Every Wednesday and Friday
Wait a minute, there is a third movie in the fly series? You’re kidding me right?
Yes and no, you see, Curse of the Fly, while a direct sequel chronologically, is more of a sidequel cinematically… That is to say if you’re coming to this film hoping to see a half man half fly monster, you’re going to be disappointed. If on the other hand, you simply want to spend some more time in the genre – in this world, then you might actually dig this.
That’s the real burden this movie has to bear – it’s the perfect no-win scenario. It wants to capitalize on the name recognition, but does so without carrying any actors over, and gets penalized for being an intelligent progression of the storyline. In Curse of the Fly, the next generation are still trying to make the teleports work. There are some success here, but it’s plagued with sporadic failures… failures that result in horrific mutations. The scientists; brothers and descendants from our original Fly, disagree – one of the brothers wants out to persue his new love… a young woman who recently escaped from an insane asylum. But will she still love him when she discovers the corrals inhabited by the mutated failures of his terrible experiments?
Curse of the Fly is a smart story, and an interesting examination of what makes us human. In that way it fits in perfectly with this series but never quite feels like the sort of movie Return of the Fly was. That causes a problem – because this film can’t stand on its own. It absolutely requires the mythology of the previous movies, while placing a song trail in a very different direction. it’s the sort of movie I could only see myself watching as part of a fly marathon, or perhaps on a late night horror host program.
I don’t have a great deal more to say about curse of the fly, it’s definitely worth a watch but not when you’re going into – this will probably only interest completist’s, and fans of the series itself.
I should really tackle the remakes now shouldn’t I?
Every Wednesday and Friday
So remember how I mentioned that the Fly wasn’t what I expected? It wasn’t a mad scientist turning himself into a monster and rampaging through town?
Yeah. That’s THIS movie instead.
Actually, it seems like this movie is the one that has had more influence, visually anyhow, on the genre. In my last column, I also mentioned a childrens book in my local elementary school with a picture of the Fly in it. that picture used to terrify me and kids would pull that volume out and chase me around with that picture. My memory is admittedly fuzzy, but I’m almost certain that the still was this photograph or one very like it. Almost definitely from the Fly Returns – not from the original.
Given the success of The Fly, I absolutely can’t understand why this sequel was given such a smaller budget – according to IMDB’s estimates, they had about a third of what they made the original for. While there are some sets and props re-used, there’s a great deal here that had to be created from scratch, including a new monster head – one far more horrific than the mask from the first film. Horrifying but clunky. The actor inside obviously couldn’t see out of it and it shows when he dashes away to escape the folks chasing him. To make matters worse, the large head wobbles visibly.
The suit isn’t the only effect to suffer. Last time, I mentioned expecting the fly with the human head to simply be a rubber creature with a man’s head superimposed on it – safe, slightly transparent, but par for the course. While they opted for something far more visceral and horrifying in the original, the superimposed head is exactly what we get here. It’s clearer, but it’s also safer – and perhaps a bit more goofy.
I may be judging the film a bit too harshly though, because standing on it’s own , apart from the criticism of the excellent predecessor, this is a genuinely fun film, with a very standard plot and indulgent thrills. It’s a typical mad scientist story, edged with obsession and betrayal. The fly here (son of the original scientist) is very much a monster, with the animistic side taking over far more quickly than in the previous film. The beast is driven by instinct to avenge its human self, and is far more satisfying as a monster here. The movie isn’t as heavy as it’s predecessor, in fact it’s slightly more direct and camp format as well as the happier ending make it infinitely more re-watchable to me than the original. It’s fun, and a good (if predictable) way to continue the story.
It never hurts to have Vincent Price back as well. He’s the only returning actor, though a lot of the background returns as well. This was filmed on the sets (still standing) from the original – this didn’t surprise me, as I was watching I found myself remarking on how good a job they did replicating the props like the goggles and telepods. Even the lab looked remarkably similar – it should. It’s the same room, shot from a different angle – about forty five degrees to the right. If you look closely, you can spot the doors (which now lead to different places) and the computers in the same places they were. It’s a brilliant bit of simple slight of hand.
I like this series, and was glad to see the sequel. After all, there’s really not too much more mileage they can get out of this franchise…
I was sure I had seen this before. Really. I mean, it’s just one of those things everyone takes for granted. We’ve all see the classic monster films at some time in our lives right?
Still, I knew I hadn’t seen the Fly on the big screen and the chance to go to a Vincent Price movie in is an instant affirmative. So I packed up my car and headed out to the capitol for thier “Reel Science” (complete with an expert on flies giving a talk at the end of the flick) screening of the Fly.
My first inkling that I may not have actually seen this before was the color credits. Surely this film isn’t in color? I was confused. Every still, photo, screen grab…any material at all that I’d ever seen regarding this film was in glorious black and white. Indeed, that picture book the image of the fly in it- the one that had scared me so as a child…that was in black and white. So what gives? The Capitol wouldn’t DARE commit the most heinous of crimes – screening a colorized print of a black and white movie…would they?
Or wait…could this actually be in color? I mean, the blood dripping down from that hydraulic press sure looks cherry red – if this was a conversion, I’d expect it to look black with a red tinge on the outside….
Oh my God. I’ve never actually seen this before have I? This is going to be incredible. It’s one of my favorite things, catching films in the theater that I was too young to actually go to when it first came out, and I was going to be fortunate enough to see the Fly for the first time the way it was meant to be.
