Thursday, September 29, 2016

And into Halloween Season

So this Halloween isn't going to be about dedicating myself to watching a list of movies this year. I can't think of any right now because I have been watching a slough of horror flix from various release dates throughout the year already. I have been reading and writing a lot over the Summer months, so maybe I'll celebrate in that mode.

I hope to publish the now six year-old scenario "The Horrible Fate of the Haunted House Hunters" this month in time for a release date around the week before Halloween. It was originally a CoC session, but long since evolved into a Crawlspace event. Since it won't be on sale or "Pay What You Will" (or "Take it please I only only want hits") at Drive Thru RPG, I doubt that the timing will boost initial sales, but hey I will feel great at doing for the season.

Reading something new horror from a known contemporary author, like say Ben Sperduto or Dan Mills or Richard Lee Byers, is one way of keeping it real. I also have the original run, 1983 or 1984, of House of Mystery's I, Vampire in a TPB somewhere around the library. I think I'll finish it. Maybe, I'll look into some of Marvel horror characters as well.

Over the weekend just before Halloween, I am running two Crawlspace events at Beckett's new game store Weird Realms. They were supposed to be a part of grand opening festival, but things have been pushed back, so now the sessions will be private parties, over Friday and Saturday evening. The planned scenarios are "Detroit Death Metal Audition Apocalypse" for Friday's giving, and then "Ghost Story." G-Story is the actual sequel to The Horrible Fate. Though it isn't a Hoot, I intend on doing some serious party gaming here. Since we don't have to worry about customers, I am sure the other attendees will be in the mood as well.

Hopefully JerryTel shows up for some Zombie Action

Luckily I am off on the 31st of October, hmm maybe I should re-read that Zelanzy novella, so my porch of spookiness will be up and running. I am already buying candies, all of which have to be produced in the USA for this most American holiday, and have some props from previous years ready. I just might put a bit more effort than usual into the night's festivities though.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Suicide Squad

A couple of days ago I was able to remove my FacetuBe photo of an outtake of the Joker and Harlequin from the Suicide Squad movie. I had put it up when I first heard about the movie from supernatural comic book aficionado Ben Lathrop over a year ago. I promised myself I wouldn't take the shot down until after I had seen the movie. Considering I have been wanting some "street level Batman" since the  mega-apocalyptic installment of the Nolan Dark Knight trilogy. Frankly this looked like one of the few chances, I'd get for it back then. So while, I've always been more "meh" about the title featured than anything else, having both the Batman and Joker (the two "mythic level" icons of the DC streets) appear in it as only side characters meant that the DC comic book "street level" universe was going to be explored. Going to see it last Monday was the perfect finale for my vacation which had centered around GenCon.

I loved the movie . I am going to go see it probably two more times in theater and then buy the DVD and then watch it again. Then I'll watch the Blue Ray version available only online for me because those machines just suck.

The strongest point was the characters. With more main characters than Sergey Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkim, the story-telling still works. While Will Smith still eclipses the sun in this movie, the cast around him are allowed at least one shot each along side him. Guess what, Will Smith's Deadshot is a devoted parent with an unseen spouse off some where else in the world. Each of the characters do show some personality, will the direction and writing showing their individuality.

Especially nice is the fact that the audience is encouraged to find the hidden aspect to each of the protagonist villains as well as look for what makes the good guys interesting. Killer Croc is the scary Black Man that we all have to learn that he is indeed human. Diablo is the reformed esse that just can't ever go back. Enchantress is the cutting, goth girl that cleans up nice enough to bring home to mom. Captain Boomerang lives up being as big an ass, yet real enough guy, as anybody that would use the word "boomerang" in his nom de guerre. Amanda Waller is that manager down at the Unemployment Office that doesn't give a damn about your paperwork emergency. Harlequin is the liberated woman that is still daddy's little girl enough to be reminded that she is a victim of Stockholm syndrome whenever a villain needs to be self-righteous. Flagg is the capable hero that is just a little too self-indulgent to do much good for most around him. Slipnot is the gullible kid that we should all try not to be when we're 14.

Meanwhile Batman and the Joker never get too much depth. That works for me because I want more of them later and not from a whizz-bang production like this flik. Jared Leto has a pretty full vision of who his Joker is, though I suspect that the film's makers willfully decided to not let us see much more than some teaser material.

