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REVIEW: Love and Monsters

REVIEW: Love and Monsters

2020 felt like a disaster movie made real, as we hunkered down from the pandemic, watched racial strife and political shenanigans raise the stakes, all culminating in a universal desire to either end the year quickly or calla do-over. Set against the claustrophobia of being trapped at home, Paramount Home Entertainment gave us Love and Monsters, featuring the remaining five percent of humanity, living underground because the surface was no longer safe.

Good timing. On the other hand, the film has been in development since 2012 and was scheduled for release right as the world shifted on its existential axis. Paramount decided to push it out in the few theaters open and then make it available for streaming or, as of tomorrow, on disc.

Most apocalyptic films are dour and depressing, aimed at adults, or filled with adolescent wunderkinder rising against adversity, aimed at tweens and teens. This film, though, might be the apocalyptic film for the whole family.

Meet Joel (Dylan O’Brien), one of the survivors, but not good enough to hunt and gather, but is relegated to being the cook, a necessary but unglamorous role. He misses his Aimee (Jessica Henwick), his girlfriend, while everyone else in his group has paired up. Chatting by radio just isn’t working for him. Miserable and in love, he decides to brave the elements and go in search of her.

Now, the world changed after we obliterated an oncoming asteroid, without factoring in how the fallout would alter the ecology. Animals, fish, birds, and insects all grew to mammoth proportions and mankind was no longer atop the food chain. Instead, they fell to the bottom as their ranks were depleted by the hungry hungry wildlife.

So, it’s no fun, but thankfully Joel encounters Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt), who guide him. Nothing is as it appears from here on out and while predictable in places, it’s also heartwarming and fun. The overall story is fine, not demanding too much of its audiences, which we definitely could use.

The film is available in the usual assortments including the $k Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital HD combo pack. The 1080p transfer is excellent and there is enough of an improvement in the 2160 Dolby Vision edition to appreciate the subtleties that are brought out. The colorful world benefits from the Ultra HD. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless soundtrack complements it nicely.

There is a perfunctory assortment of extras on the Blu-ray disc including seven deleted scenes (11:50), Bottom of the Food Chain: The Cast of Love and Monsters (7:43), and It’s a Monster’s World: Creating a Post-Apocalyptic Landscape (7:04).

Shade the Changing Girl, Vol. 2 by Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone & others

First, about that “others” in the post title: Marguerite Sauvage drew one of the six issues collected here, Ande Parks inked the pages set on Meta, Kelly Fitzpatrick colored all of it, and several other artists contributed to the back-up stories. Including all of them would make it look like a law firm.

But Cecil Castellucci wrote all of it and Marley Zarcone drew all but the first issue in Shade the Changing Girl, Vol. 2: Little Runaway , so it’s reasonably fair to attribute it to the two of them. And it is, as you might guess, the immediate sequel to Vol. 1: Earth Girl Made Easy , by the same team, and concludes the initial arc of this comic. (It dove into a Young Animal crossover that had something to do with milk immediately afterward, and then reappeared, briefly, as Shade the Changing Woman.)

I thought this Shade was going to be focused on the alien-in-high-school thing, but I was wrong: the first issue here blows that up to send Loma Shade (current possessor of the M-vest, traverser of the strange interdimensional Madness between her planet Meta and Earth, minor criminal, college dropout, refugee and all-around flighty person) off on her own journey across America, in the mode of the Milligan/Bachalo Changing Man series of the ’90s.

Loma intends her journeys will go farther than that — she has a bucket list covering the whole Earth, including several things either mythological or eons-gone (like meeting dinosaurs) — but her journey turns into a quick stop in Gotham City (here entirely a stand-in for NYC, with no notable Gotham characters even appearing) and another in Los Alamos (somewhat muted; I seem to remember Milligan/Bachalo did something more pointed in their run, but I may be misremembering) on the way to Hollywood. Loma is an obsessive, and all of her love for Earth has been filtered through the ’50s TV show Life With Honey, which was a minor fad on Meta when its TV signals arrived, fifty years after it was broadcast on earth and about ten years before this story takes place.

(As a sidebar, Castellucci slyly makes it clear that Life with Honey was never a big deal for anyone but Loma. The marketing copy for the Shade books tends to take Loma’s point of view — this is the biggest hit in the galaxy! — but that very much seems not to be actually true. Loma is not a reliable narrator of anything.)

