Tuesday, September 16, 2014

THAT TIME OF THE WEEK - DVD/Blu-ray Reviews For 9/9/14!

Bet you didn't see this coming so quick!  This installment features the latest offerings from Marvel Studios, the latest take on the King of Monsters, the most exhaustive release of the modern Star Trek mythos, several tv series, a found footage Bigfoot movie and more!

 Fire up that queue and prep that shopping cart. It's that time of the week.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Disney/Marvel / Released 9/9/14
Following the battle of New York, Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, is living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to modern life. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague is attacked, Steve is caught in a web of intrigue that threatens the entire world. Now Captain America, Black Widow and the Falcon must join forces to overthrow their insidious enemy's most mysterious and powerful "weapon" yet - The Winter Soldier. Extras include featurettes, commentary, gag reel and deleted scenes.

Last Word: The First Avenger is back in his blockbuster sequel, joining Iron Man and Thor for in-between The Avengers movies solo ventures. Chris Evans is back as Captain America Steve Rogers, and in contrast to the introduction of the character, the movie is set in present day, after the events in New York in The Avengers.  Flashbacks occur to move the story along, and are welcome callbacks to the WWII story of Cap and Bucky vs. Hydra, but there is much more going on with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and introducing Sam Wilson as Falcon (Anthony Mackie) as the Scooby Gang of espionage S.H.I.E.L.D. is on watch.

Former Community/Arrested Development producer and director team Anthony and Joe Russo add humor to the mix in a subtle way, but more importantly pack so much action and tension into this chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we hope to see more from them with Cap 3. While closest to Iron Man conceptually, the flavor of this Marvel Movie is all espionage Cap and Secret Avengers—a combination sure to make comics fans as well as Avengers fans excited, intrigued and headed to the theatre more than once for a taste of this non-stop action. This is certainly the most meaty of stories and filled with the most Avengers since the franchise took off.

Nick Fury and Black Widow have a lot of screen time, and introduction of Stan Lee and Gene Colan’s Falcon as Captain America’s wingman makes for a great team. While this is still a superhero movie, we are taken to the world that Ed Brubaker established in his run on Cap. Throw in the main, practically unavoidable spoiler that Winter Soldier is in fact Cap’s erstwhile partner in justice Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and you have a complicated past mixed with a technologically advanced future. The Capsicle humor is kept to a minimum, as in these past months Rogers has been catching up on the Internet, music, and even 1983’s War Games. In fact, he carries around a list of things he needs to catch up on (including Star Wars/Trek, Nirvana, I Love Lucy).

I probably don’t need to mention this but the cast is in amazing shape and looks sexy all around, making the two girls next to me titter every time Mackie was on screen as Falcon and Stan revealed himself behind his Winter Soldier mask. Yes, Evans kept the pecs from the Super Soldier serum. Are they selling that at Walgreens yet? ScarJo, Smulders, Emily VanCamp (Agent 13) are not only knockout gorgeous but also kick ass as well, transforming these ladies from bombshells to real action heroes! Robert Redford plays Alexander Pierce, a S.H.I.E.L.D. higher up at the head of a Helicarrier program INSIGHT, meant to keep the world safe. As they say with absolute power, he is somehow corrupted and the plans go astray.

Counting in some other notable Marvel 616 cameos are S.H.I.E.L.D. S.T.R.I.K.E. team head Jack Rollins (Callan Mulvey) as well as opening sequence bad dude Georges Batroc (Georges St. Pierre). The expert in savate, a French form of kickboxing, Batroc the Leaper gives Cap one of the coolest choreographed fight scenes we’ve seen on screen in a while (on par with TV’s Arrow) and great service to the Marvel fanbase. Keep an eye out for Easter Eggs and clues about the other movies (no, not the post-credit sequence, but if I need to tell you to stick around you are headed to the wrong movie!). For the first time, Marvel’s goal seems to be working, to have these properties all intertwine and exist on the same plane. From Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to the big screen, we have certain elements and familiar looking structures. Though we won’t likely see the Triskelion on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you may see some agents with familiar faces, or at least uniforms.