The action and the formula gets a little plodding and mechanical. I guess the editors and writer took a bit too much of the criticism of BatsVSupes too heart. The main characters, all 2,000 of them, are introduced in about 45 minutes of trailer material. The rest of the plot unfolds in "A to B to C" fashion and the twist leads to the final face off with two, not just one, boss monsters. I guess Ayer, the writer figured the over-used flashbacks would provide the magic required for the silver-screen to have emotion bamboozling to make it a truly memorable film. He should've just had the flashbacks be the action for the first 45 to 75 minutes, turned Enchantress and Flagg into a real love story, and then let Waller take over the world. The climax sequence, could then be the wonderful Ghost Busters homage that it was meant to be without feeling guilty.

Still the product good enough for Hollywood intellectuals to feel clever enough, with the revenue to prove it. Though I rate this movie a Bigfoot, on the Smurf to Godzilla scale, it'd be nice if film writers would write just a bit more than the comic book writers that they are getting their "inspiration" from.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice

I have been dreading the arrival of this movie since I first heard about it. Zach Snyder did 300 which I hear is done frame by frame like the comic book by Frank Miller. As a movie, despite all the Homeric-eroticism, it is just a pathetic film. The trailers that I watched did not inspire me with confidence. Dudes in riot gear were bowing down to Superman and Batman was sneering at him through a rubber mask permanently set in a sneer saying a stupid line ("Do you bleed... You will). All I saw was more bad Frank Miller script, which I take to mean "bad storytelling with incomprehensible reasoning." The early reviews I read on the movie were awful. Words like "incomprehensible," "illogical," and "constipated" were being used in even the nicer ones.

Still on the day of its release, which was Thursday March 21st, despite its advertised March 22nd, I bought a ticket. Not just any ticket, but a "select" reserved seat which was available for $21 dollars. Like the worst of any William Castle movies from the 50s, the presentation was in 3-D, and the seats buckled and leaned back and forth with the action going on the screen in front of the ticket-holder. Luckily a friend gave me a "coupon" code, which bought me the ticket for $7 because I was a "true Batman fan." I had had a few beers and shot of Ardbeg (whiskey so bad it's green) before showing up. Seeing how awful the last Star Wars flik was, and the need for movie factories to use Trademarked franchises to sell train wrecks of motion pictures, I wanted to be pretty numb.

About ten minutes into the movie, I dialed back my seat controls to as low as it would allow-- it wouldn't let me just shut it off so I had to deal with a machine kicking my seat every few minutes or so. Around the time that Laurence Fishburne cracked his character's second joke, which I laughed at easily, I started letting my guard down about the movie. By the second action scene, I was in love. A little over two hours later, I was still in love and starting to respect Zach Snyder as not only a capable director, but a fan of Superman. From one over-aged adolescent to another, the man gets comic book and has done DC justice.

Batfleck is Bruce Wayne not just the Batman

Sure Superman is young and fresh. He always should be, but the Bat-Man is where every 35-plus fan of comic books is, at the height of their powers, but, to paraphrase Jeremy Iron's Alfred, not dead yet, despite at least two decades of trying. We get to see posh a cocktail party given by multi-billionaire then work in James Bond style espionage and hot chicks complete with fabulous shoulder blades and an accent. We also get to see him beat up that spare tire that men of a certain age carry around their waistline most of the time. A bit more seriously, the role of Bruce Wayne for all of its orphan porn, is probably better written than any other take on the character to date. This makes up for the 90s toy and booklet favorite, the "power-armor" tribute of the last part of the movie.

The Wonder Woman movie just might be as exciting as Wonder Woman

Both the smooth world-building and the later rock-em, sock-em part of the movie featured a Wonder Woman that was almost as interesting as the the history of the now seventy-something year-old character created by William Moulton Marston. The directing influences of this take of the princess of power have decided that since she is immortal that perhaps World War Two is a bit quaint for her introduction. Her pictured super-friends from 1918 was almost as exciting as Hans Zimmer's Led Zeppelin/Beethoven-inspired soundtrack around her.

Girlfriends around the world might disagree

This is the best superhero live-action flik ever. Call me a fanboy, which is rather rich considering my penchant for being disagreeable with much of recent comic book-based media production history (since 1988). I have a pretty specific criteria for what makes a good superhero flik. So far the professional reviews will not decrease my love of this motion picture.

What is my criteria for a good motion superhero flik?

