My Favorite Film Experiences Of 2018

I haven’t done a lot of blogging this year, but, don’t worry, I’ve still been watching a ton of movies! I’ve even been keeping track of everything I’ve watched or read in a pair of Composition Note Books that I’ve (not so) cleverly dubbed Pop Notes. Thanks to them, I’m pretty confident looking back at the year and piecing together thoughts on some of my fave film-watching experiences (minus horror, which will get a list or two of their own). This one’s pretty long, so hit that jump and get into it!

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Toy Commercial Tuesday: The Hulk Rage Cage!

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I’m fairly confident I found a doozy here! Check out the Hulk Rage Cage produced by Fun Stuff in the late 70s. I’d never heard of this one, but I love the idea of a toy designed to fully capture the Jade Giant’s destructive capabilities. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much replay value this would have after the first few bar-breaks.

What’s even crazier, though, is that this idea has persisted over the years. It looks like Toy Biz made one as part of the Marvel Super Heroes line in the early 90s, but also brought it back a few years later in a line dedicated to the Hulk’s UPN cartoon! Nice work Fun Stuff!

My Favorite Blockbuster “Discoveries” Of 2017

Happy New Year everyone. I decided to celebrate by compiling a series of lists celebrating my favorite films and shows of 2017. Sounds like pretty standard stuff, right? Yup, totally. However, these lists will include not just new films from last year, but new-to-me ones that I enjoyed. This one celebrates the glory of big screen blockbusters, most of which I saw on the small screen because, you know, kids.

First off, I’d just like to reiterate how much I enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla (2014) and San Andreas (2015) from director Gary Peyton.  I had a great time watching both of those movies earlier this year and highly recommend checking them out if you’re looking for big budget disaster fare. I also had a silly amount of fun watching Vin Diesel in 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter helmed by Breck Eisner. I think this will make a great weekend movie tune-in type of movie.

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The Midnight Comic Club Episode 10 – A Sinister Six Pack

Welcome to the tenth meeting of The Midnight Comic Club! After the extensive look at Frankenstein over the past three episodes (and a week off due to illness), we’re back with a new segment called The Sinister Sixpack wherein I grab a half dozen horror comics I’ve never read before and see how that goes.

Most of today’s entries happen to not be available in digital formats. However, if you’re interested in checking them out, I’ve provided the MyComicShop links here: Tomb Of Darkness #18, Night Force #1, Marvel Chillers #2, Secret Origins #15, Unexpected #166 and Vault Of Evil #7.

As I mentioned in the episode, the original Night Force series has been collected into a very handsome volume that I’m hoping to check out in the near future. For a less expensive taste, you could also try out the DC Comics Presents Night Force 100-Page Spectacular digitally which collects the first four installments. Finally, the Secret Origins issue featuring Deadman and Spectre can also be purchased on Comixology!

If you’re curious to read my series of Jack Kirby-related monster posts, you can check out the Unleash The Beasts archives on Marvel.com here.

I had it in my notes, but totally forgot to say that Modred would have made a delightful Amicus or Hammer horror feature in the 70s!

The Midnight Comic Club Episode 7 – Frankenstein Adaptations

The seventh meeting of The Midnight Comic Club will begin a multi-part examination of one of horror’s most iconic characters: Frankenstein’s Monster! This particular episode will focus on five faithful adaptations of the story which showcases the mountains of despair that can fall on a human being — or monster — and still not fully consume them.

The five books I talk about in this episode are Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein, The Monster Of Frankenstein, Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein, Classics Illustrated Deluxe Frankenstein and Puffin’s Frankenstein The Graphic Novel.

And with that, you can listen to the episode here:

Here‘s that article I mentioned where Guillermo del Toro talked about Wrightson’s Frankenstein. It’s really good and insightful, give it a read.

If you want to read the Monster Of Frankenstein Spooklight on Marvel.com, you can! You can also read more about Marvel Unlimited here if you’re curious.

If you’re interested in the books I mentioned that I didn’t get a chance to read, this link will take you to the current printing of the Classics Illustrated take, this one will get you to Patrick Olliffe’s version and I’m still not sure what’s up with Junji Ito’s!