A subtle note tying Black Widow to Hawkeye is a diamond arrow pendant around her neck. There has to be more so keep those peepers glued open for this flick, you won’t want to miss a thing!  The action was real, explosions and hand to hand combat as opposed to sci-fi or magic. And finally, it just looked great and felt like the comic book movie we’ve been waiting for as fans since the beginning of time. (– Clay N Ferno)


Warner Bros. / Released 9/16/14
In this gritty, realistic sci-fi action epic, Godzilla returns to its roots as one of the world's most recognized monsters. Directed by Gareth Edwards and featuring an all-star international cast, this spectacular adventure pits Godzilla against malevolent creatures that, bolstered by humanity's scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence. Extras include featurettes.

Last Word: With fans screaming in anticipation for the kaiju as equally as for the return of Bryan Cranston since the end of Breaking Bad, 2014’s Godzilla delivers all of that and more. Is it time to relegate the 1998 film to the archives and stop complaining about it like oh so much Burton’s Planet of the Apes?  The answer is yes!

Let Pacific Rim be your ersatz prequel for this summer giant monster movie that digs deep into the Toho Co. archives for meaning behind Godzilla’s motivations and where he ranks on the good monster vs. bad monster scale. Is he better thank Neutral Good? You will need to get out and see Godzilla vs. M.U.T.O. to judge for yourself! Bryan Cranston stars as Joe Brody, an American scientist living in Japan with his wife and young son Ford (CJ Adams). When testing seismic readings, he discovers an anomaly and heads to the nuclear power plant where he works with his wife, Sandra (Juliette Binoche).

An accident befalls the plant, with tragic loss of life, and then the scene jumps to ten years later. Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has joined the Navy as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) specialist and has just returned to his wife Ellie (Elizabeth Olsen) and son Sam. A call from Japanese police confirm that his dad Joe has been arrested for trespassing. On a recon mission, we discover that Joe’s suspicions about a resurgence of the same readings from that fateful day have occurred. It is not too long after we discover that our new monster, the first to appear in the film, M.U.T.O. (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) is feeding off of the radiation on in the plant to gain power. Many policemen in hardhats scurry as M.U.T.O. rips through high tension wires meant to contain the creature! And we’re off!

Masterful actor Ken Watanabe plays the esteemed Dr. Serizawa, a callback to the original 1954 film. From here on out, the movie takes off. An origin of sorts for the monsters are revealed, and it appears that all of our Pacific atomic bomb testing in the 50s was really attempts to kill Godzilla! The monster is a force of nature, to be sure, and acts as a metaphor for environmental concerns of our day. The action moves from one side of the Pacific to the other, as monsters converge near the final theatre for the battle. In San Francisco Bay, our military heroes, including Ford strategize how to take care of an inhuman threat causing tsunami’s, power outages and of course massive city-wide destruction rivaling only that of Transformers 3 or Man of Steel.

Man of course turns to ‘The Nuclear Option’ with the aid of Lt. Ford Brody, EOD specialist. As teased in the trailer, a C-4 plane of paratroopers drops in as a last ditch human effort. Director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) takes us on a fun ride here, an effects man himself has taken care to give fans what they want from Godzilla’s roar to M.U.T.O.’s scream all the way to how the monster acts in key points of the film. Is Godzilla an ally to the people of Earth, or is he a monster to be feared as his crushing claw feet squish Hilton Hotels like juice-boxes? One thing is for sure, the acting is top notch, the story teases monsters straight out of the gate but patiently waits to get there in time. And when it is time to smash and roar you get plenty of it. Some genuinely scary moments have you wishing our heroes were not in so much danger but in one Jurassic Park homage, they duck out of sight of our M.U.T.O.!  The bottom line is that the movie has everything from train fights to monsters to someone heroically saving a school bus full of kids. Oh, and tanks and explosions. (– Clay N Ferno)

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 1

Disney/Marvel / Released 9/9/14
In the wake of The Battle of New York, the world has changed forever. An extraordinary landscape of wonders has been revealed! In response, mysteriously resurrected Agent Phil Coulson assembles an elite team of skilled agents and operatives: Melinda May, Grant Ward, Leo Fitz, Jemma Simmons and new recruit/hacker Skye. Together, they investigate the new, the strange, and the unknown across the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary. But every answer unearths even more tantalizing questions that reverberate across the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe: Who is "The Clairvoyant"? What is Hydra's sinister master plan; what dark secret lies behind Skye's puzzling origins, and, most importantly of all, who can be trusted? Extras include featurettes, commentaries, bloopers and deleted scenes.

