Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ash Slashes His Way Into Evil Dead Season 3!!!


Many a smarty-pants believed that STARZ's "Ash vs Evil Dead" would only last a measly season. Ha! We're now approaching the third, and I don't even need to see a clip (though I've actually seen a couple) to know this one will be as aggressive, humorous and exciting as the first two.


Dana DeLorenzo's Kelly Maxwell, Ray Santiago's Pablo Bolivar, and Lucy Lawless' Ruby Knowby rejoin Bruce Campbell's mighty Ash Williams in the ongoing blood-and-guts fest.

For Season 3, they're teamed with a couple newcomers: Lindsay "Primal" Farris as Dalton, Knight of Sumeria, a modern-day warrior skilled in ancient, evil-fighting ways, and Arielle Carver-O'Neill as the lovely Brandy Barr, Ash's altered-reality daughter. Yep, ya heard right! Ash is a daddy, and I'm sure he'll train his gal in all the best Deadite-slaying techniques. 


From the trailers, it looks like we're in for some school-based weirdness and even some wacky, cartoon animation. That's cool, but the real guarantee to success is placing Ash front and center of all "Necronomicon" manifestations. Also, Campbell has increased Ash's significance since the series started. For example, he's now a small-business owner, though I wonder how much he'll devote to retail when cackling Deadites are right around the bend. Anyway, it would be foolish to downplay Ash in some socially conscious, let's-take-turns-for-attention rotation. I say, let tradition reign with Ash standing as the main one to stumble, wisecrack and kill, kill, kill!!!


If I may be so bold to editorialize, "Evil Dead" is really a saga for virile underdogs, and by its basic nature, it can't help but be politically incorrect within today's wishy-washy light. So what if it offends? I doubt there are many tender teens who would dare care at all about "Evil Dead", anyway. The franchise, after all, deals with harsh, demonized magic, where circumstances aren't so easily remedied by a sissified swipe of a wand. Chainsaws are the tool of of the trade on this turf.


Though I wasn't confident that an "Evil Dead" television series would click (I feared the idea might get stretched thin), I'm grateful that Sam Raimi and Campbell (among others) pursued this path. For as long as these 10-episode jaunts last (Campbell is projecting five seasons), we'll have plenty of gory escapism to swallow; but why stop at the humble fringes of Elk Grove, when time travel can deliver our gang to any number of alternate worlds? Say, wouldn't it be keen to see Ash leading the charge against some futuristic Deadites in a big-screen "Army of Darkness 2"? 

For now, though, the slashing resumes in humble, half-hour installments this February 25 at 9 pm.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

AIRSHIP 27 PODCAST (FEB '18): READY FOR TAKEOFF!!!

It's time again, folks, for another soul-soaring Airship 27 Podcast; and the February submission is as swell as any that's come before!!!


Captain Ron Fortier and Chief Engineer Rob Davis cover such exciting and varied individuals as Allan Quatermain; the Black Bat; Brother Bones; Doc Savage; the Green Lama; the Moon Man; the Purple Scar; Secret Agent X; Sherlock Holmes; and the Three Musketeers. The upcoming Pulp Factory Awards Show is also detailed. 


Tune in now at http://comicspodcasts.com/2018/02/16/56632/ for a wonderful hour of informative fun!!!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I saw the Black Panther...


T'Challa, the Black Panther is back, brought to life by the sophisticated thespian, Chadwick Boseman. I couldn't be happier, for this is one solo outing that lives up to the hype, and for all you guys who felt jilted by the wise-ass, slanted claptrap Disney spewed in the guise of "The Last Jedi", writer/director Ryan "Creed" Coogler more than compensates for Rian Johnson and Kathleen Kennedy's polarizing blunder. 


