.  I'm actually looking forward to rewatching the film so that maybe, just maybe, I can find something positive to say about that mess.  Is it truly the worst Star Trek film as voted by Trekkies?  I don't know about that...Star Trek Nemesis has to be the nadir of the franchise, but it's nice to know that I'm not alone in the disappointment.   Does it's lackluster display at the box office mean the end of this lens-flared crew?  Probably not, but I smell new director and budget cuts in the Enterprise's future.  And that's a good thing.

I think the biggest shock this summer was how much I enjoyed The Lone Ranger.  *crickets*  Have I lost you?  Did you immediately click away at the very idea of a positive word thrown Jerry Bruckheimer's way?  Of course not, you're still reading just to see what insanely idiotic thing I'll type next.  After all, how could I possibly hate so hard on Star Trek Into Darkness when I had so much damn fun watching The Lone Ranger?  I don't have a good answer for you.  The Lone Ranger is an absolute train wreck, but I found myself riotously laughing as men had their hearts eaten from their chests, and bandits squealed in joy at the possibility of duck foot rape.  What the hell was Disney thinking with this one?  It's a horror show, but it's also so damn weird that I found it utterly compelling. If you want to read more of my absurd Lone Ranger praise than click on over to my Daily Grindhouse review.  If it wasn't for this past weekend, The Lone Ranger would have certainly made this Fistful of Summer.

Finally, before we get to the Top 5, I just wanted to reiterate how the Blockbuster failed to excite this year.  Again, I enjoyed Pacific Rim, Elysium, Furious 6, & Man of Steel to a degree, but all fell short of their source material.  Cinema is failing too often to reach beyond simple nostalgia, and that's worrisome.  There are going to be fewer and fewer billion dollar returns like The Avengers.  The bubble will burst.  Wishful thinking?  Summer 2015 will bring us Star Wars - Episode VII, Avengers 2, Batman vs Superman, James Bond 24, Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Jurassic Park 4, Independence Day 2, Warcraft, Assassins Creed, The Fantastic Four reboot, and a new Terminator.  Will the world show up, or are there gonna be a lot of unhappy suits in Hollywood?  I sense some duds, or at least a batch of films that cost too much and make too little.  Or maybe that's all bullshit.  Maybe, after 34 years, I'm just finally hitting blockbuster fatigue.  

I certainly needed more protein in my diet, and this year I made more of an effort to hit the art theaters for those hipster, indie darlings.  Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, Jim Rash & Nat Faxon's The Way Way Back, Quentin Dupieux's Wrong, and a slew of VOD offerings gave some much needed respite from the Summer drought.  Still, I'm not an art house goon, and none of these tiny pictures could quite crack my Top 5.  So, shall we get on with it - 

5.  You're Next:  Possibly one of the most twisting cinematic experiences I had this year.  I just watched it this past Tuesday in a completely empty movie theater, and it took me from an exhausted seen-it-all horror aficionado to a hand clapping, seat jumping, school boy.  You're Next has been languishing on the Lionsgate shelf for a couple of years now, and I was sick of hearing about it six months ago.  Not to mention that the marketing for the film makes You're Next look like just another home invasion flick a la The Strangers or Funny Games.  And for the first twenty minutes, it's just that.  The Animals creep along the woods, the kills are fairly ordinary...then Sharni Vinson gets her hands on a meat tenderizer.  You're Next shifts a bit; the plot opens up, and suddenly the film is a whole lotta fun.  This is not some brooding slasher, it's a very 80s, kick-ass chick movie.  Not too many of those around anymore, and I can't help but feel that You're Next gets everything right that the Evil Dead remake gets wrong.