The Fly is nothing like the movie I expected it to be. It’s a slow burn, with a healthy dose of crime procedural in it, told mostly in flashback. There were a LOT of times when I though I was watching CSI:Fly rather than a horror movie.
Still, for all of the focus on the mystery of the accident rather than the monster, the movie maintains a tense atmosphere throughout. The search for the escaped experiment, the shrouded scientist, cloaked in shadows in the basement laboratory keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering if he’ll be able to make things right by the end. This is not a campy horror romp with a mad scientist turning himself into a monster and then rampaging through the town. In a lot of ways, this is really a character study. It’s a Shakespearian tragedy (You know, if Shakespeare had written about man-flies. Don’t judge too quickly there either. Shakespeare wrote some pretty gnarly things… This totally isn’t out of the question!).
Then there’s that scene.
You know which one I’m talking about. The fly with a man’s head, caught in a spider web. It’s been parodied to death. Everyone has seen someone do that imitaition of the tiny voice screaming “Help me! Help meeeee!” Familiarity breeds contempt. This is just a cheesy scare right?
Not even a little. This scene is horrifying. It’s not a semi-transparent head superimposed on a rubber flu body. The head thrusts out of the flys body as if it’s molting. Tendrils and strands cling to the chin and the spider as it slowly approaches is hideous. The close up, projected on that thirty foot tall screen as the helpless man head looks on terrified and despondent…it’s an image that stays with you. It’s one of the most terrible things I’ve ever seen in film.
The Fly is a brilliant movie, and I can’t even imagine what those early audiences, unmarred by the gore and violence of the slashers to come thought of this. It’s dramatic and suspenseful and caps off with some real horror.
And now I want more. Time to finally pull “Return of the Fly” off my shelf…but that’s a story for another time…
Every Wednesday and Friday
Every Wednesday and Friday
There’s a great story somewhere in the middle of this mess. I really like the concept of this Texas cop escorting the gangster, getting held over in Malta and then having to basically turn the country on its ear to make things right that. It’s a brilliant conceit considering that Graydon was filming in Malta for financial reasons, building a story around this very concept It just feels brilliant that he uses the setting of the country beautifully, and quite frankly the chase scenes? These are perfect – boat chases instead of car chases… It’s a wonderfully clever way of adjusting to your circumstances, and quite frankly more exciting.
Boy, does Graydon love Joe Don Baker. I’ve never understood Baker, I’ve never quite got how this man became a star. He’s ruthlessly savaged on MST3K on a regular basis, and rightly so. He’s not your typical image of a leading man, and it particularly shows in this film. Indeed, the opening sequences include a moment with Clark himself playing Baker’s superior and reminding him that he looks a little out of shape and reviews are coming up. The costume is a little over the top as well – watching this I almost wonder if Graydon Clark was trying to create a parody of a Texas Lawman, but from hearing him speak and reading his book – I don’t think that’s the case so I really don’t get this garish choice in wardrobe. Maybe it’s the time period, perhaps you could get away with this nonsense little bit more easily in the 80s but I really don’t know. It’s odd to the point of being distracting sometimes.
The film is well paced and still fun, but honestly, you’re probably better off watching the MST3K version of this if you can find it. I’m honestly not sure that it passes the watch test otherwise. Of Clark’s films, it’s certainly not even close to being one of my favourites.
It’s that time of year again. That time when Wizard World sets up in Cleveland and I look for an alternative. Last year I ended up finding another convention to go to – and I enjoyed Great Lakes so much that I returned this year as well, however they didn’t co-incide with Wizard World Cleveland this time so I needed to find something else to do.
Before I found Great Lakes Comic Con last year I had considered protesting Wizard World Cleveland by hitting all the local comic shops and spending some cash there. It still seemed like a good idea and so I set aside some oney – the equivilent to what I would usually spend at a Comic Con, hopped in my car and headed out on my “I-refuse-to-go-to-Wizard-World” tour. #NotAtWizardWorld #ShopSmall
First stop is Keith’s comics in Elyria!
Address: 394 Broad St, Elyria, OH 44035
Phone: (440) 323-2000
This place of been here forever, and was one of the comic shops to rise during the boom of the 90s. The owner Brian is always involved in free, comic book day and the superhero events in the Elyria Square. Grabbing some Superman for me, and Supergirl for Maddie here.
Next we turn around and hit the freeway to pop over to my “home shop”…..
Comics Are Go
I first discovered comics are go when it was still Astound comics and located in WestLake… Amy and I were on our anniversary and going to dinner at the restaurant next door to the shop.
It’s been my preferred comic shop for at least a decade, and I always feel bad that I don’t spend more money there!
These days, it’s on by my friend Eric who are used to play hero clix with, and I know I’m never getting out of there without a long chat with the guys there!
They just filled up the dollar bins with a bunch of silver age books…And OMG, I think that’s the first hulk I ever bought when I was a child!
Okay, admittedly I’m stretching my definition by including recess here – but back when this shop first started it was reality recess, and they did include comic books. It used to be a small lot in the mall, and would frequently move location – technically it was a temporary set up to get a better rate. These days they’ve long outgrown that small space, taking up entire corner of the shopping complex outside great Northern mall – a sprawling space with every game you can possibly imagine.
