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Halloween Scene: Housebound (2014)

May 21, 2015

HouseBound_Poster_11_Alt2As an avid listener of my favorite horror podcast Killer POV, I hear about a lot of movies that sound cool. That’s where I heard about You’re Next and Resolution, both of which were awesome. The only problem? It’s hard to keep everything straight, especially because they’re usually talking about films they’ve seen at festivals or screenings and it takes a while for them to show up on Netflix. Luckily for me, I remembered them talking about Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound and then the movie popped up on Instant, so I gave it a watch yesterday and really enjoyed it.

Here’s all I knew about the film: a troubled young woman gets sentenced to live in her mom’s house for several months which may or may not be haunted. Also, it mixes in healthy doses of comedy with the scares and has a particularly Kiwi sensibility. Really, that’s all you need to know. Go watch it, then read the rest of the review, because going in blind is the best way for this film.

Okay, have you seen it? I’m not looking to spoil the whole thing, but I love how this movie plays off, not just the thoughts and superstitions of the people in the story, but also my own experiences as a horror fan. Like anyone, I’ve seen my share of haunted house stories, so even though I don’t believe in that kind of thing in the real world, I’m totally open to it happening in the world of this movie. So, that being the case, I found myself buying in to what I was presented because that’s part of the game. The way that Johnstone and the actors played with those expectations and yanked me around was just fantastic.

We’re in definite plot SPOILER territory with this paragraph, so consider yourself warned. I also loved how basically everyone in this movie is wrong about something. Theories are floated as if they’re fact, seem plausible and then get smashed by someone coming along and telling the truth. I love when stories do that because far too after then hero knows more than they need to just to get to the end. I also really enjoyed the Eugene reveal. It’s such a cool idea how he could be mistaken for something supernatural. Plus, I’m a sucker for reinvisioned gothic haunted house tropes being worked into modern stories.

Okay, no more spoilers. I really enjoyed this movie and think you should check it out immediately. Go! Now!

Jason Aaron Is Awesome

May 20, 2015

GhostRiderOmnibusJasonAaron Jason Aaron’s one of those comic writers whose career has interestingly intersected with my career as a writer about comics. When I first started at Wizard one of my buddies and an editor at the magazine was huge on his Vertigo series The Other Side. I didn’t read that one, but I did check out the Ripclaw one-shot he did as part of Top Cow’s Pilot Season not too long after that and the first few books in his Scalped series.

The first of his works that really captivated me, though was Ghost Rider. But it wasn’t until my second attempt at reading it. As I’ve written, I love the down-and-dirty, grindhouse-y tone of that book and the wild places he took it. I assumed for a while that that was pretty much his wheelhouse, but as I’ve learned recently from branching out into X-Men: Schism, Wolverine & The X-Men, Amazing X-Men, Thanos Rising, Incredible Hulk, Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine and Thor: God Of Thunder, this guy has more tricks up his sleeve than all the magicians in Vegas. Read more…

Ambitious Summer Reading List 2015

May 18, 2015

ambitious summer reading list 2015The other day I was cleaning out the garage and came across a few boxes of unread books that I was able to combine, but only if I pulled a few out. I figured that was as good a reason as any to try my hand (and eyes) at another Ambitious Summer Reading list. There’s just something about the warm weather that makes me want to stay inside and read, I guess.

As usual, I’ve got a pretty eclectic selection here. From the top, Ghosts And Things is a spooky anthology from 1962 that includes stories by Henry James, Ambrose Bierce and others. I’m thinking about reading these stories in between other books, but the James story was SUPER boring, so I’m not sure if I’ll stick with that plan.

Below that is the 1979 Avengers novel The Man Who Stole Tomorrow by the awesome David Micheline. In the 90s I read a lot of superhero novels and am curious to see how this early example is. Then there’s Freddy Krueger’s Tales Of Terror #2: Fatal Games. My buddy Jesse sent me this and I’m pretty excited to read it because I love Freddy and this looks like the Christopher Pike novels I read in grade school.

You can also see Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger. I’ve heard a lot of different things about this series over the years and made sure to get the pre-revised version of this book, so we’ll see how this goes. Switching gears completely, I’ve also got Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City. I listened to the audiobook version of Klosterman’s IV a few years back and picked this up not long after. I’m a sucker for music related autobios, so I’m sure this will be awesome.

I know absolutely nothing about Twilight Of The Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg other than the fact that it was like a dollar at one of all time favorite discount stores that’s no longer around. But, hey, it’s about superheroes, so it should be in my wheelhouse (I hope). At the bottom of the pile you’ll see another comic-related book, this one Mark Evanier’s column collection Comic Books And Other Necessities Of Life. For some reason I thought this was a collection of interviews, but I must be thinking of ANOTHER book in one of my boxes. Evanier’s one of the best comic historians around, so I’m sure this will be an interesting read.

That brings us to the last three books. Trevanian’s The Loo Sanction is the sequel to The Eiger Sanction, a book I read last year and really enjoyed. There’s also my first Raymond Chandler book Farewell, My Lovely and The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. I must have read about that last one ten years ago and always wanted to check it out, but haven’t gotten around to it until now!

