Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Reviews: Spooooky One-Shots

Today we’ll be looking at two horror themed one-shots in honour of Halloween: The moody and artful crossover “Hellboy/Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice” and the redundant “Spider-Man vs Vampires.”
Hellboy/Beasts of Burden: Sacrifice

I’m a fan of Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy” books and I’ve been hearing great things about Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s “Beasts of Burden.” I was pretty excited when this one-shot was announced, and I’m glad to say that it lives up to my expectations.

For those not in the know, “Beasts of Burden” features a team of house-pets from the town of Burden Hill who are charged with defending their home from supernatural threats. Hellboy is a demonic paranormal investigator, and his paranormal investigations usually end with the paranormal getting investigated squarely in the face with Hellboy’s giant stone fist. In “Sacrifice” the Beasts recruit Hellboy to help them track down and defeat the source of some recent paranormal slayings.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Movie Review: Red

In our modern hipster world of ironic entertainment it’s really hard to tell if “Red” is glibly self aware or obnoxiously cliched. Considering director Robert Schwentke’s last two films (“Flightplan” and “The Time Traveller’s Wife,”) I’m inclined to believe the latter, but “Red” is just so darned charming that I choose to believe the former. “Red” is a high quality action-comedy that steadily builds up energy an maintains it consistently throughout its two hour running time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Saturday at Edmonton’s Pure Speculation Festival



Proving that I’m out of the loop in Edmonton’s geek community, this year’s Pure Speculation Festival almost flew under my radar. I heard about because (take a deep breath, this is the geekiest sentence I’ll ever say in real life) my D&D 4th Edition Dungeon Master texted me Saturday morning inviting me, because he was there with his LARP group. If that didn’t make any sense to you, congratulations! You can probably do a chin up.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Potential Movies Based on Social Networking

On Monday I spotted a link for Untitled Teen Social Networking Thriller when I was doing my “The Social Network” review. I couldn’t get the idea of some sort terrible Facebook movies out of my head, so I now I’m sharing them with you, suckers. There are two ways you could go with this, either a movie based on people that use Facebook or a movie based on the features in Facebook.



A Friendly Face

Socially awkward Stan Bergowitz is a college freshman who wants to impress his new friends by showing off his hot, but completely fabricated, girlfriend on Facebook. It’s easy make a fake account, but where could he get pictures that aren’t on Google images? In the college library he finds a school yearbook from the 80s and, with a scanner and photoshop, creates a girlfriend. Stan’s friends don’t believe him and call him an idiot, until she starts instant-messaging. Problem is, Stan has no idea who got into this account, and his fake girlfriends starts making very strange demands. When his friends start turning up dead, Stan realizes his new girlfriend just may be a bit too high maintenance for his liking.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Does The Incredible Hulk Have in Common With a Shrimp?





So you’ve got the Incredible Hulk, right? Scrawny scientist guy that turns into a huge monster when he gets angry. So what are the Hulk’s powers? He’s super strong, has super healing (sometimes), can jump across continents, and for those pesky villains that are smart enough to stay just out of reach, he’s got his super clap. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review - The Social Network


The worst part about being born in the mid to late 80s is that people my age have never quite had a very definitive generational definition. There are 60s flower children, 70s disco freaks, 80s neon fanny-pack enthusiasts, and then everything sort of petered out around around 1994, when neon stopped being cool. My generation went straight from post Cold War ennui to post 9/11 paranoia, and popular culture in the 00s was either 80s nostalgia (which I was too young for) or extremism on either side of the political spectrum (which is always lame, ex: Marvel’s Civil War crossover). But with the spread of broadband access and the rise of mobile Internet, identity thieves are scarier than terrorists. Instantanious worldwide communication is the new norm, and Hollywood has only recently realized that the Internet is neither a fad nor a sub-culture.

Friday, October 15, 2010

McDonald's - The Bad Kind of Good

Over the course of the last summer, I had a job that involved getting up at five, driving a lot, and working outdoors. Working ten to twelve hour days is great for saving up money for school, but after months of this your desire to cook your own food falls at approximately the same rate as your standard of what constitutes “food”. At the beginning of summer I only ate fast food every other week or so, but three months in I was eating it three or four times a week. Once I realized how expensive that was, I started looking for cheaper fast food, and that led me to McDonald's. I hadn’t purchased McDonald's food for myself since high school, but laziness eventually wins over quality.

Now, McDonald's isn’t very good. In fact, it’s probably the lowest grade fast food you can possibly buy. But it’s the cheapest, bar none. So even though I was full of the shame of eating this food substitute, I at least knew that I wasn’t spending as much as I could have been. Sort of like if you’re going to drink anti-freeze, just buy the no-name brand because you’re drinking anti-freeze. Why are you drinking no-name anti-freeze? Probably a series of bad decisions, but you had to drink SOMETHING and at least you’re saving a buck.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Done in One: Fantastic Four in... ¡Ataque del M.O.D.O.K.!

In case you were wondering, to get that upside-down exclamation mark, hold down the alt button and press 173 on the number pad. Now that you done got learned, let’s talk about comics.

Fantastic Four in... ¡Ataque del M.O.D.O.K.! 

Written by Tom Beland, and illustrated by Jaun Doe. Beland and Doe have previously teamed up to work on “Fantastic Four: Isla De La Muerte” (2007) and “Spider-Man/Human Torch: !Bahia De Los Muertos!” (2009) both of which have our heroes travelling to or vacationing in Puerto Rico. FFAM follows this trend of tropical adventures, this time with Reed Richards and Susan Storm on a husband and wife getaway. Unfortunately, a series of high-tech capers have the local police baffled, and they turn to Richards to help them solve the case. 

Two small critiques: It’s always tricky to represent characters switching between two different languages, but one of my pet peeves is when a character’s dialogue is written in English, but with foreign words thrown in, usually exclamations. For example, in the beginning of the book we have two Puerto Rican policemen speaking to each other. Now, since we are all logical human beings, we assume that they’re speaking Spanish, but because it’s an English audience we have their dialogue written in English. But they throw out words like “qué?” and “DIOS!” occasionally. Some books get around this by having all foreign languages parenthesized with angle brackets (the greater-than and less-than symbols), but here the random Spanish is just there, and it’s a pet peeve.

Second pet peeve: when characters and background are inked/rendered so differently that it looks like pictures floating on other pictures instead of a single drawing. Example:



El  Vejigante’s hand does not look like it’s resting on the hood of the car. It looks like it’s hovering several inches in front of the headlights. But I’m going to chalk that up to the colorists, because the rest of the art in the book is fantastic. 

With those minor complaints out of the way, let’s get down to the awesome. Beland writes a great sci-fi caper involving genetically altered monkeys, El Vejigante’s origin and search for redemption, and a heartwarming look at the secret origin of Richards’ superhero name, “Mr Fantastic.” The dialogue is sharp and funny, and even the requisite “heroes meet for the first time and have a misunderstanding” fight (which is not so much a cliché as it is a sacred ritual in team-up books) is done in an endearing fashion.
Juan Doe’s art is amazing.  Check this out:



Take note of the inertia in panel one, and the use of silhouettes in panels three and four. It’s always interesting to see how different artists interpret The Invisible Woman’s powers, and I love Doe’s black and blue panels with white outlines. They look sort of like blueprints.

What’s really impressive is Doe’s use of shading and shapes during El Vejigante’s extended flashback and origin:



“Fantastic Four in... ¡Ataque del M.O.D.O.K.!” is an example comics done right. If Marvel gave Beland and Doe an El Vejigante series set in Puerto Rico and consisted of him teaming up with various vacationing heroes, I would buy that in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


I’m thankful for:


  • Comic books
  • The internal combustion engine
  • Family
  • Canada’s World Ranking on The United Nations “Intentional Homicides Per 100,000 People: 2000-2004” (48th lowest)
  • Perimineralization
  • Ironic t-shirts
  • HP Lovecraft fanfiction
  • Unironic T-shirts
  • The Star Wars Extended Universe
  • Digital distribution of video games
  • Isotretinoin
  • Webcomics
  • Books with dragons on the cover
  • Vulcanized rubber
  • The petroleum industry
  • 100% Cotton socks
  • Chocolate milk
  • Raisin bran
  • Australian accents
  • And finally, this picture:


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Movie Night: Soul Crushing Animated Shorts


Here’s a strange theme in animated short films that I’ve come across online this week: simultaneously heart warming and depressing. Check ‘em out!

Fallen



“Fallen” is only vaguely depressing because it’s about a rock/alien, but it’s a metaphor for the inevitability of death.

Kiwi!



“Kiwi” is just cute until you figure out what’s really going on. Then it goes from “Awwwe” to “oooooh, nooooo...”

Sintel



Oh God, I just... need to, lie down. Just... jeez.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

EIFF Week: Wrap Up and Reflections

I don’t normally watch six movies in six days, so immersing myself in cinema gave me a bit more appreciation for what I like in a film and what I don’t. To be honest, I had pretty low expectations going into the Canadian films, and I saw an example of one that works (The Academy) and one that doesn’t (The Corrupted). So what were the major differences between these two films?
The Audio
“The Corrupted” has a lot less action than “The Academy,” but the short lived gun rampage in “The Corrupted” is marred by downright embarrassing gunshot sound effects. Nothing takes me out of a movie experience faster than poor audio; it’s the difference between “independent film” and “home movie.”
Continuity
The characters in “The Corrupted” only have a few scenes where they are splattered with blood or injured, and even then it’s inconsistent from scene to scene. One character is sprayed with monster barf, is writhing in pain while his arms have an chemical-burn special-effect on them, and in the next scene his arms are fine. And the blood splatters on his shirt are way off. I can understand the difficulty of reproducing a blood splatter from a take where the splatter on his shirt is randomly applied by practical effects. Simple solution? Drench him in the crap. If he’s covered in one scene, he’s covered in the next. The characters in “The Academy” get beaten worse and worse as the film progresses, and they still managed to have dried blood patterns and bruises on their faces that are both escalating and consistent.
The Energy
“The Corrupted” starts out like you typical horror movie and stays that way. There exists “using subtlety to create tension” and then there’s “boring.” You could cut half an hour out of the beginning of “The Corrupted” and not lose anything. “The Academy” has a clunky opening; it’s five minutes of exposition served on a plate, but it’s interrupted by a guy crashing through a wall and beating the snot out of another guy while bagpipe music plays. Why break through the wall? Walls are meant to be broken, obviously. Why bagpipe music? Why the hell not?
The Ending - Spoiler Alert! Highlight to reveal
Taking a brief trip to bizzaro world, I actually liked the ending to “The Corrupted” a lot more than “The Academy.” The ending of “The Corrupted” is both unsettling and ambiguous, which is fitting for a horror movie. The danger presented by the monsters is still out there, and we’re not sure if the heroes have really escaped. Meanwhile, the ending to “The Academy” should have been bittersweet, but instead feels like the directed fell in love with the characters and wanted them to have the happiest, sugariest, candy-coated, jelly-filled ending ever at the expense of all logic. I should have have got choked up at the ending. Instead I got type 2 diabetes.
And there we have it. So if you are an aspiring filmmaker looking to create a film catered exactly to my tastes, make it ridiculously violent, kill all the main characters in the end, and invest in good audio equipment. And put robots in there somewhere.

Monday, October 4, 2010

EIFF Week: Our Own Backyard

I saw eight of the short film offering that played on Saturday’s “Our Own Backyard” feature. Each of these films were created in Alberta by Albertans, and I present a two sentence review of each; one synopsis, and one summation.

Monsters

A woman faces her brother’s killer after his release from prison. Convincing drama created using only two people in a restaurant.

Prey

People get folders that tell them to kill people. Well shot, but not enough story to keep me interested.

The Liminal State of Decay

Whoa, art film. It’s a metaphor for a guy who hears his next door neighbors having sex, and he goes crazy and kills them... or something... what?

Cold

The unglamourous lives of Edmonton-area drug dealers and their customers (satisfied or otherwise). A good example of using slow pacing to build tension.

Full Speed or No Speed

School project film following local metal band, Striker, as they finish their debut album. I’m guessing this is an experimental film, and the experiment was to see how boring you could possibly make a documentary on power metal.

Escape From Death Planet

There is a planet of death, of which an escape from is attempted. Imagine every sci-fi horror movie ever made distilled to its fundamentals and presented in exactly seven pleasantly succinct minutes.

The Road to Tubby Dog

Cover band “The Remones” goes on the first world-tour from Edmonton and Red Deer. A documentary parody that works, thanks to the hilarious band members.

Wrecking Ball

Animated film involving a wooden puppet bartender imaging himself murdering a pair of bar patrons. Giving the patrons Quebecois accents was weird, but the music was cool.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

EIFF Week: The Last Lovecraft



Jeff is an ordinary guy - stuck at a dead end job, with a boring life. When a strange old man gives him an Ancient relic, and tells him that he is the last bloodline of famed author H.P. Lovecraft, he and his friend Charlie embark on an adventure to protect the relic piece from falling into the hands of the ancient evil trying to release Cthulhu back into the world! - Official Synopsis

If you’re a nerd on the Internet dark fantasy enthusiast, you’re probably well versed in the lore of Cthulhu. For those that dwell outside of basements, HP Lovecraft is the father of modern fantasy-horror. His most popular legacy character is the dark god\alien\entity Cthulu, and during his life Lovecraft encouraged other writers to reference places and characters from his own work. This led to a robust community of writers working within a shared mythos. Think of it like Star Wars. It was created by George Lucas, but expanded by fans through novels and other media.

“The Last Lovecraft” is a comedy-horror that caters more to the comics ‘n’ Star Wars crowd than the Stephen King crowd. For an independent film, the effects are quite convincing, but for a movie about combating the madness that encroaches from the abyss, almost everything that happened was in broad daylight. There’s never much a feeling of menace for our heroes until the very end when they face Cthulu’s otherworldly minions directly. Gregg Lawrence gives a great performance as Captain Olaf, delivering lines like “Ya ever been fish raped before?” with dead seriousness. Kyle Davis and Deving McGinn play Jeff and Charlie, and their instances of understated humour was well done, but their acting fell short when there was a need for comically over-the-top rage or fear.

Overall, I enjoyed “The Last Lovecraft”. It has great comedic timing and a fun script. If you’re a fan of the Cthulu mythos and nerdisms in general, give it a shot. Otherwise, it’s a pass.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

EIFF Week: The Academy



They are society’s flotsam, murderers, sociopaths, criminals bred for Darwinian survival. A select group of convicted youths are given a second chance by a shadowy organization: The Academy. They will be trained to become efficient weapons of death, honing into a valued asset the very thing that made them outcasts. They are divided into classes, trained as a unit for three years and isolated from everyone and everything else. The final exam? Over 100 square kilometers, classmates must track down and eliminate each other until only one remains. The rules: They cannot engage each other in public places, in front of witnesses, or harm or cause harm to innocent bystanders. Highly trained and with limited time, friend will kill friend, enemy slaughter enemy across a populated urban backdrop. This is The Academy. Let the exam begin.

Remember my review of “The Corrupted” where I said that it lacked the manic intensity that would have made it a great b-movie? “The Academy” has that energy and spades, and it’s a total riot.

Two amnesiac commandos grappling while charging through not one, but two walls? Check. A woman shooting a rapist in the crotch 14 times? Oh yeah. The line: “It’s a pity that I don’t remember why I hate you, but I know that I do”? Hells. Yes. “The Academy” is a Canadian, independent action movie that knows exactly what it is and runs with it full speed, teeth bared, guns blazing, and on fire.

The tone is set early, with each character either waking up with a fragmented memory or getting the snot being beat out of him or her. There’s a romantic sub-plot in there, but who cares? There are things getting stabbed, shot and punched all over the place accompanied by old west stand-off soundtrack. I can say that I have a completely unironic love for the “The Academy.”

If there’s one major complaint I could make about this movie, it’s the extremely overwritten ending, which comes completely out of left field. During the Q&A session after the screening, the the director Kenneth Barr revealed that the ending was rewritten 16 times; they settled on an ending that could segue into a TV series. I think the film suffers for that, but the story overall quickly breaks down after even the slightest scrutiny. Why amnesia? Why fist-fight when you have knives? Why knife-fight when you have assault rifles? The ending just makes no sense. Sorry dudes. No sense.

Convincing visuals, brisk pacing, fun characters and light mood make this Edmonton made movie and enjoyable thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Edit: Oh balls. I just now noticed a fairly terrible typo in this post: "I have completely ironic love." I have completely UNironic love for "The Academy." As in "genuine love." Whoops. In case there's any doubt, I really did like this movie. Damn this sarcastic hipster culture we live in. It's corrected now. - October 29 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

EIFF Week: The Inside Job



From Academy Award nominated filmmaker, Charles Ferguson, comes Inside Job, the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, “Inside Job” traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Matt Damon, Inside Job was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China - Official Synopsis

Everyone knows the buzzwords “subprime mortgage,” but this documentary shows exactly how the financial sector managed to make millions while millions of individuals lost everything. Ferguson takes no crap from his interview subjects, as seen in the trailer. In my screening, there was significant (and quite entertaining) audible disgust heard throughout the film as the web of corruption is slowly unveiled. The pacing is brisk, but slow enough for stupid people like me to understand the intricacies of international finance. The use of colourful graphs helps a lot.

The most satisfying thing about “The Inside Job” is seeing the guilty parties squirm in front of a camera. “I don’t need to answer that” is the most suspicious way you can answer a question like “doesn’t that seem criminal to you?” Iconic of the ineptitude found from government leadership is Frederic Mishkin. Mishkin resigned from his position as a Federal Reserve Governor at the height of the crisis and was asked why he resigned at such a sensitive time. His timid response was that he needed to make revisions to his textbook, and was needed back at Columbia University. When asked if he truly believed that the textbook was more important than the credit crisis, he begins to speak, stops, and looks at the interviewer as if he’s hearing his own words for the first time.

“The Inside Job” is an oddly thrilling and upsetting tale of intrigue, deception, greed and corruption.