Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dear Santa, I've Been A Bad Boy......

I love toys, (no, not that kind you cheeky monkey! Ok, but only if there's a safety word.) and I have dozens packed away at home since I have no more shelf space. What can I say, some people like little ceramic figurines, or balls of colored glass (ouch) but I'm all about poseable plastic in the shapes of superheroes, and the military and monsters....oh how I love the monsters. While I often get melancholy over the toys I've lost moving or through other means, I had a "life size" Spike from Gremlins, and an original Alien with the pop out mouth and many many more, I still do get excited over some really cool item. (Note to self: dig out your Sin City Marv in the electric chair that laughs when you fry him.)
So I got really pumped when Hasbro posted pictures of their upcoming Cloverfield Monster. Here are the bullet points from the Hasbro site:
  • 70 points of articulation and incredible life-like detail
  • Authentic sound
  • 14" tall
  • 10 parasites
  • Two interchangeable heads
  • Statue of Liberty head accessory
  • Special collector’s edition packaging
The only negative for me is the $99. projected price tag, but hey, I could get caught up in the moment of wanting to see Cloverfield raze Lego town to the ground. Hmmmm, maybe I'll reshoot Cloverfield in "Startling Legovision." While there's no official release date, there is a projected shipping date of 9/30 and Hasbro is taking pre-orders through their website here.

Now before I leave you with images of Cloverfield dancing in your heads, I have something else to show you. (no, not that you cheeky monkey)
These items are definite pre-orders for me. I'm sorry to say I missed the first three in The Dead series from Sideshow Collectibles, and may need to hunt them down on Ebay. I absolutely will not let these escape my greedy little clutches. They may actually push my decision to get a custom head sculpt done by Andgor Toy Company over the edge so I could lead my own army of zombie hunters across my shelves.
I think these would compliment any childs toy box as well as keep Buzz LightYear and those noisy Pokemon critters in check.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Shooting The Dead

I promise this is the last zombie related post till the next zombie related post.

(I dig zombies, what can I say)
This is, in a sense the second part of my day with Diary of the Dead review, so if you have not read the previous post, please go back and do so. Think of it as a “choose your own adventure” story for the really really lame.

Done? Good.
I’m going to try to avoid spoilers, but let’s be realistic; it’s a Romero Dead film. It’s not if zombies get the main characters, it’s when.

Here’s a shocker, I thoroughly enjoyed George A Romero’s Diary of the Dead. Romero has returned to his roots of guerrilla film making bypassing Hollywood and making the picture he wanted to make, and it shows.
The films tone more closely resembled the original Dead films Night and Dawn in the sense that Romero has hit the reset button on the genre he’s created and brought us back to the first days of the zombie epidemic.
Diary of the Dead takes place in a world without Resident Evil or Evil Dead, if there’s a George Romero counterpart in this world he’s still working for PBS. There are no known zombie rules in Diary of the Dead. No one automatically goes for the head shot, or get’s the now clichéd idea to head to the nearest mall, a bite is just a bite and certainly not deadly. As our heroes learn, Romero’s rules of the dead are in place and it’s only through trial, since there’s no room for error, do they discover what those are. One thing that bugged me in the Dawn remake was only a bite would turn you, but as the one legged priest in the original Dawn said “When the dead walk the earth señors, we must stop the killing, or lose the war” Any dead body will rise in Diary, which ups the ante considerably for our survivors.

Just who are our survivors?
A group of film students and their teacher are out in the woods of Pittsburgh filming a mummy picture when the first news reports start coming in. Finding the dorms deserted and not knowing what to do, they load up in an RV and try to get to their respective homes.
Jason who wants to be a documentary filmmaker controls the camera through most of the film. I say most because one of the themes of this film is the camera as a safety net and at times as an addiction. Where Hud in Cloverfield seemed to keep the camera going out of shock, Jason operates obsessively, needing to create his movie The Death of Death which is the true film we are watching. While he may hide behind the tenet of needing to get the truth out, it’s really about how many hits his MySpace page gets. Don’t get me wrong, Jason isn’t a bad guy, he’s doing what he believes is right, and that belief includes a strict non interference policy. At one point he’s charging the camera battery when he hears shots coming from the direction his girlfriend Debra had gone. Unable to leave the camera you can feel his relief when Debra appears at the doorway. What happened? He asks. If it didn’t happen on camera, it didn’t happen she replies.

