Venganza Media Gazette

Tech, TV, Movies, Games, and More

New Podcast: Issue 30: Toys of Future Past Annual 2011

It truly has been a great year to be a Marvel collector. With Marvel dominating the movie theaters with X-Men, Captain America, and Thor, plus a slew of video games, action figures, and new high end collectibles, fans of all aspects of the Marvel characters could surely find an item to buy and love.

On this issue of Marvelicious Toys, Justin, Marjorie, and Arnie are joined by Timely Review host Jerry and Marvelicious Toys Podcast Enhancer Berent to look back at 2011. From Thor figures breaking street date to Iron Man: The Armored Avengers figures never seen, from Hot Toys Iron Man to Bowen Designs MODOK, it’s all covered here in our 2011 Year in Review show!

Plus we continue the debate started in Star Wars Action News Episode 325 — are 12-inch figures dolls? Listen to the show then come give us your thoughts in the Fantastic Forum Poll!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT030.MP3

Category: Arts

    

December 31, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 30: Toys of Future Past Annual 2011

SOPA – The Death Knell for Podcasters? (updated 1-20-2012)

Update:  On January 18, 2012 all Venganza Media sites joined thousands of others in going dark to protest the SOPA/PIPA laws.  On January 20th the sponsors of SOPA and PIPA withdrew their support, leaving the bills effectively dead in the water. 

I applaud all the brave souls who risked revenue and popularity to stand against these bills, but the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  New laws will be proposed, and the US government will continue to stretch the reaches of their jurisdiction as they did with the January 19th, 2012 takedown of Megaupload.  

This article was originally written to raise awareness.  I am glad people became aware of these bills.  Please stay informed.  

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing — Edmund Burke 

 

Perhaps you’ve already heard of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.  Then again, perhaps you haven’t.  It’s very telling that the mass-media corporations that back the bill, who’s lobbyists caused the bill to happen, are the same mass-media corporations that report the news.  So it’s very likely you’ve not heard of this bill which has been called the Death of the Internet, legalized internet censorship, and even a threat to human rights.

Perhaps you believe those statements to be hyperbole, and perhaps you think that a new internet law won’t really change your internet experience.  But if you are reading this article, you are wrong, because if SOPA passes this article may cease to be published.  And if you are here, you likely listen to one of the many podcasts I host and produce, and SOPA could end all of them as well.

The key to SOPA is that it allows private companies to order a “takedown” of any web site that infringes on that company’s intellectual property.  There would be no due process, no review by any law enforcement agency.  The private company, be it a movie studio, RIAA, or any other large firm, would issue a request and by law the following would happen:

  • Google would be forced to remove all search results to that site.
  • Google, Amazon, and all other advertisers would be forced to cease business with that site.
  • Paypal would be forced to halt any payments to the site.
and much more.  Worse, once a site has been reported for violating SOPA, it is up to the site’s owners to litigate and prove they did not infringe on any intellectual property.
In short — small sites will be closed by large corporations with large legal teams.  Only sites that can afford drawn out litigation will be able to survive.
How does this impact my podcasts and Venganza Media?  The language in the bill is exceedingly vague.  While we may all agree that the intent behind the bill, to stop the online piracy of movies and music, is a just cause the language in SOPA fails to define what is really infringement.  More, without any review, it is conceivable that sites which do not infringe on intellectual property could be shut down and simply not have the financial resources to litigate and bring themselves back online.
Imagine any of the following scenarios:
  • Star Wars Action News, a podcast I have hosted and produced since 2005, has used Star Wars music and sound effects in its opening and closing (as do many other Star Wars podcasts).  This is done with Lucasfilm’s approval, as we have discussed what is and isn’t “fair use” with Steve Sansweet when he was head of Head of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm.  However, while Lucasfilm may approve of our use, we could still be entirely shut down.  If 20th Century Fox (who distributes the Star Wars films), Time Warner (owners of Cartoon Network which airs the Clone Wars TV Series), Sony or RIAA (who would regulate any use of the music from the Star Wars soundtracks) submitted a claim that our show infringes on their intellectual property, our site swactionnews.com would be shut down immediately.
  • Now Playing, a podcast we have run since 2007, is devoted to discussing movies.  Our use of movie clips and music and movie imagery would be considered fair use in court; however SOPA does not require a trial.  If we published a review that a movie studio, production company, or director doesn’t like, they could retaliate by claiming we are infringing on their intellectual property.  As the language in SOPA is so vague, the simple discussion of plot details could be considered infringement.  Now Playing operates on listener donations through Paypal; donations that would be seized if a single complaint is filed.
  • Marvelicious Toys is my youngest podcast, started in 2010.  It uses original music scored by Joe Harrison, and photos of toys we take ourselves.  But again, because the language in SOPA is so vague, even showing a photograph of a toy based on a Marvel comic could be considered intellectual property infringement by The Disney Company or any of it’s various subsidiaries.  Again, a single complaint and without any due process our site would be shuttered.
  • The Venganza Media Gazette, the site which you’re reading right now, has been host to my reviews of the Blade TV series, a review of Duran Duran in concert, as well as a review of Dan Slott’s Spider-Island comic event.  As articles with images are more visually appealing, we have used publicity shots, photos taken ourselves, or screen shots to enhance these reviews (again, an act covered by fair use).  Any of those organizations could claim use of these images is infringement of their property, and the entire site would be shut down.
  • Worse, we could be shut down through no action of our own.  We have forums for our listeners to come and talk about our podcasts.  The content in these forums is regulated by volunteer forum administrators, but we are not omnipresent.  If a single person, be it a regular user or a spammer, comes and posts a link to pirated content, our entire forum community could be shut down.
We are a very small group of podcasters who operate thanks to a few affiliate sites (very few thanks to IL Governor Pat Quinn), a couple of sponsors, and mostly by listener donations through Paypal.  We do not have the resources to litigate; if a SOPA complaint is filed against us it is simply the end of our podcasts and our articles.
And we are not alone.  The advent of the “blogger” has created thousands of news and entertainment sites just like mine.  The internet is built on small entrepreneurs who start these ventures, and large corporations will have the power to shut all of us down without first having to prove we did anything wrong.  This bill could kill our podcasts, and could kill the livelihoods of bloggers across the world.
So what can you do to stop SOPA?  Likely, nothing.  It’s perhaps the cynical answer, but it seems that the campaign contributions of media lobbyists matter more than the rights of the American citizen.  Unfortunately, I have no answers, and if you do please share them with me.  I don’t write this article to rally you to action, or to tell you who to vote for or against.  I just hope that by reading this you have been made aware that this bill is dangerous, and truly can kill the internet as we know it.  Watch the progression of this bill, and pray it doesn’t pass.

December 25, 2011 Posted by | News, Tech | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

New Podcast: Issue 29: Shocking New Finds

The holidays are in full swing, and the stores are mobbed with people who ignore the Great Recession and make toy runs more difficult than ever. So, of course, now’s the time for new variants in the Marvel Universe series! With a Wal-Mart exclusive Gift Pack of figures, not one but TWO new versions of the Marvel Universe Electro found at Wal-Marts, and some brightly painted Thor and Captain America figures showing up at Family Dollar stores, Marjorie, Arnie, and Justin run down all the revised figures in this issue of the Marvelicious Toys podcast!

Also on this show, find out where to get the entire set of 2012’s Marvel Legends figures, the hosts review the Quicksilver and Wonderman comic pack and the Bullseye and Daredevil comic pack, four new Hot Toys Marvel figure announcements are recapped, and so much more! So cuddle up in your Spider-Man snuggie and kick back for this issue of the Marvelicious Toys podcast!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT029.MP3

Category: Arts

    

December 16, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 29: Shocking New Finds

New Podcast: Issue 28: Sweet Christmas 2011

It’s Thanksgiving and so that means the annual Marvelicious Toys Sweet Christmas episode! Join Justin, Marjorie, and Arnie as they run down all the best Black Friday sales for Marvel toys, collectibles, games, and movies! As you plan your Black Friday shopping trip, Marvelicious Toys is here to help you maximize your spending power and have a mighty Marvel shopping trip!

And then since shopping doesn’t end with Friday, Marvelicious Toys brings you the annual Marvel gift guide! Running down the best toys, collectibles, movies, games, T-shirts, statues, and more, we have gift ideas in every price range for every Marvel lover. As we approach the holidays, don’t let the Marvel fan of any age down, give them a Marvelicious Christmas!

And don’t forget, our contest is still going on for the Backstage Toys gift certificates, Deadpool T-Shirt, X-Men First Class Minimates, Gentle Giant Captain America SDCC exclusive mini-bust, and Kotobukiya Iron Man Fine Art Statue!

Plus head to our web site, http://marvelicioustoys.com, to sign up for our Holiday Gift X-Change! Registration closes Dec 1st, so sign up to get one extra Marvel treat from a fellow Marvelicious Toys fan!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT028.MP3

Category: Arts

    

November 24, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 28: Sweet Christmas 2011

New Podcast: Issue 27: Marvelicious Toys’ One-Year Birthday Bash!

It’s Marvelicious Toys’ one-year anniversary, and to celebrate your hosts Arnie, Marjorie, and Justin have an issue jammed with news, reviews, and prizes donated from BackstageToys.com, Gentle Giant, and Kotobukiya! Listen to win some truly Marvelicious items!

Also this week, with only revision waves of Marvel Universe figures hitting stores right now, Marvelicious Toys podcast hosts head to other avenues to get their Marvel collecting fix. On this issue, Justin reports in from a Kansas City toy run where some Toy Biz Marvel Legends bargains were found, Marjorie discusses the holiday gift items already hitting the seasonal section of your local stores, and Arnie reviews Wave 4 of the Thor movie figures he ordered from Entertainment Earth!

With Jerry providing a Timely Review of trading cards, and a review of the video game Spider-Man: Edge of Time, it’s all on this issue of the Marvelicious Toys podcast!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT027.MP3

Category: Arts

    

November 15, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 27: Marvelicious Toys’ One-Year Birthday Bash!

A Spider Island Post-Mortem Review

Your tour of Spider Island starts here.

With the recently concluded Spider Island crossover event, Marvel comics and Spider-Man writer Dan Slott have spun a web of fun that has too long been missing from comic books and created a cure for Event Fatigue.

If you are a casual comic book follower, for the past two months the only comic event you may have heard about is DC’s “New 52” line reboot, aimed at drawing in new comic readers.  But DC’s primary competitor, Marvel Comics, has also been having some smaller scale events aimed at increasing comic sales.  Head into your local comic shop, or Barnes & Noble bookstore, and you will see two common themes spread across most of the Marvel books.  The first is Fear Itself, a multi-book crossover that Marvel hyped heavily at its launch.  But the second theme that graces many covers is Spider Island, a Spider-Man centric story in which all the people of Manhattan have been given spider powers by genetically modified bedbugs.  Of course, to most people it seems like Marvel Comics is always having an event.  House of M, Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion, the list is seemingly endless.  According to Wikipedia Marvel has had 8 crossover events in 2011 alone!  Due to this endless string of events, with each event seemingly leading directly into the next, “Event Fatigue” is a common term among comic readers.  Many feel like the events become less special, more watered down, when almost every comic is part of a big event.  But to comics publishers events mean sales.  Simply, more people buy comics when they’re part of an event crossover.  It’s a way to spur sales of newer or lagging comics, while bolstering mainstays even higher.These sales are helped by the free advertising given to comics by the mainstream media.  Usually these events are “game changers”.  In Civil War Captain America was killed.  In Secret Invasion characters readers had followed for years turned out to be alien impostors.  It seems most events come with the tag line “Nothing will ever be the same again” (right before the next event that resets the status quo).

But with Spider Island Slott and company have beaten the odds and done the unthinkable–they created a comic book crossover event that doesn’t feel the need to make seismic changes to the Marvel Universe.  At the end of Spider Island no major character dies, no deals with the devil reset continuity, and no superhero zombies eat each other.  As such, Spider Island hasn’t gotten much mainstream media coverage.  Instead of relying on gimmicks, Spider Island has just given readers a fun, funny adventure that reminded me why I love to read comic books.

In Spider Island Spider-Man’s old villain The Jackal has modified bedbugs to give Manhattan residents powers similar to Spider-Man’s.  But while Spider-Man’s motto is “With great power comes great responsibility” the majority of newly super-powered New Yorkers are not as responsible with their powers.  Instead of a city full of superheroes, many Manhattan residents use their powers for crime, or just in reckless and dangerous ways.  Of course, as is always the case, the plot isn’t quite what it seems and if the heroes aren’t able to stop the spider-people the entire world could be overrun.

Cloak and Dagger headline their own title once more as part of the Spider Island crossover.

It’s a crazy plot that careens from borough to borough, and comic to comic.  Spider Island covers Amazing Spider-Man 666 to 673, but also Cloak and Dagger 1 – 3, Venom 6 – 8, Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 1 – 3, Herc 7 – 8, as well as numerous one-shot comic releases bringing in fan-favorite and lesser known characters from Marvel’s roster.

The core of the story is told in the Amazing Spider-Man books following Peter Parker, the true Spider-Man, as he becomes but one of the many Spider-People of New York City.  Amazing Spider-Man has had a long history of ups and downs, and recently angered long time fans with its One More Day storyline.  After One More Day Spider-Man went through a time of renewal and rotating writers, and finally Slott has come to be the series’ sole writer.  Even some of One More Day’s biggest detractors have come to admit that Slott has given Amazing Spider-Man an energetic and fun spirit that were missing during previous runs by authors like J. Michael  Straczynski.

With Spider Island, which Slott said on Twitter was the largest writing project of his career thus far, Slott has kept the fun and irreverent attitude and injected a good deal of heart, spirit, and character development.  I can easily say the Spider Island issues of Amazing Spider-Man are the best I’ve read in 20 years.

Spider Island is action packed.  With so many people gaining superpowers almost every page of every issue is jam-packed with fights.  The Avengers, Cloak and Dagger, Spider-Girl, Spider-Woman, the X-Men, and many more are all dealing with outbreaks of criminal activity relating to the new spider people.  But while those heroes try to deal with the symptoms of Spider Island, Peter Parker, former girlfriend (and wife though no one remembers that) Mary Jane Watson, Venom, and a few others work at finding the cause, and a cure, for these events.

It’s a crazy plot, and in the wrong hands the story could be a debacle.  If taken too seriously, played for horror, this story would be easily mocked.  Likewise, played just for laughs this event would lack import.  But Slott has found the perfect balance of action and whimsy which makes the issues simply fun to read.

Additionally, Spider Island brings in a good mix of major and minor characters from the Marvel roster.  It makes sense as the majority of the Marvel characters are based in New York, and it is a blast to see a great mix of heroes dealing with these events in their own way.

The first few pages of Amazing Spider-Man 673 feature many of these characters in the aftermath of the Spider Island events and Slott’s handing of these characters comes close to breaking the fourth wall with its commentary on superhero conventions, but I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

For all my issues with Ramos' art, has Mary Jane Watson ever looked hotter?

My only negative with the Spider Island issues of Amazing Spider-Man is the art.  The primary artist on Amazing Spider-Man was Humberto Ramos, who drew issues 667-672.  While his art is incredibly detailed, I cannot warm up to his angular style.  To me, Ramos’ drawings are reminiscent of political cartoons more than comic books, and the people are more caricatures than characters.  Issue 666 and 673 were drawn by Stefano Caselli and I wish he’d had the entire run as every single page he drew was gorgeous.  His last page of 673 deserves to be framed due to both the art and the emotional closure it brought to the event.

The Spider Island stories in the crossover titles ranged both in quality as well as in importance.  I understand that it makes sense from a marketing perspective to put the Spider Island logo on as many books as possible to spur sales (it worked for me as I bought every Spider Island issue the day it was released), but as a reader it can be a frustrating experience.  30 comics were released with the Spider Island imprint, and there was no way for the reader to tell which issues were “must reads” and which were elective.  Given the price of each issue, it was an expensive gamble.

The most important of these other series were the Venom comics.  In a shocking move, some of the events biggest revelations happened in these pages, and readers who stuck to the core Spider-Man issues were left to play catch-up.

Venom also remained very serious, a large tonal shift from the Amazing Spider-Man issues.  It shows the events from the perspective of Flash Thompson, the current Venom, who has to try and infiltrate Manhattan while his father lies dying in a hospital.  Complicating matters, Thompson’s father was abusive and Flash isn’t sure if he even wants to see his father one last time.  It’s a portrayal of parental death far more moving than any of the times Aunt May has been near-dead to dead.

Those readers who did buy the Venom books were doubly rewarded, though, as they both had necessary plot and carried an emotional punch that stuck with me long after I put down the books.

I have not been a fan of old Spider-Man classmate Flash Thompson taking up the Venom mantle–I’m a traditionalist who wants Eddie Brock still trying to dine on Spider-Man’s brain–but despite my feelings towards Flash these Venom issues are a great example of how comics can tug at the heartstrings.

All other Spider Island crossovers are less vital, telling stories against the backdrop of the Spider Island events.  They range in both tone and quality.  My favorites of the tie-ins are the ones that matched Slott’s playful tone, infusing action and humor with their stories.  These include the issues of Herc, Spider-Girl, and the most silly of them all Spider Island Avengers.

Several of the other series, including the Black Panther tie-in, Heroes For Hire, Cloak and Dagger, and Deadly Hands of Kung Fu were more serious stories.  These issues were purely elective and I found my enjoyment was directly related to my affinity for the characters involved.  I was happy to see Cloak and Dagger headline a comic again, and found myself mostly confused at what was going on in Black Panther.   If you are a fan of Black Panther, Cloak and Dagger, or Misty Knight you will already be buying the issues featuring those heroes, but for the characters I did not regularly read these tie-in stories did nothing to make me return.

Spider-Island Deadly Foes gave some great background to the motives of the Jackal and Hobgoblin for these issues.  For those who want more of these two, there was also Spider Island: Emergence of Evil reprinting some of the early appearances of these two Spider-villains.

Finally, Spider Island: I (Heart) New York City is the ultimate example of stories told in the backdrop of Spider Island giving an anthology of stories about everyday people getting spider powers.  From a Spider-Toddler to a Spider-Mom, these stories were completely unnecessary but well done.

Extra, extra...you don't have to read all the extras.

Spider-Man is Marvel’s most recognized character, with surveys showing Spider-Man ranks with Mickey Mouse as the most recognized fictional character in the world.  Yet, for his popularity, Spider-Man’s everyman quality often makes him feel like the odd man out in events from Secret Wars in the 80’s to Infinity Gauntlet, House of M, and others.  While writers try to find a way to shoehorn Spidey into most events, it’s rare that he truly feels as integral to the story when put next to beings of awesome power such as Onslaught, Thanos, and The Beyonder. By putting Spider-Man at the heart of this crossover, Slott has leveraged Marvel’s most popular character to use him at his best.
He also used this as an opportunity to undo a couple convenient changes to Spider-Man’s world in the controversial One More Day storyline.  Though I do question one revelation in Amazing Spider-Man672 sure to rub salt in the still fresh wound of Peter and Mary Jane’s forced break-up.  But while some may be angered, Slott has hooked me and I can’t wait to see where this is heading.
In the end, Spider Island is a success both artistically and commercially.  Amazing Spider-Man 666 topped sales charts, and many Spider Island issues sold out at my local stores, and I cannot imagine anyone who bought the issues regretting their purchase.  I hope that going forward Marvel remembers that with Spider Island it was proven that you don’t have to kill people to have an event, and that fun is an essential ingredient in a good comic book recipe.
Spider Island reminded me why I love comics, and why Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero.  Kudos to Slott for an Amazing run.  I was bitten by the Spider Island bug, and will be sticking with this comic for some time to come.
Spider Island is told in:
  Amazing Spider-Man 666 – 673
  Black Panther 524
  Herc 7-8
  Spider Island Avengers
  Spider Island: Cloak and Dagger 1-3
  Spider Island: Daily Bugle Free Preview
  Spider Island: Deadly Foes
  Spider Island: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu 1-3
  Spider Island: Emergence of Evil – Jackal & Hobgoblin
  Spider Island: Heroes for Hire
  Spider Island: Spider-Girl 1-3
  Spider Island: Spider-Woman
  Venom 6-8

November 5, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Reviews | , , , | 1 Comment

New Podcast: Issue 26: War Moo-chine

On this issue of Marvelicious Toys the Avengers Assemble, in more ways than one! First Justin, Marjorie, and Arnie review the new 6-inch Thor and Captain America Wal-Mart exclusive figures hitting pegs now, and then contributor Mitch Hallock actually talks with Cap himself, Chris Evans, as well as Avengers co-stars Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson) and Tom Hiddleston (Loki) at New York Comic Con!

Also in this issue, your Marvelicious hosts review Marvel Universe Wave 16 with Iceman, Magneto, Wolverine, Absorbing Man, and Iron Man! With an update on how Hot Toys is Milk-ing customers with their new War Machine and some oddball Marvel items at Toys R Us, all this and more is on this week’s Marvelicious Toys!

And be sure to listen to find out how you can win a New York Comic Con exclusive Compound Hulk figure from Marvelicious Toys!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT026.MP3

Category: Arts

    

November 1, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 26: War Moo-chine

New Podcast: Hannibal Rising

Prepare the Chianti and fava beans. Books and Nachos is having a month long meal with author Thomas Harris and his seminal creation Dr. Hannibal Lecter. As a companion podcast to the current movie review series over at NowPlayingPodcast.com, Stuart In LA is cracking the spines on the four novels that inspired the five films to feature the caged cannibal.

The 2006 novel Hannibal Rising delves into the memory palace of Lecter’s mind to unlock the secret traumas that drive his thirst for vengeance and human flesh. Can this blunt little tool dissect our favorite serial killer, or will the prequel leave a bad taste in readers’ mouths? Join Stuart for the final conversation in this series to find out!

