My Favorite Things This Week: Arrow, Crimson Peak & More!

Not a day goes by that I don’t think,”Gee, I should blog about this thing I just read, watched or saw that I really dig.” For me the reason for this blog is two-fold. First, I want to let people know about cool things that they might also enjoy. The second is as a kind of pop culture digital back-up memory. With both goals in mind, I think I’ll take to this format of quick hits every week (maybe, we’ll see).

First off, I finally got back into Arrow. I loved the first two seasons and watched them as they happened, but fell off with season three. I’d gotten through the first 8 or so episodes and jumped right back in this week. I’d forgotten almost everything about what happened in the other episodes, but have been having a great time hopping back on this series.

At this point, I’m witnessing a lot of drama as Laurel not only deals with her new life as a masked vigilante, but also a variety of problems with her dad. We also get to see Thea brought into the Arrow fold and also take on a more interesting and active role moving forward. Oh, and Ray Palmer slowly becoming the Atom! I’ve watched the first two seasons of Legends Of Tomorrow, so I know where that’s going, but Brandon Routh’s a complete joy in that role. And on top of all that Ra’s al Ghul’s causing all kinds of trouble. I can’t wait to see where it all goes and what happens next.

Speaking of DC Comics characters, I’ve been trying to finally go through my To-Read boxes lately. While flipping through one of them I came across a series I’d mostly forgotten that I bought: Manhunter! I”m a big fan of this loosely related band of titles from the mid-80s like Suicide Squad, The Question, Green Arrow and beyond that keeps resulting in me buying issue son the cheap when I come across them.

While some of those other books might seem more in the grim ‘n gritty vein, this one’s not. It’s about a guy named Mark Shaw with a bonkers history who decides to become a masked bounty hunter known as Manhunter. Launched in 1988, this book was co-written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale with a variety of different artists. I’m up to #14 so far and really appreciate the fresh approach that Ostrander and Yale took with the superhero format. Better yet, the book deals with everything from leftover alien technology and assassins to racism and sexism. It’s all in there and it all works incredibly well together.

Shifting gears from comic books to those without pictures, I’ve recently been getting into Joe R. Lansdale. I read “Bubba Ho-Tep” a few months back and, having given up once again on an Ambitious Reading List, I just finished The Drive-In, a book I knew absolutely nothing about, but really appreciated. From reading “Bubba,” I got a sense for Lansdale’s style which blends his pop culture influences with horror, irreverence and some pretty dark thoughts.

That’s definitely the case with The Drive-In, originally published in 1988. This one’s about a trio of less-than-cool high schools who join up with a slightly older dude and head to an all-night horror-thon at a nearby drive-in. Once there, though, they find themselves living in an increasingly unstable society as they become surrounded by a person-dissolving blackness. Not only to humans devolve into animals, but actual monsters start becoming a problem. Luckily for our narrator Jack, he’s got a good, solid friend in Bob who helps them both keep their wits about them.

I don’t think it’s just the somewhat similar set-up to Stephen King’s Under The Dome, but to my mind, Lansdale’s writing nicely reminded me of a near-perfect amalgamation of King’s and Clive Barker’s style that goes down some dark corners, but also keeps the touchstones and jokes coming. There’s two more installments in this series (and a helluva lead-in at the end of this one), but I’ve decided to move on to the first Hap & Leonard book Savage Season which feels more in line with Elmore Leonard. I’m very excited to see how apt of a comparison that is.

Finally, how great is Guillermo del Toro? That should probably be an obvious statement, but I’ve got a lot of blind spots when it comes to his films. In an effort to rectify that, I’ve put Cronos, Relic and now Crimson Peak into my eye-holes. I think it’s fascinating that this incredibly versatile filmmaker went from giant robots and monsters to a love letter to Gothic haunting films! Tee story itself reminds me of a hodge podge of influences from The Haunting to all of the books and short stories I had to read for my Gothic Literature class in college.

For me, while the story being told here is interesting, it falls a bit behind in importance compared to the fantastic performances by Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Charlie Hunnam and the pure genius of the title location, all of its many quirks and mind-blowingly gorgeous set! From the clay all around to the hole in the ceiling and the ultra-creepy elevator, the set looks and feels like every haunted house I’ve ever dreamed up and that’s before you even take into account the actual supernatural elements. I watched this one while folding laundry and didn’t catch all of the details, so I’m going to let it simmer for a while in my head and them come back to it and let it wash over me even more!

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