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Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Mockbuster Much? Clown Of The Dead Sure Has IT In Its DNA...



Three friends in an apartment complex must discover what’s behind the killings of three local children, all of whom drew a picture of the same clown right before they died. They uncover the evil spirit of a clown and must send it back to hell.
With IT: Chapter Two scheduled for release a month earlier, Clown Of The Dead hits stores on October 15 and can be pre-ordered on DVD here.

I'm sure this will be only one of a veritable tsunami of cheap clown-driven knock-off horrors that will claw their way out of the sewers to get a slice of the IT action.

Streaming Superheroes: Shazam! (2019)


I'm old enough to remember when Shazam was called Captain Marvel and Marvel's Captain Marvel was Ms. Marvel.

Which is perhaps why I had some issues with Shazam! (the movie), even though it is essentially Big retold with superpowers. And everyone loves Big, right?

Even the makers of Shazam!... who acknowledge this obvious influence with a little nod from a giant musical keyboard scene.

Shazam! essentially tells two distinct stories: one about a troubled foster child, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) doing everything he can to find his birth mother.

So driven is he that he runs away from multiple foster homes, and keep people at arm's length emotionally.

But parallel to this earnest tale of a young man's quest to find a family, we also have the story of Billy Batson being chosen by an otherworldy wizard - also called Shazam (Guardians Of The Galaxy's Djimon Hounsou) to become a 'magical champion'... called Shazam.

Whenever Billy says his name, he transforms into his superhero identity (Chuck's Zachary Levi), gaining the powers of superstrength, invulnerability, flight, speed, and lightning blasts... while retaining Billy's mind.

The problem is though - having removed any mention of Captain Marvel from the equation - Billy can't tell anyone his superhero codename because he will then transform into his alternate identity.

This becomes a running gag throughout the movie, as his 'sidekick', foster brother Freddie Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) - possibly my favourite supporting character in any modern superhero flick - keeps offering unsuitable suggestions.

I realise you could argue this isn't a big deal, but it is if you look at this through the spectrum of comic books - the source material for these movies - where the "superhero identity" is a major element of a hero's "brand".

Available digitally in the UK this week, Shazam! draws heavily from Geoff Johns' New 52 iteration of the character, which reimagined the original wholesome Billy Batson (who you could understand being considered "pure of heart" by a supernatural wizard and deserving of these great powers) into a bit of a brat.

And the thing is, for at least the middle third of the movie, after Billy is given superpowers, he becomes an even bigger brat (as Freddie points out), only really coming into his own once his family is threatened by a similarly-powered individual called Dr Sivana (Mark Strong).

This is, overall, a fun film, which digs deep into the old - and often totally bonkers - Captain Marvel mythology (including the introduction - in the obligatory mid-credits scene - of one of the greatest villains in comics. You can catch a glimpse of him in a very early scene, if you know what you're looking for. I really hope his next live-action appearance can do justice to such a bizarre character).

The central plot - around which the stories of Billy's personal life and superheroic identity revolve - is very linear: bad man gets power, good boy gets power, boy wastes powers, man wants boy's power as well, boy realises how important his powers are, man and boy fight.

Shazam! also falls into that classic old Marvel Cinematic Universe trap of pitting the main character against a dark reflection of himself (Sivana is, here, for all intents and purposes, a 'dark' Shazam, even though we discover later he has limitations that Billy doesn't).

As good as Mark Strong is as the crazed Sivana, this is a bit of a shame given the breadth of exotic and villainous characters the filmmakers had to draw from in the old Captain Marvel comics.

Every so often, when it remembers its Big roots, Shazam! injects some levity into its drama, with Sivana's 'supervillain speech' being a major laugh-out-loud moment.

While it never veers into full Batman v Superman grimdark territory (and their existence is readily - and pleasingly - acknowledged here), there's still an occasionally jarring uncertainty about just how funny this film is allowed to be.

Ultimately, as often happens with comic book movies, it's the potential of what could be done next with the characters and their mythology that turns out to be more inspiring than the actual two-hour film you've just sat through.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed Shazam! - despite all its narrative faults (much of which came from its choice of source material), I just can't wait for the inevitable sequel, especially with the introduction of the extended Marvel family (although we can't call them that).

I always loved the fact that Captain Marvel came with a ready-built team, united by familial bonds.

This is one of the things that makes the character special - and enduring - and I really hope that the sequel (and any future films) build on this, as well as digging deeper into the character's crazy rogues' gallery for its villains.

After the over-the-top excellence (and audience appreciation) of Aquaman, I thought Shazam! would have been the perfect vehicle to ramp up the gonzo stakes even higher.

Hopefully, those delights are still to come...

Weird Wednesday...

