Feb 29, 2012

Monthly Movie Recap - Feb 2012

Here we are at the end of another month, let's see what I've forced on my eyeballs.
You can click on the bold titles to go to the film's Amazon page.

Mercury Men (20??)


Shot for under $10,000, this is a pulp sci-fi adventure in the tradition of ole timey serial pictures. There are 10 episodes and each is around 7 minutes. In 1975, the Mercury Men take over an office building and attempt to activate a device that will crash the moon into Earth! You can check your local cable's On Demand listings under SyFy or watch it on Hulu.

Cool: Great job capturing the retro-pulp feel; The Mercury Men are surprisingly creepy!
Lame: What did we ever do to Mercury to deserve this?
Rating: 7/10, worth a watch!
Be sure to check out their website for the digital prop section, including virtual trading cards, posters, and mock-ups of action figures and video games that would have been made if this came out in the 70's.

*Doctor Strange (1978)
Image from Sanctum Sanctorum Comix
Attempting to cash in on the 70's popularity of superhero TV shows and the occult, Marvel did a TV pilot movie for the Sorcerer Supreme. They changed up his origin and made him a womanizing psychologist (hey, it was the 70s!). I remember seeing this a while back and not liking it, glad I had a chance to revisit it.

Cool: Nods to the comic, including the iconic window in the Sanctum Sanctorum, Wong, Clea and even Morgan LeFey
Lame: His costume has way too much bling; only available as a bootleg or on YouTube
Rating: 6/10 Despite the slowness at times and 70s effects I found myself digging this take on Dr Strange

Special When Lit (2009)

After finally seeing King of Kong last year, I started poking around to see what other gaming documentaries were out there. If you enjoy playing pinball, you should check this out (duh). It broadly covers the rise and fall of pinball production and also focuses on the players/collectors who are gearing up for a big tournament.

Cool: Lots of pinball eye candy; learning the evolution of the pinball machine
Lame: Did you know pinball was illegal in the US for 30 years because it was a form of  gambling?
Rating: 6.5/10 While I love arcades and "vintage" gaming, I'm more interested in the pinball machines and their artwork than I am about the people that collect and/or play them

*Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999/2012 3D)

I did a whole post weekend of release about my theater experience.

Cool: Seeing Star Wars in a packed theater, especially with kids
Lame: Still The Phantom Menace (although I like it a little more than I used to)
Rating: 6.5/10

Sideshow (2000)

A group of stereotypical teens go to a local carnival and encounter the Horrors of Nature: a bug boy, a Kuato-like conjoined man, an inside-out girl and a girl who can digest anything. After the jock loses at a rigged game (ain't they all?) he gets in the face of the diminutive carnival leader (Phil Fondacaro) and the teens get what's coming to them. Usually in horror movies, the characters get what they deserve  but that doesn't hold true here. It's more like a "be careful what you wish for" thing and some of the kids who aren't jerks are punished for no reason.

Cool: I'm a long time fan of Full Moon movies; Makeup effects are pretty good; Fondacaro steals the screen
Lame: Barely above a SyFy original movie, but that's what Full Moon is famous for
Rating: 5/10 You can watch the trailer and get everything cool about from movie without watching it

Justice League: Doom (2012)

Another DC Direct-to-DVD adaptation of a comic story. Things look pretty grim for the JLA when the Legion of Doom breaks into the Batcomputer and steal Batman's files about the JLA member's weaknesses.

Cool: Returning voices such as Conroy, Daly and Fillion; Royal Flush gang; Cyborg; Batman is a badass...and kind of a jerk
Lame: When will superheroes learn when they're fighting a super villain team that they need to switch off their nemesis?
Rating: 7.5/10, Really enjoyed it but it's not quite the gripping story of Red Hood or Batman: Year One. It could have been a bit longer to explore the JLA's reaction to finding out Batman has the goods on all of them.

Puss in Boots (2011)

About the only thing Puss has in common with Shrek is that it takes place in the same fairy tale universe. And that is a great thing! It never feels like they're trying overly hard to appease an older audience. They all but do away with pop culture references and "clever" jokes aimed at adults. The result is a great looking, fun adventure for all ages.

