Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dork Art: Mondo's Iron Man 3

As they've done with every Marvel movie a week out, Mondo has unveiled their Iron Man 3 poster...or posters.  The above one comes to us from artist Martin Ansin, measures 24 x 36 & will set you back $50 (the variant running the typical $75).  The poster featured directly below is from Phantom City Creative, measures 24 x 36, and costs a pretty $45.  Frankly, I'm not in love with either of them.  In fact, I think the IMAX Midnight Release print seen at the very bottom has them both trumped.  The general problem with these pre-release posters is that the art stems only from the trailer imagery.  They feel more like teasers than full-on celebrations of the films.  You look at the prints Mondo did for The Monster Squad or Battle Royale, and those images encompass the whole film.  These are little more than press releases.


Comic Review: Saga of the Swamp Thing 5 & 6

Book Five

    After the apocalyptic madness that capped off the fourth volume, I had to wonder where Alan Moore and company would take the characters.  How would they top the events on the shores of Hell?  Hints were dropped during book four; that stuff about a photographer getting some snaps of Abby and the Swamp Thing frolicking.  When authorities get their hands on the pictures, they flip, dragging poor Abby in on morality charges.  But where is the Thing?  As life gets out of hand, Abby bails for the anonymity of Gotham, but things go from bad to worse.

    When the Swamp Thing gets back to the real world, he’s ready to settle down with his lady.  But, finding out she’s held captive in Gotham sends him into a bit of a fit.  What follows is a biological siege of the city and a surprisingly good Swamp Thing VS. Batman story (the use of other series’ characters in Swamp Thing has been less forced than typical of ongoing comics from the Big Two).  With Gotham turned from urban jungle to literal jungle, it’s residents loose their minds.  I like that they draw some attention to the fact that Gotham must be populated by some seriously crazy people, not just the villains and heroes, but the everyday folk.  It takes almost no time for millennia of civilization to be stripped away.  Gotham is like the worst of every city, most obviously New York, like all the worst aspects of Hollywood’s portrayal, with none of the good.  It’s a madhouse of vile people, faceless and hostile.

    In this volume, in spite of her place as something of a damsel in distress while stuck in Gotham, Abby Cable really starts to stand more on her own, becoming a more dimensional character and a stronger person.  I don’t want to get too into some of the plot points (might want to avoid reading the introduction until after reading the book, by the way), but while spending time on her own, she needs the Swamp Thing less and less.  And the Swamp Thing’s blue period is an odd capper for the volume, that does set the tone for what is to come.

Book Six

    Getting into much more science fiction type themes, this book opens with a story that brings back a classic character, Adam Strange.  Here, he’s a pathetic figure, desperately in love but used and abused.  Apparently, artist Rick Vietch was more interested in science fiction, and Moore directed the book in that direction.  On the surface, the Swamp Thing is about the last character that should be traveling the stars.  However, it works better than expected.  Through Strange, we also come into contact with some of the Hawk People and get hints of some intergalactic politics.  From there, the Thing attempts to make a journey to a planet of advanced plant civilization.

    Now, here’s where it gets a bit more Moore than I had anticipated.  Sometime during my reading of book Four or Five, I had chuckled to myself when I thought, “well, finally, an Alan Moore book without a rape.”  Turns out, I jumped the gun.  (Although, thinking back, wasn’t there that implication early on, with Abby curled up in the shower?  Maybe I was simply mistaken, and this series had already featured Moore’s signature).  Seriously, though, what is with Moore and rape?  I’m sure issue 60’s experimental visuals and style won it many fans, as well as some of the more disturbing aspects of the story.  But while there was a profoundly interesting idea, it doesn’t come together, and gets lost in attempts to be ‘ART!!!’

    The last couple of chapters/issues serve as a wrapping up, perhaps a touch too tidily, of many threads from throughout Moore’s run.  From that drugged out hippie turned drugged out environmentalist and the shattered, abused woman Abby had been caring for, to the soulless corporate/government types who messed with Swampy’s Zen thing.  While a touch too pat, the overall conclusion is satisfying, and for Moore especially, somewhat optimistic.

