Thursday, February 28, 2019
Comics Corner - Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (2018 - Present)
Elvira was my first crush. As a wee fella, I stayed up late one Friday night, and then BOOM!--there she was. Wow. I've got goosebumps just thinking about it. In truth, as a lifelong horror fanatic, my fondness for dearest Elvira and my love for things that go bump in the night represent a legitimate "chicken or the egg" scenario. In other words, I'm not sure which one came first.
Anyway, the Mistress of the Dark is still my biggest celebrity crush (and my only celebrity crush, truth be told*), and I may just have her to thank for all the joy the horror genre has brought me over the years. I also dig comics in a big way, so when I heard that Dynamite was set to launch this Elvira: Mistress of the Dark series last year, I made sure to put it on my pull list at Fanboy Comics. To be quite frank, I didn't know if it would prove to be a solid book (I'm a reader first and a collector second), but I was willing to give it a shot, and I knew it would make for a quality keepsake if nothing else. Hey, nostalgia sells.
As it turns out, writer David Avallone and artist Dave Acosta have taken this loaded property and ran wild with it. I am grateful for their efforts; the art is inviting, as it should be, the writing is clever, and the series exists largely as a love letter for both those who treasure horror at large and those who are as charmed by the title character as yours truly. That bawdy Elvira schtick works as well in this format as it does on the screen, and the tongue-in-cheek approach to the macabre and our lovely heroine's unique assets come through loud and clear.
And the puns! Oh, the puns! Puns for days, peeps. Throw in some classic horror characters and their creators, a diabolical pace, a demented and appropriately snarky sense of humor, and you wind up with a genuine crowd-pleaser that delivers big laughs and big thrills in every issue. I'm sure the naysayers were expecting nothing more than a big bust, but I am greatly pleased to take this opportunity to rate Dynamite's vivacious Elvira: Mistress of the Dark as an absolute blast.
Final Grade: A
*I'm not counting my man-crush on Michael Fassbender.
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Short Attention Span Review: Blade of the Immortal (2017)
Part Logan and part director Takashi Miike's own incredible samurai epic 13 Assassins, Blade of the Immortal isn't as good as either of those films, but it is seriously cool. Think about it: a stoic samurai warrior sworn to protect a young girl who pairs his incredible skills with a potent healing factor of his own--there's an idea. It has promise, no doubt about it, and Miike delivers on that promise with one killer action scene after another. And at a hundred and forty minutes, Takuya Kimura and Hana Sugisaka are given more than enough material to flesh out their characters and draw us into their story. The effects are stellar, the villains are memorable, and the tale is complex. Despite the lengthy runtime, Blade of the Immortal never drags, and I do believe that there is a throwdown of some significance gracing the screen roughly every five minutes or so. The lead baddie is Sota Fukushi as Anotsu, and he enters the movie as the very epitome of a despicable antagonist, yet as the story unfolds he emerges as perhaps the most dynamic and conflicted player in the gruesome proceedings. Dripping with gore, host to an abundance of wicked duels and at least one massive battle, and populated by groovy characters who hold our interest even when they aren't drawing blood, Blade of the Immortal is quite simply ill as hell. Now, it is not without faults, as there are a number of choppy transitions that lead one to believe that despite running two hours and twenty minutes, significant pieces of the tale must have been lost to the cutting room floor. These abrupt shifts are more than a tad disconcerting, and rob the film of some majesty, but it is still a fine motion picture made by talented filmmakers, and it will be fun to revisit whenever I have a jones for some dynamic carnage.
Final Grade: B+
|As much as I respect and enjoy Takashi Miike's work, this stylish action yarn's biggest strength is Takuya Kimura in the lead role.|
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Short Attention Span Review: Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
As one who considers himself a big fan of both the Hammer catalog and the incomparable Oliver Reed, I waited entirely too long to watch Curse of the Werewolf. I found this to be a fantastic picture, and I am here to heartily recommend it to my fellow fright fans. The typical Hammer staples are on full display, to include wonderful sets, a rich color palette, a brisk pace, and sound performances captured by visionary technicians. It also benefits greatly from the studio's ability to explore familiar haunts with creativity as well as craftsmanship, making old things seem new again. This lycanthropy yarn, for instance, actually fashions an intriguing origin for the titular curse, and this exploration of the onset of such an abomination occupies the first third of the picture. Long before a man turns into a beast at the behest of the moon, Curse of the Werewolf has cast a mysterious spell ripe with sinister flourishes and a wealth of drama. The movie is halfway to the finish line before Reed takes center stage, and he rewards the filmmaker's efforts to set the table in such splendid detail with his trademark power and charisma. While it is an invigorating departure from typical films in this vein, it does adhere to the classic formula wherein the poor soul who prowls the night under the influence of an unholy pact is both a monster and a victim. If I were to complain about anything, I would note that the ending is rather abrupt, particular given all the attention devoted to building such a strong foundation. The climax is gripping, to be sure, but it doesn't carry nearly as much weight as the first act. Still, the picture is quite entertaining, standing as another high quality Hammer production brought to fruition by director Terence Fisher, who helmed so many of the beloved studio's most cherished motion pictures. One can only wonder why the studio didn't sequelize this venture as they did so many of their properties.
