Saturday, March 17, 2018

Syfy Serves New Vision of Old Krypton...

The Syfy Channel is flying into the superhero scene, with a fascinating foundation for a DC favorite in "Krypton". 

The ten-episode series takes place two hundred years prior to the legendary planet's destruction, with Superman/Kal-El's grandfather, Seg-El, as its lead, played by sturdy and spry Cameron Cuffe. Seg-El is a lot like Jor-El when it comes to colleague conflict, but will have lots more time to redeem the family name. 

Ian McElhinney portrays Seg's grandfather, Val-El, with Ramus Hardiker as Seg's good buddy, Kem and Elliot Cowan as Daron-Vex. To ensure DC fans will stay hooked, Shaun Sipos will appear as the adventurous Adam Strange and Blake Ritson as the cold, brash Brainiac. Georgina Campbell; Wallis Day; Ann Ogbomo; and Aaron Pierre comprise the rest of the Kryptonian cast.

From those few clips shared, the show looks on target in its architectural design: a cross between Krypton in Christopher Reeve and Henry Cavill's big-screen, WB outings.

Syfy's stab at DC mythology is an obvious reply to Fox's acclaimed prequel, "Gotham" and of course, UPN's long-running "Smallville". Whether "Krypton" captures the supreme appeal of those tumultuous, coming-of-age sagas is yet unknown. It'll all come down to what the writers cook up and how empathetic and/or villainous its players are.

For some, having another live-action Superman incarnation, even if it's in "prehistory" mode, may seem superfluous, but for those loyalists who appreciate all aspects of DC, there's never enough of this stuff to go around. With "Dark Knight'"s David S. Goyer and "Sleepy Hollow'"s Damian Kindler serving as producers, things do look promising, enough so that we probably needn't fear the show ever mirroring CW's now blasphemous "Supergirl". Fingers crossed, anyway...

"Krypton" debuts March 21 at 10 pm. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I saw Lara Croft's Return...

It was only a matter of time and long overdue that Toby Gard's Lara Croft return in a new cinematic adventure. This time she's brought to life by the enchanting Alicia Vikander. To quote Bart Simpson, "Whoa, mama!!!"

Vikander already made her mark on the imagi-movie scene with Alex Garland's "Ex Machina" and Guy Ritchie's "Man from U.N.C.L.E."  The latter more than the former likely landed Vikander the Croft role, but either way, her quality track record has made her an ideal successor to Angelina Jolie. 

Directed by Roar "the Wave" Uthaug and scripted by Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons, this lush, exotic reboot springs an initially reluctant Croft on a trek to locate her dad, Lord Richard (Dominic West), who appears to have met his demise in pursuit of an ancient tomb (ripe for raiding) of a Death Goddess on a mysterious island near Japan. 

The flashbacks featuring Lord Croft define the father/daughter relationship (a propelling point of young Croft's development), even if we discover their loving link has become anguished, if only due to time's passing. 

Lord Croft, however, isn't the only man to impact the young swashbuckler. Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) and Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) add inebriated amusement and ruthless tension to her journey and perhaps reinforce "Tomb Raider" as being more male oriented than it should be to certain modern eyes, but this only helps ensure the sojourn stays a veritable guy film. Whether people (phony-baloney SJWs, in particular) wish to admit it or not, "Tomb Raider" has always been a product designed for and aimed at guys. Nothin' wrong with that.

It's important to note, however, that the virile influence never stops our prim and proper yet tough-as-nails archaeologist from staying on valiant track, fighting the elements and fulfilling her ambitions. And rest assured, she's never ever an unidentifiable, pitch-perfect Mary Sue. That's right: This gal does at least struggle, making her victories all the sweeter when they do come. 

There is less in the way of supernatural interludes to characterize Croft's feats this time (what's conjured is at best implied), with the 2013/15 computerized reinventions dictating much of the plot. Because of this, Croft's exploits stream more in the Bondian mode, but then as many Fleming fans know, the super spy's sprees tend to bob of ethereal wonderment, even though they're served as secular.

To aggrandize the terrestrial excitement, Vikander is, of course, easy on the eyes, though I'd have preferred a few glamorous scenes. I realize the need for realistic ruggedness (and the tomb sequences demand it), but for cryin' out loud, "Tomb Raider" is the stuff of impetuous fantasy; so why not shoot the works? (Also, it didn't hurt that Jolie played up the lipstick and mascara for the role, and let's not forget Raquel Welch and Martine Bestwick in Hammer's "One Million Years B.C.", or for that matter, Gal Gadot in the recent "Wonder Woman" and "Justice League", as well as Scarlett Johansson in her many Black Widow appearances. Glamour sells {and works}, folks, and its inclusion would be sensible in any unconventional safari, so its omission here is a discernible, missed opportunity.)

