Sunday, May 31, 2009

Just a nod to let you all know I'm still here :)

Stop Talkin' About Comic Books Or I'll Kill You by nerd rockers Ookla The Mok.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Drag Yourself To Drag Me To Hell

Wormed (pardon the pun) my way into another sneak peak last night. This time it was Sam Raimi's new horror film "Drag Me to Hell." It was exactly what you would expect from Raimi- lots of sick, twisted humor mixed with moments of sheer terror. It was very much in the vein of "Evil Dead 2." If you haven't seen that flick then think Three Stooges meet Poltergeist. If you're like me and a longtime fan of the ED films then this movie is for you.

I have sort of an interesting history with Raimi. I'm a reluctant fan. When ED2 came out I had a buddy that insisted we see that movie. Even though a "zombie flick" was the last thing on my list to see I had nothing better to do so I gave in. What followed was one of the best experiences I'd ever had at the cinema. The crowd watching the movie with us was rowdier than hell, making the film a participatory experience akin to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" sans toast.

Probably my favorite autobiography is Bruce Campbell's "If Chins Could Kill." There's something so quintessentially American about the story of Rob Tappert, Sam Raimi and Campbell as they pushed their way into the film industry in their late teens. They didn't know what the hell they were doing. They had no formal training. They just had a love of film combined with enough naivete to think it was easy to break in to the business. The fact that all three of those guys got to be successful in their own way tickles me to no end.

Raimi is an incredibly gifted filmmaker so it's been kind of sad to see him burn himself out on the Spiderman franchise. The last film in particular stunk of studio meddling and creative battles lost. Many fans were wondering when Raimi would get back to his old school, low budget style of film. Raimi's triumphant answer to that question is "Drag Me to Hell."

I can't think of the last movie I saw that was as attuned as this one as to the audience reaction it wants to invoke. Not the ephemeral sentimentality of your average film snob waiting in line at the Sundance festival for swag. I'm talking about your popcorn chewing knucklehead who is willing to throw down 10 bucks of their hard earned cast to be entertained. This film is self-conscious entertainment with a capitol "E."

Allison Lohman plays Christine Brown a bank mortgage officer who denies a loan extension to an old gypsy woman. In revenge the old woman curses Christine. Over the course of three days she will be tortured by an evil spirit until she is literally dragged to hell. Unless she can find some way to lift the curse...

Most of the reviews of this flick up at Rotten Tomatoes are positive but Rex Reed of all people posits that the central plot is razor thin thus the film is too mainstream. Yes, the film doesn't sway much from it's main story but to say the film is mainstream is supremely stupid. One of the joys of "Drag Me to Hell" is chock full of stuff that you would never see in a big budget Hollywood film. No thing and no person is safe in this movie. There are things that happen to children and animals (off camera) that would send your average studio executive running from a screening room to take a shower.

That isn't to say this film is in the mold of modern torture porn horror. It's not. The gross stuff in this movie isn't much worse than what you'd see watching "Fringe" or "House." The gross stuff usually follows a jump scare and is intentionally calculated to turn a scream into a quick laugh. I had no problem watching this flick with my 15-year old daughter who isn't usually a fan of horror. She loved the movie more than I did, which is to say a whole heck of a lot.

Finally- for fellow fans of Sam Raimi - The Classic figures prominently in this film. I chuckle everytime I see that car in his movies.

-- Dean Wormer

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Somebody Stake This Idea

No Buffy without Whedon!

I hope this is a bullshit rumor because it simply won't work with Whedon at the helm.

--Dean Wormer

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reviews Of Some Stuff.

I've been running through what seems like the library's entire graphic novel collection. Here's a few thoughts on some of the stuff I've read lately.

Judgement Day by Alan Moore.

Great idea for a story built around the question of who would judge a superhero if they were accused of killing another superhero. It also had a fun retro vibe to it with historical flashbacks told in the style of the comics of that individual decade.

Essentially Moore's story is a criticism of the massively abused practice of retconning comic universes that's swept through comics in recent years.

The Groo Odyssey by Sergio Aragone.

What is there to say? It's got Groo, cheese dip, frays and Rufferto. "What do you mean "slow of mind?'"

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.

I've been interested in reading this since I read that Heath Ledger had based his Joker in part on the Joker in this book. In this story the Joker escapes from Arkham Asylum and embarks on a mission to drive Commissioner Gordon insane.

I have a feeling that the images in this story were probably much more controversial at the time it was first released in the 80's. In particular there's a sequence in which the Joker breaks into Gordon's apartment and shoots and tortures Barbara Gordon. Compared to the hyper-violent scenes depicted in today's comics this sequence, while disturbing, seems almost quaint.

We3 by Grant Morrison.

Arkonbey wrote a positive review of this a couple of months ago and it's been on my mental checklist to read ever since. It a terrific premise involving laboratory animals that have been surgically altered to be military killing machines. The protagonists; a dog, a cat and a rabbit, escape from the lab and head on a trek to get "home." It's "Homeward Bound" if the the cute animals were able to rip you limb from limb without working up a sweat.

