Search This Blog

Monday, September 30, 2013

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2013-Introduction

Lovecraftian me.

The month of Halloween is upon us as of tomorrow and considering how much fun I had doing the previous two annual editions of 31 DAYS OF HORROR, I'm psyched to review 31 more FRIGHT movies to delight enthusiasts and alert readers to flicks they may not have seen before. There will be examinations of classics, thrillers that blur the line of what may be specifically defined as "horror," unbiased looks back at some of the "slasher" fodder that so defined my generation's horror movie experience, and a few outright stinkers, so get ready for anything to happen...


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Some highlights from KHOONI DRACULA (1983)

I'm researching and watching a ton of movies for this year's 31 DAYS OF HORROR overview and I had to stop and post these screen caps from the unbelievable KHOONI DRACULA (1983), a film that makes THE GUY FROM HARLEM look like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA by comparison. The entire movie is a jaw-dropping cornucopia of ineptness that I will cover in considerable depth during the 31 DAYS project, but here's a little taste that I could not resist sharing. This speaks for itself and I swear I did not alter one word of the subtitles.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Marvel's TV iteration of AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. hits the airwaves tonight and most of the audience tuning in is likely to have had their interest fanned by the organization's appearance in the string of big screen Marvel Comics adaptations starting with the first IRON MAN flick. My interest has been there since I was around ten years old and already a lover of comics and 1960's super-spy pop culture, so reading reprints of the Jack Kirby, John Severin, and Jim Steranko runs of NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. was a given. I've followed Fury's over-the-top exploits ever since, through decent inter-weavings with the rest of the Marvel Universe and also through far too many crappy arcs that amounted to little, so for better or worse I know my S.H.I.E.L.D. What follows here is an impressive piece of hardcore geekery that explains the entire history of S.H.I.E.L.D. for beginners, and I salute Amy Dallen's very impressive effort.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Some films can rightly be described as live-action cartoons, and this 2009 effort from renowned wacko director Takashi Miike just might be the ne plus ultra of the form.

Based on the late-1970's anime series from the same company that gave the world SPEED RACER and GATCHAMAN, the story, such as it is, is simplicity itself: The Skull Stones, a series of magical artifacts, will reportedly cause a miracle to occur when united, and the stones are coveted by Dukorobei, a mysterious self-proclaimed "god of thieves." Using the ultra-goofy Doronbo gang to do the heavy-lifting in obtaining the items, Dukorobei mostly directs from the sidelines as the sexy and costumed Lady Doronjo (Kyoko Fukada) commands her oddball flunkies, the pig-like pre-wrassler wannabe Tonzura (Kendo Kobayashi), and mechanical genius Boyacky (Katsuhisa Namase), in the name of thievery. With wacky giant robots at their disposal — colossal mecha funded by various hare-brained schemes that shamelessly rip off the gullible general public — the gang sets off on a globe-trotting quest to snag the magic stones for their boss. But their efforts are opposed by Yatterman, a two-person team of mecha-assisted crimefighters consisting of boyfriend and girlfriend Gan (Sho Sakurai) and Ai (Saki Fukuda). With their badassed giant robot dog/transportation, "Yatterwoof" — think Clifford the big red dog as gene-spliced with Gigantor — and accompanied by Shoko (Anri Okamoto), the daughter of the missing scientist who initially discovered the stones, it's a race to see who will claim the stones first. But as things proceed, it becomes quite clear that uniting the stones could be disastrous for the time stream and the entire world...

YATTERMAN looks and feels exactly live a fun, funny, and colorful animated cartoon rendered into live-action, with considerable CGI assists to make its more outlandish elements visually feasible. There's loads of the leaping around, gigantic mecha battles with kooky robots, funky weaponry, and weird, hyper-stylized costuming inherent to the anime genre, especially that of this film's 1970's source-era, and while a quest is the main narrative thrust, the proceedings are also spiced by Lady Doronjo and Gan being quite obviously attracted to one another, which does not sit at all well with Ai, nor with the crushingly-smitten Boyacky, who regularly and sincerely professes his ardor to Lady Doronjo, who has no interest in letting him out of the friendzone. It's a love quadrangle as seen through the filter of cartoon emotions and as such it goes right for the viewer's guts, especially since the Doronbo are baddies cut from a very silly comedic cloth. Lady Doronjo's inner romantic fantasies are surprising (and shocking in their wholesomeness), which only drives home the tragedy of Boyacky's wholly-unrequited love for his boss. This isn't even a spoiler: If you're hoping for Boyacky and Lady Doronjo to have a happy last-minute "it was there all the time" love connection, forget about it right now.

