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Archive for June, 2014

Gatchaman and Space Battleship Yamato

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19904_602178276470156_2039833198_nHeaded out to my friend Jim’s home over the weekend for a double feature. He’d just gotten his hands on a copy of the live action Gachaman.

If you grew up in the 70’s or 80’s you probably saw at least a bit of Gatchaman or Battle of the Planets. It still has a strong following today and with the recent trend of making live action adaptions of anime properties It was bound to happen.

If you’re a fan of the series, you’re going to find all the changes irritating. It’s not just a matter of streamlining the story for a feature’s running time, there are a lot of continuity changes that don’t make any sense. If you’re not familiar with the source material it may help, but the film remains a bit confusing.

The costumes appear in a wonderful set piece battle at the beginning and then we don’t see them again until the last act. It almost reminds me of the trend in the 90’s to make superhero movies, but keep the characters out of costume as much as possible so maybe people wouldn’t realize it was a superhero film. It’s structured very much like Albert Pyun’s Captain America, but not quite as dreary. However the middle section is dialogue heavy, dripping with melodrama that the films does not earn.

One more note aboutthe costumes that was a bit of a disappointment – these are very high tech suits, armored and leathered. The bird motif is gone and gatchaman1you kind of miss it in the still shots.However, the colors and general imagery feels fine when they are in action – it’s a forgivable update.

The action by the way, is very good. When we get it it’s very over the top, with a small budget Michael Bay feel to it. It frequently gets punctuated with long awkward pause of shoehorned drama, particularly at the end. Still, these set pieces are amazing and I suspect that these were written first, with a mandate to create a story around them.

It’s not a bad film, but if I ever watch it again, I’m probably going to skip right to the final act and just go from there.

In stark contrast, Space Battleship Yamatois almost a textbook example of how to do a live action adaption of a classic anime.

The look is dead on. The characters and the uniforms (and I really want one of those jackets now…). The ship has to be seen to be believed.

space-battleship-yamato-live-action-dvd-deluxe-version-japanese-movie-dvd-eng-sub-a8511Again there’s a lot of story compressed into the feature running time, but the relationships feel natural and the drama works here. There’s an engaging story and a genuinely heartbreaking end, but you never stop believing in the film through the entire thing. I’ve spoken to someone who has seen it without the subtitles and he was still able to follow it all the way through, though admittedly the subs make it 80% better.

My only complain here if any is the running time. At well over two hours, it’s far longer than I expected, but it never drags. This is definitely one to catch, but know what you’re going into.

For someone whose anime days are really based inthe 80’s and 90’s, this was a great time and really fascinating to see so many familiar faces and places done so well in live action. If you’re an old anime fan or a new one or even just a fan of jamanesecinema,these are definitely worth a try. I’d recommend a rent first. These might not be everyone’s thing, though I suspect I’ll be purchasing a copy of Space Battleship Yamatofairly soon.

 

 

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Angel Lite commission

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An Angel Lite commission From “the Ballad” Two of the Duncan brothers.

Doc Duncan one of the oldest him and Johnny like to go back forth on whose better with the steel. Johnny might me be more slick than him. But Doc’s faster and more sly and his a southern gentlemen

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Archie Duncan a Space Pirate and the youngest members of the Duncan gang.

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And don’t forget, new Violent Blue tomorrow!


153

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

Every Wednesday and Friday

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In Defense of Star Trek Five

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st5There’s no doubt that this is one of the weakest films in the franchise. In fact, there’s really not a lot of defense for it, but then again, the movie isn’t exactly the one who needs defending. What this really is, it’s a defense of William Shatner.

I’m not a fan actually, but I think he gets unfairly savaged when it comes to Star Trek five. It ended any feature directorial career he might have had and at the end of the day, there’s so much of what went wrong in this film that just wasn’t his fault.

Let’s start with the one real thing that WAS his fault, because it affects a lot of the rest of the film, but didn’t necessarily have to. Shatner’s greatest sin was begin an inexperienced director. Sure he’d done some TV work, but that’s just not the same thing. Having directed a couple of features myself as well as episodes of my own series, I can tell you that logistically those two tasks are very different. the vision has to be different. There’s a ton more “moving pieces” you have to coordinate. But most of all…you have a very different relationship with the studio. And that’s where everything began to go wrong.

st51Shatner invoked the favored nation clause in his contract (basically an agreement that anything they give Nimoy, they have to give Shatner as well.) generally used in salary negotiations, but more than one source has mentioned that this was Shatner’s way of leveraging his directorial debut on to Paramount. The studio wasn’t thrilled about this, but did still have dollar signs in their eyes after  Star Trek 4, possibly the most successful of all the Trek films (ironically, my least favorite). They backed Shatner into a corner and got a fourteen to sixteen month scheduled. They’d tried to do this with Nimoy, who had flatly refused, stating he needed at least two years to do things properly, and more likely three (I actually remember him mentioning this in an interview after Star Trek 3). Shatner’s inexperience allowed him to be bullied into an impossibly tight schedule. Still, that wasn’t necessarily the end of the world as long as you have a good crew working with you – particularly in per-production.