    Looking back over the six volumes of Saga of the Swamp Thing, I have to give Alan Moore and his fellows a good deal of credit for exploring a character I feel has a great deal of story potential in a lot of creative ways.  I understand why this run is considered one of the greats, and it serves as a reminder of why Alan Moore is one of those titans of comic literature.  Of course, I still have major issues with Moore.  I think his general pessimism and contrarianism is often childish, like he’s stuck perpetually at the emotional level of a picked on high school kid.  He’s clearly intellectually impressive, but seems like an emotional cripple.  His world view, which he pores into his work, is so relentlessly downbeat that he often sabotages what could be great stuff.  And he’s so danged wordy.  While that works in Swamp Thing better than usual, it is often his weakest element as a writer.  The first half of Watchmen is the thing I point out so often, because it’s such a glaringly bloated mess.  But again, it’s clear the man’s got talent and brains.  He weaves in so many diverse concepts, from science fiction, to classic myths, to his own weirdass magic (I refuse to spell it with a ‘k’) stuff.

    I enjoyed the heck out of the 80s movie Swamp Thing.  It was a silly, fun film (and Adrianne Barbeau has never been sexier…except maybe in Carnivale, but that was a terrifying, uncomfortable sexiness I’d rather not think about right now).  But after reading this cycle, I would love to see DC/Warner Bros. do a serious take on the character.  There’s plenty here for a trilogy (such an important thing these days).  Movie one, steeped in gothic horror as the Swamp Thing haunts the bayou, causing trouble with folks dumping toxic waste.  Bring in the beauty and the beast love affair between the Thing and Abby (and keep her white hair!).  Movie two, an exploration of Swamp Thing’s power, leading perhaps to a retelling of his Gotham sequence, with Abby in jail and him taking the mantle of Swamp God.  And then movie three, about coming to terms with power, achieving balance, etc.  It could work.  And with today’s special effects technology, the really crazy stuff (including the trippy sex) could actually be achieved.  The problem of course is that I’d want this R rated, and I’m sure they’d never go higher than PG-13.

    Again, this is a classic set of comics for good reason.  It’s worth seeking out.  While not perfect, and occasionally floundering for an issue or two, it’s generally good and not infrequently excellent.  While I’m not in love with the artwork, there are moments of startling beauty and power.  It is a must read for comic fans, especially if you’re sick of spandex.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Five
Author: Alan Moore
Artists: Rick Veitch, etc.
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3095-1

Saga of the Swamp Thing Book Six
Author: Alan Moore, etc.
Artist: Rick Veitch, etc.
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 978-1-4012-3298-6


Movie Review: Star Trek III The Search for Spock

    OK, first thing you’ve got to know is that like in comic books and TV, when characters die in the movies, they should stay dead…But they don’t.  Star Trek II was a resounding success (going on to be most people’s favorite of the franchise).  And in the aftermath, there was no way they were going to stop making Trek movies.  So, along comes Star Trek III.  But, one of the three core characters, one of the folks who made Trek what Trek was, lay dead in a photon torpedo casket on the new Eden of the Genesis Planet.  What to do?  Hey, remember that weird shot from the end of II, where Spock grabs McCoy’s head and whispers ‘remember?’  Yup.  Spock ain’t all dead.  Just mostly dead.  If he were all dead, there’d only be one thing to do.  Go through his pockets for loose change.  But being mostly dead, he’s partly alive.  Thus, the Search for Spock.

    With this movie, we start to see more Klingon culture, which would go on to be developed much further a few years later in The Next Generation TV series.  We saw their red lights and bumpy heads, and heard the first snippets of their guttural language in The Motion Picture.  But  here we see more of their nature.  And, we learn more about the Vulcans and their weird mystical beliefs (for logical people, they’ve got some pretty illogical things going on).  And finally, there are the secrets of the Genesis Planet.  And we have Kirk’s son David back, and Savik, the Vulcan (played by a new actress).  David seems like less of a twit this time around, but becomes instead, a tragic hero with a flaw inherited from his father.

