Thursday, May 22, 2014

Films I'm looking forward to - Monsters 2: Dark Continent

I kind of like this trailer.

But... Monsters 2: The Dark Continent feels like it has taken a little too long to get here. The first film--just called Monsters by current Godzilla Director Gareth Edwards--was released in 2010. Four years is a little longer of a time-frame than you usually see when it comes to most planned sequels, meaning this will most likely be an unplanned and thematically incongruent sequel at best, and nothing but a loud and cheap splatterfest cash-in on what was otherwise an interesting little sci-fi film at worst.

Y'see... the first film was interesting for several reasons. It was a simple idea, simply done. Set in a world where extraterrestrial flora and fauna has spread out wildly from the site of a crashed meteorite, resulting in the quarantining of a large swath of land between Mexico and Texas, there is now a continual battle between the Natives (us) and the New-comers (a kind of seemingly docile, but maybe hostile walking Octopus type of creature). We're trying to hold back their inexorable encroachment, but the alien beasts are constantly battering away at the large wall erected along the American border. (Spot that Allegory!) Unfortunately, a rich man's daughter is trapped on the wrong side, so he hires a dude-guy to go in and get her. After that, it's a kind of dystopian road film starring dude-guy and bratty-chick. Along the way they learn a little bit about themselves AND each other. They also learn to love...

The really interesting bit is supposedly a lot of the scenes were improvised along the side of the road in Mexico with just the Director, the camera, and the actors. And the most surprising thing about that? This doesn't hurt the film. It works. And the effects blend seamlessly. The aliens seem like any other animal, a strange and often dangerous type of animal, but they fit in. They look right. It's a really fun film. Once you see it, it's apparent why Edwards got a shot at the new Godzilla.  

Let's take a look at the trailer...

So, my main worry is that the film is going to try to replicate what Aliens did and turn a contemplative and smallscope vision of larger sci-fi ideas into a rip-roaring action-extravaganza, but most likely without the skill someone like James Cameron brings to a project. In other words... Direct-to-Video garbage, man.

BUT... like I said, I kind of like the trailer, so let's hope not.

We shall see,

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rat Queens

Hey, kids! It's me again, and I've got a brand new comic book recommendation for all y'all out there...

This is the Rat Queens.

The Rat Queens is a fairly new comic book, just six issues out at the moment. It's written by Kurtis J. Wiebe with art by Roc Upchurch, and the book is published by Image comics. For those of you not in the know, Image comics has kinda become "the place with the good shit" lately. A once ballsy young upstart comic company bursting at the seams with talent, only to slide down into a cesspool of cheap Big Two knock-off titles and uninspired grim and gritty garbage during the comic duldrums of the 90s, it has more recently experienced a bit of a renaissance. Now, its racks are lined with some of the most interesting titles currently available. 

I've mentioned a few of them before, here and there, on occasion, titles like...

Among others...

I know, I know, it's a real wall-o-comic covers, ain't it? Whatever. Peruse them at your leisure if you want, see if anything appeals to you. There will probably be something, I'm sure. They're all really good reads and totally worth your time...

Now, back to the Rat Queens.

So, what is it? What is it about? Questions, questions, questions. Let's get started... Imagine a rowdy D&D game played by a bunch of super foul-mouthed punk rock girls. It's mean and funny and a violent good time, full of hack and slash fights, familiar sword and sorcery fantasy tropes, and a big ol' heap of fuck you, all done up with some fantastic looking art. It's stylish and quirky and cool, but also--its biggest strength really--is that it's very character-driven. All-in-all, it's a top-notch comic. It's one I really recommend.

But then, maybe that all sounded a little too... eh... Press Release-y?

Yeah, maybe, but it's also true. It is really funny. It's also really gory at times. And honestly, if you've ever played D&D, you will recognize a lot of the things that going on inside the book--the creators have definitely rolled some dice--you'll recognize the character classes, the monsters, the look, even things like the basic set-up. The Rat Queens are a mercenary group made up of a classically disparate group of adventures. They live in a sprawling, high-walled city by the sea called Palisade, and they earn their living by going on your basic D&D-like quests... hunting bandits, fighting trolls, slaying monsters, yadda, yadda, yadda... you know how it goes.

And then in their off-hours...