Kyoko Fukada as the very sexy (and secretly sweet) Lady Doronjo, boss of the looney Doronbo gang.

As per usual with this kind of thing, especially with entries of this sort from the land of the rising sun, the villains completely steal the show, but that's not to say that the Yatterman team are not without their points of interest. Far from it! Imagine DC Comics Superman villain the Toyman if he were a male/female team that used their super-high-tech toy-making genius for good instead of evil and you've pretty much got it. The battles between the Yatterman team and the Doronbo gang are basically kids duking it out with their giant robot toys writ large. It's goofy, utterly logic/physics-defying, and just plain fun as hell. Plus, the heroes are refreshingly free of any of the dark and cynical edges that have been part and parcel to the superhero entertainment experience since the mid-1980's. They're simply very nice, very smart young people who fight the good fight, and that's all there is to it. In short, perfect heroes for a crazy kiddie movie.

Our heroes: Ai (Saki Fukuda), aka Yatterman No. 2, and Gan (Sho Sakurai), aka Yatterman No. 1. 

But, with all of this very fun and aggressively kid-friendly mishegoss going on, director Miike throws a gigantic curveball into the mix during the film's first giant robot set-to. As is common for mecha adventure stories, some of the robots are drivable vehicles that feature all manner of quirky designs and visual themes, often animal-based, but the Doronbo gang's initial mechanical juggernaut is "the Bridesmaidiot," basically a juggernaut whose feminine design is tied into the gang's fund-raising bridal gown scam. That's kooky enough, but once in combat mode, the Bridesmaidiot is revealed to be equipped with huge, ordnance-laden tits, complete with erect "nipples" for gun barrels/cannons.

The pendulously-dugged menace of the Bridesmaidiot.

During their first real battle with Yatterman, the Doronbos gain the upper hand and, in a moment of ill-advised victorious excitement, Lady Doronjo accidentally slams her gloved fist onto the robot's self-destrcut button. As the robot begins to shudder and shake, its motions start to resemble those of a highly-aroused lady on the verge of the Big O, the sight of which stokes the Yatterwoof giant dog robot to such a state of unbridled lust that he jumps onto the female mecha and makes with the humping. While screaming "I'M COMING!!!" — in English, no less — the Bridesmaidiot has what amounts to a very literal explosive orgasm, which wipes out both her and Yatterwoof (who is later rebuilt at larger scale as Yatterking).

Considering how every other element of the film is a kiddie cartoon writ large and loopy, I am completely at a loss as to understand why Miike threw a flat-out sex scene into this candyland of giant robots and anime-derived ultra-silliness. Yes, it's totally ridiculous and comedic and the only element of its kind in the entire movie, but it comes from out of nowhere to render what would otherwise be totally acceptable to most parents as something to sit the wee ones through into a movie that most Western parents wouldn't let their kids near until they're twelve or older. It may be a case of this aspect being suitable in its country/culture of origin, or it may be as simple as Miike proving he hasn't lost his signature outrageous edge, figuring that the little ones in the audience wont get what's transpiring at that specific moment. (Unless some of the kiddies in the audience have walked in on their parents having a good time making the beast with two backs, after which all bets are off.) Whatever the case, it's a tonally-jarring moment that I found greatly perplexing when weighed against the context of the rest of the movie. A real head-scratcher. (There's also a bit toward the end involving some loudly-decried ball-kicking, but shots to the nads are to be expected in this kind of bumptious comedy, especially a foreign one, while a full-on fuck gag...not so much.)

The bottom line on all of this is that I loved YATTERMAN from start to finish, even laughing my ass off at the explosive mecha orgasm bit, and I consider it the best of the rash of live-action anime remakes that have been cropping up during the last decade or so. (To be fair, that's not really much of a compliment since the vast majority of those films are either boring or outright shit that needlessly neuters or dumbs-down its source. For example, the ass-awful remakes of DEVILMAN and SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO.) The only other live-action anime films in recent years that are a very close second to YATTERMAN would be the two movies based on GE GE GE NO KITARO and a lone entry that updates CUTEY HONEY, but YATTERMAN takes the prize for being as close to a cartoon as this kind of thing can get and also for not having one slow moment in its entire running time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (with the aforementioned "cumbot" sequence being kept firmly in mind.)

Oh, and extra points for the hilarious fight song that's heard when Yatterwoof goes into action as the rebuilt Yatterking. If you've seen even a smattering of Japanese giant robot cartoons, you are no doubt familiar with how each and every one of them has a rousing theme song for the robot in question. Yatterking's song is an over-the-top parody of the form that may seem odd to those unfamiliar with the trope, but it's fucking hilarious for those in the know.