So the arc of Changing Girl turns out to be entirely about Loma chasing down the heroine of an old TV show, for her own obsessive reasons, and ending with a character reset — not unlike the multiple times that happened in the Milligan/Bachalo run, but maybe a bit more quickly. (Milligan/Bachalo ran seventy issues, with about three resets during that time.) I’m not complaining: I like seeing supposedly superhero comics focusing on obsessive, damaged people who never do anything remotely heroic or even punch anyone. I’d have liked to see Loma’s journeys have more time and space, but everything in comics these days needs to wrap up in a couple of arcs for the TPs and to make room for the next crossover, so this is probably all we ever were going to get.

Oh, and the “villains” on the Meta end do chase Loma, in a way that seems like it will be the usual mad-scientist thing, trying to Conquer The World! or something like that. It goes an entirely different way, which is amusing and welcome, but that all ends slightly rushed and uneventfully.

The art is still excellent: Sauvage’s issue in particular is a delight, in a much more comics-realistic style than Zarcone and making me think she would be awesome for a new Millie the Model or some other high-fashion book, centering on attractive women wearing attractive clothes and doing something interesting. Zarcone still works in what looks to me like a modern version of Bachalo’s Shade look from the ’90s, a nice bit of visual continuity. And Fitzpatrick’s colors are still vibrant and eye-catching, essential in a book all about “the Madness” and what it does to people.

This didn’t go as far as I hoped it would, but it has a great tone and style, and a central concern unusual in Big Two comics: about people and their connections, and (without being obvious about it) something of that what-is-the-right-thing-to-do idea that’s always so central to superhero comics.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

New Clip from Batman: Soul of the Dragon

New Clip from Batman: Soul of the Dragon

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released an all-new official clip from Batman: Soul of the Dragon.

In the clip, martial arts master O-Sensei (voiced by James Hong) introduces to his exclusive group of students – including Bruce Wayne (David Giuntoli), Shiva (Kelly Hu), Ben Turner (Michael Jai White), and Richard Dragon (Mark Dacascos) – to the all-powerful Soul Breaker, a sword with the potential to tear a hole in time and space.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Batman: Soul of the Dragon, the all-new next entry in the DC Universe Movies canon, arrives January 12, 2021, on Digital and January 26, 2021, on 4K Combo Pack & Blu-ray.

An all-new original animated film, Batman: Soul Of The Dragon does a deep dive into Elseworlds vibes by putting Batman in the midst of the swinging 1970s. Faced with a deadly menace from his past, and along with his mentor O-Sensei, Bruce Wayne must enlist the help of three former classmates – world-renowned martial artists Richard Dragon, Ben Turner and Lady Shiva – to battle the monsters of this world and beyond. The film is rated R for some violence.

By Night, Vols. 2 & 3 by John Allison, Christine Larsen, and Sarah Stern

This is the remaining two-thirds of John Allison’s attempt to see if he could reconfigure the essential Britishness of his writing and port Tackleford wholesale to its American equivalent: Spectrum, South Dakota.

(No, I don’t quite see it, either. I’m thinking some old mill town in western Massachusetts would be better, or somewhere in coastal Maine, but I am an East Coaster to begin with.)

In case that’s confusing: John Allison writes sprightly, fun stories with various levels of fantasy elements, set mostly in the English Midlands, often centering around the quirky town of Tackleford, first as a series of webcomics (Bobbins , Scarygoround , Bad Machinery , and see these posts of mine) and increasingly as floppy comics that people actually pay money for (most famously Giant Days ). A couple of years ago, he launched a series called By Night, with many Tacklefordian flourishes, set in, as I said, the distant town of Spectrum. The comic was drawn by Christine Larsen and colored by Sarah Stern, who also provided variant covers.

I covered the first collection here back in May, and now I have the rest of the story: Vol. 2  and Vol. 3  collect the rest of this twelve-issue series. So far, it doesn’t seem to have spawned a sequel.

And I still find it basically the same kind of thing as the first volume: fun, but subtly off and not quite as enjoyable as Allison’s stories set in a greener and more pleasant land. The dialogue often falls somewhere between Allisonly snappy and actually colloquial American, as if he were trying to stretch to speak in a foreign tongue and not consistently succeeding. Nothing is actually wrong here: it’s a fine adventure comic, with snappy dialogue, quirky characters, and a plot that bounces around and makes things happen. It just feels like someone trying to “do John Allison in the USA” and subtly missing the point.

So: former friends Jane and Heather have discovered a portal into a fantasy world, and of course intend to monetize that…by making a documentary film about it. (Allison is always quirky, even when he’s trying to be American about it.) This is slightly hampered, first, by their being driven out of the fantasy world by the authorities there, and, secondarily, by the increasingly heavy-handed tactics from authorities here related to the corporation that built the portal and then went bankrupt, pauperizing the town.