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN028.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

October 31, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Hannibal Rising

The Thing (2011)

Almost 30 years after John Carpenter’s vision of The Thing fizzled in theaters comes this new film The Thing. With a title identical to the 1982 film, this new tale is a prequel to Carpenter’s film, showing how a group of Norwegian scientists in Antarctica discover an alien craft, and a living creature frozen in ice. Can this new Thing successfully imitate the terror of Carpenter’s film? Will hosts Arnie, Stuart, and Jakob be able to tell which Thing is the real Thing? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

October 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Thing (2011)

The Thing (2011)

Almost 30 years after John Carpenter’s vision of The Thing fizzled in theaters comes this new film The Thing. With a title identical to the 1982 film, this new tale is a prequel to Carpenter’s film, showing how a group of Norwegian scientists in Antarctica discover an alien craft, and a living creature frozen in ice. Can this new Thing successfully imitate the terror of Carpenter’s film? Will hosts Arnie, Stuart, and Jakob be able to tell which Thing is the real Thing? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

October 28, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Thing (2011)

New Podcast: Issue 25.1: Hasbro’s New York Comic Con 2011 Presentation

At New York Comic Con 2011 Hasbro’s Marvel team revealed new figures coming for Avengers, Marvel Universe, Marvel Legends, Mighty Muggs, and so much more! Hear their full presentation in this special edition of the Marvelicious Toys podcast!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT025.1.MP3

Category: Arts

    

October 27, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 25.1: Hasbro’s New York Comic Con 2011 Presentation

Duran Duran Rocks Chicago

When I found out Duran Duran was touring in support of their new CD, I returned to my fangirl roots and literally squealed with delight.  Duran Duran was coming to Chicago! I roped my husband into going along, regaling him with useless Duran Duran trivia.Opening for Duran Duran was the Neon Trees.  I can’t decide if I was disappointed or respected them for not wearing a stitch of neon clothing.  A lot of their songs sounded similar but I think that is a hazard of being a relatively unknown opening band.  Their music sounded like retro pop – they would have fit in well during the New Wave explosion in the 80’s.  It’s hard to judge an opening band on one show alone.  I didn’t hate them but I’m not running out to buy their CD.

After a brief intermission, it was time for my childhood fantasies to be played out.  I had no idea what to expect.  Previous concerts by 80’s bands have been let downs.  Given that I paid higher than average for the ticket and that they were still selling out shows, I felt there was only a slight chance at disappointment.  By the time they finished their first song, Before The Rain, any doubts I had were gone. These guys were good.  They played well and they sounded great.

The set list was a mixture of their well known hits like A View To A Kill, The Reflex, Careless Memories, and some newer songs such as All You Need Is Now.   Throughout the years, they have kept the same sound – something to be said for a band that formed in 1978.  New songs blended in perfectly with their classics.

The first song to really get the crowd going was View To A Kill.  That song seriously rocked live.  While Duran Duran’s original guitarist Andy Taylor no longer tours with the band, his current replacement Dom Brown filled the vacancy well.  He played every note like it was his own.  After this point, the concert only got better.  The Reflex was played to an astounding sing a long as was Hungry Like The Wolf.

Simon LeBon really knows how to work a crowd.  He was engaging and all eyes were on him.   Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor appeared to be mostly behind the scenes.  I think the only time I saw both of them look engaged with the audience was when Simon announced the band individually. They looked serious, but not like they were having a bad time.  The clear cut stage leaders are John Taylor and Simon.  Both worked the crowd and spent time on both sides of the stage appeasing fans.

Their stage was not the elaborate sets of the 80’s.  This was simple, with three video screens, lots of lights and four weird video screen faces.  We might have been too close for the full effect but the video screen faces made Simon look like Terrance Stamp in Superman 2.

All in all, Duran Duran’s music, as well as themselves, have held up well in the thirty-something years since they formed.  Their music is solid and they play one hell of a live show.

Watch Duran Duran perform Notorious

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Thing (1982)

In 1982 audiences looked to space as a summer film showed the impact that can happen when a stranded alien life form is found on Earth by scientists. Yes, E.T. was 1982’s summer hit, and this film, John Carpenter’s The Thing, was a flop. But in the 90’s audiences discovered this film and now it is the subject of comic books, action figures, video games, and a prequel film that has the Now Playing hosts very excited! Now join our hosts as Jakob and Arnie join Stuart to discuss one of his favorite films — The Thing! What makes this film so good? Listen to this preview, then donate $25 or more to Now Playing to find out!

October 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

In 1982 audiences looked to space as a summer film showed the impact that can happen when a stranded alien life form is found on Earth by scientists. Yes, E.T. was 1982’s summer hit, and this film, John Carpenter’s The Thing, was a flop. But in the 90’s audiences discovered this film and now it is the subject of comic books, action figures, video games, and a prequel film that has the Now Playing hosts very excited! Now join our hosts as Jakob and Arnie join Stuart to discuss one of his favorite films — The Thing! What makes this film so good? Listen to this preview, then donate $25 or more to Now Playing to find out!

October 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Thing (1982)

New Podcast: Hannibal

Prepare the Chianti and fava beans. Books and Nachos is having a month long meal with author Thomas Harris and his seminal creation Dr. Hannibal Lecter. As a companion podcast to the current movie review series over at NowPlayingPodcast.com, Stuart In LA is cracking the spines on the four novels that inspired the five films to feature the caged cannibal.

It took more than a decade for writer Thomas Harris to cook up Hannibal – the sprawling 1999 novel that finds Lecter evading capture in Italy to reunite with disillusioned FBI agent Clarice Starling in America. Does our notorious antihero get his just desserts, or is this unconventional love story too hard to swallow? Join Stuart now to find out!

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN027.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

October 18, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Hannibal

New Podcast: Issue 25: Live from New York Comic Con 2011

This past weekend was New York Comic Con, and with New York being the both real-world and in-universe home to Marvel Comics you know it was a Marvelicious time! Marjorie and Arnie were on-hand to cover the event, including new toy reveals from Hasbro and Diamond, new statues being shown by Kotobukiya, Hallmark ornaments, and so much more! On this issue of the Marvelicious Toys podcast, they join Justin to run it all down, as well as interview Robert Lyle Paske from Kotobukiya and David Vonner from Hasbro!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT025.MP3

Category: Arts

    

October 17, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 25: Live from New York Comic Con 2011

The Thing From Another World

John Carpenter’s 1982 movie The Thing, based on John Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There”, is a cult classic. A flop in its day, the film had a renaissance in the 1990s as it was discovered by a new generation of film lovers. With a new installment in The Thing series coming out this month, Stuart, Arnie, and Jakob take a look back at the entire Thing series, starting with this 1951 original adaptation of Campbell’s story–The Thing From Another World. More about Commie Carrots than shape-shifting monsters, the film has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally significant”. But is it entertaining? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Thing From Another World

The Thing From Another World

John Carpenter’s 1982 movie The Thing, based on John Campbell’s short story “Who Goes There”, is a cult classic. A flop in its day, the film had a renaissance in the 1990s as it was discovered by a new generation of film lovers. With a new installment in The Thing series coming out this month, Stuart, Arnie, and Jakob take a look back at the entire Thing series, starting with this 1951 original adaptation of Campbell’s story–The Thing From Another World. More about Commie Carrots than shape-shifting monsters, the film has been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally significant”. But is it entertaining? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Thing From Another World

New Podcast: Who Goes There?

SomeTHING awoke in our collective imagination when science fiction writer John W Campbell posed the question “Who Goes There?” in his 1938 novella about a chameleon space invader discovered beneath the Antarctic ice. The classic tale of intergalactic deception has paranoid themes and horrific imagery that continues to replicate on film: The Thing From Another World (1951), John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), and today’s new The Thing prequel.

As a companion to the current NowPlayingPodcast.com donation drive movie review series, Stuart In LA performs an autopsy on this unique literary specimen to try and provide a satisfying answer to Campbell’s eternal query: Who Goes There?

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN026.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Who Goes There?

New Podcast: Silence of the Lambs

Prepare the Chianti and fava beans. Books and Nachos is having a month long meal with author Thomas Harris and his seminal creation Dr. Hannibal Lecter. As a companion podcast to the current movie review series over at NowPlayingPodcast.com, Stuart In LA is cracking the spines on the four novels that inspired the five films to feature the caged cannibal.

Before he was winning Oscars and chewing up the silver screen, Hannibal Lecter appeared in the 1988 novel The Silence of The Lambs to help a female FBI trainee catch a woman-skinning psycho. Join Stuart as he ponders the ways a woman’s touch changes our notorious antihero, even as he hatches his bloody escape plan.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN025.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

October 10, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Silence of the Lambs

Exorcist: The Beginning

Now Playing’s Bonus The Exorcist Retrospective Series– Episode 5: Exorcist – The Beginning Image When Warner Bros saw Paul Schrader’s Exorcist prequel Dominion (which we reviewed last week) they promptly shelved it and started over. They kept the setting, the actors, and many of the story beats, but brought in a new director–Renny Harlin. This was the prequel Warner Bros wanted and that they released into theaters, but was it the stronger of the two movies? If you donate to Now Playing, you can listen and find out!

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Exorcist: The Beginning

Exorcist: The Beginning

Now Playing’s Bonus The Exorcist Retrospective Series– Episode 5: Exorcist – The Beginning Image When Warner Bros saw Paul Schrader’s Exorcist prequel Dominion (which we reviewed last week) they promptly shelved it and started over. They kept the setting, the actors, and many of the story beats, but brought in a new director–Renny Harlin. This was the prequel Warner Bros wanted and that they released into theaters, but was it the stronger of the two movies? If you donate to Now Playing, you can listen and find out!

October 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Exorcist: The Beginning

New Podcast: Red Dragon

Prepare the Chianti and fava beans. Books and Nachos is having a month long meal with author Thomas Harris and his seminal creation Dr. Hannibal Lecter. As a companion podcast to the current movie review series over at NowPlayingPodcast.com, Stuart In LA is cracking the spines on the four novels that inspired the five films to feature the caged cannibal.

Our first course of Lecter is Red Dragon, the 1981 crime novel that introduced the iconic serial killer to the world and serves as the source material for both the 1986 Michael Mann film MANHUNTER and 2002 Brett Ratner effort RED DRAGON. Join Stuart as he gets inside Lecter’s head to analyze what makes the psycho shrink pit an idolizing new mass murderer against the profiler who put him behind bars.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN024.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

October 4, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Red Dragon

New Podcast: Issue 24: $5 an Inch or $12.50 an Hour

Hasbro has done it again! Namor, Darkhawk, X-23, Commander Rogers, and Ultron are the latest wave of Marvel Universe figures hitting shelves now, and in this issue of the Marvelicious Toys podcast Arnie, Justin, and guest host Jerry review the wave, as well as the companion comic packs of Captain Britain and Spider Man, and the Heroes for Hire! And for even more Hasbro toy goodness, Arnie picked up a new set of Toys R Us exclusive Avengers figures. Hear all the reviews on this show, plus news about Hasbro’s Marvel Universe New York Comic-Con exclusive!

Also this issue, Arnie goes into the Marvelicious Arcade to review the new video game X-Men: Destiny. Is it your Destiny to own this game? Listen for his thoughts.

With comics 2-for-a-dollar, a cross-country toy run, new high-end characters from Bowen and Hot Toys, and a new What If They Made…it’s all on this week’s special double-length issue of the Marvelicious Toys podcast!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT024.MP3

Category: Arts

    

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 24: $5 an Inch or $12.50 an Hour

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

After audiences were possessed by The Exorcist rerelease in 2000 Warner Bros was compelled to return to the well and try to revive the Exorcist franchise. In a bit of cinema history, they hired director Paul Schrader to direct Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, but once completed they shelved the film and hired Renny Harlin to make a new film based on the same script! Due to lawsuits, Schrader’s version was eventually completed and also released, giving audiences two views of the same basic film. On this episode of Now Playing, Arnie, Stuart, and Brock look at Schrader’s original take on Father Merrin’s early battle with the demons. Was this film deserving of its fate, or should it never have been released? If you donate to Now Playing, you can listen and find out!

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

After audiences were possessed by The Exorcist rerelease in 2000 Warner Bros was compelled to return to the well and try to revive the Exorcist franchise. In a bit of cinema history, they hired director Paul Schrader to direct Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist, but once completed they shelved the film and hired Renny Harlin to make a new film based on the same script! Due to lawsuits, Schrader’s version was eventually completed and also released, giving audiences two views of the same basic film. On this episode of Now Playing, Arnie, Stuart, and Brock look at Schrader’s original take on Father Merrin’s early battle with the demons. Was this film deserving of its fate, or should it never have been released? If you donate to Now Playing, you can listen and find out!

September 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

The Exorcist III

After a surreal sequel he had no part in, original Exorcist novelist William Peter Blatty returned to not only write but also direct the third film in the Exorcist series. Linda Blair’s Regan is gone, but back from the original is Lt. Kinderman and his film-going friend Father Dyer. Kinderman is investigating a series of murders–copycat crimes aping the motif of the executed Gemini Killer. Surprise co-stars tie this film to the original in many ways, but do these ties create a film as strong as the original? Listen to this preview from Stuart, Arnie, and Brock, then donate to Now Playing to find out!

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Exorcist III

The Exorcist III

After a surreal sequel he had no part in, original Exorcist novelist William Peter Blatty returned to not only write but also direct the third film in the Exorcist series. Linda Blair’s Regan is gone, but back from the original is Lt. Kinderman and his film-going friend Father Dyer. Kinderman is investigating a series of murders–copycat crimes aping the motif of the executed Gemini Killer. Surprise co-stars tie this film to the original in many ways, but do these ties create a film as strong as the original? Listen to this preview from Stuart, Arnie, and Brock, then donate to Now Playing to find out!

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Exorcist III

New Podcast: Issue 23: From Hero to Zero

Have you ever thought cosplay was fun but there just weren’t enough occasions to dress up like your favorite superhero like Wolverine or Iron Man? Canadian company UD Replicas is here to fix that with motorcycle suits that will allow you wear the clothes of Marvel (and DC and Star Wars) superheroes while riding your bike! Is this line good for comic fans? Bikers? Leather fetishists? Who knows, but with few new figures hitting pegs, Marjorie, Arnie, and Justin take some time in our latest issue to muse over all the possibilities of these costumes.

Also in this issue, we do discuss the latest clearance finds of Marvel toys, as well as where the latest waves of figures are just starting to show up. With listener voice mails, a life-sized Iron Man bust, a birthday surprise, and more, it’s all in this issue of the Marvelicious Toys podcast!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT023.MP3

Category: Arts

    

September 18, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 23: From Hero to Zero

Exorcist II: The Heretic

In 1973 audiences watched as the devil was put down…or was he? Now Regan’s soul is once again in peril as the demon has come back, brought on through high-tech hypnosis, ready to face off against a new priest who will travel the world to find how to best the beast. With a new director and new cast, can Exorcist II: The Heretic possibly come close to the heights of the classic original? Listen to this preview from Stuart, Arnie, and Brock, then donate to Now Playing to find out!

September 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Exorcist II: The Heretic

Exorcist II: The Heretic

In 1973 audiences watched as the devil was put down…or was he? Now Regan’s soul is once again in peril as the demon has come back, brought on through high-tech hypnosis, ready to face off against a new priest who will travel the world to find how to best the beast. With a new director and new cast, can Exorcist II: The Heretic possibly come close to the heights of the classic original? Listen to this preview from Stuart, Arnie, and Brock, then donate to Now Playing to find out!

September 16, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Exorcist II: The Heretic

Blade: The Series – Post Mortem

Krista feat. Blade

Krista feat. Blade

As listeners to the Now Playing podcast know, I am a fan of all three Blade films.  Having the vampire hunter’s adventures continue on a weekly basis was an appealing proposition.  However, I never tuned in during Blade: The Series’ inital run because Spike TV was a cable station best known for lowbrow T&A programming like Manswers and Stripperella.  I ended up buying Blade: The Series for $8 at a closing Suncoast Video.  I knew the series had been cancelled, but wondered what adventures the writers had given the daywalker in his short TV life.  It took Now Playing’s Blade retrospective series for me to finally pull the shrink-wrap off my box set–and I wish I hadn’t.

I was surprised that Blade ended up being a serialized drama series.  I had expected it to be episodic like The Incredible Hulk or The A-Team, with each show pitting Blade against a new nest of “suckheads”.  In previous reviews I compared this series to Angel and Buffy and those were obvious, but smart, models for Executive Producer David Goyer to emulate.  I think it was the right choice to introduce a strong supporting cast of heroes and villains.

But this cast of new characters was not supporting — they were the focus of the series!  This seems to be a Goyer’s trademark, as Blade II and Blade: Trinity also sidelined the daywalker to showcase second stringers.  I thought a series titled Blade would star a character named “Blade”!  But this show would be better off entitled Krista or, were it a hip-hop song, Krista feat. Blade.  He’s just using a brand name to sell Krista’s story, much like Frank Mancuso Jr. did with Friday The 13th: The Series.  As a fan of Blade the character, this series is not what I wanted.  I was blindsided by the House of Chthon drama.  I imagine most Blade fans agree.

I will admit there was some Blade backstory shoehorned into this thing, sometimes more successfully done than others.  Perhaps the plan was to drip little bits of Blade’s arc into a season, but that seems like a mistake.  They scored a major casting coup by getting Richard Roundtree as Blade’s father, but he’s the one given the shaft after five minutes of screentime.

Try as I might, I never could get into Marcus’ conspiracy.   I’ve seen this type of story told better a thousand times.  Trying to make this series as much about a crime family of vampires as about the hunter was a misstep–and from what I can tell a misstep that Goyer never planned to correct.

I fully expected Marcus and the House of Chthon to comprise the entire Season 1 plot, but figured Blade would vanquish them in time to do something new in Season Two.  There are eleven other Houses to explore after all.  But no, Marcus and Chase were still out there to cause problems by season’s end.  Instead of following the Buffy formula, they tried to be Lost.  Well, they did lose!

Kirk "Sticky Fingaz" Jones

Jones didn't "Stick" as Blade

Admittedly, it would have been harder to make Krista an integral part of the plot had the enemy changed.  The show that began with Krista’s brother murdered in cold blood by Marcus, and her conflicting loyalties became the centerpiece of all storylines.  Too bad they trivialized her motivations for revenge with daytime soap opera storylines which had her screwing and possibly falling for the man guilty of the crime she wants to avenge.  If the creators were going to sideline Blade for other characters, they needed to be likable and strong.  Krista does not fill that bill, and while I have been (deservedly) harsh on Jill Wagner’s performance the writers did the character no favors.

I do hold these writers most responsible for the series’ many failings.  They seemed unable to pace the plots.  Characters like Detective Boone and FBI Agent Collins were given lengthy introductions but never get any payoff.  The way these characters were dropped is inexplicable, and frankly embarrassing.

The damning blow was the finale.  Ending on a cliff-hanger where Marcus reveals knowledge of Krista’s betrayal, I should have been incensed that I would never know more.  I think back to other cancelled shows that concluded with cliffhangers – Twin Peaks, The Dead Zone, Lois and Clark, and even Sledge Hammer.   In each of those cases I was furious at the unresolved plots.  I even called ABC executives at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night begging for more Twin Peaks.  With Blade: The Series I didn’t care.  I really didn’t want to see more of Marcus, and I certainly didn’t ever want Krista again.

Series writer Geoff Johns stated in a letter to Wizard Magazine that Blade: The Series was cancelled due to high production costs, not low ratings.  Indeed, Blade’s premiere episode was the most-watched episode in Spike TV’s history.  But those 2.5 million viewers had dwindled to less than 1 million by the time the season finale aired.  I envy those that turned it off.  Truth be told, had Blade been renewed for a second season I wouldn’t have watched.

This show was desperately in need of a (pardon the pun) revamp that curtailed the House of Chthon and brought Blade and his partners to the fore.  It was what worked in the best episode —Hunters, a mostly Krista-free hour where Blade and Shen got a chance to shine pursuing a tough and frightening vampire they vanquished by the end.

So my final advice is to skip Blade: The Series.  While television might have been the right place for the character to nest, this series did not deliver.  Hunters was light enough on the overarching stories that I can recommend that single episode for fans of Blade.  The rest of it deserves to be ashed.  Maybe the upcoming Blade anime series will give our daywalker a proper TV home?

Verdict:  Not Recommend

September 14, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | Comments Off on Blade: The Series – Post Mortem

Review: Discord Graphic Novel by Paul J. Salamoff

Discord Cover

Discord may be less than the sum of its parts.

While DC reboots their entire universe to bring in new readers, and Marvel continually announces their “Next Big Thing”, it seems that superhero comic books have remained relatively stagnant for years.  Marvel will kill off a character, or have a new character inherit a hero’s mantle, but everyone knows it’s a matter of time before the status quo is returned.  DC is owned by Warner Brothers, Marvel by Disney, both large corporations with a bottom line to meet.  Superhero comics, at least from the big two publishers, have to by definition “play it safe”.

This is why it is so refreshing to see independent and alternative takes on the superhero genre that play with the tropes in a way that isn’t safe–the grandaddy of them all being Alan Moore’s Watchmen.

I couldn’t help but think of Watchmen as I read Discord, the graphic novel from writer Paul J. Salamoff (Logan’s Run: Last Day) and artist Giuseppe D’Elia (Lazarus Ledd).

Discord introduces us to a world immediately familiar to fans of superhero comics.  The first pages introduce the superheroes of Team War Hammer fighting their old enemy Sinew.  Salamoff’s writing immediately let me know that, though these are all original characters, I knew this team.  They are the Justice League of America, they are the Avengers.  In seven, action-packed pages the characters were introduced and I was comfortable in this world.  And once it is established that this is a reality that easily parallels that of the DC or Marvel universes, Salamoff shakes it up by killing all the heroes in a ship crash.

Strange aliens reconstruct the dismembered body parts into a single being.  This revived hero has the mind of Chromatic, Team War Hammer’s  second-in-command, but the body is a mish-mash of parts.  Each of Chromatic’s limbs are from a different person killed in the crash, including one of Sinew’s tendril-like arms.

