Thursday, October 21, 2010

Searing Intestinal Cramps of the Dead

So the other night Gabriel and I watched the new Romero zombie flick, Survival of the Dead. What's my reaction? Well, I've rarely envied the decaying creatures in the film when their heads explode from a shotgun blast, but this outing just may have done it. I wasn't a particular fan of Land of the Dead, though it had a moment or two, and Diary of the Dead was no opus, though it added a new element or two to the tried and true formula. But either of those films were Night of the Magnificently Dead Ambersons compared to this. The DVD starts with George Romero telling us that this particular bit of dead cinema is going to have elements of comedy as well as horror. Speaking as someone who writes stuff for a living, I can vouch for the fact that this usually means "hey, some of this is intentionally funny, so feel free to laugh when you get to those obvious spots." Right there I assumed there might be trouble, as such things should come out of the material naturally, not as a caveat from the director before the festivities.

The plot revolves around a place called Plum Island, Delaware, where two feuding families, the O'Flynns and the Muldoons, are having a disagreement over whether the dead should be shot through the head and dispatched, or kept around like family heirlooms. No, I'm not kidding. Just imagine the guys on American Pickers saying "Hey, how much for Grampa's animated corpse?" As if the premise weren't enough, these two clans are not just Irish; they're Irishy-Irish, with Irish trimming. When they're not hunting zombies (or making up a place for them at the dinner table), they've GOT to be out keeping kids from their Lucky Charms. The accents flow thicker than Brock Lesnar's neck. No, I'm not sure why this island in Delaware is some sort of Land that Time Forgot for the fighting Irish, any more that I'm sure George Romero has ever even been to Delaware. But that's what we're given, so go with it.

And there's gore, of course, as that's what we're expecting, but it's a fairly goofy grade of gore for a Romero flick (at one point a head gets blown off, and the hat comes back down and lands on the bloody stump of the neck). But what it DOESN'T have is much of a plot, beyond the fact that one of the feuding families wants to try to teach the undead to eat non-human meat (in this case a horse).

And therein lies part of the problem. Generally speaking, zombie movies have a tradition of the zombie menace/virus/curse/whatever spreading through humans. And there's a good reason for that. Think about it; if it could be spread by other animals, mosquitoes and other insects would convert everyone on earth in a matter of days. Or, even if it were confined to mammals, think about all the mice, rats, etc. out there. There's NOWHERE you could be safe for any length of time. No, it's been restricted to homo sapiens for a pretty darn good reason, plot-wise.

But if zombies are suddenly willing to treat my friend Flicka as their next Happy Meal, there's a pretty good chance that animals could carry the dead-factor, too. And even if they couldn't, the logic of it makes no real sense. Why would they have to TEACH a zombie to eat a horse rather than a human? The hunger is either there or its not.

While I'm at it, by the way, if zombies are NOT interested in eating animals, why aren't the streets overrun with our furry friends? In Indiana, for example, we have to have an active hunting season to keep the deer population manageable, and even then we're constantly hitting the overflow with our cars. So if suddenly most of the population are zombies and no longer interested in Bambi, why aren't there deer hopping around in the background of every scene?

And criminy, George, I know directors have themes that are central to their work, but you've beaten the soldier and Cletus horse until even your zombies can't resurrect him. We get it: you don't like rednecks or the military. We've heard it in every undead flick you've ever made. By your reckoning, the earth's only salvation is going to be college professors living on the coasts. Oh, wait, they won't have the prerequisite guns; I hope they know how to take out a zombie with a Meerschaum pipe and a copy of the New Republic.

Anyway, if you're looking for a top-notch zombie epic, you'll probably be better off waiting for AMC's adaptation of The Walking Dead, starting on Halloween. I'm pretty sure it won't have dialog like Sarge "Nicotine" Crockett saying "In an us versus them world, pretty soon no one remembers who started the war in the first place, and the fighting becomes all about these stupid flags." Tune in for the next installment, "Moral Equivalency of the Dead!"

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Prodigal Son

So I'm back from Canada. A few random thoughts about the trip:

* With each trip, leaving Lea becomes harder and harder. I can't begin to describe what it's like to spend every day of your life with someone (on the phone), then be in their presence for two glorious weeks...ONLY to have to leave them again. I'd venture that we're as close to husband and wife as anyone can be, given our circumstances, and yet 90% of the time we can't so much as hold hands. I think there must be a bolgia in Hell that's a lot like this.

* On the flight home, this snooty British guy sitting next to me kept giving me dirty looks (I think it was because I was eating my tinfoil-wrapped cheese sandwich in his presence). I would've felt bad if he hadn't spent at least forty-five minutes out of the flight WITH HIS FINGER BURIED IN HIS RIGHT NOSTRIL UP TO THE @#$% ELBOW! I'm not kidding; this guy quite literally did not remove his finger from his nose through an episode of The Office and half of a National Geographic special. The next time someone tries to tell me how refined the Brits are in comparison to we ugly Americans, I'm going to play this charming memory in my uncouth colonial head. Oh, and he ate it.

