Halloween Scene: The Burning (1981), The Mist (2007) & From Beyond (1986)

The Burning Scream Factory Halloween’s the best you guys! I’ve been able to watch more horror flicks than I expected considering our toddler staked her claim on the TV long ago. Still, I’ve been able to go back and watch some old favorites and also check out a few new films like the amazing Sinister.

A few weeks back, after earning a few extra bucks at NYCC, I decided to splurge on some Scream Factory Blu-rays. I snagged The Burning and From Beyond on sale. A subdivision of Shout Factory, Scream is a horror centric imprint that goes all out when it comes to special features, extras and great looking transfers. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Burning (1981), The Mist (2007) & From Beyond (1986)

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Godzilla Shogun Warrior

Two quotes made this spot perfect for Toy Commercial Tuesday: “You can control his ugly tongue!” and “You can launch Godzilla’s claw!” Now, I’ve seen my fair share of terrible thunder lizard movies and I don’t remember his tongue coming into play that much or his hand leaving his body. Still, this Mattel Shogun Warrior toy looks pretty cool. The whole big robot thing was a few years before my time, but I wish someone had passed me some of those crazy toys when I was a kid. How cool would it have been to have my G.I. Joes or Spider-Man toys face off against them?!

Pacific Rim Is Awesome

Pacific-Rim-Poster Before jumping into my review of Pacific Rim, I want to talk about two things running through my mind as I was heading into the theater Saturday evening. First off, I’d been reading a lot that week about how this movie was going to tank. That’s one of the downsides to having a gig in the entertainment industry, you’re constantly inundated with the business-y side of Hollywood, the kind of stuff most people don’t really care about. The problem, though, is that sometimes the projections about how well a movie is going to do leading up to its release wind up poisoning the well a bit for the people who do pay attention to these things. “It’s not going to do well? I’m not gonna go.” I don’t have a solution for those aside, but the news bummed me out. Did it have something to do with Despicable Me 2 and Grown Ups 2 doing better over the weekend at the box office? Maybe. Then again, those more family friendly movies were going to be big no matter what.

The other thing rolling through my head was, “THIS is going to be what I always wanted from a Godzilla movie.” As a kid, I loved the bits and pieces of giant moster flicks I’d catch on TV, but when I finally turned 16 and started getting tapes by the backpack-full from Family Video I discovered something rather unsettling: a lot of those movies (like Gamer vs. Viras) are super boring. All you really want is guys in rubber suits fighting over a cardboard city with toy tanks shooting at them, but what you get is a little bit of that with a lot of scientists talking about how to stop the monster. Yawn.

I figured that a director like Guillermo del Toro would be able to figure out a way to balance the giant action with the smaller character moments and that’s what Pacific Rim delivered as far as I’m concerned. The story takes place on an Earth in which an inter-dimensional portal has opened up in the ocean. Said portal spits out giant monsters — dubbed kaiju — that humanity has to fight. The human race took on the first one with conventional weapons, but eventually built gigantic robots called jaegers to handle the menace. The jaegers are so big, though, that you’ve got to meld two minds to run them. Two pilots — usually relatives — literally link minds to drive these things and fight the baddies. Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket is a one-time jaeger pilot who winds up working for his old boss Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and new co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to try and put a stop to this nearly decade-long menace once and for all. There’s a whole heckuva lot more going on, of course, but I don’t want to get too spoilery (yet).

Guys, I loved this movie. It delivered exactly what I wanted and even a little more. The robots versus monsters scenes were fantastic with everything from spinning blades and swords to battleships coming into play. But there’s also a real sense of menace to the film. They got pretty good at taking on the kaiju for a while as Becket tells us in the opening monologue, but then things got crazier with bigger, more dangerous monsters attacking. A pair of scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are doing their best to figure out what’s going on, but in the meantime you get the sense that the world is hanging in the balance. Some politicians have decided to bury their heads in the sand and try a fairly foolish means of defense (which might seem a little insane, but I bought it enough), but luckily for earth there are some very brave men and women from all over the globe working together to put a stop to it.