Discord Back on Earth

Even in a hoodie Chromatic cannot pass for a normal human.

Upon returning to earth, Chromatic must try to come to terms with his new body parts, his new powers, and even his new half-feminine face.  Matters are complicated when Chromatic’s girlfriend, Team War Hammer leader Moiré, has trouble coping.  In addition to Chromatic’s new body, according to all medical scans he is still deceased–the flying dead.  Further, some superheroes aren’t exactly happy to see the involuntary organ donations made by deceased War Hammer members.

While the graphic novel has the exciting fight scenes that are the hallmark of superhero comics, the focus of the story is emotional and character-driven.  That is why Watchmen came to mind–I haven’t seen such a maudlin depiction of superheroes since Alan Moore’s deconstruction of their mental issues and sexual hang-ups.  This makes Discord an engaging and entertaining read.

Salamoff’s story is aided greatly by D’Elia’s visuals.  His art maintains a consistent feel throughout, but changes tones and hues based on the emotional state of our main character.  Every panel helps to sell the emotional state of Chromatic.  D’Elia is equally able to draw tender, quiet scenes as well as large, detailed battles.   From alien worlds to city streets, his art was always beautiful in service of the story.

Additionally, Chromatic’s make-shift body could easily have been done as a knock-off of Marvel villain Super-Skrull–with each limb representing a different person, a different power.  It is a real risk the story took, and it’s on D’Elia to drive that silly comparative from our minds.  He does so superbly.  Instead of Super-Skrull, the art of remade Chromatic reminded me of John Carpenter’s The Thing–an organic creature shifting itself in ways nature never intended.  Instead of comical, D’Elia sells it as grotesque and tragic, which is a true achievement.

Unfortunately the plot’s resolution is not as satisfying as its build-up.  Salamoff takes on an ambitious tale, but this story required more room to breathe.  The graphic novel is broken into four chapters.  The first three chapters are each the length of a comic book, and the fourth is “super-sized” with 10 extra pages.  With this little space in which to play, Salamoff introduces a few characters too many.    Major developments to Chromatic’s mental state hinge on minor characters that were not clearly set-up or introduced.  It seems like too much is taken on for a single graphic novel.    I understand and completely respect Salamoff’s desire to tell the full story, not holding back for a sequel which may never come.   But it seems like too much is taken on–some of the subplots would have been better saved for a future tale of our hero.

Discord Ship Crash

We meet Team War Hammer--and watch them burn.

I also feel the story has one villain too many.  Opening baddie Sinew becomes a part of Chromatic, but then a new threat emerges late in the book.  This new threat never felt organic to the story.  While it made sense for this new enemy to be part of the universe Salamoff has created, he seems to forget that this universe is familiar to us but we really don’t know these characters.  More, Chromatic never seemed to have any specific problems that part of his body was made up of an old enemy.  This could have been changed to make the story tighter and work in the space allotted.

But these pacing problems never detracted from the story’s heart, and that is the concept of what defines a person.  In addition to tweaking the superhero genre, the story provokes the real-world analogue of the new face-transplant surgery doctors have successfully tested, and the psychological effects on the patients who don’t recognize the face in the mirror.  These concepts are some that linger on, long after I’ve put down the graphic novel.

For anyone who, like me, was raised on a diet of comic book superheroes, I recommend Discord — a new look at the superhero genre.

Discord will be in stores Wednesday, Sept 14th.

Paul J. Salamoff will be holding signings of Discord in the Los Angeles area.  Check his website for specific dates and locations.

Order Discord now at Amazon.com

 

September 13, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Reviews | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 12: Conclave

Original Air Date: September 13, 2006
Director: Alex Chapple

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com

House of Chthon Conclave

This is the conclave Marcus has worked for years to sabotage? Five vampires? I thought it would be hundreds. Did he really have to work so hard to just kill five vampires? Couldn't he have just done that by hand?

Here we are at the season finale (and unwilling series finale) of Blade: The Series–an episode entitled Conclave.

While this is the culmination of everything Blade: The Series has done, or ever will do, I will review it individually as I have all the other episodes.  If you want my overall “final thoughts” on the series, come back tomorrow.

In Conclave, after a dozen hours of show, the stage is set for Marcus’ attack on the purebloods.  Unlike all the past episodes of the series, Conclave doesn’t have an A-story, B-story, and a C-story. There is just the one final arc to quite literally bring down the House.

Despite the insane deadlines and his protests last episode, architect extraordinaire Tucker (Tom Butler) met every demand put on him by House of Chthon conclave organizer Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson).  The Aurora virus, which will kill only pureblood vampires, is ready.   Marcus, in preparation for being the first turned vampire to head the House of Chthon, is trying to forge peace between his right-hand vampire Chase (Jessica Gower) and his new vampire lover Krista Starr (Jill Wagner).  Marcus envisions a time soon where the three can rule in harmony when his plot, and the pureblood vampires, are executed.

As mentioned last episode, Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) doesn’t want to stop Marcus.  Marcus and Blade share a goal–kill vampires.  Despite that, Blade is obsessed with attending the conclave.  Blade’s partner Shen (Nelson Lee) tries to dissuade the daywalker from interfering, to which Blade responds, “Seeing is believing.”  While the mindset is consistent with Blade’s character, it feels like a lazy way for the writers to put Blade in the thick of action again without justifying the stakes.

However, Marcus must have read the script, as he sends Chase to ambush Blade’s lair.  Krista, despite her recent romantic feelings towards Marcus, fulfills her duty as Blade’s spy and warns him of the coming attack– only she’s too late.  Shen is captured and, in a scene reminiscent of Blade: Trinity, Blade sets off explosives hidden throughout his lair.  Most of Marcus’ troops are killed in the blast, though none with speaking parts.

Shen in Sunlight

Every character gets their moment in the light this episode.

Marcus and Chase presume Blade was also killed in the blast, but decide to pump Shen for information anyway.  Marcus, knowing of her experience in the Iraq War, asks Krista to do the torturing of Shen.  Krista tries to stall but eventually must apply a scalpel under Shen’s fingernails.  “I’m sorry”, but I feel like the one being tortured with this painful sight.

Wagner’s performance actually works for this scene – showing different emotions depending on who she’s facing.  We see her inner pain, while she pretends to be playful about it for Marcus.  That said, Wagner’s acting range for 11 episodes has never stretched farther than angst and so her Playboy Bunny of Death routinue doesn’t feel genuine.

Krista slips Shen the scalpel while breaking his finger, and later when he’s left alone the man is able to cut his bonds and begins his escape. Shen picks up a sword, then instead opts to arm himself with a pen (a “pen is mightier than the sword” visual gag?  Seriously?!)  He writes the guard a note and then takes him in hand combat after a tough battle that leaves him pretty bloody.  I kept wondering why Shen didn’t keep the sword and save himself a beating.  Shen opens the room’s window blinds and dusts the bodyguard, and again I wonder why he didn’t do this before hand combat.  Shen’s the brains of the operation, but he’s not showing that here.

Tucker Sex Scene

I really never wanted to see the father from Freddy vs. Jason have a sex scene. But now that I've seen it, it's burned in my mind.

Meanwhile Blade somehow deduces the Marcus’ association with the architect Tucker, shows up at his office, and finds the man about to get his groove on with a hot, naked, ready and willing Familiar that Marcus sent him as a thank-you.  It’s a sight I found even more repulsive than Shen’s fingernail torture, and was glad to see Blade interrupt by staking the woman to the desk and cutting out one of Tucker’s eyes.  He’ll use the severed eyeball to the retinal scanners at the conclave.

I have to pause and wonder why this scene was put in the episode.  Sure, another gratuitous titty shot may be appealing to Spike TV’s barely post-pubescent, testosterone filled base, but seeing the father from Freddy vs Jason ready to take the woman from behind was truly repugnant.  More, he pauses to get a condom, saying Tucker has “passed around” this woman.  Is this supposed to be a safe sex message, alerting viewers to be aware of diseased skanks?  Is it just another moment of raunch?  Misogyny perhaps?  I am dumbfounded.  But I’ve already spent more time on Tucker than Blade did, so we move on…

The episode moves to Toronto, where the House of Chthon Pureblood Council awaits Marcus’ presentation.  The purebloods have long, self-important speeches explaining how they manipulate tragedies, like the dropping of the H-bomb in Nagasaki, to their benefit.  Why is this relevant?  It’s not–the screenwriters are just stalling while Blade and Shen reunite and break into the complex.

The episode shows its foolishness when the two vampire killers use Tucker’s eyeball to bypass the retinal scanners and gain entrance to the building.  The eyeball is preserved in liquid that makes it revolve in the bottle.  Yet somehow the door opens with the retina facing the wrong way from the scanner.

The delays continue as Marcus gives a grand speech to the purebloods and reveals to them that Aurora never worked.  Huh?  Instead of being sneaky and poisoning the unsuspecting purebloods, he’s just going to stand there and announce his betrayal?  I fully expected this idiocy to be Marcus’ downfall, but the joke was on me.

The effects of Aurora

Aurora isn't pretty, but it is pretty gory for television.

It’s revealed that Chase was a triple agent who’s really aligned with Charlotte and the House of Chthon against Marcus.  The special air vents meant to deliver the Aurora poison were shut down, and replaced with a poison to choke Marcus (making me wonder why that wouldn’t also harm vampires.  Who doesn’t need to breathe?).

Suddenly, Blade barges in.  He throws the vial of Aurora into the air and shoots it while delivering the lame one-liner “Can’t have the party without the keg”.  The purebloods begin to writhe and melt away.  The effects are full of blood and prosthetics – one of the best, most horrific, visuals of the series.

That only leaves our final showdown a dozen episodes in the making — Blade versus Marcus.  Blade states the obvious: “I should have let them kill you” as the two engage in some swordplay and wire-fu.  While not even on par with Stephen Dorff’s blade-work from the original film, this stands as the best fight in the whole series.

Meanwhile Chase and Krista go at it in a series of spins and martial arts kicks.  Compared to the Blade/Marcus fight, this battle falls short.  Generic lines such as “Who belongs to who now bitch?” are given flat delivery, the editing is rapid to hide the actresses’ inability to fight, and often the characters’ faces are blocked by wigs and posts to hide the stunt doubles.  In the end, this entire secondary fight comes off like a commercial for Axe body spray, with two girls fighting over Marcus.

Chase and Krista's final fight

Chase and Krista fight...or discuss Krista's Minolo Blahniks, I'm not really sure.

The fight ends as Chase is thrown down a huge staircase, and the show’s limited budget again reveals itself–the fall looks like the same effect used in 1989’s Batman Jack Nicholson death.  Of course a fall is not enough to kill a vampire, but Krista doesn’t follow up with the death blow and returns to Marcus and Blade’s fight instead.

Shockingly, Blade and Marcus are evenly matched, despite the vampire never really seeming like a fighter.  Jackson sells us on Marcus’ physicality, and the wire-fu may be the best I’ve ever seen on television.  Unsurprisingly, Blade finally gets the upper hand and goes to deliver the killing blow–when he is stopped by Krista!  The distraction allows Marcus to get Blade down.  Shen enters, shoots Krista in the back, and Blade uses the distraction to dodge Marcus’ attack.

Krista and Marcus flee.  Alone in the conclave, Shen inexplicably chooses this exact post-fight moment for a heart-to-heart.  The sidekick claims the fight wasn’t worth it because they ultimately aided Marucus in his insurrection for the House of Chthon.  Blade feels that the death of five purebloods, and Krista’s cover kept, is a win.  That dubious proclamation ends Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones’ run as Blade.

As for Krista and Marcus, they escape back to Detroit and hide out in Blade’s abandoned lair.  Marcus believes Aurora will allow him to rule Chthon, though he believes Chase will come for vengeance.  He states: “Even if I watch her ash I’d still watch my back for the rest of my years on Earth”.  Wish I knew that a few episodes ago!

Blade vs Marcus

Blade and Marcus' final fight takes the show to new heights.

Krista has one remaining question: how did Marcus know the location of Blade’s compound.  The vampire reveals his full hand–he intercepted Krista’s phone call to Blade and knows she’s a double agent.  Fangs out, Marcus grabs her face and says: “How long have you been working for Blade?” as the screen cuts to black.  It’s a cliffhanger never to be resolved.

This episode had all the hallmarks of the Blade series–gratuitous nudity, innane character decisions, and lots of action (of varying quality).  In contrast to previous episodes, however, the Aurora plot finally moved forward considerably, though not in a satisfying manner.  I was left shaking my head at so many stupid character moments courtesy of Blade, Shen, and Marcus.  In Blade: Trinity a Familiar asks Blade “Why aren’t you smarter” – a line that kept running through my head this entire episode.  Even Shen and Chase, my two favorite characters of the series, make dumb choices in their moments in the spotlight.

Marcus confronts Krista

The final shot of the series--Marcus knows of Krista's betrayal. Will he kill her? The world will never know. Or care.

The quality and quantity of fight scenes in this episode made it my second favorite of the series after Hunters.  Taken on its own, this was a satisfying episode full of action and excitement.  But as a season/series finale it feels lackluster.  It felt like we were building to something big, but all that’s here are five dead purebloods.  I expected more.

As for the series as a whole?  Tomorrow on NowPlayingPodcast.com Stuart, Jakob, and I finish our Blade movie reviews as we look at Blade: Trinity.  Take a listen tomorrow afternoon, then come back here for my final thoughts on Blade: The Series.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 12, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | Comments Off on Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 12: Conclave

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 11: Monsters

Original Air Date: September 6, 2006
Director: Ken Girotti

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com

Charlotte and Thorne

Blade gets trapped in Charlotte's web.

When the TV series Lost was approaching its series finale, my wife and I would watch every episode faithfully and then discuss our thoughts on that episode with each other.  On the second-to-last episode my wife expressed disappointment in the episode; how so little happened and it seemed like filler.

Unfortunately that is a pattern I have found with lots of action and sci-fi television series.  When leading up to a climactic episode (usually during sweeps, often a season or series finale) there is far too often an episode that merely exists to set everything up, so that the final episode may be almost entirely devoted to the showdown.  All the pieces must be in place when we ramp into the final episode.

The problem with such episodes is they’re often extraordinarily dull.  The story arcs have been leading to this point for a season or more, so an entire episode just to remind us of what we loyal viewers already know comes off as filler and, worse, as poor writing.

There are also financial concerns to consider..  Series producers want their shows to go out with a bang, and leave the audience wanting more.  In television series the cost-per-episode is not consistent–sometimes they cheap out on one episode so they can spend more on the next, and these set-up episodes almost always feel like they were purchased at a Dollar General.

Which leads me to Monsters, the second-to-last ever episode of Blade the TV series….

I really had hoped for another standalone plot after previous episode Hunters, but I didn’t really expect it.  With only two hours left I figured we’d return to the uprising of vampire Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson) in the House of Chthon, and the rogue vampire Boone (Bill Mondy) coming to take revenge on Marcus.

Blade and Collins

After a season of searching, Collins and Blade finally team up to hunt vampires.

In some ways, that is what we get.  Our A-story starts off with House of Chthon elder Charlotte (Emily Hirst) and her goon Thorne (John DeSantis who played Lurch on The New Addams Family) flying back home.  Marcus’ aide Chase (Jessica Gower) had pretended to dish on her employer and given Charlotte the hilt to Blade’s sword.  However, hidden inside the handle was an explosive, which sends Charlotte’s airplane crashing to the ground when it detonates.  It’s presumed by all that everyone was killed on impact, but Charlotte and Thorne emerge from the wreckage and slaughter a small town to obtain the blood they need to heal their injuries.  How did they survive the crash in the first place?  The writers speak through Blade when he mutters “doesn’t matter.”  They just needed to get the plot set up!

News of the plane crash forces Blade to seek help from his new partner…FBI Agent Ray Collins (Larry Poindexter)!  It turned out the reason the coroner reappered a couple episodes back was merely to tip Collins off that Blade was somewhere in Detroit.  Based on that information, Collins walks right into Blade’s lair.  Through his FBI connections Collins is able to find out where the plane went down.  Blade doesn’t think Charlotte survived, but wonders if any records on the location of the House of Chthon conclave may have survived the crash.

Of course, this is a bit of a paradox.  Collins came to Blade wanting to stop Marcus, but Blade says he and Marcus have the same goals–death to vampires.  With the enemy of Blade’s enemy being Blade’s friend, Blade wants to let Marcus finish his plot..and yet Blade seems intent on knowing every detail.  But maybe that will be explained next episode?

Airplane Crash

Throw some burning cardboard around and pretend it's a crashed airplane. Isn't that what Lost did? No? Okay then.

But in this episode, what we get for the next hour are Blade and Collins searching the crash and following the trail of Charlotte and Thorne to a local school, all the while swapping war stories.  For a laconic hero, Blade is pretty forthcoming to Collins–both about methods to kill vampires and about Shen’s (Nelson Lee) backstory.  This gives me another peak into my favorite supporting character.  It turns out Shen is hunting a couple of vampires (presumably the ones who took his sister).  Shen’s agreement with Blade is when Blade finds the vampires, Shen gets the honor of killing them.

In response, Collins shares his backstory–he caught a serial killer, but an improperly executed warrant allowed him to go free and murder Collins wife and daughter.  Collins went rogue, executing the killer before he could have a second trial.  Since then he has used “unorthodox methods” to stop criminals.

It seems like Blade and Collins have a partnership made in vampire heaven, and the two work together in the school killing vampire townies in some lackluster fights.  Seeing the vampire hunters’ success, Charlotte traps Collins by pretending to be a scared child.  Perhaps due to the death of his own daughter, Collins falls for it and Charlotte bites him.

Blade and Thorne have the best fight in the episode (which isn’t saying much).  After dusting Thorne, Blade goes to confront Charlotte, who makes Blade the same offer Deacon Frost did in the first movie–join us, work with us.  Blade responds with his glaive and dusts Charlotte.

Charlotte's Death

Charlotte's death is a bright spot in this episode.

That is the first of two lackluster deaths.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad to see Charlotte go.  The character had promise, but the actress ruined it for me.  Every word she uttered thudded to the ground, and I’ve commented on it in each review where she appeared, so I will not linger on this topic.  I just hope I never have to see actress Emily Hirst in anything again.  However, it was an anticlimactic death for a character built up as a supposedly powerful foil for Marcus.

But that is nothing compared to what comes next.

Blade is reluctant to stake his new partner after bonding on the hunt, but Collins knows it’s necessary.  So Blade dusts the former agent.  Talk about an aborted plotline!  For ten hours I’ve watched Collins hunt rogue cop/vampire Boone across the country.  Now Collins is killed so arbitrarily in a school?  How can the show not give me a Collins/Boone showdown?  How can we not get the “you’ve been looking for me, here I am” moment?  But no, Collins is killed for no reason, accomplishing nothing in this series.  What a freaking waste of my time, and of a character.

Now Collins did lead Blade to recover items from the plane wreckage Shen is able to track to the conclave in Toronto, but that does not justify the length of this character’s arc.  It’s as purposeful as the easily-forgotten coroner telling Collins about Blade.  Finding the plane is a job for any minor character, not one who’s story we’ve followed the whole season.

This is poor, poor writing, and it angers me greatly.  Now maybe the writers aren’t entirely to blame–many things influence television show evolution, including actor contracts, reduced episode orders, and so on.  But given Blade only lasted one season I cannot imagine any of that happening here.  That the Boone/Collins storyline arced over the whole season and ended this way is just frustrating.  If this is the way the show would have continued, I am glad it was not renewed after this season.

As for our B-plot, following Blade’s House of Chthon undercover spy Krista Starr (Jill Wagner) and Marcus’ plan to kill all the Chthon purebloods, very little happens.  We see Krista and Marcus having some loving moments, and Krista is torn between her attraction to the kind, gentle Marcus with whom she makes love, and her disgust for the vampiric, violent Marcus who ruthlessly kills without remorse.  This is, of course, setting up suspense for the finale where Krista must surely choose sides once and for all.

Chase and Krista

I don't know if Chase is going to kiss Krista or kill her. I'd be up for watching either.

Meanwhile, Chase is becoming more jealous of Krista’s place at Marcus’ side and in Marcus’ bed–a jealousy fueled when Marcus gives Krista a locket once owned by his human wife.  There is a slightly erotic scene where I wasn’t sure if Chase was threatening Krista or hitting on her.  Chase stands close to Krista and kisses her on the lips, but also talks about how Chase sees Krista as “a hollow little girl playing hollow little games”.

And as for Marcus?  When he’s not enjoying a romp with Krista, he’s killing his familiar contractors.  Marcus demands a special air handling system be put in place but his favorite architect Tucker (Freddy vs. Jason‘s Tom Butler) threatens to quit if Marcus doesn’t scale back.  Marcus, realizing Tucker is too valuable to kill, threatens everyone Tucker knows if the work is not done.  Of course, Tucker acquiesces.  And the air system?  My guess is it’s the delivery mechanism for the Aurora virus that will kill the purebloods.  I wish the show would have kept its hand a little more hidden.

Blade meditates

Blade is ready for the final fight, and so am I!

As I said above, this episode is getting the pieces in place for the showdown; it’s unfortunate they had to spend a full episode of the series doing so.

But we end this episode with Blade meditating, then vamping out and roaring for no apparent reason, I hope it’s because the finale is coming, and Blade and Shen get to kick some ass.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 11, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | Comments Off on Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 11: Monsters

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 10: Hunters

Original Air Date: August 30, 2006
Director: Brad Turner

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com

Episode Ten opens in a nightclub, and immediately I’m reminded of the original Blade movie (sure they played New Order and this show can only afford heavy metal music in the public domain, but the comparison is still welcome).   Is this a vampire club?  Will Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) come in and ash everyone here?

Serial killer The White Prince

The White Prince - a killer plot that will hook you!