* My back is severely messed up, and I think it's as a result of (A) being crammed for six hours into a tiny airline seat (about 18" wide, unlike my body), and (B) driving a compact car for a total of about twenty hours as we drove to see Lea's family. I don't mind the experience of flying at all, but the experience of being sardined into a plane doesn't thrill me, and I've had it with long stopovers at the airport (I don't mind an hour or so, but when I end up having to sleep there, it's not my idea of a good time).

* I continue to have a hate/hate relationship with public transportation. Damn it all to hell! Most of the time I'm at Lea's, I have to take the bus, and I'd much rather have my back messed up by a rental car than to have to endure the Gehenna that IS the Vancouver bus system. No, as such systems go, it's probably not a bad one at all. But that's rather like saying "As a means of splaying my urethra open, a filet knife ain't so bad!" I always hear folks telling me "I LOVE the public transportation where I live! It's efficient and clean!" OK, tell you what: if you have a system that (A) allows you not to have to be pressed up against total strangers, (B) has enough seats that no one has to stand up, (C) can always get you within a block of where you're going, and (D) has a new bus coming to every stop every five minutes instead of fifteen or thirty, THEN we'll talk. Until then, keep your stinking public transportation paws off me, you damned dirty commuter!

I just don't think human beings were meant to be treated like cargo, or like animals, and that's how I feel on the bus. If there's one thing I love about America (and there are thousands), it's that we're a car culture with the freedom to go where and when we want, according to OUR schedule, not the city's. And for you greenies out there, if you can make that happen for me just as easily with solar or electric powered cars (and hopefully you realize how electricity is generated), then that's OK by me, too.
I think it's all part of the way I find myself feeling in more recent years. I DON'T think I'm becoming more misanthropic, but I DO find myself, whether because of my rugged individualism or interest in objectivism or just exposure to PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION, to be realizing how much of what bothers me about the world having to do with a group mentality rather than an individual one. The more I think about it, the more I find myself realizing that human beings are a pretty amazing species, but most of what I like about us involves who we each are as unique beings, not what we do as a collective.
Maybe that's why I want to be someone who can take myself to Walmart at 2:17am, in the privacy of my car, with the Upper Crust singing "Let Them Eat Rock," to get a bag of Cheezies rather than have to be packed into a stinking bus next to a crackhead who keeps yelling "they never bought me a dog!" at exactly 3:15 in the afternoon (barring a fifteen minute delay), making three transfers, standing up the whole time, watching idiots spit at a bus stop outside Walmart, then spending the next hour making the same damned trip home.
If that's the world you want, then excuse me if I do everything possible to keep myself from living in it.

* I watched a little kid at O'Hare Airport chasing a cleaning woman's cart around because he thought she was selling ice cream. Now THAT'S comedy.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let's All Go to the Lobby...

OK, here are quick reviews of twenty movies I've seen in recent months...and...go!

Anvil: The Story of Anvil - I'm guessing the majority of folks who read this blog have already seen this film, but if not, for the love of Zod go rent it! It's the story of the band Anvil, who at one time were thought to be the "next big thing," but never were. It's heartfelt, and tear-jerking, and hilarious, and insightful, and just...wonderful. These guys are such lugs, and you can't help but feel for them (and those of us who have toiled in relative obscurity for years will absolutely empathize with 'em). If you can watch this without both laughing and crying...well, you're probably not someone I'm going to invite to my swanky dinner parties.

Pontypool - Another little gem. This was stars Stephen McHattie as an Imus-style radio personality who, along with a few other folks, finds himself trapped inside a radio station in the midst of the most unusual zombie apocalypse ever. I can't say much more than that without giving away the plot, but trust me, this is one of the more cerebral walking dead films you'll ever see. Just...peculiar. But in a very interesting way

Farmhouse - Holy moley, mother of god...this one knocked the wind out of me...OK, so it stars, among other folks, Steven Weber. Have I ever mentioned how much I cannot stand Steven Weber? Between his oh-so-affected acting and his moronic political rants, he's also not coming to my swanky dinner parties. But anyway, the movie is about a young couple who get mixed up with another young couple, and the latter duo are quite dangerous and insane. Now, up until the last twenty minutes or so, it's a bit like a much lesser version of Kalifornia...if Kalifornia had the DUMBEST...ENDING...EVER. I'm not joking. When I say this thing jumped the shark, I mean it jumped Mega-Shark. I'd tell you not to watch this piece of crapola, but really, you HAVE to see the ending. It's sublime in its awfulness.

