Not much is known at this time, other than it might be more of a “cop drama” and not so much super hero, which would be fine. They could use Jessica Drew as a detective, or Jessica Jones. Or both and call it “Jessicas”.
Monthly Archives: July 2012
The Sun is reporting that The Shining may soon have a prequel. Which “The Shining”? Kubrick’s version, sadly, not the novel.
The movie supposedly will focus on Jack Torrance’s predecessor, Grady, and is being put together by the creative teams from Shutter Island and Black Swan. Both good movies, but I kind of doubt they can pull off something great here.
It WOULD be possible to do a good Shining prequel movie. You’d need to focus on a part of the story completely cut out of the Kubrick version; Horace Derwent, the slimy millionaire/gangster who restored the Overlook in the 1940s. He’s also known as “the guy in the bear suit”, and he got up to all sorts of deviant behavior in the remote mountain hotel.
According to the novel, Derwent bought the Overlook in the early 40s and used a lot of his own money restoring it. For a time it became a notorious retreat for the rich and famous. Derwent’s parties often devolved into orgies, and more than a few folks were killed at the Overlook, some with guns, others with drug overdoses. Derwent’s hotel became a sort of cesspit of immorality hidden in the Rockies, which lasted into the early 50s when people finally found other places to hang out and have their parties.
Unfortunately, the odds are that most of this will be forgotten, again, and we’ll get a pretty run of the mill horror movie where you could just do an “Edit-Replace All” of Grady for Jack Torrance.
Netflix can be hit or miss when it comes to horror movies. They have some really good ones (Grave Encounters, for example) and some really bad ones (100 Feet, for example). One of the newest is a film called Absentia. The movie has won a number of awards, but it never got a wide release, which is too bad, because it’s a very, very scary film.
Warning, spoilers follow.
The movie’s plot is very simple and very straight-forward, with no real subplots to bog down the scary. A woman, Tricia, who is very pregnant, is about to have her missing husband, Daniel, declared legally dead in absentia. He disappeared seven years earlier. Her sister, recovering (or not so recovering) drug addict and free spirit, Callie, comes to help her pack up and move on to the next chapter in her life. And across from her apartment is what looks like an unassuming pedestrian tunnel through a hill…
Callie goes running every day and happens to run through the tunnel. She encounters what she assumes is a homeless man who is amazed she can see him. He tries to trade various trinkets with her to get her to take a message to his son, but she runs off. Later she takes food to the tunnel, but the man is gone, so she leaves it. The next day, a pile of trinkets are on her sister’s doorstep. She returns these to the tunnel, but a young man holding a trash bag tells her not to do that. She, of course, does it anyway. Later, she finds her bed full of trinkets, which the police bag up and note have been reported stolen from neighbors.
Tricia starts having horrific visions of her missing husband, which her therapist tells her are normal, no matter how terrifying, and she tries to block them out. Eventually she gets the death certificate, finds a new apartment, and is ready to move on, but the visions remain. She agrees to go out on a real date with the detective who’s been working her husband’s case, who also happens to be the father of her unborn child. They leave her apartment and she sees her husband in the street and tries to will the hallucination away…only it’s not a hallucination, it’s real. Her husband, emaciated and badly beaten, has returned.
Daniel is rushed to the hospital and Tricia’s life is turned upside down. She doesn’t know what to think, and Daniel is incapable of explaining where he’s been for seven years or how he got animal bones in his stomach. He is eventually released and brought back home, where Tricia tries to deal with his return and Callie slips back into drugs. Tricia has a late night meeting with the detective to break off their relationship. While she’s out, Daniel comes into Callie’s room and tells her she shouldn’t have traded with “it”, that “it gets fixated” and that it, whatever it was that took him, is in the wall of his bedroom. Callie doesn’t believe him at first, but then she hears a noise and sees the thing, an insect like creature only glimpsed in the movie, skitter past her door.
While Tricia is talking with her boyfriend, the thing takes Daniel. A drugged out Callie tries to save him, but the thing drags him to the tunnel and absorbs him into the walls. Callie finds Tricia, and her world it turned upside down again. The police, of course, don’t believe Callie’s tale of a monster bug thing, and can tell she’s strung out, but she maintains that she saw what she saw. Tricia, an emotional wreck, tries to come to grips with what all has happened.
