Jan 31, 2015

eBook of the Moment - Sine Fratres: An Officer Involved Shooting

Here's a phrase I probably wasn't expecting to say ever: "Someone I know wrote a book." He's self-publishing through Amazon and just released it a couple days ago.

I want to help him promote it, not just because I know him, but because it provides a different point of view on something that's been in the news a lot lately.

Here's a summary from the author:

In 2011, as a newly assigned investigator to the Vice/Narcotics Unit of the Aurora, Colorado Police Department, I found myself assigned to investigate the methamphetamine overdoses of some middle school children. Where it led me to was utterly beyond the realm of what I thought possible. The things I would do, learn and discover were unthinkable to me then and unforgettable now.

The officer-involved-shooting that I was involved in on February 10th, 2011 was a major life-changer for me and my family. As we all know, police use-of-force has become quite a topic these past few months nationally as well.

This book was a little over three years in the making for me.

It is my humble attempt to try and explain to others, as well as myself, the event and the aftermath. I can speak only for myself and my experience... your individual results may vary.

Even if you think you may not read it, if you're a Kindle user, I'd appreciate the download (it's free today!). Every download helps get the book a little more recognition on Amazon's listings and will hopefully draw more eyes to it.

Jan 29, 2015

January 2015 Loot Crate - Rewind

Disclaimer: Every month, Loot Crate provides this product in exchange for a review and promotion. The theme for January's Loot Crate is Rewind and if you're a child of the 80s, this is your jam!

January 2015 Loot Crate Book & button

They didn't go crazy with the booklet cover this month, but that's ok. The simplicity of it is really nice with a game controller, cassette tape and some non-brand name building blocks on a style of carpet I'm betting a lot of you will remember lying on while reading comics or playing video games. The features this month include articles on Nintendo and Voltron.

January 2015 Loot Crate tie, glasses, & book

There is some great geek gear this month including a mini-notebook for drawing your own comic book. The pages are broken into panels just like a comic, it's up to you t fill them in. It's also got punch-out stencils to help make comic book-y effects. Next is a pair of 8-bit sun glasses, which I really wish were clip-ons so I could wear them over my normal glasses. And there's a very Space Invader inspired skinny tie to help nerd up your wardrobe.

January 2015 Loot Crate Voltron shirt

There's also plenty of Loot Crate exclusives this month too! Check out this Voltron shirt. At the risk of losing geek cred, I'll tell you I've never watched an entire episode of Voltron. Battle of the Planets, Grandizer, Gaiking, Spaceketeers, Starblazers I watched constantly but never got into Voltron. Weird, right?

January 2015 Loot Crate 10-Doh

From Squid Kid Ink comes this 10-Doh cartridge figure. Looters got one of six possible exclusive designs, including a shiny gold chase variant. These 3" tall guys are a good combo of retro gaming and pop culture parody. Other titles include take offs on Back to the Future, Doctor Who, and Firefly.

January 2015 Loot Crate Star Wars comic

But my favorite exclusive is this Star Wars #1 variant cover! Having bought two different covers already, I wouldn't have thought I needed a third, but I'm very happy to get this one featuring one of my favorite characters! If you look closely, you can see the containers in front of Han are Loot Crates.

January 2015 Loot Crate System front

They really outdid themselves with the box interior this month. I seem to be saying that every month, but every month it's true! You have to open all the flaps and basically turn it inside out and it becomes a Loot Crate retro gaming console complete with 80s "stickers" plastered all over it. The final page of the booklet has a paper craft controller you can punch out.

January 2015 Loot Crate System back

If you want to get sweet swag like this delivered right to your door every month, head over to Loot Crate and sign up. And if you use promo code AEIOUwhy, you can save 10% on whatever subscription plan you choose!

Jan 27, 2015

Book of the Moment - Jim Henson's Labyrinth

Click to order on Amazon

I was beyond thrilled when I finally got hold of this book for Christmas. Outside of the Star Wars films, Labyrinth is probably the movie I've revisited the most times. I didn't see it in the theater so my decades long love affair with it must be due to home video in the late 80s.