Well, that presents a little problem we like to call “The Writer’s Strike”. Hitting ST5 atst59 the worst possible time, we ended up with a less than polished script. In fact, we have a flawed premise from the word go. It’s one thing for the Enterprise to search for and encounter a small-gee god. It’s another for them to try and find  God, Elohim, Yahweh, Jehovah. The problem is, anyone with the clout to be able to explain this to Shatner and company was out in front of the Paramount building holding a picket sign.

You don’t just need good people in pre-production though, you also need good people in production. Star Trek in particular NEEDS good special effects. This was 1989 – the year we learned the true meaning of  the word “Blockbuster”. Sure we’d had them before, but this is one of the first summers where we had constant back to back blockbusters packing out the box office. Indiana Jones and The Final st57Crusade, Batman, Ghostbusters 2 and that’s just for starters. What this translated into was a shortage of effects houses, and you could just forget booking  Lucasfilm for another year at least (There’s that rushed production schedule again!).

ST5 went with a smaller house that was known for it’s smoky, wispy effects. It’s a decision that kind of makes sense as they were thinking about what to do with the Great Barrier section of the film. The problem was that this effects house had NEVER worked with models like this before. They had to learn the process from st58the ground up and the end results were….less than spectacular. The green screen is obvious, the tone and lighting is frequently wrong and the ship movements are jerky, unnatural. It brings the whole film down, and strips away a great deal of the suspension of disbelief.

Then there’s the villain chase at the end where Kirk is pursued by a giant floating head.

Well, that wasn’t actually the intention.You can find this in both the novel and comic adaptation. The original idea was to have the rocks burst from the ground and assemble themselves int man-like forms that breathed fire and chase Captain Kirk through the desert and up the cliff. Almost sounds similar to what we saw in Galaxy Quest. Of course today, thisgq would be all done in CGI, just like it was in Galaxy Quest, but in 1989, it would either have to be suits or puppets. IMDB reports the budget for ST5 at 27,800,000, higher than four. So I don’t understand what happened when they bargained Shatner down. He wanted an army. The studio said too much. We don’t have the budget. Shatner was willing to play ball. Five. He said. They agreed. Month’s later, word came down that five was being reduced to three. On the day of shooting, only one rockman costume appeared on set….and it looked awful. It looked like a rubber suit, not even up to the standard of the monsters that we saw on the TV show in 1966. The floating head was a post production fix…and one Shatner should st54actually get some credit for. It was a good bit of quick thinking that ended up being surprisingly effective.

Post production was rushed due to the firm start date in summer 1989 and there was no time for test screenings or tweakings. The film was going out as it was, for better or worse. So much of the story of Star Trek 5 is a tragedy of studio interference. A more seasoned director might have been able to turn out a superior film under these conditions. A more experienced director might have been able to stand up to the execs and fight for what was best for the film, perhaps snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Shatner just didn’t have that kind of juice and even worse, he didn’t have the kindst56 of support a first time director really needs to thrive.

A lot of times I’ll use this space to recommend you go revisit a movie and try to see it through different eyes.  This time around I have a different suggestion. Head to the library or the used bookstore or even Amazon and get yourself a copy of the novelization. Back in the days before DVD, there was no such thing as “Special features”. You know how we got to see deleted scenes? We read the novel. You want to see how truly scary Kahn is ? How brutal and violent? Check out the novelization for Star Trek 2 – you’ll see Kahn murdering the space station crew in scenes that were only hinted at in the film. The same is true of this film. The novelization helps show how good a film this really could have been if it had a bit more time, a bit more polish and better visuals. Shatner’s flair and touches are still there, but a lot of the gaps are filled. It’s not a short book. It’s as long as any of the Star Trek novels, actually longer than most.  Pick up the book and see if that changes your opinion about Star Trek 5.

 

 


Monster Bash 2014

Conman10300521_783678301676595_6738373931679320802_nHeaded back out to Mars for Bash, this year 10151905_783678145009944_1020727276008162128_nwith 7-year-old Maddie in tow. I figured Bash would be a good first horror con for her, but had no idea how she would like it.

Maddie was enthralled from the moment we reached the doors and saw the Dragula. She really wanted to get in it, but being roped off, I was a little wary to let her. We also passed a green Creature of the Black Lagoon car. The creature car was so cute, with details on the sides, a plushie creature in the front seat and back window, and a liscence plate reading “creech”.

