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Archive for February, 2013

Grave Encounters 2

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grave-encounters2-movie-poster-vicious-brothers-itunesI’ve heard such mixed reviews on Grave Encounters. It seems that people either love it or absolutely despise it.  I’m one of those people who actually thought The Blair Witch was scary, so I don’t automatically trash on Found Footage films, but I do get that the market is over saturated with them. Grave Encounters was one of the better ones of recent years though, and the way it spoofed the ubiquitous ghost hunter genre that has grown up around the SyFy channel the last few years was nothing short of brilliant.

That said, there really wasn’t anywhere else to go with the story….or was there?

Blair Witch utterly failed in it’s sequel by going meta and self aware. Grave Encounters goes down the same path here, but with better results. First and foremost, they keep it as a found footge movie. That makes a big difference…you know what to expect.  Secondly, they actually expand the mythology of the abandoned asylum. We find out more about what went on there and perhaps why it’s haunted. We learn more about the ghosts themselves without getting to personal.

The problem is that we don’t get any of this until almost the third act.

The first forty minuets to an hour of this film are almost painful to watch. I’m so glad I didn’t give up on it because it was real close there for a while. None of the characters are likable and you can’t feel sympathy for anyone. All of this works against the film.

The set up is a film student reviews the film, then starts to suspect that it wasn’t just a movie after all, but a real documentary repackaged as fiction. The actors are all missing, but he tracks down the lead’s mother who is suffering from dimensia, and also the producer who gets belligerent but basically confirms what they suspected. He tracks down the asylum they filmed at and that’s when stuff really starts to happen.

At first it’s just a bunch of the same stuff from the first film, but obviously with better effects and a bigger budget. As we get into world building and more explanation of how the building works things really do start to get interesting.

Bottom line, buy the first one, and rent this one. It’s worth watching but I don’t think it’s worth revisiting. (Speaking of revisiting, there’s new Violent Blue up!)

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essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and FridayNew_016


Sonic 4!

gamerI’m Screenshot_2012-05-15-19-32-271a Sonic fan from way back. During the 16-bit revolution, I took sides and picked Sega. The Genesis is still my favorite console system of all time and let’s face it, one of the things that made the Genesis so cool was Sonic.

Sonic games have had a mystique comparable to the Mario games. They are a genre all of their own. But just like the Mario games, not every sonic game is all that good. Even on the Genesis, by the time we hit Sonic 3d, I was largely uninterested.I’ve tried a couple of these games for the Nintendo DS, but they get way to complex for me and somehow, just don’t feel like Sonic.

This new game for Tablets and Smart Phones takes me right back to the glory days of the mid 90′s. This feels very much like Sonic 1 or 2 to me. It’s a familiar side scroller with the comfortable checker board lego-like imagery I remember so well. By those graphics have been definitely kicked up a couple of notches. First glance it looks like any other Sonic game, but the detail and depth in these graphics becomes apparent as you really watch the game go on. Indeed, that was one of my reactions to the classic Genesis game – it was just so fun to watch. We had never seen game graphics like that before. This is perhaps not as revolutionary, but definitely just as pretty.

The gameplay is straight forward, you have a virtual D-Pad one the left corner of the screen and a couple of virtual buttons on the right side to jump, spin and cooperate with Tails. Occasionally you’ll run into an obstacle that needs a specific solution. If it’s the first time you’ve encountered this object, there will be a TV screen near by showing you what to do. It’s a great way of familiarizing your with the controls without having to resort to a tedious tutorial, the way so many games do.

I recommend giving this a try, especially if you are a fan of Sonic. there’s a free version available at the Amazon app store for you smart phone or tablet. And after you get tiered of it, go check out the new Violent Blue!


Amazing

Movie bannerI kind of delebritaly avoided “The Dark Knight Rises” this summer because I’ve never been a fan of where the nolan batman films were headed and this more than most, seemed to be something I wouldn’t enjoy.

amazing-spider-man-movie-poster“The Amazing Spider-man” was a whole other story.  I fully intended to go see it….if it came my way to a cheap theatre. That is to say,  I wasn’t going out of my way to go see it, but  I wouldn’t kick it out of bed if it showed up. It was never my intention to wait until it came out on DVD, but that’s just what happened. I had been adamant that a reboot wasn’t really the way to go and never liked the suit (even though we used it in Violent Blue last year)so I wasn’t anticipating this move the way I had Spider-films of the past.

Part of me wants to say this movie was middle of the road. The problem is that’s not true. middle of the road suggests it never reaches any heights, but never really disappoints either. That’s not the case here. This movie gets some things VERY right, and some things EXTREMELY wrong. It hits middle of the road by averaging, not by keeping a steady pace. Come to  think of it, I believe middle of the road might have been preferable.

What they get right:

Peter Parker.

Absolutely. One of the things I always hated about Raimi’s Spider-Man was Tobey Maguire as Pete. The funny thing is that Tobey was great as Spidey, but not as Peter. His Parker was too much of a loser. I couldn’t really root for him and that bugged me. Of course Raimi’s Peter was based more on the Parker of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I grew up with the Peter of the late 70’s and early 80’s – a more self-assured Peter, in college, with more of a friendship with Flash, and Harry there for comic relief. I loved the Peter of the 90’s He was a wallflower made good. The rejected and put-upon loser who grew into his looks, got a good job  and married a supermodel. that’s the Peter I like. It’s not the one Rami likes. That’s fine. He makes better movies than me anyhow.