Last Word:  Whether or not it was the plan from the very beginning, but the Marvel took a risk with the first half of the season.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. came across as little more than a franchise series, a NCIS: Marvel.  The characters were "types", the storylines unengaging and the overall feel for the series was uninspired.  That was until the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which changed the status quo of the cinematic Marvel Universe, and was immediately reflected in a series, which for the first time felt like an essential part of the Marvel storyline.  Characters suddenly had purpose, threads suddenly came together and several new characters (Bill Paxton's Agent John Garrett, B.J. Britt as Agent Antoine Triplett and Adrian Pasdar as Glenn Talbot in particular) established strong ties to the greater Marvel universe.  By the time the first season ends, some questions have been answered ("Tahiti, it's a magical place", "Who is the Clairvoyant?") and others (The fate of several characters, the rebuilding of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Coulson's blackboard writings) are still yet to be resolved.  If you had asked me if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was worth watching, you would have gotten two different answers between mid-season and after the season finale.  Slug through the first dozen episodes, then settle in for some fun.  Highly recommended.

Building a Better Brotherhood – Three Lessons I Learned Cosplaying as Magneto at the Baltimore Comic Con

It’s that time of year again when the kids are back to school (or in my daughter, Anastasia’s, case, beginning Kindergarten), leaves are starting to change, the baseball playoff matchups are taking shape, football is gearing up to dominate Sundays (and Monday and Thursday nights!), and Baltimore calls my name.

For the fourth consecutive year, I rounded up the family and headed north into enemy Oriole territory to attend the Baltimore Comic Con and, as always, I had a blast.  Only ever able to attend on the Saturday, it’s nevertheless a delight, full of top notch creators, fun things to do for the whole family, plenty of panels, and scores of costumes as far as the eye can see.

Every year so far, I’ve gone in costume, forcing my poor and patient wife, Melony, to do the same, while loving the enthusiasm my daughter shows in the hobby.  Usually, I go simple.  A shaving of the head, and I become Lex Luthor.  Grow out my hair and talk sweetly to my prodigious mutton chops, and I’m Wolverine.

But this year I decided to go bigger and actually try my hand at making a costume in its entirety, choosing none other than my favorite mutant, the master of magnetism himself, Magneto.

After all, how hard could it be, right?!

I pulled this one off with no problem…

SERIAL MOM: 20 Years Later

The Film Society of Lincoln Center just completed an incredible complete retrospective of the films of John Waters, celebrating 50 years of his contribution to cinema.

I'm a pretty big fan of Waters, having been arguably too young to have experienced Pink Flamingos on VHS as a kid.  I mean, it was in the horror section.

Hairspray was a definite favorite of mine pre-musical mainstream madness took that away from me. Polyester was a must see every time it played on the campus of U of M, which I dragged many an aghast date to.

I even had several of his books in college and would refer to his warped take on film history to save me from the dullest homework assignment on John Ford.

But it wasn't until this recent retrospective that it occurred to me that his most perfectly realized film is the 1994 comedy shocker Serial Mom.

Serial Mom was not a massive box office hit.

It never made its $13 Million budget back, and hardly had a wide release.  It also didn't help that it received the usual split review reaction from the critics.

Luckily it came to my hometown in Michigan, where nice people don't laugh at jokes about cold-blooded murder, anti-hero fame, and wearing white shoes after labor day.

That is, of course, with the exception of sickos that get Waters' sense of humor and brand of satire.

Charlie Goes To Burning Man

If you've ever thought about experiencing the beautiful oddity that is the Burning Man festival but kept coming up with reasons against doing so (like, "I'm a responsible human being with a job and a mortgage") you should probably watch this short documentary about Charlie, an 81 year-old guy who decided to go to the festival and find himself.

Charlie has had to deal with a lot of scary issues in his life (bone cancer, heart issues, diabetes) but he didn't let that stop him from traveling out into the desert and having a ball. There's a lesson here folks: Do what you want, because life is never set in stone.

Documentary after the break (and yes, there are some NSFW parts...this is Burning Man after all)

Rabid Bat Does Not Appreciate Your Jamming Session

Warning: Bats Will Swarm If You Try And Sing 'Fancy' Near Them

 When spending time out in nature there are a few things that you should probably know:

1. Always bring plenty of water, sunscreen and trail mix (the only time that food product actually tastes good).
 2. Tell people where you're going so that when you inevitably get lost people can find you.
 3. Don't clumsily jam on your guitar with your friends because rabid bats have absolutely no patience for that kind of thing.

