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Wednesday, February 29, 2012


See you all there on opening night!

Saturday, February 25, 2012


The moment when black people did not riot in the streets upon finding out the Righteous Brothers were a couple of white dudes.

Friday, February 24, 2012


If you’re of a certain age — specifically, a middle-aged American whose childhood/adolescence occurred between roughly 1973 through 1980 — you are likely to recall the spate of cheapjack "family" films featuring some random white dude or family of white folks, either in the past or the then-present, who lived in the woods or on the prairie with a legion of animal friends from assorted species. Those flicks did decent box office and were mostly marketed as children's matinee fodder, and god knows I saw several of them, most notably BROTHER OF THE WIND (1973), THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRIZZLY ADAMS (1974) and THE ADVENTURES OF THE WILDERNESS FAMILY (1975). However, despite my regular attendance at Saturday afternoon movie matinees, one of that brief period's films that I never heard of until about a week ago is 1978's BUFFALO RIDER, and if I'd seen its trailer at the time, I would likely have gone to see it. I mean, just look at this:

A feature-length exercise in padding out a movie’s running time as much as possible, the film opens with an eight-minute “In Search Of…”-style history of the decline in the once-voluminous buffalo population and confusingly alternates between narration from some unidentified individual who claims to have heard the movie’s details from his grandfather, and the grizzled tones of a secondary narrator who is apparently meant to represent the common buffalo hunter (it’s never actually made clear). Tons of nature/animal footage unspools as the audience is filled in on the year 1871 seeing a new tanning process that made buffalo hide as easily rendered into numerous products as simple cowhide, thus escalating the already ruinous and wasteful efforts of sleazy buffalo hunters who skinned the beasts and left their carcasses to rot, leading to the tragic and staggering figure of some forty-million buffalo being slain between 1871 and 1875. This sequence also introduces us to a trio of scurvy buffalo hunters who serve as the flimsy story’s villains, and these guys would easily fit in as the standard unwashed human vermin common to Spaghetti Westerns and certain Sam Peckinpah horse operas, but more on them later.

According to the narrator, Jake Jones, the titular character, was (apparently) a thoughtful and silent former buffalo hunter who sickened of the slaughter and left to live as a buckskin-clad mountain man in the wilderness of Utah and Wyoming, until the Fall of 1881, when he encountered a baby buffalo whose mother had been killed by some scumbag hunters and was under attack by a pack of hungry coyotes. Jake and the buffalo fight off the coyotes and Jake decides to care for the orphaned calf, rather than let it fall victim to the assorted predators in the area (this despite Jake clearly having been established as one of those hardcore crunchy, bearded at-one-with-nature types). Deciding he would have to care for the buffalo until its wounds healed, Jake immediately ties up the poor beast and embarks on a long period of breaking the wild buffalo in a homemade corral. Despite already having a totally serviceable horse, Jake soon chucks a saddle on the buffalo — which eventually grows into a 2000-pound behemoth named Samson (a name the narrator oh-so-helpfully reminds us is “from the Bible”) — and learns to ride the clearly-unwilling shaggy bulldozer in a lengthy, slo-mo-accented sequence replete with “stirring” ‘70’s faux-frontier music and the frequently repeated and awful theme song, a tune that evokes ‘70’s-era TV commercials for pickup trucks and beer, and the lyrics of which bestow upon Jake the heroic nickname of “Buffalo Jones,” thus cementing him as a legend or something.