4.  Iron Man 3:  The First Mega Movie of the Summer is also the only Blockbuster to land on my top five.  Forget Avengers - Age of Ultron, Iron Man 3 is the real sequel to last year's Marvel Masterpiece, and even if it doesn't quite reach the heights of that Super Group, director Shane Black still delivers the finest entry in Shellhead's trilogy.  The intergalactic destruction brought down on New York City had lasting effects on Tony Stark; his panic attacks deliver a level of humanity to the character in the same fashion his alcoholism did in the comic books (we'll just have to settle on this PG-13, family friendly affliction).  Black manages to bring his wit & banter with him, a mean feat not yet accomplished by any of the Marvel Studios henchmen.  It's not Lethal Weapon, but there is enough of that flavor to invigorate the franchise.  Ben Kingsley's The Mandarin also happens to be the most surprisingly entertaining villain of the Super Hero genre, even if Guy Pearce's wronged scientist is a bit of a dullard and the film's revelations leave ignorant geeks to rage on the message boards.  Marvel continues to build its universe, and I'm still giddy for more.  Thor, Cap, The Guardians of the Galaxy - I'm all in.

3.  This Is The End:  The first film this year that left me 100% satisfied was this silly, stoner deconstruction of celebrity.  "Deconstruction."  That's probably giving the film too much credit.  This Is The End is just too damn funny to ignore.  Seth Rogen & Jay Baruchel play themselves, a couple of dimwits who use their good fortune to gorge upon Carl's Jr, video games & pot.  When Rogen drags Baruchel to James Franco's party the sky opens up and Revelation hits - the good get zapped up to heaven, and the bad are left behind to battle demon dogs as well as each other.  This film is bananas.  The entire cast has a blast destroying their personas; Danny McBride is exceptionally reprehensible, taking to the new rules of Thunderdome like a cannibal duck to water.  This Is The End is dumb, gross, and ignorant.  And I loved every second of it.

2.  The World's End:  And now for something completely different.  Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, & Nick Frost reteam to take on the Apocalypse but from a very British perspective.  The World's End still has plenty of silly, but whereas This Is The End often succeeds with stupidity, Wright's screenplay wins on childish wit.  There is a difference, a small one maybe, but it's enough to push one film over the other.  Several themes and in-jokes are carried throughout the Cornetto Trilogy, but the key ingredient has to be plutonic love.  I might still prefer both Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz, but after a second viewing I think The World's End displays the strongest on-screen friendship yet.  It's a broken relationship, five friends that drifted apart years ago, but when Simon Pegg reaches a breaking point, the draw of his high school memory pulls the more successful chums back together.  A high school reunion involving an epic pub crawl through their home town.  Of course, as movies have taught us over and over, you can't go home again.  Especially when the body snatchers have set up shop.

1.  Only God Forgives:  Before the Summer started I postulated that at year's end this film was going to land on top, and as I write this, I seriously doubt any other film of 2013 will topple this beast from super stylist Nicholas Winding Refn.  Self-fullfilling prophecy?  Naw.  Refn just makes the slick & awful kind of films I love.  But don't confuse this Shakespearean battle between Heaven & Hell as another Drive.  Those looking for a recreation of 2011's cool zen Michael Mann'er will be sorely disappointed.  Only God Forgives is a deeply painful exploration of self-hate mixed with heavy handed gobs of MacBeth & Oedipus Rex that nearly ruptures from symbolism overload.  It's easy to see why some dared to Boo at the Cannes Film Festival, or why those craving more dreamy Ryan Gosling would reel back in disgust. Thai Boxing, Karaoke, Uzis, Samurai Swords.  A lot of nifty elements can be found within the frame, but the film is more concerned with terrible redemption than video game versus combat.  Certainly not for everybody, but Only God Forgives left this viewer completely satiated in a Summer season doused in mediocrity.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dork Art: Indestructible Abe Lincoln

I finally got around to looking at the latest batch of Marvel solicitations, and I when I came across this Mike Del Mundo variant cover for Indestructible Hulk #15 I spurt milk from my nose (metaphorically). This is the type of comic book bonkers so often on display in the Batman Brave & The Bold cartoon, and it got me craving for some Marvel toons on that level of silly fun.  Mark Waid's Indestructible Hulk has been fairly hit or miss since its first issue, but the last one (#12) featuring Cowboys & Dinosaurs was a heap of fun.  Could a John Wilkes Booth confrontation be in the jolly green giant's future?  Lotta time travel going on in the Marvel Universe these days.


