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The Crow : Wicked Prayer

boxmwicked_prayer_posterFor years I have been told that the Crow Wicked Prayer is the absolute bottom of the barrel. It’s the worst of all of the crow sequels. For that reason I’ve never actively sought it out, I haven’t exactly avoided it but I never gone out of my way to find the film either. If I would catch the start of the film and cable, I probably would’ve watched it all the way through or at least grabbed the VCR to record it and watch later. As it is, I’m only now getting around to it – the fact that it was included in this set was one of my reasons for buying. It’s  a convenient way to finely encounter this film.

The big problem with any of the crow sequels is that they are… Well, sequels that in their sequels to the sort of film that is impossible the follow-up that it wasn’t designed to be a franchise.with his graphic novel, James O’Barr managed to elevate both the revenge movie and the superhero story, fusing them into 13615076_1222796694431418_7220889427768388005_nsomething that was extremely appealing to comic fans and to open minded literary types. When the story went to film, the director managed to keep the soul of the story while stylizing a look and managed to turn it into a genuine success, a box office phenomenon on that appealed not only to the comic book faithful but that was also embraced by mainstream audiences bringing entirely new fan base. The original didn’t chase after fashion or pop culture, but rather inspired it. It didn’t seek popular music but rather popularized the music that was in The film – there are very few soundtracks I can think of that are quite as influential as the Crow. So the problem comes when trying to make a sequel to it – just distilling the elements that worked while holding onto the heart and soul of the film. A sequel is generally going to manage to get one of these parts right but fails in the others.

One of the big problems in city of angels is that the villains are all just a little bit too freaky. The crow wisely kept the eccentric villain down to one – the big bad, where as all the minions were very ordinary, if scummy looking, guys. In city of angels every villain was a hyper realistic comic book looking freak – and when you populate a film with a bunch of people in funny costumes, it  immediately erodes the suspension of disbelief. I like salvation better, because it tries to get back to basics – not nearly as many strange looking people running around. The crooked cops storyline though in the end it was a downer– it doesn’t help my sympathy with the Leads. Still it was all a step in the right direction

Wicked Prayer actually works better then as the previous sequels and I love the Southwest setting, it actually feels like the mysticism of the crow. You can see that somebody really put their heart and soul into this, they really wanted to do something different, something original. The motif of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a fascinating twist, but it’s under used – I would’ve liked to have seen more depth to this. Without real exploring, it almost feels like a label slapped on at the last minute. This time the bad guys are Satanic coven led by a charismatic leader who is swaying them by promising revenge against the men trying to close the mines where their families make their living. There is a surprising amount of Star power in this film as well. Edward Furlong, Tara Ried, and David Boreanaz are all in the ensemble – but Dennis Hopper also makes a cameo, actually a fairly significant supporting character and possibly my favorite part of the plot. Even Tito Ortiz and Danny Trejo get in on the action. The idea of using a Satanic cult – once again it’s a great idea although in some ways it feels underused.  It’s really a set up to empower our big bad at the very end of the film, but I would like to see more… David Boreanaz is arguably the weakest part of this bill. I don’t know what he’s doing here… He can give a much better performance than this, but he insists on being happy and goofy through the whole thing. I don’t understand why he’s playing this for comedy, it drags the whole thing down and undermines the very serious performances that everybody else is trying to give.   Tara Ried – this poor girl gets a lot of criticism, rightly so, She’s one of those same characters in every role she gets. Here you can see in her performance that she is trying really hard – and there’s moments when the role is just a little bit beyond her, but with a little bit more time to frame and push and edit it a little better she could’ve pulled this role off. She’s not miscast, which is the common criticism here. I think people were expecting her to be a carbon copy of Bai Ling’s role in the original – I don’t think that’s her purpose here all. I do think she is playing a bit of a dark sexpot, with momentary flashes of power. It’s a good role for her, and a good chance to scratch, but again she is undermined by Boreanaz’s poor choices.