The story is basic, though rich in its raw emotion, picking up some time after "Captain America: Civil War", in which King T'Chaka (John Kani), the original Black Panther, was killed, along with others, in a rigged explosion. Now, T'Challa takes his rightful place as the new Wakanda ruler. However, a cunning villain waits in the form of Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, played by the charismatic Michael B. Jordan (who already holds mythic distinction in having portrayed the fiery Johnny Storm and the mighty Adonis Creed). Killmonger believes he can run Wakanda far better than T'Challa ever could (as well as the world) and desires the crown with unscrupulous lust. He also harbors a woeful secret, which drives his conquering actions. 


The script by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole is a hardy spurt of wits and brawn, enshrouded by African steampunk wonders the likes of which no Marvel movie has ever displayed. Truly, Wakanda is more spectacular than "Civil War" led us to believe and even more imaginative than the pages of Marvel ever depicted. Wakanda is full-blown, high-tech Shangri-La and more awe-inspiring than anything one will find among the new "Star Wars" worlds. 


T'Challa's vibranium costume is also stunningly kick-ass. Yeah, it looked great in "Civil War", but here (maybe because it's given more screen time) it's a beacon of utter stylishness (and there are variations of it), making it perhaps the best looking Marvel design next to Tony Stark's varying gear. It makes T'Calla look alien at times (and I do mean that in the best "Alien" sense), blessed by a level of formidable gusto that no mere mortal could project, and yet beneath the suit, there's merely a man--but a man who matches his outfitted symbolism to the virile tee.


No matter how striking the decoration, it's the Panther-vs-Killmonger theme that gives this story its passion, with both characters fighting tooth-and-nail for leverage. From this comes conviction, cruelty, honor, hate and respect. If Hollywood weren't so full of itself, Boseman and Jordan would get Oscar nods, but of course, any such acknowledgement would only upset those bow-to-your-enemy millennials and general, college-kid goofs: insipid sects our eponymous champion would never ever emulate!

The rest of the cast is just as superb in supporting the story's intensity, with Angela Bassett as T'Challa's beautiful and stately mother, Queen Ramonda; Forest Whitaker as T'Challa's mystical advisor, Zuri; Lupita Nyong'o as T'Challa's secret-agent love, Nakia; Sterling K. Brown as the wayward N'Jobu; Daniel Kaluuya as T'Challa's fickle friend, W'Kabi; Letitia Wright as T'Challa's technological sister, Shuri; Winston Duke as mountain leader, M'Baki; Florence Ayo as security-guard Kasumba; Danai Gurira (that's right, "Walking Dead'"s sword-swiping Michonne) as the fierce General Okoye; and Tolkien-movie veterans Andy Serkis as ruthless smuggler Ulysses Klaue/Klaw; and Martin Freeman as CIA operative, Everett K. Ross. 


Among these participants, the ladies are as resourceful as the men (trust me, you don't want to mess with the Dora Milaje!), and that's real decent and swell, but all the same, their steely prowess never prevents "Black Panther" from what we desire it to be: a guy flick. The Black Panther is a gent that fellas of any age or ethnicity can follow, admire and strive to emulate. And yes, the Black Panther dictates the action with both brawn and shrewdness. Sorry SJW jerks (who conveniently ignore the fact that the censorious Nazis also consider themselves SJWs), but this movie is a throwback to the best of the best in manly execution, and though the Avengers films have never let us down in that regard, we really needed that rough and tough, right-over-wrong shot in the arm after "Jedi'"s lopsided turn.

Heaps of credit go to Coogler for keeping the mythology focused. Though the writer/director gives T'Challa his own interpretive spin, he respects the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby foundation. It's safe to say that Coogler made this movie not to please (or appease) some bloody clique, but to delight Marvel and Black Panther fans, and if others should just so happen to leap on, so be it. 


For those who believe that virtue can--and should--triumph over evil, that hard work and dignity constitute an honorable path to success, this is your movie. 

To hell with those misguided fools who'll shake their heads and click their pompous tongues, claiming that craven passivity and verbose resignation are the only paths to survival. In the same vein, to hell with those who praise "Black Panther" for no other reason than it seems the right and do, even in advance of actually viewing the picture. This adventure wasn't made for any of those pretentious clods, and because of that (hip, hip, hooray!) the noble Black Panther reigns supreme upon the silver screen!!!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

An Alternate Reality: I saw the Cloverfield Paradox...