Party girl Jennifer is slipped a rufie and wakes up handcuffed in a dingy basement.  She’s the latest prisoner of The White Prince (Scott Heindl) – a vampire not connected with any of the Houses we’ve seen and has spent centuries feeding on and brutally torturing women.   Like we’re told he cuts open their stomach and dances on their intestines (sadly visions of the guy tilting his head back and doing the Snoopy Dance on a pile of guts are left strictly to our imaginations).  His face scarred from self-inflicted wounds, White Prince dons a poorly sewn mask (think Platinum Dunes Leatherface crossed with the David Cronenberg in Nightbreed) and films himself extracting all of Jennifer’s teeth.

Yes, coming completely out of left field is a stand-alone murder mystery episode that actually plays thing like a straight up horror tale – a rarity for Blade given how often it features action vampire over scary vampire.   And by breaking from the serialized storylines the show now gives new viewers a chance to get hooked.  I cannot imagine flipping through the channels, stumbling upon an episode like last week’s Angels and Demons, and being captivated by the multitude of new characters in a 19th century setting (and Blade himself relegated to a walk-on).  But Hunters is an ideal introduction for viewers late to the Blade series.  It certainly would make my Must-See TV schedule from this point forward (though admittedly we’re catching it two episodes from cancellation).

Another girl named Nicki goes missing, and concerned friend Daniel asks Shen (Nelson Lee) to take the case.  Shen, writing Nicki off as dead, initially refuses until Daniel accuses Shen of being Blade’s lackey who wasn’t so blase when his own sister was in danger.  It’s satisfying to get some character development for this sardonic co-star, and I’m happy to see Shen taking the spotlight this time.  It’s inferred that Shen came to hate vampires after his sister was…bitten? Killed? Abducted?  A thread for a future episode which may never come.

But this is Shen’s case now, with Blade, always up for killing vampires – playing second string.  There’s a great exchange between the two:

A victim of The White Prince

Classic horror cliches are used well here as Blade fights the vampire version of Buffalo Bill.

Shen:  You don’t think she’s alive do you?
Blade:  No
Shen:  Do you hope she is? Do you care?
Blade:  You do that for me


This sets up a good dynamic, showing that Shen is Blade’s conscience as well as his weapons maker.  Perhaps even more important, Blade knows it.


This story continues with some red herrings as Shen and Blade try to find out the identity of the White Prince’s Familiar, whom the men amusingly refer to as “a Renfield” (a nice callback to the original Familiar).  Blade and Shen use Nicki’s sister Bethany as bait, and she’s abducted by bartender Kurt (Dominic Zamprogna) to become the White Prince’s next victim.


I like The White Prince as a concept, but I’m lukewarm on the execution.  How quaint that he uses VHS to videotapes himself torturing the victims.  Sure, age-old vampires may not be up on the latest digital technology but you’d think in 2006 mini-CD or digital would be preferable!  His look worked for me at times.  He wore a stylized coat that actually allowed him to camouflage himself against the wall, and the mask was creepy.  That said, I was disappointed when the eventual unmasking comes.

Shen

This episode is Shen's chance to shine.

Masks really should serve one of three purposes in horror — 1) hide a killer’s identity so when the killer is revealed we have a shock (Scream); 2) hide something so grotesque we are revolted when we see it (Friday the 13th); 3) be spooky enough on its own that we are terrified (Leatherface).  There should also be an in-story reason for a character to wear a mask, such as trying to hide their own identity, or a psychological defect where the mask allows disassociation of the person from their acts (Michael Myers).

The mask had me guessing the entire episode.  While all signs pointed to the wearer being the White Prince vampire, I started wondering if perhaps it was a human serial killer emulating a famous vampire.  After all, why would a vampire torture rather than feed?  Maybe it’s Detective Boone (Bill Mondy), who is constantly hunted but we haven’t seen since the fifth episode?  Or maybe it’s a minor character from the House of Chthon?  Will it be someone from Blade’s past, or perhaps Shen’s?  Maybe even Shen’s sister?

Nope.. it’s just a vampire with a hang-up over self-inflicted scars.  Wow, what a let-down from what could have been a killer unmasking scene (pun fully intended)!  Blade unmasks and fights the White Prince, ripping the killer’s jaw off before dusting him.

Meanwhile, Shen keeps his focus on rescuing the girls, but is ambushed by Kurt.  This gives Shen a chance to shine in some hand-to-hand combat, and for me to actually be shocked when Shen is not content to just hand Kurt over to authorities after defeating him.  Instead Shen buries a straight razor in Kurt’s stomach and the way it comes off does not play as self-defense but murder.  A wonderfully ironic ending — Kurt helped the Prince so he could be immortal and instead died young.

The White Prince's Death

Hunters features some jaw-droppingly bad CGI.

Is the show posing a moral question here, or are we just to take Shen’s killing of Kurt the same way we do Blade dusting the White Prince?  This feels different for some reason, perhaps because Kurt leaves a corpse rather than flaming out in a fake-looking CGI shot.

But all told, it was a satisfying story that focused on our heroes for a change, rather than the villains in the House of Chthon.  A welcome change of pace that becomes only the second episode in the series that I would rate as “good”, and which usurps Sacrifice as my favorite episode of the series.

Hunters does include a few ongoing subplots for long-time viewers, with a B-story involving Krista (Jill Wagner) in detox after her feeding frenzy and copulation with House of Chthon power-player Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson).  Krista has fully rejected Blade’s serum and goes out on the hunt.  Blade quickly captures her, force-injects serum, and makes it clear Krista will get over her bloodlust and return to his side of the war on vampires or Blade will dust her.  There are several scenes of her fighting to get out, eventually breaking down the metal door that contains her and… stays put.  When Shen and Blade return at the very end of the episode, Krista has conquered her bloodlust and is ready to be Blade’s spy in the House of Chthon again.

And speaking of Chthon, in our C level story House elder Charlotte (Emily Hirst) is coaxing Chase (Jessica Gower) to reveal Marcus’ plans.  Of course we know Chase is siding with Marcus against the purebloods when she pretends to align herself with Charlotte and promises delivery of both Marcus and Blade.

Krista in detox

Krista was locked in a room this episode. Can we leave her there?

Mercifully the House of Chthon scenes, especially those featuring piss-poor actress Hirst, are short.  I am growing weary of this plot line that doesn’t hold enough twists to be stretched over a dozen episodes.  I was glad to get confirmation of my suspicion that the baby in a bag from last episode was a snack for Charlotte, who prefers the blood of hours-old newborns.  Ahh, if only she could act she might be a good villain.

For the first time in the series we have no sign of FBI Agent Collins (Larry Poindexter) and his new coroner partner, nor any reference to Boone.  The episode smartly focused on the White Prince story and was the better for it.

Two episodes left to go, I actually find myself hoping for another hour devoted to a self-contained story as fulfilling as the White Prince’s and then a finale wrapping up the House of Chthon/Boone storylines.  But we shall see.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 10, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 2 Comments

The Exorcist

What a wonderful day for an exorcism! As a special “Thank You” to those who donate to Now Playing, Arnie, Brock, and Stuart are looking back at all the Exorcist films, starting with this 1973 head-spinning classic! It has been aped so much in horror films, can it hold up 35 years later, or should it be banished back to the bowels of hell? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Exorcist

The Exorcist

What a wonderful day for an exorcism! As a special “Thank You” to those who donate to Now Playing, Arnie, Brock, and Stuart are looking back at all the Exorcist films, starting with this 1973 head-spinning classic! It has been aped so much in horror films, can it hold up 35 years later, or should it be banished back to the bowels of hell? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Exorcist

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 9: Angels and Demons

Original Air Date: August 16, 2006
Director: Norberto Barba

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com

I mentioned in the Blade movie review for Now Playing that I saw similarities between the character of Blade and the character of Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a vampire who had his soul restored.  Angel thus has all of the powers of a vampire, and uses those powers to fight other vampires.  Sure, there are some differences between Blade and Angel, but there are a lot of similarities too.

But in watching this latest episode of Blade: The Series I was not happy to be reminded of Angel’s own self-titled spin-off series.  There are some parallels between the two series–Marcus Van Sciver’s company is similar to Wolfram and Heart, and Blade and his friends fighting to take it down.  The two even have similar story structure with the episodic fights that lead to the larger story arc.  But if the differences before were subtle, this week’s episode made them abundantly clear.

Marcus and Damek in the 1800s

Filmmaking 101: If you have no confidence in your sets, your costumes, or your actors to sell the time period, make everything brown like an old timey photo.

One of the storytelling devices the Angel series used was showing flashbacks of the vampire characters from hundreds of years earlier when the characters were in their human lives or newly turned as vampires.  Angel, Spike, Drusilla, Darla, and others all had their backstories fleshed out through flashbacks.  I always felt these period-pieces were poorly done in Angel, and asking one-note actors like David Boreanaz to pretend to be old world characters with accents didn’t work either.  I hated those flashback episodes and always fought to pay attention.

And so I had a flashback of my own while watching Angels and Demons:  a flashback to watching Angel and hating that they were subjecting me to needless scenes from Angel’s early life.  Of all the things from Angel to copy, that is one Blade‘s creators should not have emulated.  Yet they did.

To be clear, I am not entirely anti-flashback.  Just two episodes ago in Sacrifice we got wonderful flashbacks to Blade’s childhood, but those flashbacks were given in a way that both served character and story.  By contrast, in Angels and Demons we get flashbacks to House of Chthon power player Marcus Van Sciver’s (Neil Jackson) human origins in the late 19th century, and what a mess these scenes are!

First, the performances are not convincing.  I’ve always felt Jackson was perfectly cast as evil businessman vampire Marcus, but playing a happy-go-lucky newlywed opening a feed store in the 1800s was not in the actor’s range.  (I really hope he honed his period-piece acting chops before filming 2013’s The Scarlet Pimpernel in which he is rumored to be the lead).

Second, the film style was annoying.  Perhaps the budget was not there to convincingly create sets that look like old-time Detroit, but to put the scenes through an obvious video-toaster level sepia filter is obnoxious.  It made the scenes ugly.

And third, while the flashbacks did tie into the modern day story, it was nowhere near as cleanly interspersed as Blade’s childhood was in Sacrifice.  For much of the episode I didn’t realize they tied in at all.  The framing for this week’s story was that Marcus’ newest protégée Krista Starr (Jill Wagner) was distraught over her role in the deaths of her mother and uncle last episode, and Krista works through her grief by getting drunk attacking humans.

Marcus is understanding but not exactly sympathetic as he tells Krista that all vampires suffer the deaths of the ones they used to love in their human lives.  To illustrate this point, Krista has an after-death experience in which she sees Marcus in his human life.

Marcus was turned by a Native American

Had the series continued, would the Native American Vampire plot been further explored? I'd love to see Goyer try to explain that.

With that lame a set-up I was really not happy these flashback scenes at all.  More, they confused me as we had seen Marcus being turned in the pilot as Krista’s first after-death experience, and I thought it took place in 14th or 15th century Africa with witch doctors and such.  Seeing natives in tribal headresses and Marcus sporting an old-world hairstyle I thought it was far earlier than the 19th century, and not in the USA.  Fortunately, the episode does address that dissonance.

However, the flashback got a bit more interesting as Marcus opens his store, and in walks Damek (Brent Stait) of the House of Armaya.  We saw Damek previously, blackmailing House of Chthon pureblood elder Charlotte (Emily Hirst), but now we see him as an old-school gangster vampire running a protection racket in 19th century Detroit.

Marcus is willful and refuses to pay, so Damek forces Marcus to watch as he rapes and bites Marcus’ wife Isabelle in a scene that actually shocked me.  I expected Isabelle to be beaten and disfigured, but the rape was graphic and extreme.  And when Marcus still will not bow to Damek’s request, Damek boxes Marcus up in a coffin and ships him…somewhere.  Here the episode doesn’t go into great detail, but I am taking it that the tribal people who turn Marcus are not African, but rather Native Americans who, with a black wolf, perform a ritual which turns Marcus into a vampire.

I can’t say I like the idea of American Indian vampire tribes, and I would have preferred something a bit more old-world, a bit more Anne Rice, which I had originally thought was Marcus’ background.  I also do not understand why Damek would punish an enemy by sending him to be turned immortal.  But I did like that Marcus has a long history with Damek, and an intense reason beyond the normal caste system for his hatred of pureblood vampires.

In the most trite of writing cliches, we see that in modern day Detroit the same Marcus/Damek dynamic is playing out again.  While Damek got everything he wanted from Charlotte in his blackmail scheme, he has gone to Detroit to visit Marcus and demand a cut of Marcus’ financials.  Why?  Because he can is the best answer the episode gives us, and that isn’t enough for me.  But it does shoddily create a parallel between Damek entering Marcus’ store in the 19th century demanding a cut, and Damek doing the same thing on a larger scale in modern day.

Damek's final moments

Marcus' burning hatred results in Damek's burning face.

And, as in the 19th century, Marcus refuses to give in to Damek’s demands, and the two engage in a bloody brawl.  I must say this fight has some truly great moments, such as Marcus holding Damek’s head in the burning fire, and Damek impaling Marcus with a fireplace poker.  The sub-par CGI effects, such as Marcus pulling the poker out, don’t lessen the fight’s excitement.

I wish the episode had gone into more detail about why Marcus chose this moment to kill Damek.  For nine episodes we’ve seen Marcus cow-tow to the purebloods while, in secret, working on the Aurora virus to kill them.  But now that the virus is almost ready, Marcus kills Damek hand to hand?  I would have liked to see the Aurora plot tie into Damek’s murder.  How easy it would have been to, instead of having a brawl, have Marcus offer Aurora to Damek?  As Marcus’ front for Aurora is that it makes vampires immune to silver, garlic, and sunlight, Marcus could have pretended to capitulate and offer Damek the opportunity to be the first unstoppable vampire.  Then Damek’s greed causes a painful death fitting for his character.

Don’t get me wrong, the fight between Damek and Marcus was good, but it was random.  The death by Aurora would have been a culmination of the plot so far.  Instead, we just see Marcus, after over 100 years of being subservient to Damek, taking a stand and fighting back physically with no explanation as to why.

I do love Damek’s last moments.  While Marcus has brooded for over a century about the way Isabelle was raped and killed, Damek just laughs saying “I don’t remember you, or whoever that whore was you say I killed”.  A nice, evil touch that works to put centuries of evil deeds in perspective.

And with that strike against the House of Armaya, Marcus sends his right-hand vampire Chase (Jessica Gower) to dust Damek’s driver.  And she does so in a very cool way–a swift roundhouse kick, her boot containing a James Bond-like blade, which cuts the vampire’s throat.

Krista and Marcus make love

Krista has gone from being under cover to being under covers.

Then, in their shared pain, Krista and Marcus then have tender vampire sex.  Well, tender may not be the right word, it’s actually really  violent–full of fangs, blood, and biting, but the musical score tries to make the scene seem tender and emotional. I have to say I didn’t see this twist coming.  The entire series thus far has been about Krista trying to get revenge on Marcus for murdering her brother.  If we had a better actress than Wagner in the role of Krista perhaps this would have been foreshadowed and come across as believable; instead it just comes off as a shock and felt arbitrary.

And while Krista and Marcus do the bloody deed, Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) is watching from outside like some creepy peeping-Tom.  Oh yeah, Blade!  This series is called Blade, not Marcus!  So where was Blade this episode?  Well, he had a few scenes.  Shen’s friend at the CDC diagnosed the Aurora as a virus designed specifically to kill only pureblood vampires, and there is some shaky scientific reason given as to why it’s developed in the wombs of human women (as revealed in Episode 6).  So Blade goes to the House of Chthon to investigate, and Shen hacks the security system cameras…only to have his hacking undone by episode’s end.

Shen gets caught

Given Whistler's fate in the films, I keep expecting Shen to have a lame death, such as being caught by a House of Chthon security guard.

Blade’s appearance in this episode felt obligatory and he really had no story to speak of, but there were some bright moments courtesy of Shen who I’m liking more and more as the series continues.  Shen is alone in the sewer, hacking into the Chthon security system when he is interrupted by a security guard.  Here, I really thought Shen might die.  His snarky attitude was one of the bright points of the series, and I would have been upset to see him go.  But surprise!   Blade is lurking, and pulls the guard into the ceiling then drops his dead body.  It was a fun bit of violence and I’m glad to see Shen live on.

Finally we get one scene of Charlotte, who becomes more convinced of Marcus’ betrayal when Charlotte’s spy Glynnis goes missing.  This scene is there just so we don’t forget Charlotte, though I keep trying to.

And we get two scenes of Agent Collins.  He is going back with his captain, when he sees a tattoo on the captain’s wrist–the captain is a Familiar.  Collins escapes and goes running to…some woman’s house.  This really confused the hell out of me so I had to stop the episode and do some digging–who was this woman?  It turns out her name is Jessica Ellis, and way back in episode 3 she Was the coroner who showed Agent Collins the van full of ashed vampires.  She was such a minor, functional character that I didn’t even include her in my episode summary, but now she’s back.

Do you recognize this woman?

Do you recognize this woman? I sure as hell didn't.

We had not seen her in 6 episodes, and for normal TV viewers this would have been a month and a half between appearances of this minor, generic character.  I even went to TheWB.com where they have all these episodes on demand and include the “last time on Blade” scenes that are not on the DVD.  In this episode’s recap there is no shot or mention of Ellis, so I imagine I was not the only one who was like “who is this?”

But the coroner has seen enough strange deaths, so she believes Collins’ story of vampires.  She tells Collins of Blade, who was last seen in Detroit.

Overall, this episode was pretty mediocre.  Still nowhere near the heights of Sacrifice, and with only three episodes left to go I am really hoping things escalate.  A little less backstory and a little more story would be a welcome change of pace.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 1 Comment

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 8: Turn of the Screw

Original Air Date: August 16, 2006
Director: Norberto Barba

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com

Krista and Glynnis fighting

How can Lisa sleep through all that noise?

After being treated to the best episode in this series, I had high hopes coming into Turn of the Screw, and the opening scene didn’t disappoint.  At first I thought it was going to be a recap of last episode’s conclusion, as we see Krista Starr’s mother Lisa (P. Lynn Johnson) lying in her hospital bed, as we saw last episode.  I had assumed that we would see a replay of last week’s final scene–Krista (Jill Wagner) choking her mother with a pillow, then Glynnis (Jody Thompson), the vampire spying on Krista, entering and discovering Krista’s collusion with Blade.  As the two women prepare to fight, FBI Agent Collins (Larry Poindexter) would enter and get visual proof that vampires exist, and the two vampires would turn their fangs on him.  Then, finally, the action would begin.

I thought all this as the camera held steady on Krista’s mother, but the scene was still.  And as I saw  Krista’s mom laying there, bleeding from her wrist, I found myself wondering “Where’s the pillow Krista used to choke her?  Is the choking coming?”  Then the episode shows its hand and it fooled me — the silence is broken by Agent Collins’ body being thrown over the body of Krista’s mom, and the episode begins where I wanted it to–with the vamp-on-vamp fight between Glynnis and Krista.

Krista leaves Glynnis shattered

Mirror, mirror on the wall will ash Glynnis after all.

And man what a fight it is!  The stunt men have their best wire-fu going.  Sure, some of it is sped up obviously to enhance the action, and it would still be sub-par for a Blade theatrical film, but this stands as the best fight we’ve seen in the series to date.  Glynnis hugs the ceiling to avoid Krista, and Krista wins the fight by smashing Glynnis with a full-length mirror.  Glynnis dissolves because, as Krista helpfully states, mirrors are backed with silver, and I’m left to Google “mirror, silver” to see if it’s true.  Sure enough it is!

Still, the fight ended exactly as I predicted, with Glynnis dead and Krista and Collins back where they were before.  I would have liked a game-changer; instead I got yet another Krista victory.

During the fight, newly-turned Lisa escapes the hospital room, thus setting up the plot of the episode:  Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) and Krista chasing after Lisa.  Blade’s security system had tapes of Krista stealing his serum, so he goes to confront his partner but quickly joins Krista in the hunt for Lisa.

Lisa's EMT Lunch

Vampires are scary. Old ladies are scary. Old ladies as vampires? Hysterical.

Not familiar with her vampiric nature, Lisa first goes to her bother’s house where the thirst overtakes her.  As she feeds on Krista’s uncle she has a vision.  Vampires often get visions of their makers being turned, and Lisa witnesses her daughter being turned by Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson).  As Marcus is a local celebrity, the confused Lisa heads to the head vampire’s office complex.

Krista and Blade spend the episode playing “catch-up.”  They find the body of Krista’s uncle, and while Wagner tries to display pain outside her acting range, Blade beheads the corpse lest it turn into a vampire.

When the two finally catch up to Lisa, she had already fed enough times that Blade’s serum held no power and there was no choice but to kill her.  Blade is, of course, ready to do the deed but Krista ends up taking responsibility for her actions.  Krista pulls the trigger putting her mother out of her misery as the screen cuts to credits.

And thus ends this week’s lackluster A-storyline.  A far letdown from last week’s Blade story.

Krista kills her mother

Krista should be torn up as she is about to ash her own mother. But Wagner's facial expression looks like she just ate some bad Thai food.

I was immediately disappointed when this episode started with Shen (Nelson Lee) asking if Blade would try to talk to his father, introduced last episode, and Blade responds “no”.  I was hungry for more Richard Roundtree, and this episode was fatherus interruptus.  Replacing it with Krista hunting her mother was a poor substitute indeed!

But this week’s B-storyline involves my favorite fanged fiend, Chase (Jessica Gower)!  Marcus’ right-hand-vampire is mostly healed from Blade’s planted bomb, with just some burns on the back of her neck, so Marcus sends her to Vegas to lowball a business deal.  Of course, this deal takes place in a strip club, and my “unrated” DVDs make up in one scene for the gratuitous titty shots that have been lacking the past several episodes.

At the strip club Chase is spotted by a pureblood vampire named Alex (Kavan Smith), who apparantly likes a challenge as Chase is the only clothed woman in the room.  It is revealed Alex and Chase had a relationship 60-some-odd years ago–a relationship Alex wishes to rekindle with some wonderfully kinky, violent vampire sex.  There are some great lines in this scene such as Alex saying “I have missed you” and Chase replying “I haven’t thought of you once” before cutting her breast for Alex to feed on.  With Chase it seems possible.