Dork Art: Paul Shipper's Khan + Honest Trailer

Paul Shipper is quickly becoming one of my favorite Dork Artists.  The man has a picture perfect style reminiscent of Drew Struzan, and I can only dream that his illustrations becomes the new standard for movie posters.  Sigh.  At the very least, comic publisher IDW is taking notice, as they've brought him on to do cover work for their October Khan miniseries.  Never mind the fact that the White Khan makes no sense within the context of the reboot/sequel, or the fact that IDW has already done a Khan miniseries detailing the dictator's rise to power.

While we're at it let's also ignore the fact that IDW's Star Trek comics are at best mediocre.  And I'm sure you're not at all interested in another anti-Star Trek Into Darkness rant from me.  Let's just be happy with some pretty artwork, and I'll let the good folks over at Honest Trailers rip Abrams a new one.  Seriously, the below trailer sums up all of Into Darkness's problems better than a million angry blog rants.  Have a laugh and give a watch.


Dork Art: Riddick IMAX Poster + Comic Con Photos

Here is Alex Fuentes's exclusive IMAX poster for the 8PM screening of Riddick on September 5th.  The film's very existence is kind of a movie miracle blessed this world by the sheer willpower of its star, Vin Diesel.  Nearly ten years in the making, the previous film (The Chronicles of Riddick) barely recouped its budget and certainly didn't capture a fanbase with its Dune delusions.  Of course, I personally admired its attempt to reach beyond a Pitch Black rehash, taking its character in a bold new direction even if the end result was a little tepid.  The new film looks to be returning to its monster mash roots, and the first few trailers did not look too promising.

I really had no interest in Riddick before Comic Con this year, but after my front row experience at the Hall H panel, the undeniably charming & sweet Diesel won me over.  As he chatted about how his experience as a Dungeons & Dragons DM crafted his talent as a storyteller, I found myself swooning for the Fast & Furious lug.  At the very least Vin Diesel is passionate about his characters.  He may spend the rest of his life as Riddick and Dominic Torretto, but I think that suits him just fine.  The photos seen below were taken by yours truly on the Friday of the San Diego Comic Con.


Monday, August 26, 2013

New Release Tuesday!!! (8/27/13)

The day has finally arrived.  Forget all this Affleck/Batman folderol.  I Come In Peace is now available thanks to the good folks over at Shout Factory.  They are truly doing the Lord's work, taking our troubled minds off the Gotham City blues.  Life is good again.  Plus, a whole batch of new & old classics.  Q!!!!!!!


Dark Angel:  In 1990 I was riding high from a string of spectacular Dolph Lundgren appearances.  Obviously, my life was forever altered by Rocky IV ("I Must Break You"), and that titanic Russian (uh-hum, Swede) made hay while the sun shined with such VHS bottom feeders like Masters of the Universe, Red Scorpion, and The Punisher.  However, the piece de resistance was the whackjob buddy cop sci-fi actioner I Come In Peace aka Dark Angel.  An evil drug dealing alien lands in Houston, Texas to harvest humans of a deadly intergalactic narcotic.  This white mullet demon takes down a space cop hot in pursuit and it's up to Dolph Lundgren's no-nonsense detective to save the human race.  Of course, he's gonna need the help of Brian Benben's by-the-book G-Man if we want a snowball's chance of surviving this Reagan-ocalypse.  I actually watched this a couple months back on VOD, and it's certainly not as brilliant as my pre-teen brain once made it, but at the same time, I Come In Peace is too damn weird not to own.


Pain & Gain:  Certainly one of the few films released this year I'm comfortable claiming to be a favorite, but that very fact kinda boggles the brain.  I've always enjoyed Michael Bay's blunt mixture of polish and crude adolescence.  Bad Boys II, The Rock, Transformers - I'll go down defending those flicks, and dammit if Pain & Gain isn't his masterpiece.  His pornographer's eye and dimwit humor fit perfectly with this Darwin Award winning crime caper.  Too bad it's all based on some really heinous evil, as this true story makeover can leave a bad taste in your mouth if you let it.  The trick is to ignore the "Based On True Events" sticker.  The Rock's psychotic Jesus freak goes a long way in making that happen.

To Be Or Not To Be:  Like so many Criterion releases, I've never seen this one but I most certainly want to get acquainted.  Shakespeare vs. The Nazis and all done for laughs!  Yes, please.  But don't take my world for it, just listen to Joe Dante's Trailers From Hell.

Q - The Winged Serpent:  An absolute staple of the Gullickson household, and a movie that is guaranteed to transform any child into a Movie Monster Maniac.  David Carradine, Michael Moriarty, and Richard Roundtree team-up to take down a real-deal dragon terrorizing the skies of New York City.  It's absurd how this winged beast hides from the authorities for the first 2/3rds of the movie, but once the screenplay gives the beast free reign of the skyline, the movie nails all the proper B-Movie requirements.  It's been too long since I've taken Q for a spin and I look forward to consuming it in rich, grimy high definition.


Pawn Shop Chronicles:  I really do love Wayne Kramer's Running Scared.  The Cooler is great too, but Running Scared is a special brand of crazy not often replicated in the cinematic universe.  After the director stumbled with the boring art house realism of Crossing Over, he returned to an absurdist landscape that reaches for broad comedy rather than settling on the just plain odd.  I caught this just after Comic Con, and all I can say is.....whaaaaaa?  Pawn Shop Chronicles is nearly an anthology film centered around Vincent D'Onofrio's store and the varied customers that pass through.  Paul Walker is a redneck dimwit attempting to overthrow Norman Reedus' meth kingdom.  Matt Dillon is a husband in search of his wife's killer (played possibly by the Sin City creepy Elijah Wood).  Brendan Fraser is a KKK inspired Elvis impersonator who encounters Satan himself at the crossroads.  And Thomas Jane might be Jesus.  Sure, it's kooky, but is it good?  I don't think so.  If you had a problem with the tonal shifts of Pain & Gain than you'll absolutely loose your mind with rage here.  But I certainly had fun gawking at the train wreck.


The Great Gatsby:  I think if Baz Luhrmann had just made his uproarious 20s flapper movie than I would have absolutely loved it, but his aesthetic just never jived with the source material.  I hear what you're saying, but Brad you should not be so beholden to an American Classic and there is always room for interpretation.  Ha!  Show's what you know, I don't give a hoot about the AP English snoozefest.  I just think that Fitzgerald's plot gets in the way of Luhrmann's style, and there was probably a pretty rocking music video at the center of this drab endeavor.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Brad's Week in Dork! (8/18/13-8/24/13)

It feels like it's been a month since my last entry - that's because it has! Man oh man, no excuses...except to say that my San Diego Comic Con vacation was so epic and amazing that I've been suffering a massive bout of postpartum depression. It was only a week long pregnancy but the birth produced a bouncing beastly joy baby that's consumed my every waking thought.  This year's Comic Con was so extreme and wonderful that I cannot even put it into the proper words.  I really should do a separate blog post on the adventure, but I fear that too much time has past for any of you to give a good god damn about how wonderful my life has been.  I will leave you with just this - a photo I snapped from the front row of Hall H....

That's right, Sam The Man giving yours truly the stare down.  Absolute chills.  And that is only one of hundreds of photos I took over the course of the weekend.  I saw all the amazing panels you've already read about, scored a sackful of exclusives including the Magnitude Admiral Akbar bust, and participated in the Doug Loves Movies podcast, in which special guest star Leonard Maltin competed on my wife's behalf.   Third year in a row, and it was the best one yet.  I've been in a daze ever since, and for whatever reason I lost focus on ITMOD.  Thankfully, Matt has been watching & doing a bunch of crazy dork stuff and he's been keeping this blog going while I was drifting in the clouds.