Japanese theatrical poster featuring the bad guys.

Friday, September 20, 2013



After a two-week rigmarole, a long-awaited check finally arrived and, thanks to an error on the part of my bank (the details are too long and vexing, so I'll leave them out), it took forever to clear. That was problematic because the error returned the check to the issuer, stripping my account bare and leaving me with a negative balance at a time when I was taking care of medical and dental issues out of pocket. Before my funds were mistakenly yanked, I went to the local urgent care facility and had them look at a nasty skin condition that had ravaged my fingers, wrists, and the back of my right calf since early June. (When one is poor, one waits until one can pay for medical care.) The examination determined that the condition was apparently stress-related eczema, for which I was assigned a five day regimen of the steroid prednisone. It made me not able to sleep (which, when coupled with my pre-existing insomnia, was beyond annoying), made me wired and buzzy, and spurred me to walk the streets of my neighborhood at 4am to work off the surplus energy. After a period of four days, the results were spectacular and all seemed fine, so my doctor took me off the prednisone and recommended a followup with a dermatologist.

Then the check kerfluffle happened and the nerve-wracking waiting game began.

During the two-week ordeal, my stress-related eczema came back with a vengeance, causing the skin on my hands and wrists to peel off on raw sheets, making my hands look like I was turning into goddamned Ben Grimm. For example:

Lovely, no?

And while I was able to deal with the dryness and simultaneous rawness/weeping via constant moisturizing and changing bandages, the itching and tenderness was sheer torture. Due to a block being put on my account — with the bank freely admitting that the error was theirs but there was naught they could do until the redeposited check fully cleared — I had to put actual medical treatment of the ailment on hold for the aforementioned two weeks, during which time I also could not pay for my regular monthly meds, so I missed about four days of that regimen. NOT good.

Anyway, things have been sorted as of Wednesday afternoon. I got my regular meds and I saw the doctor at the urgent care, who took one look at my hands and tripled the dose of prednisone, and also prescribed a strong antibiotic. Here's what my hands looked like moments before I walked into the urgent care. I purposely did not moisturize so the doctor could see with utmost clarity the severity of the condition:

I am currently moisturized to the nth degree and have taken my regular meds plus the prednisone and antibiotic. I am NOT thrilled about going on prednisone again at all, much less on a tripled dose, but one does what one must to get well. Just like the last time I was on it, on the first day of the regimen the prednisone rendered me buzzy/agitated and unable to sleep, and in the wee hours of Thursday morning I was so full of nervous energy that at 4:30am I left my apartment to wander the deserted streets of Park Slope, picking up a large bottle of apple juice before heading home.  One of the drug's other side-effects can be excessive thirst, which happened to me when I took it two weeks ago and now I was experiencing it again, so I picked up and drank what amounted to about a gallon of apple juice diluted by half with water when I got it home.

Oh, and the doctor's visit and prescriptions were paid for sans insurance. 

Come on, Obamacare!!! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013



Last night I had dinner with two dear old friends whom I have known since high school and with whom I shared many questionable adventures during our over three decades of association. One of them, a skilled martial artist of several disciplines who calls himself "the samurai house pup," has recently returned from hardcore stick and knife-fighting training in the Philippines, bringing usual gifts as he as he has been known to do since his first trip to Asia back in the mid-1980's. I greatly appreciate weird and unusual stuff with which to stock my collection's shelves, and he never fails to bring the strange and unique.

This time he handed me this odd, hornlike object that upon closer examination was some kind of sheath. There was a horseshoe-shaped piece of metal protruding from the sheath, which was held very firmly in place by an attached tether that tightly wound around the sheath several times t be finally held in immovable check by a couple of tight metal clasps.

 I was instructed to unwind the tether but, in a very smart move, my friend told me what the item in the sheath was before I took it out. Inside the sheath was an actual spur/blade that one would tightly tie around the leg of one's fighting cockerel, if one were to own such a bird for the purpose of cockfighting. (NOTE: That is a sport that neither I nor Samurai House Pup advocate, so don't get in a tizzy.)

The reveal of what the object was was immediately accompanied by both of my friends stating with much gravitas that it was literally "as sharp as a razor. All of us have trained with assorted martial arts weapons since our teens, so the understanding of the item's potential lethality needed no further caveat.

I waited until I got home to fully examine the double-bladed talon and I'm very glad I did. Upon close examination, I can unequivocally state that this thing is hands down the single sharpest item in my possession. When you can say that with absolute certainty when you own a very sharp Santoku bocho Japanese kitchen knife, you know you have something extremely dangerous, so it simply cannot just be left laying about.

