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Archive for March, 2013

One more Easter video

filmography

Managed to fit both singers from my favorite band in this one


Easter Video

filmography

No essential Violent Blue today. Easter is this weekend and I wanted to do a quick post about that….

This year, we’ve been doing a series at Church called “Heroes of the Bible”. We’ve been doing weekly videos comparing Bible characters to superheros. Last week and this week though, we’re teaching on Easter….and this is what we came up with!


The Spirit Camera : The Cursed Memoir

gamerSpirit C641696_246134_frontamera! All the fun of the occult but with none of those messy deals with the devil!

This isn’t a title I really paid much attention to until my wife got it for me as a gift. I’m surprised at how much I like it. The Spirit Camera is an “Enhanced Reality” DS game mostly utilizing the camera. THe background is whatever room you are in, but things are in that room you can only see through the camera. No using the D-Pad or stulys to move here, you physically have to t urn around and look for things.

It’s a simple ghost story dealing with a haunted diary (Included with the game). You go through pages in the diary and things happen on them. This kind of stuff starts immediately with the calibration, when a melted face pops out after you align two circles on the screen. Occasionally it will transport you to another place, like the main villains home- a crumbling mansions, dimly lit and foreboding. Again, no D-pad. If you want to look behind you in that mansion to see what that sound was, you have to actually turn around.

gfs_226369_2_1_midThe Spirit Camera has jump scares along with atmosphere. The diary included in the package is a really nice touch and beautifully (if creepy) illustrated. Things happen within the pages, pictures move and can be manipulated, not to mention things coming out of it – that scene on the game case cover? Yeah, that happens. In fact, that hand reaches out to grab yours towards the beginning after you touch a specific part of the book.

The Enhance Reality is used to it’s fullest and is really a great idea. However the camera’s limitations is possibly it’s greatest flaw. You need to be in a really well lit room for this to work properly. Preferably with some sunlight and ambient lighting. Otherwise, the cam will have trouble reading the book, and you won’t really be able to see the background either….and seeing all of this happen in you own home is half the point isn’t it?

Still, it’s one of the most immerse games I’ve played in a long time, making the scares even more potent. The 3d works really well and the switching between the ghost world and my own living room makes it even more effective. If you’re a horror fan, definitely give this game a try. And if it gets to  scary, you can always hit up Violent Blue to lighten the mood.


Easter Eggs!

101_3754We colored Easter Eggs last night. This is what I ended up doing:

101_3756 101_3751 101_3752 101_3753

I like them. Zombies, brains and Pinhead. I asked Lydia how she could tell which one’s were Daddy’s. She pointed to the monster eggs “Because we know you love monsters Daddy!”

Ah, the things I do when I’m not drawing Violent Blue……


24

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

Every Wednesday and Friday

New_024


Other OZ

Movie bannerMV5BMjMyMzQ1ODM1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjE2MTQxOQ@@__V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_A couple of weeks ago I took my seven-year-old daughter Madeline to see OZ : the Great and Powerful. She’d gone to see The Wizard of OZ with me when the Capitol Theatre in Cleveland screened it a year or so ago and it had been her first time seeing the movie. I thought it would be cool for the two of us to hit the theatre to see the new one together as well. I discovered it was playing at Amherst Cinema so I scooped up Maddie and off we went to OZ.

Someone explain to me why the new movie “OZ : The Great and Powerful” is getting nothing but hate?

ozbooksReally.

My best guess is that it’s because for most people, the Wizard of OZ is simply Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, and that’s a shame, because there’s so much more to the Wizard of OZ in all of it’s forms than that.

A lot of people will know that the Wizard of OZ is a book. Not all of those folks will have actually read the book in one form or another but they’ll at least know it exists.  Not quite as many people know that there are fourteen books written by OZ’s creator L. Frank Baum, and forty altogether that are considered canon. The Fourteen Baum books have fallen into public domain and are freely available on the internet. Check over at Project Gutenberg and you’ll find the original fourteen along with a few of the later ones by other authors.