Edward Furlong is an interesting choice for this. I’m not a fan, I’ve never seen the brilliance in his performance that everybody else seems to have admired – not even in his T2 role.  At times I almost feel like he looks too young for the part that but honestly that’s not the real problem here, the biggest issue facing his character is that the character has such a chip on his shoulder from the word go- it makes it very hard to sympathize with him. indeed, I think the producers realized that it was hard for the audience to connect with him, and they spent a lot of time playing getting-to-know-you. We do not see the appearance of the Crow in full make-up until nearly half way through this film – and that’s way too long to wait got in the Crow. Edward is a sort of angel with the dirty face. We never get an impression that he is anything but in all honestly a generally good guy. In fact killing seems unusual for him – a step too far. He’s got a troubled past, with an assault on his record, everybody in the town hates him and he’s ostracized – the only friend he’s got the lead person who cares for him at all is the girlfriend. I suppose setting him up as an outsider it’s not a bad thing, but he resents it – almost to the end. Perhaps we were supposed to side with him, but really it does not endear him to me. Still, as the Crow Furlong actually works. I didn’t think it would, but the more you look at it the more it becomes comfortable. I love the Indian feathers on the costume and those kind of touches to it – the fact that he drives around in a hearse though, is perhaps just a little bit too on the nose. It’s a symptom of the film trying a little bit too hard to be relevant to pop culture. Really, that seems to be the motive between a lot of this casting with people like David Boreanaz , Tara Reid, and Tito Ortiz. Let’s get young and hip and relevant – and I don’t think their presence there really manages to for fill that purpose.

The fight scenes and choreography are great. The director has a tendency to throw in a slo-mo shot here and there in a lot of these fights, I’m not sure if this is covering up something or if it’s just an attempt at an artistic flair. It doesn’t really do anything for the look of the film, but it doesn’t attract trouble either – I suppose it’s as much as we can ask for. Despite a rather slow first half, once I get into the second half of this film – it really does start to feel like Crow, and actually possibly more so than the other sequels. I’m really enjoying this film and I’m not sure that it deserves the vitriol that’s been heaped on it. I can absolutely see myself revisiting this film, and I wish that it had occurred earlier in the cycle. If this had been the first sequel to this series, I think it would be held in high regard. I may be starting at halfway through the film though – the origin story does take a little bit too long, but that’s a common problem in superhero films and it seems it’s produces were just following the trend of the day. I like Wicked Prayer. In my opinion this actually maybe the strongest of the sequels, not the weakest – and definitely worth the two dollars that I plunked down for this box set. The next time it’s on sci-fi, grab a bowl of popcorn give this one a chance.

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710

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

Every Wednesday and Friday


Children of the Corn : Revelation

franchisebannerFor a second I kind of had hope… I mean we’ve obviously hit a new era in the direct video series – we’ve gone past numbered sequels and into titled ones. Revelation (although IMDB also builds it as children of the corn seven – Resurrection). The quick cuts and flashes of disturbing imagery in this one remind me a bit of four and five, but then I got a glimpse of the exteriors (some of which let’s face it, are actually interiors) and the cheapness of it all dropped me right out of my suspension of disbelief and optimistic outlook.

What this is here, is strictly a film for license retention’s sake at this point. Now mind you, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing… the Hellraiser series has had its ups and downs and keeps getting made for very similar reasons – I imagine the license was set to run out about the same time in the children of the corn unless a new one got made so they both got sequels around the same time. Hellraiser however, has been in the hands of people who have a genuine passion for it… Thier biggest problem is that they keep getting hamstrung by dimension who slashes their budget further with each ill advised instalment. These children of the corn sequels suffer from the same budgetary problems, but additionally suffer from the revolving door of directors and production crew who are merely guns for hire with no real skin in the game.

Still, I like the creepy abandoned building, foggy blue streets and hurray! We have eerie corn children again, dressed in suspenders and old-fashioned clothes! The pale make up on them is a nice touch as well. This is the sort of stuff we should’ve been getting all along – and it’s a shame that it took a restricted budget to push them in these directions.

We have a young woman searching for her grandmother who was last known to be staying in a row hotel that is so rundown and creepy it would make 42nd Street crackheads in New York go “I’m not going near that place!”. The building is of course located near a corn field where eerie children wander, occasionally toss bloody corn (Man, this film loves mixing corn and blood for some reason) of the window and play hopscotch in chalked out pentagrams.

I know our ingénue, Claudette Mink from Kingdom Hospital – and she comes off a bit as a lower rent Maura Tierny. Also, what in the name of God is Michael Ironside doing slumming around this movie? If he were going to do a children of the corn film, he should’ve shown up three instalments ago when there was still some tread on these tires!

To be fair, the corn children have never had a great deal of characterization in these movies, but in this entry they’re not even people… They may as well just be scenery. They’re moving props. They’re certainly not characters.

I think my beef with this film is that it so different – both tonally and thematically. It comes with its own set of rules and concepts – The corn brings the children, and it grows magically where the dead fall or the children summon. There’s a greater evil driving everything – though no mention of he who walks behind the rows until a throwaway line near the end of the film. It’s things like this that make me leave I think the movie would have worked better in a vacuum. It could benefit from a name change and detachment from the whole children of the corn series.

It could also benefit from some polish – another week or two at the script, and a little bit more time and money – the sort of things that can translate into care and creative liberty. It might also have allowed them to have more than one or two corn children on screen at a time… I’ve mentioned before, the real scary thing about children of the corn is similar to the scary thing about zombies – 1 or 2 is no big deal, but a whole horde of them, (especially when led by a charismatic point man and his trusty second in command to give us some personality) that’s intimidating. Some creative, bloody kills would go along way towards comparing the ubiquitously cheap atmosphere that provides the film… Instead we get ominous warnings written in chalk, blood spattered milk cartons, that severed head and a lot of bloody corn, mixed with foreboding glimpses of the dead bodies the cornfield appears to be eating (I think?)

If you can make it through to the third act, there are some clever and creepy stuff that does begin to happen (Michael Ironsides finally has his first lines to speak about 19 minutes before the film ends) but you have to watch the film up until then for it to be creepy instead of just silly. The big problem, is that it feels so forced. We discover our corn children are specters, ghosts, demons or something like that. The period clothing is costume, not just the outfits they happen to be wearing. When this series began, and stretching all the way into the sequels, the look and motivation was organic. It was deep country fear of the unknown. It was religion gone wrong, and rural horror. It was logical, and it made sense. This is more like the monster intruding into our reality – and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t really work in the context of children of the corn.

This is one of those I think I definitely wanna watch again, but I want to do so divorced from the rest of the series and coming in with the perspective of it being a standalone film. I think I may like it better that way.

If you feel inclined to give it a chance the next time the Syfy channel plays it (it’s a perfect fit there by the way – with its enormous amounts of bad CGI, fire and corn stocks ) I encourage you to go into it with that same attitude.


709

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

Every Wednesday and Friday


708

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

Every Wednesday and Friday


Incredibles 2

Movie bannerimagesPeople have been waiting fourteen years to see a movie with the Incredibles fighting together again. This is not that movie.

Much like the first Incredibles focuses on Mr. incredible for most of the film, with the family only coming together at the end, this does much the same, however the roles have been reversed. this time it’s Elastigirl who’s out fighting crime (in a new suit that I actually kind of like better….) while Mr. Incredible stays home and watches the kids. Despite the role reversal, the movie really follows a lot of the same beats and I feel like I’ve seen this plot before.

Like any good sequel, they’ve ramped up the action and I have to say, the action has never looked better. The renders are beautiful, and feel more detailed than the previous film and the action set pieces are WAY more involved. This is superhero action done right. You’re not going mistake this for a Marvel movie though, with goofier kid-friendly humor liberally applied throughout. It’s the sort of thing that reminds us we’re still in a Disney film.

I’m bewildered by the ad campaign for this though. Judging by the commercials, I expected a “getting the band back together” vibe. We see the red and black suits only at the setpiece that opens the film and not again until the climax two hours later. Insted, what we have here is a very girl-power movie, that focuses heavily on the suerhero exploits of Elastigirl, the protege that idolizes her and on the sever case of adolescence that is hitting Violet.