Carol and John’s
I always refer to Carol and Johns as sort of the center of Cleveland comic book culture – with big events like their free comic book Day party and Christmas celebrations, not to mention their involvement with pop! The comic culture club, and their general investment in the Cleveland community… With all of this, I always seem to find myself coming back here – it’s been made easier than last few years since I now work close by and they can almost always be relied to have the most recent stuff from a month or so back still in stock. It’s one of the biggest shops in the area, and certainly the nicest… Definitely enough of an impact that wizard world noticed them and did some cross promotion with them.
And did I mention that everything is on sale? (I’m catching up on my suicide squad ) They’re having their own event… Winston world- Winston himself, is celebrating by taking a nap. Too much catnip on Saint Patrick’s Day…
B and L Cards, comics and nostalga
B and L reminds me a lot of the way, bookshops were just before the boom… Dark and dusty, with Sun stained posters littering the front window… It’s not necessarily a bad thing either. This used to be one of my regular stops on free comic book day, in till the comic shop hopping got to be a little too much for me… Owner Larry, had a small part 10 years ago in the independent movie Hero Tomorrow made by The creator of Apama; Clevelands own Superhero. They usually have a big bin of fifty cent comics by the register which is where I make a beeline for right away every time. Today it was front loaded with a bunch of Archies, but there was some marvelous silver age stuff towards the back – I’m particularly excited about that Flash and Thor stuff.
My next stop wasn’t far, and I forgot about the 25 cent bins here! You know what? I don’t know why, but it’s been years since I’ve been in the store. I’ve never understood how Northcoast Nostalga and B and L comics survive being literally right down the street from each other, but somehow they make it work. North coast Nostalgia seems like the exact opposite of B and L, brightly lit with discount boxes everywhere, shirts and statues – I get a very colourful and homey feeling walking into this place. I’m trying to spend about the same amount of money at every place, but as far as individual issues go… I probably loaded up with more comics here then anywhere else I’ve stopped!
My next stop was actually my third in the Parma area. I’m going to genuinely miss York comics… The owner is retiring so it’s not something to be sad about, but this was always a place I could count on getting the hard to get free comic book day books… I love that they did a food drive as part of their FCBD celebration( they’d hand everybody a bag full of the standard books, but if you wanted the slightly more rare ones… You had to bring in canned food) I remember one day I stood in line with two bags of food because the kids have decided not to come with me at the last minute. The guy behind me didn’t realize that this was how York was operating and the book he really wanted was one of the ones not included in the standard set… I was able to give him one of my spare bags of food so he can get the mouse guard hardcover he really wanted! There are always interesting things to be found here – this is the store where Maddie first discovered Star Sapphire and absolutely fell in love with the character… I’m glad I managed to slip in here at least one more time before they closed.
Ground Zero Comics
Address: 15139 Pearl Rd, Strongsville, OH 44136
I have fond memories of discovering this place back in the summer of 96, when I was home from College and just kicking around that evening – it was surprisingly late but the place is still open… I grabbed some Ambush bug and discovered they weren’t officially open, but was invited to join the party going on. I headed to the back where Monty Python and the holy grail was running. I hung out, we played games, somebody brought out a guitar and I strummed a few songs. Some drunk douche bags crossed the street and got into the parking lot, trying to make trouble and start a fight. A battleaxe was pulled down from the wall in the comic shop as we walked out. The drunk guys spied the ancient weapon and decided discretion was the better part of valor, beating a hasty retreat. It was a great night.
I ended up missing a couple shops on this tour though, I really feel bad about skipping Strongsville Hobby – that’s my friend Jerry’s store. Jerry also heads up the charity group Heroes United, where I do a lot of events. The comics component to the store is relatively new, just in the past year and a half or so so I keep forgetting about it. I’ll make sure to include them the next time I do this though!
I don’t think I’ve got this many current comics in a long time… I took the opportunity to catch up on things like super sons and Suicide Squad and couldn’t resist that Aqua man with superman on the cover! But it’s this silver age stuff that I kept running across in dump bins that really excites me – especially weird stuff like These RadioShack comics. I got the Wonder Woman one as well, and I want more
I was asked by a friend who I respect, why this had to necessarily be a “Protest”. And while a tour like this can be fun in of itself (some friends and I were talking about doing something similar to this in the summer),the impetus behind it honestly was my own little bit of personal activism – that is to put my money where my mouth is.
That may require a bit of explanation.
I find that large shows like Wizard World crush smaller ones out of existence and cause a sort of inflation that is perfectly acceptible in thier own micro economy. The problem is , that inflation spreads to other shows that can’t adequately support it but feel compelled to try – bringing in bigger name guests to compete with WW, and those guests have already marked up their pricing to meet the demand there, but that’s pricing that takes away from the vendors at those smaller shows. This is not a knee-jerk reaction from me against the “big con” by the way, Not every large show is the exploitative cash grab that WW feels like. Indiana Comic Con for instance is an equally big event, with far more heart – once they figure out how to run it smoothly, it’s going to be a powerhouse. One friend also pointed out Colossalcon – a show that I don’t have a lot of interest in attending, but don’t bear any ill will towards. It’s local, and fan driven and just what a convention should be. WW (and one or two others) in particular draws my disdain; I have very specific issues with the way WW is run and it’s effects I see on the community and/or convention scene. It’s one of a few shows that have drastically changed the convention scene over the last decade into something that resemble far more of a cash grab rather than a celebration of fandom (and I do not understand why people don’t realize the degree to which they are being gouged). I look at the cost of setting up at one of these and find it’s not particularity beneficial toward local vendors, and doesn’t benefit the local economy the way a smaller one does. This isn’t like say, Cinema Wasteland, a locally run and based con where they invite say, eight Hollywood guests, then fill the room with another twenty or thirty local vendors. That ratio works. It benefits the local community and economy. Something like WW has that ratio upside down with a handful of local vendors, while largely populating the con with carpetbaggers who suck the cash from the local economy and ride off to the next stop. Looking at the attendance, and the lineups – I assure you, this con isn’t bringing in tourist dollars.