The Purge And Hostel Had A Baby...


Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there.

They don't know they've been chosen… for a very specific purpose … The Hunt.

In the shadow of a dark internet conspiracy theory, a bunch of elites gathers for the very first time at a remote Manor House to hunt humans for sport.

But the elites’ master plan is about to be derailed because one of the hunted, Crystal (Betty Gilpin, GLOW), knows The Hunters’ game better than they do.

She turns the tables on the killers, picking them off, one by one, as she makes her way toward the mysterious woman (two-time Oscar® winner Hilary Swank) at the centre of it all
.

Wonder Woman Wednesday...

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

I'm Expecting Something Deliciously Lovecraftian And Atmospheric From This...


There is enchantment in the light. From Robert Eggers, acclaimed director of The Witch, and starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. The Lighthouse — In theatres October 18

Rick Sanchez vs The Tomb Of Horrors? Yeah, I'd Pay To See That...


Rick and Morty return to the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons in September with the second chapter of their roleplaying-fuelled escapades, subtitled Painscape, in Rick And Morty vs Dungeons & Dragons II from IDW comics.
Once upon a game, Rick, Morty, and the Smith family went on magical D&D adventures…now, magical D&D adventures are coming to Earth, and no one will survive the Painscape!
The new mini-series is, once again, penned by Jim Zub, who has a great track record with Dungeons & Dragons titles, and will supposedly see Rick facing The Tomb Of Horrors (yes, THAT Tomb Of Horrors) at one point.

Variant covers also feature a character sheet design, with the first two issues featuring different levels of Rick.

Not For The Sensitive Or Faint-Of-Heart...


What happens when you realize that to achieve your dreams you have to live a nightmare?

Rose (Smallville's Laura Vandervoort) is a quiet, demure, unassuming woman in her looks and actions.

Her dream is to become a famous designer in the fashion world, but a terrible accident leaves Rose scarred beyond recognition.

She seeks out a radical untested stem cell treatment.

The treatment is nothing short of a miracle and wallflower Rose turns into the belle of the ball.

It all seems to good to be true. She is now everything she wanted to be.

But everything in life comes at a price and this new found perfect life is no exception.
Jen and Sylvia Soska‘s Rabid, their remake of David Cronenberg's 1977 film, has already gained some notoriety when sharing images from the film got them banned from Twitter!

Review Round-Up: Confessions Of A Superhero; House Of X #1; Sword Master #1

Confessions Of A Superhero (2007): A fascinating 90-minute documentary looking at the lives of four acquaintances who make their living from dressing up as superheroes and posing for photographs with tourists outside the world-famous Mann's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

The primary focus of the feature is Christopher Dennis, the Superman of the group, who claims to be the son of actress Sandy Dennis, although her living relatives deny this.

A generally positive person, Dennis seeks to embody all that is good about Superman when he is wearing the costume, and is very protective of the character and all that he stands for.

Living in a hoarder-style apartment, surrounded by Superman memorabilia, there's an inspiring naivety about his personality that borders on autistic, and despite the knocks he suffers, and the darkness from which he has come, he soldiers on.

Maxwell 'Maximus' Allen is Batman, and it's hard to tell if he really has had a shady past he claims (and occasionally contradicts) or if he's a master fantasist. Even his wife is quoted as saying she only believes half of his stories.

What is undeniable, unfortunately, is his anger issues and Maxwell's arc unfortunately peaks with his arrest for threatening behaviour.

The giveaway that this was not going to end well really begins with Maxwell turning-up for his psychiatrist appointment in full Batman costume.

Of course, it's highly possible that that was staged for the film (how could a real psychiatrist allow his sessions to be filmed like that, anyway?), but it's still a jarring moment in the narrative that makes you realise something could be going wrong.

All the street performers are governed by strict laws - including only being able to work for tips, not being able to demand payment etc - and the documentary also talks to the patient police officer who patrols the area, and explains the problems he has with some of the "pan-handlers".

Jennifer Wenger (née Gehrt), as Wonder Woman, is probably the most recognisable of the featured performers, having gotten a variety of acting gigs off the back of this documentary and being a recognisable convention cosplayer.

Her storyline goes from her desire to get away from the stifling confines of her highly religious hometown, through a hurried romance and marriage, to a point in her life where she can see her dreams maybe coming true.

Joe McQueen, as The Hulk, is the final personality of the piece. Like the others, he is an aspiring actor, but living homeless on the streets of L.A. he really has to go the extra mile to prove himself and the film ends with getting a potential big break in a Justin Lin flick.

Despite the set-backs they all suffer, overall the majority of the stories told in Confessions of A Superhero are positive, offering an intriguing glimpse behind-the-curtain at the lives of people you might possibly cross the road to avoid - for fear of being hit up for change.