Follow Dex's board Labyrinth on Pinterest.

The movie novelization has been out of print for a long time with copies fetching prices close to $100 on the secondary market. And while it's wonderful to have access to this book, the real reason fans will want it is the final 70 or so pages featuring Brian Froud's concept art and reproductions of pages from Henson's notebook.

For obsessed movie fans like me, there isn't much different in the novelization than what made it to screen. If the different scenes in the book were cut scenes on a DVD, they would probably total less than 15 minutes. The one problem/challenge I had while reading was trying to keep the music out of my head. I tried my best to read it that way to experience it in a new context: a pure fantasy story and not a musical.

At the start of the movie, I've always been very sympathetic towards Sarah, seemingly under the heel of her step-mom. In the book, she comes off as more of a spoiled brat even though the scenes play out almost identically.

There area few fleeting moments that get into Jareth's head where you see his thoughts and motivations. It's not anything earth shattering but it does give you a little something extra to keep in the back of your mind the next time you watch the film. 

Froud's artwork is fantastical and funny, as usual. I've owned the original Goblins of Labyrinth book for many, many years and know it pretty well. I was happy to see a lot of the art included here is not reprints from there.

Henson's notebook pages will take some work to read through, his handwriting is not the best. But it's well worth it to see some of the story ideas, concepts, and themes that gave birth to a movie a lot people hold dear.

If you're one of those people, you probably have the book already because no review would sway you from buying it. For what its worth, I definitely recommend it.

5 out of 5 Crystal Spheres

Jan 22, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy Hot Wheels

If you happen to pass down the toy car aisle, you may have noticed Hot Wheels has started doing a new series of cars based on Marvel Comics characters. I like Marvel and I like Hot Wheels, but these never really grabbed my attention enough to pick any up. If they start doing non-Wolverine X-Men ones, I may to snag some.

Back before Christmas, I was surprised to see they did a couple based on my favorite Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy.

Guardians Hot Wheels Rocket carded

Aside from being slightly obsessed with the movie, I thought these Marvel Hot Wheels in particular really managed to capture the characters they represent. Rocket's has a blended striping pattern that looks very Raccoon-ish.

Guardians Hot Wheels Rocket front angle

It's also got a couple of fins that look like ears and the roof has the circular cybernetic thingy that you can see on his back.

Guardians Hot Wheels Rocket front

If you look at it from the front, it just might bite you!

Guardians Hot Wheels Star-Lord carded

But if Rocket's is good, Star-Lord's is great!

Guardians Hot Wheels Star-Lord front

There's no mistaken the design of Star-Lord's face mask here.
And it gives the car an extra dose of sci-fi styling.

Guardians Hot Wheels Star-Lord back

According to the back of the card, that big ball in the back window is supposed to by the orb that holds one of the Infinity Stones.

Guardians Hot Wheels card back

This was an extra bonus I never would have noticed if I hadn't opened them. They could have just left the bottom of the card white, but they added in a Guardians design that would probably make a pretty cool desktop wallpaper.

Considering how successful the movie was, I have to think they'll be making the rest of the team too. At the very least, I'm definitely expecting a Groot.

Jan 20, 2015

Disney's Marvel's Star Wars

Whew, glad they didn't decide to put the title of the book like that!

The return of Star Wars to Marvel Comics got me thinking. For someone that wears their fandom on their sleeve as proudly as I do, I don't do a lot of blogging about Star Wars. When I started this off a few years ago, retro Star Wars Wednesday was a thing every week because if it's one thing I can go on about, it's Star Wars.

Maybe I haven't blogged about it  because it's become such a presence in the main stream of pop culture. I've been a fan since 1977, straight on through. Even during the "dark times" of the late 80s/early 90s when the only new Star Wars you could find were RPG books, I was just as into it. With about 11 months until we get a new movie, I figure it's as good a time as any to publicly dive in again.