Like all of Romero’s Dead films, Diary has a somewhat heavy handed social commentary to make. Unable to trust traditional news media, information publication falls into the hands of the bloggers and the YouTubers, but it’s only a matter of time that all this information and all this news spinning becomes noise and you can no longer tell what truth is. Where does our responsibility lie? Is it our role to prevent atrocities or document them?

I wish I could tell you who played who, but with a cast of newcomers and my lousy memory for names I can’t. What I can tell you is each character was fleshed out just enough to let you know them. One thing I love about Romero films is his short story approach to characterization. Unlike another writer/director named George who creates great characters but can’t get them to live on screen, Romero’s written characterization is basic, and it’s in front of the camera that they become real people. Our group meets up with a mute Amish man in one of the movies funnier and terrifying moments. Romero captures everything you need to know about him within a few minutes of screen time and I find myself caring about what happens to him. The same goes for another band of survivors we meet who have organized with military precision under the leadership of an ex national guardsman. The lead guardsman was great and I’d love to see Romero tackle another film just about these guys. You can see how a society like the one in Land of the Dead could form from survival groups like this trying to rebuild.

Romero also dips into his own bag of tricks to give us little nods to previous Dead films. From soldiers cleaning out an apartment building, complete with a resident shouting “don’t go in there” (a direct nod to Dawn) to a home being overrun as in Night and a zombies guts spilling out as it attempts to rise (dream sequence from Day). Romero reminds us that somewhere a woman named Barbara just lost her brother, and a guy named Steven is still flying his helicopter for a local news channel and everything is going to hell.

My nits to pick are small. With Romero returning to his roots I would have liked to see more “live” gore effects. The whole film was shot in 23 days and many of the effects were added digitally. Since the film was financed without a studio backing it this saved Romero a ton of money, but I found myself missing latex chunks torn from necks and torsos being ripped into as condoms filled with stage blood erupt and paint the actors. One effect involving hydrochloric acid really took me out of the moment as it was clearly digital.
I also found it difficult to tell how much time had passed and how much distance has been traveled. Unlike Cloverfield, The Death of Death is an edited film, and while that eliminates complaints over how long it takes to get from downtown to 59th street on foot, it also eliminates our timeline. I’m assuming that our group is on the road for several days, but I could be wrong.

The makeup however, by Greg Nicotero was top notch and the first zombie in particular reminded me of why I love these films.

So to wrap up, George A Romero’s Diary of the Dead is a must see for fans, and I’m hoping it gets a bigger distribution. If you’re a casual fan or new to the zombie genre, this reboot will show you what makes Romero the king, and why nothing is scarier than a slow zombie.

George A Romero’s Diary of the Dead is in limited release.
For a list of theaters click here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Frustrations of the Dead

While most guys were feeding their honeys semi burnt toast and undercooked pancakes for breakfast in an attempt to be forgiven for the years past transgressions this past valentine’s day weekend. I convinced my wife to travel 100 miles north to Alexandria Virginia to catch George A Romero’s newest zombie flick Diary of the Dead. If you’ve been reading this blog you already know I’ve been a wee bit excited to see this film, and nothing says I love you like a healthy dose of shambling carnivorous undead.

Before I get to the promised review I have a few things I need to get off my chest. Now anyone who knows me will tell you I am the epitome of laid back. Nothing phases me, Charlie’s as serene as they come. Then they will burst out laughing and take a step back to avoid the oncoming lightning bolt. Demons will start putting on snowshoes and parkas in preparation for quick frost coming hells way.

Ok, so the ride was pretty uneventful, we made great time and traffic was what I expected it to be. We get to the theatre, the AMC on Swamp Fox road and one out of six of the ticket kiosks were in working order. There are 21 theaters in this place and I pre-purchased to avoid standing in line. Fortunately, as I said we made great time and this didn’t slow us down too much.

Let me just say, I have a few pet peeves. Blinker negligence is one of them, as is parking two feet from the curb. These however are minor irritants. Since when, may I ask, is standing in line for 18 minutes acceptable anywhere other than the DMV, or to get concert tickets? I just drove 90 minutes; all I want is a salty snack and an ice cold beverage. Let me start with concession stand guy, let’s call him J, (he knows who he is) The only way I can describe the alacrity with which J moved is to compare him to the old man Tim Conway played on the Carol Burnett show. My god time actually moved backwards around him to give the impression of forward motion. Now J, buddy, if you’re out there, maybe there is some physical reason you cannot move as fast as, say a crawling infant on valium, and if that is the case I am truly sorry for singling you out, but did you ever think that maybe the fast paced world of food service is not for you? Give the ticket window a try, at least you get to sit.