If you do happen to experience number three (like the gentleman in the video after the break) try and look at your impending rabies treatment as constructive criticism so that the next time you feel the need to funkify the forest with your bad-ass guitar riffs, you'll play better.

And, you know, not get attacked by flying diseased rodents.

SCIENCE GEEK: How Does Deodorant Work? You Might Want To Check This Out Stinky Pits

Have you ever slathered your pits with a stick of deodorant and wondered, "How does this shit actually work?" If so then great, you're the target audience for this little post. If you have never pondered this question, then you're probably far more well-adjusted than those of us who do and I congratulate you (while at the same time quietly hating your guts).

But back to that stick of deodorant, for those of you who are interested, the answer to the question about armpit maintenance can be found after the break via episode three of Mental Floss' newest web-series, The Big Question (their other two shows wax philosophically about Who Invented the Hot Dog and How Do They Make Decaf Coffee).

Enjoy the knowledge you smelly bastard.

Monday, September 15, 2014

French Bookstore in NYC, Forbes Top Earning Authors, The Return of Indie Bookstores & More!

At one point Mr. King was an English teacher, and here's how he did it and what he recommends.

Ten books that help take you back to those innocent, fun college days.

Book Riot presents the results of their recent audiobook survey.


Check out what I checked out this week.

Whether the comics are inspiring or disappointing, I read them all.

Welcome to The Pull List.

And, as always...Spoilers ahead!

Terminal Hero #2
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Cover: Jae Lee
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $2.99

Things have gone from bad to worse for Dr. Rory Fletcher as Treatment Q saved his life from an inoperable brain tumor.

However, it came at the cost of terrible side effects that has given him horrifying powers. Now he is being blackmailed into using his “gifts” to murder people. One of the things that stands out about Terminal Hero is how it conveys the unique emotion of an individual who has been trained to prevent death, but is now being forced to administer it.

If that wasn't enough, being made to use his medical knowledge to execute someone in a precise manner pains Rory because it’s a perversion of a science he dedicated his life to.

Piotr Kowalski illustrated these moments with an feeling of “Why am I doing this?”, which added a delicate sense of uncertainty for the character.

At one end, Rory might find solace in his new found occupation; on the other end, consolation might be outside the realm of possibility. The character development was a lot better this time around with more motivation and consequence brought to the forefront. Everyone would have a different reaction to being stuck in this particular predicament and as a reader, experiencing how Rory answers everything makes you either agree with or question his choices. Do you use your illness to get laid or abstain from natural urges?

Make no mistake about it though, Rory isn't a role model by any means. He is a drug addict who often looks for the easy way out. None of the characters are particularly likable, or interesting for that matter. That sounds like a real downer, but it’s the no-nonsense narrative that ultimately shines above most in this book, making the reader vested in an abnormal situation.

Sometimes, it is the state of affairs that is more interesting than the players involved.

Score: 3 out of 5

Watch Isabella Rossellini Get It On With A Bunch Of Ducks...Because, You Know, Nature

Yesterday I got sucked into a YouTube cyclone, you know the experience, you find one interesting video and then the next thing you know it's been six hours and your brain is filled with the images of people dressed as cuttlefish fucking.

It's horrifying.

Unfortunately what I ended up binge-watching was Isabella Rossellini's series Green Porno (and her sub-series Mammas and Seduce Me) which, if you aren't familiar with it, revolves around the sexual lives of animals. While most of us have, at one time or another, viewed a nature video in which an animal or two copulates, what Rossellini does is a bit different, she dresses up like various animals and then shows what happens to said animal during the moment of penetration via a puppet, or someone dressed as another fuck-worthy animal.

Sadly, it is weirdly erotic, which makes you feel all gross inside.

Personally I blame my now prominent puppet bestiality fetish on the fact that not only is Rossellini kind of hot, but that she really gets into the whole animal sex thing leading you to experience a down-low tickle which will cause you to seek psychological counseling.

To be honest with you, it was difficult to choose which episode really encapsulated animals getting it on, but after some rather confusing soul searching I decided to show the duck episode from her Seduce Me series. It basically has everything one could want in a puppet-based porno: corkscrew shaped penises, multiple vaginal canals, a gang bang and a lot of odd, sexualized breathing.

So enjoy...and then question everything about yourself.

Video after the break.