All of this is why I stand by my belief that it does more harm than good. This is why I won’t attend Wizard World – not even if you gave me tickets (My wife actually tried to win some for me and I recoiled in horror! I’ve never been so glad to lose in my life!)
Still, a good point was made that Several very good friends of mine are set up there promoting their livelihoods as writers and artists. This is how they make a living, appearing at cons. I know for a fact that at least three of the shop owners I visited were either attended as visitors, not to mention dozens of my friends. And that presents a conundrum. How do I make my public objection the con without making them feel like I’m attacking them? How do I make this a positive thing, rather than just an online kevtching session?
Ultimately, I chose a little bit of personal activism. Instead of complaing about this all day and attacking the thing I hate, I choose to support the thing I love. I think that’s a positive and appropriate response.
I hope the rest of you go and do the same.
Every Wednesday and Friday
and remember, protestants wear orange instead of green!
As the storm whipped the snow around the building outside, the Eternian man-at-arms made his way past the pool and into the gloomy cavernous lobby of the hotel – a small ghost floated by his shoulder and he found himself following the green Dalek down the hall. No one batted an eye. After all, this is ConCoction.
As it neared the piles of records and old videotapes guarded by a sign that simply read “free” the Dalek found itself stuck and unable to proceed. His companion asked “what’s wrong Skarino? ”
“Stuck! Un-able to pro-ceeeeed!”
“What’s the matter?”, his companion queried.
“Carrrr-pet! Carrrrr-pet! ”
Dalek Skarino was given a friendly shove, freeing him from the snag and proceeded to make his way down the hall towards the opening ceremonies. Dalek Skarino is one of the hosts at ConCoction, usually found in the ConSuite (a lounge area with food, drink and books available to relax with) or hosting improv games like the Doctor Whose Line Is It Anyway? (which would occur the next day). This year he was joined by Vladimir Snape, a Alan Rickman impersonator who has to be seen to be believed – it’s more than just the costume, it’s the intonation and attitude with which he holds himself. It’s dead on, and when he whips out his illuminated wand, you had better watch out!
During the opening ceremonies we were also introduced to musical guests like Tom Smith and the Blethering Humdingers, as well as cosplay guests Mogshelle, Super Kayse, and Nerd Girl – affectionately referred to as the Charlies Angels of cosplay. I was just happy to have finally gotten in early enough to catch the opening ceremonies and learn a little more about ConCoction!
ConCoction is an entirely fan run convention, it’s non-profit and very much done old school. I mentioned last year in my review that it reminds me a great deal of the Star Trek conventions that I used to attend as a kid… There’s a reason for that – the people here who work at this con and organize it are vetrans of that sort of show, it’s not a big corporation merely trying to cash in on fandom (like say, the Wizard World con that’s blowing into Cleveland this weekend…) This convention is done with the care and attitude of an old literary convention mixed in with some renaissance fair and Sci-Fi con style.
It’s my second year at the show and I started to run into friends almost immediately, Jason and Tina ambushed me in the lobby and of course I had to stop to let my little Orko dual with Snape! the first event I made it to, ended up being Tom Smith’s performance. Smith is a fun humour songwriter. He pulls up with his guitar and begins to sing songs about fandom, about fairytales, anything really that comes to his mind…delivering it with his own twisted sense of humour. It’s exactly the sort of filk exhibition that ConCoction is full of. Indeed I spent a great deal of Friday night in musical performances.
Vlademir Snape was next. In addition to being a dead-on impersonator, he’s also a talented musician and the front man for a band called Platform One. He was solo here however, performing mostly cover songs in the sort of dark and haunting style you would naturally expect from Hogwart’s potion master. He interacts with his audience frequently, which really connects you to him. It’s delightful to watch him look devilishly at the girl in the front row and promise “we’ll do something upbeat this time!” just before launching into Nine Inch Nails’ “hurt”. I got some of that business myself, as I snuck into his second performance the next day in full Jor-El regalia, complete with Baby Superman. He kept glancing over, and trying not to laugh until finally breaking down and announcing “I’d just like to point out, I’m really enjoying the baby in the rocketship! “. I felt bad when Jason came to retrieve me out of the song said so that I could do his phantom make-up!
The Confused Greenies Patchwork Players were back this year of course… The improv troupe has been a part of ConCoction since its first convention in their set seems to expand a little bit every year. This time around in addition to doing improv games, they were also doing two plays – an hour each, semi improvisational with distinctly fan-based subject matter. Friday night was the tri-wizard tournament of 1594, followed Saturday night’s Beauty IS the Beast – a slightly more adult to take on the beloved classic, presented in a very farcical way. Triwizard was reasonably mild while Beast was evening programming. Of course, as the Greenies would warn before every act, “If your kids get the jokes, it’s YOUR fault, not ours!”
The Confused Greenies were joined by this years musical guests of honor the Blithering Hummdingers (How on earth did autocorrect get that name right anyhow????). This duo bills themselves as “Wizard Rock”; a folky sort of acoustic rock rooted in Harry Potter lore with smatterings of fan culture. This seems like a GREAT idea.
It sounds like a perfect match.