Once man and beast forge themselves into a clumsy team, the wafer-thin plot finally gets underway. In fact, calling it a plot is something of an overstatement since what we really get is mostly a series of sporadic events, punctuated with footage of animals that are meant to make the film’s kiddie audience “ooh” and “aah” at the wonders of nature, and counterpointed with occasional looks at the douchebaggery of the bad guy buffalo hunters. Said douchey hunters encounter Buffalo Jones when they try to kill his horned mount and end up shooting Jones in the process. Samson runs away from the hunter with Jones on his back and the pair stumble upon the conveniently-located home of another mountain man/minor-league gold-panner and his wife, who nurse Jones back to health and welcome him into their household. From there, the highlights (?) include:
  • An uneventful encounter with a “Grizzly” that’s actually clearly a standard black bear.
  • A feeble run-in with an Injun who wants to kill Samson because he’s perceived the beast as “big medicine” thanks to there being some crazy bearded hippie on its back. The Injun proves to be quite incompetent at his task and ends up with his jaw broken by Buffalo Jones’ rifle butt. Remember, this is supposed to be a family film.
  • Buffalo Jones’ friendship with a raccoon named Bandit, a creature whose presence is included solely to stretch out the running time. Once introduced, the focus of the narrative completely shifts to Bandit and his adventures in the desolate winter landscape as he faces a hungry cougar (featuring moments where I would have sworn the cougar was about to eat the poor raccoon’s head), endures an icy flash-flood and, despite having been clearly identified as a male, is suddenly revealed to be a female that gives birth to a pair of adorable babies, thus providing the film with yet more footage of cute l’il animals. All of this Bandit stuff goes on for a solid ten minutes, after which Bandit and her babies abruptly disappear from the film, never to be seen or mentioned again.
  • Uninteresting sequences in which we see the buffalo hunters going about their business and basically being a pack of repulsive assholes. Meant to establish character, all these bits do is make us fervently wish these goons were excised from the story because they seem to serve no purpose whatsoever, but our endurance is eventually rewarded (sort of)…
  • Buffalo Jones’ mountain man friend goes out hunting for game and runs into two hungry Grizzlies — this time actual bears of the proper variety — who very savagely fight in such a manner as to make me think the film’s animal wranglers had little or no control over what happened when they unleashed the bruins for the shoot. The bears bloodily tear the living shit out of each other and I swear it does not look faked in the least. Again, this is supposed to be a wholesome “family” film.
After all that filler, the plot kinda/sorta begins to go somewhere when the mountain man’s wife mentions her brother, his wife and their infant son are on their way to visit, at which point all that time wasted with the buffalo hunters finally serves a purpose. The hunters bushwack the innocent family, killing the adults and leaving the baby untended on the ground as they ransack the covered wagon for anything they can find, after which they head into the nearest town to trade what they’ve stolen for booze and other assorted frontier distractions. When the family does not arrive on time, Buffalo Jones hops on Samson for the first bit of actual buffalo riding in quite a while, and goes in search of the missing relatives (opting to ride Samson instead of a much swifter and more efficient mount, such as, oh, a horse). It takes Buffalo Jones four days to come across the dead couple and the pillaged wagon, where he finds the baby — who has miraculously held on for all that time without food, water, or a change of diapers, plus to say nothing of somehow managing not to be devoured by the local predators — and clues that incriminate the hunters who had earlier attempted to kill him. But vengeance must wait as the next twenty minutes of screen time are padded with Buffalo Jones’ four-day efforts to make it back to his mountain man friend’s shack, a journey including fending off hungry wolves, getting into a slo-mo fistfight with another cougar, a quick look-in on the squabbling hunters, tons of footage of Samson’s bulk providing difficulty in his making his way through deep snow, riveting close-up footage of Buffalo Jones reloading his pistol, Samson acting as a babysitter, Jones and Samson battling their way across a river’s strong current and, my personal favorite image, Buffalo Jones grabbing a big porcupine by its tail and making off with it so he can make a broth from its meat to feed the starving baby.

After dropping the baby off with the mountain couple, Buffalo Jones rides off on Samson in search of the killers, but first he runs into more film-padding in the form of a pack of wolves who want to eat him and Samson. (Jones does not simply whip out his gun and shoot the wolves because that would be douchey and against nature, something that forcing a buffalo to let him ride it obviously is not.) The hunters have split up, so Buffalo Jones tracks two of them to a saloon where, in the film’s most visually-outrageous moment, Jones rides his buffalo into the place and blazes away with his revolver, executing the two hunters and confusing the living shit out of the assorted drunken prospectors and mountain men in attendance. The remaining hunter is soon located and meets a deservedly horrible slo-mo end when he’s mercilessly trampled by Samson, while Buffalo Jones stoically drives the beastie. With justice served, Buffalo Jones and Samson ride off into the sunset and the narrator announces that the orphaned baby was his grandfather. That revelation was clearly meant to have a certain level of profundity but its desired effect merely elicits a dozy “And I care because…?” from the half-asleep audience.