    While obviously, the quest to find Spock (well, reassemble him) is central to the film, it also continues Star Trek II’s examination of age, of friendship, and mortality.  What I notice more now are the moments between the characters, the old friends and companions.  These are the bits I enjoy most.  And I’ll admit the last sequence, with everyone together after the ceremony; it gets the lump of coal I have in place of a heart to twitch, if just a bit.  This film is the second of the trilogy within the series.  It builds on the events of The Wrath of Khan, brings back a friend but destroys so much.  Kirk loses someone else, the crew loses something important, and the Genesis Planet…well, it just loses.  And that all sets up for Star Trek IV.  I don’t know if its hindsight (or foreknowledge?) or the effects of having Spock reborn so easily, but watching the movie now, I feel like the losses don’t have the impact they should.  Does Kirk even think about his son again before that brief moment in Star Trek VI?  Nobody mentions poor Carol Marcus from the previous film.  Where’s she at?  And the Genesis Planet?  Shouldn’t its loss mean something?  Even the Enterprise gets little more than a ‘well, stuff happens.’

    The frustrating thing about this movie is that it takes the positive, optimistic scientific development (the Genesis Planet) and turns it into a Frankenstein’s Monster, a corrupted creation that will eventually destroy its creator.  So, in Star Trek II, the morally challenging and interesting question of genetic engineering is turned into an unquestionably anti-science thing, making specific allusions to the Nazis’ Aryan myths with all the blonde, blue-eyed, pretty people (watch Space Seed, the supermen were ethnically diverse).  And then with Star Trek III, the hopeful technology for terraforming is turned into a specifically anti-science thing, an allegory for nuclear weapons.  Sigh.  With the exception of V’ger (which raises its own questionable ethics), are there any non-negative portrayals of science in this series?  Can we get some pro-science stuff in Trek?  That would be swell.

Did someone say fistfight?


Monday, April 29, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (4/21/13-4/27/13)

    Not really much of a week for this dork.  Did a bit of reading, a bit of watching, a bit of biking, and a bit of cooking.  But nothing amazing on the nerdy front.

Oblivion:  If you’re looking for a reinvention of the wheel, or a profound and transformative experience, you’ll be sadly disappointed.  If you’re looking for a solid, slick, visually impressive science fiction adventure movie, this has plenty to offer.  It has an epic quality, and draws on some of my favorite elements of the past, with robots, ultra-tech, and a hefty dose of post-apocalypse.  There are a couple ‘twists’ that change the lead character’s journey, but don’t pivot the whole plot.  Sadly, too much was (as is all to often the case) given away in the trailers.  Still, the trailer didn’t give everything away or spoil every dramatic cue.  This is the kind of movie I’d like to see being done on a more regular basis.  This should be an average entry in the genre, but as it’s one of the rare entries, almost by default it’s one of the better.  Though set on Earth, it creates a world unlike our own and doesn’t shy away from the weird ideas that were so common in the literature but commonly absent from film.  Some aspects of the finale could have been handled better, but they weren’t so bad as to mar the overall film.  As I mentioned, it’s visually striking, but also has a good electronica score, reminiscent of the director’s previous film, Tron: Legacy.  And here’s the greatest part of the whole thing: No flippin’ shaky cam!  I could tell what was happening throughout the movie.  The camera stayed a respectable distance and didn’t jitter about to the point I felt sick.  What a welcome change from so many recent movies.

Tron: Legacy:  “You’re messin’ with my whole Zen thing, man.”  Dang it, I don’t get tired of this movie.  After watching Oblivion, I thought I’d throw the director’s first movie back in the DVD player.  He has an excellent visual style and manages to meld computer and practical effects extremely well.  If you ignore the fact that it’s supposed to take place inside a computer network, the world of the Grid would make for an excellent execution of one of those crazy ultra-future worlds you normally only read about in sci-fi novels.  It reminds you that we have the capability of putting beautiful and powerful images on screen when there are artists at work.  And dang, I love that score.  I was going to just throw this in as background noise, but ended up getting sucked in once again.  I’m still frustrated with America for not embracing this movie.