Disney/LucasFilm deciding to ditch most of What Has Come Before to establish a new, and hopefully more solid, continuity is probably one of the best/worst ideas. Did it piss off a lot of long time fans? You betcha! But it does give them a clean slate to tell new stories that don't have to fit in with anything that happened on a page since 1977. Plus, it lets new readers come in without having to have read a small library-worth of back story.

Back in the day, Marvel's Star Wars series was our first look into the galaxy beyond the original movie. If you go back and look at it now, it is dripping in the 70s. Not only was I a kid, but we had nothing else to compare it to so I loved it! Sure, it introduced a 6' talking green space rabbit that has probably been the butt of more jokes than Jar Jar and the Ewoks combined, but I still love him as part of my childhood.

But there was some fun stuff among the weirdness too. I mean, you can't get much more bad-ass than Han Solo in an outer space shootout against a galactic pirate. Never mind the fact that the dude didn't seem to own a pair of long pants, but you know, 70s.

With all the covers that were available, I thought it wasn't going to be too difficult to pick just one. After seeing the Jaxxon (the green space rabbit) cover, I figured that was going to be the one for me. But when I got to the comic shop, I saw another one that I couldn't pass up. Somewhat ironically, Star Wars #1 is going to be the last physical comic I buy for the foreseeable future. My collection is taking up too much space so I'm going full digital.

Here's what I eneded up with...

Star Wars #1

So, let's get down to it.

The issue opens with about as perfect a cinematic experience as it could in the pages of a comic. The only thing missing is Williams' score. Although I have to admit, it was playing right along in my head. It's got everything you'd want from an outing with the original crew. And they nailed the trademark original trilogy humor which made me feel like I was reconnecting with friends I hadn't seen in a long time. They're even able to squeeze in a couple of nice little character moments.

Despite the many years of Dark Horse comics it manages to feel fresh. Maybe it's being back at Marvel, maybe it's knowing this is the first in a long line of new stories, or maybe it's being back with the old gang again. Whatever it is, I'm liking it and look forward to the next issue and the other series that are coming if they're on the same level.

If you're a fan of the original trilogy, I highly recommend checking this issue out. All you need to know is the original Star Wars and you can jump right into it.

There was a lot of hoopla with the #1 launch, which is to be expected I guess. I do think they went a bit overboard with the 30, 40... how many variant covers are there? Less than 10 would have been fine. All the crazy number of variants are doing is giving a boost to the issue sales numbers and the book is good enough it didn't need all this.

Look at that, I managed to do this without making a "the circle is now complete" joke.

Jan 15, 2015

Now Hear This - Calabrese & Figure

The terror-ific trio from Phoenix, Calabrese, is back with a new album titled Lust for Sacrilege. Check out the lyric video for the title track below.

I got my copy on Saturday. Yeah, I said copy! I still get physical CDs from certain bands, plus if you pre-ordered, you were entered to win some cool stuff from the band. I did not win any of said stuff but I got my CD!

I haven't given it more than a couple of listen throughs yet so I don't have any kind of hard hitting analysis to offer but if you've liked their previous stuff, you'll like this album!
You can check out samples and get it on Amazon.

Releasing today is a new 6 track EP from the dread master of drumstep, Figure. Now this type of music would probably not be something I'd listen to normally but it's got plenty of drops from horror movies mixed in to make a madcap Halloween dance party.

The EP features remixes of songs from Figure's Monsters of Drumstep discography. I grabbed it on iTunes this morning and I'm actually not sure I like all the tracks. Some of them have a little too much "electronic disturbance" for my taste but that's the style of the music. I'm sure I'll add this to my Halloween rotation but some of it won't make the year-round playlist. I will, however, recommend any of his previous Monsters of Drumstep albums to feast your ears on, they're a little less audio aggro.