As a kid I always wanted to cut out all the boring stuff with people and just watch the fights, but in this one, I thought there was a good deal of humanity interspersed throughout. Sure, a lot of it’s the kind of stuff you’d expect. A leader who considers his image more important than his well-being, a cocky fighter unsure of why the hasbeen and rookie have been brought in, a person who hates the kaiju for destroying their family (that flashback scene kicked me in the gut, I’m such a wuss when it comes to kids in films these days). But when those characters are played well — and I thought they were for the most part — a bit of new life is breathed in. Plus, even if you don’t dig the, you wait a little bit and a robot rips a monster’s tongue out, so it’s cool.

pacific rim gipsy danger poster

There were a few elements of the film that didn’t sit particularly well with me. Minor SPOILERS follow. I enjoyed Hunnam’s performance, but the way he spoke was kind of distracting. The actor is from England, but he sports one of those accents that doesn’t sound like it truly belongs on either side of the pond. I had a similar complaint regarding Freddie Highmore’s performance in the first episode of Bates Motel. I’m not sure if this is just how he talks or how he was directed to speak, but it was distracting. I also wondered why the manner of defense against the kaiju was so segregated. You’ve basically got the jaegers and a giant wall, but the two are almost completely unrelated. Wouldn’t it make sense to have cannons that can do the same thing that Gipsy Danger’s fists can? They’ve been fighting these monsters for 6 or 7 years and no one thought of building up the borders in a different way?

But those are fairly minor quibbles. On the whole, I thought the story had a lot of fun, new elements that made sense and also had fun with sci-fi elements. The mental handshake stuff was cool and how can you not love ridiculously gigantic robots being built in even bigger bunkers driven by two people? The basic concepts get thrown at you pretty early in the movie, so if you’re not on board with the movie science, then you might want to skip the whole thing altogether. As it is, I enjoyed seeing a big budget spectacle that wasn’t based on anything but writer Travis Beachum and del Toro’s imaginations. I was far from disappointed by this film and would recommend anyone who though the trailers looked cool to go check it out.

Okay, SUPER SPOILER TIME. This is so SPOILERY that I’m putting it after the jump if you happen to be reading this post on the main page. If not, you’ve been warned.  Continue reading Pacific Rim Is Awesome

Halloween Scene Trade Post: Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1

Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1: War Of The Monsters (DC)
Written by Jeff Lemire, drawn by Alberto Ponticelli
Collects Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E. #1-7

Back when I read the first issue of Frankenstein Agent Of S.H.A.D.E., I was pretty psyched about this as a comic. I dug the crazy sci-fi set-up created by Jeff Lemire, the spy elements and, of course, the idea of a team of monsters going out and smashing other monsters. For the most part, I’ve liked the weirder New 52 books that I’ve experienced and this is definitely up there. Since reading that first issue, I’ve read a few more Lemire books, like the soul-punch that is Lost Dogs and the first volume of his Vertigo book Sweet Tooth and have become a big fan of his. I also want to check out Swamp Thing which everyone seems to love and have The Complete Essex County waiting for me on my Kindle Fire.

Anyway, I should stay on topic. Here’s the deal with Frankenstein. He works for an organization called S.H.A.D.E. which stands for Super Human Advanced Defense Executive that’s run by Father Time who happens to randomly regenerate his body every so many years and is currently in the guise of a small girl wearing a domino mask. Frankenstein’s ostensibly married to the multi-armed Bride of Frankenstein, but they’re estranged. He also winds up leading a new team of monster-human hybrids based on the classic Universal Monsters: vampire, wolf man, sea creature and the mummy. They go on missions that include stopping an invading horde of extra-dimensional beings, saving a sentient planet from its own demons and fighting OMAC.

I was already into this concept because it’s monster soldiers, a concept I like just about every time I encounter it, including the Marvel miniseries Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos. But Lemire takes things in directions I never would have thought. This isn’t just a big monster fight book, there’s also a great mix of alternate dimensions and even super-tech. The S.H.A.D.E. HQ is actually a shrunken down floating city with an impenetrable bubble around it. You have to get shrunk down and then teleported just to get inside. I love that kind of stuff and there’s a lot of that in here. Oh, I should note here that the shrinking tech was designed by none other than Ray Palmer, which marks this series’ closest connection to the larger DCU as far as I’ve read (aside from the OMAC appearance later on).