Django Unchained:  “I’m not from the South.”  Christoph Waltz is so devilishly charming in this movie.  A gleefully civilized, deadly bounty hunter.  When he teams up with Jamie Foxx, they make for a fascinating and compelling pair.  The relationship that develops between the two is great, as is the montage type scene of them in the mountains during winter could have been the basis of an awesome movie in its own right.  I could watch a whole movie about that winter.  Every copy of Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind should come with a copy of this film.  It’s a great inoculation against their BS.  Dr. Scholtz’s  horror at the madness of slavery and his righteous fury is beautiful to behold.  Django is a stark fist of vengeance on a quest for his wife.  And the blood is worthy of the craziest samurai film.  Those aren’t squibs but hoses and bladders pumping and blasting like a gory water-balloon fight.  And that Fred Williamson smile.  Glorious.

Tokyo Joe:  “We were over 18 when we were 15.”  What a mess.  Poor Joe.  He ran a business in Tokyo, but then that danged war broke out.  So he signed up with Uncle Sam and fought the good fight.  Now he’s back in town, looking to pick up the pieces of his pre-War life in a post-War Japan.  And things aren’t going well.  It’s perfectly understandable why this isn’t one of those Bogart movies you hear people talk about.  It’s enjoyable, but also forgettable.  There are some hints of story, but not much really happens.  It seems like the filmmakers were reaching for threads of Casablanca and some other War tie-in and/or Bogart movies.  But it doesn’t come together.  Still, it was nice to see Asian actors in the roles.  And while forgettable, it’s not bad.

Dishonored Lady:  “I got a rule about women.  They ain’t breaking the law, let ‘em alone.”  A tempting harlot (I think she even votes!  For shame!) lures men by standing around and trying to do her job, sometimes even saying hello.  Things go from bad to worse when every man around her can’t help but be completely seduced by her, even when she’s just having a drink or calling for a cab.  But then the greatest, smoothest, sagest shrink ever to slick back his hair sets her on the straight and narrow by getting her to give up the high life, live in a dive, and paint.  OK.  It’s a weird thing for me to notice, but Hedy Lamarr’s outfits in this movie are kind of ridiculous.  They look like adult versions of a little girl’s ‘pretty little princess’ kind of thing.  She’s a beautiful woman, but she’s dressed like a child.  It’s weird.  The movie is melodramatic crap, really.  But it’s watchable crap.

The Strange Woman:  “A young man of fashion will be very popular in Bangor.”  This time, Hedy Lamarr plays a dreadful child who grows up to be a dreadful woman in Hollywood’s version of my hometown; Bangor, Maine.  She’s a danged devil.  It’s bad when the creepy old perv who marries her seems somewhat sympathetic by comparison.  Yet, somehow they weave in this story, as she’s pitting father against sun, about how she’s a philanthropist trying to clean up the rum-fueled lumberjack/whore riot that is Bangor.  It’s like she’s got a good-evil switch, and some hyperactive kid won’t stop flicking it.  When she’s not making sex-eyes at every strapping young sailor or lumberjack, she’s a tireless champion for the poor.  When she’s not half praying for her older husband to die, she’s staying up with him all night trying to save him from a fever.  She’s so crazy her crazy has crazy.  She’s not the kind of woman your mother warned you about.  She’s the kind of woman the kind of woman your mother warned you about would warn you about.  Bangor looks like a frontier town from a Western.  I think the house I grew up in would already have been standing when this movie took place.  The movie is somewhat difficult to watch.  Lamarr plays such a madwoman that the waves her character makes seem to disrupt everything about the film.  You can’t root for anyone, and only feel those who die are lucky enough to be out of her dastardly clutches.