These two volumes feature a lot of running about, and an array of colorful characters, from drug dealers to a small green troll-like fantasy-world person, from aged (and possibly insane) scientists to salt-of-the-earth vermin-extermination working men. There are nefarious plots from both ends of the portal, surprising revelations, applied mad science, semi-random murder, and pulse-pounding board meetings.

All of the ingredients are fine, and By Night could seem really awesome to someone not familiar with Allison’s other work. (Or to someone violently allergic to anything non-American, I suppose: goodness know we do have those.) It’s not one of his best works, but that is a very minor quibble on my part — this is a better run of comics than nearly anything cover-featuring a person wearing a mask and published in the last eighty years.

I still think most readers would be better served as an introduction to Allison by diving into Bad Machinery or Giant Days (depending on their preferences), but what do I know?

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

REVIEW: Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 2

REVIEW: Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 2

The names of the legendary animators of the 30s and 40s have faded with time, except to the connoisseurs and collectors, which is a shame. Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, and Tex Avery should be as well known as respected as is Walt Disney, though these days, the latter is better known as an entrepreneur than an animator.

This is why we should love and support Warner Archive, for gathering the forgotten but still vital cartoons of the past and making them available in contemporary forms, which brings me to the just-released Tex Avery Screwball Classics: Volume 2. One a single disc we have 21 cartoons to enjoy, most of which hold up extremely well.

Avery, to those who recognize the name, certainly know him for his work on Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, and Bugs Bunny. But, after he moved to MGM, he continued to offer up side-splitting entertainment with characters such as the sexy Little Red Riding Hood and her leering adversary the Southern Wolf (voiced by Daws Butler).

Here, he worked with writers Heck Allen and Rich Hogan and their efforts hold up. Droopy Dog and Spike are also represented here. Standouts include “Cuckoo Clock”, “Magical Maestro”, “One Cab’s Family”, “The Cat That Hated People”, and “The First Bad Man”. Given changing social mores, the disc comes with a disclaimer that the disc is intended for Adult Collectors and may not be suitable for children to which I say, phooey.

The digital transfer is far from perfect and may disappoint those used to pristine high def reproductions of work. Sadly, a fire in the 1960s destroyed many negatives, limiting what could be used to make these discs and future ones. Clearly, the source material was in rougher shape and the best efforts were no doubt taken. That said, the color saturation is fine and screens well on a television screen. As I understand it, the source material was varied to generate the DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio, but they do a nice job so audiophiles may be the only ones troubled.

Nicely, there is a nearly hour-long Tex Avery: King of Cartoons documentary.

List of Shorts:
1. Little Rural Riding Hood
2. The Cuckoo Clock
3. Magical Maestro
4. One Cab’s Family
5. Cat That Hated People
6. Doggone Tired
7. The Flea Circus
8. Field And Scream
9. The First Bad Man
10. Out Foxed
11. Droopy’s Double Trouble
12. Three Little Pups
13. Dragalong Droopy
14. Homesteader Droopy
15. Dixieland Droopy
16. Counterfeit Cat
17. Ventriloquist Cat
18. House Of Tomorrow
19. Car Of Tomorrow
20. Tv Of Tomorrow
21. Farm Of Tomorrow

Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden

This book makes we want to get Hegelian, but I have to immediately insist that it’s not the book’s fault — I’ll overanalyze anything given half a chance, and this just happened to wander into my sights.

So, with that caveatAre You Listening?  feels like a synthesis. Tillie Walden started her comics career with shorter books and stories — which I still haven’t seen, and which may, for those who know them well, utterly shatter this idea I have — and then moved on into big books with first Spinning , then On a Sunbeam , and then Listening.

Spinning is the thesis: a memoir about Walden’s own life, growing up mostly in Texas, a girl realizing she’s queer, beginning to think about what she wants and doesn’t want in her life, focused through the lens of her decade-plus as a competitive skater.

On a Sunbeam is the antithesis: a SFnal story, set in an entirely imagined universe (one with no male gender at all, as far as the story showed, though there was, oddly, one “non-binary” person), with strange and quirky rules, and a story of first love thwarted by the universe and (more prosaically) by the fact that first loves tend to end anyway.

Last year Walden came back with Are You Listening?, a graphic novel set in real-world Texas but featuring fictional characters, about two young queer women who are not going to have any quote-unquote “relationship” with each other, a road trip on a smaller scale than Sunbeam but featuring eruptions of fantasy unlike Spinning. So: synthesis.

