Not So Random Film of The Weekend: The Zero Boys

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Ooh, it’s my first entry in this soon to be never-ending series. Be gentle!

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While it’s certainly an entertaining popcorn and beer-worthy flick with great camerawork, direction and an appropriately 80’s blend of synth-heavy and orchestral scoring courtesy of Stanley Myers and Hans Zimmer, there’s something a wee bit “off” about Nico Mastorakis’ 1986 film The Zero Boys  that keeps it from total greatness. Don’t get me wrong, folks: It’s certainly got just about everything it needs to be a perfectly fine cheesy action flick and even adds in some mildly disturbing  moments that lend it a solid horror vibe. However, there’s very little in the way of gore here and you certainly don’t want to go in expecting a ton of exploitative nudity even though you’d think a film such as this made at this point in time would include a moderate heaping of both as par for the crowd-pleasing course.

In fact, according to an interview on the Arrow Video Blu-Ray, Mastorakis deliberately made the film this way as a sort of counterbalance to his far more brutal 1976 film Island of Death. If you take away the expletives and make a few minor edits, you pretty much have a PG-rated flick that you could easily show on a regular network or basic cable channel these days. Amusingly enough, by comparison, an average episode of Gotham has a load more violence than what you’ll see here (I kind of liked the first two seasons, but the show’s gotten a bit too grim as a alternate world take on its source material, but I digress…).

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Let’s see now: Bandanna? Check. Attitude? Check. Gun? Check. I think that’s everything, but you know how these things go (until they don’t go the way you think).

That’s not to say the film is totally tame, mind you. It moves from high action and a slightly comedic tone at the start into those more moody and serious scare scenes with relative ease and works well enough on that level. In general, Mastorakis’ films tend to go in all sorts of directions as they blend drama, comedy, action, sexy stuff and lots of suspension of disbelief common to genre films. Of course, if you pay too close attention to the writing, some parts don’t click as well as they should because the story needs to move along, damn the continuity consequences or assorted logic fails. In other words, this is one of those films where any sort of overthinking makes it a lot less fun.

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Review: The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A–M)

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Get it from Amazon, or get it from the author himself with a some cool freebies (US buyers only on those), but just get it period if you’re an SNES fan.

Once again, I have the pleasure to plunge into another hefty, well-written tome by Brett Weiss and once again, it’s a must buy. Published by Schiffer Books, The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A-M)  is a solid 416 pages packed with Weiss’ personable personal reminiscences, recollections and remembrances (okay, they’re kind of the same thing, but I’m feeling a bit florid in my hyperbole today) on over 350 games for Nintendo’s stellar 16-bit console that, along with the Sega Genesis and other competitors, battled back and forth during the 1990’s for those hard-earned gamer dollars. Despite strong competition, until the Sony PlayStation’s dominance of the console space starting in 1994-95, the SNES ended up with a seven-year lifespan (the last officially licensed game was Frogger in 1998) and more than enough stellar titles to write a book about. Well, Weiss has written two SNES books (the second volume will be out at some point and I can’t wait to pore through that).

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There are also brief reviews from Weiss on the games he’s played along with other reviews and impressions ranging from short to lengthy and comedic to tragic from dozens of contributors that add interesting and sometimes multiple takes on certain key to not-so-key titles in the library.  I did a very short gargle-blab on one of my favorite games on the console, ALIEN³ that should have been longer in retrospect, but I think I wrote that close to the time (unbeknownst to me, surprise!)  I was about to be hospitalized for about a month, so I was a bit off my game.

A fine foreword by Bill Loguidice kicks off the book and there’s a nice page on the “console wars” that’s a miniature crash course in some of the frenzy of the era with game companies going all out to try and outdo each other with varying results. An interesting piece on emulation closes the volume with writer Alex McCumbers making the case for it in a clear and concise manner. But you’re buying this because you want to check out some titles you never knew existed, knew about but never saw (Hagane WAS available at retail – I got my copy at an Electronics Boutique thanks to the kid holding onto it putting it back and getting a cheaper used game instead) or just want to check out the assorted impressions Weiss rolls out in his amiable style. Recommended.

 

-GW

Berserk’s Back: Have You Got The Guts To Read It?