I don’t know what it was. Perhaps it was the fact that they were following the excellent performance from Vlademir Snape or perhaps it was the really esoteric nature of some of thier songs…perhaps I just don’t get the humor but whatever it was, this just wasn’t my thing. While technically proficient and excellent musicians this act kind of left me cold. Still, the integration wit hteh improv troupe was pure genuis and a perfect idea. I think I enjoyed thier bits during the Triwizard tournament more than thier actual sets!
There was a serious Harry Potter influence this year. If you didn’t know that the convention’s theme this time around was supposed to be “Grimm Faerie Tales” it’d be easy to assume it was a Potter con. I headed upstiars to check out the tail end of the Harry Potter panel comparing and contrasting the books with the movies. It’s a shame I’d lost track of time because I really would have liked to have seen more of this one.
Down the hall was the art show. While an artist alley is commonplace at a Comic convention, it’s not seen nearly as often at a sci-fi/fantasy show like this, and even then it’s usually squished into a corner of the dealer’s room. At Concoction, the artists are given thier own space, and are free to display the work they want to highlight and focus on. It’s an interesting concept, in it’s own way acting as a secondary dealers room. Sleepy Robot, one of my favorites, was there with a bunch of new adorable bot’s I’d never seen before, and over at Nigel Sage’s booth, they made sure to show me the Stained glass Superman print. My Little Demon (a Pony parody) was set up as well, and I was particuarly enthralled by the darling “Squirty Pie” demon – an unholy mix of pony and octopus. I made sure to snag one of Travis Perkin’s ConCoction prints.
Dinner ended up being a bit of a challenge in the Man-At-Arms armor. I expected straws! The biggest problem was that face guard that keeps me from being able to see anything below my nose also acted as a barrier to getting a sandwich into my mouth, forcing me to twist my neck to the left if I wanted to bite or sip. And only the left…because Orko blocked me on the right.
Yeah, I know. Descriptions about the perils of cosplay at dinnertime don’t really make for the best description of a convention! But it’s my experience after all…
I tried to make better use of the Consuite this year, socilizing more (and boy is that ever a challenge in of itself for an introvert like me…but then again, that’s one of the fringe benefits of con culture…. common ground)and hanging out with people there rather than just using it as a pit stop to eat or drink.
I caught one of my friends from Pop! The Comic Culture Club just outside the entrance and we loitered in the hallway chatting about the best eras for Superman and Batman, deconstruction vs a heroic purity and why DC just can’t figure out what to do with Superman. He expressed outrage that I was going with the Russel Crowe Jor-El instead of a full on 60’s version in a green tunic and gold headband. You know, there are some life choices I never expected to be questioned about…..
It was his second year here as well – I’d hear that several times over the course of the weekend. It seems like a lot of people really discovered ConCoction last year, and it’s definitely the kind of event that draws you back.
I grabbed a quick Martini at the Barfleet party. Since thier logo features a martini glass I figured it was a safe bet, however the apprentice bartender expressed some doubt. Never fear, their veteran barkeep managed to whip one up, shaken-not-stirred complete with onion juice for flavor! Still, Friday night the party was slow so I headed back out to see what else was going on. I was game for the variety show. The burlesque performance was just finishing up and I was just in time to hear Pete Mako pound his acoustic guitar. I genuinely enjoy Pete, and I’ve aught his act both here and at ZipCon. He was followed by the fanboy based stand up of Dan Brown. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating; I love that stuff like Stand-up and improve comedy are a part of this con. It’s such a rare thing to see at an event like this and it’s always a good time.
I realized that at 11:00 I’d better head home. Sleep is always in short supply during a con weekend, but I knew that by the time I got home, I’d be turning around and coming back in less than seven hours. It was cold in the void outside the hotel walls. Wind whipped the snow around my car. I turned on the headlights and plunged into lightspeed.
I pulled back into the Sheraton about ten minuets after eight the following morning. The Consuite wouldn’t be open until nine and there wasn’t really any programming going on (other than the gaming demonstrations downstairs – and sadly, I’m not much of a gamer anymore). Still, when I left on Friday night, I notice three or four parking spots had opened up and i wanted to arrive early enough in the hopes that they’d still be vacant. There were eight or so spaces free in the morning. Parking is still the single biggest issue I face with ConCoction. It was a key factor in keeping me away for the first two years and I know I’m not the only one. At 8:30, there were still a couple spots open, but it would be tough to find them. Parking was full before 8:45. I overheard grumbling about the situation all weekend from at least half a dozen sources. It was so pervasive it even made it into some of the comedy entertainment. That Sheraton lot fills up WAY to quickly and to be stuck paying four times the Sheraton rate for an airport lot invariably leaves a bad taste in peoples mouths. This is an issue ConCoction HAS to find a way to address.
I ran inside and paid the con rate for the local lot (three dollars, compared to $12-$15 at the airport lots), then checked out the records and tapes (seemingly untouched from the previous day). I discovered some Kenny Loggins and a few soundtracks for my collection as well as some Lawrence Welk and Andy Williams for my parents. From the VHS stack I selected only the ones with nothing written on the label. We’ll play some VCR Russian roulette with these later as we go through that stack and find out what’s on them! About quarter till nine I stacked up my armor and lugged it just inside the doors (it was too cold to dress outside like I usually would), suited up and went off to find breakfast for me and baby Kal-El.
In the Consuite I was greeted at the counter with a hearty “You’re back!”. Across the room, the lady sipping coffee at a table added “His front too!”.