While they do fall back on the predictable fish out of water tropes with the dad being overwhelmed by the mom’s chores, to their credit they don’t dwell on it. In most cases a film would lean into the dad as a dope routine, and while they spend more time on it than I’d like, they also show Mr. Incredible rising to the challenge – and quite a challenge it is as Baby Jack Jack starts to develop powers.

I found the villian in this piece to be fare more interesting than the bad guy in the original, but I’ll admit – I spotted them early and knew who was “behind the mask” almost immediately. Still, with the increased action and more dynamic antics, it’s cool to see the bad guy has been upgraded as well.

All in all, if your a fan of this series, you’re going to love this (and I say this with confidence, considering I attended this screening with the biggest Mr. Incredible fan I know).

The Incredibles 2 opens in theaters June 13th.


Shenanigans with Bat-Mite

Costume

I built Bat-Mite as an accessory for characters like Mr. Freeze to carry at events where carrying a weapon might be frowned upon. He’s been a great deal of fun to play with, and he even dresses up himself sometimes!

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What do you mean "There's something behind me"?

What do you mean “There’s something behind me”?

Separated at birth?

Separated at birth?

Nothing freaks Deadpool out more than Bat-Mite....

Nothing freaks Deadpool out more than Bat-Mite….

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Iron Mite!

Iron Mite!


Marc Sumerak

AutographsCan I just flat out admit that this one is a little weird for me? See, Marc is a friend of mine and it just feels strange to be chatting about the autograph you got from you friend…

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When they collected all of Marc’s Franklin Richards strips into two volumes, He gave me a couple for my kids, and signed them to each of them. It’s been Maddie’s favorite forever, and the fact that she has one signed to her just makes it better. Lydia loves H.E.R.B.I.E. in these books so much, that she requested a costume of it! (We took a photo with Marc at Akron ComicCon…)

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707

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

Every Wednesday and Friday


Twilight Zone comics

best15329-2102-17086-1-twilight-zoneEven though it is my favourite anthology series hands down, no question, there is something about it that just defies description.  You never really know what you’re going to get with the Twilight zone, whether it will be straightforward for your spacebound tragedy or a personal horror or a quest and adventure. It’s usually thought-provoking, and there is usually a twist.

There have been twilight zone comic books as far back as the old gold key comics – the ones that were mostly reprints that are used to buy at the airport. Just like the TV show they would be introduced by Rod Sterling and each book would contain several stories. In particular I remember the story about a plant with a human face – and the old Gardner falling in love with it, until the plant started to shrink and whether. Even as he felt a heart attack ravaging his body he realized the plan was a perennial, and with his last ounce of strength he got back into the ground where it would bloom the next year. He died next to it but when the flower blossom and a year later another flower bloomed next to it, another flower with a human face –the face of the Gardner.

Sadly, I no longer have any of these old ones but I do have a few from the 90s. Now 956507comics was trying very hard to follow the dark horse comic company model – mostly licensed properties with a few original titles thrown in. They published comic book versions of married with children, the green hornet, and… Twilight zone. The fact that they were using the 80s logo – the grateful dead theme song look captured my imagination – made me immediately receptive to them.  I grew up with these and have very fond memories of this incarnation of the series. They would do adaptions from time to time, things like “crazy as a soup sandwich”, but most of the ones that I read were straightforward new fare.

Like any comic series, it’s an even – there are some brilliant stories here, like the one about the little boy getting adopted by Alien parents while others are simple pulp fare like the Motor Psycho story. The artwork is extremely standard – very traditional comic book style in a time where people like Jim lee and Rob Liefield were changing that dynamic. As a result that combined with now being a small publisher, the series kind of falls between the cracks.

The thing that really stands out about this run, are the covers. Frequently painted and always stunning, I still pick these up just for the shocking cover art – and that’s a funny thing because that cover art even more so than any stories definitely has the ability to transport me – straight into the Twilight zone.