Saturday, April 30, 2011

1977 "Help A Hero.." NCG Merchandise Ad

Vintage "The Superhero Shop" ad from the Joe Kubert school.

Help A Hero..Give Him A Home! From Mego!

The Teen Titans Wonder Girl, Speedy, Aqualad & Kid Flash with Isis for just $4.19!

The New Wonder Woman Fashion Doll! 12 inches tall! "Each doll comes complete with Wonder Woman's own costume and her Army uniform as Diana Prince!" Only $10.95!

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Frank Review of "Boy Eats Girl" (2005)

The Short Version? Not-quite-dead boy loves girl at zombie high
What Is It? Zomromcom
Who Is In It? Um... Samantha Mumba?
Should I See It? Maybe

I didn't care for the English film Shaun of the Dead, which was finally starting to get funny when it became serious and then outright tragic. Still, a lot of people adore the film, and it was an international success, so a year later the Irish took a stab at making a zomromcom with Boy Eats Girl. The good news is that it has an inventive final act gore fest at times reminiscent of New Zealand's zombie romantic comedy classic Braindead, but otherwise it plays more like the 1999 flop Idle Hands. That U.S. effort wasn't at all funny (except maybe a few one-liners from Seth Green,) and it wasn't remotely scary, so its enduring legacy is the largest quantity of (barely legal) Jessica Alba cheesecake committed to film (although Into The Blue beats it in quality.) Well okay, Kelly Monoco topless in KISS make-up while getting orally serviced before being murdered by a disembodied hand was pretty memorable, too.

Irish pop star Samantha Mumba takes the Alba role, and while a lovely girl, her best known U.S. release was probably the ill-fated Time Machine remake with Guy Pierce a decade back. Sadly, Mumba is very stingy with the flesh, aside from a five second shower shot that dissolves into an undead fellow's back without earning so much as a PG-13. There isn't a lot of comedy here, either, but the zombie mayhem is very nearly no-holds-barred, quite a nice turn from such a slick looking picture clearly targeting the girls with its high school romance. The boys are generally prettier than the girls, in fact, so lads in the audience may be a bit put out waiting for the violence to rev up about halfway in. Unlike Idle Hands though, it delivers to both segments. Where Alba's interest in Devon Sawa was very Judd Apatow in its being a nerd boy fantasy, David Leon sells his affection for Mumba, and it's believable when he captures more than just her attention. It still isn't a great movie, just serviceable in the weekend cable offering sense, but it can be had very cheap (I got mine in a four pack for $5,) and it is decent enough even in its off moments. Just be prepared for a mass of contrivances in the set-up, and no addressing of consequences in the wrap-up.


  • Making Of Very short and entirely shallow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hack/Slash: My First Maniac

This is probably no great victory for the creators, given my penchant for acidic, hypercritical reviews of even the best books on the market, but I'm finally ready to commit to collecting new Hack/Slash trades as they are solicited. So long as creator/writer Tim Seeley steers clear of the "expanded universe" genre mash-ups that put me off earlier samplings of his series, I suspect he will continue to entertainment at his consistent level of quality.

So for, my favorite stories have focused on the titular heroine Cassandra Hack working solo in her formative years as a stalker of ‘80s slasher movie archetypes. Thanks to the one-shot Me Without You, I've also warmed to her deformed sidekick Vlad, who only makes a cameo appearance here. From Dr. Loomis to the Dream Warriors, I’m a lot more interested in this type of material with strong protagonists around, and Hack delivers. This story, heavy on internal monologue in the form of diary entries, makes getting reacquainted with the character a solid read. I suspect Seeley has hung out with his share of Suicide Girl types, since Hack’s voice is true for that generation of strong but damaged grrls. Actress Allison Scagliotti seems to agree, and offered a new introduction.

I’ve seen flashbacks to Hack's origin a few times, so while I kept up with the scenes involving the Lunch Lady killer, I suspect the opening sequence as written could confuse the uninitiated. It was wise to give the first full issue over to the aftermath of Hack’s initial kill, showing her inability to fit into normal society afterward (or even before, really,) and her need to direct her innate hostilities toward positive ends.