There's a lot to love about this story but the thing that tickled me the most is that the animals have rudimentary oral communication skills due to their implants/ training. With just a few lines of dialog Morrison is able to convey the animal's personality to a remarkable degree. The dog is the protector of the group that wants them to stick together. The cat doesn't want to take orders and would rather strike out on his own. The rabbit just wants everybody to get along.

If I had any criticism it would be that the artwork, while excellent, is sometimes confusing making it difficult to understand what's going on. This is usually a cardinal sin with me with comics but this thing is so damned good that it's worth overlooking this minor faux paux.

Batman: Joker's Asylum by Arvid Nelson.

This could be summed up as "Tales from the Crypt starring the Joker." It's an anthology series focusing a short story on several Batman villains including the Joker, the Penguin, Poison Ivy and Scarecrow. Each of these villain's stories is introduced by the Joker from his cell at Arkham Asylum.

These stories are excellent with just the right creepy tone running through them. I was especially moved by the Penguin/ Chester Copperpot tale in which he buys a young woman from slavery and raises her like a daughter. There's a real sense of menace underlying the Penguin's kind overtures towards this woman with a suitably dark ending to the whole thing.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: No Future For You by Joss Whedon.

Whedon's Buffy season 8 comics are well worth reading for a couple of reasons. The first is that many of the writers including Whedon himself who wrote for the series are writers on these books. The other is that we get a more imaginative version of the Buffyverse since they're unconstrained by network or budget concerns.

In this collection of stories several old friends show up including Faith. As a fan of the series I found myself hearing the actors voices when reading this which is a sign of good storytelling.

By twist of fate I had two similar books without pictures arrive out of my holds at the same time. Both involved American warships travelling back in time.

Destroyermen: Into the Storm by Taylor Anderson.

Out of the two books this was the one I was most interested in. During a WW 2 Pacific battle a WW 1 era steam destroyer is thrown back in time. I made it two chapters. It was a good premise that fell apart once the crew was back in time and the giant sailing ship full of lizard people showed up. Oy.

Weapons of Choice by John Birmingham.

This story begins in the year 2021 with a U.S. led international battlegroup preparing to attack an islamic caliphate in the Pacific when they're thrust back to the year 1942 during the battle of Midway.

I almost quit this book after the first chapter as well. The characters were paper thin and the set up for time travel perfunctory. The book was written in 2002 so Birmingham made some interesting assumptions (the flagship of the fleet is the "USS Hillary Clinton" named after our first female president) but also some lame assumptions (the first female vice president was Condi Rice. Yeeeechh!)

I decided to at least give the book the chance of seeing how he handles this modern fleet fighting WW 2 era navies with their lack of satellites, missiles, computers and everything that signifies modern navies. I'm glad I held out to see what happens.

I had assumed this book would be like Harry Turtledove's Guns of the South series where modern weapons find their way back in time, in that case the civil war, and have a grand affect on the outcome of that conflict. That's true in a way with Weapons of Choice but in this case the sleek warships with their AI are only the second most dangerous thing the modern navy brings back. The ideas they represent are a bigger threat to the world of the 40s and not just to the Axis powers.

Imagine the WW 2 era U.S. navy and it's lack of racial integration having to deal with a modern U.S. navy with female officers, service men and women of all races and sexual orientations. How would intergrating these navies strategically work? We take things for granted that took decades to change. How quickly could Admiral Spruance who led the Midway group deal with an African-American captain who happened to be a lesbian?

It's a fascinating book in true sci-fi form that forces you to think about things we take for granted. Well worth reading.

-- Dean Wormer

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Even Patrick, the Wolf boy, has a mom.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

They're Not "Super Broads."

I'm not a fan of Marvel's Joe Queseda and even less so after reading his defense of sexism the new Marvel Divas where superheroines spend time talking about boys and shoes rather than kicking supervillain ass.

Says Queseda:

...The cold hard reality of publishing and trying to sell our books to as many people as possible, so here's an example of what happens more often than you may think here at Marvel. From time to time, we'll be launching a title that doesn't focus very heavily on the super heroic.

Look, I'm not going to bitch about female superheroes having bodacious ta-tas and being drawn like some combination of Aphrodite and Raquel Welch. Both male and female superheroes are drawn with unrealistic, biologically impossible features as part of the convention of comics. It would be nuts to complain that super humans are drawn, well, superhuman.

But portraying superheroines as somehow empty-headed ditzes is not cool for a variety of reasons. It sets a poor example for young female readers of comics, the numbers of which have grown legion of the last few years. It implies that superheroines are somehow less heroic because of their gender. It's just stupid.

If I wanted to expose myself to something featuring women talking about shoes I'd turn on the CW. Get your shit together Marvel.

-- Dean Wormer

Star Trek Shouldn't Be Entertaining.

I know some of you guys have legitimate worries about the new Trek film but there are some that are just determined not to like it no matter what. I thought this was pretty funny.

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

-- Dean Wormer


Friday, May 1, 2009

Happy May Day

Superman, the commie one, bids you a happy May Day!