1.) The viewer should understanding why a superhero is needed quickly
   BatsVSupes is at a disadvantage. It's been three years since Man of Steel came out introducing Amy Adam's Lois Lane to the world and that's like yet another four Marvel Comic's movies introducing female about 1,600 characters that mimicked the DC heroine. BUT this movie is a part of an on-going saga, and potential threats to Earth from outer space has been established.
   The movie re-capped and added detail to this threat as seen in Zach Snyder's first handling of Superman. It also introduces why a street-level superhero like the "bat-man" is paying attention to our planet's first extraterrestrial immigrant within fifteen minutes. To help you along, in case you're not a big MoS fan, there are plenty of sequences showing the superheroes and their place in the world around them.

2.) The action scenes should be understandable
   Since about Transformers: The Over-Budgeted Movie, Part One, there has been a tendency to make things so action-packed that no one in audience knows what is going, except for what the soundtrack is inferring. I've watched blurred information occur again and again from the Avengers and Star Wars VII, and most movies in-between.
   In this movie I watched: Superman save Lois Lane from Al-Shahbaab, Batman witnesses 9-11, Superman and Batman meet for the first time, and things get really more complicated. At no time did I have to ask myself 'what just happened?' This is not the film-makers' pretense to leave out mere-human comprehension for better understanding because of sound effects and music.
3.) Characterization is not a substitute for plot.
   If the superhero movies keep retelling the origin of a superhero while introducing a new cast along with the film-makers' current favorite villain (usually with more CGI than the last one), the franchise is about ripping off the audience's love of older, and probably better, movies.
   Okay Batman gets his story re-told here, but in the fictitious, and factitious, "Superman True Fans Club," he is a new character in this saga. If anything, a scene where he is defeating an established villain of the DC universe(s) should have been included.

And... ?

There about two hundred comic book titles that I would like to see made into live-action movies with just enough CGI to have them not suck. At the same time, I like film. What is a CGI-epic and CGI-driven franchises does not always fall into what a major motion picture should be. What I like about this movie is that it covered a lot of character history, in a single flik and without relying too much on noise and flash.
Dawn of Justice makes the movie that came before it a somewhat better tale to watch. I have to wait for the next one to get a fuller perspective of the cycle being presented. All that said, I have enjoyed this movie.

About the bad press

Someone must be paying for it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Star Wars: the Force Awakens

Well I saw it. The cultural phenomenon known as Star Wars: the Force Awakens, which the build-up to over the last couple of years has been a lot fun. Everybody I know has been waiting for it. George Lucas got to go see it first and be passively-aggressive and everyone got to be snarky right back at him. Folks I know have missed work to go see it on the midnight of the day that it publicly aired. Last Saturday I even heard the movie, with pretty bad sound quality, wafting from a cracked window in project housing. Seems to me everybody is getting in on the festivities. As late as Tuesday, the mega-cinemas around my neck of the woods were doing pretty brisk business. The last bit was a nice night out for sure.

It only me took a few minutes of watching TFW before I realized that I didn't have to be spellbound. Lucas Sound sound effects creeping into my left ear, but not my right ear, reminded me of that-- the "immersion" just went away. After a while, it wasn't just J.J. Abram's blurry action scenes and grating sound mattes that was giving me headaches. By the middle of the picture, I realized that it was production decisions by the movie-makers that were bugging me even more so.

Why was Max Von Sydow in the movie? More over why couldn't he have real role? He is an actor of that stature, especially in the "genre" films. You know like the rather well-known Alec Guinness, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing in the originals and the prequels? Von Sydow is cardboard cut into some scenes to grant to franchise some big name credibility to the new film's opening, and then lost to formulaic scripting and production decisions that he'd cost too much later.

The writing wasn't bad though the plot was a bit confusing at times. Plenty of Nazi fetishism for the cryptofacsists while having both girls and boys play strong roles to placate the Outrage Brigade and their auxiliary of helicopter parents. The character development made me feel clever as I was able to figure what everybody's response to this or that dramatic decision seconds before it happened, though in truth I learned this from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes irregularly. So in short, Disney knows how to make movies that a lot of people will want to see.

Like Hamill, Ford, and Fisher the young cast members are all wonderfully talented actors and actresses, complete with some appearances in various Law and Order franchises. This is rather like the "unknowns" of the first Star Wars flik, where all three of the main characters had been working on TV and the Silver Screen for ten years at least and not really that unknown. I am sure that they are all going to go on and become more fully developed characters, at least for the good guys.

For the bad guys, I am worried. Do you member how you knew to be scared of Darth Vader when the skin and bones Moff Tarkin strode up next to him? Well, imagine two young men in their twenties, one is Aryan-ish and the other lion of Zion-ish, and despite WWI Central Powers' uniforms both look a little soft around the edges. They both kneel down to Smeagol who is playing the Wizard of Oz. Even the lacky bad guys are poorly presented. Interaction among our "heavies" is more like Mean Girls-meets-Teletubies than say the Force Ten from Navarone.