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Okay, I’ll admit it. I have almost NO experience with Berserk outside a poring over a few borrowed issues of the manga back in the 90’s and playing through three video games based on the manga and anime (Super Famicom, Dreamcast and PS2, FYI). That said, with Koei Tecmo set to release the gloriously violent Berserk and the Band of the Hawk on February 21, 2017, Dark Horse Comics has put out the word that Volume 38 of Berserk will be slicing its way to comic stores and online retailers July 5, 2017. Why post this so early? Well, I think I need to play catch up and I think that’s enough time to play catch up on the other 37 volumes, of course!


 

I’ve been following the game closely, but not reporting much on it or watching any videos other than trailers and official gameplay videos like the one aove because I want to go in as cold as possible and not have stuff spoiled by yakky streamers who got early access even if they love what’s coming. In any event, I need to co clear up some room on my calendar I guess. Slowly going Berserk is a lot better than the alternative, right?

– GW

Trump: Playboy + MAD+ Dark Horse = Something MUCH Better Than You’re Thinking

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Oh, that cartoon guy with the funny hair tooting his own horn may look familiar, but trust me, he’s not only got NOTHING to do with what’s going on down in D.C., he was around before that name was a big deal. Dark Horse Comics’ second volume in its Essential (Harvey) Kurtzman series just so happens to be the complete collection of Trump, a swanky satire magazine published by Playboy from 1956-57. While only two issues made it to newsstands and a third was aborted, the talent on display was tops (Mel Brooks, Will Elder, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Al Jaffee, Russ Heath, Arnold Roth and more). Unfortunately the upscale satire mag folded up shop and pretty much sunk into obscurity save for hard core collectors who’ve tracked down and saved a handful of copies over the decades.

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Dark Horse comes to the rescue once again with another find hardcover collection, Trump: The Complete Collection – Essential Kurtzman Volume Two (MSRP $29.99). Both full issues are here plus what would have been a third issue had the magazine stayed around. As both a slice of magazine history and collection of outstanding comic illustration from some of the greats of the era, the detailed notes on every bit of art, letters to and from principals involved and other elements lend a great insight into what worked and what went wrong. It’s a “Come for the curiosity, stay because you’re learning stuff’ read that comes highly recommended even if you’re not a fan of top notch late 50’s satire.

Granted, I’m as old as dirt, so I love the corny but reliably amusing jokes here as well as that gorgeously detailed art. As with Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book: Essential Kurtzman Volume 1, plopping this on your coffee table will automatically make your friends think you’re a sly, sophisticated guy or gal with a super cool sense of humor. Hmmmm, perhaps Dark Horse out to zip over both tomes to that kinda cranky guy who needs a big laugh? Provided he makes it past the cover without blowing a gasket, I think it might generate half a laugh. I hope.

– GW

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Shadows On The Grave: Corben’s Still Got Those Horror Chops

shadows-on-the-grave-dhRichard Corben’s artwork has always been brilliant, freakish and frightening on a few levels, but his horror work over the last few years has been a perfect blend of caricature and crazed creativity. I rather loved Rat God, his violently hilarious and uniquely stylized love letter to Lovecraft that was one of Dark Horse Comics best mini-series of 2015. Okay, Bunn and Cook’s absolutely brilliant (and I would watch the hell out of a good TV or movie adaptation) Harrow County is flat out scarier. But Corben’s style of stylistic horror is second to none in my book.

shadows-1sotg30532Shadows On The Grave #1 is the first issue in a beautiful new miniseries comprised of short stories with Corben going all out in both black and white and grey-toned art that’s simultaneously lovely, twisted and somehow realistic through all the bigfoot layers. There’s his reliable work with the human and unhuman form that makes poring over each panel a joy (yes, even the disturbing stuff is worth a look in all its glory) and his writing is just fun and tight what with all the tonal shifting going on. The man is a master of adding humor to tense situations as his characters get put through their paces by fate and other means, but I shall wisely leave the actual reading of the book to each and every one of you interested.

Issue 1 lands at your favorite comic emporium December 14 ($3.99), Issue 2 is arriving in January, and let’s see now… #3 should be next March. Yep, get this is you’re into the Creepy stuff. You see what I did there? Did you? Yeah, go get that as well.