We got inside in time for morning cartoons. Maddie has never seen Woody Woodpecker or Chilly Willy, but recognized Bugs Bunny at least. a lot of fun watching and she laughed through it all. She also discovered the Three Stooges here. I don’t know that she’d seek them out, but she had fun watching them, describing them as weird but funny.10487477_783679515009807_7828695295420606985_n

We got in and started to meet some of the guests. Judith O’Dea is someone I wanted to meet for a good while now. She’s the last surviving cast member from Night of the Living Dead  that I haven’t gotten to see and she was a delight. Very friendly and outgoing. Maddie marched right up to her  and I introduced her. She smiled and greeted Maddie and asked “You haven’t SEEN this movie have you?” Maddie smiled and admitted she’d only seen part of it (you may remember that we only made it through about half of it at the OSS zombie walk). They talked about how it’s scarier in Black and white, and I handed over my poster to be signed. I love it when people look over my posters to see who have signed it before them. She seemed to have a lot of fun looking at all the names spread across it, remembering the people – especially 10462708_783679231676502_7286672786506249640_nones like Bill Hinzman who is no longer with us.
I also took Maddie over to see John Russo. This was always part of the plan for the day. Even though I wasn’t planning on buying something over at his table this time around (I have several times in the past) Maddie wanted to meet the person who created zombies and I thought he was a good choice, having written the screenplay for Night of the Living Dead with George Romero. He was extremely friendly with her and seemed genuinely pleased to hear her questions. Maddie asked how he came up with the idea for zombies.

He replied “Well when George and I were working on the story we wanted to start it in a cemetery – because cemeteries are creepy. We knew someone was chasing Barbra, but didn’t know who. I suggested it could be a dead person – and it went on from there.”

10489911_783996241644801_5965609127265774671_nMaddie asked if Making a zombie movie was hard. His answer was “It beats working in the coal mines.” then he elaborated on it.

Finally Maddie asked how he learned to make a movie. He told her about going to the movies all the time a as kid and reading a lot. These things gave him ideas from making his own films. Maddie mentioned that she liked going to the movies too. He told her she could grow up to make them herself if she worked at it. Maddie said” It might even be easier now, with tape and video and things…” Russo loved that and told her (and later me) that she was very smart. Before we moved on he pulled out a trading card with his picture on it from Night of the Living Dead, and agave her an autograph.

You know, it seems like all day people were giving Maddie stuff. A led bouncy ball from the WOW table, suckers from one booth, a temporary tattoo from another. during our last pass through the dealers room, Maddie stopped to admire some coffins one of the artists had created. He asked which was her favorite and she pointed out the Dracula one. He told her that she could keep it.

We finally made it back to the film room for Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. The Abbott and Costello impersonators were back this year and introduced the movie, much to our delight. The lobby had been set up with elements from the films which was a great way of setting the mood. It was Maddie’s first 10320580_783678958343196_8034071362143705790_ntime seeing any of these monsters on screen (outside of cartoon fare like Hotel Transylvania). I think that in our modern day, we forget how truly scary the Universal monsters can be. The transformation of the wolfman terrified Maddie and she cuddled close to me when the monsters were menacing people on screen. The comedy helped and afterwards she declared that she loved it! however she allowed that the monsters were a little scary. Not as scary as she finds zombies though.

Back to the dealers room for an autograph and to find something for Lydia. I did get around to meeting Joel Hodgson, but have to admit, he seemed like he was bored with the whole event. He was friendly, but didn’t seem to really want to be there. His manager was a little weasel, and his prices were a little outrageous. All in all, not a great experience. Tom Savini was also he normal reticent self. I have to assume 10407788_783680278343064_3039167183084776753_nit’s just an awkwardness with people he doesn’t know. I can relate to that, but on the other hand, I watched on fan talk to (at) him for ten minuets, and while he nodded and acknowledged her, he never looked up from his iPad. On the other hand, he is fun and charming in every panel I’ve ever seen him in, not to mention amazing during the fencing match he participated in with the show runners daughter.

This was really fun to watch by the way. They had a strip set up to monitor hits while the ref kept score. Apparently this isn’t their first bout either. In a pervious match, Paisley won. Tom attributes this to the fact that she’s 17 and he’s….*ahem* a senior citizen (His words, not mine!). Apparently a few years ago, one of her friends was over at Toms table looking at the photos, trying to decide which to get, and she found a fencing one. Tom was originally up for the role in The Mask of Zorro when Robert Rodregiouz was still attached to direct. When he left the film, the role 10414580_783680148343077_56532490130144715_nwent to Antonio Banderas and Tom was really disappointed about this, but came away with a knowledge of swordplay.