Cool: The "ooooo" kitty; the Batman-like costume for the rival thief; fight choreography
Lame: My only regret is that I saw this on DVD and not Blu
Rating: 8/10, gets everything right the last couple of Shrek movies did to make me not remember them

Land of Doom (1986)

Look at that fantastic 80s poster! Now think of all the awesome this poster is promising you...now throw it right out the window. I was really hoping for a decent Mad Max ripoff/post-apocalypse 80s flick. What I got was not much action and a lot of running to or from places. Most of the bad guys look like they were outfitted at an S&M store that was going out of business.

Cool: Just look at that poster!
Lame: I kid you not, there is a guy riding a 10-speed in the desert carrying a puppy at one point; Oh and I almost forgot to mention the jawa knockoffs
Rating: 2/10, so far the second worst movie I've watched this year

Zaat (1972)

AKA The Blood Waters of Dr. Z on MST3k.
A Nazi mad scientist decides to get revenge on the colleagues who scoffed at him by turning himself into a half-man, half...catfish creature? Wha? Where the previous movie was terrible in its amateurishness, Zaat shines because of it.

Cool: It's a guy in a rubber monster suit, what else could you want? What's that? You say you enjoy watching stock footage of aquatic animals? Ok, there's plenty of that too.
Lame: If you're a monster kidnapping your dream girl, don't drag her underwater where she can't breathe!
Rating: 6/10

New: 7
Rewatch: 2
To-Date Total: 12 New, 5 Rewatch

Feb 27, 2012

Mail Order Monday - Lose Weight Now!

We've got a triple shot of weight loss products from the 50's to start off your week.

Weight Loss Chewing Gum (1953)
What's funny about this is I saw a chewing gum at the checkout yesterday that's supposed to help with weight loss by increasing your metabolism and suppressing your appetite. Don't remember what it's called though.

Spot Reducer Weight Reducer (1952)
This one is a little...odd. The caption near the woman's picture says you can use it with or without electricity. Um...it has a plug. What do you do with it if it's not plugged in?
The bottom left corner says it's good for helping you sleep with its gentle massage. Maybe it's just me, but it sounds a little pervy . At least you can return it within 10 days if not fully satisfied!

Meltabs (1953)
This one if my favorite just because of the eye catching headline. This is some kind of miracle wafer (not drug) that can curb your hunger. According to the ad "One Meltab wafer has the hunger satisfying capacity of 1 lb. boiled potatoes, 5 slices of white bread or 4 eggs and it's only 5 calories!"

Feb 24, 2012

Friday Funnies - The Devil's Clock & Big Snake

From Tales of Horror #3, Nov. 1952
It's a great use of coloring, don't you think?
You can read the whole story here if you like.

And the intro panel to the other cover story from that issue, "The Big Snake"

I love me some giant animal on the rampage!

Feb 23, 2012

League Post - Where Are They Now?

The latest League of Extraordinary Bloggers challenge poses the following
The 80′s and 90′s were filled with kids and teens in the movies. Which movie would you like to see a sequel made in 2012 with the original cast members, who have aged the same as you and me.
To be honest, I was planning on sitting this one out. I was going over the list of movies that I enjoy with young leads and so many of them ended in such a way that a sequel wouldn't be needed. The way most sequels (and reboots) are done these days I've pretty much equated the word sequel (or reboot) with "cash grab."

When I read the Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights series of books that chronicle the adventures of the 14 year old twins of Han and Leia, I loved it. I enjoyed reading their exploits and seeing them grow into their own as characters. The more recent Star Wars books take place decades later and the kids are now adults. I don't particularly like these stories, I much preferred them as kids. It's sort of like reconnecting with a friend you haven't seen in decades and realizing you've grown too far apart and no longer have that special connection.

What it comes down to is that in order for me to want a sequel to any of the movies I've been turning over in my brain, it's got to have a good...no, great story. There has to be a reason to revisit that particular movie-verse. TRON: Legacy may not have had the greatest story but it felt like a natural progression to me, like it fit with the original.