Walden is already an interesting and subtle graphic novelist, even this early in her career, so I don’t want to try to pigeonhole her, but I think this could be a signpost. What I hope to see from her over the next years or decades is more books like Listening: based in a realistic world but with fantasy elements, about young women (probably getting older as Walden does herself) navigating things other than just first love and coming out, who are more and more at home in their own lives as time goes on.

(We’ll see if that’s the case: Walden is clearly smart and talented enough to go an entirely different way, somewhere along the line.)

So Listening is the story of these two women and this one trip. Bea is in her late teens, and is clearly running away from her small-town home, for reasons we won’t learn for a while but are clearly powerful. Lou is almost a decade older, a small-town mechanic making a trip to visit family — but it also quickly becomes clear that she’s also running away, in the quieter way of a more settled, slightly older person who has gotten deeply unhappy with some of the major things in her life.

Along the way, they find a cat, and try to take it back to its home. Lou teaches Bea how to drive. They open up to each other, at least somewhat. And they are pursued by the mysterious, unexplained Office of Road Inquiry as they drive further and further into West Texas.

As far as I can see, that Office has nothing to do with Bea’s secrets or Lou’s restlessness. They do have an interest in the cat, though: maybe it’s the cat that ties everything together. Listening is not a story in which everything is tied up in a bow at the end — it’s the story of a few days in Bea’s and Lou’s lives. Important days, transformational days. Days where they change each other and move on in their own directions with more purpose, but just a few days.

Like Walden’s previous books, Listening is about people and their relationships. There are other things going on in her books, but the people are central and their emotions are the drivers of her books. Listening feels like it has a tighter focus than Spinning, which covered whole years and all of young Walden’s concerns, or Sunbeam, with its larger, complex cast and richly imagined universe. Walden here is bouncing two characters off each other — both of them feel like getting out, of different things for different reasons, and then throwing other complications at them to see how they react and what kind of people they are when they come out the other end.

It’s a surprisingly quiet book for a road-trip story about two women pursued by potentially-supernatural and definitely threatening entities, but surprising is par for the course for Walden so far. And surprising is a wonderful and amazing thing for any creator — even more so for someone who can put out lovely, deep books like these this often.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Contagion Available on Demand Today

Cognition Available on Demand Today

“Sometimes the most dangerous journey is to the center of your own mind.”

A Talash Video Centre production in association with Digital Boulevard, Twelve Corner Productions & China House Arts, are proud to officially announce the international On-Demand release of the British short sci-fi drama Cognition – starring Bafta Winner Andrew Scott (1917, Fleabag, Spectre) and Jeremy Irvine (War Horse, The Railway Man).

Following the rare privilege of a public premiere and a three-week cinema release at the Archlight Cinema, part of the iconic Battersea Power Station complex in London. The official multi-language international Video On Demand release will be available on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and YouTube Premium today.

The English audio version will be accompanied by subtitles in Castilian, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish while being available in 92 Countries (English language VOD release was on October 30th, 2020).

Cognition not only secured rare prime time coverage on BBC London News (BBC One), where it was described as a “short Feature with big production values”, but was also mentioned a record six times in one day. The coverage included interviews with the Producer / Director Ravi Ajit Chopra as well as with Jeremy Irvine.

Produced & Directed by Ravi Ajit Chopra, Cognition is a short dystopian sci-fi drama/thriller about a son confronting his past. Journeying through the symbolic landscape of the subconscious mind, the story follows an unbreakable bond between father and son…. a bond that transcends SPACE AND TIME…..

With key filming having taken place at the iconic Battersea Power Station in London, Cognition was the last film to be shot at the Grade II* listed building during its huge redevelopment. Filming was made possible with support from various BBC departments including the use of the BBC News helicopter for breathtaking aerial shots, and a stunning orchestral score from the BBC’s 55 Piece Concert Orchestra, as recorded at Air Studios in London.

Rising Composer Samuel Karl Bohn composed the film score, renowned Production Designers Universal Creations (Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy) built key sets and props. Emmy award-winning Supervising Sound Editor Stuart McCowan and his team produced a searing atmospheric soundtrack at Twickenham Film Studios with a Dolby Atmos print at Abbey Road Studios. Various VFX companies including Emmy winning Peerless, Bandito Studios, Territory Studios, and Foundry helped to complete the 350 VFX shots. Technicolor worked on the film from an early stage for a period of a year, and provided their visual wizardry on invisible VFX, grading, and finish.

Director and producer Ravi Ajit Chopra said: “Cognition is a very personal film for me, I have always been fascinated with the inner workings of the mind, and what it means to confront your trauma/demons and follow your dreams….. I hope the audience will enjoy coming on this psychological rollercoaster ride.”