So here we are waiting for an interminable length of time. The impatient people behind us are starting to encroach on our personal space earning baleful stares from me and Tere. Finally, there are two people ahead of us, we can see the light at the end and the woman at the counter doesn’t…know…what…she…wants.

C’mon, really? We’ve been standing here for how long and you don’t know what to order? You do know this is a theater right? The choices are somewhat limited. There’s no menu really to speak of. I can understand not knowing if you’re in the mood for nachos, but not knowing what you want after standing here all this time, were you sleeping? She changed her mind so many times, and I watched J go back and forth at a glacial pace. Tree Ents were waving their branches in frustration (look it up, it’s from the Lord of the Rings)

I actually had to step off the line to curtail the oncoming tirade I was about to unleash. I have never wanted to slap food out of someone’s hands more than I did when she walked past me with enough snacks to feed three, and if I were younger I would have gladly done so even at the price of a ticket. (I also would have done it if someone was filming cause nothing important happens if it’s not filmed – ohhhhh, foreshadowing)

I’m gonna skip the part where the couple behind us decided to talk through a good portion of the movie because ignance is ignance, at least they didn’t bring a baby.

Oh, people, just for the record, leaving your phone on vibrate is nearly as annoying as leaving the ringer on. You know that fly in your room that keeps you awake half the night? It’s quieter than your vibrating phone. C’mon, it’s not new technology. Turn the sounds off. If your wife is pregnant and you’re expecting her call what the hell are you doing at the movies?

Northern Virginia is like a roach motel. You can get in, but don’t expect to see any signs to get you out. We actually had to consult the map to get on the highway that was less than a ¼ mile away as there were no signs ANYWHERE! It took sheer luck, and fifteen minutes of circling to find the on ramp and fortunately it was going the right way.

Needless to say I would rather fly to New York to see movies Richmond may never get than to go to northern Va. for an afternoon.

Thanks for letting me rant/whine. Let me know what bugs you. Maybe I’ll start a list, as long as “bloggers that waste my time with pointless whiny rants” isn’t on it.

In the meantime enjoy this clip of Tim Conway, you only need to watch the 1st few minutes to get the J experience.

I’ll review the movie tomorrow….promise.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Don't Zombies Have Anywhere Else To Hang Out?

Most people that know me know there are two things I find entertaining, video games and zombies. Specifically zombies in film, comics or video games. I've tried zombie literature but after about thirty pages of "uhwahhh", "grrrrrr" and "br-a-i-i-i-nssss" I tend to lose interest. Zombie vocabulary is a little too limited to allow them to write books, and they're horrible typists, fingers keep getting stuck between the keys and popping off. The exception being Max Brooks amazing World War Z, and the Zombie Survival Guide of course, but he's not a zombie....yet.
So a mix of zombies and video games usually leaves me giddy, but when I see my favorite things cheapened by senseless lawsuits, well lets just say I get a little dead inside. (pun intended for those keeping score)
New Line Cinema and the MKR Group, current rights holders to George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead are claiming copyright infringement against Japanese game publisher Capcom citing the video game Dead Rising rips them off.
Let me lay the similarities out for the uninitiated. Both properties have zombies. Both properties have humans. Both properties have a shopping mall.
That's about it.
Dawn of the Dead (the original) is a film about four desperate people trying to survive an unimaginable apocalyptic situation of unknown origins by taking refuge in a shopping mall.
Dead Rising is a video game on the XBox 360 system about a photojournalist trapped in a shopping mall for three days who uncovers a plot to zombify the world. There's a much bigger story to Dead Rising that involves the governments attempt to mass produce beef, but you get the idea.
Where Dawn of the Deads violence was unforgiving and brutal, Dead Rising is almost comical. Anything in the mall can be used as a weapon including giant Lego heads, golf balls and the ever trusty chainsaw.
Dawn of the Dead has a feeling of despair and solitude. Dead Rising has a new person to save around every corner, and the most dangerous foes are living humans driven mad by their situation.
While it is clear that Dead Rising is influenced by Dawn of the Dead, they have about as much in common as Godzilla 2000, Cloverfield and Ghostbusters. At least those three were the same medium.
I think I should also mention, Dead Rising has been available since 2006 and included a disclaimer on the cover "This game was not developed, approved or licensed by the owners or creators of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead".
I have to wonder why New Line doesn't go after the wholly enjoyable Hong Kong comedy horror film Biozombie which also features humans battling zombies in a shopping mall. Oh yeah, they're not as ilthyfay ichray as Capcom.
Capcom has since fired a preemptive strike and are seeking a declaratory judgment that the idea of humans battling zombies in a shopping mall cannot be protected under copyright standards.
Now, considering George Romero got completely screwed in allowing Night of the Living Dead to fall into public domain. I'm all for giving the man his due. However, George has nothing to do with this lawsuit. I wish the folks at New Line could see how this kind of action cheapens the whole franchise and could adversely affect Diary of the Dead which was released in a limited run today. If anything George should countersue New Line, and while he's at it endorse Dead Rising, and go after Atari for the horrible licensed Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddlers Green game.
While I can't imagine New Line winning this waste of legal resources, the action may be enough to delay work on Dead Rising 2, which I imagine will take place nowhere near a shopping mall.
Dead Rising is currently available as an XBox 360 Platinum Hit for a budget price.
The original Dawn of the Dead is available in several formats including a pristine blu-ray edition and as angry as I am with New Line, if you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?
This weekend I'm driving 90 minutes north to see Diary of the Dead......I hope to review on Monday.
Have a nice weekend all.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cool Geeks I Know: Numero Dos