It came down to two movies for me: The Last Starfighter and Labyrinth. How great would it be to see Alex have a father-child space adventure? And how would raising a kid on Rylos be different from Earth?

Ultimately, I have to circle back to one of my comfort movies: Labyrinth. There was a manga/comic sequel which was interesting but I'd love to see Bowie and Connelly back on the screen. Would the story be now-grandma Sarah going off to aid Toby's child? How would the world of Labyrinth have changed since she last "defeated" Jareth? What if Jareth was the one that made it such a "fun" place? Maybe now it's more like Pan's Labyrinth and Sarah has to be brought back to restore things. I'm just tossing out things off the top of my head.

Here is 14 year old Connelly's audition. She totally sells it!
Be sure to watch to the end to hear Jim Henson.

Other League Postings

Feb 21, 2012

Bah-Da-Da-Dum (snap-snap)

My dream adoptive family came in to town this weekend, so of course I had to see them! Let me tackle the controversial question up front: I'm an Addams man, through and through.

To be honest, I've never watched an entire episode of The Munsters start to finish. The parts I have seen, I enjoy but if I have to choose in a gang war, color me Addams! A couple of guys sitting behind me were talking and trying to figure out who they were going to see on stage before the show started, getting confused between the two families.

From what I've read, the musical is supposed to be more based on the original New Yorker cartoons than the TV show which is something I don't understand. When you say Addams to most people, they will likely think of the show or maybe even the movies. Only the die-hard members of the Family will think of the cartoons. As you'll see, having expectations of the TV show causes a lot of my issues with it. Maybe it was having the tickets for almost a year and the building anticipation but there were only a few moments where it felt like I was truly at home with the Addams Family.

Before I start ranting about my issues, let me say that I did enjoy the show overall and it was a fun time!

Feb 17, 2012

Friday Funnies - Satanic Staff

From DC Comic's Ghost #25, 1974
Nothing really snarky or funny to contribute to this comic excerpt. I just love that last panel. It's the kind of thing that will haunt your nightmares.

You're welcome!
Actually, the guy in the second panel reminds me of Han Solo from the early Marvel comics.
He may not look like Harrison Ford, but he does look like the comic version of Han.

Feb 15, 2012

League Post - Hollywood Memorabilia

Cool and Collected strikes again with a new League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment.
In case you're not familiar with this weekly blog-fest, check out the details.

This week's topic:
You have an unlimited budget and space is not a problem. What piece of Hollywood memorabilia would you want hanging around in your batcave?
Wow, that is a tough one! Would I go all out and have my house be the piece of memorabilia?
The Addams Family house would be a great place to live!
And there are so many things from my almost life-long love of Star Wars! How about a Mos Eisley Cantina party room/home theater? A life size Millennium Falcon as a guest house?

I've been collecting Star Wars things for many years, so it's not like I don't have any replica Star Wars items already. And even with no restrictions, I think I'd want something not so big.

That's about the right size! It doesn't even have to run. It can just sit there and be awesome! While it may not have the nostalgia-cool of the iconic lightcycles from the original Tron, I like this version better. It's still very close to the original design and yet not as modern as the ones seen in Tron: Legacy. It was kind of a shame to hear it described as "the fastest thing on the Grid" but never see it in real action.

Now that I think about it, the set of Flynn's Arcade would be pretty cool to have....
[cue Journey's Separate Ways]

Here's a few of my fellow Leaguers wish lists
Monsterfink's Midnight Spookshow (Universal Monsters)

Feb 13, 2012

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 3D

I was lucky enough to be near one of the 10 theaters around the country that was hosting special events from 11am-6pm this past Saturday for the re-release. There was never a question of attending or not, but this was an extra bonus. We had tickets to the 1pm show but got there around 11 so we could check out the goings on. 