Even with this vexatious mar, I remained entertained throughout (and Vikander still pulls off the charm, regardless of her many smudges and scars). Thanks to the tight script and Uthaug's adroit direction, I couldn't help but lose myself in the unbounded exhilaration. In fact, I'll go so far to say that the new "Tomb Raider" hits the spot more than "Indy and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", and I don't mean to cast aspersions on the latter, but this Croft entry sticks more to the mission at hand, presenting its thrills with dexterous delivery, not only in the way a crackerjack video game should play, but in the way the best and most unpretentious action films and movie serials operate. 

I sure hope Vikander tackles a sequel, but even if not, she ought to be damn proud of what she's accomplished, and the "Tomb Raider" fan base would be foolish not to give her the respect and accolades she deserves. Whether one chooses to acknowledge it or not, Vikander and Croft are now intertwined; and pop-cultural history is now sealed for generations to absorb and savor.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


During the time Ron Fortier was completing his initial read of my "Persona, Vol 2" draft, he suggested that I might take a stab at a "Ravenwood, Stepson of Mystery" adventure.

I agreed to the task, but had to familiarize myself first with Frederick C. Davis' 1930s occult detective: not only absorbing the original, five stories (supplements of "Secret Agent X" magazine), but those adventures written thereafter by Airship 27's assigned authors. 

(Incidentally, Ravenwood, who never goes by a first name, has psychic abilities, but is otherwise like Carl Kolchak, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in the way he investigates his peculiar cases.)

I sure had a blast delving into the Ravenwood tales (whether in printed form or via Radio Archives' audio books) and in the process, conceived a yarn entitled, "Kincaid's House of Altered Cats". 

I can't reveal the story's content yet, and it'll be a spell before it hits print (Ron must first assign an artist to illustrate the next edition), but as of Vol 4, I'll be an official part of Ravenwood's legacy! Hot damn!

As with "Persona, Vol 2", I'll keep you posted on developments. To say the least, I'm quite excited and proud to be part of this imaginative franchise!!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

I saw Hellraiser: Judgment...

The "Hellraiser" series has been around a long spell, going back to Clive Barker's genesis of the Cenobite concept in his novella, "The Hellbound Heart". That the series went the direct-to-disc route after the fourth installment never bothered me, beyond the fact that I'd have appreciated bigger-screen premieres for each new story, all of which I thought were fine, even if they didn't always measure up to the original quartet. (And I realize that some will go so far to say that things slipped right after "Hellbound: Hellraiser II", but many of those same folks never dared pick up a Marvel adaptation of Barker's mythology, let alone explored how far the series could--and should--go. In other words, some have sorely missed the bloody, potential point). 

"Hellraiser: Judgment" is the latest (and tenth) entry in the franchise, written and directed by "Hellraiser" special-effects guru, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who wrote "Hellraiser: Revelations" and now plays an officious Cenobite called the Auditor. The film also stars Paul T. Taylor as the new Pinhead, who takes the reins from Stephan Smith Collins, who took such from long-lasting legend, Doug Bradley. 

Keeping with tradition, this entry doesn't skimp on its demons, which include Mike J. Regan as the Chatterer; John "Feast" Gulager as the Assessor; Joel Decker as the Butcher; and Jillyan "Die Gest" Blundell as the Surgeon. Blundell also acts as one of the Stitch Twins, paired with Lindi Simpson. In clustered form, we also get Andi Leah Powers, Mary Kathryn Bryant and Valerie Sharp as the Jury; and acting as the Cleaners, Diane Ayala Goldner, Molly Nikki Anderson and Christina Parson. (There's also the tall, angelic Jophiel, played by Helena Grace Donald, whose ironic presence ultimately defies and defines Pinhead's fate.)

Though most of the Cenobites act as little more than gruesome garnishing, the real (most visible) leads are terrestrial, but no less interesting for it. They include the brotherly detectives, Sean (Damon Carney) and David Carter (Randy Wayne), who are assisted by the diligent Christine Egerton (Alexander Harris). Heather Langenkamp (Nancy Thompson of sweet, ol' Elm St.) has a marquee-value cameo as a helpful landlady, though the main supporting, female role goes to Sean's forlorn wife, Alison (Rheagan Wallace), who impacts the brothers' relationship as they dissect the heinous acts of a Ten Commandments-motivated serial killer called the Preceptor. 