Today I bring you a very special installment of Cool Geeks I Know. In celebration of Valentine Day, or Singles Awareness Day (SAD) my cool Geek Goddess is my wife Tere.

Tere and I have been married (to each other for those of you not paying attention) since late 2001, and were friends for some time before we began dating. We were two geeks at opposite ends of a bar annoying our mutual friend who owned the place (big shout out to Marina) with all things geeky, which at the time was a mutual interest in Lucy Lawless, probably for different reasons. “Charlie this is Tere, Tere this is Charlie, please leave me alone and talk nerdy to each other.” Marina kinda said, and that was that.
Marina, by the way; big fan of Frank Miller, so another Geek Goddess in my book.
But Charlie, you may ask. Aside from being a Lucy Lawless fan what makes Tere a geek?

Let’s consider the ways shall we?
Every morning, the first thing I do (after yelling at the cats to shut the hell up) is thank whatever deities are out there for blessing me, one who is..trust me..completely unworthy, with a wife who can be as geeky as I am.
True, you will never find a Wii-mote in her hands, but she’ll never tell me video games are stupid. Yeah, she has the hots for the cynically sarcastic anti-hero types, but hey, I’ve got two out of three going for me. She likes sci-fi and horror. She has a Dork air freshener in her car that has long lost the scent, but she likes it.

She’s been to a Xena and a Farscape and a Fangoria convention by her own choice and has her own collection of autographs. One of her favorite autographs is Gunnar Hansen, 10 points for Gryffindor if you can tell me who he is, my wife knows…

Her current favorite shows are Torchwood and Battlestar. If I asked her to pick something up at Gamestop, she’d bring the right thing home. She stood in line, so I could go to band rehearsal, to get my copy of Dark Knight Returns signed by Frank Miller. She spoke to Frank effin Miller!! She is supportive of my zombie obsession. American Psycho is one of her favorite films. Her most anticipated film this year is The Dark Knight. I can list the virtues of Teres geek cred for pages, but the most telling is….she tolerates me…barely, and was a driving force behind me starting this blog. I personally think she got sick of listening to me rant, but hey whatever gets you there.

Other ways Tere is great besides beauty and brains. She is a damned talented Jewelry designer. (she once made a Tardis key for a friend of mine) You can check her stuff out at mypreciousstudio.com.
She is also a terrific mother to the pride of cats we have living with us.
So I just wanted to say thanks to my wife Tere for not throwing out my comics, and hiding my controllers and for watching Attack of the Show with me every night.

By the way: Guys, if you have a Geek Goddess in your life do something nice for her this valentine day. Let her pwn you at Halo, or read your comics before you get a chance (she won’t devalue them by looking at them, promise). Let her pick the movie, or (shudder) have control of the remote. Dance with her, you don’t like it, but she does. Whatever you do, consider yourself lucky to have a geek goddess in your life…..I know I do.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm So MSTie Over You

Todays entry is practically a public service. If you’re like me (if you’re not you should aspire to be as I can be pretty awesome) Saturday mornings in the not too distant past consisted of plopping down in front of the tube with a mug of coffee and the most sickeningly sweet cold cereal you could find to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000. For the uninitiated, MST3K was a show starring a guy and two robots that were forced to watch really bad films as some sort of experiment. Fortunately the robots had incredible senses of humor and they and the guy, originally portrayed by Joel Hodgson and followed by Mike J Nelson, spent the movie making bad puns, sarcastic one liners and throwing out more pop culture references than a library of Dennis Miller rants. It was the funniest thing on tv. The show ran from 1988-1999 for 199 episodes and I’ve seen each one at least twice. It’s true, even with the humor many of these films did everything in their power to put you to sleep, and there were more than one occasion where I swore I would have to practice defenestration (look it up you lazy bums) to save myself from the horrors of the film I was watching, but I came back week after week and like Beetlejuices take on the Exorcist it just got funnier and funnier. The day MST3K ended its run was the day laughter stopped, well it would have been if it wasn’t for CSpan.