Chase and Alex

Chase and Alex look like they're having a bloody good time together. But what happens in Vegas...ends in Detroit I guess.

This plot then becomes muddled.  Chase tells Alex that since the bomb in Berlin, Marcus has lost faith in her, and she thinks she’s been sent to Vegas set up to fail.  Chase says she’d like to stay in Vegas, away from Marcus, and be with Alex.  Marcus then shows up, catches Chase in bed with Alex, and Alex throws some insults at humans-turned-vampires in general and Marcus in particular with the best one being that turned vamipres are “pieces of meat that got a reprieve”.

With the posturing out of the way, Alex then tries to pay Marcus for Chase’s freedom.  Alex views this as rescuing Chase, but she sees as being bought from Marcus like cattle.  Alex and Marcus toast to the agreement, but Alex’s blood drink was drugged, and when Alex awakens he’s strapped down to a chair and injected with the Aurora virus which causes him to die a slow, agonizing death–the final test for Marcus’ biological weapon against the purebloods.

Now I don’t know if Chase’s angst was real, or if all this was a plot set up to lure Alex so they could test the drug on a pureblood.  As written, the episode allows it to go either way.  You can see Chase enjoying the rough sex, and also hurt by Alex’s comments on turned vampires, so had he not been so callous would he still have died?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that Marcus wanting to use the drug on the purebloods was set up episodes ago, robbing this episode from any surprise when we see Aurora used as a weapon.  There was no suspense as Alex was injected, just a knowledge that he had been betrayed by Chase.

Alex dying from Aurora

With Aurora we get to see an all new way for Vampires to die. Slowly. And with lots of latex make-up.

The ambiguity of Chase’s motivations intrigues me, but the entire plot line was hampered as we had never seen Alex before.  Had this plot been executed against Frederick, Chase’s ex-husband, rather than newly introduced Alex perhaps the scenes would have had more weight.  As depicted, this story was diverting but not enthralling.

Finally, the C for the C-storyline stands for Collins.  After the fight with Krista, he reports the existence of vampires to his superior officer, Agent Sorenson.  As a result of this unlikely proclamation, Collins is put through the cliche of having his badge and gun revoked by Sorenson.  But Collins persists and Sorenson agrees to listen, and thus Collins’ story gets stalled for yet another episode.

And as the episode’s credits roll I feel let down.  I thought with last week’s tremendous episode Sacrifice the series may have hit its stride, but Turn of the Screw is back to the old game of inching forward the overall storylines but not providing any real development or payoff.

I did like the idea that Krista’s selfishness, her refusal to allow her mother to rest in peace, causes immeasurable pain as well as the death of Krista’s uncle.  It is well written, but by now my displeasure with Jill Wagner’s acting has been well documented and her performance yet again undercuts what could have been a great dramatic storyline.  The best writing can be hampered by the worst actress, and this isn’t the best writing.

While starting off with the best fight I’ve seen on Blade so far, the episode quickly falls back on its old habits, and I’m disappointed yet again.

With four episodes left, I’m left only with the hope that the House of Chthon-Marcus versus the purebloods-story must advance soon.  Right?

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 8, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 4 Comments

The Golden Child

You, supporters of Now Playing, are the chosen ones!  And now you can finally hear this bonus review of The Golden Child that Arnie, Stuart, and Brock reviewed in September, 2011.

September 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Golden Child

The Golden Child

You, supporters of Now Playing, are the chosen ones!  And now you can finally hear this bonus review of The Golden Child that Arnie, Stuart, and Brock reviewed in September, 2011.

September 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Golden Child

Hasbro to Make First Appearance at New York Comic Con

New York Comic Con LogoHasbro Logo

 

 

 

 

 

Hasbro issued a press release today stating that Hasbro will make a first time appearance at New York Comic Con at the Javits Convention Center in New York City from October 13-16 to present many of its iconic brands and meet with fans.

Hasbro will have a significant booth presence featuring current and upcoming products from its Transformers, G.I. Joe, Jem and the Holograms, KRE-O brands aas well as from Hasbro’s  Beyblade, Marvel and Star Wars toy lines. Additionally, Hasbro will host panels for several of its properties and action figure lines as well as offer for sale several HasbroToyShop.com special edition products made for New York Comic Con convention goers.

When asked for clarification on the HasbroToyShop.com products, Justin Aclin, of Hunter PR representing Hasbro, stated “There will be exclusive items available at the con through a HasbroToyShop.com segment of the booth, although we’re not ready to reveal what those are just yet.”  Aclin also confirmed that, contrary to rumor, the sold out San Diego Comic-Con exclusive items, such as the Star Wars Death Star figure set, will not be available for sale at the show.

“Hasbro is looking forward to an exciting and substantial presence for its first ever participation in New York Comic Con,” said Jeff Jackson, vice president of U.S. marketing for Hasbro. “As this show continues to grow we’re thrilled to be attending this year to offer our fans the opportunity to engage with Hasbro’s brands in unique ways at both the convention and NYCC Kids! events.”

More details about Hasbro’s booth, panels, special edition New York Comic-Con figures and other special events at the convention will be released in the coming weeks. Hasbro will be located at booth #302. For more information about New York Comic Con, fans and families can visit www.NewYorkComicCon.com

You can discuss New York Comic Con in the Star Wars Action News forums!

September 8, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Conventions, News, Star Wars | , , , | Comments Off on Hasbro to Make First Appearance at New York Comic Con

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 7: Sacrifice

Original Air Date: August 9, 2006
Director: David Straiton

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series.  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com.

Young Blade with a Sack Lunch

Teenage Eric Brooks eating a bag lunch.

Before I review this episode I wanted to share a revelation I had while driving to work this morning:  this is a series truly made for comic book fans, not just because it stars a comic book character but because it is written and paced like a comic book series.  Series runners Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer both have previously written for comic books so this type of storytelling must come very naturally to them.  But taking every episode of Blade as a single issue, I see all the elements that were common in every issue of a serialized comic book:  a fight or two, a few teases about a larger story or conspiracy, and a villain from a couple issues back returns to continue their role in the saga.  So the pacing and storytelling that frustrates me as a regular viewer of serialized television comes directly from Blade’s comic book origins, and I wonder if it clicked with the comic set.

I’m not sure this type of comic book pacing holds true for comics written today, with the intent of arcs being compiled and sold as trade paperbacks.  Not every issue stands alone in today’s comics, nor do they always contain a big fight.  However, in the 70’s and 80’s these conventions were expected.

Truly the two mediums should be somewhat similar in storytelling, but I think comic book audiences may be conditioned to be more forgiving than television viewers, and often pacing that works in the printed medium doesn’t work in a visual one.

But as I put to bed the pacing problems I had with previous episodes of Blade I actually now have the pleasure of reviewing my single favorite episode of the series so far — Sacrifice, a great tale about family, and in it we have two parallel stories.

Blade's father, stepmother, and their cop friend Flanigan

Blade's father, stepmother, and Flanigan try to keep Blade's hunger satiated lest they be his next meal.

Our primary story is Blade’s (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones), as it should be but often hasn’t been.  Steppin’ Razor (Bokeem Woodbine), the vampire from Blade’s past introduced to in Episode 4, is back and there is still some “Bad Blood” between the two.  Now, rather than attack Blade directly, Steppin’ Razor is murdering seemingly random people, including a cop and an elderly nurse. Flashbacks tell us these victims all have some kind of connection to Eric Brooks (Blade’s childhood identity).

It seems the past several episodes have really wanted to include Blade’s origin story with its chronicle of the House of Chthon.  Episode 4 had the Bad Bloods talking about Blade’s induction in the gang while Episode 6 showed Blade having visions of his mother while pregnant with him.  But the problem with both those episodes was the ham-handed way they tried to tell us about Blade’s past in a way that truly had little impact on the rest of the story.  It was information Blade fans may drink up, but any casual TV viewer would be turned off by the lack of story and excitement.

But in this episode, they successfully link Blade’s present with his past, and rather than having people talk about Blade’s childhood as they did in Episode 4, here they show us through flashbacks.  Admittedly this was a common storytelling device in the first three seasons of Lost, but Blade utilizes the storytelling technique very well here.

Young Blade (Eric Roberts) in Chains

Grounding a daywalker is a bit more difficult than an ordinary child.

We see Blade as a child (Jon Kent Ethridge) on the verge of adolescence, cared for by his father Robert Brooks (Colin Lawrence).  Robert knew of Eric’s vampiric nature, so when not supervised he would chain the boy up in a locked room and give him blood transfusions to stave off Eric’s hunger.

Robert’s aided in the cover-up of his son’s monstrous side by Viola (Robinne Fanfair), a nurse at a local hospital.  Viola steals bags of human blood from the hospital to transfuse into Eric after it is discovered cow blood made Blade ill.  Also helping is Officer Flannigan (Elias Toufexis), a local cop who helped keep Eric under control.

But as Eric reaches adolescence his hunger cannot be maintained.  He tears open a bag of blood with his teeth and drinks it, and vamps out when angry.  Desperate, Eric calls in help in the form of a vampire hunter Abraham Whistler (Adrian Mcmorran).

However, Whistler’s primary motivation isn’t to help Eric but to either kill him or turn him into a weapon that can aid Whistler’s war against vampires.  Hearing this through a door, Eric smashes his hand with a cinder block to escape his chains and runs away to his friend Mr. Taka’s convenience store.  However, the store is being robbed.  Eric defends Mr. Taka by killing and feeding on both robbers–Blade’s first kills.

His feeding is interrupted by Robert and Whistler, and one of the robbers fires off a shot, hitting Robert in the stomach.  Thinking his father dead, Eric runs away to not be seen again.

While being a flashback in this episode, this is a truly great, emotional story.  Here we get answers to questions that have to be asked, such as how does anyone raise a half-vampire without ending up in the news?  How did the thirst stay under control before Whistler came up with the serum?  But not only are those questions answered but we also have some wonderful emotions as we watch a parent covering up the crimes of a child, and a child trying to come of age and come to terms with what he is.

Blade after his first kills

Young Eric Roberts had a good ethic on hunting - he eats what he kills.

In addition, we get Whistler, and he has a grand entrance.  Sure, this is not played by Kris Kristofferson, it’s a much younger man, but he is given an incredible entrance and the fanboy in me buzzed with delight at seeing Whistler again.  While this does create some continuity problems with the first Blade film, where Whistler said he found Blade as a teenager on the street eating homeless people, it is worth it to explain why Whistler would know what Blade was and where to look for him.

And we also see Blade is the one who broke Whistler’s leg, attacking Whistler while escaping from Mr. Taka’s store.  Again, this is a very Star Wars-y “certain point of view” interpretation of when Whistler says his leg was injured by vampires, it adds a bit of redemption to Blade’s side of his partnership with Whistler.

If all of that wasn’t enough, the production values of these flashbacks are first rate.  The production team went through the trouble to get period-accurate costumes, hairstyles, and even background score music for these scenes.  And it feels real, never coming across as a parody like That 70’s Show.  So kudos all around for a wonderful flashback setting and story.

But even better, that story feeds into the present day.  What I don’t think I realized until this episode was that Blade was originally from Detroit; his coming to Detroit wasn’t just to hunt the House of Chthon, it was a homecoming after the events in Blade: Trinity.  Perhaps I should have gotten this more clearly when the Bad Bloods came in, but it was never driven home until now.

Young Whistler with Blade's parents

In case you thought Whistler hardened with age, even in the 70's he was ready to train Blade...or kill him.

But with Steppin’ Razor having survived his last fight with Blade, he is now making it personal, finding Eric Brooks’ friends and helpers and killing them one by one.  Flannigan and Mr. Taka are killed, but Blade and Shen arrive just in time to revive Viola, who Steppin’ Razor tried to drown at the nursing home where she worked.  Viola then points Blade to Razor’s next victim–Blade’s father.  With medical aid by Viola, Robert Brooks survived the shooting, and with Blade having returned to Detroit so did Robert, wanting to reconnect with his son.

Blade rushes to the abandonned apartment building where he grew up, and has a rematch with Steppin’ Razor.
And, once again, the series gets it right.  Steppin’ Razor wants to kill Blade and his father.  This is a fight with stakes (in both senses of the word!), and that’s something this show has been lacking in so many episodes where Blade slaughtered faceless vampires.

And the fight is well constructed, with Blade and Steppin’ Razor evenly matched, and when Steppin’ Razor dies with Blade’s sword to his chest it’s a triple surprise — first because Blade was not fighting with his sword, second because it’s Robert Brooks taking Blade’s sword and interrupting the fight, and third because to get at Steppin’ Razor he stabbed Blade clean through!

Robert Brooks, Steppin' Razor, and Blade

Someone should tell Robert Brooks that the best tactic to reconnect with your estranged son is not to literally stab him in the back, even if it is to save his life.

And if all that wasn’t enough, Blade’s father is played by Richard Roundtree!  The 70’s love continues as the original, and best, Shaft shows up as Blade’s older father.  This casting is so perfect in that Roundtree’s Shaft was the original bad ass, and now he is the father to a bad ass vampire killer.  It keeps with the 70’s vibe of the episode, and just makes perfect sense.  The only regret I had was that it was spoiled in the opening credits so I knew that bad mutha (shut yo mouth!) would show up in the episode; had they resisted the urge to put him in the credits it would have been even better still.

All of this makes for honestly a better Blade story than we got in three movies.  And in it, Sticky Fingaz does very well.  When reunited with his father, Sticky rides the perfect line, showing a character trying to keep emotions under control while completely denying his father, saying “My father was the vampire that bit my mother, you’re just the guy who got stuck holding the bag.”  It was dramatic, but it was also believable that Blade would want to hurt his father with words, even though we know Blade isn’t being totally honest after spending so much time trying to save his father.

Emotional resonance like this is something this series has not been able to accomplish in its first six episodes, and I’m so happy to have some now.  If the back six are all like this, the journey will have been well worth it.

Krista and her dying mother

To bite or not to bite, that is the question.

In the episode’s B storyline, Krista Starr (Jill Wagner) is dealing with her mother’s death from Leukemia.  While I wasn’t a big fan of this subplot when introduced last episode, here it worked very well, showing Krista’s dealing with the death of a parent in direct contrast to Blade’s discovery of a parent still alive.  That balance gives this story a weight that Wagner’s acting range cannot.

Krista, not wanting her mother to die, is faced with the choice of losing her mother or turning her mother into a vampire.  There are several scenes where her mother, delusional from pain medicine, is asked if she’d like to be with Krista “forever” and always saying “yes.”  With this permission, Krista breaks into Blade’s lair Mission Impossible-style crawling on the ceiling to avoid the security system.  When in, she steals several vials of the serum to control her mother’s hunger, and then bites her dying mother before suffocating her with a pillow.

Poor acting and poor plotting hurt this storyline, especially when put up against Blade’s story, but it does have a wonderful element of moral ambiguity, asking how far you would go to save a loved one.  Krista cries as she suffocates her mother, and if only Jill Wagner could act her way out of a paper bag perhaps the scene would have gotten me emotional as well, but that is apparently asking too much from an actress who got her start pulling pranks on Punk’d? This poor casting choice will haunt the series forever.  But she does gets one great moment this episode, which we will get to in a minute.

Babies eating babies

It's an epidemic, children eating children!

But first, speaking of bad casting, little Emily Hirst is back giving her best daytime-soap-opera performance as the evil vampire child Charlotte.  Her spy Glynnis (Jody Thompson) is still trying to find dirt on Detroit House of Chthon leader Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson), and is learning the Aurora project, which promises to cure the Vampire weaknesses for garlic, silver, and sunlight, may never happen.  With this news, Charlotte tasks Glynnis with investigating Krista, and we the audience wonder if Krista’s secret alliance with Blade will be revealed.

We also see Charlotte given a baby in a bag.  I wondered if they’d make Charlotte truly evil, rather than just petulant, by showing her eating a baby, but all we’re given is the ominous line “I could eat you up, yes I could.”  Hirst’s delivery of the line is so flat that I don’t know if it was trying to be menacing, charming, or funny.  Is this baby a meal, or a subplot?  By pulling this punch, it’s apparent the vampires may have fangs but Blade: The Series does not.

And lest we forget about the final thread that weaves through Blade: The Series we get one scene of FBI Agent Collins (Larry Poindexter) as he continues to investigate crooked-cop-cum-vampire Boone.  As Boone has not been seen, Collins is now trying to find Krista, who was one of Boone’s open cases when the cop went missing.

Krista and Glynnis Vamped Out

Krista vs Glynnis? Krista and Glynnis vs Collins? Krista vs Collins vs Glynnis? You mean I have to wait to find out?!?!

But all these B, C, and even D level subplots end magnificently, and together.  Krista, shortly after killing her mother, is visited by Glynnis, who grabs Krista’s bag of serum.  Krista and Glynnis both vamp out and we think we’re going to get a great girl-on-girl vampire fight, and I’m pumped…when Agent Collins walks in, flashing his badge and shouting “FBI!”  And when both she-vampires turn their fangs towards Collins, giving him proof of what he suspected, the existence of vampires!  It is a total rush…as the screen cuts to black and credits roll, making the audience wait a week (or me one day) to see the conclusion.

I have enough experience with television cliffhanger endings that I dare not hope for this scene to result the total violent riot I imagine; the fight will probably be perfunctory and end with Krista and Collins in tact, and minor character Glynnis dying to keep Krista’s allegiance secret as this show has no problem killing the minor characters.  Still, the excitement of the moment was perfect and I find myself for the first time in the series greatly anticipating the next episode.  And perhaps now that Krista’s secret is at risk, and now that Collins has seen vampires in person, these subplots that were given one scene per episode can take center stage as we prepare for our end-of-season showdown.

Shen and Blade are on the case

Once again Shen is let out of the lair to investigate with Blade.

If all that is not enough praise, a couple more quick hits. First, more kudos to the writers for Shen’s dialogue in this episode’s opening scene.  He’s been Blade’s whipping boy for 6 episodes, and his snarky replies at the start of this show are reminiscent of Ryan Reynolds’ Hannibal King from Blade:  Trinity, especially Shen’s response when Blade complains about the A/C in the car not working:   “Maybe you should get a bad-ass summer-weight coat”

I also love that little Eric Brooks is a comic book fan, reading both Avengers and Hulk.  As the entire Now Playing Marvel movie retrospective was sparked by The Avengers, it was cool to see a shout-out.

Television shows often take a few episodes to reach their potential.  With Sacrifice it seems Blade: The Series found its footing at last, and I cannot wait until tomorrow to see where the series goes next.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 7, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 8 Comments

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 6: Delivery

Blade Slaps Vanessa

Blade is very old school in the "I'll slap the bitch unconscious rather than talk to her" kind of way.

Original Air Date: August 2, 2006
Director: Alex Chapple

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series.  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com.

This episode kicks off with Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) and the prisoner he rescued last episode, the pregnant Vanessa (Sonja Bennett), on a train outside of Paris. When Vanessa starts to scream for help, which is completely reasonable given that she’s handcuffed with a strange, stoic man who just injected himself with some drug, Blade takes the step of bitch-slapping her unconscious.

That shocked the hell out of me.  I mean, Blade has always been an anti-hero, but I know groups of internet folks that would start letter writing campaigns over this.  Even I, more forgiving than most, don’t know if that was cool for Blade to do.  But I have to give the series this:  it has shown time and again that it’s not afraid to take Blade to some risky places, and this may be the riskiest so far.  Later this same episode a vampire attacks Vanessa and Blade says “Don’t hit the pregnant lady” – not because he had an epiphany about what he did was wrong but because … we’ll get into that in a bit.

Blade is taking Vanessa to Paris to see a doctor who will examine what she is carrying, and perhaps tend to the concussion Blade just gave her, but House of Chthon vampire Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson) has sent teams of assassins to intercept and stop Blade.  The first of these assassins attack on the train, others attack in the Paris sewer, and I really wonder how Marcus’ trackers found Blade in those places.  The train I could almost see as Marcus somehow knew Blade was headed to Paris, and perhaps Marcus agrees with me in thinking Blade should avoids air.  But in the sewer?  How in the world could these assassins know exactly which sewer Blade would visit and when?  Is there some sewer in Paris that all the tourist vampires must see when in the City of Light?

Blade Vamprie Assassin on Ceiling

What a feeling...when you're vamping on the ceiling.

I was happy to see these assassination attempts as it meant some action for the show, and one part was truly inventive–a vampire coming at Blade while crawling upside-down on the ceiling of a train-car.  But unfortunately violence without story is a boring thing, and between the random attack locations and the nameless, faceless nature of the attackers it felt like dull video game sequences rather than great action scenes. The walk into a sewer to be ambushed was the most video game-like, as if Blade just hit a checkpoint and triggered a wave of attackers.  Also, the fights seem small in scope as the assassins attack in pairs.  In the movies we’ve seen Blade take out a hundred vampires in five minutes, so two don’t seem like very much of a threat.

But during the fights Vanessa and Blade form a bond, Vanessa even saving Blade from one terrible stunt-woman evil vampire on the train.

And while I don’t know how Marcus knew where the assassins could find Blade, the show does explain how Marcus knew to send them in the first place.  Congratulations to the screenwriters, you fooled me.  Last episode I bemoaned the death of sexy, fun vampire Chase (Jessica Gower) in a lackluster explosion.  Silly me to think a raging fire could kill such a character, as she is found burned but undead, and sent back to Detroit.  I would however like to know how she’s sent back to Detroit, as when she’s delivered to the House of Chthon’s medical wing she is still smoking from the fire.  Now, Blade had to fly (presumably coach, vampire hunting doesn’t pay well I’d assume) almost 16 hours, not counting layovers, from Detroit to Berlin.    Yet somehow Chase’s burned body gets from Berlin to Detroit while still smoldering.  Okay, let’s move on.