Hardly anyone knows that there were a grand total of four OZ movies (two of which were actually titled “The Wizard of OZ”. I own copies of ALL of them) that came before the Judy Garland film. Here’s some details below :

wizard_of_oz_1910THE WIZARD OF OZ
  Release date:        1910, March 26
  Description:         A short based on "The Wizard of Oz".
  Production Company:  Selig Polyscope Company
  Producer:            William Nicholas Selig
  Director:            Otis Turner
  Screenwriter:        L. Frank Baum and Otis Turner
  Length:              1,000 feet of film (one reel)
  Cast: Bebe Daniels (Dorothy), Hobart Bosworth, Eugenie Besserer,
        Robert Leonard, Winnifred Greenwood, Lillian Leighton, Olive Cox

his-majesty-the-scarecrow-06DOROTHY AND THE SCARECROW IN OZ
  Release date:       1910, April 19
  Description:        Based on excerpts from "The Wonderful Wizard
                      of Oz" and "The Marvelous Land of Oz".
  Production Company: Selig Polyscope Company
  Producer:           William Nicholas Selig
  Screenwriter:       L. Frank Baum
  Length:             1,000 feet (one reel)

  Scarcrow
his-majesty-the-scarecrow-01THE LAND OF OZ
  Release date:       1910, May 19
  Description:        Based on excerpts from "The Marvelous Land of Oz".
  Producer:           William Nicholas Selig
  Screenwriter:       L. Frank Baum
  Production Company: Selig Polyscope Company
  Length:             1,000 feet (one reel)

OZ films
MV5BMTUxOTMxMjg2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTA1NDYxMQ@@__V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_THE WIZARD OF OZ
  Release date:       1925, June 27
  Description:        A slapstick comedy that is loosely based
                      on the original story.
  Production company: Chadwick Pictures
  Director:           Larry Semon
  Asst. Director:     William King
  Screenwriters:      Larry Semon, L. Frank Baum Jr. (Frank Joslyn Baum),
                      and Leon Lee
  Cinematographers:   Hans F. Koenenkamp, Frank B.) Good, Leonard Smith
  Art Director:       Robert Stevens
  Editor:             Sam Zimbalist
  Distributor:        Chadwick Pictures
  Length:             7 reels, 6300 feet1925 Wizard of Oz
  Cast: Larry Semon (Scarecrow/Farmhand/Toymaker), Bryant Washburn 
        (Prince Kynd), Dorothy Dwan (Dorothy), Virginia Pearson 
        (Countess Vishuss), Charles Murray (Wizard), Oliver N. Hardy 
        (Tin Woodman/Farmhand/Knight of the Garter), G. Howe Black 
        (Cowardly Lion/Rastus (Snowball)), Josef Swickard (Prime 
        Minister Kruel), Mary Carr (Aunt Em), G. Howe Black (Rastus), 
        Frank Alexander (Uncle Henry/Prince of Whales), Otto Lederer 
        (Ambassador Wikked), Frederick Ko Vert (Phantom of Basket)

 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0016544/?ref_=fn_al_tt_9

So, what’s my point?
The fundamental problem with an OZ movie since 1939 is that the OZ everyone else knows, isn’t quite the OZ I know. In a very real way, the Judy Garland film transcended  the source material and became a thing of it’s own. It’s it’s own entity with it’s own following and it’s own identity. the problem is, there still exists a property (to wit; the book and the previous and subsuquent films) that has the same name and a very similar story…..but not nearly as much market penetration. More people know the Garland OZ than know the source material, and as I said; that’s a shame because while it’s a seminal movie, a brilliant classic with groundbreaking effects and imagery….but it’s not a great portrayal of the source material.

return to oxI’d be okay with that. I really would, except that movie is so big – it poisons any attempt to further explore OZ…something Disney’s been trying to do for decades.

Some folks will remember Return to OZ.  This was the first real chance Disney had gotten to do an OZ film. There had been abandoned attempts to do some of the OZ sequals in the sixties and seventies for “The Wonderful World of Disney” but none could get off the ground….partily because of the hold the Judy Garland film had on pop culture.

