Halloween Scene: New Slasher Round-Up!

Good golly, I watched a lot of horror movies this season. I actually kicked things off pretty early, sometime in September and pretty much watched only scare fare since then with the exception of many, many episodes of Daniel Tiger, the shows my wife and I watch and a few kids movies sprinkled in.

I found myself missing Topless Robot quite a bit this fall as that site offered the best place for me to knock out crazy lists about some of the longest running horror franchises around. I wound up not writing anything about new horror for pay, so I’m going to go through as many of the newer films as I can in this series of posts. Let’s start off with one of my favorite subgenres, the slasher movie! I watched four that I thought each did something fun an interesting. Continue reading Halloween Scene: New Slasher Round-Up!

Books Of Oa: Green Lantern Sector 2814 Volume 1

Green_Lantern_Sector_2814_vol_01 Green Lantern: Sector 2814 Vol. 1 (DC)
Written by Len Wein, drawn by Dave Gibbons
Collects Green Lantern #172-176, 178-181

As regular UM readers will know, I’m kind of in love with the idea of space cops patrolling the galaxy and keeping people safe. I’ve mostly written about Geof Johns’ run here on the site, but I actually got my start back when Hal Jordan went nuts and the young gun known as Kyle Rayner took over for him. As such, my experience with Hal Jordan before the mid 90s was slim. I resented that all the old comic readers wanted to seem him return and thought he was boring (because, like them, he was old).

But, this is a pretty interesting character, if you’re into dudes who struggle with balancing duty with their own impetuous nature. Those are the traits on display in Len Wein and Dave Gibbons’ first combined arc which started by asking whether Hal would be able to return to earth. Apparently, before this book, he was told to stay away for a full year and finally got the go-ahead to head back to see his gal Carol Ferris and, well, that’s about it. He only really seems to care about his work friends and her in this particular arc.

In addition to rekindling things with his special lady, Hal found himself tangling with the likes of future Suicide Squad member Javelin, The Shark, Demolition Team, Predator (who would later show up in my beloved Extreme Justice) and even the Guardians! What’s that you say? Yup, Ha gets bent out of shape when he’s called to go save an entire planet while Ferris Air is under attack. Apparently that’s a bad thing in his mind, but to the casual, non-10-year-old observer, it just makes perfect sense. At the end of the day, he winds up quitting the GL Corps. WHAT?! Yup, to be continued in Sector 2814 Volume 2 (which I don’t have, so we’ll see how long it takes for a review of that one).

While I don’t know if I’ll ever feel super in line with Hal Jordan’s way of thinking, I still really enjoyed this book. It felt like a solid return to some of the goofy Silver Age stuff I’ve read but never really written about because I think it’s pretty silly. Wein and Gibbons take that and put it all through a more modern prism which feels real, honest and adult. I especially found myself marveling over Gibbons’ work. He’s an artist who everyone knows from Watchmen, but I have very little experience with aside from that. Here he gets to play superhero and it looks great. It also looks super bright thanks to colors by Anthony Tollin. This might be one of the brightest, most enjoyable reading experiences of my comic book reading career. All of that earns this book a place on my shelf and an eye towards future volumes.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: X-Men Classics Battle Blasters

Sorry about the lack of posts lately. Things have been bonkers around here lately (I feel like I write that every two months or so, but it’s always true). Anyway, I might not have been writing about much here, but I’ve still been reading and watching quite a bit. As I mentioned in one of my few March posts, I’ve been on a big X-kick lately.

This particular toy commercial doesn’t have much to do with what I’ve been reading, but it’s a pretty fun one! First off, how can you not love the image of a kid dressed up as Marvel’s number one mass murdering hero? Plus, the figures seen in this spot are all based on one of the House of Ideas’ best alternate realities, Age of Apocalypse.

x-men classics battle blasters

It took a little more looking around than I thought, but I got the skinny about this line on MarvelToys.net. It’s basically a repaint and redecco line. I thought that Wolverine looked familiar and it’s because it’s actually a Sabertooth figure I have in my collection! Also he has both hands, so he’s not REALLY AoA Wolvy, but it’s still a fun figure.

Halloween Scene: My Halloween Watch List

Goodness gracious! I was looking through my unpublished drafts and found this post about the rest of the horror movies I watched during October. There’s some good stuff in here, so let’s jump back in time a few months and think scary thoughts!

dawn of the dead originalAfter a super busy September and October, I’m still catching up on all of the movies I watched for work and fun. After focusing on new films early on in the season, I decided to go through my movie collection and Netflix to make a list of films I wanted to watch leading up to Halloween. The list had a total of 26 films, though I wound up removing five. All told, I watched 13 plus the seven films making up the original Halloween franchise. I’m saving a few of them for another post, but I did want to throw out a few thoughts about what turned out to be a major rewatch experience.

As it turned out, zombies were a huge part of this year’s list. Dawn and Day Of The Dead easily made the list along with Dance Of The Dead, the Dawn remake and World War Z. I didn’t get to those last two, but I keep seeing more and more things in those two Romero movies that I love. I’ve been seeing a lot of people dump on the zombie genre lately. To them I say, watch those two movies. They are amazing films, not just horror flicks. Meanwhile, I still have a great time with Dance which is just super impressive when you take into account it’s a low budget film that doesn’t look it. This is easily one of my favorite zombie movies from the past few decades. Continue reading Halloween Scene: My Halloween Watch List

Trade Post: Tomboy By Liz Prince

tomboy by liz prince Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir (Zest Books)
Written & drawn by Liz Prince

Last month I got an email asking if I’d be interested in reviewing a copy of Liz Prince’s Tomboy (Zest Books) and I jumped at the chance. I admit that I haven’t read Prince’s other works like Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed? or Alone Forever, but I was immediately drawn to the concept of an autobiographic graphic novel focusing on a woman who grew up trying to avoid society’s imposed gender norms.

As it happens, I’m one of those guys that didn’t really think much about gender relations until I had a daughter. To be fair, I grew up with a single mother for a few years before she remarried, always had great respect for women and, because the girls in my grade school classes were so smart, assumed ladies were the more intelligent sex. So, it wasn’t like I was some he-man woman-hater going into father hood. I feel like I was a fairly open-minded dude, but there was just so much I never even thought about because of how I was born.

And that’s a great place to dive into Tomboy, because it’s about a young girl who, from an early age, realized that she didn’t fit into the rubric of what it meant to be “a girl.” So, she mentally eschewed everything that made her think of “girliness” and focused on being “more like a boy.” As she grew up, however, she realized that this made her something of an outcast from both groups. Eventually Prince made some similarly minded friends, met one of those key adults who “got her” and became this awesome person who makes autobiographical comics about her life.

Even though I might not have thought about these things much before the last few years, I did find myself relating to Prince on a variety of levels. I had a solid group of friends in grade and high school, but I was small, sorta smart and unathletic. I assumed from watching a lifetime of TV and movies that this could make me a target for bullying and did my best to just fly under the radar. As it turns out, Prince was a lot braver than I was as a kid.

But there were other personal connections I made to this work. As it turns out Prince and I are the same age, so the “boys’ toys” that she was into as a kid were the same ones I was into. I think that, had we grown up in the same neighborhood, we would have actually been pals, especially given our mutual love of all things Ghostbusters and, later, Green Day.

Back to the whole dad-thing, as I said in last week’s episode of The Pop Poppa Nap Cast, I’ve always been concerned about my daughter conforming to society’s ideas about what a girl can be. As such, I got worried when it became clear that she was a gigantic fan of princesses, ponies and all things pink. Soon enough, though, I realized that it doesn’t matter what she likes as long as she likes it because it’s something that appeals to her and not something she’s supposed to like. I do my best to offer her plenty of other entertainment options, which she also enjoys. Because of that, I have a daughter who’s been photographed in princess dresses holding a football and wielding lightsabers, so I feel like I’m doing alright in this whole thing.

One key element that I took away from Tomboy is that talking to your kids about societal norms and ideas is a pretty good idea. From the book, it seems like Prince’s parents supported her desire to not where dresses, but maybe they didn’t actually sit down with her and explain what was going on. It wasn’t until Prince met an adult who worked with her mom that was into making zines that she realized that it wasn’t her sex or gender she was mad at, but the ideas that people place on women and girls. Hopefully, that’s something I’ll be able to impart on my daughter so she can avoid some of the trials and tribulations. Then again, I have a feeling my awesomely headstrong daughter will be the kind of person who wants to make her own mistakes (something that will drive her movies-offer-enough-experience-for-me dad nuts).

Halloween Scene: Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

night_of_the_living_dead Sometimes you think so highly of a film that you just assume you’ve blogged about it already. That was the case with Night Of The Living Dead, a movie I love, but apparently not enough to spend time writing about on UM.com. As you probably know George A. Romero’s classic film finds a group of survivors holing up in a country house as the dead start roaming the earth. The film itself never uses the Z word, but this style of creature soon became synonymous with a kind of monster that still dominates the genre to this day.

We start off with Barbra and her brother Johnny who have traveled several hours to this remote town in order to place flowers on their father’s grave. While there, they encounter a man who seems normal at first, but winds up attacking both siblings and killing Johnny. Barbra goes on the run and eventually finds the house. Soon enough she’s joined by Ben, a very proactive man looking to turn this place into a fortress. After fortifying the main floor, they come to realize that five people have been hiding out in the basement: a married couple with an injured daughter and a pair of teenaged kids who are dating. Conflicts instantly start brewing between the upstairs and downstairs factions, thanks to Harry, a head strong guy who wants them all to hole up in the basement where his zombie-bitten daughter happens to be slowly turning over to the side of flesh loving baddies.

The beauty of a Romero zombie movie is that he’s not just trying to scare people, he’s also trying to hold an undead mirror up to society to show off its uglier side. Some of these elements are overt while other sneak on by. I think the conveyed message can also change a bit as society changes and the film stays the same. For instance, there’s a lot of race elements being explored thanks to Ben being such a strong character who spends most of the film bossing white people around with most of them listening.

But you can also read into the presented ideas of womanhood. The movie gets some flack because Barbra spends so much of it in a catatonic state, which is understandable. However, I don’t think that’s a commentary on all women, but just the presentation of one particular character. Just look at the other two women presented in the movie. Harry’s wife Helen and even Judy the young lady from the basement are pretty strong and cool-headed.

I also think there’s something being said — or conveyed — about how city life makes people less prepared for these kinds of disastrous events. Barbra and Johnny make a big deal about how they had to drive out to the middle of nowhere which made me assume they lived in the city. I also assumed that Ben was from more of a small town scenario, but he later says he’s not from the small farm town, so my theory might actually be blown to hell.

Whatever the case may be, Romero created a film that not only had something to say, but presents itself in such a way that you can keep finding new aspects in the work that make you think. Speaking of emotions, seeing how the zombified kid takes out her mom — with a gardening shovel instead of her teeth — totally bummed me out as a parent. I used to think, “Once they turn, just blast them away!” But not only are they in a world that’s never seen a zombie like this, but it’s also you’re freaking kid. Also, the ending of this movie is so freaking depressing and I kind of love that.

Watching this movie lead into a re-watch of Dawn Of The Dead, which is still one of my favorite movies regardless of genre. Seeing the films together in such a short period made me notice a few things. First, these movies are like Nirvana songs going from loud to quiet to expertly. Second, while these films obviously both feature undead monsters, they’re more about human beings trying to intellectually deal with the fact that the world they once knew has been completely turned upside down. Can you imagine what it would really be like if people stopped dying in the traditional sense? I don’t think I can. And third, these movies all feature characters who can do things very well. That’s why we’re following Ben and the crew in the mall instead of some other randos, they’re survivors. They’re the ones that can survive in this environment…for a time. Eventually, they all screw up one way or anything and the mindless zombies win out against the smart humans. There’s a poetry there that I don’t think I can parse, but love experiencing. Now I really want to give Day Of The Dead and the 1990 Night remake another watch to see whether they continue those themes.