Emperor:  In the aftermath of Japan’s defeat, an American general with pre-War ties is called upon to help with the occupation.  The movie deals with a lot of cultural confusion, the clash of two very, very different world views.  The cult of the Emperor, a tradition of duty and devotion going back into deep cultural time, being crushed by the an ideology of individualism and personal ambition.  I find Japanese traditionalism to be as inscrutable as religious fundamentalism, for pretty much the same reasons.  As one old soldier says in the film, the Japanese are a people of great selflessness, but also capable of shocking atrocities, and both stem from the same world view.  This too puts me in mind of the deeply religious, who can be at once profoundly kind and appallingly evil.  Matthew Fox has the look of a WWII vet, with his golly-gee good looks made a bit ragged and weathered by hardship.  He puts me in mind of so many of those early 50s movies where the actors looked middle aged, but would only be 25 or 30.  War, smoking, drinking, and hard living.  It’ll get you.

The Shadow Whip:  “If you don’t tell us, you’ll have to face our Serial Bombs.”  The Martial Arts world was a difficult place.  Even more prone to take offence and get the itch for trouble than the typical gunfighter of the Western, the kung fu warrior had to be on constant alert, because a fight could erupt at any moment.  Woe to the innkeeper or clay pot salesman.  I love the superpowers of martial arts masters, those little things that tip you off to their amazing skills.  Walking on powdered snow without making imprints.  Awesome.  I like watching these movies that feature unusual weapons, but I have to admit, the whip doesn’t work all that well.  When fighting large numbers of spearmen, it looks extremely awkward.  It might just be a problem with fight choreography, but I think it’s more than that.  The movie does feature one of my favorite martial arts tropes, the inability or unwillingness to use doors.  Why use a door, when you can burst through a window?  Why use the gate when you can leap over the wall?  This film is fairly typical of the Shaw Bros.  It’s well produced, action packed, perhaps a bit convoluted in plotting.

The Mind Snatchers:  “I don’t care if you’re a girl.  I’ll punch you right in the mouth.”  Christopher Walken looks like he’s maybe 18 in this.  The transfer on this DVD is appalling.  It looks like something recorded off TV with a bad signal.  The fashion and hair in this is shockingly ugly.  Was this the look in Europe at the time?  It makes the worst sins of the Mod movement and the Hippies look like child’s play.  The music is also dreadful, sounding like something off a 70s sitcom.  Walken plays such an insufferable jackass that I kept hoping one of the people he ticked off would just put a bullet in his head.  It reminded me a bit of his performance in Communion, where he’s supposed to be the protagonist, but I kept wanting the aliens to stick a probe in his mouth instead of his ass.  There’s also a hindsight issue with the movie.  It’s basically an anti-science film based on early research on the brain.  The film implies that conditions like schizophrenia are just part of being human, and that treating them is tantamount to removing a person’s humanity.  It relies on the visceral horror of opening the skull and putting wires inside, which it assumes the viewer will be repulsed by.  Of course, 40 years later, great strides have been made in the treatment of many brain related ailments, and yes, sometimes those include putting electrodes inside.  I don’t think that very many of the people who once suffered from serious problems, nor those today who may soon be cured, would feel the same horror.  For example, all those def people now able to hear thanks to cochlear implants.

Birthday Girl:  “Thank you.  I think that’s very fair.”  A lonely dude in England breaks down and tries an online service to find a mail-order Russian bride.  Maybe not a great idea.  But he picks a winner.  She’s pretty and sweet.  Sure, she was supposed to be a non-smoker and speak English, but you can’t have everything, right?  The awkwardness between them is painful but charming.  The bits where they explore John’s kinks are weirdly cute.  (The scene where she’s on the bed, playing with his tie?  Not my cup of tea, but I’d be willing to try a different brew.  Ya dig?).  Maybe things aren’t so bad…then Vincent Cassel and his buddy arrive, and things go bad fast and hard.  I have a weird thing about Nicole Kidman.  Clearly, she’s a beautiful woman.  And sometimes, in some rare movies, I find her very sexy.  But usually, she makes me think of a porcelain doll, something pretty to put on a shelf, but avoid touching for fear of damage or smudge.  This film falls on the sexy side.  Maybe it’s the dark hair?  Or just my natural inclination toward women I clearly know are trouble.  It’s weird having two French guys and an Australian woman play Russians.  But that’s the movies, I guess.  Though it features none of the signature style, the plot of the film could have dropped right out of a classic Noir.  John is the sap, Nadia the femme fatale.  But in spite of everything, it manages to be a cute romance along with the dangerous crime caper.  It also manages to capture some of the pain of being an everyman.  The montage featuring John’s boss reading aloud from his employee review is crushingly accurate and painful.  The corporate speak that manages to makes to make him feel like crap, even though it’s a positive review.  Spot on.

