Ta-dah! I’m behind on uploading these to the print-on-demand services that can give you a physical copy, but at least you know it exists!
Ta-dah! I’m behind on uploading these to the print-on-demand services that can give you a physical copy, but at least you know it exists!
As has been my habit for the last several presidential elections, I made two graphics in reaction to the two possible outcomes of the election, only one of which ever sees the light of day. (Actually, in 2008, I only set about to make the graphics on Election Night itself, and victory was announced for Obama so quickly that I never got as far as making the alternative graphic for McCain.) I would have posted the appropriate graphic last night, but the election was still undecided when I was ready to go to bed, and I didn’t have enough emotional investment in either candidate to keep me awake.
With that preamble, my official comment on the election:
Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United (2014) – I haven’t seen many of Marvel’s recent direct-to-video animated features, so I can’t say how this compares. I will say that the comic-influenced CGI in which it was produced is probably the best medium for a non-live-action, non-$200-million-blockbuster superhero movie — all of the exaggerations of motion and color that are comics’ hallmarks can be preserved, but lips can actually articulate words.
This story is set in a pseudo-version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least as character design is concerned. Iron Man’s voice sounds too snappy and Spider-Mannish for me, but apparently Adrian Pasdar has voice-acted Iron Man in roughly a bazillion animated things, so he IS the animated Iron Man.
Oh, story? The Taskmaster and the Red Skull team up to take out Iron Man and Captain America. Fights ensue, and ensue, and ensue. It’s very much like a special one-shot team-up comic, in a not entirely good way.
Event Horizon (1997) – The original Space Eldritch! A rescue mission of talented actors explores a spaceship that disappeared and was thought lost years ago in an experiment with the first hyperspace drive; unfortunately, “hyperspace” is another word for “Hell,” and it came back infected by Lovecraftian ickiness.
A lot of nifty ideas here and spooky images, but not what I would call a good script — from the perfunctory “ticking clock” plot mechanism, to inconsistent character development, to…
All in all, it’s a pretty-good-but-inferior version of the story Howard Tayler did for the first Space Eldritch anthology.
I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016) – I went into this movie wanting to like it. I enjoyed Dan Wells’ novel on which it is based, and I enjoy Dan Wells himself, in a totally socially acceptable, non-creepy way. That said, I think his book suffers unavoidably in its translation to the screen, both in terms of loss of the internal monologue of the first-person narration, and in terms of the necessary jettisonning of story material which, unfortunately, matters.
In fact, the title is rendered almost irrelevant, because protagonist John Cleaver’s constant dread — that his diagnosed sociopathic tendencies will blossom into full-on murderous habits — gets downgraded to a minor subplot. In the novel, John’s investigation of his small town’s sudden spate of mysterious murders (with him, as the self-taught serial killer expert, being the only one with a chance of figuring out what’s going on) forces him to bend or break the “rules” that he has set up to keep his behavior within acceptable limits; as he gets closer to identifying and stopping the monster, he gets closer to becoming a monster himself. I challenge anyone seeing this movie without having read the book first to find that as an overriding theme in the movie.
I saw the movie with a grown son who had not read the novel, and he was completely lost in the plot, having interpreted the growing fantastic elements as evidence that John Cleaver was in fact going crazy and committing all the murders himself; we who had read the novel had to explain to him afterward what he had missed, which really wasn’t his fault because what he had missed was what the movie had forgotten to tell him.
(And then there are all of the director’s choices to make the movie “indie” — not just lower-budgeted, but self-consciously non-Hollywood, with handheld shots galore and meandering editing and deliberately “quirky” music choices. Spare me.)
At best, I think the movie will end up being popular only with those who have already read and loved the book, which is not really what translating a work from one medium to another is really about.
Owing to busy schedules (these things happen with a house full of teenagers), our traditional Halloween movie marathon had to be bumped from its normal slot on the Friday before Halloween to the week before that. Fortunately, my kids are all as eager for our marathon as I am, so we find ways to make it work!
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) – My dear, beautiful wife Michele is the one member of the family who does not look forward to this marathon tradition. “Could we start with at least one movie that I’d like?” she asked. So we amused ourselves with plenty of shots of Cary Grant reacting to things. Even though the references to Raymond Massey looking like Boris Karloff (in the role originated on stage by Boris Karloff) are getting less and less relevant every year, and kids these days don’t know Teddy Roosevelt from Franklin Roosevelt from [trying and failing to find another famous Roosevelt to throw in here], it’s still a quality entertainment product, nearly timeless in its ability to amuse.
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) – There’s only so many times one can watch this movie, and I think I’m nearing that limit: I’ve memorized most of the memorable dialog (“Your stupid minds, see? Stupid! Stupid!”), I can point out to others the cardboard gravestones and the mismatched vehicles… But one does what one must to educate one’s children. And really, aren’t we all interested in the future? It is, after all, where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.
Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012) – That’s right, I just barely watched this for the first time myself a few weeks ago, but I decided my kids needed to see it. Yes, they said, “Aw, yeah!” at all the right spots (i.e., when Lincoln was being particularly bad-ass), and I think that at least one of them might attempt to handcraft a snap-open folding scythe of their own. One thing I realized on this re-watch: The score by Chris Ridenhour, known as “The Asylum’s Secret Weapon,” truly made this movie seem a couple of notches better than it is. And because of the subject matter, Ridenhour was able to play with recognizable themes and get away with it. The blending of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” with “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” is particularly impressive.
