Comic Book Covers 09/12/2012

A few of my favorites from the 09/12/2012 week.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #0

Cover by Alberto Ponticelli

To be quite honest, I didn’t think any DC books would be making this list this month, because I’m not such a fan of the 0 issue cover styles.  They’re all essentially the same, just the main character jumping out at you.  It doesn’t really give the artist too much to work with.  This one I really liked though, it’s an awesome shot of Frank getting ready to mess someone’s day up really badly.

X-Men Legacy #273

Cover by Mark Brooks

This cover is so good, it’s essentially Rogue riding Battle Cat.  That’s really all the explanation needed for it being up here.

Captain America & Black Widow #636

Cover by Francesco Francavilla

Francesco Francavilla kicks butts.  His work on Black Panther: Man Without Fear was one of the main draws for that book.  Combine that with the fact that Captain America is my favorite hero and this one makes the list.

Movies You May Have Missed: Phenomena aka Creepers (1985)

Before Jennifer Connelly danced with David Bowie, before she flew around looking like Betty Page with a guy in a jet pack, before she went A2A….she teamed up with Dr. Loomis, a chimp, and used her psychic connection with insects to hunt a serial killer at an Italian girl’s school. No really. That’s Phenomena.
As many young actors (and some Christopher Walkens) do, Jennifer took just about any job she could get early in her career. It’s a perfectly understandable method. There’s some actors who turn down work, but the only ones successful at doing so are the ones famous enough to get away with that, like perhaps Jennifer is now. Well, in 1984, she was flown out to Italy to star in a movie directed by cult horror legend, Dario Argento.

Seriously, “Suspiria” made ballerinas scary decades before “Black Swan”.

These days, Argento is lauded and loved as one of the true artistes of Horror cinema. The suspense and atmosphere of his films are as uniquely recognizable as an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo, or a Bob Ross landscape. You’ll be hard pressed to find a “Top 10 Best Horror Movies” list without “Suspiria” listed.

Back to the subject at hand. Argento had heard stories of police using insects during murder investigations and got to writing this film. It would seem that he blended this with his penchant for serial killers, animals, and the supernatural to give us what some, even the man himself consider his best film.

The movie begins simple enough. A tourist is stranded at a beautiful roadside vista in the middle of the forest. She finds a house in the woods, the camera flips back and forth from her to some beastly thing chained to a wall and trying to break free, it does, she dies and is beheaded. The head is found, and brought, by police, to etymologist, Dr. McGregor (Donald Pleasence) who looks at is and tells them the murder was about 8 months ago. Simple enough, right?
Cue Jennifer Corvino (Connelly), escorted by Head Mistress Frau Brückner arriving at the Richard Wagner Academy for Girls. Jennifer is the daughter of a famous actor who just so happens to be the crush of her room-mate, Sophie. On her first night at the dorm, she begins to sleepwalk. She goes out onto the roof of the school where she witnesses one of the students being murdered. In shock, she wakes, falls, and stumbles out into the street where she’s hit by a car. The two boys driving the car, pick her up, put her in, and drive away. At this point, I could never tell if she was just freaking out, or they were trying to rape her, but either way, they throw her out of the car in the middle of the woods where she tumbles down the side of the hill and is awakened by a rescue chimp.

Come with me if you want to live.

At this point, you can forget everything you’ve just watched except for Jennifer, Dr. McGregor, Frau Brückner, the murders, and the chimp. IMHO, the movie could have just started here and been fine.

Now we get to the nitty-gritty. The chimp, named “Inga” leads Jen back to Dr. McGregor’s house. He takes her in for the night, but notices that her presence has a strange effect on the insects in his lab. He tells her that some people possess a sort of telepathic connection with insects and it seems that in her excited state, that connection is exacerbated. The next morning, she makes her way back to the school where she is almost immediately subjected to testing for her somnambulism.
That very night, Sophie is murdered and once again, Jennifer sleepwalks. This time, she is guided by a firefly to a maggot covered glove which she reports only to then be mocked and ridiculed as a freak by her fellow school-mates because of her “supposed” connection to insects (children can be so cruel). She pulls a “Carrie” and summons a swarm of flies which covers the academy. Nobody gets hurt, just scared, then Jenny passes out. Only now, instead of fearing her, they just say she’s crazy and try to have her committed to the loony bin…..