Andrew Garfield really gives me a Peter I can root for. he’s not a geek, he’s more like….invisible. Not into sports so that’s a strike against him, and no one cares if he likes to take pictures or not. He’s just a nobody. i like that. It’s more enjoyable to watch someone who’s just awkward than it is to watch someone who’s delebritly playing a character from “Revenge of the Nerds” (a reason I never liked Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent – Brandon Routh was a far better Kent, and George Reeves was the best). This Peter is compelling and I never got tired of watching him.

The other thing this movie gets right is the effects. Raimi is just used to using low tech effects. I understand, but I believe he never really utilized his budget the way he could have effects-wise. His CGI was all really straightforward. There were times when he abandoned them altogether, like when the Green Goblin is talking to Norman Osborne in the mirror (that really should have been a more dynamic greenscreen shot). This movie on the other hand TRIES to impress us with it’s effects – things like the CG door lock and displays, it uses special effects more creatively, and that’s something I credit to it being handled by a different kind of director.

Speaking of better effects, I LOVE the new web shooters. I especially love the flash of light every time he blasts a web out. That’s one of those effects  that’s just inspired. I hope the comics copy this look.

Finally, I love what they did with Gwen Stacy. This was a genuinely good updating of the character. She’s well-realized, likable, and still completely out of Peter’s league. I realize the waste of the character in “Spider-Man 3” was due more to studio interference (at least I assume it was. Critical of him as I am, I give Raimi more credit than that) Raimi still could have portrayed her better. She didn’t need to look like she had stepped right out of 1968….and in Amazing, she doesn’t

What they got wrong :

Spider-Man

That’s a biggie. For a movie called “The Amazing Spider-Man” you really need to get Spidey right. This doesn’t even come close.

For every bit as good as Garfield is at being Peter Parker, that’s how bad he is as Spidey.  It’s a good thing then, as I stated above that I liked his Peter Parker so much. I’d rather see him work out of costume than in it.

The costume is a big part of it. Raimi got the costume right. He just….did. There was no good reason to change it, and the changes they made I think were poorEyes choices.

The eyes especially. They’re dark and foreboding. The colors are muted and darker hues. that’s not who Spidey is. he’s not a dark and gritty avenger of the night, he’s your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.  That costume should be bright, and it looks GREAT in the daylight, not shrouded in darkness like we see here. He needs big friendly eyes and quirky elastic movements and a friendly voice that cracks wise when he’s fighting. I see none of that here. You know that one moment in EVERY commercial where Spidey mocks the guy for pulling a knife on him? You know why that’s there? Because it’s the ONLY funny quip we get from Spidey. I need more. When I’d rather watch Peter Parker than Spider-Man, you know we’ve got a problem.

I wasn’t thrilled with the origin either. Maybe that’s a little unfair, and I believe that’s mostly because I’ve seen it done better  in the Rami movies, in the cartoons…even in the God-awful broadway musical. That’s a bit I could take or leave.

may 001Aunt May. Who oh why did they cast Sally Field? You know what she does best? She makes strained, agonized faces and acts helpless. And boy does she do a bunch of that in this movie. Peter once said “One day, they’ll find a way to bottle the strength of Parker women” and that’s the key to understanding Aunt May. She’s frail and old and vulnerable, but under all of that is a strength and a will that just amazes you. That’s missing from Field’s May. Her Aunt May is just….empty and sad. I hate it.

I’m hoping for much better with the sequel. Let’s face it, Sony’s not going to stop making Spider-man movies any time soon. It’s my sincere hope that they understand what doesn’t work from this incarnation and stop trying to make another “Dark Knight”

In the mean time, I’m going to pop in the old movies and punctuate them with a few of the CG cartoon episodes from MTV.

Pages from Amazing Spider-Man 519 and Spider-Man 22

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essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and FridayNew_015


Year five

Banner small dark copyI finally finished the cover for my NaNoWriMo novel, which will end up being year five of Violent Blue. The title is “Coffee, Rock Bands and Superman”. I thought I’d post the cover up here as a bit of a teaser.

Final Cover


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essentialPosting the best strips from the series, in order from the beginning.

Every Wednesday and FridayNew_014


The Hellraiser Project

Starting a new feature here at Argo City. The Hellraiser project is a way for me to document the process of creating makeups and creature effects for at least two hellraiser characters. Right now I’m focusing on Pinhead and Chatterer. If all goes well, I’ll add a completely new Cenobite of my own creation later.

Posts will go from makeups to costumes as things get created.

In the past I’ve had a pinhead costume, but it wasn’t as good as I would like. It consisted of a white bald cap with nails driven through it and attached. Add white makeup and draw the hint of a grid on a face and top off with a long coat  buttoned to the top collar like a robe. It worked, and both I and others used it on occasion, but I was never really happy with it. This is a chance to do something different, get the makeup RIGHT (or as right as I can) and create a better costume to go with it.  We’re going to show the successes AND the failures (and trust me, there are going to be plenty of failures. When creating a new makeup, there always is). You’ll get to see every bump in the road as I try to figure out how to make this stuff.

I think this will be an interesting ride, and I hope your up for it with me. If it’s not your thing, go check out today’s Violent Blue, and hopefully that will make you smile.

See you in the Labyrinth.


Super Bowl

See, my problem is that when I hear the words “Super Bowl” this is what comes to mind.

Yeah, I made this joke inViolent Blue a couple of weeks ago, but really wanted to get on paper that image I had visualized!


Django 1966

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Think I’ll be watching this tonight after I get back home from the *sigh* monster truck rally.