J.J. Abrams has a thing for bending reality. It's no surprise, therefore, that his favorite tactic would infiltrate his "Cloverfield" productions, which contain enough ambiguity to inspire ceaseless conjecturing.


What's significant about Netflix/Paramount's "The Cloverfield Paradox", directed by Julius Onah and written by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung, is its confirmation that intersecting realities do, in fact, characterize the franchise. With this turn, the Cloverfield Monster, which freaked us out in the first film and whose friends ultimately crept their way into the character-driven "10 Cloverfield Lane", is finally explained...more or less...


"The Cloverfield Paradox" takes place in 2028 and to extend the futurism, the story occurs predominately in space. The catalyst for the mission is one of energy attainment, capped by a temporal rift that the crew triggers. Ripples in time spew forth, therefore, along with monsters that can drop into any time frame or any reality.

Though the concept is ambitious, the film's structure is simple, feeling like a well crafted "Alien" or "Event Horizon" knockoff. The crew argues and speculates on matters, especially when the Earth vanishes from view, with Daniel Bruhl; Aksel Hennie; Gugu Mbatha-Raw; Chris O'Dowd; John Ortiz; Daniel Oyelowo; and Zhang Ziyi, making the circumstances seem plausible through their exchanges. To reinforce their reality-rifting theorizing, Gotham's Donal Logue grants a "transmitted" guest appearance as Mark Stambler: an evident relative of John Goodman's Howard in "10 Cloverfield Lane". 


There's also an enigmatic woman named Jensen, played with chilly effectiveness by Elizabeth Debicki, who pops out of nowhere, thus adding to the nervous what-is-reality debates. Actually, Jensen lends a lot to the film's odd atmosphere, at times presenting a David Bowie "Man Who Fell to Earth" melancholy to the part, but at other times, seeming more in line with Florence Marley's Queen of Blood.

References to the Tagruato company and its silly Slusho drink (a substance allegedly culled from the deep sea) weave through the story's dark progression, just as such did in earlier chapters. (To be honest, none of that sprinkled stuff ever excited me; I always yearned for broad-range links.) Through it all, we learn that tinkering with nature (i.e., playing God), whether above or below, in this dimension or any other, isn't the best choice.


Then again, we learned this from past monster movies, in particular those featuring mutant, city-stomping behemoths, which inspired the first "Cloverfield". We press the limits of science, toy with the sacred fabric of things, and demons, big and small, come to life. And as we've learned from the "Alien" franchise (especially "Prometheus" and "Covenant"), those demons can sometimes merge with us, accentuating our worst traits: Goodman's Stambler is an excellent case in point. "The Cloverfield Paradox" participants come to realize this, too, as a number of them fall victim to the curse even before the real trouble starts. 


Though it has many commendable traits, what will please fans most is the way "The Cloverfield Paradox" helps merge the parts. That's good. We needed a foundation for the sake of a continuation. Even so, there are still many unanswered questions left by the time the credits roll, though I'm sure some will be tackled in the fourth installment, subtitled "Overlord", which unlike this "paradox" is set for a full-fledged, theatrical release. It'll be interesting to see what Abrams and his recruits cook up for that one. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

HAPPY 50TH ANNIVERSARY PLANET OF THE APES!!!


February 8, 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary release of "Planet of the Apes". The premiere commenced at New York's Loew's Capitol Theatre and the 72d Street Playhouse, with wider distribution following in March, which then expanded into the spring and summer, where it ruled the drive-in theater circuit.


Thanks to producers Arthur P. Jacobs and Richard D. Zanuck, "Planet of the Apes" offered an imaginative and sometimes frightening observation of our world through a parallel-reality lens, and unlike a recent polarizing, space adventure, it wasn't one-sided or propagandist. The story was identifiable to all who viewed it, no matter what their ideological bent, which is perhaps why the movie sparked the world's pop-cultural consciousness and birthed four, theatrical sequels, in addition to further incarnations that continue to this day.


