This week I continued to struggle with the spirit of Halloween. For the last five years, I've managed to watch 31 Horror Films in 31 Days (well, usually it's more like 62 films in 31 Days), but that streak appears to be over. Don't get me wrong, I'm gonna keep cranking out the horror this month but my attention just keeps getting pulled elsewhere. I mean, Taken 2...can you blame me? And I've been more devoted to comics lately than the silver screen. Uncanny Avengers, Batman some big things are happening in mainstream comics. And the countdown to December 5th has begun, Hellboy in Hell will hit soon and I really want to crank through my Dark Horse Library Editions before the next chapter in the saga begins...those BPRD hardcovers as well.
TV OF THE WEEK!
Fringe Season 5 Episode 2 "In Absentia": We're only two episodes into the final season and I'm trying real hard not to question (or fear) where this Days of Future Past story is going to leave our favorite characters. I'm just not feeling the evil Observers plot. But it's too damn early to start bitching. Fringe is one of my all time favorite shows and I'm willing to sit back and just watch...unless we get to episode 6 and I'm still scratching my head. Peter & Olivia's daughter bugs me. Her Machiavellian torture sequence had me groaning a bit. And Olivia's disapproving stares didn't help. But Walter is still damn awesome. Breaking back into Harvard was fun. "Criterion Collection, Forgive Me." That's brilliant. Let's see where this all goes.
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Club Dread: Super Troopers was an odd debut. A dumb stoner comedy centered around the slackers who inhabit the Vermont State Police. Not a mega hit, but a definite indie darling. As far as follow ups go, Club Dread might not have been what fans of Super Troopers were looking for, but I ate it up. Bill Paxton's washed up party rocker Coconut Pete is too damn funny and there is not enough of him, but this is a Broken Lizard flick and you gotta love these guys if you're gonna get anything outta the soooo stooopid jokey jokes. A wannabe Jason Vorhees stalks the bikini clad bodies of Pino Coladaburg with Kevin Heffernan's zen master orgasm machine leads the baked staff against the rampaging Fun Police. I really do enjoy the role reversal going on in Club Dread. Heffernan goes from the a-hole Farva of Super Troopers to the heroic lead, mystically snatching the heart Brittany Daniel. Jay Chandrasekhar leaves the straight man routine behind for the dreadlocked buffoonery of Putman. It's a dumb goof, but I find plenty of chuckles.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space: I'm still amazed when I find people who've never seen Killer Klowns From Outer Space. You can't call yourself a movie fan without experiencing the cotton candy horror of the Chiodo Brothers. The title pulls you in, the clown suits keep you glued, and John Vernon's split mouth puppet routine will terrify you. Is this a comedy? Sure. It's schlocky funny. But I really do find the whole experience rather unsettling. The balloon dog squeaks. The alien, chubby fat grimaces. Gross. Weird. Essential.
House of 1000 Corpses: Looking back to the year 2003, I'm not really sure why I was so pumped for Rob Zombie's directorial debut. Maybe I was reading too much Fangoria. Maybe I listened to the Hellbilly Deluxe album too hard and too often. But for whatever reason, I was extremely excited to see House of 1000 Corpses. And then the big day came, and I really hated it. It wasn't until a few years later with the release of the far superior The Devil's Rejects that I was able to subject myself to the House again. My problem with this flick has always been the Zombie Kitchen Sink Vomiting approach to storytelling. It really feels like Zombie thought he'd never direct a film again so he threw in EVERYTHING he loves about horror into one neon mess of a film. Watching it now I can appreciate that idea. But I really wish this film was more about the Dr. Satan climax with that beastly gas mask axe wielder and less about the Texas Chainsaw family. Bill Mosley is great and scary crazy. Sid Haig is a whole lotta fun as Captain Howdy. But they're a lot better in Devil Rejects and that's a much better film. House of 1000 Corpses is just a bright MTV mess.