BUFFALO RIDER is one very odd entry into its genre. Though ostensibly a family feature, the film is an uneasy fusion of the western, the ‘70’s post-hippie back-to-nature zeitgeist, and stoner entertainment that kind of floats from incident to incident in something akin to a dreamlike state. The virtually silent hero who rides a buffalo looks like a mythic figure straight out of a peyote-fueled mystic vision and the film’s whole vibe fairly reeks of good, skunky buds as inhaled in the back of a tricked-out van some thirty-plus years ago. If I still smoked weed, I’m betting this ultra-mellow oddity would not be half-bad to sit through while completely baked, but seen without illegal intoxicants its flaws are glaring. For a movie containing supposedly family-acceptable violence of both the human and animal varieties, it’s not at all exciting, and its story particulars at times feel as though they were communicated by a child randomly dropping building blocks into place and hoping the narrative makes sense and flows naturally. It's worth a look for western completists, but I most strongly recommend it for insomniacs who may find its meager charms a soothing lead-in to solidly nodding off.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

HAPPY 35th ANNIVERSARY, 2000 A.D. !!!

2000 A.D. Prog #1771.

Borag Thungg, Earthlets! Today is the 35th anniversary of Britain's venerable 2000 A.D. weekly sci-fi comic, home of some of the very best comics I have ever had the distinct pleasure to read. I've written on the myriad pleasures of the magazine many times and at considerable length, so I'll let it suffice to say that it's responsible for first exposing me to the work of Alan Moore, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Dave Gibbons, Mike McMahon, Kevin O'Niell, Ian Gibson, Glenn Fabry, and the kickass adventures of Judge Dredd, Johnny Alpha, Slaine, the A.B.C. Warriors, Nemesis the Warlock, Halo Jones, D.R. & Quinch, and more recently Nikolai Dante, Shakara, Gene the Hackman, Zombo... And the list just goes on and on and on. So here's to 35 more years! Splundig Vur Thrigg!

Oh, and the above is the anniversary edition's cover, drawn by my dear friend Chris Weston. Muthafukka can draw!

2000 A.D. Prog #1. From this humble beginning sprang some of the best comics ever created. BELIEVE IT!

Friday, February 17, 2012

My review of the Criterion edition of GODZILLA (1954) is up at MONSTERPALOOZA MAGAZINE

My review of Criterion's just-released DVD and Blu-Ray edition of GODZILLA (1954) is up over at MONSTERPALOOZA MAGAZINE and you can read it by clicking here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Here's what I picked up this week:


The New 52's reboot of Wonder Woman is probably my favorite of the few books from the relaunch that I've stuck with, but this latest issue features some scripting and visual storytelling that I could not make heads nor tails of, and if my life depended upon it I could not tell you exactly what happened during what was clearly meant to be the issue's big plot moment. Brian Azzarello's writing is usually quite clear in its intent but this time around, not so much. That confusion was compounded by fill-in artist Tony Akins, whose work is by no means bad, but I'm willing to bet that regular illustrator Cliff Chiang would have handled the parts I'm bitching about quite differently. Cliff's back next issue, so we'll see how it all shakes out...


Not much more to say here other than to state that I'm very much enjoying this ultra-violent ongoing werewolf yarn. The first two issues have been mostly set-up but it's all been quite riveting and reads like a movie. I'll be on board with this one for the foreseeable future.