Callie finds evidence that the area has had disappearances like Daniel’s for many years, dating back to the 1800s, and she tries to convince Tricia that there was a monster. Tricia denies this, blames herself for Daniel leaving as she believes he caught her kissing the detective, and generally becomes even more of a wreck. Eventually the sisters reconcile after a body is found in the tunnel, that of the “homeless man”, who was actually another missing person. His son was the guy with the trash bag who warned Callie not to trade with the tunnel, and he was delivering a puppy…apparently for the people trapped in the tunnel to eat.
Trying to get her life back together, Tricia and Callie talk, come to an understanding, and both start feeling better. Then, as they head to bed, the creature comes and takes Tricia. Callie goes to the police, but they don’t believe her, and think maybe she had a drug deal that went bad. They let her go, but warn her to stay in the area. She goes to the tunnel and offers to trade herself for her sister. What she gets instead is the dead fetus. The creature then takes her, and all that is left is an envelope with the evidence Callie gathered left for the detective. He, of course, ignores it.
The movie works well for a number of reasons. One, and most importantly, they don’t show everything. The monster is never clearly seen. It slithers past quickly, is seen in shaky shots that don’t allow you to focus, and it remains menacing by having features that are wrong. For example, it seems to have human like arms and legs, but the body of a silverfish, along with prehensile antennae. However, since you never really see it, it’s hard to say.
The second reason the movie works is the music and sound. Ominous music or just tones play throughout the movie, so you never know when something is going to jump out. Another big plus was during the running scenes where the camera follows Callie, the music from her headphones is not heard clearly. Movies tend to do this, which puts you essentially in the head of the character. By NOT doing this, the movie makes you more of an observer, so you don’t know what might happen.
Finally, the acting in this movie is spot on. Courtney Bell (Tricia) and Katie Parker (Callie) come off as real sisters. They don’t have that forced vibe that most movie siblings have. They feel organically connected. These two women carry the whole film, and the range of emotion on each of them is very impressive. They don’t look like they’re in a low budget indie horror flick, and I hope to see more of them in the future.
If you like scary monster movies, Absentia is a really good movie for a dark and stormy night. I highly recommend a watch.
Unless you live under a rock (and maybe you do), you’ve probably heard the big news from Marvel Studios at SDCC this past weekend. Actually, it’s a lot of news, so maybe you’ve missed some bits. Let me sum up: we have titles for two new movies – Thor 2: The Dark World and Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. No surprise on the Cap movie…Winter Soldier is the name for Bucky Barnes, last seen falling from a train in the Alps in Captain America 1, and most comic fans were expecting the second film to bring him in. Also, Ant-Man is on, directed by Edgar Wright, and looks amazing. Iron Man 3 is going to be awesome with Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin. But the big news, the most awesome of all news was confirmation that there is a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and it’s got a release date: August 1, 2014.
The movie will have the above characters (from left to right): Drax the Destroyer, Groot, Star Lord, Rocket Raccoon, and Gamora.
So who are these people and why should you care?
Basically, the Guardians of the Galaxy are the Avengers of space. We don’t know how the movie version will come together, so let’s talk about how the comics team formed. Basically two times in a row heavy hitters threatened the entire galaxy. First was Annihilus, an insect/humanoid from the Negative Zone (another dimension) who broke through to reality and, along with his massive army and Galactus-powered weapon known as the Annihilation Wave (the dude put Galactus…yes, THAT Galactus…into his machine as a battery!) almost wiped out all life. He was stopped by a collection of “cosmic heroes”, while the folks on Earth were blissfully unaware.
The second threat hit just a few months later, a techno-organic race known as the Phalanx who cut off a huge portion of space from the rest of the galaxy and started turning folks into the Borg (well, basically…Marvel and Star Trek don’t have a partnership anymore). These machines beings were actually being led by the old Avenger’s villain, Ultron, who was ultimately stopped by…well, see above, cosmic heroes. Mostly the same ones.