Martyrs - I'm not sure what to say about this one. It's ostensibly a movie about a woman who is kidnapped and tortured, but not in a Hostel or Saw sort of manner. It had a great number of twists and turns, and I wasn't really sure HOW to feel about it, but there was something about the ending that won me over. If I may channel Mitch Hedberg for a sec, I'm sure people will either love it or hate it...or think it was just OK. I really dug it, though.

Seventh Moon - Ah, it was OK. It's one of those Ghost House pictures (who seem to have patterned themselves at the Eight Movies to Die For franchise). It's about an American couple in China who have to deal with some weird ghosty-demony kind of spirits. It had a few good scenes and interesting visuals. It wasn't great, but compared to Farmhouse it was Citizen Kane and the Magnificent Ambersons COMBINED.

District 9 - One of my favorite movies of the year. Great story, great acting, funny scenes, poignant scenes, and some of the most convincing effects I've seen in quite a while. And as opposed to the heavy-handed Avatar, this allegory doesn't beat you across the head. In fact, you could watch the thing and not necessarily even draw the Apartheid conclusions, because the story carries you along just fine without it. If you haven't seen this, seek it out.

Final Destination - The newest in the FD franchise, this one was filmed for 3-D, so it tends to look a little wonky as things come flying toward the screen. But really, what movie has a better rationale for 3-D? I generally have enjoyed the FD movies much more than other formula series like Saw, as the deaths are fairly inventive, and they really manage to maintain a sense of suspense. This one lived up to the rest for the most part, though there were a couple of cheese-o-rama scenes. Good for a night of brainless fun.

Machined - The upside of watching low-low-budget horror films is that you occasionally find a little gem. The downside is stuff like Machined. It's...oh, hell, I has something to do with this guy that looks like the titular character from Otis, or maybe Grossberger, and he scrapes a motorcycle accident victim off the pavement and turns him into a killing machine. Well, assuming that your definition of killing machine is a guy in football pads wearing a welding mask. I guess he's supposed to be all cybernetic or somesuch, but no, he appears to just be on the welding squad of the Minnesota Vikings. It was just bad. Oh, so bad. It was "I need to take a shower afterward" bad.

Reborn - This movie is...THE SEQUEL TO MACHINED! I know, I know. "But Troy, if it was that bad, why would you watch the sequel?" Frankly, it's because I'm a completist who also suffers from OCD, and if there's more to a story out there, even a bad one, I generally go looking for it. Yeah, I DO realize how sick I am. Anyway, this one was actually a little better than Machined, but that's like saying being dropped into a vat of acid is slightly better than slowly being killed with a cheese grater (which is a scene from Farmhouse, btw).

It's Alive - Blech. A totally awful and unnecessary remakes of Larry Cohen's, well, sort of classic tale of a killer infant. This version was confusing, muddled, goofy, and totally pointless. There was no miracle to this birth, except perhaps that it actually got someone to produce it. I can only wish Margaret Sanger could've gotten to it before I did.

The Collector - Nine tenths of a pretty cool movie. The premise is that you have a burglar who breaks into a house, not knowing that a serial killer is already there, holding the residents hostage while he tortures them. The thief with a heart of gold finds himself in the role of erstwhile hero and has to save the family and himself from the dementoid. Really a nice little bit of suspense...until the end. Arrrrgh! Hey, Hollywood, I realize that many of your denizens are of the cynical, far-too-cool-to-be-upbeat crowd, but you know it's occasionally OK to have an ending that doesn't cry "I'm so nihilistic!" Lighten up; I know what screenwriters make.

Wrong Turn 3 - As everyone knows, I love cannibalistic hillbilly movies. Love 'em, love 'em, love 'em. And I dug the first two WT movies, especially the second, with Henry Rollins blowin' stuff up reaaaalll good. But this one made a HUGE mistake: they decided that basically just one crazy, cannibal hillbilly was enough to satisfy we cannibillyophiles. BZZZZZZZZ! Oh, so sorry. No, if I wanted one crazy murderous hillbilly at a time, I'd go see any one of my uncles on visiting day. No, I want as many flesh-eating, mutated jethroes as you can throw at me, please. WT3 is an OK film, I guess, but it was the weakest entry of the series thus far.

Albino Farm - OK, so here's another crazed hillbilly flick. This one has its own creepiness, largely supplied by a guest appearance by wrestling star and Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho, who plays a cornfed creepster well. For the sake of truth in advertising, I should mention that there were no actual albinos harmed in the making of this film (the family's NAME is "Albino"; that would've been a tough one to deal with in grade school). Not the best of its kind, but there's a perversity to this one that you have to appreciate.

Offspring - This one is sort of a switch on the cannibalistic hillbilly deal; rather than atomic Clampetts, this bunch is made up of warpainted savages who look like Sideshow Bob living in caves and kidnapping our menfolk to perpetuate their kind. All in all it's fairly lame. It's a good flick to give the MST3K treatment to, however, especially every time Art Hindle is on screen.