Doctor Who: Ambassadors of Death:  “Right!  Cut it open!”  It’s weird going back and watching stories from this era.  The Doctor is trapped on Earth, with parts of the Tardis set up in a swanky lab.  This story begins with a manned probe returning from Mars, running silent.  What happened 12 hours after the men landed?  Why haven’t the communicated?  Who…or what is in the returning pod?  As a conspiracy builds, you know you’re in for another invasion of Earth story (90% of Jon Pertwee’s stories).  Another issue with many of the Pertwee stories is the color.  It would probably look better in black and white.  The color is uneven, bleeding, faded, and grainy.  This story arc is extremely long.  Seven episodes is long, even for an arc of Pertwee’s era, already frequently over-long.  Even so, I somehow didn’t think it felt as bloated as some others.  It wanders a bit, but remains fairly interesting.

    “Shoot it?  Major, that horror is made of people!”  More Swamp Thing.  I read the final two volumes of Alan Moore’s run on the series.  Darn it, but that’s an interesting character, with a lot of potential.  I’m curious to see what other authors have done with him.  Like where did Rick Veitch go with his sci-fi bent?


Brad's Week In Dork! (4/21/13-4/27/13)

Yes, I stalled on the Martin Scorsese-a-thon.  No real reason.  Just haven't tracked down a copy of New York, New York yet.  Looks like I might have to dive deep and purchase the blu ray to make that happen.  But the rest of the week wasn't that crazy.  I found myself in a work stretch of 7 days, coming home and not really wanting to blitz through cinema.  I read a good batch of comics, but nothing I really want to focus on here.  The big news came from the big screen.  Pain & Gain (thanks mostly to The Rock) earned a spot as my second favorite film of 2013 so far (yes, Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects still reigns supreme and I find that so completely strange).  But both Oblivion & Lords of Salem proved to be interesting theatrical experiences, but also films I just couldn't back fully.  I'm still waiting for that Great Movie.  Iron Man 3 hits next weekend, fingers crossed for flawless Summer entertainment.

Animal Man - The Hunt & Animal vs. Man:  Running side-by-side with Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing, but where Alec Holland battles The Rot from the The Green side, stuntman turned super hero Buddy Baker battles the decaying force from the side of The Red.  Green = plant lifeforce.  Red = animal lifeforce.  The big difference here is that where Snyder is completely & utterly faithful to the Saga that came before (you cannot ignore Alan Moore), writer Jeff Lemire has little interest in following Grant Morrison's footsteps.  Morrison's fourth wall shattering comic is written off as nothing more than a dream.  Lemire's Animal Man is as new as The New 52.  And that is absolutely not a bad thing.  The first tradepaperback centers around his daughter Maxine taking on the powers of The Red - after she resurrects the corpses of all the neighborhood pets.  Their journey takes them into the realm where Animal Man's powers began and together they discover the real deal behind Buddy's origin as well as the invading force of The Rot.  The second tradepaperback takes Buddy & family on the road with three servants of The Rot chasing their tail.  Hellblazer John Constantine appears to point Buddy in the direction of The Swamp Thing, and the two books rush towards each other.  Lemire relishes the grotesque, taking full advantage of artists Travel Foreman & Steve Pugh.  These guys know gross.  They've been waiting their whole careers for The Rot.  Twisted creatures covered in tumors, claws, tentacles, and leaking blood & puss.  You want monsters (and who doesn't want monsters?) then you'll get your fill on Animal Man.  The vaults & crypts of EC Comics are not locked shut, but are thrown wide open in The New 52.  Take a peak.