Final Grade: B+
|Oliver Reed offers up a robust performance in this unique take on familiar folklore, taking celebrated mythology in a fresh direction.|
Monday, February 25, 2019
Comics Corner: Savage Sword of Conan #1 (Published 2/13/2019)
Like so many fans of this legendary character, I rejoiced when I heard that Conan would be returning to Marvel. To be clear, Dark Horse did a fine job with the property, but it never spoke to me in the same way. Maybe it's sheer nostalgia, but when I think of the way Roy Thomas handled our favorite Cimmerian back in the day, or the damn near mystical appeal those eye-popping Savage Sword magazines held for me, I can't help but be a bit underwhelmed by Conan's comic book exploits elsewhere. Anyway, the first issue of the second coming of Marvel's Conan the Barbarian registered as big winner, but I found the second issue to be more than a little disappointing--and the recently published third issue is a full-on disaster. So, my enthusiasm had waned a bit when I visited Fanboy Comics to scoop up my copy of this fresh take on Savage Sword of Conan. A single glance at the magnificent cover from the one and only Alex Ross was enough to scatter my misgivings. Seriously, I'll put this beauty up against anything Frazetta ever composed, and that is not hyperbole. Sign me up for a poster, please! And the comic itself is stellar from cover to cover, with excellent plotting from Gerry Duggan and glorious art courtesy of Ron Garney. The pencils are bold, the story is robust, and this stands as a brawny and richly compelling comic--in other words, it's a perfect take on Conan. I now find myself hoping that Conan the Barbarian rebounds while praying (not to Crom, who doesn't heed prayers) that the next issue of Savage Sword of Conan doesn't falter. This is a grand start and an absolute must-have for any fan of Robert E. Howard's timeless hero.
Final Grade: A+
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Powerful Pages: They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon (1981)
They Thirst is far from a great book. It may not even be that good. It has an abundance of flaws, and in the early stages, it was so derivative that I wasn't sure that I would able to stick with it. And while I'm not opposed to pulp or trash, I do have my limits. Despite these complaints and the presence of maybe half a dozen stupendous coincidences too many, I didn't put this early venture from Robert R. McCammon aside. Why? Three reasons, mostly. First, while the villains were largely cliches and the protagonists were cut from the same cloth, the latter group resonated with me for reasons I don't fully comprehend. I followed them deeper and deeper into this sprawling opus with a certain degree of trepidation, but the more I read, the more pressing my need to know how they would fare became. Secondly, McCammon did an excellent job with the ghastly elements of this vampire yarn, deftly portraying the vicious bursts of carnage that kept propelling the characters into greater jeopardy and firmly establishing a sense of creeping dread. Lastly, raw as it may have been in so many ways, one can't help but marvel at the scope of this fanged saga. McCammon dared to tell a vampire story on as grand a scale as one could imagine. Maybe he fumbled and stumbled a bit along the way, but in the end, he put the entire city of Los Angeles and even the world as we know it in immense peril. In doing so, he delivered a tremendous conclusion that may have been just as serendipitous and overwrought as the first act, but somehow proved to be both engrossing and satisfying. Seldom has the phrase "grand finale" been so appropriate. Yes, They Thirst is far from a great book, but it is entertaining as hell, and I have to salute the author for putting so much at stake.
Final Grade: C+
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Short Attention Span Review: Black Death (2010)
A friend recommended Black Death to me upon its release, describing it as a dark action film with some horror elements. I didn't jump on it immediately (obviously), but when it crossed my radar this weekend, I decided to check it out. After all, Sean Bean is a personal fave, and I dig dark action films with some horror elements. What did I think? Well, it's like this: Black Death is not a bad movie at all, but I don't know that I can recommend it. And, if I did so, I would bill it as a dark drama with a couple of brief action scenes and just a smidge of horror to help this very bitter medicine go down. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but that's not how my pal pitched the movie, and it doesn't seem to mesh with the film's marketing or packaging either. To be fair, anyone looking for a decidedly grim and deliberate exploration of faith in times of crisis and resolve in the face of certain death may just hail this morbid saga as a masterpiece. The script is knowledgable, the direction is solid, and the cast is thoroughly committed to delving deep into misery and despair on a grand scale. I can't really take anything away from the craftsmanship and the artistry on display in Black Death. It is a striking tale, and it is well told. However, anyone hoping for excitement or anything that even remotely resembles a good time at the movies should steer clear. This is a bleak odyssey that combines filmmaking prowess with a potent desire to drown hope in a festering sea of sickness and death.
Final Grade: B
|It's a depressing picture about the plague, and we've got Sean Bean in the lead role. What do you think his chances of survival are?|
Monday, February 18, 2019
Short Attention Span Review: Happy Death Day (2017)
Shoot me. I'm very late to the party here. However, with the sequel opening to rock-solid reviews, I decided I should finally give Happy Death Day a look. What can I say? Shame on me for putting this off for so long. Happy Death Day is a big winner on every front. You know the premise: it's basically Groundhog Day by way of Scream. Sounds cool, right? Well, as so many of you already know, it is entirely possible that this film represents the perfect realization of that marriage. The picture is packed with thrills, chills, and chuckles. It also has some surprising depth, and may even pluck at your heartstrings a bit. The direction from Christopher Landon is remarkable, the cast is game (particularly Jessica Rothe, who is nothing short of sensational as the lead), and the script is clever as hell--the big fear with this premise is that it will grow tiresome, but it only becomes more innovative as it progresses. Bear McCreary's score is top shelf stuff, and the killer design and the effects work all hit the mark. Happy Death Day has everything going for it, and it offers slasher fans a damn good time at the movies. I am suddenly VERY eager to scope out the sequel. Well done, Blumhouse! Between this and the new Halloween, this production company is giving those of us who grew up watching Michael, Freddy, and Jason do their thing a lot to howl about. And the new kids? Well, they might finally be getting their own worthy addition to this vein of filmmaking. It's about time.
Final Grade: A+
|Honestly, I don't know how far they can stretch this premise, but the sequel is getting rave reviews and this may just be the start of a stellar franchise.|