ConCoction is pun central. I expected nothing less.
After signing up for the costume contest I made my way down to “Introduction to Cosplay : What do I do with this stuff?”. It was a charming panel about how to get started, finding cloths and items at thrift stores. I love these kind of panels, because they always give me ideas and I was fascinated to see some of the props that had been created out of items I never would have dreamed of using! The host asked me how long I’d been creating armor (“Um….well…when did Iron Man 3 come out?”) and what that progression was like. It was fun to share a little in this context.
In this same vein was the makeup panel with Cosplay guest Super Kayce. I was curious to see what her techniques were as her Bizzaro Supergirl gave normal Supergirl a black eye (Actually pretty much the behavior you’d expect from Bizzaro actually). Super Kayce kept running into problems though.
“You have such a small face!” She protested, correcting the size of the bruise with the sweep of a brush. “How have I never noticed you have SUCH a small face?”
I caught Cassandra Fear’s panel next. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this. Fear’s Confection is a candy maker that is constantly popping up at stops around the con circuit. I usually see a plate of thier Star Wars themed candy at Carol and John’s Christmas party or superhero and sci-fi themes at NEO comicon, ect. As a result, I’m familiar with the name. Less so with the face. It was interesting to hear about her background, and the challenges of figuring out how to create unique candies such as Groundhogs for Groundhog day, or trying to figure out the logistics of making a chocolate Lament Configuration box. I also finally heard the whole story behind her “Trump Dump” candies, filling in a couple of details the news stories tended to gloss over (in particular the way she was misled about food vendors for the RNC in Cleveland). It was interesting and seems a lot less mean spirited than the previous impression I had gotten, and that’s nice, because Cassandra has been nothing but sweet and charming every time I’ve encountered her.
I managed to catch a teensy bit of the Tangent-Bound network’s Podcast panel. I’m an avid fan of podcasts and occasionally fight back the temptation to start one myself. I’m fairly certain I’m better off as a listener than a creator in this instance, but listening to them, it’s nice to feel like I could if I really wanted to.
Pre-Judging for the costume contest was almost here. You know what that means? It means it’s time to bring out the rocket.
For about half of the day I’d been carrying around baby Kal-El in a basket full of blue red and yellow blankets, however earlier in the week I’d decided on a whim to build a full rocket for him, complete with blinking lights and a compartment the doll would fit into so I could “Launch” the escape pod. The Styrofoam wings had held just fine on the car ride out and I managed to not break anything as I retrieved it from the car. As I waited in the hall for my turn, I set the rocket on a chair. As my name was called, I adjusted my grip and twisted the spaceship in exactly the wrong way.
There was a sicking snap as the left wing brushed against the back of the chair and popped off.
You have GOT to be kidding me.
Even if I’d remembered to bring a glue gun (I forgot it in my hast to get to the hotel early) there was no time. I rotated the ship and prayed it would look like it was SUPPOSED to only have two fins.
Prejudging at ConConction is always a fairly painless process. It’s nice because you get to talk a bit about your theory and method, and actually explain what goes into things leaving you free to actually concentrate on the audience during the masquerade rather than the judges. I saw the lady warrior from League of Legends and her husband who I’d been hanging out with back in the Consuite parading in to pre-judging right after me. I wished them luck and headed out to find Jason, a friend who wanted my help with his Phantom of the opera makeup.
After grossifying Jason and grabbing a proper lunch with Supergirl, Doctor Strange and a couple of other folks I just met I headed over to Pete Mako’s “Psychology of Cosplay” panel. Pete’s a part of this world, Convention, fandom, anime and cosplay. But he also has an education in psychology and brings a whole new perspective to the hobby. He described a study he’d been a part of and broke down demographics as they related to the cosplay community. There was a lot there that was exactly as I expected, things like who it appeals to and how people got into it. There were a lot of elements that were completely counter-intuitive to what I had imagined. I may have learned more at this panel than any other event of the entire con.
We all piled out of the panel and straight into the lineup for the masquerade, and in a way, it was a bit of a relief to finally be done with it. I summoned up all the chutzpah I possessed and recited Marlon Brando’s monologue from Superman ’79 as I lowered Baby Kal-El into the rocket on stage and prepared the ship for launch.
Then I looked at the roof and decided I better not let the escape pod blast off inside the hotel. Someone was bound to lose their deposit.
After over ten hours in the armor I was finally able to shuck it off and eat a meal without the suit constricting my movement! You never know how much a luxury full range of motion is untill you try to bring an apple up to your lips and can’t quite reach without something ripping….
When I entered the Consuite, I spied Andy Hopp with a fist full of cards, playing a game of Dementalism with Dr strange and another companion. The cards spread across the table in a 6 x 6 grid with additional rows in front of each player… As I previously mentioned, I’m not particularly good at games but I’ve always been a fan of Andy’s art work which keeps coming across my path in the form of books and posts and of course the OddMall advertisements– Andy is the one who runs that event. I loaded up a plate and sat down. As Andy was explaining to me that the most flatulent player gets to take the first turn, the woman across the table from him flipped the card and declared that he must finish the round with his eyes shut until the next turn. When Andy was once again able to see, he noted the card That Doctor Strange flipped and informed all of us at the table that there was a house rule stating every time this card was played everyone had to eat a pickle. He got up and ran over to the bar, returning with a bowl full of dill slices which he proceeded to pass around.