Suitably impressed by this beautiful/horrifying implement of lethal barnyard fowl augmentation, I returned it to its sheath, once again wrapped it tight, and placed it behind the glass on a shelf in my cabinet of tomes, tchothkes, and items of esoteric interest. I love the item in question, both for its rough-hewn danger factor and for its fusion of aesthetic appeal and likely illegality if carried in the Big Apple, but keeping it out of the way and behind the glass, only to be taken out and handled only by myself or other individuals who know and understand the importance of handling hazardous items with respect and caution. And, again, this thing is sharper than a motherfucker.

I'm not a fan of bladed weapons in general, but this is unique and of considerable interest, so I'm rather stoked!


(art by Simon Bisley)

Though giving up reading monthly DC books after finally dumping WONDER WOMAN — I ditched all other DC monthlies months ago — I'm not saddened because the overall quality of the New 52 is shit (there are exceptions but I no longer give a tinker's damn). What does sadden me it that I am currently reading HELLBLAZER: DEATH AND CIGARETTES, the final collection in the twisted misadventures of the one and only "working class mage" and occult detective, John Constantine. I've loved the character since Day One and have followed him highly questionable exploits religiously for over 300 issues (including annuals, specials, and spin-offs), though in recent years I waited for the collected editions because the read better as complete arcs rather than in the short burst of monthly chapters. No other comics series has commanded that kind of loyalty from me and if you know me at all, both in the real world and here in the digital sphere, you know I am one very critical bitch. My sticking with HELLBLAZER through thick and thin speaks for itself (even during a few feeble arcs here and there), and it pains me to see ol' Johnny's adult-geared book canceled so he could be neutered and shoehorned into the general corporate narrative disaster that is the New 52's jailhouse ass-raping of the DC Universe. Knowing this collected edition will be my final dose of pure, unadulterated Constantine, I'm savoring every panel in order to stave off the inevitable, inexorable goodbye to a character who at times feels like he's an old friend. (Which is dodgy distinction, because we all know what tends to happen to Constantine's friends and loved ones...)

So, goodbye, un-neutered real deal John Constantine. May you not go gentle into that not-so-good night. May you always have a pack of fags — Silk Cut, of course — and a pint close at hand, and never upgrade your "trenchcoat brigade" fashion sense. I love you, you horrid old bugger, and I will miss you terribly.


WONDER WOMAN #23 (art by Cliff Chiang)

Yesterday marked milestone in my lifelong history as a comic book reader. With the necessary killing of Ares, Diana is now the Greek pantheon's god of war,and with that narrative twist I officially gave up reading ongoing DC Comics. 

WONDER WOMAN was the final book I was reading on a monthly basis from the creatively-disastrous/bankrupt New 52 line-wide reboot — I'd given up the few other DC titles I was reading months ago — and despite the artwork remaining fine (Cliff Chiang's work being the book's major draw and genuine saving grace), the story has chased its tail since issue #1 and I have wasted just shy of two years hoping the narrative would reach some sort of arc-conclusion that simply does not seem imminent. 

To sum up, I am done. Give me a shout when/if DC gets its act together again. By then I should have completed my studies at a remote martial temple on some secluded mountaintop in the Himalayas.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013



Cover for X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM#1. (Art by Arthur Adams and Peter Steigerwald.)

If there's one thing I hate as a comics reader, it's when a multi-part crossover "event" works its way into and more often than not derails the flow of whatever series I'm reading and enjoying. BATTLE OF THE ATOM is the umpteenth such crossover to feature Marvel Comics' cash cow X-Men franchise — arguably the company's most over-extended and over-exploited group of books, with at least six or seven (or more) regularly published series featuring the characters — and it ropes both WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN and ALL-NEW X-MEN into its ten installments. Those installments weave throughout WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, ALL-NEW X-MEN, just plain old X-MEN, UNCANNY X-MEN, with initial and final chapters occurring in X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM's own 2-issue title, all amounting to ten chapters. I'm hoping to avoid picking up the other books involved in this shibboleth but who knows? It could defy all odds and actually be worth reading in its entirety but, speaking as a person who's endured a plethora of feeble crossovers during the past three decades, I've seen  far too many would-be epics collapse under their own weight and become mired in inter-titular confusion to hold out any real hope.