They gave it a good try. They tried to pull directly from the source material, making a movie by mashing up two of the later novels (that in of itself probably led to some thematic issues . One novel would have been a better choice). In addition, one of the things they insisted on was making the characters look like the illustrations in the books. The problem with that however, isReturn-to-OZ-return-to-oz-31219337-1200-770 too many people expected those characters to look like the ones in the Garland film – that and too little scree time for character like the Lion, Scarecrow and Tin Man. The movie felt beholden to the garland film as well, keeping the ruby slippers and making them a plot point (the slippers were silver in the book and are not as big a factor in later novels). The other big problem (and I wonder if it was an issue at the time) is that it looks dated. This is defiantly an ’80’s movie. You can tell. While The Garland film is timeless, the airbrushed look on the Wheelers and the dress on the witch are absolutely hallmarks of the time.

It’s other issue is that while it tries to incorporate the Garland film, it tries to hard to be dire as well. The electroshock scenes are dark and some of the thematic elements seem almost deconstructionist – something which doesn’t work well for OZ. Still it’s  a better film than anyone gives it credit for, overshadowed as it was by it’s 1939 predecessor.

return

And that brings us to 2013.

517Z4ZQE8RL__SL500_SS500_I don’t hate on prequels just on general principle. I think Smallville (at least in it’s first few seasons) is a brilliant prequel. My favorite Star Trek novels are prequels to the series and feature Robert April and a teenaged James T Kirk.

On the other hand, OZ can inspire some pretty rotten ones. The Lion of OZ  ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120733/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1) was an interesting try, but it bugs me because it stomps all over too much of the established continuity.  I despise Wicked. Remember what I said about deconstructionism not working with OZ (It’s got something to do with the purity of the vision. It doesn’t work  well with Superman or the Lone Ranger either….but I digress)? That goes double for Wicked.  So how does OZ : the Great and Powerful rate?oz-poster-evil-wtich

This is the best new movie I’ve seen in years.

No, seriously. This is the OZ movie I’ve been waiting all my life for.  A while back I was criticizing Sam Raimi for some of his handling of the Spider-Man movies? I forgive him everything. I like a lot of his films, but I’ve never held him in high regard just because he’s a horror icon. I’ve always though him good, but still growing. This may well be his masterpiece.

They keep the look and feel of the Garland film without being beholden to it. When they need to diverge, they do. The shiney plastic flowers are now CG.  The Emrald City…oh my God. It’s just as I envisioned it: sprawling and beautiful. They fill the world up with amazing creatures – the China girl is the best character in the movie. The effects are spectacular, and I honestly can get past the CG for once, especially for the effects that are supposed to be illusionary.

oz-great-powerful-screencrush

Going with a prequel was a good idea this time around. There’s no expectation of seeing Dorthy or the Tin Man or the Lion or the Scarecrow. It Oz-The-Great-and-Powerful-postergives us a chance to clear the slate and start a new franchise….and boy…..do they ever. There are plenty of nods to what will happen in the Wizard of Oz though – the book or the movie, it doesn’t matter. Some of those made my jaw drop, especially when we find out who the Wizard’s long lost love is – and who Glinda looks like. Ozphiles will know that this fulfills long-held speculation on why Glinda doesn’t have a Kansas counterpart (the way the Witch and the Tin Man and the Lion and The Scarecrow do) in the Garland film. Moreover, it gives the later stories more depth. Suddenly it makes sense why Glinda would send Dorothy to the Wizard, it makes sense why, in later books  she would forgive his usurpation of the throne of OZ and teach him real magic. There’s so much more going on in this movie that we realize and it serves to give the OZ stories greater scope.

I love this movie. This is OZ as I know it. It’s OZ as I’ve always dreamed it could be. I look at these characters and I can see them growing into their counterparts in the 1939 Judy Garland film. I look at this movie and can see how they could create a whole new series of OZ films in their own continuity. It took decades, but Disney finally got it right.


Django Unchained

Movie banner

I’m not a fan of Quieten Tarantino.

There. That’s said.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate him. I don’t hate his movies….not all of them anyhow. I love his crime stuff. I can enjoy his horror. But for the last ten years or so he’s been on this kick to make “Grindhouse” style movies. Even that’s fine. Pulp Fiction has a BIT of a grindhouse edge to it. The problem is, he gets SO focused on making a grindhouse movie that he forgets to make a FUN movie. This is never more obvious than in the Grindhouse double feature. Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror outshines Tarantino’s Deathproof because he manages a perfect balance of grindhousey madness with fun storytelling. He doesn’t lose himself in the art….and I think that’s what Tarantino has done since Jackie Brown.

django-unchained-poster__spanThat all changes with Django Unchained.

There’s still a bit of the old fashioned gridhouse feel to it – in many ways it’s a ’70’s spaghetti western, but dosen’t wallow in it. The name alone is a throwback, but then is used to good effect. Those comic scenes we see in the commercials “the ‘D’ is silent” come off as a lot more serious in the film. The movie is violent, proportinately so to it’s namesake…and the violence is beautifully done. It was once noted that in Anime, the human body contains approximatly thirty gallons of blood, all under high compression. Tarantino obviously subscribes to this same theroy. Every gunshot would unleashes streams of blood – enough to make fans of Ninja Scroll go “Woah! Don’t you think that may be a bit much?”

At nearly three hours, it’s a long film, and it  doesn’t pass the watch test. Sorry, it just doesn’t. There actually seems to be two films here really, you could definitely separate it right before Django goes searching for his lost wife, but I don’t know if the movie could have survived splitting into two parts.

What really strikes me about Django Unchained though, is that it’s a fun movie. Tarantino has rediscovered that balance of gritty grindhouse and retro styling and fun filmmaking and I for one and thrilled. It’s honestly one of his best films, and a perfect example of what I love about his storytelling when it’s done right.

 


In Defense of The Punisher

defense

Punisher-FilmsA while back I mentioned that I was a fan of all the Punisher movies, though if I had to pick my favorite, it would be the Thomas Jane movie.

Really the big issue here is I think they are out of order. If you shuffle them around a bit, an arc begins to appear. Let’s do these in my order, starting with the Jane movie.

2_midiI know it’s an origin movie, but much like I do with the first Spider-Man movie, I usually start this guy in about halfway through so we have the origin out of the way. Still, that’s important to what I’m observing. The movie serves to tell us where Frank is coming from. It shows his tragedy and his immediate reaction, a lashing out at the gangsters who killed his family.

This film begins his descent into madness. You see him still in touch with humanity though, through the people in his apartment building, but even then – he’s pulling away. You know when he disappears, he’s gone for good.

10726451_galThis brings us to the Dolph Lundgren film.

Poor Dolph has constantly been blamed for the failure of this film. I couldn’t disagree more. sure, he could be a little more articulate, but then again, her dosen’t really need to be does he? The Punisher speaks rarely, and then only when there ‘s something important to say.

The costume has been blamed as well. This really isn’t a bad costume. I miss the skull. I do. Sometimes you’ll hear people talk about how the clever director shaded Dolph’s face so you could see the skull there. I think that’s overstating it a bit, but I understand. We also tend to forget just HOW different this costume was at the time. The modern Punisher wears a costume very similar to what we see Lundgren in, but back in the 80’s he was still in spandex like every other hero, with white boots and gloves.  This costume was really a bit of a shock to the fanboys. Still it was a time period when it was fashionable to do superhero movies and change the costume completely.

vlcsnap-2010-03-01-02h20m36s5The skull isn’t completely absent either, we do see it on the daggers Frank uses, but ti still would have been nice to see on printed on his T-Shirt – everything else the same.

No, what sinks this movie is the script. The more I watch it, the more i think this wasn’t written to be a Punisher movie, but rather just another low budget action flick, re-written to make it into the Punisher movie.