Y'see, the Rat Queens, and all of the other various mercenary adventurer rabble that make Palisade their home, are a bit of a nuisance. They're loud. Sometimes they're jerks. They get drunk a lot. They break a lot of shit. They probably smell. Basically, they're getting on the collective nerves of the good people of Palisade. As a result, a conspiracy of citizens hire the deadliest Guild of Assassins in the known world to take out the Rat Queens, and all the other mercenaries, the next time they're off on an adventure TCB-ing.

It doesn't turn out quite as planned.

The Rat Queens return to Palisade to kick some ass and get some answers. And what follows is basically the first story line. It's a good comic. It's serious about itself, but not in an "embarrassing lack of self-awareness" kind of way, not by a long shot. It treats its world and characters with respect, but it's not afraid to have fun. And for all the crazy D&D silliness they get up to, it all feels real. The characters are not just clear, consistent, and distinct, they're a blast to read. You believe they're all actual friends with an actual history. Their quirks and foibles don't seem manufactured or forced into usage as the story demands. 

Sure, sure... sometimes it gets a little too... hmm... a little too what I think of as "Hunter S. Thompson-y". You know what I'm talking about, right? The cavalier, free-wheeling, good-time writing style sometimes pushes a little too far in the hunt for wild excess. It often finds itself walking that thin line between funny outrageous and trying-too-hard. The mimicry is understandable, there is no one like the good Doctor, after all, but it can be hard to pull it off all the time and occasionally the book does falter. Not often, mind you, but occasionally. I didn't mind too much, obviously, I clearly liked the book. And I mean, shit... even Warren Ellis stumbles with this every know and then, right? Right. 

And like I said, it all looks great.

So, who are the Rat Queens?


Hannah is the Elvish Sorcerer of the group. She is powerful. She's also a bit of a hot-head. Quick to fight, quicker to snark, she's definitely the catalyst of a lot of the trouble the Rat Queens get in. The daughter of a pair of Elvish Necromancers who love her, but nag because they maybe don't quite understand her choices, you get the feeling that she's kind of the rich girl of the group, slumming it with the lower classes while desperately trying to avoid a life back home that has been all laid out for her. She hangs out with Sawyer Silver, the Captain of Palisade's Guard. She likes him, but she won't admit it. The bad news is, Sawyer is a man with dark secrets, the kind with tentacles, the kind that is about to bite them all in the ass. 


Violet is a Dwarven Fighter. She shaved off her beard before it was cool, and left her family behind to forge her own path. She and Hannah bicker quite a bit. She's prickly about how people perceive Dwarfs: "Dwarven Ale... as if Dwarves drink just one kind of beer," but harbors a lot of the same feelings herself. In fact, it's why she left home, too many traditions and demands and expectations. She carries a lot of hurt feelings over it. So does her family. They want her back home, but on their terms, and Violet isn't going to compromise. You get the feeling there's other stuff going on there that is currently on the narrative slow boil. We shall see. In the meantime, while she's a bad ass fighter and a hard-charger, she's terrible at catchphrases.


Dee is the Human Cleric. She's their healer. Like Violet, she has left behind her family, her home, and the squid-god worshiping cult that raised her. Mostly because she's had a crisis of faith, she's not sure what she believes. She might be an atheist. She also figures she's Goddess enough for worship. So there's that, and maybe partly because of her much older husband too... but that still remains to be seen. He just showed up on their doorstep. Mostly though, her family seems to be letting her be on her own and find out who she is. Dee's the nice one of the group. The shy one. The good kid. But she's also a little sad, a little lonely, and even among her friends, she feels alone.


Betty is the group's Thief. She's a Smidgen, which is kind of like a hobbit, but more excessive. She's the hippy of the group, a lover of candy and drugs and booze. She's a smart ass and a sweet soul, but maybe too sensitive. Her girlfriend sees her constant partying and brawling as a sign that the two of them are in different places in their lives and ends up breaking up with her... poor Betty... But Betty is also real game, even with a broken heart, she's always down for an adventure. She's a talented burglar, an incredibly observant detective, and hell-on-wheels with her knives. 

And that's your team. 

The Rat Queens is about four adventurers looking glory and gold and good times. Don't pretend like you haven't been there before, Table-top. I'm rambling, I know, but this is a really good book, I want you to read it. Great art. Well written. You should definitely check it out. The first five issues were all collected recently into a nice Trade Paperback and the sixth issue just came out a week or so ago, so now is a good time to jump on, if you're interested. 