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

Planet Vega, a breathtaking world of unparalleled beauty…

10-year old Abner dreams of nothing more than exploring the entire universe as he gazes up at Vega’s majestic Twilight sky. But those dreams are far from realistic – He and his father Elias live a humble, nomadic lifestyle on the endless desert-scapes of Vega.

But miles away there is another Vega, a state-controlled Vega, separate from the colonies. A Vega that is home only to an Elite class to have built a technological Empire that is unexcelled in the universe. This is a world Elias fears, a world he has kept Secret from Abner all these years. But he can only shepherd his son for so long…

This uncompromising short Sci-Fi drama fuses two distant worlds in a roller-coaster ride through the darkest chasms of the mind.

Run time: 27 minutes

First Batman: Soul of the Dragon Clip Unleashed

First Batman: Soul of the Dragon Clip Unleashed

The first official clip from Batman: Soul of the Dragon was released by Warner Home Entertainment.

The features Bruce Wayne making the arduous trek to find O-Sensei and his mysterious martial arts training school. Bruce Wayne is voiced by David Giuntoli (Grimm, A Million Little Things) and O-Sensei is voiced by James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China).

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, “Batman: Soul of the Dragon,” the all-new next entry in the DC Universe Movies canon, arrives January 12, 2021 on Digital and January 26, 2021 on 4K Combo Pack & Blu-ray.

 

An all-new original animated film, Batman: Soul Of The Dragon does a deep dive into Elseworlds vibes by putting Batman in the midst of the swinging 1970s. Faced with a deadly menace from his past, and along with his mentor O-Sensei, Bruce Wayne must enlist the help of three former classmates – world-renowned martial artists Richard Dragon, Ben Turner and Lady Shiva – to battle the monsters of this world and beyond. The film is rated R for some violence.

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REVIEW: Total Recall

The 1980s were littered with small production companies, many of which had one or two notable successes and a lot of schlock. As the audience tastes changed, and the blockbuster became ever more important, these houses – Golan-Globus, Cannon, Avco Embassy, and of course, Carolco. That latter studio had one surprise smash hit, First Blood, with Sylvester Stallone. They were a company on the rise.

During all of this, a screenplay adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember it for you Wholesale” from Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett had been floating from studio to studio. It proved a tough sell and a tough story to crack but Dino DeLaurentis seemed game until his Dune sunk in the sand.

By then, Arnold Schwarzenegger was aware of the project and wanted to be the star and when Dino let go, he convinced Carolco to buy it. Arnold’s deal was a big paycheck but more importantly, he got to pick producer, screenwriters, and director. It was he who picked Paul Verhoeven to come aboard.

The story features a construction worker, Schwarzenegger, who keeps dreaming of Mars. He visits Rekall, which can implant false memories for thrill-seekers, but things go awry when it triggers his suppressed memories of being a secret agent on Mars. He heads back there and gets caught up in the revolution against the corrupt governor Cohaagen (Ronny Cox). Things blow up, the special effects were pretty impressive, and the cast included Sharon Stone, Rachel Ticotin, Marc Alaimo, and, the go to man, Michael Ironside.

What resulted was the box office hit Total Recall, one of the finer science fiction films from the 1990s. It has held up well, withstood bad sequels, and still pops up on cable. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the film is being released this week in 4K Ultra HD. In fact, it comes from Lionsgate Home Entertainment in a three disc set, including one Blu-ray disc for the film and some special features, and one just filled with special features. And yes, a Digital HD code is included.

This package easily eclipses the 2012 Blu-ray that Verhoeven himself was involved with all-around. The color saturation on both the 2160 and 1080 transfers are superior with terrific resolution. It’s sharp but not perfect with some compressions issues here or there, but nothing that will spoil the home viewing experience.

The discs come with Dolby Atmos soundtracks which complement the video just fine. You certainly will gain new appreciation for the Jerry Goldsmith score here.

As for the special features, the 4K comes with the Audio Commentary from Schwarzenegger and Verhoeven. Several 1080p features on the same disc include the all-new and worth watching Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood (59:22), Open Your Mind – Scoring Total Recall (21:24), and Dreamers Within the Dream: Developing Total Recall (8:26), spotlighting artist Ron Miller.

On the film’s Blu-ray disc, you also get the Audio Commentary, Open Your Mind – Scoring Total Recall, and Dreamers Within the Dream: Developing Total Recall.

The second Blu-ray offers up Total Excess: How Carolco Changed Hollywood, Total Recall: The Special Effects (23:15), Making Of (8:03), Imagining Total Recall” Featurette (30:12), and the Trailer (1:30).