Taken 2: So. Your ex-wife is having marital troubles with the man that replaced you. Your daughter can't seem to pass her Driver's Ed exam. How do you pick up their spirits? Invite them on your business trip to sunny Istanbul. Nothing bad could possibly happen, right? It's not like a ring of Albanian mobsters once tried to kidnap your daughter and their really pissed off father is out looking for some Eastern European vengeance...oh wait...maybe the Turkey vacation getaway was not such a good idea. Taken 2 is more of the same. And that's awesome. Boris The Blade sends his lowrent goonsquad (after all, Neeson slaughtered the A Team during the last go around) after Neeson and his fam, and its a brisk 90s minutes of PG-13 butchery. I take so much pleasure from grizzled ass kicking Neeson breaking necks and shooting ruffians in the back. Both Maggie Grace & Famke Janssen get a little more screentime, but this is Neeson's show and he excels at murdering the bad guys. They never had a chance; can't wait to see what pathetic group of baddies they dig up for Taken 3.
Twins of Evil: Maybe not Hammer's finest hour, but Twins of Evil is one of my favorites from the studio. Peter Cushing is one mean bastard witch finder general and when a swarthy vampire count seduces his twin nieces, his pious killer gets plenty of opportunity to scream and vent his hypocritical rage. There's a little T and a little A, but not the copious amounts you might expect. Playboy's Collinson twins get the job done and their vampiric seduction (or half seduction) offers plenty of heaving bosoms and snarling fangs. Not high art Hammer, but fun enough.
Frankenstein: Of the Universal Monster Movies, Frankenstein has never been one of my favorites. I'm a Wolf Man kinda guy. But my wife has never seen the James Whale classic. And I thought it was about time we changed that. However, we started it maybe a little too late, and the work day might have been a touch too long. 15 minutes into this 70 minute film and the Wife was out like a light. I, of course, continued to watch. I've seen this film about a half dozen times now. And you know how everyone champions Boris Karloff's sad face monster? Well, this was actually the first time I paid attention. The Monster really is a painfully sad creation. Actually, this whole film is tremendously sad. From Boris' puppy dog grunting to the girl in the lake to the father's sad trek through the village. My head was in the right place to feel the pain of Frankenstein. I'm still not an uber fan, but when the windmill lights up and the screams start, I just couldn't help but feel the tragedy.
Quartermass II: Saturday Night was my friend Robert's annual Trilogy of Horror Movie Night. Every year Matt, Robert, and myself pick a film to subject to each other. Matt picks a classic horror. Robert picks a fabulous horror. And I pick whatever the hell I want. This year Matt went Hammer. I've never seen the first Quartermass, but apparently it's not necessary. Part II is kind of a cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space. Professor Quartermass is busy with his rocket launch, but when boil inducing meteorites start dropping from the sky his attention is pulled towards a secret government installation and its machine gun packing zombies. It's a heap of fun with some pretty fantastic effects work. The Tar Man! It might be a challenge to score a copy, but if you have the proper back channels than this one is well worth a look.
Vampire Boys: Well, done Robert. Well done. When country boy Jasin moves to LA (you can tell it's LA cuz every three seconds there's an establishing shot of the city) he becomes the target of a shirtless gang of Vampire Boys. Their leader Caleb believes him to be the one but first he must test him out with an endless series of make-out sessions and the killing of his sadsack roommate Paul. Wow. Utterly terrible. But given how these Trilogy of Horror Movie Nights usually go, this film was nowhere near as painful to watch as some have been in the past.
Phantom of the Paradise: I'm late to the cult of The Phantom of the Paradise. But dammit. I'm a die hard fan now. Usually with these Movie Nights I pick something gratuitously gory and offensive. Last year I picked Fulci's The Beyond and the year before that the 80s flamethrower slasher Don't Go Into The House. But this year my wife was in attendance, and I didn't want to subject her to that kind of splattery terror. But The Phantom of the Paradise. It's just a blast. Weird. Goofy. Creepy. Icky. Silly. Fun. And filled with rocking Paul Williams music. I've only seen the film a couple of times now, but it is withoutadoubt my favorite Brian De Palma film. It's a musical riff on both Phantom of the Opera and Faust, but filtered through De Palma's movie maniac brain with an endless parade of split screens, crane shots, wacky filters. William Finley is beautifully sad as singer songwriter Winslow Leach, and creepy troll Paul Williams is the real monster of the film. And then there's BEEF! Long live the metal stylings of BEEF! If you've never seen Phantom of the Paradise but are well versed in Blow Out, Body Double, and Scarface than you really do owe yourself the sicko treat of Phantom.
COMICS OF THE WEEK!
Aquaman Volume 1 - The Trench: I'm really trying to catch up on this New 52 business. Last week was Wonder Woman, this week Aquaman. And yeah...wow. This was amazing. I am flabbergasted at how much I enjoyed this Aquaman comic. I'm with those other whiney nerds out there that always mocked the Atlantean and his orange scuba suit. But I'll never do it again. The New 52 of the DCU brings Arthur back to the surface world with his hot water moccasin wife Mera in tow. Assaulted by bloggers and bank robbers alike, Aquaman handles the small annoyances with a cocked brow and a piercing trident but when Humanoids From The Deep escape the darkest depths of The Trench its all out ocean war with the fate of both land and sea hanging in the balance. This is not deep graphic novel storytelling but it is one of the most fun books to come out of this cash cow relaunch. Batman's still king, but Aquaman ain't too far behind. And that's an amazing realization to have.
Uncanny Avengers #1: Step aside DC, Marvel NOW is here! But this is not a New 52 game changer. Uncanny Avengers spins right out of the Avengers vs X-Men mini series and since I did not read that book there's a lot of stuff going on here that left me in the dark. Prof. X is dead. Cyclops killed him. Scarlet Witch destroyed the Phoenix force restoring the over population of Mutantkind. Yeah, ok. I guess. Whatever. This first issue establishes Captain America's desire to address the "mutant issue." So we're gonna get Cap & Thor & Wolvie & Havok & Rogue & Scarlet Witch. With the exception of the first three, I do not care about these characters (yet). The first big bad is gonna be Red Skull and his gang of goat faced weirdos. I haven't quite drunk the Kool Aid yet. The art is beautiful and it brings big smiles to see John Cassady drawing a squat Logan again. And that final page, that's nasty. But the intro of the Super Villain team was clunky. And this whole evil Cyclops business is annoying, especially for a former X-Factor obsessive.
Batman #13: Scott Snyder leaves The Court of Owls behind and enters his next big Batman event: the return of the Joker! Sigh. Honestly, I'm sorta with Matt on this one. I find it very hard to get excited over another Joker story, especially after the last arc's fascinating exploration of Gotham and it's hidden history. The Joker's had his face ripped off. He's Leatherfaced it back on. He's targeting Batman's allies. What's new? Not sure yet. I'm hoping Snyder's got an ace up his sleeve, and he's gonna knock my socks off with not-just-a-Joker-story. Capullo's art is great. He draws gross perfectly. And that last page? I just don't see the status quo getting rocked here.
Batgirl #13: I got suckered. Death of the Family crossover. Yeah, don't think so. This is the concluding chapter to some Batgirl adventure with a little hint at a tie-in with the last couple of pages. Frankly, I don't know what happened in this book. Barbara Gordon's is battling some Azrael wannabe vigilante and gets the crapped kicked outta her before she kicks the crap outta the baddie. Can't say it was bad. Can't say it was good. Don't got no idea what's going on in this book. Matt says this new Batgirl title is decent and I guess at some point I'll start from the beginning.
Archer & Armstrong #3: As promised last issue - Ninja Nuns!!!! Also known as "Nunjas!" Not sure if I really dug this book from the start or not, but I'm all in at this point. But I'm even more excited as to where this book is going than where it currently rests. There's a lot of silly stuff here on top of some rather biting commentary and I can easily see why some folks might get ruffled by the content. Get over it, I say. Archer goes up against his adopted sister Mary-Maria and it's only going to get more brutal. So far, Archer's life has been turned upside down and I cannot wait to see him hit rock bottom. Armstrong's a lark and I love his blasphemous history. Hercules, what a drunk.
Bloodshot #4: Another solid comic from Valiant. We get a flashback of a mind controlled Bloodshot "containing" a gray goo outbreak and its gross. It also reveals the kiddie version of Pulse's first encounter with the killing machine. In the present day, they reluctantly team up against the G-Man stooge pulling their reins. I'm excited to see the building of the supporting cast and I'm looking forward to Bloodshot taking the war back to his handlers. The man is seriously messed up and he owes a lot of folks a helluva a payback.
The Creep #2: Two issues in (well, three cuz #0 really should have been a #1) and The Creep is taking its time with the plot. Oxel continues his investigation into the double teen suicide and its obvious that the crazybrains homeless man father is central to the case. But its rather hard to get excited about. This feels like something I won't appreciate until its over and done with...or at the very least this book is going to read much better in trade than singles.
Stumptown #2: Like The Creep, I think this will be better in trade. And I think I might just hold off on this mystery until more issues have hit the stand. PI Dex has a mysterious encounter with a roadie. The police prick their ears to the case. And the missing guitar doesn't seem to be that much missing. What's the big deal anyway? Why should we care? So far, I don't. I'll stay for Greg Rucka.
Hawken #5 & #6: Tim & Ben Truman's weird Western comes to a close...or does it? Hawken has his final showdown with the noseless beast, Sombre and it's some solid action thanks to the gnashing teeth of the Fiji mermaid. Can't really say I was completely enamored with this book, but it's close enough to those old Truman/Lansdale Jonah Hex books to be worth the price. And I genuinely hope this character doesn't just fade into memory.
Hellboy Library Edition Volume 2: Next week is another meeting of my wife's Ultimate Justice League of Extraordinary Book Club and Mike Mignola's The Chained Coffin & Others is the graphic novel of the week. The group wanted to do something in the spirit of Halloween and with a little pushing from Robert we agreed upon the third Hellboy volume...which just happens to be the book that got me back into comics in the early 2000s. It's an amazing short story collection pitting paranormal bouncer Hellboy against a horrible collection of mythological beasties. This was just the excuse I needed to dive back into the Mignolaverse and crack open my library editions. Volume 2 contains the two very best Hellboy short story collections, The Chained Coffin & The Right Hand of Doom. In the wake of recent sagas like Darkness Calls & The Wild Hunt (Volume 5), it's fascinating to see how little tales like "The Corpse" and "Box Full of Evil" laid the groundwork for future horrors. How the embarrassment of one baby snatching fairy could lead to epic levels of vengeance. Still, my favorite story in this book is "The Wolves of St. August" in which Hellboy encounters a group of spectral werewolves in Eastern Europe. The art is still in a period of transition but "St August" perfectly mixes that classic Universal Monsters mood with HB's on-the-job plumber mentality. Workman Monster Bashing.
Hellboy Library Edition Volume 1: Going back to the beginning, the first mini-series Seed of Destruction is far from perfect Hellboy reading. Co-scripted with John Byrne, the story reads rather clunky and a lot of the characters don't feel like themselves. Abe is a fake beard wearing fishman hiding in the shadows while Big Red struts in the open. And even by Hellboy's standards, the first story is smothered with thick exposition. It's all set up. Hellboy's earthly introduction. Nazis. Rasputin. The Dragon. The Plague of Frogs. It's all starts here, but it's all better elsewhere. The second mini-series, Wake The Devil is the real start of the Hellboy adventure. You've got another lost Nazi experiment, Project Vampir Sturm led by the Napoleanic madman Vladimir Giurescu. The introduction of big bad Hecate and her iron maiden snake skin. And you have the spirit of Rasputin still struggling to puppet master the Lovecraftian destruction and rebirth of the universe. Oh, and let's not forget the Baba Yaga, the Russian witch seeking restitution for her missing eye. Seriously, how can you not love a book that brings so much pulp and fantasy together? Hellboy is the ultimate expression of genre. If you're not interested than I don't get you and I don't want to; just sit back and rewatch Steel Magnolias.