Oblivion:  "That is one pissed off weapon!"  Joseph Kosinski follows up the underrated Tron Legacy with this post-apocalyptic mystery reminiscent of...well, Everything.  Planet of the Apes, Alien, 2001, Outland, Zardoz, Moon, Wall-E, and I Am Legend (the book as well as all 3 adaptations).  As a science-fiction film about science-fiction films it's a good enough time at the movies.  Tom Cruise fights for the users; the human race has fled to Titan after a cataclysmic war with The Scavengers left Mother Earth decimated.  He's a worker bee.  Looking after the drones that guard the hydro towers converting what's left of Earth's natural resources.  Don't want to get too much into spoiler territory here, but whatever the revelations they're too familiar to be exciting.  Tom Cruise makes it work though.  The man knows earnest.  His scowls & shouts can pretty much sell any ridiculous sci-fi trope.  Doesn't hurt either when Morgan Freeman pops by to add an extra layer of exposition.  Production design is the real king of the film.  From the sweeping icelandic landscapes to the industrial Scav bunkers, the world of Oblivion feels legit even when the story settles on homage.

The Lords of Salem:  For the first ten minutes I thought I was going to love this movie.  The opening scene depicting the Satanic Rights of Meg Foster's coven are so delightfully Devil's Rain, and I was hopeful that Rob Zombie's latest would offer another grande trip down genre memory lane.  After all, The Devil's Rejects is a perfect piece of 70s exploitation and the gore hound's crown jewel.  Then the misses shows up.  And Sheri Moon Zombie is not the actress this movie needed.  Her disc jockey banter grinds the film to a halt.  Jeff Daniel Phillips, Ken Foree, & Sheri Moon - just a couple of chums chuckling it up with absolutely zero chemistry.  But every moment Meg Foster is on screen with her wretched staring contests is utterly unnerving.  And when Dee Wallace teeny boppers her way through the black rights, The Lords of Salem is a barrel of dead monkeys.  Rob Zombie is an expert at showcasing nonsensical dream imagery - he makes a great music video.  Goats.  Neon Crosses.  Smoke banks.  Jiggly mutant midgets.  Satan worshiping werewolves.  When he relishes in the blasphemy The Lords of Salem is a creepy, wrong-headed enchantment.

Django Unchained:  I just can't stay away.  Six watches.  I know I said this last week, but this is definitely my favorite of the Tarantino flicks so far.  You may be able to argue the superior quality of both Jackie Brown & Inglourious Basterds, but Django Unchained is the flick QT made for Brad.  Yeah, it's a Western or Southern - whatever.  So already you're playing in my favorite genre.  But then you add the hero's quest against the backdrop of America's great shame, and the resulting rage is not just cathartic but highly entertaining.  Tarantino drags his audience through the muck and filth of history, a horrendous reminder, but when Django stands victorious in front of an exploded plantation I am on my feet in twisted joy.  It's a brutal watch, but a necessary one.  Entertainment as social conscious.  

Pain & Gain:  Shave 30 minutes from the runtime and we might have had the first great film of 2013.  It's certainly the most captivating performance from The Rock to ever assault an audience.  His Paul Doyle is a born again cokefiend convict who falls in with the Sun Gym Gang when The Church grabs for his manbits instead of his eternal soul.  When rags goes to riches and riches to cocaine, The Rock goes full demento, acting to the heavens and achieving comic genius.  Finally, an actor who understands his Baysplosion surroundings.  And as he's proven in Ted & The Other Guys, Mark Wahlberg only excels when he's wrapped in the absurd.  His orgasmic slow motion expressions are almost as entertaining as The Rock's green inked beard & toeless panic.  Yes, Michael Bay's sophomoric, homophobic, misogynistic comedy has finally found a place in this "True Story" attack on the American Dream.  Should we forgive him now for those Transformer balls dangling over John Turturro's head?  Hell no.  It just so happens that Bay's indulgences fit swimmingly into Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely's screenplay.  The Rock, Walhberg, and Anthony Mackie are a tremendous trilogy of dunces and it's a hoot to see them stumble into the atrocities resulting from their criminal delusions of grandeur.  But should such a gross and tragic "True Story" be a hoot?  It's a little awkward to laugh at The Rock grilling severed hands on his BBQ when THE IS STILL A TRUE STORY crawls across the screen.  It is a messed up and bizarre crime spree that is also funny as hell.  Darwin Awards couldn't possibly do these dolts justice.  Pain & Gain certainly doesn't idolize the dimwits, but the reality makes my enjoyment a little complicated if not distressing.

Creation Entertainment's Official Star Trek Convention - Cherry Hill, NJ:  After work on Friday, The Wife & I braved DC traffic to travel north to the strip malls of sunny New Jersey.  There, tucked away in a corner of the Cherry Hill Crowne Plaza, Creation Entertainment was hosting their Official East Coast Star Trek Convention.  This was Lisa's first Trekkie Con and I was kinda hoping for something epic, but Jersey doesn't do epic.  Billed as the 20 year celebration of Deep Space Nine, the con was little more than a dozen Vendor tables & a sprinkling of Trek Celebrities.  The big names were Avery Brooks (Capt. Sisko), Michael Dorn (Worf), Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), Nana Visitor (Major Kira), Rene Auberjonois (Constable Odo), and Armin Shimerman (Quark).  They rotated the tables, no one celebrity sticking out through the entirety of the convention, and for the most part we were happy with our awkward fandom interactions.  Lisa chatted vegan lifestyles with Dorn.  Nana Visitor complemented us on our matching Niners ballcaps (aren't we adorable!).  And Rene Auberjonois was very pleasant in accepting Lisa's full-on Boston Legal lovefest.  Every couple of hours one of them would take the stage for storytime.  Nana Visitor revealed Odo as her best DS9 lover "Just think of the shape shifting possibilities."  Cirroc Lofton droned on about his encounter with The Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia, refusing to take questions from the crowd.   Michael Dorn chanted ballbreaking lies of Gates McFadden stripping for the cast of TNG.  And Avery Brooks managed to take a bevy of questions, but offered no answers.  The man is wonderfully jazzy & zen, and probably bat shit crazy.  "Either you're a god or you're not.  I'm a human being...relationship with the divine...it doesn't change me.  I'm not fooled!  I still see you out there!"  Whoa.  Anyway, it was a hotel con.  Quiet.  Odd.  More expensive than you'd like.  But another fun weekend in the weird world of dorkery.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Now We Work For The Hulk!" - Fast & Furious 6 Trailer Stars The Rock & A Tank

Final Fast & Furious 6 trailer hit Facebook this evening.  God Love A Tank!  The new film in Hollywood's most absurd franchise kicks it up a few notches of crazy with a highway chase gone berserk.  Can't wait for The Rock/Vin Diesel smackdown team-up, but I find myself even more ready for the Gina Carano/Michelle Rodriguez subway showdown.  Londoners better watch their back, the city has not seen a lot of pleasant times in cinema lately.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Dork Art: Mike Mitchell's Mondo Portrait Gallery

A few days ago I posted my Week in Dork with a header image provided by Mike Mitchell's Django Unchained portrait.  It's a striking piece of art that's only just a portion of the Mondo Gallery show currently on exhibit in Austin, Texas.  Ah, to live in that hipster paradise....sigh.  I can only hope that some of these appear as prints at this year's SPX cuz I desperately want to put the above Dredd shot in my bathroom.  Why, the bathroom?  Not sure, exactly.  Above the toilet, keeping watch, disapproving Karl Urban.  Just seems right.