As you can probably tell, there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to these selections. I tried to balance out longer books with shorter ones just to take it a little easy on myself. I haven’t been taking much time to read actual books lately, but I’m hoping that this will push me in that direction. I’m kicking off with The Loo Sanction because I actually started it like six months ago and want to finish it. I’m about halfway through and trying to spend more time with good books, so I’ll hopefully be posting about that one soon!

Dwayne Johnson Is Awesome Part 1 (of Infinity)

May 12, 2015

furious 6As you can tell, I haven’t been blogging much lately. My days are filled with work, kids and house stuff, so I don’t have as much time to sit back down behind the computer and write out my thoughts on important things like movies and comics, but I’ve been lucky enough to see and read a lot of cool stuff lately and want to remember that.

So, let’s start with the trio of Dwayne Johnson movies I’ve seen recently. A few weeks back, unbeknownst to us we had a free trial of HBO. For a night, I thought we’d had the thing since we moved in six months ago and I’d just missed it, but the disappearance of the channels the next day revealed the truth. Still, I was able to take advantage and watch Justin Lin’s Furious 6.

I’m actually not very up on the Fast & Furious movies. I saw the first in the theaters way back in 2001, but I preferred the previous year’s Gone In 60 Seconds. Since then this series produced a few sequels that kept the motor running until it really kicked into gear in the past few installments. In a lot of ways, these movies have taken on a kind of comic book nature. The last three films have drawn from the previous ones as far as characters go and also, as Paul Scheer said on the episode of How Did This Get Made dedicated to the movie, they’re basically superheroes at this point who can’t die (or mostly can’t die). Read more…

Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man Is Awesome

April 30, 2015

amazing spider-man the fantastic spider-manIt might have been a few months since I wrote about how much I enjoyed Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, but I’ve been burning through every subsequent trade and issue leading up to Superior Spider-Man with a quickness and anticipation I haven’t felt in a long time. Since we’re talking about nine more trades here, I’m going to talk in a few broad strokes about this excellent piece of longform comic book storytelling.

As I wrote last time, I was emotionally blown away by what Slott did with ASM #655. He didn’t stop there. In fact, he got me again not much later when Spidey joined the Fantastic Four after Johnny Storm seemingly died. It’s been a while since I read those FF issues, but I was really moved by how Spidey honored his good friend and also worked with these new teammates.

In fact, Spider-Man’s team interactions are a real high point for me in these books. He’s a great superhero on his own, but he’s even better as part of the FF and the Avengers. Some solo books do their best to avoid the idea of calling in the teammates, but Slott has Spidey utilize them in ways that make sense and feel organic (they are all in NYC at the same time, after all).

I also love how complex, yet surprisingly easy to understand the villains are. These are characters older than your parents and yet Slott makes them feel fresh, new and yet filled with just the right amount of history (instead of info dump/continuity overload territory). He makes you love and hate characters like Lizard, Morbius and even Doc Ock in ways that make them real.

amazing spider-man ends of the earthAnd then Slott goes and does the unthinkable, he made me love a story about everyone in New York getting Spidey powers. When I heard about this mini event, I kept thinking of things like JLApe, but it turned out to be an incredibly compelling crossover that felt big enough and important enough to keep me interested. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing about the “Ends of The Earth” story which finds Doc Ock threatening every living thing on earth as he gets closer to his deathbed. This was by no means a bad story — in fact, seeing Spidey, Black Widow and Silver Sable try to save the world is pretty rad — but I think I have had my fill of Big Two “the world might end” stories. Slott does a great job of getting me interested, mainly from the villain side, but the more of these stories you read the harder it can be to suspend your disbelief. Of all the books in this series, this one took me the longest to read.

And then BAM, I was right back into it with the amazing Lizard story which also circles back around to Morbius. It just so happens that I read and wrote about Morbius’ first appearance for Marvel.com last Halloween, so I knew the background on this particularly strange relationship. This added some depth to what I was reading and also gave me the slightest insight into how much fun this book must be for longtime, diehard Spidey fans.

amazing spider-man 700Speaking of the fans, I’m sure they were pretty distraught when they read what happens to Peter Parker at the end of ASM #700. As someone who covers comics, I knew about the big reveal (which I won’t spoil here, but will in the next paragraph) so reading this whole run was kind of like watching Usual Suspects for the second time. I knew where it was going (to some extent) and could keep an eye out for the seeds Slott planted throughout.

Okay, SPOILER time. How amazing were those last few issues where Peter is just desperately trying to save himself, not because of ego, but because he’s worried that Doc Ock (now inhabiting Spidey’s body) will surely do some evil stuff with it? The way Slott figured out how to keep that from happening was great. I didn’t know about that specific bit, so it was a wonderful surprise that makes me incredibly excited about diving into Superior Spider-Man which is not something I thought I’d say after enjoying a character for over 50 issues and losing him.