Visual-wise the sci-fi is kind of Star Wars-y but more CGI stock footage than much else. Locales were well-known vacation spots in Ireland, CGI, and a backlot filled with sand. The "rathtar" aboard Han Solo and Chewie's big space junker, J.J. Abram's proudest contribution to the movie I'm sure, have been in about every weird horror flik since before TSR wrote up the Phaerrim. The ships, the ones that we could actually see, there were many blurry suggestions of ships, were either from earlier films, or boxes.

Overall the film is something of a Big Foot, on a scale of Godzilla to Smurf. Will I go see the next release? Well, yeah. What else do I have to watch that is space fantasy with a decent budget? I would to see some old fashion competition among the film studios though that would provide subsequent styled films, but aren't the same franchise.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dystopian Omlette: Chris Kelso's Slave Stories: Scenes From the Slave State

One of my more intimate local friends Beckett Warren told me that he had been published in Chris Kelso's Slave Stories: Scenes from the Slave State so I picked it up a couple of months ago. As you already know I have been delving into dystopian-visioned works for a few decades already, so it wasn't a stretch for me to get into and this collection of short stories has many authors tied to Cleveland and its surrounding parts. Heck, the day I finished up the book, I brought it to read over breakfast in a nearby diner and noticed that one of the windows was being replaced after being shattered that very morning-- Do you want to talk about the feeling of synchronicity?

It seems that Kelso had created a setting and then asked various authors to help him fill out the streets, back alleys, and by-ways. There is the big city Wire City, its inner suburbs of Ersatz and Spittle, and the surrounding backwoods of Shell County. Off to a far edge of my imaginary map is the fill-in-the-blank city of Moosejaw. Almost thirty authors jumped in to help along with four artists. Like a punk rock album the reader gets a lot of economy out of the product.

Also like a punk rock album, one has to be prepared for what lies within the jacket. The authors draw the contradictions of everyday life and blend allegory with surrealism to make some tales that would have Absurdists like Beckett (Sam not Warren) and Ionesco feeling comfortable. Others might feel a bit less comfortable, especially those where sexually explicit language and situations are concerned. While the overall effect isn't too shocking, come on folks listen to high-schoolers walking home already, it can be a bit jarring. Then there is the strangeness that the reader has to deal with.

To name a few of the works:
I enjoyed Mary A. Turzillo's "Crime Against Nature". Here she delves into transhumanism, a term that would baffle me if not for folks in life. Her language as a virus pun is awesome.
Clive Tern's "Shell County Vodou" is a fun romp into employee politics.  My favorite story in the collection.
Be prepared for Preston's Grassman's "Interstate" sordidness. It depicts injection drug use but with a twist.
 "The Coin-operated Man" by Gregory L. Norris, is about the most traditional work in the collection for the casual sci-fi reader. It is very well placed in the setting but is a take on the hard-nosed S-F adventure fiction of the 30s through the 50s. Mind you, don't get too comfortable.
Beckett and Tony Yanick, also a local friend, writes "Tribes of Neurot". I hope the reader is comfortable with his body, and its own flora and fauna.

The collection doesn't get boring, especially with the wide range of writing styles from the twenty-nine authors included. The subject mater tried to be new and different for the reader. I suspect that is more for removing its audience away from their comfort zone than novelty. Some might be easily shocked by this, but readers of authors like Kathy Acker and Samuel Delaney, heck even Bruce Sterling or Pierre Boulle, are going to be a little dissatisfied. I suppose what I find lacking is that once one gets over the fear of being in the slave state presented, no one digs into the factors behind it. We only the fact that nobody likes to go work, sometimes it even shows us why, but not often enough. The work is still refreshing and interesting enough to be a "Bigfoot" of a read.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

T.J. Bass

As a kid of the seventies, I caught many of the best parts of over-population and ecological disaster and their warped futures science fiction ever. Whether we're talking the rather gritty and practical Soylet Green, to the rather stylish and fantastic Logan's Run. I actually read the novels years before I ever saw their movie presentation. Oddly enough, I saw Walking Tall, the Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Jaws before I was 18, err or 17, or whatever age it takes before kids can get into 'R'-rated movies, but rugged Charlseton Heston and glam Farah Fawcett were too much for my family. So as it was that I'd be in my 30 before I saw Michael York as a sandman, it'd be in my late 40s, damn-near 50, that I'd find out about the novels by Thomas J Bassler MD or TJ Bass. I thank Ben Assaf for the lead from over at Good Reads.