Chase is Smoking Hot

Chase is smoking hot.

Through blood therapies (and oxygen? Why would a vampire need an oxygen tube?) Chase begins the change from the Freddy Kruger latex-monster she was back to the sexy English vamp we’ve come to love, and she reveals Blade’s interference and his rescue of Vanessa.  To stop Blade and retrieve Vanessa, Marcus dispatches his pairs of assassins, and also sends Krista Starr (Jill Wagner) to Paris.

But Krista has some personal problems to deal with.  Her mother has been diagnosed with leukemia, and Krista’s uncle tracks her down to ask her to donate bone marrow.  The vampire is afraid she’ll infect her kin through the transplant, so she refues the request and her uncle accuses her of trying to hide a drug habit.  Krista’s Paris assignment is probably a welcome diversion from her guilty conscience.  Of course, as Krista is Blade’s undercover operative in the House of Chthon she cannot actually partake in killing the daywalker, so she kills the two assassins who accompanied her, and meets Blade at the doctor’s office.

Blade himself is also a bit distracted as he’s been having visions of his mother (Alana Husband) when she was pregnant and recently turned, saying how she wished she’d killed Blade in the womb.  Of course, the doctor points out Blade’s mother’s name was also Vanessa, so the proximity to a possible vampiric pregnancy would bring back these thoughts.

Krista missing an eye

Krista has a bad case of pink-eye. Perhaps if she treats it with Worcestershire sauce she'll turn into a zombie and Blade will have a new evil to fight!

Unfortunately none of these flashbacks worked for me.  Being delusions or visions or whatever, they carried little weight, and they didn’t provide me any more insight into Blade as a character.  I think the writer’s intent was to give us more of Blade’s back story, but there was no payoff to it.  More, it shows Vanessa Brooks vamped out and pregnant in the kitchen, whereas we know from the original Blade film that she went into labor immediately after being bitten.  Overall these scenes did not work for me, but perhaps this will come up again later.

The pregnancy story takes a big twist here, and once again I was mistaken in my prediction, for what Vanessa is carrying is not an army of pure-blood daywalkers, but actually nothing at all!  There is no baby in Vanessa’s womb, just a mysterious viscus fluid.  No one knows what the fluid is – only that it is not Aurora.

The doctor extracts all the fluid from Vanessa, and Blade arranges for Vanessa to go underground hiding from the House of Chthon.  Blade takes a small sample of the fluid for analysis, and Krista takes the rest to return to Marcus.

One great twist comes when Krista realizes she can’t return to Marcus without suspicion.  She has Blade cut her face with his sword, take out one of her eyes, and also mutilate her hand.  It’s a great touch that I didn’t see coming, even if it does lack weight since we know she will heal by next episode.

Marcus and not-so-sweet Charlotte

All the dramatic camera angles in the world can't improve Emily Hirst's performance as Charlotte.

We also get a scene that I actually liked of Krista wondering if she can continue to play double-agent, and realizing that this isn’t a mission with an end date but something that will go on perhaps forever.  It’s a great moment that actually served to drive home the emotional scope of Blade and her war on Marcus, though I wonder if she’s lost sight that her original objective was not death to all vampires, but just to avenge her brother.

Speaking of Marcus, he has problems of his own as Damek, head of the House of Armaya, has demanded a meeting with him and House of Chthon pureblood elder Charlotte (Emily Hirst).  Damek knows of the Aurora project and, worse, knows that over a thousand Armayan vampires were killed while being experimented on by Chthon scientists.   Charlotte thinks rogue vampire Det. Boone (Bill Mondy) spilled the beans of Aurora to the Armayans, but in the meeting it’s discovered that the leak was Sands, the vampire from three episodes ago.

Still, Boone is on the loose and we do get one scene of FBI Agent Collins (Larry Poindexter) still on Boone’s trail and investigating the shootout at the Louisiana funeral home.  Collins’ chief Sorenson calls to take Collins off the case, but Collins refuses and we’re given an insight that Collins’ investigation may be personal, related to the death of his family.

Blade fights in a French sewer

I believe this sewer is mentioned in Frommer's Paris guide as a Suggested Itineraries for Three Days

Overall this episode failed to impress me.  While my early reviews complained of there being no action, this episode had action for action’s sake and it was unfulfilling.  While I am hooked on the X-Files-like mystery of the strange amniotic fluid, Marcus’ grand scheme, and what will come of Boone and Collins, these are all the slow-moving subplots that weave through every episode but yet progress very little.  It’s these myth-building elements that have hooked me on shows such as X-Files, Lost, and Heroes, but the Blade mysteries honestly can’t hold a candle to the black oil, The Others, or Sylar.

If the overarching stories of Blade were more compelling, I’d be more engaged.  Likewise, if the larger arcs remained the same but each individual episodic story, such as the assassination attempts here or the Bad Bloods previously, were more entertaining then the show would be passable.  But right now, the episodic adventures are lackluster, and the overarching story minimal.

My only hope is that, as we approach the end of the season, the larger story arcs will come to the fore and (dare I dream?) have a satisfying payoff.

Current verdict: complete not recommend, even for Blade fans.  Pick up a comic instead.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 5, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 10 Comments

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 5: The Evil Within

Krista's vision

Do filmmakers really think audiences can't tell the difference between real night shooting and daytime shots put through a filter? Or do the filmmakers just not care?

Original Air Date: July 26, 2006
Director: Michael Robison

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series.  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com.

Again, this next episode of Blade continues where the last ended, with Krista (Jill Wagner) in the pool of blood at the house of Leichen having a vision showing where rogue vampire Det. Boone (Bill Mondy) is hiding.  And I can’t help but wonder if Krista sees her vision as we do–poorly filmed behind a darkening lens filter to try and make daytime look like nighttime.  In the vision Krista is visited by her dead brother, and then sees Boone saying he’s going to Louisiana where he is trying to make contact with House of Armaya.

With this information, Krista’s sire Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson) sends Krista and her vampire mentor Chase (Jessica Gower) to Louisiana to capture and kill Boone.  After they leave we see Frederick, Chase’s ex-husband and Leichen guru, has discovered one of Krista’s serum vials, leading the Leichens to believe Krista may be swayed to their house.  Frederick resists this idea, not wanting to upset Marcus, or perhaps Chase.

Chase and Krista lead several House of Chthon soldiers to Louisiana, interrupting Boone’s attempt to meet with one of the Armayaian pure bloods.  Several vampires of both houses die, and Krista’s attempts to save a human Boone took captive.  Boone wounds the human and runs, and when Chase walks in and sees the wounded human, she believes Krista stopped for a mid-fight snack.

Blade's Predator Vision

With such a drastic temperature change, wouldn't Vanessa notice her stomach skin is several degrees colder?

Boone hides in a bathroom and Chase shoots blindly through the bathroom door killing a vampire she believes is Boone but is actually a random Armayain.  But thinking their mission was accomplished, Chase and Krista return to Detroit.  But the human Krista saved is taken to a hospital, and interrogated by FBI Agent Collins (Larry Poindexter), who has been trying to find Boone, and helps confirm to him that vampires are real.

Meanwhile in Detroit Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) continues to follow his lead on Dr. Vonner, the gynecologist who committed suicide last episode.  At Dr. Vonner’s funeral Blade spots Vanessa, the waitress to whom Krista delivered a package back in Episode 3.  Using his infrared goggles, Blade realizes whatever Vanessa is carrying in her womb, it’s body temperature is too low to be human.

While following Vanessa, Blade has an altercation with a drug dealer and shatters a baseball bat in the dealer’s face.  I wonder if this was to set up a new enemy for Blade, or just filler.  Time will tell.

Chase returns to Detroit, and Marcus asks her to immediately take Vanessa to Berlin to keep her away from the purebloods, and as if on cue Vanessa is visited by Charlotte (Emily Hirst) – a pureblood vampire “child” and one of the rulers of the House of Chthon.  Charlotte knows Marcus is up to something, and is remaining in Detroit to keep an eye on Marcus.  Charlotte even recruits Marcus’ aide Glynnis to perform a full audit of all the activities of the House of Chthon.

Not-So-Sweet Charlotte

The actress who plays Charlotte has dethroned Jake Lloyd as "worst child actor I've had the misfortune to watch"

Blade tracks Vanessa to Berlin, where he infiltrates the nest and rescues Vanessa (though she thinks she is being kidnapped), and sets off a bomb which kills Chase.

And back at the House of Chthon, Krista continues her search for the Aurora vaccine.  After several aborted attempts at stealth, she finally loses patience and breaks the glass case to steal a sample for Blade.  But she is caught in the act by Marcus who confides in Krista that the vaccine is a ruse.  Aurora only works for a couple of days before vaccinated vampires have a negative reaction and decompose.  Marcus has a plan to use Aurora so he can rule the House of Chthon and offers Krista a spot at his side.  She agrees, but whether she’s resigning herself to her life as a vampire or continuing her deep cover we need to wait until the next episode to see.

I have to say Blade: The Series hits its stride with Episode Five.  It was action-packed and exposition-light.  Previous episodes would have spent fifteen minutes on Krista’s vision alone, but here it was under five minutes, and before we knew it they had gone to Louisiana to kick Boone’s ass.  And once in Louisiana we are treated to a huge gunfight, with vampires being dusted left and right.

Then later we have another action sequence with Blade in Berlin.   There is less action, but what action it has is more expertly executed.  We also see that Sticky Fingaz has been practicing his martial arts, or his stunt double got an upgrade, as we get a well-staged martial arts fight that is almost worthy of the Blade feature films.

This is the first episode of Blade that doesn’t feel cheap.  The hokey vampire ashings now take place behind warped glass or closed doors.  And they milk a hospital explosion from several angles, and even engulf Chase in convincing CGI fire.  Perhaps this is to the credit of a better director?

Chase Burns

My favorite vampire gets hot and bothered.

Even with all these improvements the episode still had several problems, the first of which is the introduction of Charlotte, the girl vampire who is Marcus’ superior.  Evil little children are nothing new; we’ve seen them done better in Children of the Corn, Village of the Damned, Pet Semetary, The Omen, and so many others.  And as far as evil vampire little girls, this is coming perhaps a decade too late after the theatrical adaptation of Interview with the Vampire where Kirsten Dunst stole the evil from Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.  And sadly the little girl who plays Charlotte is no Kirsten Dust; she is wooden and her performance comes off not as powerful but petulant.  Between the hackneyed concept and the poor acting, this is a major misstep.

Another problem with this episode is the death of Chase.  I see how this could be considered a plus; killing major characters to keep the audience off their toes is a staple of such shows as Heroes, Lost, and The Sopranos.  But Chase was one of the most malevolently fun characters in the series and her death is a major loss.  More, it feels like her death was extraneous and unfulfilling.  She doesn’t get the glory of dying in a fight, nor is she even Blade’s target.  She’s collateral damage in an explosion she’s too inept to escape.  If Chase had to go, I would have liked it to be earned.  (Note: I learn later I fell for it, Chase survived this.  Kudos to the writers for fooling me)

Blade in the Airport

Do you think Blade pays for a checked bag or just carry-on? Does he read on the flight? Play on the Game Boy? These are questions I should not be asking.

And in the most head scratching moment, Blade flies to Berlin and we see him in the airport.  Does he fly coach?  Does he check his glaive? He’s given a cache of weapons by a Berlin airport security officer who seems to know of his reputation, but what if she didn’t?  The entire thought of Blade traveling internationally does not hold up.  We should have skipped that scene and just had Blade somehow arrive in Berlin; showing him travel raises questions better left unanswered.

Still, if I’m bothered by these things, it means the show has finally engaged me with its action and intrigue.  While I don’t like the little girl vampire, I am interested in Marcus’ fight with the purebloods and the strange dead fetus in Vanessa’s belly.

More, I think I’ve figured out two things – first, I think Marcus is going to use the vaccine to inoculate the purebloods only to have them be killed, giving Marcus rule of the House.  Second, I wonder if the vaccine Marcus is working on is the creation of half-vampire daywalkers.  After all, the creation of Blade came when his pregnant mother was turned into a vampire, and now we have pregnant women carrying dead babies that I presume will be vampires…an army of evil daywalkers could be quite the coup, though I know the series will not last the 18 years needed for the infants to come of age.

On to Episode 6.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 4, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 8 Comments

New Podcast: Issue 22: Will the Real Wolverine Please Stand Up?

Much like Marvel comics themselves, this issue of Marvelicious Toys is just a hair behind schedule, but it’s ready now and jam-packed with Marvel collecting goodness! Listen in this episode as Arnie, Marjorie, and Justin review the latest slew of action figures found, including the Marvel Universe 3-Packs of X-Force, The Avengers, and The Fantastic Four, as well as several of those non-canonical Spider-Man figures.

Perhaps you heard Hot Toys announcement about the bootleg Wolverine figure that has been found on eBay. Also in this issue, the Marvelicious hosts share their account determining if Marjorie’s Wolverine was the real deal, and how you can tell as well.

With news on Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, more variant figures coming down the pike, news on which retailer has hard to find exclusives cheap, and the sexy Women of Marvel calendar, it’s all in this issue of Marvelicious Toys!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT022.MP3

Category: Arts

    

September 4, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 22: Will the Real Wolverine Please Stand Up?

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 4: Bloodlines

Original Air Date: July 19, 2006
Director: Felix Enriquez Alcala

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series.  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com.

Blade and Steppin' Razor

There seems to be some Bad Blood between Blade and his old friend Steppin' Razor

With episode four of the Blade series we are given yet another episode of Blade that serves to deepen the characters’ backstory in the least interesting manner possible.

Now that I am one-third through the entire Blade run, I’ve come to a conclusion on where I sit with this series–it’s not good but it has potential, and some aspects of the show  I like well enough to keep coming back for more.  There are many television series that I’ve watched which fall into this category, some of which come to mind are True Blood, Smallville, Heroes, and the latest incarnation of V.  All of those were series that I watched religiously, but to which I never devoted my full attention, often keeping them on while I do other things, paying the show only half of my attention until a big moment occurs.

So given this, I can say that were I not watching this for Now Playing, had I just caught Blade when it was first run on Spike, I would have watched every episode, but not paid full attention.

However my duties for Now Playing don’t give me the luxury of being halfhearted,  so I watched this fourth episode of Blade giving it 100% of my attention, and not feeling rewarded for my efforts..

In this episode, our multiple storylines continue to progress at a snail’s pace, with the the hunt for cop-cum-vampire Detective Boone heading to the forefront  though Bill Mondy, the actor who portrays Boone, never makes an appearance.  FBI Agent Ray Collins (Larry Poindexter) meets Boone’s former partner Detective Gibbs.  The two search Boone’s apartment and find a book of the House of Armaya, but the text is in German.  Gibbs also delivers all of Boone’s open cases, and Collins notices the open case of Zack Starr, and his missing sister Krista (Jill Wagner).  To be continued I’m sure.

Krista in the house of Leichen

The house of Leichen, gonna make vamps sweat 'til they bleed.

Meanwhile, the House of Chthon is also on the hunt for Boone as the corrupt cop was aware of Project Aurora.  Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson), the man in charge of the Aurora vaccine, asks Chase (Jessica Gower) to take Krista to the House of Leichen – a group of mystical vampires that have sworn off human blood.  The Leichens have what is described as the vampire version of a sweat lodge –  which allows bloodsuckers locate the whereabouts of the people they’ve turned.  Marcus hopes Krista can find Boone (whom she bit in the pilot) in this way.

Performing the ritual is Fredrick, Chase’s ex-husband.  Chase’s past marriage was mentioned in two of the first three episodes, so seeing him was no surprise.  What was a surprise was that he seems to be a nice vampire, warning Krista that Chase knows of Krista’s attachment to her former self.

But while both those plotlines have some motion this episode, there is no resolution and, for once, the focus of the episode is on Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) himself.

The episode opens exactly where the last one ended: Blade storming the obstetrician’s office.  However that plot is quickly (ahem) aborted as Dr. Vonner commits suicide as soon as Blade enters his office.

But as Blade leaves, he is hit by a truck and taken hostage by Reverend Carlyle and three unknown vampires.  Carlyle believes these vampires only want Blade’s serum, and he hopes they will also be able to convince Blade to stop helping ash dealers like Cain.  But the Reverend should know better than to trust three strange vampires, as we see they were only using the Reverend to capture Blade, and once that’s accomplished the vamps quickly kill the Reverend and reveal they don’t care about the serum–the vampires have a personal beef against Blade, for he is their sire.

We learn quite a bit about Blade’s past here.  As a child in the 70’s Blade was hungry and lost and came upon a street gang called the Bad Bloods.  The Bloods took Blade in, but in his hunger he fed on the gang members, turning them all into vampires.  The Bad Bloods became a gang of vampires terrorizing Detroit, feeding on their enemies and innocents alike.  In a bit of a revelation for Blade, we are also finally told the origin of Blade’s trademark tattoos–they are the markings of the Bad Bloods and all the members have them.

Shen in action

Shen finally gets out of the lair as he has to rescue Blade with this special gun that shoots serum instead of bullets. I don't see a lot of use for that gun, but lucky he had it lying around.

Years later Whistler found Blade and separated the daywalker from the gangs.  But as Blade’s legend grew in the vampire community, all twelve houses began hunting and killing any vampires sired by Blade.  These three Bad Bloods are presumably all that remain alive, and Blood leader Steppin’ Razor  (Bokeem Woodbine) hopes that he can trade Blade to Marcus in exchange for the surviving Bloods being made members of the House of Chthon.

Marcus reluctantly agrees to the deal but before Blade can be delivered he is rescued by Shen, who spent the episode tracking the Bad Bloods.  Shen injects Blade with his needed serum and Blade dusts two of the vampires, though Steppin’ Razor manages to escape.

This plotline had a lot going for it.  We learned a lot more about Blade, why he has his tattoos, and more of what happened to the daywalker before he was found by Whistler.  The story also gives Shen a chance to shine and actually leave the lair and engage in some detecting and some action as he sleuths out who kidnapped Blade, why, and where he is being held.

That said, while I did wonder about Blade’s tattoos, finding out they are gang markings is somewhat unfulfilling.  I had hoped there would be a vampire origin, or mystical origin, to his tattoos, similar to Harry D’Amour for those familiar with Clive Barker’s works.  Instead, they are just gang symbols, and human gang symbols at that.  What a letdown!

Also, while we learned a lot about our hero, there was just too much angst between the Bad Bloods and Blade.  Instead of rage and vengeance, Steppin’ Razor spends too many scenes talking about how they were wronged by Blade, or talking about how they planned their vengeance.  Instead of coming across as dangerous and unpredictable these speeches just make Razor seem like he is all talk.  Because of the poor writing and worse performance by Woodbine, I just wished for things to move along at a faster pace–a feeling that I could apply to this entire series.

A Bad Blood gets ashed

SyFy called. They want their original movies' special effects back.

And when Shen finally broke Blade loose for our few seconds of action this episode, I was struck by the worst effects I’ve seen since perhaps the original pilot.  Just after I praised Blade’s production values last episode, this time I am treated to uncomfortably close camera angles, and special effects that look like they were made on someone’s home Amiga for YouTube.

If the dusting effects weren’t bad enough, this is also the first episode without a gratuitous “titty shot”.  We do get to see the bare ass of Krista’s stunt double as she enters the pool of blood buck naked, but obviously actress Jill Wagner is above showing her breasts for a cable TV show.  And to that I say, good for you girl!  You may not be able to act worth a damn, but this show doesn’t deserve your nipples.  Good for you for recognizing this series for what it is and not allowing your morals to be bent for this.

Still, for all my gripes, my favorite character remains Boone and I hope he makes his way back to Detroit quickly, and with Steppin’ Razor now out there to make things worse for Blade I continue to hope this series may find its footing.  So while I’m not happy with the series, I continue to watch.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 3, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 9 Comments

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 3: Descent

Original Air Date: July 12, 2006
Director: Jon Fawcett

Blade Ep 3 - Descent

 

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series.  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com.

Before I get into this episode’s plot and my thoughts on the continuing series, I want to take a moment to comment on the cinematography of this series.  During the director’s and producer’s commentary for Blade’s pilot episode, they kept discussing the digital high def cameras used for filming the series and I didn’t see the big deal.  They talked about how they could work with existing light, and I didn’t care; I thought they were just talking about cost savings when they should have been focused on character and story.  But in this episode I saw some really great looking use of light, color, and grain (yes, grain in a digital recorder).  I loved the “grim and gritty” look of this series, and the selective use of light really worked for it.  Perhaps it took a handful of episodes for the lighting and camera teams to really understand the power of this camera, perhaps this episode just had a more artistic cinematographer, but in this episode I thought it was one of the better shot things I’d seen lately.  For TV it’s astounding, and even for a film it would have been very well done.

That plus the par-for-television effects give this series some very good production values, which is something I hadn’t commented on before as only in this episode was I really impressed by the series’ technical aspects.

That said, on to today’s episode:  Descent.

Chase after feeding

Chase is quite fetching in her disguise for luring in recovering addicts. But is she okay to drive if she's always sucking on drunks?

Krista Starr (Jill Wagner) is recovering from her wound suffered in the last episode, which is healing slower than usual due to her refusal to eat human blood.  Chase (Jessica Gower) takes her out for a night on the prowl, feeding on some hapless AA members.

Krista is also tasked by Blade (Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones) to get a vial of Aurora, the vaccine that makes vampires immune to damage by the usual methods, though it is under lock and key and Krista tries several times unsuccessfully to obtain a sample.

Finally, Krista is tasked by Marcus (Neil Jackson in his only appearance this episode) to deliver a package to a wedding. We are never shown the package’s contents, obviously setting up a larger plot later.  The recipient, a waitress named Vanessa (Sonja Bennett), tells Krista to “thank the doctor” for her.

Blade, meanwhile, has finally tracked down last episode’s target, the ash dealer Cain (Caprica‘s Ryan Kennedy) and grills him for information.  Cain reveals he was the familiar of a vampire named Sands who had been taken hostage and undergone some involuntary experimentation, possibly related to Aurora.