The Preceptor is tied to the Cenobites, of course, whose magnetizing allure brews from an off-the-beaten-track "Old Dark House", which one of the brothers locates with dire, revealing results. Charles Dickens references (catering mostly to "A Tale of Two Cities") weave through (and contrary to what one might think, work to a sensible and symbolic degree), as the sadomasochistic carnage tiers in the most clever and repulsive ways. (The Abominable Dr. Anton Phibes would be most impressed, to say the least.)

This mix makes "Judgment" feel like “Hellraiser” meets “Seven” meets “Silence of the Lambs” meets "American Horror Story: Hotel", with extraterrestrial pages inserted from “Twin Peaks: the Return": a wide hodgepodge for sure, but for the most part, the pieces fit. 

Its gory bridges, however, aren't as stylized as what one finds in the initial "Hellraiser" films, where a kind of Hammer Studios sensuality was employed. “Judgment” behaves more like a supernatural variation of “Hostel”, “Saw” and "The Human Centipede", and therefore, holds kinship with H.G. Lewis’ films, though devoid of the ‘60s/’70s nostalgia. This fiendish layering won’t suit every person's taste and for the general squeamish, “Judgment” would be best avoided.

For those who appreciate modern monstrosities, however, the film should invigorate. It stays uninhibited from start to finish, just like many of Barker's short stories and novels: unapologetic and cruel in the way life (and death)'s foibles are displayed. The film is by no means a ground breaker in this respect and doesn't pretend to be. Tunnicliffe simply allows the story to stretch the franchise's familiarity to worthy measure.

I'm relieved, therefore, that the writer/director/make-up artist (and those others involved in the production) didn’t try to reinvent the wheel to the point of insult: “Judgment” doesn’t spit in the eye of its fan base like “Last Jedi”, that is. Even when the Auditor and Pinhead discuss the inadequacy of the Lament Configuration in the age of computerized chills, the story (and accompanying atmosphere) remain pitted in what Barker commenced. Though the tale is current-day, it's still old and weathered in the best, Gothic horror sense. The addition of a clunky, old typewriter as a main feature reinforces this, with the Auditor using the device to cull confessions from those who enter his crusty chamber.

Arguably (when all is said and done), "Judgment'"s creaky, doleful interludes between new and old are what make it cozy, as any insufferable friend's sporadic presence would and should be; therefore, this chapter is a hellraising success, no matter what the ding-dong naysayers may say. 

Also, much like "Curse/Cult of Chucky", "Phantasm: Ravager" and the recent "Leatherface", there's no reason why this one couldn't have played theatrically. It, too, has a guaranteed, built-in audience, despite those who've hypocritically denounced the series for its perceived, degenerating descent. To its further advantage, "Judgment" offers a swell, finale that strengthens its subtitle's meaning. If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself, and damn you to sweet, eternal Hell if you should dare disagree. 

Monday, March 5, 2018


Today marks the 75th anniversary release of perhaps the most influential monster-movie team-up in history..."Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man"!!!

The film, written by Curt Siodmak and directed by Roy William Neill, sports a memorable Hans Salter score and one helluva cast: Lon Chaney, Jr.; Bela Lugosi; Maria Ouspenskaya; Ilona Massey; Patric Knowles; and Lionel Atwill. It also paved the way for such significant monster-movie rallies as "House of Frankenstein", "House of Dracula" and "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein".

The film is both thrilling, moving and still holds up today: an indisputable classic that demonstrates how to do a crossover right!!!

Sunday, March 4, 2018


AC Comic's Femforce #181 supplies more gorgeous excitement, with such lovely favorites on board as Miss Masque, Ms/Miss Victory, Nightveil, She-Cat, Stardust, Stormy Tempest, Synn, Tara and even that old, movie-serial siren, Nyoka!!!

The imaginative stories take our ladies through a wide range of turf: dangerous water, the steamy jungle, and in the case of a story penned by my Facebook buddy, Mark Holmes, sprawling outer space!!! 

Let me tell ya, Holmes' "The Pain of Command" is one helluva raucous space opera, with renegade Stormy Tempest leading the right-over-wrong charge, accompanied by the faithful Dee Lee 2. This one is fast-paced beyond belief and features snappy chatter and some spirited fighting, when invaders cross the ladies' path. Silvano Beltramo's terrific artwork helps bring it all to gutsy life!!!

Femforce #181 has just hit the scene and is available from a wide range of Internet sources (though is selling fast), so search away and be sure to place your order for this 80-page spectacular today!!!