The second issue is the true start of the main story, as Hack questions her crusade in the early stages of her first mission, and tries to figure out how exactly a broke sixteen-year-old dropout makes her way in the world as a monster killer. Her first target is Farmer Fig, a rural legend that plays out stories of
the "farmer's daughter" to a grisly end. Hack isn't sure she believes in these legends, if there are truly any more "lunch ladies" out there, and whether she has what it takes to do anything about it if there are. In order to go "undercover" amongst people her age, the typical victims of "slashers," Hack is far more successful at winning friends and influencing people than she ever was just being herself. Finding some kind of happiness and acceptance also makes Hack wonder if the new life she's chosen is really for the best.

One of the things I dig about this series his how fully it just goes for it. A group of girls getting in a fight doesn't result in pulled hair or torn skirts, but bloody mouths with missing teeth and eyes swollen shut. Cassie Hack may only be "Canada legal," and exploiting her nubility is a tad uncomfortable, but I like how the artist also draws her kind of awkward and seemingly not yet comfortable in her movements. This isn't a 24-year-old actress in a pink blouse playing at being a teeny bopper, but more like a real young adult taking on more than she might be able to handle. Tim Seeley still provides covers for the individual issues, and his Cassie Hack is much more polished and highly functioning "indie-professional," but also very much model pretty. The interiors by Daniel Leister aren't meant for Marvel/DC, but in the same sense guys like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko weren't suited for the Silver Age norm. His characters seem elongated and gawky, his aesthetic a bit too far off the mainstream path, which makes him perfectly suited for horror material of this stripe. From faces to figures to background to storytelling to action to gore, I find no fault in anything Leister offers in this book. He's apparently been the artist on this series since 2009, and I hope that he continues, because this is the perfect marriage of artist and material. If he ends up on Titans or some such shit, I'mona get pissed.

I spent a lot of time discussing the art, but you should note that I'm not interested in picking out a new project for Daniel Leister. I enjoy the art because it so soundly depicts Tim Seeley's involving story. Tack on one of the versions of the Lunch Lady origin, and My First Maniac is ready to be directly adapted into a hit motion picture. Anyone who is a fan of post-'70s horror, specifically but not exclusively the slasher subgenre, will find the book to exemplify the best in those types of shows. Cassie Hack is the final girl/slayer of choice, there's an inventive killer making the rounds, there are complications and twists to keep up interest, fun but developed characters, gratuitous sex, and no small amount of violent action. Seeley brings the goods on Hack/Slash, and there's no need for guilt in the pleasure.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Frank Review of "Network" Two-Disc Special Edition (1976)

The Short Version? "I'm MAD as HELL, and I'm NOT going to take THIS anymore!"
What Is It? Television News Satire
Who Is In It? Evelyn Mulwray, Joseph C. Gillis, Lt. Colonel Kilgore, Bishop and Otis.
Should I See It? Ohh, yes.

I first saw Network in my late teens or early twenties, and I found it to be the kind of movie I would love to have the talent to produce. It has a plot, but it's difficult to tell while you're watching it for the first time, because it takes you on such a long and winding journey. It is at once organic and calculated to the finest detail, subverting your expectations and forcing you to follow along passively in a bid to take everything in. It's a funny movie you probably won't laugh at, and an inspiring movie that directs you to feel depressed and powerless.

Part of the joy of Network is in not knowing where it's headed, so I'm disinclined to give away much of the story. Howard Beale (Peter Finch) is a veteran reporter and news anchor whose personal and professional life is on the skids. With the help of his longtime friend and producer Max Schumacher (William Holden,) Beale gets a new lease on life that sends shockwaves throughout the media. Network suits Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) and Frank Hackett (Robert Duvall) then try to use the event to further their own agendas, to mixed results. Their performances are all sensational, along with unforgettable cameos by Ned Beatty and Beatrice Straight, and several took home Oscars for them. The screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky is brilliant, with the movie feeling like a piece of well adapted literature, perfectly realized by director Sidney Lumet. This might account for the script being voted one of the top ten ever by the Writers Guild of America, East. The film goes beyond being influential to outright prophetic, and if anything has dulled the edge of the razor sharp satire, it is how tragically the world has fallen lockstep in its thirty-five year old predictions.