All of which is a commentary on Lemire’s versatility as a writer. Dude made a name by writing and drawing real world-based stories and has moved on to some of the craziest comics on the stands. I’m a big fan of that. I’m not as big a fan of Ponticelli’s artwork though. It can get really messy and hard to read. I appreciate the scope they’re going for on this book — our team of monsters fighting legions of evil monsters at one time — but it can get confusing at times. I will say that he does some really interesting things with page layouts where they look like splashes, but wind up actually containing several scenes. Take the page below, see how it all seems like one thing at first glance, but then you realize the water’s surface winds up acting like the panel break? That’s pretty rad. Maybe it’s an inking thing, because when he was inked by someone else on issue #7, it looked so different I thought it was a new penciler altogether.

Anyway, I had a great time reading this comic for all kinds of reasons and would definitely recommend it to anyone. I just did some looking around and saw that Lemire’s only on the book for another few issues. This news would generally bum me out, but then I saw that Matt Kindt took over and I’m pretty excited to see what he does/did with his run.

Haha, oh man, as I finished writing this I remembered that my pal Kiel Phegley had written about some upcoming DC cancellations on CBR. I hadn’t had a chance to read it yet post-NYCC and catching up on things. So, I just gave it a glance and saw that this book will get the axe with #17. That’s a bummer, especially because it feels like the kind of project that could have just as easily been a long-running Image series with like, two tweeks. Ah well, that’s Chinatown or whatever.

Thunderbolts Trade Post: Cage & Violent Rejection

Thunderbolts: Cage (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Kev Walker
Collects Thunderbolts #144-147

Thunderbolts is one of those teams that I’ve been familiar with since its inception, but never read regularly, popping in here and there when particular arcs interested me. The basic idea since the post-Onslaught inception of the team has been “villains playing hero” in various capacities. Lately, that’s translated into criminals at a maximum security supervillain prison being allowed out to fight crimes. Run by Norman Osborn for his own nefarious reasons, the project is now run by the former U.S. Agent and Luke Cage with an eye towards actual reform. The team consists of OG T-Bolts Fixer, Songbird and Mach Mach V (now legit heroes) as well as Juggernaut, Moonstone, Ghost, Crossbones and Man-Thing. When I first heard about this series and the line-up I remember having big, huge question marks about those last two, but they’re explained very well in the series.

The adventures include some post-Siege clean-up that also serves as an introduction for a new Troll character who will, I assume, eventually become a larger part of the book as well as exploring a cave with some Terrigen crystals that also happen to be making some bonkers monsters. These larger adventures plus a few tests for the new T-Bolts and a prison riot offer plenty of room for the team members to show why they’re useful, what problems they  might present and the potential for this group.

While I can get a little tired of the A-list team books that get mired in whatever huge overarching stories Marvel or DC is working on at the time, I’ve found that I really like these lower level ones that not only have room to do their own thing, but also pull some of the less-used characters from a particular universe and do some really fun stuff with them. In the case of Thunderbolts, it helps that I’m not a hard core Marvel fan because I don’t have nearly 50 years of Juggernaut stories in my head. I’ve got a basic knowledge of all these characters and can enjoy these new stories without constantly comparing them to the old ones. One of Parker’s strengths has always been creating that balance between appealing to new and old readers alike and he does that all over the place here. He excels at looking around the sandbox, seeing what toys the other kids aren’t playing with and creating some really fun, excited stories with what he’s got.

Thunderbolts: Violent Rejection (Marvel)
Written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Kev Walker & Declan Shalvey
Collects Thunderbolts #152-157

I’d hoped to get my hands on the trade between Cage and Violent Reject in order to read all three back to back to back, but it wasn’t in the cards, so I just went on and checked out the latter after reading the former. Between a recap on the first page and Parker’s writing, I didn’t feel too behind and was able to catch right up. I had a feeling that would be the case after reading so much of his Hulk material out of order.

Anyway, I realized with this trade that Thunderbolts actually feels like an old school Marvel book where you’re not reading these big arcs necessarily, but instead one or two issue adventures that flow really well into one another. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely overarching plot lines being fleshed out, but those aren’t the sole focus of the stories. There’s no “writing for the trade” here.

This collection sees the team going up against some of the giant monsters that Parker first wrote about in Red Hulk: Scorched Earth, but you definitely don’t need to read both books to get the gist (which is basically, giant monsters are about to attack Japan, go stop them). The team now includes Hyperion who may or may not be evil (which gets answered decisevely soon enough). After that, Man-Thing disappears to fight creatures from another dimension, Cage and Dr. Strange team up to find Satana and the team gets sent to a mystical castle filled with Nazi zombies. Oh and a B team of T-Bolts gets put into motion back at the prison. Like I said before, lots of stuff goes on with tons of action, but you never lose sight of the characters themselves in these adventures, which is, I’m realizing, a Parker hallmark.