The fact that I'm currently reading two X-books every month without fail says a hell of a lot, because I have been completely fucking sick of the X-Men and all of the driven-into-the-ground tropes their stories have generated since UNCANNY X-MEN's golden period (roughly 1977-1982). The run of stories featuring the rebirth of Jean Grey as the Phoenix, her corruption into the world-destroying Dark Phoenix thanks to the gamesmanship of the mind-manipulating Mastermind and the Hellfire Club, the introduction of Kitty Pryde, Jean's tragic death, the "Days of Future/Past" arc, Wolverine's adventures in Japan, Rogue joining the team, and encounters with the Brood were all four-color storytelling magic, straight-up landmarks in Marvel's history, so it's little wonder why subsequent creative teams have repeatedly gone back to that fertile well. The problem is that it has been done to the point of squeezing the tit dry, with those oft-repeated plot tropes these days having taken on the role of unintentional punchlines. "Jean Grey's dead...AGAIN!!!" "Jean Grey's alive...AGAIN!!!""Mutants have come from the future to warn of how shitty things become in their dystopian timeline...AGAIN!!!" And so on, and so on, and so on. And X-MEN: BATTLE OF THE ATOM is playing with more of the same for ten installments, bolstered by solid artwork (for the first two installments, anyway), and I'm hoping it doesn't all once again promise "senses-shattering events that will change the Marvel Universe forever!!!" only to inevitably have everything return to the rote status quo maybe a year or so (sometimes longer) after the event's smoke has cleared. 

One of the things that makes the Marvel Universe unique and fun from a fan/reader perspective is that it's very much an intricately-woven, inter-connected tapestry of superheroic soap opera, a rich, character-driven saga that has built on the groundwork laid by FANTASTIC FOUR #1 just over a half-century ago. Marvel's already enough of an internal crossover, with the events in one series often having impact on another, but in tangential ways rather than in Gordian knots of continuity that are directly continued from one disparate book to another and for which the reader must shell out their hard-earned cash in order to keep up with the current crossover and what effects its sometimes-seismic ripples may have on Marvel's vast narrative ocean. A crossover press-gangs the reader into buying comics that they may not necessarily have any interest in reading, and while I totally understand that the comics biz is a money-making endeavor first and foremost, I've always felt that the crossover directive is one of the most crass forms of exploiting the rabid nature of the involved fan and fleecing that poor bastard for all he/she's worth. And I speak with some authority, what with occasionally having been one of the poor bastards in question. To counter being roped into buying every ancillary title in a crossover, I have over the years resorted to buying only the connected books that I'm already invested in and chapters crafted by creative teams that I like, while for the rest I cheat and flip through the unwanted chapters while they're fresh on the shelves of the given comic book retailer. 

And in recent years, the most egregious example of the crossover form has been the yearly Green Lantern multi-issue, multi-book cosmic epics from DC Comics, which glutted the market with ancillary titles of a wholly unnecessary nature. Seriously, there were shit-tons of the motherfuckers, nearly all of which were a load of worthless, money-grabbing crap that existed in support of bloated annual events that all yielded far less than the sum of their parts. "The Sinestro Corps War" was arguably the last good Green Lantern epic, and also arguably the last good Green Lantern story at all from superstar writer Geoff Johns, whose subsequent work on the series is a textbook example of a writer being given too much freedom because the company is too busy hearing the sound of cash registers to notice that the writer is simply churning out rote shit by the truckload. Hell, his ability to generate cash translated into him being awarded a major administrative position within the DC Comics corporate creative hierarchy (an oxymoron if ever there was one), and what did he do with it? He came up with the abysmal "Flashpoint," itself the nexus for a number of lousy ancillary spinoffs, which led to the launch of the creatively-bankrupt re-launch of the entire DC line as the disastrous New 52.

Sorry, I'm rambling.

Anyway, I now find myself two issues into Marvel's latest crossover trap  and I have to admit that thus far it ain't bad. Let's see if that standard of entertainment will hold up over the full ten-issue event's run. If anything, I expect to see a resolution to (and possible end of) ALL-NEW X-MEN and its stranding of the original team of young and inexperienced "first class" X-Men in the present day, probably culminating with the youngsters being returned to their own past after a psychic mind-wipe erases their memories of their in-some-case-dire future. The idea of the original five being drop-kicked into their future was a lot of fun while it lasted, but it's a story arc whose relatively-swift end was assured from the get-go, simply because you just can't have numerous iterations of the same characters existing in the same timeline for long without the novelty wearing off and the narrative becoming confusing. Rule # 1 of "fantastic" storytelling: (sound of chisel carving the following into stone) TIME TRAVEL STORIES ARE A BITCH AND IT BEST NOT TO DRAG THEM ON FOR TOO LONG.

And I'll be sure to get back to you with how all of this hashes out.