The first thing we did was go to the ticket taker and ask if we could get our limited edition podracer 3D glasses even though our movie didn't start for two hours. He was more than happy to let us take them. They had had other glasses which had Darth Maul deco on them but they'd gone through those on Friday. Also given out with ticket purchase were sample of the new Star Wars Fighter Pod toys, which are just like Squinkies. By the time our movie started, both glasses and toys were all out!

3D glasses with Fighter Pod toys of Jedi Luke and Porkins

Feb 10, 2012

The League of Extraordinary Bloggers - Movie Time

The blog Cool and Collected has an open invite for bloggers to participate in a weekly "assignment." You can participate as often as you want. Every Monday, they'll hand out an assignment and you let them know when you're done with a link to your post. The following Monday C&C publishes their post with a link to all the participants blogs as well. Something to get your creative juices flowing weekly and cross promotion, everyone wins! You can see all the participating blogs by clicking on the above logo.

This week's assignment is to blog about your "go to" comfort movie, that movie you watched over and over again until you could watch it in your head and recite the dialog.

I don't think it will come as a surprise to anyone that knows me when I say that movie was usually Star Wars. My parents got divorced when I was very young and when I got a bit older my dad would take me on occasional weekends. It sounds corny but him taking six year old me to see Star Wars did change my life. And honestly, it's something I can't thank him enough for doing! It's been a point of connection for meeting good friends throughout my life (some of whom I've never met face to face) and even helped me find the girl I would one day marry! To paraphrase, "It was my first step into a larger world."

Eventually there would come more VHS releases, betamax and laserdisc but this right here was my set.
When I was younger I used to know exactly how many times I'd seen each movie and if I popped in Star Wars, I couldn't watch it again until I'd watched the next two so all the viewings would stay 10 apart from each other. (ex: 30-20-10) As I got older, and started losing track, that rule went out the window. Also the "go to" started changing from Star Wars to The Empire Strikes Back.

After seeing the Trilogy so many times, I started watching with a different eye. I started looking into the movie instead of just watching it. Taking in the actions of background characters and even scrutinizing the sets for details I never really noticed before. This is something I recommend everyone do with their favorite movies. Don't just put it on, but watch it.

There are a couple of other movies that deserve to be mentioned here as well.
I'm not usually one to rewatch a movie more than a few times unless I really connect with it.

Behind any original trilogy Star Wars movie, this is the one I've seen the most.

Indiana Jones Trilogy
Crystal Skull is a great pulp adventure but it's a poor Indy movie.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Not a box office success but I feel this movie was made for me.

Here's a few other folks that have taken on this week's assignment, give em a visit!
For a full list of all bloggers, click here

Feb 8, 2012

TSR's Dungeon Board Game

Originally released by TSR in 1975, Dungeon may be the original hack-n-loot dungeon crawling board game. If you're familiar with TSR in the 70s, it will come as no surprise that game design legend Gary Gygax was on the development team. If you're not, Gygax is one of the co-creators of the original Dungeons & Dragons RPG. Dungeon enjoyed an unusual amount of longevity for a non-mainstream board game, releasing no less than 4 revised editions between 1980 and 1992. New editions often incorporated new rules as well.

Dungeon board, cards and parts
The premise of Dungeon is pretty simple. Each player selects their hero's class (the original line-up: Hero, Elf, Superhero, Wizard) and proceeds into the depths of the color coded six level dungeon, avoiding traps, navigating secret doors and slaying monsters for treasure. Each class of hero has a preset amount of treasure they need to win the game, expressed in gold piece value. The biggest rewards are at the lower levels but that's also where the tougher monsters hang out!

Monsters and Treasure from the 5th and 6th Levels
The card artwork really takes me back to playing the game
I played this game a lot and it's no doubt responsible for getting me into D&D while I was only in junior high. I'm so old, my first D&D set was the red box Basic set, where elf and dwarf were classes! There were no races as we know them now. It came with module B2 - Keep on the Borderlands.

Here's a few comic book ads from 1982. Clicking them takes you to Flickr. You can then click on Actions > View All Sizes to actually read them.