I can easily say after reading this run on Amazing Spider-Man that it is one of my all-time favorite runs of comics and that Slott is a ridiculous talent when it comes to crafting these kinds of stories. Now on to the next nine-or-so trades!

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Spider-Man Spider Force

April 14, 2015

Oooh, I stumbled upon a doozey this week! Even though I was a die-hard fan of 80s toys and cartoons growing up, most of them were gone by the time I started getting an allowance or going to the toy store with my grandma. Luckily, by then (the mid 90s) a whole slew of comic-based cartoons were hitting the airwaves as their toy counterparts appeared in stores. I was already into comics by then and loved watching superhero adventures, even if they were based on Marvel books (I was a DC kid through and through then). So, the Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons and toys were where it was at for me. Back then you could get a figure for about $5 and if you happened to hit a sale, you could walk out with a bag of figures for what it costs to get one today.

In other words, I have a lot of Spidey toys, including some of the ones from the Spider Force line which included the Avenger Wasp, Beetle, Nazi bee villain Swarm, Tarantula and CyberSpider Spider-Man. Oh, and apparently a Spider-Mobile (or Web Car) too! This is a pretty bonkers line-up when you think about it, but a fun one nonetheless. Notice how pose-y the bodies are. That’s the influence of companies like McFarlane Toys on the industry back then. I know for sure I picked up the Wasp and maybe a few others.

Arty, Cross-Medium Double Feature: The Giant Mechanical Man & Shoplifter

April 13, 2015

I haven’t been blogging too much lately as regular readers can tell. I’m not sure why that is. Sure, I’m busy with a new gig, but I also don’t have the same burning desire to write down my thoughts about everything I see, hear or read. But, I do still love having this page here as my little corner of the internet extolling the virtues of the things I love. It also works as a pretty handy external memory because mine is getting worse and worse and these are some stories I want to remember.

the giant mechanical manA few weeks back I realized that I’ve moved out of my “watching people kill or get killed” phase and wanted to move into some more emotional offerings. I’ll never stop loving action and horror movies and I do feel like they are a great distraction when you’re already feeling incredibly bogged down by real-life emotional matters, but once things equalize a bit, it’s nice to see if the ol’ heart can take on a movie meant to do more than thrill and spill blood.

So, with that feeling in mind, I went looking around the Netflix queue to see what was available and landed on The Giant Mechanical Man. I only knew about this one because I’m a big fan of Jenna Fischer from The Office and saw her tweet about it. The film about a pair of wayward souls who discover each other in Detroit also stars Chris Messina of The Wendy Project fame (another beloved show in our house), Malin Akerman and Topher Grace. Fischer’s husband Lee Kirk wrote and directed the film.

The movie follows Fischer, an awkward adult who doesn’t quite know what she wants to do with her life and Messina’s title character who dresses up in a giant suit, paints on makeup and walks on stilts as a piece of performance art. The two eventually find each other while working at a zoo to make some scratch and develop a genuine relationship in a world seemingly filled with plastic, surface-y characters played by Akerman, Grace and Harry Crane (er, Rich Sommer).

For me, the cast comes together really well to tell this story so concerned with authenticity, Art and honesty. I also really appreciate that the movie was shot in and around Detroit. I grew up less than an hour away from the city and while it wasn’t a regular destination, I have a soft spot in my heart for it, especially when it’s treated as more than just a place where awful things happen. The fact that this true love grew there was a nice part of the story that just struck me. I’m glad I made this one of the first more emotional movies I watched this year.

shoplifter That feeling of opening-up has also spread into my comic reading. The last time I went to the library I found a different section of trades in the sci-fi section (the other two are in YA and kids) and saw that they had Michael Cho’s Shoplifter. I immediately snatched it up because I’ve been following Cho on Twitter for years now, love his style and had been wanting to check this book out since I saw him posting about it.

The graphic novel — a sequential story told all in one volume as opposed to the monthly comic book format everyone’s familiar with — stars Corinna Park, a woman in her mid-to-late 20s working for an advertising agency. But, that’s not what she wants to do with her life. She wants to be a writer. This entry level job wound up taking off, sucking her focus and making her kind of hate her life a little bit, what life there is to hate. The title refers to her not-too-often habit of stealing a magazine while buying other goods at a corner store near her house. After meeting a guy she likes, she starts thinking about making a huge change in her life, though even that doesn’t quite shake out like intended.

I really enjoyed this story. The story itself is not one unlike the kind you see at the heart of a lot of indie movies like Giant Mechanical Man or The Lifeguard, the idea of not knowing what the hell you’re going to do that swirls around creative types in all mediums. Cho literally adds his own style to it by using a visual look that uses black, white and pink (instead of gray). Pink might seem a bit one note for a lot of people, but it works as well during the day as it does at night and adds a kind of frosting quality to what Corrina’s going through. This isn’t real life for her, it’s just the gussied up version she’s living for now until she figures out the real thing she wants to do.

As a wannabe writer myself, I can’t help but instantly fall for Shoplifter like I have so many stories like it in the past. I am super on board for anything else Michael Cho wants to write and draw about. His is a voice I can relate to and appreciate.

 

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