I spent the match cheering for Paisley, while Maddie cheered Tom on. The goal was best two out of three rounds, five touches each. Double touches allowed. It came down to the last round. Each had one win, each had four touches. Paisley lunged, Tom came in under her arm and DOUBLE TOUCH. Tie match.  The ref laughed and shook his head. “There are no ties in fencing!” One more engarde and Tom took  the win.

After lunch we headed back for the storytelling part of the show. This is something new that they did t his year, exploring the roots of oral tradition and urban legends, then telling some stories along the way. It was half panel and half entertainment, but very well done. Maddie loves being told stories (she made me tell her the story of Dracula on the way home) and this was a great addition, and a good example of how kid friendly this convention is.

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10482813_783996244978134_6167100564771218183_nWe elected to leave shorly after the Monster kid home movies that they do, as it was getting late, the dealers room was closing and we; have to wait out another film that Maddie didn’t want to see before getting to the Abbott and Costello tribute show and cake. Still, despite leaving a bit early we had a great time and Maddie was estatic.  She ended up buying an old Wonder Woman cup to bring home for Lydia.
Lydia’s Eyes lit up when maddie presented it to her and Lydia almost tackled Maddie hugging her. I like these too, they were Burger King premiums originally. I had a Superman one when I was a kid.

She also bought a set of trading cards for herself. She found some old “Fright Flicks” cards – another item I remember having as a kid. They feature pictures of monsters on them with funny sayings on the bottom and spooky stories on the back. The vendor handed them over to her with the warning “Don’t eat the gum. It’s older than I am!”

I do believe we will be back next year. Maddie really loved it and talked non-stop about it to both her mother and sister about it.  In fact, next year…it may be Lydia’s turn to come too.

10505563_783678885009870_5310500654765114444_n 10505563_783679991676426_8323886524783566191_n10500507_783680485009710_266743760219017763_n10464366_783678188343273_83428208230382309_nThe Creature car was adorable, but Maddie really liked the Dragula best!

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Frankenstein is  EVERYWHERE!

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10443496_783678495009909_1294002831501484502_n 10463991_783678668343225_6518928035610437805_n 10407366_783678538343238_7111732293167017570_n 10474661_783679148343177_9219406363546269898_n 10351813_783678845009874_7476820005888868055_n 10380909_783678441676581_9220641375998953118_n10371899_783678348343257_4572661101843657470_n 10380909_783678441676581_9220641375998953118_n 10492347_783678808343211_6457746159925293273_n 10488125_783678365009922_6048377979430368414_n 10337750_783678398343252_3065038187317352046_n We really loved the fencing match. Zorro came out at the end!

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More monsters!

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10492188_783680535009705_1175426465629157124_n 10505563_783679991676426_8323886524783566191_n 10479071_783679468343145_9111990657292490845_n 10455918_783679635009795_5509063303899348203_n 1558484_783680395009719_3471672184063213617_n 1907360_783679905009768_4485907526485825041_n 10289888_783679095009849_48257272322174469_n 10347570_783679865009772_6145161346221347345_n

Monster Bash really does have one of the best dealer’s rooms around.

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10387345_783680101676415_6360907197223080065_n 46226_783679585009800_5697213929681690651_n  10329035_783679805009778_6313437018525164371_n 10364192_783679685009790_369387334845609798_n 10390318_783679598343132_3187475289546838466_n 10414538_783678581676567_7960357623707956439_n   10482813_783996244978134_6167100564771218183_n 10485883_783995991644826_2096692206121499787_nI was so excited to find this. It’s a vintage eraser. There was a whole line of these back when Masters of the Universe first came out. I only ever had a Merman one, which I always substituted for the figure when I was a kid. I found this for a dollar in one of the booths.

10306739_783995771644848_7105885961792484140_nI remember this figure being very expensive a while back. I got a great deal on it

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One last note, we’ll be featuring Monster Bash all week this week on Violent Blue! Head on over and check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Monster Bash This Weekend!

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I’ve got my posters pulled and my cameras charged and I’m all ready for Bash this weekend. Maddie will be coming with me and this will be her first horror convention ever! We’re packing a lunch and making sure our DS’s are charged and loaded. Maddie wants to meet the people who made zombies (which means I’m introducing her to John Russo and Tom Savini) and it’ll be her first time seeing the Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstien!
If you see us around the hotel, grab me and say hello!

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

Every Wednesday and Friday

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The Adventures of Mr. Kidzpointe part six

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Part six of The Adventures of Mr. Kidzpointe! And don’t forget, new Violent Blue tomorrow!


151

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

Every Wednesday and Friday

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