Having the Yakuza as the villain is a bizarre choice for a movie that’s trying to introduce a character to the public. it’s suited far more for a sequel. The dialogue is clumsy and the disgraced thespian turned alcoholic informant is just annoying.

It’s not all bad though. The “B” story with the Frank’s old partner seeking him out is very well done, probably the best part of the film. Louis Gosset Jr grounds the movie and gives us someone to relate to. I personally imagine he’s the same African American guy from the first movie who did the initial drug bust with Frank  that resulted in Travolta’s son’s death. If you can get your hands on the workprint of this you really ought to. It shows far more range on Lundgrens part – there’s more flashbacks to before Frank became the Punisher, several which are referenced in the final cut. I understand that they mostly make the running time longer and drag the pace a bit but several things make more sense in it too.

Imagine now, that it’s been five years since the first movie. Frank is now living alone in the sewer, completely separated from humanity. his descent into madness is complete and he has little or no human contact. He’s dropped weight, note eating right, never venturing to the surface world except to kill. The sum of his human encounters is that once in a while he pumps an informant for information, but that’s strictly business, not personal. He is singly concentrating on wiping out the mob, and he’s almost succeeded, but his madness is wild, unfocused.

It takes the kidnapping of the mobsters children by the Yakuza to bring him back into the human race. He comes out to rescue them in the process encountering his old partner. He begins to see the need for human contact, for relationships. Perhaps he even sees the benefits tactically. That will lead him to build more contacts and wage his war on crime more effectively. MV5BMTM4OTQyODk0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzQwNDQwMg@@._V1._SY317_CR0,0,214,317_Something we see in full swing in the next film : War Zone.

In War Zone, even more time has passed. The stated body count has increased from the Lundgren film. In this movei we see Frank has built a support structure both in his police contact Soap and his armoror Microchip. Micro’s supplies have helped fortify the sewer that Frank is still linvign in and probably helped him be a more efficiant killing machine. Now with his madness and rage fous insted of wild like the Lundgren movie, we see a more human Punisher, deadlier than ever. Children are still his best connection to humanity thoguh and we see that again here, a theme continued from the Lundgren movie. It fits best this way.

It’s a pity the way War Zone was received. The director has stated being frustrated by the cries of over the top violence in this movie (see my upcoming  article on Judge Dredd for my opinions on what constitutes Ultra-Violence. This movie has a lot of kills, but not a lot of gore) when the critics didn’t understand she was coping most of those scenes almost panel for panel from the comics.

I don’t mind this movie, but I do think Ray Stevenson gets a little too chatty for the Punisher and the mistake of his, killing the undercover agent, which drives a lot of the story just turns me right off. I think it was poor choice. The Punisher doesn’t make those kind of mistakes, and if he dose, he doesn’t get this emo over it.

It was great to see Jigsaw here. I think he should have appeared earlier in the series, but then again, I suppose I understand why he didn’t. It’s a pity they made him so loony. Really a shame. It damages the character a little too much and combined with the other factors just drags the movie down when it could have been so much better. Still it serves as  a good final chapter in this series. As I said, there’s a definite arc here and I could easily consider this an unintentional trilogy.  It’s a pity there no more movies coming our way any time soon, but you can bet that the next time the Punisher hits the Silver screen, I’ll be there watching… and trying to see wher tit will fit in this list.


23

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

Every Wednesday and FridayNew_023


Work Snug

Found a cute little App for my phone I wanted to share.

I’m on the road a whole lot and it’s not unusual for me to need to hook up to a wifi hotspot to check something. I have NO data plan on my phone so I rely on places like McDonalds and The Library for my internet access. That’s where today’s app comes in handy.

For traveling computer users who can get lost going to the corner market, there’s WorkSnug, a free app for Android and iOS that not only finds the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot but also uses the device’s camera to superimpose its whereabouts on a live picture of your surroundings and leads you right to it.

I’m loving this app, and using it all the time. Hope it helps you out too. I wonder if Steve over at Violent Blue has this on his phone?