House Of X #1: Although I dabbled in the Grant Morrison era, I haven't really been a consistent X-Men reader since the the height of the legendary Claremont run.

Sure, whenever Marvel has yet another reboot, I've sometimes picked up this or that launch issue, but to date nothing has really hooked me back into that side of the Marvel Universe.

The X-Men titles - despite having regular crossovers with the mainstream stories - have always felt very much their own "thing", with their own impenetrable and detached mythology.

For me, you were either an X-Men reader or a mainstream Marvel reader - no one had the time or money to do both.

Until, maybe, now.

With its blend of philosophy, surreal superscience, and big ideas, Jonathan Hickman's House Of X (and presumably Powers Of X, the sister title out this week) looks like its going to reinvent the franchise as he did with his mammoth cosmic spin on The Avengers several years ago (which led to the destruction of the Marvel Universe).

As, effectively, a new reader, there are only a handful of characters I recognise (a very cool Magneto and The Cuckoos - who I know from The Gifted TV show, as well as the old school regulars like Cyclops, Marvel Girl etc) and a take on Professor X I don't know at all (front and centre on the cover of the issue).

But Hickman's mastery of language and world-building makes me want to stick around and learn about these people and what's going on.

I have a feeling that this could be yet another franchise-defining run from Hickman. And that's just based on the first issue.

Sword Master #1: This new on-going title features two stories about the titular character.

The first is the English-language reprint of the character's glorious Chinese digital debut from last year.

Sword Master - aka Lin Lie - was created for the Chinese Market by artist Gunji and writer Shuizhu, and this story hits the ground running and never lets up.

Lie is trying to solve the mystery of his missing father, an archaeologist who left him an ancient (magical) sword before disappearing.

Slick and breathless, this tale is fast and flawless. I just wish it had been longer.

I'm not really au fait with Chinese comics, so to my ignorant Western eyes, Sword Master has a manga-like quality to it (even though, I suspect, that's a horrible cultural faux pas).

Nevertheless, I absolutely adore this title and cannot wait to follow Lin LIe's supernatural wuxia adventures.

The back-up story, by Greg Pak, features Shang-Chi going all Mister Miyagi on Lie, trying to train him to be a hero.

While still a fun read, this feels more "traditional Marvel" than the opening salvo of the title.

Comics Without Context...

Monday, 29 July 2019

Stage One Complete: Ready For Lift Off!

One day, this will be a bedroom (I think)

As of this evening, the first crew of workmen have finished the structure of our loft conversion.

I'm not sure you get the full impression from my shaky pictures (the stairs without a banister, and the fact that there's daylight peeping in places, scared the shit out of me when I ventured up there alone, after the men had left).

Alice came up with me, then disappeared out my peripheral vision and I freaked because I thought she'd disappeared into the 'storage' area in the eves... turns out she was just checking the stairs again!

Not 100 per cent what happens next. Think it might be the roofers or the plasterers, but we're waiting on a call from our "project overseer" at Space Invaders, the firm carrying out this incredible transformation.

Meanwhile, Rachel has been off picking out the bathroom fixtures and fittings (as a detour between work meetings around Kent).

Afterwards, she said of her meeting with the bathroom supplier: "I lost count of the number of times he sucked his teeth..."

I'd already had one experience of him on the phone, and wasn't overly impressed, but he has a relationship with Space Invaders, so I'm willing to cut him some slack.

I just hope everything else runs as smoothly as it has so far...

In lieu of traditional windows, we're opting for blue screens to project alien landscapes onto (just kidding)
The opening into the eves that I thought Alice had run off into!
There may be a wall now there, but stairs without a banister are still terrifying to me!
Underside of the new stairs this morning...
Underside of the new stairs, this evening!

When she got home from work, Rachel had a "test run" with a duvet to get an idea of how the bed will look up in the new room:

Trust me, the walls are straight - it's a trick of the camera that makes these
look like sets from German Expressionist cinema

Because We All Love Medieval Weapons...

Host Dave Baker breaks down the top five curved blades from Forged in Fire.

Map-A-Monday: Gilead

click to embiggen

The Republic Of Gilead, from The Handmaid's Tale.

Carnival Row: Murder Most Fairy...


Musical Monday: I Love You 3000 (Kirby Krackle)


Sunday, 28 July 2019

Turn Around! There's An Official Stranger Things (Season Three) Podcast!


Host Dan Taberski will take you deep into Stranger Things 3 universe with help from the cast and crew. After watching the series, head back here to dive into The Starcourt Mall, The Red Scare and The Mind Flayer.
You can also listen to all three episodes of this insightful three-part podcast series on:

Hey Puddin' - Week Four...

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