Well, I'm back now folks.  This being the tail end of the Summer Blockbuster season, I spent a lot of time in the theater.  Finally found a film I'm comfortable calling the Best Movie of 2013 - Only God Forgives is a monster.  And quite possibly superior to Drive which won my heart a couple years back.  Don't believe the snobs and the haters, Nicholas Winding Refn's latest is not to be simply dismissed by the critics.  It's a depressing, oppressive winner.  Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, & Nick Frost brought their Cornetto Trilogy to a close with The World's End, and even if it is the weakest of the three, the film was an absolute highlight of the summer.  Seeing all their films back-to-back at The Alamo Drafthouse was easily my favorite theatrical experience of the year.  More on that later.  And, yes, the 18th was my Birthday and I decided this year to tie it into my annual Shat Attack Movie Party.  For a full rundown on the nearly 24 Hours of Shatner Viewing check out Matt's Week in Dork.  Spiders, Whales, & Tommy Guns Oh My!  Another rip roaring success.

Only God Forgives:  An absolutely punishing film.  Nicholas Winding Refn's second collaboration with Ryan Gosling is a mean spirited film draped in the mood of David Cronenberg's body horror, fogged with David Lynch's absurdity, and housed within the long corridors of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.  Like the best of Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese, Only God Forgives is somehow both homage and wholly original.  A greek tragedy centered around an Oedipal complex and a quest for revenge, Ryan Gosling has sinned his way into impotence and only Vithaya Pansringarm's angel of vengeance can release him from his miserable existence.  With it's nearly mute leading actor, it's meticulously composed frame, and shocking outbursts of violence (although surprisingly tame in the gore department) it's no wonder the box office did not embrace this terse melodrama.  And unlike Drive, the Urban Outfitters crowd will find difficulty in embracing the cool of Gosling's murderous demon.  This is not anti-hero cinema, despite a close resemblance to the Frankenstein monster and a killer Cliff Martinez score.

Kick-Ass 2:  Three years ago, I really enjoyed Matthew Vaughn's Kick Ass. Coming off of Layer Cake & Stardust, the director seemed to revel in the mean-spirited vitriol of Mark Millar & John Romita Jr's  wannabe Alan Moore comic book. It's a superhero deconstruction that seemed more concerned with punishing its ignorant fanboys than elevating them to their obsessions. However, with Vaughn's departure the sequel is plopped into the lap working stiff Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf, Never Back Down) and the result is a heartless hunk of wood. From nearly the first line of dialog I was cringing at the performances. Aaron Taylor-Johnson & Chloe Grace Moretz are embarrassingly lifeless. Christopher Mintz-Plasse reads like a High School Musical audition. The film's soundtrack is cobbled together from the previous outing and a Wal-Mart club mix. Utter dreck. The violence is amped but the camera is rammed into the action, shaking uncontrollably, and fogging any sense of choreography.  There might be a little life in Jim Carrey's Colonel Stars & Stripes, but he's barely in the movie and his departure is almost as unceremonious as his entrance.  A real summer snooze.

The Flashpoint Paradox:  Alternative timelines are always fun. Of course, this particular story is based on the tale that spun DC Comics down the New 52 rabbit hole of mediocrity (the positive spin) and confused nonsense (the negative spin).  So I've got some bitter feelings to work through before I can ever fully embrace this adaptation. The basic gist is that anti-Flash (aka Professor Zoom) travels back in time switching key events that pit Wonder Woman's Amazons against Aquaman's Atlantians, all the while Lex Luthor's pitiful humans are caught in the middle. Superman never landed in Smallville. Bruce Wayne was shot down in crime alley instead of his parents. A topsy turvy world that's a lot of fun, but lacks the depth of DC's greatest animated adventures (New Frontier, The Dark Knight Returns).  And next on the DC docket is Justice League - War, an animated spin on The New 52's Justice League.  Not interested.  DAMN YOU FLASH!!!!

The Ultimate Justice League of Extraordinary Graphic Novel Book Club (Year 2, Meeting 3):  This month's Graphic Novel was my pick, the first three volumes of Fatale by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips. If you've been following this blog at all than you know that I consider Fatale to be the single greatest comic currently being published on a monthly basis.  Unfortunately, the group and I had to beg to differ.  With the exception of my incredibly intelligent co-dork Matt and my very beautiful wife, the rest of the gang did not seem too impressed with Brubaker's noir/Lovecraft mashup.  There were a couple "OK"s & the rest supplied some shoulder shrugs.  Oh well.  Art is subjective and all that.  The books certainly provided for some interesting discussion centering around Josephine's proactive nature or lack thereof, and I came away this month more in love with Fatale than before.  It truly is a masterpiece and I cannot wait to see where Brubaker & Phillips leave this story.

Fatale - Death Chases Me:  The first volume bounces back and forth from the present day to 1950s San Francisco as Nicholas Lash tries to uncover a supernatural mystery involving his dead uncle and a seemingly immortal woman.  It's a rather brilliant kernel that finds a magical reason to explain the Femme Fatale cliche.  Put simply, Raymond Chandler strained through HP Lovecraft's nightmares, and it's everything this fanboy has ever wanted to see on the page or screen.  You've got Nazis, Cultists, Demons, Cops, Journalists, Dames, and Corpses.  It's the kitchen sink, baby.

Fatale - The Devil's Business:  The events of the first volume send the demon siren Josephine into a LA LA Land seclusion.  It's now the 1970s and Los Angeles is suffering from a cocaine blizzard, Hollywood cultists, and snuff films.  A junkie wannabe actor ekes his way into the wrong party and suddenly he's battling Hell's Army and falling under the hypnotic gaze of Josephine.  Like all the men that fall upon her path, the junkie's future is instantly damned and serves simply as a reminder to our Femme Fatale that her existence is all consuming.  Meanwhile, the present day Nicholas Lash suffers hellish nightmares involving tentacled men and attractive owls.  What's it all mean?  Nothing good.

Fatale - West of Hell:  With the third volume, the mythology of Fatale is blown wide open and, of course, it creates more questions than answers.  In 1930s Texas Josephine meets the Lovecraft stand-in,  Alfred Ravenscroft.  His pulp stories seem to hold the answers to Josephine's visions, and her encounter with him launches her dead-end quest through World War II.  We also meet Mathilda of 1286 France and Black Bonnie of 1883 Colorado, two lovely creatures similarly cursed with the siren affliction.  Their stories offer glimpses at the blood magic at the center of this horror, and the Good vs Evil forces pulling the strings.  And finally, we're given the sad story that brought Josephine & GI Walt Booker together.  Maybe he's not the human monster we once thought?  West of Hell is the volume that sealed the deal on my love of Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips.  There is grand mythology supporting this dirty noir.

Out of Sight:  On Tuesday, Elmore Leonard passed away due to complications after a stroke.  The man was an absolute hero of mine and his books sent me down a path of crime writing I have yet to depart.  I was lucky enough to attend a signing of his some years back, and he was an absolutely gracious man while he snarked at my Mr. Majestyk one sheet.  I remember asking him if he would ever get back to Western's and he simply stated, "No money in it."  To celebrate the man there is only one movie I could have chosen.  Out of Sight is the film that forever proved the truth of George Clooney's charm, and it's one of a fistful of movies to properly capture Leonard's crackerjack characters.  Smart and slick crooks right alongside the painfully boneheaded. Jackie Brown might be the best film pulled from a Leonard novel, but Out of Sight is the closest film to properly deliver the tone - that balance of comedy and drama. Clooney is Super Cool TNT, even when he's hanging around dolts like Steve Zahn's vision impaired Glen or Don Cheadle's glass jawed Snoopy. Out of Sight made crime cool again; without it there certainly wouldn't be a Justified tv show or an Ocean's 11.

Lord of Illusions:  "I was born to murder the world." Clive Barker's third and final film as a director is an underrated genre mashup supported by four performances from actors never again given material this weighty or as against type. Scott Bakula is an exceptional Sam Spade stand-in, and he carries the supernatural shenanigans with Humphrey Bogart's dry acceptance. Kevin J O'Connor, who is normally regulated to the comic relief sidekick persona, is exceptionally sad as the fallen magician but he also manages to evoke dreadful power. Famke Janssen was simply born to be the Femme Fatale; she's pure sex & danger. And Daniel Von Bargen might just be the proudest, shiniest, tubbiest lump of evil to ever Charlie Manson the silver screen. Lord of Illusions is the Chinatown of horror, a neo-noir caked in Barker's special brand of perversity that never got the audience it so rightfully deserved. I'll just have to take comfort in the knowledge that in the Fringe universe Bakula & Barker made a killing with a whole slew of Harry D'Amour detective stories.

Photo Courtesy of The Alamo Drafthouse Facebook Page

The Blood & Ice Cream Shaun Off @ The Alamo Drafthouse DC:  On Thursday night, The Wife & I met up at The Alamo with our friends Matt (you know him), Paul, & Lindsey for the Cornetto Trilogy screening.  I've seen a lot of great movies on the silver screen (Sweet Smell of Success, Lawrence of Arabia, 2001 A Space Odyssey, The Monster Squad), but the key ingredient that transformed this showing into my all time favorite theatrical experience was The Shaun-Off Raffle.  To participate all you needed was a white buttoned up shirt, a red tie, and some red on you.  One quick trip to Target and The Wife & I were cosplaying (a first for me).  

And dammit, can you actually believe I won the raffle!  I can no longer say that I never win anything because I walked away from The Cornetto Trilogy with a free Mondo print of Shaun of the Dead signed by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.  Just look at that photo above, I am completely gobsmacked.  I'm still flying high from the win, and as I type this I'm staring googly eyed at the Tyler Stout beauty hanging on my wall.  Just too cool for school.

Shaun of the Dead:  "They're a bit bitey."  Nine years ago I attended a sneak preview of this film and when I walked out of the theater I remember saying to a friend that we had just experienced an instant classic.  Having now seen it a dozen or so times, I still feel that Shuan of the Dead is one of those rare perfect films.  On one hand it is an expertly crafted parody of the George Romero zombie movie, and on the other hand it's a heart wrenching story of both romantic & parental love.  Simon Pegg is the ultimate fanboy hero, he gives all boob tube losers like myself hope of an apocalypse makeover.  It's never too late to get your shit together.  In the last ten years we have seen countless cash grabs into the zombie subgenre, but only Shaun feels like a proper addition to the world originally populated by Romero.

Hot Fuzz:  "If we bashed your head in all sorts of secrets would come out."  Next on their hit list, Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg target Michael Bay's 'splosions but with a good dose of Wicker Man small town creepy.  Simon Pegg is Nicholas Angel, the Dirty Harry of London banished to the dreary boredom of the midlands.  But of course this Supercop will uncover a town wide conspiracy involving a Serial Slasher, Timothy Dalton's absorbingly smug grin, and a gaggle of dimwitted coppers.  The pacing blunders a little, but you'll forgive an overlong running time after a Kaiju climax boggles your brain.  Hot Fuzz doesn't quite get the love blessed Shaun of the Dead, but you would be sorely ignorant if you dismissed this very british ribbing of an American Summer Blockbuster staple.  

The World's End:  "That's why I drink from a crazy straw!  Not so crazy now!"  The genre mashing of this film is not as clear or as clever as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but it succeeds due to the camaraderie between friends.  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, & Eddie Marsan are a great batch of chums, and their banter is some of the most lovable & cantankerous we've been given in The Cornetto Trilogy.  Pegg's Gary King is easily the most depressingly gloomy character he's played so far, and likewise, Nick Frost's Andy is his most layered lout yet.  Frost's transformation from stiff upper brit to smashing pink Hulk awards the film's greatest laugh.  WWF Smackdown Champion.  I dare not ruin the climax of the movie, but it is certainly a masterstroke.  I only wish it happened fifteen minutes earlier cuz I just wanted more of that samurai insanity.  Sure, it's my least favorite film in the series but it's also one of 2013's finest films.  Cheers.

Paul:  "Three tits - Awesome!"  It's simply unfair to compare this film to The Cornetto Trilogy.  There's just something magical about the Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost combo.  Take one away and it's just not the same.  That being said, the Pegg & Frost duo in any film is worth your attention.  Much more sophomoric and silly than their other efforts, Paul appeals to that dimmer side of my brain.  Seth Rogen is daft and dumb and wonderful as the little green man taunting our heroes across the American west.  Pegg & Frost are exceptionally sweet in their plutonic love, and the genre references are fun enough for nerds everywhere.  Not a classic, but it gets the job done when there is no more ice cream to devour.