Jan 12, 2015

Kodak Instmatic 44 Ad (1972)

Found this in my digital stash of ads taken from comic books. I wanted to bring back Mail Order Monday today but I didn't find anything in the there that caught my eye.

Kodak Instamatic (1972)

The Instamatic 44 was sold between 1969 and 1973 (the ad is from 1972). It retailed for $9.95 which is around $55 today! There's a few retro features this model has that I really dig.

Most obvious is that it uses a flash cube.

For you really young readers, that means you could take four pictures with flash for every cube you had with you. Back in the day, flash cubes were just as essential as film.

Next is the manual knob to advance the film, not one of those fancy levers that you could easily operate with your thumb. Forget quick snapshots! It might have been easy to move with just the thumb but nowhere near as easy as a lever. Hopefully it could tell when to stop. I remember one of the cameras I had as a kid where I had to manually advance the film and stop it so the picture number lined up just right in the indicator window.

And of course, the viewfinder. I find it a little ironic that nowadays, only the more expensive/professional type cameras even have a traditional viewfinder anymore.

Older cameras also looked a lot more rugged despite the internals not being as sensitive as modern models. Just look at that textured, thick black plastic casing. I'd bet it would more likely survive an accidental drop than your phone.

The gentleman that took this image of the Instamatic 44 has a bunch of albums on Flickr showcasing various relics of photography that are very cool.

Jan 1, 2015

Monthly Movie Recap - December 2014

Happy New Year, everyone! 
Hope you had a fun and safe celebration.

Not much movie watching again this past month, but I did get in 100 new movies. Also thanks to Now Playing podcast, I did catch a pair of movies I probably wouldn't have watched on my own.

Maniac (1980)
Not posting the trailer for this one because it ruins some of the best moments. It's a great example of a good time grindhouse horror flick. It can be a little hard to watch because the killer is the main character, so the only people you can root for are the victims, and you know most of them aren't going to make it. Despite that, it is a fun one to watch.

Cool: Has some fantastic kills courtesy of Tom Savini's effects work; The ending!
Lame: The story could have used a little more work to make us understand the killer's motives/psychosis better
Rating: 6.5/10

Maniac (2013)
As much as I enjoyed the first one, this one blows it out of the water! Elijah Wood probably wouldn't even make your top 10 list of actors to play a serial killer but he is awesome in this. Which is weird to say because almost all of the movie is shot from his point of view, so you hardly ever see him. It borrows a lot from the original, whether directly copying it or throwing in subtle call backs.

Cool: The kills are more brutal, if you don't wince at least once, I applaud you. They fill in more of the killer's history so you have an idea what made him this way.
Lame: First person vomit-cam
Rating: 8/10, probably the best horror movie I saw this year

Aquanoids (2003)
From the best horror movie I saw to one of the worst! Imagine the production value and acting ability of a low budget porn studio trying to make a Jaws knock-off. But instead of a giant shark, it's something that resulted from the Creature from the Black Lagoon mating with a Sleestak.

This is why you can't judge a movie by its poster. I mean, this at least makes it look like a fun bad movie, right? I've seen SyFy originals that were easier to watch! Seriously, who gave this 5 stars? The producer? Side note: there's not even a lot of "naked babes" in it.

Rating: 2/10

Maleficent (2014)
You probably don't need a trailer for this one but I wasn't about to go right into it after Aquanoids! I ended up liking this one more than I thought I would. But then, I'm a sucker for alternate takes and "what if?" stories. But, I might have liked it more if it was somehow an original story. You can't just take a villain people have loved for decades and make them the good guy because "you heard the story wrong." That's like saying Darth Vader was once a whiny 9 year old.

Cool: The movie is gorgeous; Liked the way they twisted the story around
Lame: Looks a little too Avatar at times; the three fairies are creepy looking with their big heads
Rating: 7/10

Month Total
 New: 4  Rewatch: 0

Year To-Date Final Total 
New: 100 (+1 incomplete)  Rewatch: 17