Collins and the ashed tooth

I had never considered what happens to an amputated piece of a vampire when exposed to sunlight, but I suppose it makes sense that it turns to ash, even if it is a tooth.

Once they’ve captured the vampire, Blade, Sands, and Blade’s weaponsmith Shen (Nelson Lee) return to the secret lab where Sands was captive.  There they find several other vampires that were with Shen still trapped in the lab.  While dusting the vamps, Blade finds a scalpel left in one vampire’s body, and Shen is able to track that scalpel to the office of a local doctor.  Blade barges in, expecting a major fight, but finds himself in the office of a gynecologist with a waiting room full of pregnant women.

Finally this episode also focuses on the exploits of crooked-cop-cum-vampire Boone (Bill Mondy), who’s murders in Kansas have garnered the attention of FBI Agent Ray Collins (Larry Poindexter).  Collins discovers Boone’s yanked fang at the murder of a police officer, and matches the fang to a hole in the bag of the burned-out truck from which Boone escaped at the start of the previous episode.  Prints from the truck track to Det. Boone, and Collins watches as the fang dissolves to ash in the sunlight.

In addition to moving the plot along, this episode starts to explore our characters as well.  Blade’s Machiavellian moral ambiguity is explored as Blade endorses the exploits of ash dealer Cain, seeing Cain’s selling of ash (and, thus, creating amputee junkies) as the lesser of two evils when put up against a race of beings that feed on humans.  But despite approving of Cain’s methods, Blade steals some of Cain’s drug money to give to Reverend Carlyle (William MacDonald) who is not a true Reverend but gave himself the title after feeling a calling to help ash addicts.  Carlyle and Blade’s clash over Blade allowing Cain to go free does show that Blade’s methods, while effective, leave many humans to suffer and die in the crossfire of his war on vampires.

Krista examines her wound

The wound Krista sustained last episode is quickly explained away and forgotten.

While I did enjoy the focus on Blade and his methods, this episode was a mixture of character-piece and filler.  Truthfully, despite my paragraphs above, when the episode ended it felt as if nothing had really happened. Such is the case with television series; sometimes entire episodes are used to get the characters where they need to be for the next episode. Additionally, sometimes budget is such that episodes need to focus more on characters and less on effects and fights.  The result is an episode such as this one, which simply treads water, slightly escalating the situation while really not changing anything.

Were it not for the introduction of Collins, who I’m sure will be a major player later, and perhaps Sands, who lived and thus may return, I would call this episode “useless”.  As it is, while Descent helped to deepen the world Blade, it could barely hold my interest.

Again, it’s virtually impossible to judge a serialized TV series on an episode-by-episode basis.  If the series continues to deliver episodes like this one then it is slipping deep into Not Recommend territory as it simply doesn’t have characters compelling enough to make up for the lack of action; put another way, the series is dull.  But that said, if there is payoff later, it was nice to get to know our main characters a bit better, so I remain optimistic as I enter into Episode 4.

And perhaps best, I still am curious where this is all going and how it will all pay off.  I am excited to watch episode 4, though I’ve not really enjoyed episodes 2 or 3 very much.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 8 Comments

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 2: Death Goes On

Blade S1E2

Jones and Wagner compete this episode to see who can give the most one-note performance.

Original Air Date: July 5, 2006
Director: David Simkins

 

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series.  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com.

The second episode of the Blade series continues every storyline from the pilot episode, while also introducing many new characters and twists to deepen the plot.

Crooked cop-cum-vampire Det. Boone (Bill Mondy) escapes his shrink-wrapped cage and dusts his fellow captives, on his way back to Detroit to get revenge on high-ranking House of Chthon Vampire Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson), setting up what is sure to be a major showdown later in the series.

Meanwhile, Krista Starr (Jill Wagner) continues to deal with her transformation into a vampire, secretly using Blade’s serum to unsuccessfully quell her vampiric thirst, and her hunger causes her to even dream of feeding on her own mother.  She is both Marcus’ captive and object of desire, as her charismatic maker continues to try to seduce Krista to the dark side.  But Krista continues to play both sides by acting as Blade’s spy, secretly digging deeper into Marcus’ operations and learning of Aurora – the vaccine that makes a vampire impervious to garlic and sunlight.

Vampire Krista

Is it still an Elektra complex if Krista wants to eat her mother?

The Aurora project is in upheaval due to Blade’s interference last episode.  We are introduced to Winston Haupt (Adrian Hough), a leading member of the House of Chthon, when he arrives to ensure Marcus pulls up roots and moves the Aurora experiment from Detroit to the west coast.

As for our titular hero (played by Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones), he is perplexed by his fight with Fritz, the seemingly invulnerable vampire he fought in the pilot.  To investigate how Fritz could be unaffected by garlic and silver, Blade starts hunting down a group of ash-addicts who snort vampire ash to get high.  His investigation leads to an ash dealer named Cain.

Marcus is also seeking Cain.  Cain’s methods of harvesting his product include trapping and murdering vampires, including Winston.  As Marcus looks into Winston’s murder, the trail leads straight to the ash lord.

The climax of the episode comes at Cain’s ash lab–Marcus’ other favorite female vampire Chase (Jessica Gower) is leading a group of vampires, including war-trained Krista, to take out Cain, while Blade has been following one of Caine’s addicts to the lab.  But Cain is one step ahead of Blade, and detonates a bomb in his evacuated lab that kills all of Marcus’ vampire troops except Krista and Chase.

But as Blade is about to finish Chase off, Fritz ignores his orders to stay hidden and crashes a car into the Ash lab, itching for a rematch against the daywalker.  During the fight, Krista’s loyalties are tested.  Blade needs to capture Fritz to study Aurora, but Chase orders her to kill Fritz to keep Aurora’s secrets.  Krista chooses her cover over the information and beheads Fritz, falling on a stake and severely injuring herself in the process.Krista Ashes Fritz

The episode moves along quickly and the rematch between Blade and Fritz is welcome, though the fighting is still quick-cut and poorly choreographed.  It also falls prey to WWE conventions as, for no reason I can fathom, there is a large wire-mesh cage in Cain’s lab, allowing Blade and Fritz to literally have a cage match.

I’m starting to accept Sticky Fingaz more as Blade and I’m actually coming to like Marcus as the charismatic vampire leader.  But Krista’s one-note character, matched by an equally one-note actress, grates on me and makes me have no sympathy for the she-devil.  Several times I wished Chase would just give into her jealousy and stake Krista.

I do like the character of Boone and welcome his return to Detroit.  The actor’s energy really is a great wild card in the series, and his inventive self-mutilation by pulling out his own fang to cut through his body bag and free himself was very well thought out.

And the overall series plot is being revealed as knotted and intricate, and it has my full interest, despite seeming to be a retread of the reaper story in concept.  The House of Chthon is appearing to me like a mob family, and I’m enjoying the internal power struggles as the layers are peeled back for the audience.

The dialogue is also improving, as some lines this episode got a genuine laugh from me, such as when Winston goes to see Mina, a woman who sells vampires to humans as food.  Mina offers up a blonde from Illinois and we get this exchange:

Detective Boone

Boone is the most interesting character in this series, so it's a shame he only bookends this episode.

Winston: Carpet matches drapes?

Mina: Hardwood floor.

Winston: (Sarcastically) Kids.

But while the dialogue and overall story seem strong, the pacing is off.  We are being introduced to characters that seem important, such as Mina and Wiston, just to have them die 10 minutes later.  The writers do a poor job of telling us which characters are important and which are merely storytelling devices, and that is a problem.

Also, with the exception of the end fight, the episode is lacking in action.  Instead of the exciting and entertaining wire-fu we got in the Blade films, Blade the TV series is a soap opera for the testosterone set.

While I remain interested, I am by no means enthralled.  Two episodes in, the series is a weak recommend for Blade fans, a not recommend for everyone else.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 2, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 8 Comments

A Marvel Guy Tries The New DC Universe

Justice League of America Issue 01 - 2011

Everything old is new again in the New 52. Which sounds like a slogan for Weird Al's TV station in UHF.

Have you heard about the DC Comics unvierse reboot?

Of course you have.  Even if you don’t go to your comic book store every Wednesday, this story has reached beyond the geek level with coverage on CNN, MSNBC, and Entertainment Weekly.  Despite The Dark Knight being one of the top grossing films of all time, and despite all the hype around this summer’s Green Lantern, comic book sales are still flagging month over month.  In response DC has taken the boldest step yet to try to draw new audiences to these heroes’ original medium.  By doing a “soft reboot” of the entire comic book universe, DC hopes readers will no longer be daunted by the complex histories and continuities for heroes such as Batman and Superman, and instead impulsively pick up a comic book.

And for this comic reader, it certainly worked.

While I grew up with the DC comic characters, my exposure to them was always in their mass media formats.  To me, Superman was Christopher Reeve or George Reeves, Batman was a cartoon Bozo introduced in the mornings or, on a special Saturday, Adam West in an old rerun.  Through the Super Friends cartoon I was introduced to B-list characters like Green Lantern and The Flash.  But I never understood that the DC and Marvel universes were separate, a distinction muddled by my Mego toys including both The Incredible Hulk and Batman in the same toy line, and other than an impulse buy of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen purchased in the early 80’s I never read any comic books.

When I got into comics in my teenage years though, it was Marvel that caught my eye, and I became an avid collector of Marvel comics.  My one attempt at entering the DC universe was in 1992 when Batman Returns had me hyped, and I went out and bought several issues of the Robin mini-series, as well as some Batman and Superman comics.  But while I did enjoy the Robin series greatly, the rest of the comics never really grabbed me, and my lack of familiarity with many of the characters and situations (Lex Luthor had cancer?) was much of the reason for that.

Later that same year, the much ballyhooed Death of Superman comic event also grabbed my attention, and I read the issue in which Superman was killed by Doomsday, and I was again left unimpressed as the death seemed unearned, the fight did not seem to me any worse than what Kal-El suffered at the hands of Zod on screen in Superman II, or by Nuclear Man in Superman IV.

And in the almost 20 years in between, despite reading thousands of comics from Marvel, as well as some issues from other publishers like Dark Horse, Image, and several other independents, I’ve not read a single other DC Comic.  Until now.  Once again, the media blitz DC has created around their reboot drew me to my local comic store Wednesday night where, despite having never had interest in a single Justice League comic in my life, I purchased a copy of Justice League of America #1.  And I went home with an enthusiasm I’ve not had for a comic in many years, and immediate read the entire issue.

Batman and Green Lantern meet

I never thought superheroes would have to "meet cute", but I guess when one was played by Ryan Reynolds I should expect no less.

And my impressions as a Marvel comics guy who’s only familiarity with DC is through it’s movies and television shows?  I will get into that, and spoilers follow below.

I don’t envy writer Geoff Johns this week, having the entire burden of introducing this new universe to fans old and new, but he handles it very

well.  Despite the plethora of heroes on the cover, the image that has been the trademark of DC’s New 52 since it was announced, the issue focuses specifically on two heroes meeting for the first time–Batman and Green Lantern.   The comic is set “5 years ago” at a time where super-powered beings were still new to society, and super-powered beings, both good and evil, are hunted by authorities.  Even non-powered costumed vigilantes like Batman are not safe from pursuit.

Despite DC telling long time readers that this reset of continuity was not a hard reboot, seeing that we are being introduced to all these heroes shortly after they were revealed to society at large it seems much, if not all, of the past histories are now washed away.  It truly is a great entry point, as clear a beginning for these heroes as we need without going back and retelling each character’s origin story.  I was reminded of Marvel Comics’ Ultimate Universe, where just over a decade ago they pulled the exact same stunt, and as a reader I was drawn in wanting to see how DC’s handling of superhumans among regular society differed from Marvel’s Ultimate take.

Rather than focus on introducing the universe, Johns focuses on telling a story of an intergalactic threat large enough to make several heroes come together.  In the first issue we focus entirely on Batman and Green Lantern, though we get a few pages of a pre-heroic Vic Stone (soon to become Cyborg).  Unfortunately, this story seems marred with the cliched story steps whenever heroes get together for the first time.  We get Batman and Green Lantern posturing to see who is the toughest hero in Gotham, and when the story ends we see Superman handily take out Green Lantern before turning to fight Batman, sure to follow in Issue 2.

And that is another disappointing aspect to this comic.  Despite all the hype being around Issue #1, and despite DC delivering day-and-date digital copies of these comics, the modern comic structure of telling stories in 5-issue or 6-issue arcs, easily collected in trade paperbacks to be sold at Barnes & Noble, persists.  And thus this first comic gives us everything and nothing, we see the universe but such a small portion of it that we don’t really know what to make of it.

Meet the New Superman

Is it me, or does the new Superman look a lot like Tom Welling from Smallville?

Given that we only have 23 pages of comic, it’s a good thing that we aren’t spending five or ten pages being introduced to all seven characters on the cover, but yet I can’t help but feel cheated that in the issue there is no sign of Aquaman, Wonder Woman, or Flash, and Superman just gets the final page in the issue. In the end, this comic is just too short to be fulfilling.

I really feel that for such an auspicious launch, DC should have expanded this issue.  While profit margins on comic books are tight, with as much curiosity as surrounds this first new comic for their universe, DC should have offered offering readers 46 pages for the same $3.99 cover price, giving us more of the characters and a greater feel for the new universe.  As printed, it feels like comicus interruptus.

The art in the comic is tremendous, though.  Jim Lee really has some gorgeous splash pages as we see our three costumed heroes for the first time.  While I actively dislike some of the art I’ve seen from the upcoming books (looking at you Wonder Woman), the art in Justice League is bright, detailed, and in some cases stunning.

But while the art may make great posters and iPhone cases, at the end of the issue I was left unfulfilled.  Despite this being the “New 52”, there was nothing new here, just the tired story of superheroes meeting and in-fighting before, I presume, they will be forced to put aside their differences to fight an even greater threat.  And for such a risky move as flushing 70 years of history, this seems like a story very much playing it safe.

And so I will not be picking up Justice League of America #2.  The publicists at DC did their job, I bought the first one, but the writers did not live up to the hype–though I don’t see how anyone could.  But after all the hype dies down, depending on internet buzz, I may someday check out the trade paperback collection while sipping a mocha at Barnes & Noble.

 

 

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blade: The Series – Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot (The House of Chthon)

Original Air Date: June 28, 2006
Director: Peter O’Fallon

Warning: the following review contains spoilers for this and the previous episodes of Blade: The Series.  You can watch this episode free at thewb.com.

The pilot episode of the Blade series has been released as a movie on DVD three times.  The first was right after the series was canceled, released alone as Blade: House of Chthon.  Then it was included as part of the Blade TV Series box set.  Now it is available as part of a Blade 4 Movie DVD Pack where you get the three theatrical films, as well as Blade: House of Chthon.

As such, it was given serious consideration for inclusion as part of the Now Playing Blade Retrospective Series.  While we normally shy away from TV movies, we did delve into some for Marvel and have more on the horizon, so this would be natural for inclusion.

But then I watched Blade: House of Chthon and I must say to all the folks who work at New Line/Warner Bros. marketing: shame on you!  How dare you pass this off as a self-contained film?  And more importantly, how dare you release it not once but twice as a stand-alone film and not give the rest of the series?

I want to make it clear right now — Blade: House of Chthon is not in any way, shape, or form a self-contained story.  When I sat down to watch it, I sat down intending to see a movie that would stand alone.  This does not!

Screenwriter David Goyer is the man I credit the most for bringing Blade to the big screen.  While directors rotated in and out of the franchise, Goyer was a constant who produced many drafts of each film and even stepped into the director’s chair for final installment Blade: Trinity.  He is also the one responsible for bringing Blade to television, bringing on his friend and writing companion Geoff Johns to help with the writing duties.

Despite his work on the Nick Fury film, I think Goyer is a gifted writer with a knack for genre films.  I’ll cover the Blade films more extensively over at Now Playing, but let me say I was excited to see Goyer’s name attached to the TV spin-off and hoped that meant a continuation of the quality we’d gotten on the big screen.  But in writing this pilot, Goyer was very smart — he knew that this Blade was a TV series, and what we have with Blade: House of Chthon is a pilot for a TV series, not a movie.

Jill Wagner is Krista Starr

Wagner plays new heroine Krista Starr, who seems to have only one emotion--petulance

Why do I keep hammering that distinction?  It’s very simple:  If you go to a Blade movie, you obviously want to see Blade.  Sure, in Blade: Trinity you may have gotten a bit too much of the Nightstalkers, but Blade was still the driving, central force.  In Blade: House of Chthon, the star is Krista Starr, played by current Teen Wolf star and Wipeout host Jill Wagner.  Krista is a Iraq war veteran who returned home to Detroit after her twin brother was murdered.  When the cops seem unwilling to investigate, Krista takes it on herself to find out what happened, and she discovers her brother was a Familiar to Marcus Van Sciver – a wealthy and charismatic vampire whose public face is that of a real estate developer helping to reinvigorate Detroit.

Also after Marcus is Blade, and his new weapons-maker Shen.  But this is really secondary to introducing us to Krista – her family, her motivations, and her induction to the House of Chthon by Marcus.  We get to watch Krista as she takes that familiar journey of going from “there’s no such thing as vampires” to accepting them, and discovering her brother’s role in their organization–a role that ultimately got him killed.

Unfortunately Wagner’s acting here is one-note and bland.  I’m not sure if it’s the actress or the script, but Krista is given one note to play, and she plays it repeatedly.  Whether arguing with corrupt cop Boone, rebelling against Blade, or fighting with Marcus, Wagner has a permanent sneer on her face and, despite her character’s supposed military background, she carries herself with all the menace of a beauty queen who’s lost her lipstick.

Randy Quaid - Vampire Expert

You know what the Bible says about movie stars taking bit parts in TV pilots? It's against it.

But Wagner is given one priceless scene when she seeks out info from local vampire expert Professor Melvin Caylo, played by erstwhile Uncle Eddie, Randy Quaid.  Quaid was almost unrecognizable in this role, looking a bit more puffy than I’m used to seeing him, and I wonder if perhaps he was just in Vancouver looking for an apartment should he ever need to flee the US when the call came up to cameo in this pilot.

But in the end, this pilot does exactly what it should–it introduces us to new characters, as well as setting up ongoing conflicts such as Marcus’ right-hand-woman Chase who is both jealous of Krista’s new place as Marcus’ favorite vampire, and also perhaps has an eye on Marcus’ position in the house.  We also meet Detective Boone, a crooked cop who is betrayed by Marcus and turned into a vampire.  And thus begins a story that will be played out over the course of the entire TV season.

In addition, this episode teases us with Marcus’ plans to engineer a vaccine that makes vampires impervious to their weaknesses, such as sunlight and garlic.  While a good hook, it seems to be a crutch that Goyer leans on a bit too often as this was the primary plot of Blade II and a more minor plot point in Blade: Trinity.  Yet it seems Marcus believes he is the first to try and create such a super-Vampire.  A reference or two to the reapers to tell us Goyer knows we’ve seen this before would have been nice. Instead it just feels like a weak retread of old plots.

And it seems Goyer is not just stealing from his own old script ideas, this pilot also sets up that vampire ash is a new street drug, which basically turns humans into Blade, having the strengths of a vampire.  This seems stolen directly from Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse Novel series, in this case replacing blood for ash, though Goyer does also give ash users a thirst for blood which causes many to eat their own fingers.

Sticky Fingaz as Blade

Kirk Jones may have "Sticky Fingaz" but he does not steal the show with his portrayal of Blade.

But with all of this, where is Blade?  Played now by Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones (and I don’t want to know how he got that nickname), Blade is a virtual non-entity in this pilot.  The opening in which Blade gets to rough up a couple people in poorly-choreographed fight scenes was tacked on in post production, producers perhaps realizing there was no Blade in this Blade series.  Blade cameos from time to time – coaxing Krista to spy on the House of Chthon or engaging in the poorly staged climactic fight.  But any fan of the character is bound to be disappointed by how little their daywalker hero is featured in this first episode.

Jones, inheriting the character from Wesley Snipes, does about as much with the character as Snipes did–a lot of glowering and not much true acting.  But without Snipes’ blackbelt to back him up the only battle this Blade might win is a rap battle, so we are left with quick-cut poor action when we get Blade at all.

So do I recommend this Blade TV pilot?  My initial reaction to it was “absolutely not, this is awful” but that reaction was based on false expectations.  From the marketing I expected this to be a self-contained Blade movie, similar to so many two hour TV movies that eventually become series, like the original Incredible Hulk pilot or the pilot to Knight Rider.  But having had time to digest and, yes, watched this again with those expectations reset, I say that it’s impossible to give this a ranking as it’s two hours of a 12-hour saga.  I certainly don’t recommend this as a stand-alone movie, do not watch this if you never intend to watch the rest of the series, but as a single installment in the series?

Well I guess I’ll have to watch the rest of the series to see if it pays off, because given the structure of this pilot it’s all or nothing; the pilot does not work as a movie.

You can hear Arnie, Jakob, and Stuart review all the Blade films on the Now Playing podcast!

Read Arnie’s other Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

 

September 1, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Comic Books, Reviews, Television | , , , | 16 Comments

Introduction to the House of Chthon

On Now Playing, the movie review podcast, Jakob, Stuart, and I are reviewing the three theatrical Blade films.  However, several people have expressed interest in the supposed “fourth Blade movie”, Blade – The House of Chthon.

Blade House of Chthon DVD Cover

Despite all appearances, this was never intended to be a movie.

Truth be told, there is no fourth Blade film.

The confusion is completely understandable.  In 2007 Warner Bros. released the pilot to the Blade television series on home video, and as the series was already cancelled they named the DVD Blade – The House of Chthon.  Later, as part of a series of “value bundle” DVDs, a DVD was released claiming it contained “4 Film Favorites”:  Blade, Blade II, Blade: Trinity, and Blade – The House of Chthon.