This series has been on a serious roll in the writing department for the past year or so — especially when Dan Slott's at the reigns — and the streak continues here. It's a stand-alone story featuring Peter Parker's latest misadventures at Horizon Labs, this time involving young scientific prodigy Uatu Jackson (who's a very fun character) and the mysterious scientist who's working in isolation in the facility's Lab 6, and to say more would give away the surprises. The whole package is quite good, with penciler Matthew Clark and inker Tom Palmer bringing their A-games in the wake of Humberto Ramos (whose art I have openly not enjoyed for the past decade), and this current run of Spidey's adventures is the longest I've stuck with the series in close to twenty-five years, so make of that what you will.

HELLBLAZER: PHANTOM PAINS (collected edition)

I've read HELLBLAZER since its first issue, some twenty-four years ago, and I hold its protagonist, John Constantine, as one of the most original and consistently fascinating characters in the history of the comics medium, but I no longer pick it up in monthly chapter installments. I enjoy Constantine's adventures too much to put up with the wait of a month between chapters in stories that can go on for as long as nearly a year, so as of the past three years or so I've only been reading it when its arcs are issued in collected editions that come out almost the minute a long-form story is finished. Constantine's tales are always best read in whole, coming off like the character-driven horror novels they are, and waiting for a completed story is just that much more satisfying. The current volume picks up immediately after our working class mage's marriage to mob princess (and accomplished alchemist) Epiphany Greaves and immediately thrusts the newlyweds into supernatural encounters involving magical real estate chicanery, problems with Epiphany's mobster dad, old flames, a vengeance-crazed sister and the continuing saga of ol' Johnny's missing thumb. In other words, it's life as usual for Constantine, and I wouldn't have it any other way.


Having grown up during the time of the PLANET OF THE APES craze and also having seen multiple broadcasts of Hal Holbrook's classic one-man performance as Mark Twain, I find what you're about to see strangely inevitable and not at all odd (if not more than a bit gloriously silly). Oh, and it's fucking brilliant. (Thanks to the ever-exceptional Topless Robot for alerting me to this.)

Thursday, February 09, 2012


It's been a long while — approximately five months, to be precise — since my last look at what's currently out at the comics shops and frankly there has not been much worth discussing during all that time, so let's get back on track and start things off with what gets my vote as Book of the Week (and maybe of the year).

Warner Brothers animation wunderkind Bruce Timm is honored with the stunning NAUGHTY AND NICE: THE GOOD GIRL ART OF BRUCE TIMM, a hefty coffee table book of his hot chick art from Flesk Publications. I'm a sucker for even the most minor of Timm's artwork, so this huge festival of pulchritudinous eye-candy is like a gift for the gods. The paperback edition goes for fifty bucks in stores and the deluxe slipcased hardcover edition is a hundred bucks, so it was too pricey for me to pick up today but a brief perusal of it has me saving up for the deluxe. Simply put, it's fucking beautiful and a must-have that belongs on any serious comics and animation design fan's bookshelf immediately. The paperback's available on Amazon for nearly twenty bucks less than in stores, and the deluxe edition, as far as I'm aware, is only available in comics shops. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION


The inaugural issue of KEVIN KELLER is out, so hit the comics shops and show your support of there finally being an out gay character in the Archie soap opera of "typical teen" shenanigans. It's nothing earthshaking in its content, but Kevin's definitely welcome for being written as just another Riverdaler, albeit one who just happens to be gay. An amusing segment features a nervous Kevin about to go on his first date, and he makes the mistake of taking fashion advice from that douchebag Reggie. Seriously, it's just the latest bit of evidence supporting the need for Reggie's public execution. Just be aware that there are a couple of covers for this, as well as a hardcover collecting Kevin's introductory appearances. Man, Archie dating a black chick, homosexuals running around... Welcome to contemporary America, Riverdale! About goddamned time!


This series is one of the handful of "New 52" series that I haven't surgically excised from my monthly reading like some form of four-color cancer, but it's taken a while to fully click. This latest installment is highly recommend for being the first issue of the relaunched series that really fires on all cylinders, and its segment giving the preamble to the New 52's version of Harley Quinn's origin features excellent scripting by Adam Glass. The one universal complaint about this that I also share is the dislike of Harley's current design, which takes her away from her conceptual roots as a mad harlequin and in the process makes her very name make no sense. There's nothing about her look that in any way says "harlequin," and instead she looks like another of the legion of generic punker/Goth chicks who infest Manhattan's Lower East Side. However, by this point I've accepted that we're stuck with it, so I just ignore it. But whatever the case, this is one of the few New 52 books that I'm sticking with.