Mom!! Can I have some chocolate milk!?
How ’bout some human flesh?!

Speaking of loony bins, that’s enough of the story for now. You really need to just watch this. It’s crazy, convoluted, kind of all over the place, it’s got psychic bug powers, a crazy germanic power-bitch school-marm, Loomis in a wheelchair, a homicidal helper-monkey, a dwarf dressed as a little boy who’s also a mutant-monster-thing, a lake on fire, a pit of maggoty body-parts and fluids….everything that you can ask for to enjoy with your popcorn on a lonely Saturday night.
Seriously, there is no way to logically explain this film to anyone. I thought I could, but ultimately, no. Can’t do it. It’s like trying to explain “Eraserhead”. You just have to watch it. It’s good, you enjoy it, but you simply can’t figure out why and every time you tell someone why they need to see it, you end up sounding like a buffoon……..wait…did I just insult myself?

Now, why oh why did I “aka” this film “Creepers”?
When release in the UK and US, the film companies didn’t know what to make of this film, much less what made the gore in it contextual, so a bit of it was cut. Also, the distributors didn’t feel that “Phenomena” was catchy enough or as easy to say. So they cut the heck out of what little cohesion the film had and a few of it’s more gory scenes, slapped the name “Creepers” on it and tossed it like a chewed up bone to the rest of the world’s theaters.
To date, if you wish to acquire your copy, there’s only one “complete”/”director’s” cut available on DVD in the US and that is the Anchor Bay release. There are two minor scenes cut from that edition, but they were done so at the behest of Dario Argento himself.
So now you know! Head over to your local DVD acquisition site and pick it up!

Nerd-Base's 10 Best Remakes/Reboots Part 2

A little over a week ago, we gave you the first half of this list, here is its conclusion, the Nerd-Base’s top 10 Best Remakes/Reboots #5-#1!!!

5) Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

The first true “reboot” on this list, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” blew me away.
I don’t really know what I was expecting. The original “Planet of the Apes” series is one of my all time favorite films. One of my earliest TV memories is of watching the live action TV series and being so amazed and excited about these “ape-men” on the screen. Not to mention, those movies are simply great fun to watch. I’m not one of those guys who immediately hems and haws first thing when I hear a film or show I love is being remade.  I had high hopes for the Tim Burton travesty, but as we all know, it was a severe disappointment. So you can imagine, despite the pedigree behind this movie, my trepidation going into the theater. Thankfully, I was more than pleasantly surprised at what I beheld.
More of a re-telling of the story of “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972),  this movie’s strength lays less in trying to recapture and pay fan-service to the original, not to say it doesn’t, but rather, it focuses on telling a great story and character building. There are some scenes with the ape, “Caesar” (played by CGI/Mo-cap veteran, Andy Serkis), that convey such strong emotion, glee, heartache, frustration, anger and determination, that you will truly let him carry your heart in his furry hands throughout the film to its ultimate, intense and moving conclusion that will leave you begging for more.

4) Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

What to say about “Little Shop of Horrors”?
To start, it’s a questionable film to include on this list. Perhaps it’s the most deeply ingrained as a remake? Perhaps it doesn’t count? This little horror musical about a boy and his carnivorous alien plant is a remake of an off-broadway play, which itself is a remake of the original 1960 Roger Corman movie. So, I suppose, in a weird way, this is a wrap around, traced back, remake of the original film…kinda…

“Oh please, grow for me!” If only he knew what he was asking…

At any rate, the movie itself is a blast. The music is fun, catchy, kitschy, and hilariously dark. It stars the inimitable Rick Moranis and Steve Martin plays the scene chewing role of the “evil” masochistic dentist. It also has some great cameos by 1980’s legends, Bill Murray, John Candy, and Jim Belushi…okay, well, two legends. Actually, the dentist’s office scene between Martin and Murray is comedy gold.

Interesting tidbits, Ellen Greene who plays Audrey (1) was the only actor in the film that performed with the Broadway musical cast, and the voice of Audrey II was Levi Stubbs, better known as the frontman/lead singer of the legendary Motown group, the Four Tops.
The film originally had an incredibly dark ending which was changed when the test audiences almost unanimously hated it. This 23 minute original ending footage, included from the B&W work-print. was released VERY briefly on DVD in 1998 and subsequently pulled from the shelves almost immediately when David Geffen found out about the release (he owns the rights) and said, “They put out a black-and-white, unscored, undubbed video copy of the original ending that looked like shit.” Thankfully, due to the incredible powers of the internet, we don’t have to pay $150+ for ebay copies of this rare DVD, you can watch it right here:

3) The Blob (1988)

Were it even possible to argue this movie’s entry in the top three, the only person who would do so would most likely be one who has never seen it, or didn’t understand how to truly appreciate it. Oh yeah, also, all you’d have to do is mention that it’s one of the first few studio pictures written by one Mr. Frank Darabont. If you don’t know that name, well, you need to get educated. You can start by watching this fantastic remake of 1958’s “The Blob” (then, watch “The Mist” and make sure you have a box of tissues nearby at the end).

Brian Flagg – He must use Pantene ©™

In this film as our hero, in lieu of the clean-cut Steve McQueen, we get Kevin (brother of Matt) Dillon’s Brian Flagg (a tribute by Darabont to Steven King’s “Randall Flagg” character from “The Stand”) who is played as an “Outsiders”-y, mulleted bad boy.
The discovery of the Blob sequence is pretty much on par with the 1958 version. Some random old man living in the woods is beset upon by a meteorite that cracks open upon impact and which he proceeds to poke at with a stick. The goop rides up the stick and “consumes” his hand….then his body….then, well then everyone else in the most cringe inducing manners seen in a movie before or since.

No seriously guys…the sink. *shudder*

If you’ve seen it, more than anything else, I think you’ll remember “the sink”.

Oh, and don’t forget to look for a cameo by David Lynch’s own Jack Nance early in the film!

2) David Cronenberg’s “The Fly” 

If you’ve seen this film and the original, the only comparison you can really draw is the theme. The only thing that could possibly be said might be better in the original is the inclusion of the legendary Vincent Price. Aside from that, the 1958 version might as well not even exist…well, except to give us jokes where we say, “Heeelp meeee!! Heeeellllp Meee!”
If you haven’t seen this movie, I hate to tell you to not finish this article, but stop reading now, grab a copy and watch it. If you are a fan of horror, science fiction, or thrillers, you owe it to yourself to see this film.
David Cronenberg is doubtlessly one of my favorite directors. When he was tapped to direct this film, he looked at the script and practically re-wrote the entire thing leaving only the concept that a man and a fly are joined at a molecular level. What he put in is some of the most psychologically visceral storytelling in a horror movie ever seen. Which, we would find after this movie put his name firmly on the map of cinema, would become his trademark style.

Hey baby, wanna fuse?