Additional Info
Dungeon! wiki entry

Feb 6, 2012

Mail Order Monday - Glow in the Dark SciFi Posters

This 1986 ad promises a pretty sweet deal. For just $4, you get three 11'x14' posters that glow in the dark AND a package of glow in the dark shoe lace. Now the ad does say Neon Lace is a Glow-in-the-Dark shoe lace. Singular. Does that mean you only get one lace? It was the 80s so I guess you could get away with two different shoe laces. It would probably also be incentive enough to nag your parents to get you another one so you could have a set of glowing laces.

These small posters are pretty typical of the 80's with their generic sci-fi art and dayglo colors. I'm not gonna lie, I probably would have ordered these even if they didn't glow in the dark. I like the fact that they are separate but connect to form one image. The perspective is a little weird though.

In the left panel, it's easy to assume the winged creatures are closer than the distant city and are likely not gigantic, no problem there. But moving right, are those ships really close or large? Or both? (Dig that Cylon Raider ripoff years after the show ended) And in the far right, the armored figure is shooting at one of the fighters. Is this thing a Godzilla sized mech, is it human sized and having delusions of grandeur in trying to shoot down the fighter or somewhere in between? I know, I know. Too much analyzing, enjoy the art.

Feb 3, 2012

Friday Funnies - Liō

I first met Liō a couple years ago and instantly became good friends with him. He was originally created in 2006 by Mark Tatulli, who also does the strip Heart of the City. Liō combines the magic of Calvin and Hobbes with Addams Family values. However, unlike Calvin, Liō is never imagining his adventures, which makes them all the more interesting!

The most amazing, and clever, thing about Liō is that it's a pantomime strip. There is never any intelligible dialog and the only words that appear are either being written or read by a character.

Over the years, Liō has been dropped by some newspapers due to them having issue with its content. These papers apparently have an object lodged up their hind sides. I think it's safe to say, if you're reading this blog you'll enjoy Liō's adventures as much as I do.

This link will take you to the daily Liō page and you can also go back through the archives.

Feb 1, 2012

Monthly Movie Recap - Jan 2012

I realized at the end of last year that I watch a good amount of movies. I'll be doing monthly posts to keep track of what I've seen and to give a micro-review. Then at the end of the year, we can all laugh at how much of my life I've wasted. All movies are first time viewings unless the title is preceded by an asterisk.

Understand that I purposely seek out bad and/or cheesy movies and I rate them on how much enjoyment I get out of watching them, not necessarily on how "good" the actors, effects or movie itself may be. With that warning in place, here's January's recap...

The Wizard of Mars      (1965, aka: Horrors of the Red Planet)

A spaceship crew (3 men and a woman named Dorothy) "crash" on Mars. They end up following a golden road where they meet the title character who is a projection of a disembodied head. Sound familiar? It's loosely based on the novel The Wizard of Oz. This is without a doubt the most boring and least entertaining sci-fi movie I've ever seen. Ever. The only thing that could save it would be an MST3k treatment and even then, I wouldn't wish that on the people that have to watch it multiple times to write the jokes.

Cool: Zee-ro, none, nada, zilch
Lame: This movie
Rating: 1/10, burn it!

*Krull (1983)

A childhood staple on cable. First time I've seen it in a long time and I still really enjoyed it despite the dated effects. Something I don't quite get is that it seems to be a typical fantasy world but The Beast arrives from space and there's no question raised about the enemy being from off planet. And there's also the prophecy that Lyssa and Colwyn's son will rule the galaxy. It's an odd juxtaposition of fantasy and sci-fi concepts that don't really quite gel in the film's universe, or maybe that's just how life is in the Krull-verse.

Cool: James Horner score; the Glaive; young Liam Neeson; crystal spider; cutie princess
Lame: the Cyclops is killed by a door, a door!; the effects can be a product of their time
Rating: 7/10, a must see of 80s fantasy

Planet of Dinosaurs (1978)

A human crewed spaceship crashes into a lake on an alien world that's millions of years behind Earth in evolution...hence, the title. Eventually the nine crew are whittled down to five by the dinosaurs. The remaining three men and two women start building a new life on the planet. Not the ending I was expecting.