If the truth be known, "Planet of the Apes" is, for all intents and purposes, a "Twilight Zone" tale, and of course, Rod Serling's involvement in the Pierre Boulle "Monkey Planet" adaptation confirms that. Like the best "Twilight Zones", "Apes" is an essay of irony, truth, deceit, rejection, hope, life and death. It also offers crisp dialogue, crackerjack direction by Franklin J. Schaffner, a powerful soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith, and a cast like no other, with characterizations that still remain unsurpassed. Oh, and how 'bout that ending! The most iconic in all of cinema history!

If you haven't watched the original in a spell, or by some perplexing chance have never seen it, give yourself an edifying treat with a (re)visit. There are few films (if none) that can match this one and the legacy it spawned. It deserves its classic status and stands as the ultimate blueprint for how allegorical fables should be told.

Long live "Planet of the Apes"!!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

An Alternate Reality: I saw Gotham by Gaslight...

"Gotham by Gaslight" is a new DC/WB animated feature, directed by Sam Liu, produced by Bruce Timm and adapted by Jim Krieg, loosely based on the famous graphic novel of the same name by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola (and to a lesser extent, "Master of the Future" by Augustyn and Eduardo Barreto).  


As the title implies, the story places Bruce Wayne/Batman (voiced by Bruce Greenwood) in an alternate past, in 1889 Victorian Age Gotham City to be exact, with the Dark Knight investigating a Jack the Ripper resurgence. 

Selina Kyle (Jennifer Carpenter) plays a significant part in the sinister journey, and there's a swell fight scene between Batman and the Ripper inside a dirigible as it floats over the city. However, the real suspense lies in unmasking of the Ripper's identity.  


And so, who might the fiend be among Batman's many rogues?That's where the story becomes tricky and perhaps for some, jarring, as it takes Augustyn's concept down a different stretch. Even in its revisionist form, one might assume the sadistic culprit to be the Joker, the Scarecrow or Mad Hatter, but in this parallel track, the Ripper turns out to be one of Batman's closest allies. (No, it's not Anthony Head's Alfred, though the butler-did-it angle would have been a wry nod to such tongue-in-cheek referencing.)


Because of the revelation, I can only say, I'm glad this story is relegated to its own alternate-reality/Elseworld landscape, but at the same time, I can't help but get upset whenever good is exposed as bad, even if the revelation surfaces within a sideline niche.


What rescues "Gotham by Gaslight" from its depressing unveiling is its stylish execution. This is one of the best looking, animated Batman films to come down the pike: a wonderfully weird antithesis to those excellent, colorful "Batman '66" sequels, which plays in the lurid style of Hammer Studios (think "Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde" meets "Hands of the Ripper" with some nifty steampunk laced in). It also mirrors the "The Killing Joke" and "Mask of the Phantasm" in its pensive pacing.


To enhance the film's brooding mystique, Selina is enormously alluring, with a deep, determined charm that better fits royalty than criminality. Her support of our hero is more defined (therefore, secure) in this story line, but it never impedes upon the detective's proceedings. If anything, Selina is more like a potential Emma Peel than the Catwoman and offers her own brand of Watson-esque, inquiry. Though she doesn't come anywhere near her traditional Gotham guise, for the sake of this particular vision, her reserved position is a benefit, since the story already holds enough eccentric personas, including an exotic-dancing Poison Ivy and a trio of street-thugging Robins.  


On the whole, I must commend this adaptation's ambition. Like its graphic-novel source material, it takes Batman in a unique direction and yet stays faithful to his mythology, regardless of the Victorian decor and of course, the bold reinterpretation of one of his traditional defenders. (For the record, there are additional, old-era/Elsewhere Batman stories in print, and to see animated versions where he teams with Harry Houdini or enters the Civil War would be beyond dandy, though only as long as the translations don't get too cute or daring in their re-interpretive designs. Batman should always be Batman, no matter what the designation.)

"Gotham by Gaslight" is now available via DVD/Blu-ray and pay-per-view.