This is also Jeff Goldblum at his best. Often enough in his films, he plays it either remarkably quirky or stoically straight, in this film, like Brundle and the fly, he merges the two and creates a character that is charismatic and uncomfortable to watch yet at the same time almost completely believable. Geena Davis, who I’m not normally a fan of, plays her role here better than just about anything else I’ve seen her in and their chemistry is SOLID.
If you don’t know the story of this film and you’re reading this article, I’m not going to say anything more other than to reiterate what I said to begin with, go watch it now, but you might want to bring a friend along because you will be afraid, you will be VERY afraid…

1) John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)

If you ask me, the 80’s film industry was ruled by three guys named John. John Hughes, John Landis, and John Carpenter. For me and my burgeoning geeky love of horror and science fiction, ESPECIALLY John Carpenter.
Like “The Fly”, Carpenter’s “The Thing” practically erased it’s predecessor from memory, 1951’s “The Thing From Another World” starring Gunsmoke’s James Arness as the titular creature.
To describe this film, the words, thrilling, claustrophobic, paranoid, dramatic, suspenseful, and ultimately, DEFINITELY frightening are the first to come to mind. This movie was a horror and science fiction game-changer. So much so that to date, very little in the genre has been able to overshadow it or recreate the authentic terror the film exudes.

Hi, my name’s Kurt Russell. What kind of awesome badass can I portray for you today?

Also, this film is Kurt Russell in his heyday. He had recently come off “Escape From New York” where he breathed life into the anti-hero, “Snake Plisskin”, and would soon become one of my personal hero’s in a movie that will forever be in my top five favorites, “Jack Burton” in “Big Trouble in Little China”. Notice something there? No? Both of those films were directed by John Carpenter as well. A note of interest often overlooked is that in the mid-70’s, Kurt Russell was in an episode of “Gunsmoke” starring James Arness who, again, played the role of the monster in the original “Thing From Another World”.
Carpenter’s “The Thing” unfortunately didn’t do very well in the box office as it had just so happened to release at the same time as another, more family friendly, alien-centric film, “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”. It also didn’t help that in 1982, film-goers weren’t used to such excessive scenes of gore, although most will tell you, they aren’t really all that excessive when watched in the context of the film. The horrific, suspenseful ambiance is actually enhanced by the discomfort given by seeing such viscera.

One of the only things from a movie to ever to invade my nightmares.

And there you have it! I’m sure not everyone is going to agree with all of these, it was hard enough for me to pick from so many great films, but I feel pretty good about this list. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment!

Book Review: Know No Fear (Horus Heresy #19)

Know No Fear: The Battle of Calth
by Dan Abnett

The 19th book in Horus Heresy series, and I think it’s the best so far.  That’s not really surprising to me, it’s written by Dan Abnett, and I find him to be one of the best writers that the Black Library has.

Know No Fear deals with the Battle of Calth, the epic battle between the XIII and XVII legions.  The Ultramarines and the Word Bearers respectively.  From the word go, this book is non stop, fast paced action.  This is a huge, bloody battle between two legions of transhuman killing machines and the book definitely showcases that.  Space Marines are genetically designed for war, and their skills are used to the extreme in this book.  There is fighting on the ground, fighting on ships, space combat, and surrounding it all is the grievous betrayal by the Word Bearers.  The Word Bearers have come to Calth presumably to link up with the Ultramarines and begin a campaign against the hated Orks.  At this point the Ultramarines have no knowledge of Horus’ treachery, and welcome their brother legion with open arms.  It is tough reading and knowing full well what the Word Bearer’s intentions are, and even tougher when the battle begins in earnest.  It begins with a sneak attack by the XVII Legion, and it so brutal, so overwhelming that it’s almost impossible to see how the Ultramarines could survive, let alone retaliate.  It’s a roller coaster, and it’s fantastic.

This amazing cover artwork deserves mention.

Dan Abnett does a wonderful job communicating his story.  He is constantly shifting scenes.  There is so much going on concurrently that you’re never in the same place for more than a couple of pages.  It does quite a bit to help show the huge scale of the conflict.  The large-scale doesn’t just refer to the battle itself, but also to the cast.  There is an abundance of characters, over 75 just from checking the dramatis personae at the beginning of the book.  He uses them all, and he uses them well.  By the end of the book you’ve come to know these characters very well indeed.  A great read.