Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shark Attack!

Leo O'Melia
August has been "Shark Month" at  Rip's Favorite Cover-of-the-Day feature. Here are the covers which have been featured this past month. Enjoy!

Bill Everett

L.B. Cole
L.B. Cole
L.B. Cole
George Wilson
Mo Gollub
Joe Kubert
Ross Andru and Mike Esposito
Jack Sparling
Bob Oksner
Mike Grell
John Romita

Joe Sinnott and Vince Colletta
Wayne Howard
Jay Scott Pike

Rich Buckler
Jack Kirby
Jim Aparo
Bill Lignante
Don Sherwood

Gil Kane
John Buscema and Frank Giacoia
John Buscema and Dan Adkins
Steven Pugh
Rich Corben

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Whisperer In The Darkness!

One of H.P. Lovecraft's most completely successful short stories is "Whisperer in Darkness". It's a an enthralling tale of Albert Wilmarth, a skeptical academic who discovers a real horror lurking in the wild of the Vermont hills.

And now Whisperer  in Darkness is a successful movie. The second big movie adaptation from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, this very compelling movie attempts to evoke the early black and white talkie style of movies from 1931, the year of the original stories first publication. So in some ways this movie is like finding an hitherto unknown horror classic in the vein of Lugosi's Dracula or Karloff's Frankenstein.

If you know the story you'll definitely enjoy seeing it adapted to the "big screen". And if you don't then you'll really get a charge out of reading the Lovecraft original. The movie is a faithful adaptation, but does choose to make some cinematic choices which alter the expectations without, to my mind, undermining Lovecraft's wonderful mood or atmosphere.

This is a fun movie made by folks who love Lovecraft and who seem to love the thrill of film making. It's fun to watch the behind-the-scenes features which reveal how the tricks were done, on a shoestring often, but mostly show how these people seem to have fun making a really convincing adaptation of a Lovecraft classic. Here is the trailer. 

This is the second movie from these folks, the first Call of Cthulhu, I looked at here some years ago.

Both are highly recommended. 

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Elvis Has Left The Tomb!

I was prowling around the local Dollar Store the other day, getting a few household items, when I stumbled across a bin of DVD's. I can't pass these up, you never know when you'll find a gem.

For just a few dollars I landed a copy of Bubba Ho-Tep - The Limited Edition, which comes encased in a delightful and exceedingly weird little mock up of a vintage Elvis super suit. It's unusual and highly distinctive. Glad to have it.

This find comes on the heels of my having found (for very cheap) the above volume which offers up not only the screenplay itself by Don Coscarelli (a hoot to read) but also the evocative story by Joe Lansdale which launched this joyride into pop culture and horror.

There's no doubt whatsoever that Bubba Ho-Tep is the best Elvis-JFK-Mummy movie of all time. I'll stake my reputation on that one.

TCB Baby!

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kull The Conquered!

Kull the Conqueror is not a very good movie. Despite adapting two of Robert E. Howard's best stories ("By this Axe I Rule!" and the novel The Hour of the Dragon) it is short on story, atmosphere, energy, action and ultimately cash.

Kevin Sorbo was fresh from his success as TV's Hercules when he was tapped to play the Atlantean usurper Kull. At moments in this movie he's convincing, but mostly he's not and his charms are wasted despite the possibility that physically he's up to the role. Tia Carrerre has flashes of real evil in this one and frankly she's the best thing in it as the monster Akivasha, a sorceress from a distant time intent on destroying the kingdom of Valusia. Some of the lines these folks have to say are pretty hamfisted and they are both better off when they merely glower.

Other folks in the cast are largely wasted in a movie which while it purports to evoke an ancient land seems too full of quirky pop culture references to effectively pull that off. A wretched rock score which pops up when Kull goes into action is woefully misplaced. And the action itself is strictly unconvincing, the choreography painfully evident as the actors parry blows with various and sundry weapons.  These movies should be violent, not action-packed and that's a crucial difference.

Having just read The The Hour of the Dragon again, I was struck by some of the plot parallels this time which I'd overlooked on previous viewings, but there's never enough done with any element. This ultimately seems to be a movie that lacks the funding to really offer up a convincing Valusia for Kull to play in. The crowd scenes are barely that, with sound effects which fall miserably short of convincing.

Ultimately it's just sort of boring. And that's the worst thing any movie can be.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Popeye And Robin!

The recent death of Robin Williams has unleashed a torrent of praise for the distinctive actor and comedian. And it would be exceedingly unseemly, until now, to wade into that sincere celebration of a talent who clearly impacted many, with my own opinion that frankly I found Williams a bit too much most of the time. He could be scandalously funny, but eventually his high-speed antics wore me down and his stage act became tiresome. Not so much his acting, which could be outstanding, if he was in the right role. I particularly liked it when he played characters who were more than a little bit evil.

But my favorite Robin Williams role remains one of his first, as Popeye in Robert Altman's notorious movie of that name. There have been countless attempts over the decades to bring comic strip characters to real life, sometimes with embarrassing consequences. But to my mind, it has never been done as completely effectively as when Williams portrayed Popeye, especially when he shared the screen with the equally fantastic Shelley Duvall as Olive. They were these characters, utterly and convincingly.

Surprisingly it was the decision by Williams (I suspect) to make Popeye a reticent and downright shy character, one who muttered incessantly and merely wanted to make his own way through a world which was full of trouble and complication, which made him fascinating. He was an exceedingly reluctant hero, an often somber man who was eventually forced to do the right thing when discretion was the smarter move. Williams presented Popeye as a convincing human being, at the same time as he was a compelling epic hero who appears out of the wilderness to confront the evils of society.