In the aftermath, the heroes looked at each other and said, “you know what? Maybe we need to have a group on stand by in case stuff like this happens again.” And thus the Guardians of the Galaxy were born. Their mission was to prevent big catastrophes like the Annihilation War and the Conquest War (the names for the two previous near-galaxy destroying wars) from happening. In the comics, they were based in the severed head of a Celestial on the edge of the universe. Those who know comics might have just re-read that twice…yes, I said severed head of a Celestial. No, they had no idea what could do that or how, but the head was quite functional as a space base, in a crazy Babylon 5/DS9 sort of way (they weren’t the only folks on the head). Their mission control was a telepathic Russian dog named Cosmo. Just…don’t ask.
Anyway, the Guardians mostly spent their time sealing up holes in reality that came about due to all the bad stuff that happened in the wars. Nasty things came through the holes, and the Guardians stopped them and sealed up the holes to try to prevent space from unraveling. In the end, they failed, and the third war, the War of Kings between the leader of the Inhumans, Black Bolt and the Emperor of the Shi’ar, Vulcan (aka Gabriel Summers, the third Summers brother, brother of Cyclops and Havok of the X-Men) ripped a huge hole in space time. In fact, it opened a hole directly to the Cancerverse, a horrible universe where “life won”, and everything is consumed by undying Lovecraftian monsters. It’s seriously a Lovecraft universe, including things like “the Lens of Leng”…pretty awesome if you ask me.
Anyway, so the Guardians ultimately failed, but the point is that they were, for a while, a pretty good defense against the evil stuff leaking through the cracks in the universe.
“But wait,” you say, “weren’t the Guardians of the Galaxy some group from the future who wore horrible outfits?” Yes, there originally was a group call the Guardians of the Galaxy that were from the future. The whole comic was set in the 31st century and the group were basically space Avengers then. Some folks get all nostalgic for this group, but honestly, they were mostly a Marvel rip off of Justice League and…well, folks, they weren’t all that awesome. They didn’t have a talking Raccoon with big guns.
Speaking of Rocket, let’s talk about the cast. I’ll limit myself to the movie cast here, which I admit leaves out several very interesting characters (including the space lesbians…no, I’m not kidding).
Let’s begin with the leader of the Guardians, Star Lord. Star Lord has a pretty complicated back story, but basically you can sum it up as this: he’s the human. He’s pretty much just a normal guy in the middle of all of this. Now, that’s not to say he’s a guy from Earth. He’s not. He’s more Han Solo than Joe Blow from down the street. But he’s still just a regular guy, no power, nothing super special about him. But he is a very good leader, and he’s just generally a good guy who will get things done, no matter the cost to him or his team. Star Lord will no doubt be the guy you’re meant to identify with, the lens through which we see these cosmic heroes.
Next up is my favorite, Rocket Raccoon. Rocket is exactly that, a raccoon. He was “evolved” to gain human level intelligence and the ability to stand up and use his paws more like hands to help tend to mentally ill patients on the world he comes from (Halfworld). He, of course, had other ideas and ran off to be a space pirate. Rocket is the heart of the team in many ways. He’s the comedic support, but he’s also usually the common sense of the team. He’s the one who will point out that splitting up is what they always do in the movies and will get you killed. And he does know movies…he has a collectors edition of Beaches he ordered from eBay. He knows Earth culture and will often make pop culture references. Other than his snappy banter, Rocket does have some abilities. He’s a raccoon, with the keen senses of that animal. He’s also a tactical genius: he can very quickly assess a situation and give very effective advice to Star Lord on what to do. He also is able to wield Improbably Big Guns easily, and prefers heavy weapons and explosives. He and Groot make a pretty badass team.
Speaking of our pal, Groot, let’s talk about him. Groot is a sentient, mobile tree. He’s actually the monarch of Planet X, exiled from his people. All Groot ever says is, “I AM GROOT!”, though it’s been implied that he’s actually saying other things, if you understand his language (much like Chewbacca just seems to roar, but Han can understand him). Groot seems to understand everyone else just fine. Groot is big, strong and tough, and often acts as transport for Rocket and his huge machine guns. Groot is made of wood, however, so he’s actually quite flammable. This has been a point in several comics, and more than once, Groot has “sacrificed” himself for the team, setting himself on fire to take down a bad guy in a spectacular way. The thing is, Groot is a plant…he can regrow himself from a small shoot. SPOILER ALERT: Two years out, here’s my spoiler – the GotG movie will end with Groot being on fire and taking out the bad guy and will be all sad…until the very end where we see a tiny Groot growing from a shoot of his original body.
Next is Gamora. I’m not sure how the movie will handle this, but Gamora is the daughter of Thanos, the big purple guy from the end of the Avengers. She’s pretty much a badass assassin, trained from birth to be her father’s ultimate weapon. Until, of course, she broke free of him and went off to do what she wanted to do instead. She’d kill her dad, but that’s what he wants (he’s in love with the incarnation of Death), so she just basically goes off and does what she wants. She was designed to be the ultimate assassin – her speed, strength and endurance are superhuman, she’s a master of pretty much all known martial arts, expert in most weapons, even her looks were engineered to help her carry out her missions. She’s also effectively ageless and has a healing factor (not as good as Wolverine, but she survived immolation from a stellar storm and was able to regrow her skin in a matter of weeks). She favors melee weapons, especially her sword, mostly because it’s more fun for her to kill that way. Oh, and she can survive in space without special gear, at least for a while – that may be important in the movie.
Finally we have Drax the Destroyer. Drax has had several incarnation, with this one being based mostly on Vin Diesel’s portrayal of Riddick from Pitch Black. Drax was actually a human from Earth, attacked by Thanos along with his wife and daughter (who goes on to be one of the space lesbians…) and eventually turned into a rage fueled green killing machine. Sound like the Hulk? He is, in some respects. He’s about as strong as the Hulk, though without the potential to continue to get stronger when he gets angrier. He’s also a deadly hand to hand combatant, nearly as good as Gamora (and he’d argue better), and he has a similar resistance to physical injury and healing factor. Not surprising since they were both granted their superhuman abilities by Thanos. Drax has a serious grudge against Thanos and sometimes doesn’t listen to orders if they get in the way of trying to kill Big Purple. Like Gamora, he can also survive in space without gear. He favors knives and close range combat, but honestly he’ll use anything he can get to get the job done. Think of him as “Space Wolverine” and you’ve got a good idea of what he’s like.
Missing from the movie line-up are Adam Warlock, who would take a whole article to explain, Phylla-Vel…who is even harder to explain, Cosmo the space dog (maybe he’ll be in the movie…Cosmo is more mission control than front line), Jack Flagg, Mantis (I don’t even want to try to explain her), and Vince Astro from the original Guardians…he’s got Captain America’s shield (from an alternate timeline). All of these characters are, when you look, a hell of a lot harder to explain. Human, talking raccoon, tree man, sexy space assassin and space Wolverine are pretty simple to get behind. Some of these other folks could have textbooks filled with their history and still not make much sense (Mantis sort of spans both Marvel and DC universes…).
Basically you have heroes who are not super powerful up against a galaxy full of bad guys who want to wipe out every living being. And they do it all with the folks on Earth none the wiser.
I hope you enjoyed this little primer. We’ll see in two years how well what I wrote matches up.
The more and more I look back on cartoons and tv shows aimed at children in the 1980s, the more I realize that their creators were trying to traumatize kids for life. Look at He-Man and the Masters of the Universe; the main villain is a blue skinned muscle man with a SKULL FOR A HEAD. How about the Skeksis from Dark Crystal? Vulture people with giant beetle henchmen. Yeah, that’s not going to be traumatic. How about Scooby Doo? Remember the astronaut ghost? The one who cackles and has a glowing skull head? How about the green ghosts with rattling chains? And this was what our parents parked us in front of for hours on end.
One show sticks with me, though. In 1986 Hasbro and Marvel were thick as thieves. Marvel literally helped create most of the iconic Hasbro lines: Transformers, for example, were piloted robots in Japan until Marvel gave them personalities (and names in many cases). GI Joe’s Cobra was based on Marvel’s Hydra! And in the mid 80s, there was an hour long syndicated cartoon block called Super Sunday, co-produced by Hasbro and Marvel.
Along with re-runs of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Super Sunday also showed original programs that were broken into 7-9 minute shorts. One of the most famous was Jem and the Holograms, which has gained a cult status. There were others, however, such as Robotix (based on the building toys), Bigfoot (the truck, not the cryptid), and the one shot original X-Men cartoon, Pryde of the X-Men. And, of course, The Inhumanoids, which was, honestly, one of the most horrific cartoons ever made.
The Inhumanoids was the story of Earth Force, a group of government scientists (who in real life never get such cool project names) and their fight against giant monsters discovered underground, dubbed Inhumanoids. The Earth Force had the help of sentient trees (someone liked Tolkien’s Treants a bit) known as the Redwoods, and rock people called the Granites (creative, huh?). They were collectively known as Mutores. The Mutores had long ago sealed away the evil Inhumanoids, but now humans had disturbed the seals and the ancient evil was waking up.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? Lovecraft? Ancient sleeping evil? Anyone?
The leader of the Inhumanoids was a creature of living lava called Meltar (again, names…not so great). He was sealed near the Earth’s core by a pair of magnetic Mutores called Magnokor (magnetism is his weakness, which honestly doesn’t sound completely stupid, so I’ll give some points back for the crappy names). His two main lieutenants are Tendril, a giant plant monster, and D’Compose. We’re going to talk more about D’Compose in a minute.
There’s actually a fairly complicated back story for these creatures. Thousands of years ago, Meltar led a rebellion against the former Inhumanoid boss, Sslither (why yes, he is a giant snake man, why do you ask?) and went to war with the surface dwelling Mutores. He failed and was locked away, as were his followers. Note that Meltar could create lava men to do his bidding, so the guy literally can create troops at will, so this was not an easy battle. The remaining Mutores sealed away the Inhumanoids and went into a kind of hibernation to keep them sealed.
D’Compose is found first, trapped in amber (remember, more about him in a bit), and due to the machinations of the evil Blackthorne Shore, a wealthy industrialist, Tendril is freed and he breaks his buddy out of the amber prison. They then free Meltar. The Earth Force has to use experimental weapons (read: TOYS!) to fight the creatures, while also sidestepping Blackthorne and his political might.
O.k., let’s get to D’Compose. This guy is a giant rotting monster with an alligator skull head. No, really.
He’s a big, bloody, half skeletal monster that’s about thirty feet tall (or a hundred…you know, scale in kids cartoons in the 80s was iffy at best) and wants to PUT YOU IN HIS RIBCAGE FOR SAFE KEEPING. That was his thing…he could imprison you in his fucking innards. I could go on about how Tendril looked an awful lot like Cthulhu, but let’s just keep things straight here – we have a rot monster with a skull head who will grab you and stick you inside his ribs. Perfect fun for the average 10-12 year old!
Not convinced this was nightmare fuel? Well we haven’t gotten to D’Compose’s actual powers (sticking you in his ribs is just something he does for fun). He can turn anyone he touches into a zombie. He can also control those zombies. He lives in an undead realm called Skullweb, which is filled with undead creatures he’s created. Oh yeah, nice guy. And guess who did the voice for this guy? Chris Latta, also known as Cobra Commander and Starscream. At least this guy was loyal to his boss, but still, if you remember that voice…and imagine him trying to do it scary…it worked.
But it doesn’t end there. Oh no. These shows were a joint effort between Hasbro and Marvel, remember? So where’s the Hasbro part? Right here!
It might be hard to tell from that picture, but that toy was big enough to stick a GI Joe in the rib cage. And this was what a lot of little boys asked their parents for for Christmas.
The 1980s folks. It was trying to turn us all into demented basket cases. Actually, mission accomplished!
I’ve recently been told by my doc that I need to eat better and get my cholesterol (and other things) under control. That means a diet, and I’m always notoriously bad for not counting calories. I found a tool, however, that really helps, and I thought I’d share it.
Myfitnesspal.com is a free website that lets you track what you eat every day, your weight, exercise, even your measurements. It also helps set goals. But the most important thing is, it has a smartphone app (for both android and iPhone) that lets you track foods on the go. You can even use your phone’s camera to scan bar codes and it will enter the food for you automatically!
You might think I have some kind of deal with the folks who made this, but nope, I’m just an impressed used who wants to share. So far I’ve lost five pounds with the help of myfitnesspal, and while I have a ways to go, they make it a lot easier.
Once again I’m reaching into my childhood to bring you something fun. When I was a wee lad (circa 1984 or so), I was given an awesome Christmas gift, a Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer 2. This bad boy had 16K of memory! 16 freaking K! It wasn’t as cool as a Commodore, of course, but for a poor kid in a backwater town, the TRS-80 was a dream.
Not only did I get the computer, I got a tape recorder and some tapes (which acted as the hard drive), a printer (which printed on a thermal role about twice the width of a cash register tape), and two games! One was Spelunker, which I’ll talk about another time. The other was Dungeons of Daggorath, and it would come to occupy an unhealthy amount of my time.
This game was the second 3-D home video game ever created. It was, in fact, 3-D…and it was first person. It was basically the Skyrim of 1984. I’ve got a couple of screenshots below to show you what I mean:
For the early 1980s, this was cutting edge, and I played this game until my legs started to burn from the CoCo2 sitting on my lap. The game’s premise was simple: the tiny hamlet of Rivenshire is threatened by an ancient evil wizard, and it’s up to you and your trusty wooden sword to take him out. Pretty standard fantasy fare, but it was more than a lot of games at the time had in way of a backstory. Here’s the actual intro:
“There is a tale,” he said, “passed down for centuries and almost forgotten, of a time in the Olden Days when a curse such as this descended on the land. Deep beneath these towering crags, in the Dungeons of Daggorath, an evil Wizard made his home and grew in power. But before his destruction of the land was complete, a brave adventurer ventured into the fearsome Dungeons and drove the Wizard away, saving Rivenshire from a devilish fate.”
The game is played by typing in letters, which are abbreviations for commands. For example, “A R” meant “Attack Right”, or attack with the item in your right hand. Movement worked the same way – “M R” would move right, and “T R” would turn right, meaning you could “strafe” by moving back and forth without turning.
The game had an inventory management system, you backpack, and it also used torches that limited your vision. The worst torch, a “pine torch” would last about 15 minutes before going out. There were also lunar and solar torches which lasted for a very long time, showed pretty much everything, and even showed hidden doors and magical beasts who were otherwise invisible. As I mentioned above, you also had “hands” and could put thing in your left or right hand, and it didn’t matter which you used. While you could “dual wield”, there was no advantage to it, and you were better off with a shield in one hand.
The game had multiple levels, and you could climb between levels via a ladder or fall through traps. I spent a huge amount of time mapping the levels, each of which filled most of a graph paper page. Each level had different enemies, which grew progressively stronger. On the first level, you faced snakes, spiders, stone giants, and a pair of blobs. The second level added knights and stronger giants. On the third level, you faced a fake version of the evil wizard. If you moved up and down too much between levels, a nasty creature, a Balrog, would come after you, and it was practically invincible.
One of the best aspects of the game was the sound – you heard creatures long before you saw them. Giants had a particularly menacing deep breath sound. Your health was your heartbeat, and if it got too high, you died. One of the flasks in the game was poison that would do that to you, sending your heart fluttering until you died.
I never actually beat the game. I memorized the whole first level, and all the commands and how long to wait to use them, but I never beat the game. But now…if I wanted…I could, and that’s the point of this article.
There has been an extensive effort to port this game to modern pcs. You can download and play it now if you’d like. You can also go to youtube and see videos of people defeating the game, which isn’t very spectacular.
Just another piece of my childhood I’m sharing with all of you.
Enjoy the Cracked.com crew explaining why scary stories are scary. Includes IT, aliens, Godzilla, white guilt, and buttsecks.