This issue continues a streak of fun that marks the first time I've read a monthly X-Men book regularly in over twenty years. (I have read some of the significant arcs from the past two decades but only once they were collected, and much of that stuff did not merit buying on a month-to-month basis.) The current status quo finds Wolverine the unlikely headmaster of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning (Jean's apparently dead, again, and the school was built in honor of her memory) and the place is swarming with an assortment of oddball mutant and alien students. The series is lighter in tone than usual convoluted mess that's been the inter-connected X-saga for the past two decades or so, and that's only a good thing. It's funny, character-driven, and earns extra points for the exceptional art by Nick Bradshaw and Walden Wong. At a time when many of Marvel's books are visually uninspired or straight-up ugly to look at, good art is to be appreciated, and exceptional art even moreso. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


A mediocre issue with inconsistent but largely bland art by Mike Choi. To be fair, five straight issues of Doug Mahnke will spoil anybody, but with Geoff Johns' scripting on this series pretty much spinning its wheels in various not very engaging ways, dull art is not exactly what this book needs. I've championed what Johns was doing on GREEN LANTERN from the moment he took the reigns through to the end of the Sinestro Corps War arc, but it's been apparent ever since that Johns seems to have mostly run out of ideas and only occasionally allows sparse moments of brilliance to shine through years' worth of middle-of-the-road filler and occasionally outright crap like the much-maligned "Skittles Lantern Corps" mess. With his duties within DC's administrative infrastructure presumably eating up a lot of his time, as well as scripting AQUAMAN, it may be time to turn this series over to some fresh talent...

Lastly comes this specialty item that may or may not be available at you local comics shop, depending on whether they chose to order it.

The uber-talented Stephane Roux has released this small sketchbook featuring seven portraits of assorted sultry jungle girls, and since I'm a huge fan of Roux's art and also of jungle girls, this convention-style sketchbook is a win-win. RECOMMENDED.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Official Trailer for the Upcoming THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Well, what do you think? I was not initially sold on this but I do like this version of Peter...

Monday, February 06, 2012


Hey, Dear Vaulties.

As you've probably deduced, I've been rather out of sorts for about the past two months. Everything I've tried to land in the way of jobs in my field has yielded nothing but disappointment and reminders of my "over-qualifications," and my ongoing battles with the health care system and other concerns all teamed up to plunge me into a deep depression. I've slept too much. I've experienced headache-inducing insomnia. I've indulged in comfort-eating. I've had no appetite and have the too-large jeans to prove it. When I do get paid for the meager freelance that I do, all of the money immediately goes to bills and the basic necessities of daily life. In short, my life has been one great big ball of suck.

And yet, 2012 got off to a pretty nice start in a few ways, and I hope that the positive nature of those events will grow over time. (I'm referring to some stuff that looks quite promising but that will be better explained as that stuff solidifies a little further down the line.) The thing that has bolstered me most during all of the past couple of months' psychological/emotional ups and downs is that I'm constantly reminded about exactly what kind of friends I have and how much they mean to me, and I to them. I was right on the precipice of a serious breakdown and the only thing that kept me from toppling over the edge was my friends, some of whom have been staunchly on my side since as far back as 1977. Sometimes it's easy to forget just how much one is valued, and the kindness and ongoing support of those friends has been immeasurable, so I thank all of them from the bottom of my heart.

The past week or so has not been what I would call idyllic but at least I feel somewhat better and more motivated. I'm starting to write for myself again, and that's always a sign that I'm on keel. I'm beginning to once again eat and sleep with normal regularity and that's just what I need right about now.

To sum up, things are kind of sorting themselves out — other than on the job front — and that's a start. Stay tuned. Things around here will be back to normal soon and your infinite patience will be rewarded.

-Yer Bunche