Artwise, I don’t think I’ve read a Kev Walker or Declan Shalvey comic before this, but I am definitely a fan of their work now. They both have kind of offbeat styles that I like, imagine more superhero-y Hellboy or B.P.R.D. type artists. While they look somewhat similar — you don’t get thrown out of the story with the change in styles as much as some other books — they both bring their own talents to the table and each have a knack for handling human characters next to monstrous ones and large moments with the small.

KEEP OR DUMP: I’m definitely keeping these books and looking for the rest of Parker’s trades. I hear they get into some time travel stuff, the B-team gets to take center stage and then the whole thing turns into Dark Avengers. As with most of Jeff Parker’s Marvel work, I’m in it now.

Hulk Trade Post: World War Hulk & Planet Skaar

World War Hulk (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak, drawn by John Romita Jr.
Collects World War Hulk #1-5

After recently reading and really enjoying the first few books of Greg Pak’s run on Incredible Hulk, I wanted to go back and read what’s been happening to Hulk since Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, so I decided to give WWH another read. I had my problems with it when it first came out, for two specific reasons: first, I don’t really dig JRJR’s artwork and second, I thought some of the cooler aspects of the story were kept off panel (the fight with Blackbolt).

Did I have the same problems going in this time? Well,  yeah, mostly. I still just can’t get into JRJR’s art. I like he draws Hulk, Doctor Strange and some of the War Bound, but the new Hulk Buster Iron Man armor just looked silly. This might sound odd, but I’m also not a fan of how he draws rubble. It always looks like multicolored toothpicks thrown at a panel and glued down. His faces also don’t carry much weight when the camera is pulled back past full-figure level.

But even that didn’t completely detract from my enjoyment of a big, bonkers series where Hulk essentially wages war on Earth and the people who sent him into space. I still wish the Blackbolt fight had been shown on panel, even if it was a Skrull or whatever and I’m not a big fan of the reveal about how the Hulk’s ship actually blew up on Sakaar, but overall, it’s a compelling story. There’s definitely the feeling, though, that this could have been a lot crazier if there wasn’t so much continuity and other books to worry about.

With the end of this series, Jeph Loeb hopped in and started writing the simply title Hulk, while Hercules took over Incredible Hulk — still written by Pak — and Pak also started writing the adventures of the son Hulk didn’t even realize he had on Sakaar (Skaar). This is where I fell off as the books were originally coming out.

Hulk: Planet Skaar (Marvel)
Written by Greg Pak, drawn by Butch Guice, Ron Lim & Dan Panosian
Skaar: Son of Hulk #7-12, Planet Skaar Prologue

The reason I didn’t keep up on Skaar is because I was just confused. I was under the impression that, at the end of Planet Hulk, most of the planet was actually destroyed, so I had no idea how this little dude was alive or how he was born from a woman that died on a planet that exploded. This seemed like a good enough place to take a break on Hulk, so I stepped out of all of it.

I wanted to get my hands on the first collection of Skaar comics, but couldn’t and didn’t want to wait too long before reading this collection and moving on to some of the other Loeb books I’d picked up. This one was a lot of fun, as it turns out. Not only did I get a much better idea of who Skaar is as a character, but it was also fun to see him living something of the same life his dad did, but making very different choices. He even winds up fighting alongside and enslaved Silver Surfer, but this time, the Surfer is working for Galactus and he gets brought into the mix. The way Skaar wants to handle keeping Galactus away from his home planet is pretty intense, but again shows how he differs from pops.

I get the idea that this is basically the kind of Hulk Pak would have written if this was a creator owned book. He’s on another planet and a total badass, so he can basically do whatever the hell he wants and does. And in the fact that it acts as a nice endcap to one of my favorite comic arcs — Planet Hulk — works on it’s own and leads well into the Incredible Hulk stuff I like and I’m happy with the story all around.