But despite clever marketing, what is being billed as House of Chthon is not a movie, nor was it ever intended to be a standalone film.  The video was developed with the title “Pilot”, the customary title to the first episode of most television series.  Pilots are usually filmed prior to shows having been picked up by networks.  In the case of Blade, the pilot convinced Spike TV to order 11 more episodes.

In years past pilot episodes for one-hour adventure shows could be considered self-contained movies.  The pilot episodes for Knight Rider, The A-Team, and even Star Trek: The Next Generation served as both, giving audiences a self-contained story while introducing new characters and new situations which can continue into future episodes.  The presumed pilot for the Generation X TV series, a movie that aired once on the Fox network, also falls into this category.

In the past twenty years however, television has changed and stand-alone, episodic television has been replaced with serialized stories–for example, compare The Incredible Hulk, where every episode stood alone with David Banner in a new town, to Lost, which built upon its own mythology to the point new viewers had difficulty understanding what was going on.

But the pilot episode for Blade, and the entire Blade series, falls more into the latter category–a serialized action-drama with a single story arc that encompasses all 12 episodes.

As such, there is no way for Now Playing to review the first episode of this TV series without watching all twelve episodes.  But starting later today you will be able to read my reviews of all twelve Blade episodes, posted one per day, here at the Venganza Media Gazette.

Want to watch?  You can watch the entire Blade series free at thewb.com

Read Arnie’s individual Blade TV Series reviews:

Introduction
1 Pilot
2 Death Goes On
3 Descent
4 Bloodlines
5 The Evil Within
6 Delivery
7 Sacrifice
8 Turn of the Screw
9 Angels and Demons
10 Hunters
11 Monsters
12 Conclave
Conclusion

August 31, 2011 Posted by | Blade - The TV Series, Reviews, Television | , , , | 14 Comments

Thousands Profit on Discounted HP Touchpads

HP Touchpad

The HP Touchpad allows full web browsing, including Flash based web sites, an edge over market leader Apple.

If you haven’t heard, the Hewlett-Packard Touchpad has become the #2 tablet computer on the market, right behind Apple’s iPad. That’s an enviable position for any new product, let alone for one that is already at end-of-life as HP has announced a change in business direction, pulling out of the home consumer market, including the 8-week-old tablet.  How did it pull off this amazing feat? By drastically cutting prices to $99 for a 16GB and $149 for a 32GB, and taking a bath, losing approximately $200 per tablet.

But this has proven that to consumers, price matters more than performance. Demand has been so high that flash-mobs of shoppers from bargain website SlickDeals crashed several sites stocking Touchpads, including Tiger Direct. Additionally, Best Buys getting Touchpads have been met with lines of customers forming hours before opening, rivaling Black Friday.

While many of these customers are lined up to get for themselves the latest gadget, a tablet PC that rivals Apple’s iPad in hardware, many of the others stalking the discount web sites and standing in line are resellers, looking not to save a buck but to make one, selling the discounted tablet PC for higher prices.  In line at a Best Buy in Forsyth, IL last Saturday I spoke to one man who had driven over 3 hours from Chicago in order to get some of the tablets to sell at his electronics store.

Even those who don’t own electronics shops are getting in on the profiteering.  eBay is flooded with Touchpad sales, as is Amazon.com with “Amazon Affiliate sellers”, including shop owners and private individuals, but through these secondary markets the prices hover around the $225 mark with the $99-priced 16GB models sell on eBay for an average price of $230, whereas the $149-priced 32GB models sell for an average of $235, leaving far less profit to the sellers.

Even larger retailers are engaging in this activity.  Aaron’s, Inc., a national rent-to-own business, is receiving shipments of 16GB Touchpads, but rather than pricing them at $99, their price is $180 including an aftermarket case.  Additionally, Aaron’s is making special exceptions to their company policies for the Touchpad – exceptions not to the customers’ favor.  Aaron’s offers a 20% discount to customers who pay cash or credit card up front for their items, versus the rent-to-own methods, however that 20% discount does not apply to the Touchpad.  When asked about this policy Aaron’s district manager Kevin Miller replied “It does not apply to this item because we’re the only place you can get it.”  Aaron’s price-match guarantee states on the web site they will match any local competitor’s print ad or internet price or Aaron’s will give you $100 in cash, however Miller said that only applies to items that are in stock at local stores.  Additionally, Aaron’s bundles the Touchpad with an aftermarket case, thus creating a unique bundle that cannot be price-matched.

HP’s policy is that retailers are free to set their own price on Touchpad devices.

But even at the higher price consumers are buying the Touchpads in droves, many seeing the $230 price as a savings of $270 rather than a markup of $130 over HP’s new suggested retail price.  For those looking to enter the tablet computing market the $230 price seems very reasonable for a device that allows web-surfing, movie playback, eBook reading, and more.  And this may be a signal to future tablet manufacturers looking to take a bite out of Apple, that when it comes to tablet computing price, not features, determines the market.  With Amazon on the cusp of announcing a new tablet computer running Google’s Android operating system, they should take a lesson not from HP’s fire sale, but from eBay’s setting of the market price.

As for HP, they announced yesterday that they are “going back into production” for one last run of Touchpads (a claim that many at SlickDeals are calling “misleading” as HP’s initial announcement clearly stated manufacturing would stop in the fourth quarter, not immediately).  While these newly produced Touchpads are sure to be highly sought after by customers and profiteers alike, HP is also poised to profit from these new sales.  Even at a loss on the hardware, HP’s new customer base promise a profitibue revenue stream through their webOS-based App Store where HP keeps 30% of all sales.

If you are looking for a Touchpad at HP’s suggested retail price of $99, follow HP rep Bryna on Twitter for updates on manufacturing and availability.

August 31, 2011 Posted by | News, Tech | , , | Comments Off on Thousands Profit on Discounted HP Touchpads

Welcome to the Venganza Media Gazette

Welcome to the Venganza Media Gazette, a new service brought to you by Venganza Media, the company behind such hit podcasts as Star Wars Action News, Republic Forces Radio Network, Now Playing, and Marvelicious Toys!The Venganza Media Gazette will be a news site that both supports the Venganza Media Podcast Network and also goes in its own directions.  As podcasts can take quite a bit of time from recording to release, the Venganza Media Gazette will allow more instant release of information in a centralized location, as opposed to scattered social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  But while toy collecting, movies, comics, and television will be primary topics on this site, the Venganza Media Gazette will also allow for a variety of other topics, including technology, video games, fitness, cooking, and more.We hope you enjoy the Venganza Media Gazette and stay with us throughout our launch!

August 31, 2011 Posted by | Site Information | , , | 2 Comments

New Podcast: Issue 21: Mental Organism Designed Only for Kollecting

San Diego Comic-Con International may be over, but con season marches on, and in this issue of Marvelicious Toys, Arnie and Marjorie hit another con–Wizard World Chicago. Full of Marvel Comics talent, as well as dozens of toy and statue vendors, listen this issue as they report back from Wizard World 2011! And Justin, Arnie, and Marjorie also recap the events of San Diego Comic Con, covering news announcements by Lego, Capcom, and Funko, and review the SDCC exclusives they purchased.

Also in this issue, the hosts run down all the latest store finds, including the Captain America movie line Wave 3 which contains 5 new figures but 8 new figures to buy! Plus new sightings of the modern Hasbro Sentinel, Thor movie figures Wave 4 including Sif, and some exciting toy markdowns to help collectors save money! Jerry joins us for another Timely Review completing his look back at translucent Marvel figures from Toy Biz, and Arnie and Marjorie review their first Bowen Designs purchase–M.O.D.O.K. So what are you waiting for, listen to this Giant Size edition of Marvelicious Toys!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT021.MP3

Category: Arts

    

August 15, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 21: Mental Organism Designed Only for Kollecting

New Podcast: Issue 20: San Diego Comic Con Frenzy

San Diego Comic Con is the big toy, comic, and movie event of the year and Marvelicious Toys is there! Join Marjorie, Justin, and Arnie as they come to you from the San Diego Convention Center and bring you news and interviews from the convention!

First, your Marvelicious hosts run down all the convention exclusives, from the nightmare that was the Hasbro Toy Shop line with their exclusive Marvel Legends Thor and Marvel Universe Sentinel, to the quickly sold out Kotobukiya Invisible Woman Bishoujo, to the blink-and-you-miss-it Gentle Giant Squirrelpool, plus new toys and shirts from Tokidoki, exclusive SWAG from the Captain America premiere and the Marvel Comics booth, and so much more.

And also this week, we have a look at all the cool Marvel toys and collectibles coming down the pike! We talk to representatives from Gentle Giant, who displayed their new mini-busts, book ends, pencil holders, and statues, and we also talk to Kotobukiya about their upcoming Fine Art statues, including Archangel and Magneto, and also their new Bishoujo such as Mystique and X-23!

And finally, we run down the other reveals! We broadcast the Hasbro Marvel panel live at marvelicioustoys.com, but if you missed it, we run down all the reveals in Marvel Legends and Marvel Universe. We also discuss the highlights in the booths from Hot Toys, Sideshow Collectibles, Diamond, Bowen, and so much more!

With a report on the Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengeance panel, the Amazing Spider-Man panel, the Captain America premiere, and more, it’s on this issue of Marvelicious Toys!

Listen Now: http://www.marvelicioustoys.com/Podcasts/MT020.MP3

Category: Arts

    

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Comic Books, Marvelicious Toys, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Issue 20: San Diego Comic Con Frenzy

Poltergeist III

Arnie, Marjorie, and Stuart are baaack again for the final installment in the Poltergeist Bonus Retrospective series. It’s a penthouse full of problems when cursed Carol Anne Freeling takes refuge at her uncle’s Chicago skyscraper and unpacks demonic Reverend Kane onto her unsuspecting extended family. Can the trilogy’s conclusion scale the heights of the original, or is POLTERGEIST III a poor reflection on the franchise? Donate today and find out!

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Poltergeist III

Poltergeist III

Arnie, Marjorie, and Stuart are baaack again for the final installment in the Poltergeist Bonus Retrospective series. It’s a penthouse full of problems when cursed Carol Anne Freeling takes refuge at her uncle’s Chicago skyscraper and unpacks demonic Reverend Kane onto her unsuspecting extended family. Can the trilogy’s conclusion scale the heights of the original, or is POLTERGEIST III a poor reflection on the franchise? Donate today and find out!

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Poltergeist III

Poltergeist II: The Other Side

They’re baaaack! Marjorie, Arnie, and Stuart continue their Poltergeist Bonus Retrospective series with Poltergeist 2: The Other Side. Without Steven Spielberg’s involvement, the rest of the cast and crew reunite to meet Kane, the personification of The Beast from the first movie, and travel to the other side to fight him! Did we drink the worm, or is this movie as much fun as getting braces? Donate today to find out!

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Poltergeist II: The Other Side

They’re baaaack! Marjorie, Arnie, and Stuart continue their Poltergeist Bonus Retrospective series with Poltergeist 2: The Other Side. Without Steven Spielberg’s involvement, the rest of the cast and crew reunite to meet Kane, the personification of The Beast from the first movie, and travel to the other side to fight him! Did we drink the worm, or is this movie as much fun as getting braces? Donate today to find out!

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Poltergeist (1982)

It’s heeeeere! Arnie, Stuart, and Marjorie’s review of Poltergeist! This 1982 horror classic from Steven “Jaws” Spielberg and Tobe “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Hooper comes a film that made ghosts cool again and instilled a deep fear of clowns into many children of the 80’s. It’s one of Stuart’s all time favorite films, but does it hold up almost 30 years later? And can a PG rated horror film truly be scary?

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist (1982)

It’s heeeeere! Arnie, Stuart, and Marjorie’s review of Poltergeist! This 1982 horror classic from Steven “Jaws” Spielberg and Tobe “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Hooper comes a film that made ghosts cool again and instilled a deep fear of clowns into many children of the 80’s. It’s one of Stuart’s all time favorite films, but does it hold up almost 30 years later? And can a PG rated horror film truly be scary?

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Poltergeist (1982)

Deep Blue Sea

Arnie, Stuart, and Brock go back into open water for one last shark tale–Deep Blue Sea, a bonus addendum to our Jaws retrospective series. Ostensibly based on an unused plot for Jaws 5 based on Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper at the Aurora station, the film as made stars LL Cool J and Thomas Jane squaring off against genetically altered “smart sharks”. With such a B-movie plot and directed by Renny Harlin, has Now Playing’s Jaws series sunk to new depths after Jaws: The Revenge? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

April 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Deep Blue Sea

Deep Blue Sea

Arnie, Stuart, and Brock go back into open water for one last shark tale–Deep Blue Sea, a bonus addendum to our Jaws retrospective series. Ostensibly based on an unused plot for Jaws 5 based on Richard Dreyfuss’ Matt Hooper at the Aurora station, the film as made stars LL Cool J and Thomas Jane squaring off against genetically altered “smart sharks”. With such a B-movie plot and directed by Renny Harlin, has Now Playing’s Jaws series sunk to new depths after Jaws: The Revenge? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

April 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Deep Blue Sea

New Podcast: Jaws The Revenge by Hank Searls

Under the best of circumstances, novelizations of films add a bit of depth to a screenplay, but anyone who’s seen the film Jaws: The Revenge knows these are not the best of circumstances. As a companion to Now Playing’s Jaws Movie Review podcast series, Stuart in L.A. is here to review the novelization of this much-maligned film. While author Hank Searls certainly had an unenviable task turning this screenplay about a shark seeing revenge against the Brody family, was his conversion from script to prose a positive one, or did it go belly up? Join Stuart as he details this novel’s differences from the film, and describes if it’s better or worse!

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN023.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Jaws The Revenge by Hank Searls

Jaws: The Revenge

When a 3-D shark at Seaworld didn’t pop for audiences, Universal Studios decided to take Jaws back to its roots, by starting the film back at Amity Island and focusing on the Brody family matriarch Ellen, played by Lorraine Gary. With the tagline “This time it’s personal,” a shark has a vendetta against the Brodys, and is following them to the Bahamas. With Acadamy Award winner Michael Caine and a memorable performance by Mario Van Peebles, this installment is widely considered the worst of the entire Jaws franchise. Does it deserve that reputation? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

April 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Jaws: The Revenge

Jaws: The Revenge

When a 3-D shark at Seaworld didn’t pop for audiences, Universal Studios decided to take Jaws back to its roots, by starting the film back at Amity Island and focusing on the Brody family matriarch Ellen, played by Lorraine Gary. With the tagline “This time it’s personal,” a shark has a vendetta against the Brodys, and is following them to the Bahamas. With Acadamy Award winner Michael Caine and a memorable performance by Mario Van Peebles, this installment is widely considered the worst of the entire Jaws franchise. Does it deserve that reputation? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

April 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Jaws: The Revenge

Jaws 3-D

And now for something completely different–Jaws 3-D! Where Jaws 2 made a point to call back to the original Jaws as much as possible with the same setting, many of the same actors, the same story beats, Jaws 3 (in 3-D) moved the location to Seaworld in Florida and in the absence of Sheriff Brody we follow his sons, Sean and Mike, as a new shark terrorizes them in the water theme park’s new underwater attraction! With eye-popping 3-D, a young Dennis Quaid and Lea Thompson, and Acadamy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. this film had the makings of a huge summer hit in 1983. Was it the main attraction that everyone needed to see, or did it just bite? Donate today to find out!

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Jaws 3-D

Jaws 3-D

And now for something completely different–Jaws 3-D! Where Jaws 2 made a point to call back to the original Jaws as much as possible with the same setting, many of the same actors, the same story beats, Jaws 3 (in 3-D) moved the location to Seaworld in Florida and in the absence of Sheriff Brody we follow his sons, Sean and Mike, as a new shark terrorizes them in the water theme park’s new underwater attraction! With eye-popping 3-D, a young Dennis Quaid and Lea Thompson, and Acadamy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. this film had the makings of a huge summer hit in 1983. Was it the main attraction that everyone needed to see, or did it just bite? Donate today to find out!

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Jaws 3-D

New Podcast: Healers and Hunters (WARS: The Battle of Phobos – Earthers, Part 1 of 3) by Nathan P. Butler

In 2004 Decipher Trading Cards launched the WARS Card Game, a game based on their previous Star Wars TCG. With a background story written in part by Michael Stackpole and John Howe, WARS was immediately embraced by gamers, yet not successful enough to continue making card sets beyond 2005.

However the story behind the WARS universe continues now with this first Novella, Healers and Hunters by Nathan P. Butler.

As most people have likely never heard of WARS, is it a worthy read? Listen as Arnie fills in the uninitiated on the WARS universe and reviews this book.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN022.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

April 12, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Healers and Hunters (WARS: The Battle of Phobos – Earthers, Part 1 of 3) by Nathan P. Butler

Jaws 2

When Jaws came out in 1975 it created the summer blockbuster and became the highest grossing movie ever, and so a sequel was inevitable. However, gone from the sequel are Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw, but back are Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, and Murray Hamilton. Spawning the ubiquitous line “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” does this movie capture the fun and fear of the first, or is it dead in the water? Donate today to find out!

April 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Jaws 2

Jaws 2

When Jaws came out in 1975 it created the summer blockbuster and became the highest grossing movie ever, and so a sequel was inevitable. However, gone from the sequel are Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw, but back are Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, and Murray Hamilton. Spawning the ubiquitous line “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water” does this movie capture the fun and fear of the first, or is it dead in the water? Donate today to find out!

April 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Jaws 2

Jaws (1975)

In 1975 Steven Spielberg was an up-and-coming director, working in TV but having a critically acclaimed theatrical hit with his film Duel, but after adapting the Peter Benchley novel Jaws for the big screen in a troubled production that has become film legend, Spielberg would cement his place as an A-list director, the summer blockbuster was born, and families never looked at a trip to the beach the same way again. But with the film now being over 35 years old and a pop culture cliche, do Stuart, Arnie, and Brock think the film holds up? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975)

In 1975 Steven Spielberg was an up-and-coming director, working in TV but having a critically acclaimed theatrical hit with his film Duel, but after adapting the Peter Benchley novel Jaws for the big screen in a troubled production that has become film legend, Spielberg would cement his place as an A-list director, the summer blockbuster was born, and families never looked at a trip to the beach the same way again. But with the film now being over 35 years old and a pop culture cliche, do Stuart, Arnie, and Brock think the film holds up? Donate to Now Playing to find out!

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Jaws (1975)

New Podcast: Jaws by Peter Benchley

You’ve seen the movie, but have you read the bestselling book of Jaws? While many things are similar, the differences may surprise you! In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of the Jaws movies, Stuart is back on Books & Nachos exploring the source material that inspired the original summer blockbuster movie!

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN021.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

March 29, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Jaws by Peter Benchley

New Podcast: The Adjustment Team

In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of all Philip K Dick screen adaptations, Books & Nachos explores the source material that inspired the movies and transformed the science fiction genre for a whole generation of readers.

This week Stuart takes a look at “The Adjustment Team”, the short story from 1954 that inspired the Matt Damon/Emily Blunt romance THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN020.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

March 4, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: The Adjustment Team

New Podcast: The Golden Man

In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of all Philip K Dick screen adaptations, Books & Nachos explores the source material that inspired the movies and transformed the science fiction genre for a whole generation of readers.

This week Stuart takes a look at “The Golden Man”, the short story from 1953 that inspired the Nicholas Cage action thriller NEXT.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN019.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: The Golden Man

New Podcast: A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick

In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of all Philip K Dick screen adaptations, Books & Nachos explores the source material that inspired the movies and transformed the science fiction genre for a whole generation of readers.

This week Stuart takes a look at “A Scanner Darkly”, the 1977 novel that inspired the psychedelic Keanu Reeves/Richard Linklater animation movie.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN018.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

February 18, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick

New Podcast: Paycheck by Philip K Dick

In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of all Philip K Dick screen adaptations, Books & Nachos explores the source material that inspired the movies and transformed the science fiction genre for a whole generation of readers.

This week Stuart takes a look at “Paycheck”, the short story from 1953 that inspired the Ben Affleck/John Woo action movie.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN017.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

February 11, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Paycheck by Philip K Dick

New Podcast: Minority Report by Philip K Dick

In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of all Philip K Dick screen adaptations, Books & Nachos explores the source material that inspired the movies and transformed the science fiction genre for a whole generation of readers.

This week Stuart takes a look at “The Minority Report”, the 1956 novella that inspired the Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg blockbuster.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN016.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

February 4, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Minority Report by Philip K Dick

New Podcast: Impostor by Philip K Dick

In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of all Philip K Dick screen adaptations, Books & Nachos explores the source material that inspired the movies and transformed the science fiction genre for a whole generation of readers.

This week Stuart takes a look at “Impostor”, the 1953 short story that inspired a Gary Sinise/Vincent D’Onofrio action-mystery.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN015.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

January 28, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Impostor by Philip K Dick

New Podcast: Second Variety by Philip K Dick

In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of all Philip K Dick screen adaptations, Books & Nachos explores the source material that inspired the movies and transformed the science fiction genre for a whole generation of readers.

This week Stuart takes a look at “Second Variety”, the 1953 novella that inspired the Peter Weller midnight movie SCREAMERS.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN014.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Second Variety by Philip K Dick

New Podcast: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick

In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of all Philip K Dick screen adaptations, Books & Nachos explores the source material that inspired the movies and transformed the science fiction genre for a whole generation of readers.

This week Stuart takes a look at “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, the short story from 1966 that inspired the Arnold Schwartzeneggar/Paul Verhoeven action movie TOTAL RECALL.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN013.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick

New Podcast: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

In partnership with Now Playing’s retrospective of all Philip K Dick screen adaptations, Books & Nachos explores the source material that inspired the movies and transformed the science fiction genre for a whole generation of readers.

This week Stuart takes a look at seminal 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, the dystopian detective novel that gave birth to the Harrison Ford/Ridley Scott classic BLADE RUNNER.

Listen Now: http://www.booksandnachos.com/Podcasts/BN012.MP3

Category: Arts & Literature

    

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Books, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , | Comments Off on New Podcast: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick