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.
Art by Monica Marier
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.