Ooh, I also mentioned the Larry Fessenden Blu-ray Collection which you can buy from Scream Factory!

 

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Spider-Man Spider Wars

I’m returning to the well a bit with today’s Toy Commercial Tuesday. I’ve been writing about the Wall-Crawler a lot for Marvel.com lately and it reminded me how much I enjoyed the Toy Biz line in the 90s. So, having already covered the original line, Spider Force and even Web Splashers, I hope you enjoy this look at the Spider Wars line!

Of the figures shown in this spot I’ve got Hydro Man, Kingpin, Black Cat and Doctor Strange. Hey, since I have all of my toys here, I can now back that up with photographic proof and talk about them in a bit more detail!I still love the enormous Kingpin figure, Doc Strange and his bendy cape (it’s still in the garage somewhere) and, no kidding, everything about Hydro Man from his six pack to his water squirting action feature.

My daughter and I both like the look of the Black Cat figure, but she refuses to stand up. In fact, moments after snapping the picture, she and Kingpin both toppled over. The resulting pile is NSFW. I remember seeing that crazy Cyber Spider-Man and the Doppleganger figure in stores, but they didn’t really appeal to me. I do give Toy Biz credit for coming up with interesting takes on their lead character, though.

Marvel Double Feature: Avengers Age Of Ultron & Ant-Man

avengers the age of ultronRight off the bat, I’ll admit that I did not actually watch Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Ant-Man as a true double feature. We probably watched the latter a month ago and just peeped the former yesterday. But, since I didn’t write about the Avengers sequel, it seemed liked a proper time.

I went into Joss Whedon’s Ultron with fairly low expectations. It seemed like a lot of the people I follow on Twitter and actually communicate with weren’t super into it. The general feeling I was picking up on seemed to be that, while it’s got all kinds of spectacle, it didn’t live up to the original.

And that was my experience as well, but then again, this is a different kind of blockbuster super hero movie. The original — which I love — seemed custom built to show that all of these series-leading, mega stars could come together, fight the bad guys and look good doing it. Meanwhile, this film seemed built with a different goal in mind: showing how said group (plus new members) can work together even when times are tough.

It’s also clearly a bigger piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe puzzle leading up to Captain America: Civil War and the Infinity War movies. To me as a viewer, the first felt like it was worked into the bigger tale while this one was more obviously built to lead to something else. This is something I’m not usually a fan of in comics and even less so in comic films and it all just boils down to a feeling I get while watching.

And yet, I still found myself enjoying this darker take on team superheroics. Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision all make interesting additions to not just the team, but the universe at large. Plus, it’s not all dark. I could watch an entire TV series about the Avengers hanging out like they did at that party. I also just adore James Spader (as I mentioned here) so watching and listening to his take on the killer robot Ultron was a treat as he’s basically Blacklist‘s Raymond Reddington but crazy and a robot.

I think that the problem with this movie as related to the first one comes down to this fact: I don’t want to rewatch it a bunch. I probably could have sat through another showing of Whedon’s first Avengers film right after the first one and even stop flipping or pop in for a few minutes every time I see it on TV. I don’t see that happening here. In other words, it’s not nearly as fun as the first one, which it clearly wasn’t supposed to be, but it’s still a bummer.

ant-man posterAnt-Man is far from a bummer, though, which is great. I admit, my feelings towards these movies have been a bit tainted by elements from beyond the movies themselves. I’m not sure how I feel about every single film moving forward painting towards this gigantic epic that will end Phase Three. I love the inter-connectivity between these films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want them all to be about this one big thing leading forward.

And then I watched Ant-Man and it felt like a nice step away from all that intergalactic craziness to just tell the story of a few people trying their best to not make the world a worse place. I love the approach of using this intelligent thief to wear a potentially fatal suit in an attempt to stop tech from ruining the world. It’s perfectly comic book-y, but also fits in so well with this universe and Paul Rudd just kills it. I also really enjoyed watching Michael Douglas who seemed to break the rule that every old dude in a Marvel Studios movie turns out to be bad. Oh, and how fun is Michael Pena? And how bad ass is Lilly? More of both of them please! Basically, everything came together to give me a beautiful mix of heist and hero that gets a major thumbs up from this guy.