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World of Darkness Wants You to Enjoy Some Earplay For Halloween

light-desktop-wwearplay-logo-ww-bgBefore horror books and movies, the spoken word was where it was at when you needed your spine chilled but good. The just announced partnership between Earplay and White Wolf Publishing to bring World of Darkness to iOS and Alexa enabled devices (such has Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot) sounds like a very cool interactive endeavor horror fiction fans may want to take a peek at and a listen to soon.

So, exactly what is this and why should you keep an ear peeled for it? Well, you have some reading to do, sir or madam. You like to read, right? Good. Here you go: Um, well… below the jump. Hey, I didn’t lie! Go look!

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Call of the Westeros Meets Classic Response Time

So, this season of Game of Thrones ended with a bang. Well, a few bangs if you count the graceful exit one key character made via a nearby window. The internet being what it is, one still frame ended up as a hilarious image gamers who know Ubisoft’s hugely popular Assassin’s Creed series got a laugh over:

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It took me all of thirty seconds for my brain to cook up goofball responses to that scene using classic film posters, but a little longer to swipe images I’ll link to to be fair to the folks who posted them first. Traffic is cool on one’s blog when it’s least expected, I always say. Okay, here we go (click on the posters to go to their respective sites):

Hit the Hay

I’ve never seen this flick before, but I’m now Judy Canova curious. I know I’ve seen HER before in something, but I’ve not a clue as to what.

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Ooh, a new site to check out! Nice place you’ve got there, Steve! Haven’t seen this one in decades, but it’s probably as funny as I recall.

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A not too shabby WWII war drama/romance flick with a fine cast doing their thing for the cause. Oscar-winning special effects here, but don’t go into this looking for CG perfection.


 


 

Finally, yeah… I may as well get Fox some love as well for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed movie. As with any game-based film, my eyebrow is up a lot on whether it can capture the game’s more interactive elements clearly. But I absolutely LOVE being proven wrong by movies based on videogame source material. Which means I’m still skeptical even with the casting choices made. We’ll get into that later. Just go enjoy the rest of this weekend for now.

The Sword & Sandal Blogathon Kicks Sand in My Mojo-Stopper’s Face

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Stuff is still slightly bumpy here on a few key levels (I’m having the worst luck with tech in this crazy year of stuff breaking or vanishing), but from the heavens comes some inspiration. THANKS, Debs!. I’ll be doing covering Hundra, Matt Cimber’s underrated 1983 fantasy flick that features an exuberant performance from Laurene Landon in the title role. Keep an eye peeled… or I’ll do it for you, grrr!.

Back in a bit.

READS: Surf NYC – Into the Deep End With The Urban Wave Jockeys

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Photo: Andreea Waters

 

I guess you can call photographer/author Andreea Waters‘ new book Surf NYC ($34.99, Schiffer Publishing) a perfect summer beach read of sorts. Granted, if you’re strolling around certain wet and sandy spots with a copy in hand and your phone’s GPS chatting away looking for where some of the photos in the book were shot, you may luck out and get an autograph from one of the more outgoing daredevils committed to riding the weird, wild waves in and around the NY area.

On the other hand, you’ll probably want to respect both the privacy and utter daring of these urban daredevils out to conquer with their own respect the very waters doing what comes naturally and often under unnatural circumstances. The book is a 136-page hardcover with 64 outstanding images of the guys and gals who dare along with the places they do that daring in. You’ll come for the images, but stay for the stories told in quick bits by the surfers interviewed.

Photo: Andreea Waters

Photo: Andreea Waters

 

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READS: Star Wars Works Spectacularly As A Scrolling Infographic

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Many movie fans all know what follows this memorable opening image, but thanks to Zurich-based artist Martin Panchaud, we now have quite possibly the best illustrated retelling of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope to date. While not flawless (there are a few incorrectly translated lines), the scrolling infographic absolutely nails the storytelling beats, but from a top down perspective and using colored dots for human and alien characters. If you’re a big enough fan of the film, I’d bet you’ll be hearing that phenomenal John Williams score in your head at all the right moments. Go check it out (if this hasn’t been forwarded to your own inbox already today).

Also, someone call Guinness (no, not the ghost of Alec, silly!)- I think at 123 meters (or 403.543307 feet), it just may be the longest infographic you’ll see for a while. Anyway, go revisit a classic film from 1977 in a whole new way.