The Hills Run Red - Pleasantly surprised here. This fits into that "film within a film" genre that we've seen with things like Midnight Movie, but it makes its own mark, too. There's a fairly twisted angle to it that is quite horrific, and well, since it's a horror movie, that's a good thing!

Repo the Genetic Opera - Damned if I know. I'm guessing this thing will be a cult classic, but I'm not sure how I feel about it. There were a couple of tunes in there that are quite well done and catchy, but much of the music...I don't seemed like it was being made up on the spot. For a movie like this to work, the lyrics have to be ultra-sharp, and for the most part these weren't. Your mileage may vary, though.

Trick 'r' Treat - A nice little anthology piece. It didn't live up to the HUGE hype I'd heard about it, but it was still quite enjoyable. I dig the fact that the vignettes are more closely tied in to each other than the standard anthology (say, Creepshow). Definitely worth watching.

Evil Bong 2: King Bong
- Yikes. Y'know, I've never minded Charles Band and Full Moon Pictures doing their occasional goonfest, as long as they keep turning out stuff like the Puppet Master films. But these days, with stuff like Gingerdead Man and the Evil Bong films, and none of my beloved puppets to be seen, it's hard to look at this studio, one that I used to follow fervently, as a serious venture. Really, to enjoy this film, you probably need to be enjoying your own evil bong. Thankfully, though, they've announced a couple of new Puppet Master and Demonic Toys projects, none too soon.

Saw VI - By all that's holy, GIVE IT UP!!! Tobin Bell died, what, three or four movies ago? And the premise used to be that there was a certain amount of justice in the predicaments the victims found themselves in. But criminy, now Jigsaw is torturing people for having seventeen items in the "15 items or less" lane! I'll keep watching them because of the aforementioned OCD, but cripes, it's getting spread thinner than a woman in a David E. Kelley production.

Black Dynamite - An excellent spoof on blaxploitation films. Unlike something like I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (also a terrific movie), this one really captures the low budget aspects of the source material (right down to purposely having boom mikes in the shot and clunky editing). Very funny, and obviously a labor of love. I want more Black Dynamite!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

MMORPG, the Inexplicable Creature from Planet Spazz!

As some of you may know, I recently was asked to do a City of Heroes arc for their new Guest Author program, and I lovingly crafted a story of Nazis, zombies, robots, werewolves, rock and roll, and cheap plugs for my comics in a little adventure I called "A Little Night Music." Since some of you folks may not be regular CoH players (and dammit, why aren't you?), I thought I'd run some screen shots from the five missions that make up my arc. And if you DO play CoH but haven't played these yet, you might want to wait. Hey, this gives me the chance to say...

SPOILER WARNING! Woooot! Woooot!

I should mention, by the way, that these pics were taken by a number of my fellow CoH forumites, and a swell bunch of eggs they are, including Aliana Blue, Gibson McCoy, Lazarus, Golden Girl, and a few by yours truly. Thank you folks, for all your efforts, and your terrific screenshots. Let's take a look, and bear in mind that most of these can be enlarged by clicking on them.

First up is super-strong she-wolf of the SS, and Der Fuhrer's former girlfriend, Evil Brawn.

And here's Brawny getting her giant clock cleaned by Golden Girl.

Here's GG again, taking on the dreaded Greco-Robots.

Here we see a group shot of the Fifth Column doing that voodoo that they do so...well, slimily.

The developers were kind enough to join in on some missions with the player base, and here we can see Dr. Aeon and team laying the smackdown.

Here's GG once more, taking on those electrical creations of "light-canthropy," the Wolf Blitzers.

This one shows the rescue of young Jimmy Preston (you may remember him from my issues of the CoH comic book).

These creepy SOBS are zombie gourmets known as the Bone Appetits.

And here's the undead ayatollah of rock and rolla, Bloody Holly.

The next couple here are shots of Bloody's minions, the lethal Fright Attendants, and the fearful atomic powered Boooo Rad-leys.

Now a few more shots of the Greco-Robots. Man, I didn't realize how intimidating a big group of these things would be when they're comin' at ya!

Next up is the corpse-raising Li'l Dead Riding Hood and her "pets."

Next is the scariest torch singer of all, Caba-Rage, both before and after she activates her power.

Finally, the archvillain of the piece, the legendary Nachtmusik, seen here with his "liebchen," and using his dream powers.

Anyway, that might give you a slight taste of what the story feels like, but if you get a chance (and CoH offers a FREE 14-day trial if you'd like to give it a try), check it out. I think you'll dig it. I sure had a blast making it. And my characters are animated! How cool is that???

Man, I'm such a fanboy.

And proud of it...