The population boom is not so much a failure as it is an absolute success. Thousands of years in the future, humans as we know them are being replaced by the nebish.  Millions of billions, possibly a trillion or two, inhabit the planet. Every square inch of the surface that isn't a mountain or tar pit is relegated to being dedicated to agriculture. The humanoids, and their entourage of vermin and parasites, are pretty much the only complex organism alive living in vast underground cities. The population centers of the world comprise the Hive.

Much as we view bears, mountain lions, and neanderthals the nebish view their contemporary human neighbors. Unlike the bears and lions, the humans tend to really be dangerous. The battling between the two makes quite a fulfilling sport for combatants on both sides. The most successful nebish hunters even tend to defect to the outside world and become "cow-eyes" (one needs big eyes to be above ground) themselves.

The dystopic future presented by TJ Bass is undated, and keenly not easily outdated as a lot of science fiction ends to be. The author was a physician and his understanding of biological science shows, but he keeps it fairly understandable to non-scientist reader, like me. His technical world is functional without belaboring too many engineering processes and he avoids over specifying the technology itself-- unlike the petroleum, fusion, and telephone-driven futures of 1945-1995. His societal evil is quietly competent and many a corporate employee reading this will get it right away. She maybe even agree with the Hive.

It was Bassler's take on artificial intelligence that I liked the best. While the humans, yes even the nebish are human, have complete story-arcs, the reader gets to know the AI working around the characters. I find this last bit the most interesting aspect about these two books. In a time where sci-fi writing is dominated by evil electronic-minds overtaking humanity, it is nice to see how a non-robotic engineer can understand how AI will most likely become helpful and therefore actually used by humanity. The works taken together rather reminded me of how HG Well's works, especially The War of the Worlds or The Time Machine, not only read well but are still relevant as speculative fiction. Definitely a couple of King Kongs here of S-F literature.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Halloween-y!!! 2015

Let us never forget that September 15, Nine-One-Five-Whatever, is a good time to start getting ready to make the year's Halloween season awesome. Since Friday evening, that was 9-11 folks, my partner got me into the mood for this year's celebration of phantasmagorical horror and supernatural flights of fancy. You see, we were bringing a patient out of our vehicle into the hospital. It was raining, so I put a white towel on the patient's head. She promptly covered her whole head with the towel. When walking into the ER, my patient raised her arms and said, "BOO!"

The ER staff loved it, especially after the Charge Nurse heard that I wasn't the one that covered up the patient's face, as well as the cop pulling OT as security at the ambulance door. Even when transferring the patient the staff kept speaking like Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi My partner couldn't stop talking about Halloween for the rest of shift-- her son's three now, so she can start doing some of the festivities again. With this little piece of guerrilla theater, I am totally in the mood for Halloween again.

Others start earlier than I do, Ben Lathrop, that's Hepcat,  is concentrating on vampires this year.  Charrl's, Charlie Fleming, Screamzine channel is horror 24-7-365 and is available on ROKU. I am especially digging the "Gravebit" series on the Screamzine channel. 
But what I am doing for Halloween? Well, I've decided to publish a couple more Crawlspace scenarios. Since I am off on Halloween night, I plan on doing a porch production complete with American-made chocolates, like Boyer's (I really do like butterscotch and peanut butter cups) and B&W movies for the hordes of uncultured kids these days. A bit more privately, I intend on indulging in some movies just for Peryton and me, maybe Caed or Batman when they stop in over the next few weeks. Here's the selection I am thinking of for this year done in countdown fashion for drama:

10. Blackula ('72)- moving from Hammer Horror films that I did last year into the exploitive 70s.
9. Frankenstein 1970 ('58 actually) - don't let anybody fool you, the 70s have no exclusive deal on exploitative horror flix.
8.  Alien (1979)- Would you believe that I've only read the book?
7. Cat People ('42)- Haven't seen it yet.
6. Cat People ('82)- Only heard the song.
5. Creature from the Black Lagoon ('54)- Gotta get a bit of classic onto this list
4. Prince of Darkness ('85)- Peryton's choice
3. Hellraiser II ('88)- Peryton's choice
2. Blade the TV Series ('o6)- I'm in love with the receptionist.
1. Hellraiser ('87)- A movie that set the tone for those that followed it.