I’m not just here to wax nostalgic though, no siree. The voices and writers behind one of the funniest shows ever are back as The Film Crew. There are no robots, no silhouettes, no Satellite of Love or invention exchanges, though there are still some lame interludes wisely kept to a minimum. The premise is much simpler; they provide audio commentary for films that never had one. Of course these films would have to be the scrapings below the bottom of the barrel. Mike is visually the only recognizable personality here, but once the film starts and the chatter begins it’s like old friends have come home. Kevin Murphy who voiced Tom Servo and Bill Corbett who was the 2nd voice of Crow T Robot are along for the ride.

Now don’t think they make the kind of jokes you’ll remember to impress your friends with your sharp wit. The humor is definitely dependent on the visuals from the films. This weekend I watched Killers From Space starring a young Peter Graves. One running gag is whenever the film shows Graves writing something they voice his internal musings as thinking of titles for shows he will later star in, “Let’s see, Mission Easy, no that’s not right.”. Killers From Space and Hollywood After Dark starring a very unsexy Rue Mclanahan as a stripper (she was hotter in Golden Girls, no lie) are the only two I have seen so far. Giant of Marathon and Wild Women of Wongo are the other two releases and are in my Netflix queue. I strongly urge you to seek these out, watch them, then invite some friends over to watch them again. If you don’t have friends, cats and action figures will suffice. Keep these guys making the funny, the fate of humor depends on it.

The Film Crew have another project called Rifftrax. For $4 or less you can download an MP3 audio track to provide commentary for a DVD you probably own. Films like Transformers, Spiderman and 300 as well as pilot episodes of Lost, Heroes and Greys Anatomy are available. There are 54 commentaries in total with more to come. If you watch films on your computer there is a beta player that will sync the audio and film up for you (currently windows only). I haven’t tried Rifftrax yet, but I’m thinking hey, I’m not doing anything else with Independence Day, am I?

I’ll let you know how it works out

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Where Have All The Cowgirls Gone?

I have one question for all of you. When did the Japanese develop dream reading technology, and why are they reading my dreams? Ok, technically that’s two questions, but bear with me. I’d been cruising around kotaku.com the other day, which is a great site for video game news when I found this intriguing image.

Turns out there’s a pretty popular (wonder why) videogame series in Japan called OneeChanbara. Roughly translated to big sister sword fighting, Oneechanbara features a bikini wearing cowgirl sword fighter named Aya battling hordes of zombies who bleed so much if you don’t clean your sword regularly it gets harder to wield.

I’ve never played these games, though they may be coming to the states for the Nintendo Wii and X-Box 360. None of this, however is important. The fact that this franchise is now a LIVE ACTION MOVIE is.

Aya is joined by Saki the schoolgirl and Reiko the cop who are also playable in the games. I own a lot of wacky Asian cinema, but this one may take the cheesecake. Just look at these shots and tell me you won’t be searching for this on ebay.

This may just knock the Dark Knight from my number one spot of most anticipated film of 2008……enjoy.

One more thing....

Thank you Japanese dream reading technology…..

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Worst "Dear John" Ever..

Sarah Silverman is one of the funniest women on the planet. She's also kinda hot, and real dorky at the same time. I think a lot of her stuff is so shocking that people can't tell if they should laugh or cringe. I caught this bit from the Jimmy Kimmel show the other day and needed to share.

The People He Kills, Get Up and Kill......

I didn't get a chance to post yesterday, but it was the birthday of a man whom without, I would not be who I am today.
I'm talking George A Romero turning 68. If ever there was ever a king to hail baby, it's this guy. George took the mind of this impressionable young man and warped it to the point where I have friends who want to be with me in the event of a zombie apocalypse. I want them there too, especially if they're slower than me......ha!
You can all celebrate Georges birthday by seeing Diary of the Dead opening the 15th of this month.