Cool: 70s space uniforms & 'staches; Harryhausen-esque dinosaurs; the female Comm officer strips to her skivvies (hubba-hubba) 5 minutes in to get a piece of equipment from the sinking ship
Lame: Said Comm officer is quickly eaten by an aquatic beast; no name actors & low budget
Rating: 5.5/10, The acting isn't great but between the conflicts among the characters and dinosaurs, it's watchable.

Batman Year One (2011)

While Marvel has mostly been killing DC at the box office, DC has been ahead in Direct to DVD animation. This is an adaptation of the Frank Miller 1987 comic story. I've never read the comics but from what I hear this is pretty much right off the page and it's a piece of fantastic story telling.

Cool: Start to finish, this is a more adult, grittier Gotham
Lame: This is more James Gordon: Year One but that's not so bad; you'll miss Kevin Conroy
Rating: 8.5/10, Recommended even for casual Bat-fans

Hausu (aka House, 1977)

Does it matter that the trailer is in Japanese? No. In fact you could probably watch this movie without the subtitles and it would make almost as much sense. It's sort of a horror/comedy/mystery and a definite contender for the WTF of the 20th Century award. There are times when I see a bad movie that I recommend people watch it with friends and have a few drinks or other mind altering substances. In this case, I would beg you not to do so. Adding any kind of brain chemistry alteration to the images in this movie will likely give you some kind of permanent psychosis.

Cool: Bugnuts crazy!
Lame: It's not always sure if it wants to be a comedy or horror but it's always bugnuts crazy!
Rating: 6/10, recommended viewing for the experience alone.

*Beauty and the Beast 3D (1991, 2012)

I only saw this once when it came out so I don't know if anything was changed for the 3D release.

Cool: At times it looks like a layered storybook come to life; saw the trailer for The Phantom Menace in 3D
Lame: At times the 3D makes character movement appear jerky; animation is showing its age
Rating: 7/10

*Tron: Legacy (2010)

Watched both Disney films the same weekend, so I saw one that was originally 2D in 3D and one that I saw originally in 3D in 2D . Just picked this up on Blu finally so I had to watch it again. Sort of like Phantom Menace, this was a long time coming sequel with a lot of expectations riding on it. Unlike TPM, I didn't leave the theater wondering what I'd just seen and why it didn't feel like the original.

Cool: Daft Punk's soundtrack; feels like a natural evolution of the original; bonus features add in story details on the "real world" events between the movies
Lame: Tron got shafted in this movie! If he's back in the sequel he needs something to do; would like to have seen Dillinger (Sr or Jr) involved; ending didn't feel like an ending but a bridge for a sequel (which I'm ok with as long as they do it!)
Rating: 8/10, seeing it IMAX 3D was amazing, still like it as much watching from my couch

The Change-Up (2011)

It's just another Freaky Friday, ohhh-oh-whoa. No wait, that's Manic Monday. You know how these go: Two people are leading totally different lives and wish they could swap. Abracadabra, they switch bodies and learn something about themselves and each other along the way. Reynolds and Bateman are funny but it feels like they're major leaguers in the minors, neither of them need to be doing this type of movie.

Cool: Olivia Wilde; Reynolds is the perfect person to play his character
Lame: it's one of those comedies where they use crude humor and language to get laughs (I'm not saying it doesn't work!); same ol body swap story
Rating: 6.5/10, brainless fun if you can handle the crudeness

1 The Wizard of Mars (1965, aka: Horrors of the Red Planet) 1/10
2 *Krull (1983) 7/10
3 Planet of Dinosaurs (1978) 5.5/10
4 Batman: Year One (2011) 8.5/10
5 Hausu (aka House, 1977) 6/10
6 *Disney's Beauty and the Beast 3D (1991, 2012) 7/10
7 *Tron: Legacy (2010) 8/10
8 The Change-Up (2011) 6.5/10

New: 5
Rewatch: 3
To-Date Total: 8