  • Commentary by Director Sidney Lumet A solid track, lacking juicy details due to common love and respect throughout the production. I like to listen to these things while multitasking, and you'll find much of the bonus documentary a retread, so you may just opt for this.
  • The Making of Network: A 6-Part 30th-Anniversary Documentary I would recommend taking this in meal sized portions, because run together at feature length, these docs wear out their welcome. Again, you may wish to choose the commentary track or the docs, but both are really unnecessary. Faye Dunaway makes a worthwhile contribution, but now bears a creepy resemblance to Jocelyn Wildenstein. In fact, all of the actor interviews are well edited to maximize relevancy. The good thing about the segmented format is that more casual viewers can jettison the more technically oriented docs, and the Walter Cronkite closer will be a snoozer for most.
  • Vintage Paddy Chayefsky Interview Excerpt from Dinah! Thirteen minutes, as described. Better, funnier and more insightful that a lot of the slicker doc segments.
  • Private Screenings with Sidney Lumet An hour long interview from Turner Classic Movies. I was pretty sick of hearing about Network after all of those other features, so a career retrospective that only briefly touches on that particular movie (complete with word-for-word repeating of well rehearsed lines) was sweet relief.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Frank Review of "Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis" (2005)

The Short Version? The third unrequested sequel to the other franchise spun-off Night of the Living Dead
What Is It? Zombie Action
Who Is In It? Coyote Peter
Should I See It? Maybe

Necropolis is a truly amazing motion picture. Filmed in Romania and the Ukraine on a six million dollar budget, the picture debuted edited on the Sci-Fi Channel before being released with an "R" direct-to-DVD the following year. By all rights, this should have been as big an atrocity as Day of the Dead 2: Contagium, but it is instead an incontestably worthy standard bearer for the Return of the Living sequel series. That is to say that it is mildly enjoyable, with reasonably good production values, some solid bits of gore, a degree of crossover appeal, and is above all entirely adequate.

While the flick sets aside several of the innovations that set Return apart from all the other zombie movies (the undead desiring brains as a temporary analgesic; victims' slow, conscious transformations; the creeps' more decayed state, their being immune to "head shots" or permanent kills of any kind,) there are a surprising number of faithful elements (Trioxin barrels, electricity as a vulnerability, talking zombies (okay, twoish) with familiar personalities, precocious child endangerment, romantic douchebaggery, slumming veteran actor in a major role, etc.) Each movie in the series has made its tweaks and had its idiosyncrasies, so savaging it over being mildly retarded and taking liberties with the rather fluid "lore" seems foolish to me.

The movie is very much a child of the '80s, dumb and filled with cliché. However, it is also conveniently of the now, in that the kids are remarkably proactive, resourceful, and remorselessly kill the shit out of zombies (knowing full well they're irredeemable.) After almost a decade and a half of Resident Evil, there's no dragged out realizations about the dealio, although better aim and fewer nun-chucks should have been brought to bear.

All of the leads are plastic California twentysomethings, just like ROTLD 3 and plenty of other genre examples. I did a web search to see if Peter Coyote had a stroke or in some other way suffered a debilitating ailment to explain his stiff, grimacing, uniformly terrible performance. About half the speaking parts went to the former Soviet block, who are either spectacularly misrepresented as "Latinos" or even more hilariously dubbed very badly. Among the kids, there's a retread of the male lead from ROTLD3 with less personality but ironically more sideburns (John Keefe,) the token black (but he's a computer hacker played by Cory Hardrict,) the exceedingly fuckable "geek" girl with the glasses and very minor overbite (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick,) the also fuckable popular girl (Jana Kramer,) the assholish Mexi-Can (nationality unknown) who still takes care of business (Toma Danila,) the prick who helps start the trouble (Elvin Dandel,) and after the three guys I almost like I'm already bored with this list.

This is definitely one of the most fantastically expository pieces of cinema in memory. I can't recall a single bit of dialogue that wasn't created to serve a specific plot point in the film, and most of the characters are similarly designed for optimal function. My favorite example is the "triple-jointed" gymnast Darque Tan casualty who exists to a) be introduced, b) seduce a security guard c) get killed, d) set up one of the few partially functional humorous/tragic moments. Four notable appearances, by-the-numbers, just like "Hannibal" Smith would have planned it. Sure it's cynical, but I respect its precise application (if not its absence of nudity, the most obvious and natural exploitation of such a character.)

The music is mostly the shambling remains of nü-metal, including an ill-timed Godsmack single recycled from The Scorpion King's soundtrack, and an Alice Cooper tune. There are some attempted jump scares. The make-up is effective enough to get the job done, and there are few okay special effects. The direction is pedestrian and the acting is at the level of a lesser teen drama. It's not really good, the story logic is all its own, and it's not really recommended, but it's far more watchable and much less terrible than you might have heard.


  • Animated Menu Remember those? That sure took me back.
  • Trailers Yes.


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