The movie is famously regarded as a bust, despite the fact it more than made its money back. But Hollywood has never been a place that abided by any sort of logic. Williams would go on to make many movies, and play many roles, including his starring turn in The Dead Poet's Society. The latter movie is among my least favorite flicks, because as a working teacher, I've long regarded the unbridled romanticism of the profession it presents as ultimately damaging to the way people regard the task. But it is, despite my particular complaints, just some people's cup of tea.

For me the Robin Williams I'll always remember and respect is the sullen red-haired sea salt he so successfully portrayed so many decades ago. Godspeed to the best real-life Popeye of all time.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

For Who The Bell Tolls!

Stumbled across the 2013 BBC movie An Adventure in Space and Time quite by accident during the most recent Dr.Who marathon in anticipation of the all-new Dr. Who (Peter Capaldi). I really had no notions of what I was about to see, but was quickly enamored and swept away by a surprising and fetching production which purports to chronicle (with I'm sure many a dash of romantic nostalgia) the creation and earliest days of the venerable Dr.Who television show.

The movie begins by focusing on a quixotic TV exec named Sydney Newman (Brian Cox) who has a notion for a sci-fi show for kiddies focused on time travel and history. He puts in charge a former protegee named Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine) a novice female producer who has to shake up the stodgy BBC infrastructure more than bit to get what she needs. Also in focus in the early stages is Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan) a British-Indian director who likewise is breaking ground socially and professionally at the BBC.

But the focus of the story soon shifts to the first Dr.Who, at the time the one and only Dr.Who, William Hartnell. David Bradley is frankly fantastic in the role of a veteran and more than a bit irascible actor who might just realize his career is winding down. It's profoundly compelling to watch Bradley as Hartnell, who at first resists the demands of the role, but then throws himself into full bore because of his professionalism and because he realizes the incredible impact the role is having on the children. He is a guy who, in the twilight of his career, is delighted to have such an incredible turn, savors it for what it is, and doesn't want it to end.

As an older man myself now, who is closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning, I identified more than a smidge with Bradley's fascinating portrayal. It's a hard thing to realize that your time is limited and your days are numbered, and that the number is rather paltry indeed. It gives a sense of urgency to lots of things, and Bradley's performance as Hartnell gets this core notion perfectly. His health failing him, we are struck by a man who doesn't want to leave the stage, but who knows it's time. None of us do, but we all know the end will come.

Great stuff. Better than most of the Dr.Who shows of the last few years which wear me out for the most part.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Doctor Who Cares Anyway!

Pardon me while I rant a bit.

I had hopes that the new Doctor Who as portrayed by Peter Capaldi (visually an excellent choice) would be a welcome break from the overly exuberant hijinks of the last several years, a return to a more episodic more sedate style of storytelling with a more sober and resolute Doctor.

After one overheated episode I fear for the worst. There's entirely too much navel gazing in these stories, too much internal reference leaving the casual watcher a bit numb. The sentimentality drips off the screen in cloying pools as we get yet one more farewell sequence (how many did we get last season...three, four, seven?) . It makes me miss the days when episodes were distinctive and one had little to do with another. It makes me miss the days when despite the show being for kiddies it featured adults behaving more or less like adults.

As the back story of the Doctor yarns has accumulated and acuumulated, the attic of the TARDIS is getting positively cluttered. With the promise of a whole new regeneration cycle, I hoped (in vain I guess) that we were starting afresh with new story lines and a more open playing field free of the cumbersome history with which the Doctor Who series has become overloaded. I'd love to see a season free of Cybermen and Daleks, though the latter might be tough to pull off.

I'd like to see some fresh new monsters perhaps, or other types of mysteries. Let's have the Doctor deal with something other than his own convoluted history. Let the soap operaitcs recede behind the adventures for a while and gives us all a breather.

There's still a lot to see this season, and I'm judging on precious little evidence, but right this minute it feels like something of a missed opportunity.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

More Moose And Squirrel!

Loved getting my hands on the second IDW Bullwinkle and Rocky reprint collection. This one titled "Vacational Therapy" gives us the comics which appeared in Gold Key's Bullwinkle and Rocky issues five through eight from 1972 and 1973. The comics themselves feature some reprints from earlier 60's issues of the comic back in the Dell days as well as a little bit of new stuff.

Nothing clears the head at the end of a busy day like some pure vintage Moose and Squirrel.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

NoMan Is An Island!

More utterly wonderful THUNDER Agent action in this fourth installment of the reprints from IDW. Hopefully, despite the cool response they've gotten to new adventures, the folks at IDW will finish this out. These reprints are beautiful.

This one showcases my favorite agent NoMan. The idea of a an old man who injects his mind into an army of potentially immortal androids and who uses a cloak of invisibility is fantastically rich stuff. Of course the other agents are around, especially Dynamo and Lightning.

Apparently Tower Comics hit a snag after the publication of the first NoMan comic and several months pass before we get another trio of comics from the company. I don't know what caused the hiatus, but I doubt it was part of some master plan.

The superhero and spy fads which sparked the creation of the THUNDER Agents was beginning to wane a bit and despite the push to expand with new titles, the folks at Tower might've begun to see the whole enterprise was becoming less tenable. We'd get only two issues of NoMan's self-titled comic, both here in this one volume, and only one more Dynamo after the one included here.

The artwork in these is a veritable who's who of Silver Age greatness with notable efforts by Gil Kane, Ogden Whitney, John Giunta, Manny Stallman, Chic Stone, George Tuska, Dan Adkins, and of course Wally Wood. The scripting for these stories is largely uncredited, but Steve Skeates does appear many times.

It's perhaps easy to say that the high point of the Agents has already passed by this time in the series, and there's validity to that assessment. But nonetheless these are hearty Silver Age yarns, and pretty entertaining to boot.

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