Do it. Come on.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Films I'm looking forward to - Interstellar (full trailer)

Following yesterday's newly-established tradition, here's another film I've mentioned before that has released a new version of its trailer. What can I say? Get used to it, people, it's that time of year, spring marches on into summer, on and on, intransigent, inexorable. And with it, comes a veritable parade of summer film hype...

So, with a few notable exceptions--like that last terrible Batman film--I've always been a fan of Christopher Nolan. He's a Big Idea filmmaker. He has a clear vision and aesthetic. He's fun. Okay, sure, he's not the best when it comes to filming a fight scene, but hey, we can't all be perfect, right? Anyway, over the past few years he seems to have had an alternating film deal with the studio: Batman film -- Personal film -- Batman film -- Personal film. With titles like The Prestige and Inception being examples of his personal ones, the established pattern at this point is that those films are the ones that are generally much more interesting.

Interstellar is the latest.

Unfettered from the crushing expectations of a multi-billion dollar IP and the studio's demands weighing down on his shoulders, freed from the grim and gritty murk of the Magic-less Nolan Bat-verse, it feels like this time he has swung for "sweeping and epic". That, plus the fact that I'm a total sucker for space stuff, means I'm very excited to see this one.

So, let's watch this...

As it's been said elsewhere, this is a trailer full of "awe".

I'm totally drawn to the subtle Day-After-Tomorrow setting and the fact that the Dying Earth trope is everywhere. I love the mixture of the two. I love the sense of Epic Heroism, the impending sacrifice, the looming unknown dangers of totally blind, deep-space exploration. I am totally enthralled by all of this. Then you go and add in the Wormhole? A super-highway across the universe? I'm seriously hopping this becomes an "Far-side of the Galaxy" type of adventure, desperate astronauts lost in space versus unknown hostile aliens. Is that too much to hope for?


Either way, my bet is that Jessica Chastain is his daughter, years later, all grown up, and still waiting for McConaughey to come back to Earth. Will he come back? Has he found someplace safe? And when he comes back, after all those years away, will he have barely aged at all?

Probably. It's a favorite Sci-fi Space Exploration Story Trope, y'see.

I still can't wait to see,

Monday, May 19, 2014

Films I'm looking forward to - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This has been out for awhile, but let's talk about it some more...

Apes don't kill Apes...

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, but I did not expect to like Rise of the Planet of the Apes at all. In fact, I didn't expect anything of quality at all. I wasn't even going to bother seeing it. I assumed it would be yet another crappy, poorly-done sequel no one asked for, yet another example of vacuous Hollywood regurgitating its usual lazy stream of feculent, creatively-bankrupt money-grabs ad nauseam. But I went, and I was wrong, because I loved it.

Loved it, people.

It was a great. A damn good time. It was simultaneously a great sequel and a great prequel, all while being a worthy re-imagining of an indisputable classic. Basically, Director Rupert Wyatt did the impossible: He made a great film out of a remake, one that I not only loved and now own, but left me really looking forward to a possible sequel. And I'm not the only one that feels that way either apparently, because the studio actually went and greenlit the thing! A sequel... to the remake of the Planet of the Apes... Unbelievable. The craziest sci-fi franchise of all time begins anew!

Unfortunately, Rupert Wyatt left the production soon after.

Crap. The dreaded "Creative Differences" strikes again. Who knows what the actual reason was... actually, probably someone out there. I suppose I could google it, but... meh. doesn't matter. Anyway you slice it, this was bad news, Wyatt is a big reason for the first film's success. And replacement Directors are almost never good choices, that's why they're the "replacement" instead of the "first choice", y'know what I mean?

Luckily, it appears God really, really wants a sequel to the Planet of the Apes, because the studio tapped Matt Reeves to fill the vacated position. Reeves directed X-Men: First Class--otherwise known as the only X-film still worth a shit--which was released in 2011, the same year as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and much like that film, I was completely shocked that X-Men: First Class actually turned out to be good. I had assumed it would be yet another tired reboot of a worn out franchise, an effort more about retaining rights than any kind of artistic vision. However, much like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I was wrong again. Like Rupert Wyatt, Matt Reeves took a big pile of shit and turned it into gold.

So hiring Reeves for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was maybe a good sign.

Then the full length trailer showed up...

Oh yeah... Oh, yeah. You hear me? Oh. Yeah. That's the good stuff right there, people. Apes on horseback! Apes with rifles! Oh, man. I'm telling you... Post-apocalyptic ruins? Even better. I'm so ready for this film.

So ready,