Wildstorm Trade Post: Stormwatch PHD & Gen 13 World’s End

StormWatch PHD: World’s End (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Ian Edgington, drawn by Leandro Fernandez
Collects Stormwatch PHD #13-19

By now, I assume readers are somewhat familiar with my love of Wildstorm. Not only have I written about many of their trades in many previous Trade Post and Pile reviews, but also did a full post about how much I like the universe. While at Wizard, I became the de facto writer of all things Wildstorm for a while there, but was over at ToyFare by the time World’s End started. If you’re unfamiliar, after a mostly unsuccessful attempt at restarting the universe (flagship titles Wildcats and Authority written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Jim Lee and Gene Ha respectively only produced a total of three issues combined) the powers that be at the ‘Storm decided to take drastic measures: they blew the world up. Not entirely, mind you, that wouldn’t make for very interesting comics. Instead, the kind of threat that the heroes of Marvel and DC always thwart succeeded and an army of deranged, formerly captive and brainwashed heroes went bonkers on the world before literally exploding. The trauma killed millions and even temporarily knocked the earth off its access. Much of this is covered in Wildstorm: Armageddon, Number of the Beast and Wildstorm: After the Fall.

It was bad. But there were survivors, both of the hero variety and normal folks with the former doing their best to look out for the latter. Which brings us to Stormwatch PHD. For two trades, this was a book set very firmly in the Wildstorm U that brought back members of the classic Stormwatch team and put them on more ground-level type missions. With the end of the world, though, the book shifted focus with its heroes up in the orbital Stormwatch satellite trying to keep people safe. Run by Jackson King, he has split up the super powered operatives left at his disposal into two teams and sends them on missions to both save people (they’re keeping as many as they can on the satellite, but are quickly running out of space) and defeated threats to humanity.

What I like most about this book specifically and the World’s End books in general (those that I’ve read) is that they really went for it. The world is screwed and these heroes are doing their best to keep things afloat. Even with all their teleportation and super powers, there’s only so much that you can do. This book also did something that would become a standard of the rest of the Wildstorm U in that it incorporated elements from the history of the company in ways that made sense. In this case, you’ve got Deathblow working for Stormwatch. This is not something that happened before, but it doesn’t really need explaining (though what happened between Deathblow’s last series and this does get explained at some point in a way that was pretty clever). This would become SOP a few issues down the line when the heroes were split between one group staying on Earth and the other going to space. I’ve gotten really annoyed with how bogged down and sometimes boring mainstream superhero comics can be, so it was nice to see a company stick to something as crazy as this.

I might not be the best judge on something like this, but I would even say that it’s pretty new-reader-friendly. That might sound a little crazy, but it seemed to me like enough was explained that an open-minded and curious reader could easily jump right in and follow along. That continuity stuff I mentioned is fun for people like me, but I don’t think the series as a whole is bogged down with it.

Gen 13: World’s End (Wildstorm/DC)
Written by Scott Beatty, drawn by Mike Huddleston & Dan Hipp
Collects Gen 13 #21-26

I think that same can be said for the first Gen 13 installment in World’s End. This team was what actually got me initially excited about Wildstorm. I was a huge fan because it was the it teen comic of the day. For some folks that was Teen Titans or New X-Men, but this was mine. I have been routinely disappointed by pretty much every incarnation that has come since the awful Chris Claremont relaunch years ago. It also didn’t help that they had one of the muddier post-continuity shift histories. Something about being grown as superpowered sex slaves or whatnot? Even after being so confused the first time around, I gave it the good ol’ college try again recently when reading the trade of the second volume, but it just didn’t do it for me.

But, I didn’t feel that way with this collection. Sure, there are references to the new status quo, but it kind of felt like I had just missed one arc of the old series. Beatty does a great job of capturing that old dynamic between Grunge, Fairchild, Freefall, Burnout (now blinded) and Rainmaker.

Unlike Stormwatch or Authority, which have larger, more global goals, the Gen 13 kids are just trying survive and figure out what happened. They were hopping around in time or somesuch and came back in after the big event, so they missed the whole thing. This is a pretty fun and interesting concept that fits in with the characters pretty perfectly. Same goes for the art by Huddleston and Dan Hipp, who has an awesome sketchblog you guys should all check out.

I’ve got a post in the works covering the two Authority books and the second Wildcats one (thought I had the first, but don’t). The bummer about reading through these is that they’re so fun and yet the rest of the issues leading up to the line-wide cancellation of Wildstorm haven’t been collected. I’m not going to hold my breath for them to be either. I think I’ll keep an eye out for cheap copies of what I don’t have (I made a checklist) and see how it ends. If it’s rad, I’ll probably get them bound!