Robo Vampire (1988) – We really only lasted a half-hour with this one — and when I say “we,” I mean “I”; everyone else had wandered away or found something else to pay attention to by the time I finally pulled the plug. Given that it was directed by Godfrey Ho (as “Joe Livingstone”) and producted by Tomas Tang, it is therefore one of their infamous hack-job features, in which footage from an unfinished, usually bankrupt production — or two or three — was bought, edited together, and maybe interspersed with a bit of original footage; that, plus the fact that dubbed dialog can be changed to anything you want it to be, results in something like a for-real movie! Except that this “for-real movie” was anything but; at a half-hour in, all I knew was that there was something about drug lords who worked with Chinese hopping vampires, and something about a drug agent who was resurrected as a Robocop ripoff in a costume so low-budget that Tom Baker would have been embarrassed to share the screen with it. When apparently the third set of main characters was introduced — the two previous sets having been brought on and then promptly killed — I decided to cut my losses.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) – Capping it off with a movie that you don’t have to make excuses for: This an enjoyable movie, yes, but more importantly it’s a good movie, without camp or diminished expectations. Sariah was going to beg off and go to bed, but I made her watch the first five minutes. She stayed.
Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012) – For a cheapo Asylum mockbuster made to cash in on the release of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, this is actually a surprisingly sincere movie. Yes, the locations are all obviously historical landmarks with manicured grounds, but at least the production went to Savannah, Georgia, instead of sticking with the “fifteen-mile diameter around LA” environs of most Asylum shoots. Bill Oberst Jr. plays the role of Lincoln absolutely straight, having played Lincoln in non-fantastic circumstances on stage twice before. Very few moments are played for obvious laughs or camp (aside from Lincoln slashing a zombie’s head off with his collapsible scythe while shouting, “Emancipate this!”), and the one which is obviously over the top — Lincoln striding in slo-mo out of the smoke cloud from a zombie-destroying explosion — still wasn’t too much to swallow. Heck, it made me want to stand with my hand over my heart, my other hand pumping the air. “U! S! A!”
It’s a movie of strange contrasts. On the one hand, it’s played almost completely straight, prompting me to say that it’s definitely the best family drama you’re going to set that’s set during a massive hurricane hitting Los Angeles which has driven swarms of sharks ahead of it to swim up streets during the storm surge and be carries aloft by waterspouts. (I say this not having seen the sequels, of course.)
On the other hand, this production’s reach exceeds its grasp just a little. Footage of for-real flooding is used to great effect (sometimes with SG sharks composited in), but there are just too many shots of dry streets, calm trees, and blue skies in the background of stormy scenes edited in.
But seriously — it’s a movie from The Asylum that premiered on SyFy, about a tornado full of sharks. By the expectations of the genre, it’s a hit.
The Bourne Identity (2002) – I guess if they’re going to keep making these, I might as well start watching them. I also read the original novel about three decades ago and barely remember anything from it, but I’ve also heard that this movie version basically takes a one-line description of the premise and then goes its own way.
Looking back now, it seems like a fairly generic premise — amnesiac government assassin hunted by all sides — and it certainly paved the way for Tom Cruise’s role in all of the Mission: Impossible movies (aside from the “amnesiac” part), but it’s a great example of the “we’ll keep things moving fast enough that you don’t have time to say hey wait about plot weaknesses” school of action filmmaking. (The biggest hey wait for me was, Why would a secret agent have a laser-light fob with his Swiss bank account number surgically implanted in his leg?”)
The rest of October has really filled up for me — and you can get your fill of Nathan at the same time!
Friday, October 14th:
I’ve been invited to perform again with the Freestyle Gargoyles, a cadre of musicians who provide improvised free jazz along with writers reading their short stories. (The last time I performed with them, at World Horror Con earlier this year, there turned out to be a sound system error and the recording was unsalvageable. I haven’t decided whether I’ll be reading the same story I did then, which I’ve grown to like less and less in the time since, or whether I’ll scramble and write something new that I will similarly grow to unlike in the future.) It’s free to come and watch; check it out here.
Saturday, October 15th:
I hadn’t planned to be a part of Halloween Expo, but I was offered half of a booth for free on Saturday by the mighty mighty David J. West, so there I’ll be! I’ll have both woodcut prints and monster movie posters for sale (first time in public for the latter), and likely some books, too. Booth #139, just across from the carved pumpkin display; I should be there from 9am to 9pm.
Friday, October 28th:
I’ll be right beside Carter Reid at Halloween Epicness: Deadman’s Ball, which shall also be filled with far more attractive people. (More attractive than me, I mean. Carter’s in a class all his own.) Again, woodcuts and movie posters — including, I hope, the still-in-progress Circus of the Living Dead poster.
Saturday, October 29th:
Pandemonium Art Gallery has done a series of “Saturday Art Live” evening events, where a local artist comes in and, you know, arts right there. This will be my turn for arting, so I shall art my artiest! Come see how I can turn otherwise unassuming wood into a woodcut for printing, plus a bunch of shavings!
A little bit different this time (not as specifically a SyFy-style creature movie), but fun nonetheless.
I haven’t posted this one for sale yet; I’m making a new arrangement to have them directly printed from orders here on the website, but I’m still battling out the technical details. Stay tuned!
(Next up: Circus of the Living Dead.)
In the SLC area and looking for something to do on the Friday before Halloween? I’ll be here, displaying art (including the recent B-movie posters):
See you there.
Update #1: I now have an account at Society 6 for ordering prints of these posters, as well as uploading them to DeviantArt and enabling print orders. (For some reasons, CafePress isn’t allowing me to select poster prints still — if that’s your preferred venue, stay tuned.)
Update #2: However, both Society 6 and Redbubble have auto-rejected the following for content. I’m corresponding with their service department to make my case, but until then, you’ll just have to use Zazzle or DeviantArt to order your prints of… NAZI SHARKS!