Way back at the top of the article, I mentioned Doctor Whose Line is it Anyway? It’s exactly what you think it is. Improv games with a fandom twist. It’s also quickly becoming my favorite part of this show. Dalek Skarino introduced the event;
“We;come to Doctor Who’s Line is it Anyway! Where the points don’t matter and the loser is EX-TERM-IN-ATED!”
“And the winner is EX-TER-MI-NATED…”
By the time it was finished it was late enough for the barfleet party to have started up again, and we made our way around the corner, back into the hallway where the music was already pulsing. As I stood in line for a drink my lip curled in slight disdain as the opening beats of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines flooded the air. The scowl turned into a grin when I realized the DJ was actually playing Weird Al Yankovic’s Word Crimes instead. I found myself a piece of wall to hold up back where someone had set up at selfie station – the only place in the barfleet party where photographs were allowed.
“So what’s your story, “Andy asked me
“I don’t really have one,” I replied.
“Nonsense,” Andy retorted. “Everyone has a story! Start with your birth!”
“Well now,” I considered. “That’s a tough one, since I don’t know anybody who’s actually there…”
“Not even yourself? ”
“Can anyone REALLY know themselves?”
These are the kind of conversations you’re going to hear at the place like ConCoction, and nobody is even drunk yet…
I peered down at my glass as a large man in a kilt joined us and asked what I was drinking. I pondered it for a moment.
“it’s…. It’s blue.”
“They had red back there to ”
“We should try the red next,” I nodded. Andy decided to mix the two and make something purple while Doctor Strange decided to go with a sensible, normal drink.
Under the swirling lights and the Bon Jovi dance remix, The Phantom of the Opera swished past the man in the kilt, and I waved hello, greeting him before he vanished with his wife and a photographer into the depths of the party.
ConCoction is unique as conventions go… It’s still young, but it feels like a mature convention – one that’s been around long enough to know how to run things smoothly and cater to its audience. As you can see, it’s such a unique experience that I have to write a blog post the size of a book just to convey the gist of my weekend there. It’s one of those shows like wasteland that’s an experience, a reunion, and a party – and one I think I’m always going to look forward to returning to.
Every Wednesday and Friday
So something strange happened today. i came home to find a big yellow envelope that happened to be from Julie Andrews. It was a note saying she doesn’t sign through the mail and the return of my Mary Poppins picture (already signed by Dick Van Dyke).
Population 2 is a story about a post nuclear apocalypse told mostly in flashback from the perspective of the sole survivor – a woman who wanders the earths looking for supplies and attempting to stay alive. Ther production values here are extremely good, well lit, well shot. In some ways it feels a bit like a student film, but with real actors – done, say at the end of the semester.
There is a good story here somewhere, but it gets lost in the form – the way that the story jumps back and forth between present day and it’s flashbacks can sometimes be a little bit jarring. While all the characters are extremely well performed and giving a compelling narrative, I spent about half the film A little confused and off balance – I get why now that I know the story, but as I was watching I frequently found myself not totally certain what’s going on or why – the set up is occasionally too vague, but the payoffs generally explain away my confusion.
The CG is the most daunting part of the film, the cutaways to the bomber aeroplane that occur in between just about every flashback and flash forward to the present. The plane itself is a compently constructed CG model, but it never feels right to the eye – the movement and the shadows are off, it just doesn’t work. Inside the plane, we have an equally CG cockpit – obviously a guy on a flight suit shot against a green screen and we cut back and forth between angles of him and a cockpit dashboard that again has obviously been created by computer. I understand the limitations of budget, but they use this sequence so much – and it’s the same footage again and again and again, with voices overdubbed to give the impression of the pilot in a casual conversation with whoever is on the ground. It does nothing to drive the story, and you can’t even find any sympathy for these characters as you’re still not sure what the deal is. I genuinely wonder if the sequences want inserted just to inflate the running time and get a respectable distance past 60 minute mark. This is a perfect example of how this film loves its stock footage. We also get stock of the Holocaust itself, as well as bits and pieces introducing talk shows and such – it all becomes a little over the top. The film earns its beats, the drama that we feel is absolutely justified, but undermined by those aeroplane sequences. Even the framing sequence is poorly paced – it’s too long to really be considered just framing sequence, but too short to really contribute anything other than some interesting imagery.
This film would probably work far better as a short feature – trimming the stock, trimming the present day, dropping the aeroplane stuff altogether to bring it down to a tight 35 to 40 minutes – I think we’d feel the drama and engage with these characters far better then.
It really is the perfect kind of film for a collection like this… I’m glad I saw it, and if I’d watched it at a film festival, it would’ve stuck with me just like it does now. But I don’t think it be too happy if I plunked down $10 for a DVD. Great get a collection like this and definitely worth a watch, but not worth the buy by itself.
Every Wednesday and Friday
Okay, I’ll admit, this guy is straight up Dennis Quaid from G.I. Joe. It really is, but with a uniform tweaked to look more like some of the Image versions of Duke.
Every Wednesday and Friday
Graydon told me about Wacko – in many ways it’s a template for the scary movie franchise. It’s also the first film that Andrew Dice Clay ever did and the more I listen to him talk about it, the more I was intrigued. The hard part was finding it though… It’s been in and out of distribution and really your best bet is a bootleg at a convention or piracy – which is a shame because Clark doesn’t get a cut of any of that.
Wacko is an interesting artifact, it comes from a period where horror was just entering the slasher days, and yet, there is only one notable fiend- Michael Myers. Jason’s hockey mask had yet to appear. Freddy hadn’t been dreamt up yet. It seems like so many of the icons of horror had yet to be born, and it makes this feel… Incomplete. They rely heavily on gags about Psycho and Rosemary’s Baby, there’s a few Halloween jokes here and one reference that might be to Texas Chainsaw. All of this is smashed into a film that plays very much like Grease. A lot of the comedy is way over the top, but lacking the slapstick that would make that over-the-top deal work so well. It picks up a great deal in the third act, and I found a little difficult to get there – aside from the novelty of seeing Joe Don baker and Dice so young . In any event, this really deserves to be seen – in fact it deserves a wide release, if nothing else as a special feature on the next scary movie film or equivalant parody film!
Unpopular opinion; I didn’t enjoy Logan all that much. It’s absolutely not the best of the X-Men films. Now mind you, it’s not that this is a bad film per se, what I found myself not liking, was what happened to these characters then I have known and loved for decades. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back to the beginning.
Logan is the story of Wolverine in his later years as he tries to get the first new mutant born in 20 years across the border and to safety. Spoilers from here on out.
First and foremost, Logan is not designed to be a blockbuster. It’s not designed to be a summer tent pole movie – in fact it’s not really even designed to be a superhero movie. This is an old grind house film. There is a heavy Tarantino influence on it, cowboy pants and generic south-western settings, gritty violence along with a loner in a bullet ridden car – indeed all its missing is a scene in A darkened coffee house/family restaurant. Something 70s style, with rocks on the wall and waitresses in uniform (I waited all two hours for that and was shocked it didn’t happen). Logan is an old man now…although Hugh Jackman still manages to be the most stunningly beautiful “old” man I can imagine. Professor Xavier is still alive as well, but suffering from a brain disease – it’s never quite spelled-out if it’s Alzheimer’s or a variation of that, but he is certainly deteriorating. It’s a sad state to see Professor X in, and it feeds into the core of my old issues with the character. I need to like Professor X. I need to look up to him. One of my main problems with the X-Men first class films is that James McAvoy is Professor X is terribly unpleasant, and unfortunately, Patrick Stewart seems to be channeling a lot of that here. It’s more forgivable though, because it seems to be a result of his deterioration. The old optimistic, wise Professor X still manages to emerge from time to time and I’m reminded just how perfect Stewart has always been in this role.
Indeed, the fact that this was an X-Men movie with Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman starring once again, was what got me up to the theatre. It was not Wolverine that got me to this movie – I’ve never been a fan of the character. It was not the comic book hype – at this point there are so many comic book films out I can actually afford to be selective, and it certainly was not the R rating.
I appreciate the fact that they were able to do whatever they wanted with the higher rating, but just because you can do a thing does not follow that you necessarily must. The hyper violence that we are treated to is necessary, and actually has been missing a lot of times. We get a glimpse more of it in the R rated cut of The Wolverine (the previous film), but in Logan they really cut loose, showing exactly the kind of damage Wolverines claws and rage can inflict. I think it also allows them to get away with far more using the young child Laura, or as you’re more familiar in the comics – X-23. The scenes of her violence and devastation are very likely too disturbing to have ever managed a PG-13 rating. The soulless killing and lack of conscience that we see in her, may well have pushed this closer to an NC-17. Quite frankly, this is why Wolverine needed an R rating. Not just so that they would have an excuse to use the word “fuck” repeatedly.
This is one of those things that bugs me, that most of the uses of the word are unnecessary and when you pull out the F bomb too often, it loses its power. Every instance where it is preceded by the word “the” would’ve been better substituted with “hell”. It fits the speech pattern we’ve seen in the character previously. Professor X should never be using that word, it makes him look less intelligent (This is not an argument about whether intelligent people use adult language. It’s a statement about appearance – and film is ALL about appearance) . However the temptation, now that they have license to do so, appears to be just too strong and it’s a disappointment to me (particularly since its only the heroes that ever use the word! Did anyone else catch that?) It fits in Deadpool, which was always conceived as a blue comedy. For my money however, it detracts in Logan.
We knew that this was the final outing for both Jackman and Stewart, and about halfway through I started to get that vibe – the one that tells you somebody, if not everybody, is about to die. It makes sense, as a way to punctuate both of their tenures in these films, but in both cases the deaths felt anticlimactic. In Professor X’s case, it’s downright ignoble. His death in X-Men three was far more satisfying (and is there some unwritten rule that the third film in an X-franchise HAS to be depressing?), but at least here. He was able to have that one perfect day before the end. Wolverine’s demise is marginally better, it’s certainly more heroic. Nevertheless, for some reason it just doesn’t feel as spectacular and over the top as I would’ve liked. I understand it though, and it was a good decision to end the film this way. The last scene where we closed tight on his grave marker is brilliant, and it reminds us that we are still in the X-Men universe.
This film is a hard call for me, because while I enjoy the violence that we’ve finally gotten (and truthfully waited for so long), we also have to deal with the more depressing scenes of the film they go along with that. I don’t like the implication that the X-Men were wiped out by Professor X, that everyone is dead under such terrible circumstances. I don’t like the lonely end Xavier comes to – he deserves better than that. They all do. The film certainly has resolution, but it’s not the sort of resolution that leaves you feeling like everything is going to be okay, that all these characters are going to be safe and sound. It’s dirty, messy. It doesn’t feel like it belongs in a superhero movie.
But then again, like I said at the beginning, this – is not a superhero film.
Every Wednesday and Friday