However, all respect to director Peyton Reed who did a great job, but I still wish we would have been able to see Edgar Wright’s version of this film which we reported on all the way back in the days of Wizard and ToyFare. Yes I bet it would have been an amazing movie, but it more so bums me out that a relatively slow filmmaker like Wright spent ALL that time on a movie that just didn’t happen. He’s got such an amazing vision for what he makes that I want him to make all the movies he can and this felt like a major entanglement that resulted in a great vision for Ant-Man, but not a full-on Edgar Wright movie.

And, yes, I still remain a bit nervous about Marvel tying up too many of their films to Infinity War, but then I must remind myself that Guardians Of The Galaxy did a great job of incorporating some of that into its movie and this one basically skips over all of that. Back to what I was saying above, it feels like Ant-Man is its own thing that will get incorporated into the larger goings-on of the MCU instead of the other way around. I like that and as long as that’s the way these things go, I’ll keep enjoying them.

Halloween Scene: The Self-Promotion Post

I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis or knows me personally that I love a good scare (as long as its in book, comic or movie form, not real life). Since I don’t currently write for a site with a horror focus, that means I save up a lot of my best ideas for October. Luckily, I had a lot of ones that my editors also thought were good, which means I’ve been busily reading, watching and writing scary things since September. Now that Halloween’s hitting tomorrow, it’s time to toss out all the links for wider consumption!

My biggest project this fall by far was a series of posts at Marvel.com called Marvel Spooklights. Last year I did four of these shout outs leading up to Halloween. This year, I did 22, one for each weekday of the month. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and I got to check out a lot of books I hadn’t read before. Particular favorites include the Juan Doe-drawn Legion Of Monsters mini, Steve Gerber’s last Man-Thing story and the surprisingly good Journey Into Mystery #1. I read them all on Marvel Unlimited, which is an awesome Netflix-like service for comics.

In other reading news, I went way back to my earliest days with the genre and did a list for Geek.com about the best stories from the three Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark books that I got a few months before from my parents’ house. The stories themselves are fairly simple, but those damn drawings still made me wince every now and then when I turned the page.

I also pitched a few lists for The Robot’s Voice that got approved. First, I tackled The 10 Best Stories From The Early Days of Eerie, a companion piece to the one I did about Creepy not too long ago. Reading these books is always a treat, I’d like to get them all. I also watched all the Nightmare On Elm Street movies and did a list of the scariest nightmares perpetrated by Mr. Krueger. Aside from Dream Warriors, I wasn’t much of a NOES fan going into this re-watch, but I actually really enjoyed the franchise for reasons I’ll get into in a separate post probably next week.

Finally, I tried focusing much of my post-NOES movie watching on newer horror movies so I could do a few lists for Spinoff. One focused on new takes on familiar genres, while the other was about the subgenre du jour these days, supernatural flicks. I’m planning on doing a movie roundup post that will get into this in more detail, but Babadook shook me to my core, What We Do In The Shadows reminded me of my all-time favorite show the UK Office and It Follows is problematic…depending on what you want from your horror movies.

And now, with all that out of the way and a super busy month behind me, I’m going to collapse into a little ball and watch scary movies until my kids come home.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Remco’s Energized Spider-Man & Spider-Copter

This one was supposed to go up yesterday, but thanks to some technical differentiates (I forgot the schedule the post), it didn’t! Anyway, here’s an amazing looking Remco Spider-Man toy that would have delighted me to no end had I been alive in 1979 (or found one in relatively good condition at a garage sale some years later).

This version of Spidey not only climbs up his own webs but also comes with a working flashlight? That seems a little odd, but as a kid, it would have seemed a lot rad. He also has Spider Sense which seems to translate into a hole in his head you could look through that would make external images look like they were moving in some way. All in all it’s a pretty damn cool looking — and enormous — toy that also fit perfectly on a Spider Copter. I had a Matchbox car-type version of that machine as a kid and think it’s still got one of the cooler heli-designs around. Webs for blades!

Ambitious Summer Reading List 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!