Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga (Vol. 1)

Saga Vol 1Published by Image Comics, Saga is a monthly comic book from writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Dr. Strange:  The Oath) and illustrator Fiona Staples.  It tells the story of the early years of our young narrator, Hazel.  Hazel’s mother is a former guard at a military prison.  Her father was once a prisoner.  Their two races have been at the forefront of a Galactic War that has raged on for longer than anyone can remember.  Regardless, the two fell in love, escaped, married one another, and had a child.  Now they’ve been discovered and are trying to escape the planet, Cleave.

This review is of the first volume trade paperback collection of issues 1-6.  I could make it really short.

Go.  Hunt.  Buy Saga. Continue reading

Army of Darkness (1993)

Army_of_Darkness_poster (1)Army of Darkness is the final instalment of the original Evil Dead Trilogy.  After being tossed through a portal at the end of Evil Dead 2, Ash finds himself in England, in the year 1300.  At first he’s mistaken for an enemy clansman by Lord Arthur, but Ash quickly and hilariously proves himself to be “The Chosen One”.  He begins a quest to find the Necronomicon, “The Book of the Dead”, that started out all this mess in the first place two movies ago.  It goes about as well as can be expected… terribly.  Ash ends up waking an army of undead, an Army of Darkness, if you will… that leaves Medieval England up shit creek without a paddle…

Army of Darkness ends up completely abandoning whatever semblance of horror and seriousness that could still be found in Evil Dead 2, and instead chooses to go completely over the top with foolishness, camp and cheesey B-Movie greatness.  If Evil Dead 2 is tongue-in-cheek, Army of Darkness’ tongue has pierced through.

Somehow, Raimi and company pull it off again, and create one of the most entertaining, funny, exciting, quotable adventure movies ever made.

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Gregory Maguire’s Wicked

This review was originally posted, for the most part, at Goodreads.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

“When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked?

Gregory Maguire has created a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again.” – Goodreads blurb.

 Wicked is essentially the story of Elphaba, better known as “The Wicked Witch of the West”.  It follows her from birth to death.  It shows us her origins, and then attempts to show us her side of one of the world’s most famous stories.  Wicked has earned a great notoriety of its own.  In addition to being a successful novel, it’s a very successful Broadway musical.  Of course, like everything else, it’s also being looked at to be turned into a movie.

It’s not very often that my wife and I are both interested in reading the same book. This was one of the few times I can think of. Neither of us had heard of it before, and we spotted it on a shelf in a local thrift store.  We both saw it at the same time, and reached for it.  Reading the back cover, the premise excited us, as it has so many others.

For me, however, it failed to deliver. It came out of the gate strong. Sometimes brilliant, but sometimes preachy, I found myself mostly enjoying Elphaba’s birth and early years. But as her entrance to college started a downward spiral of less brilliance and greater preaching, I found myself enjoying the book less and less. By the end, the author seemed to be trying too hard to say too much and I lost almost all interest in Elphaba’s origins.

Added to the preaching was the fact that many things happened that seemed to be left unresolved or unexplained. Now, I don’t mean that in a “I’ll leave this for the sequel” kind of way. In attempting to ground the land of Oz to reality, you really need to go into greater details regarding the hows and whys of the Wicked Witch’s strange appearance. You should probably not explain the fantastic details of your main characters oddball traits to your reader with, effectively, the equivalent of, “I dunno… maybe her mother screwed some pixies or something?” This problem is compounded by the fact that this is supposed to be an origin story, and recurs throughout the novel.

I can see why some have greatly enjoyed the novel. Maguire’s “adult” look at the world of Oz is an interesting take. The idea that this world that we all know of as beautiful and majestic, inhabited with wonderful creatures, is actually filled with as many horrors and horrible beings as our own is quite interesting. And most of the messages Maguire tries to get across (equal/human rights, moral ambiguity, the evils of tyranny and the abuse of power, etc.) are things that many enjoy reading about.

Once it was done, though, I was glad to be through with it. I have to say that “It’s Okay.”  Thus:


Conan The Barbarian (1982)

I Missed the Boat.

Conan The Barbarian was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s higher profile early roles. One of the first where they even let him use his own voice. It follows the story of a boy whose family gets killed by marauders. He gets sold into slavery and obviously, becomes a killing machine. Netflix Canada recently added this gem to their streaming service up here in the Great White North.  (I wonder whatever could have that idea?)  I saw this sitting there in the recently added section and realized that it was probably now, or never.
You see… I missed the Conan boat.  Repeatedly.  I was too young to watch it in ’83.  By the time our family owned a VCR, our local video store had already sold its copy for someone’s “Home Video Library”.  When I went to college, no one on the floor ever got drunk or stoned enough to suggest Conan The Barbarian.  If any of us did… we probably would’ve just watched Army of Darkness or Black Belt Jones again, anyway.

Oh, Conan… The times we could have had.

Regardless, when I heard about the Conan movie, I didn’t really give a shit. Shortly after that, I saw this trailer:

So… that really made me want to see the new Conan. But being a Fat Guy With Glasses, I couldn’t very well allow myself to see the high-profile remake without watching the goddamn original. So, despite all the men in my family practically chomping at the bit to go… we still haven’t seen it, because I’m an asshole.

Do You Want to Live Forever?

Why didn’t I watch this in the 80s? Or at University? I would have fucking loved this movie had I watched it then. The action sequences are simultaneously some of the best and worst in action movie history. The dramatic acting switches from bad to awful to shockingly great at the drop of a hat.

I know this image looks incredibly awkward, but this scene is seriously powerful.

But since I’m not a kid, nor did I watch this in a cramped dorm room with 20 other people, I ended up having to really watch it. When this movie is good, it’s fucking brilliant. Great cinematography, great action, great acting. But when it’s not… it’s utter shit. Terribly slow pacing (arguably even for 1980s standards), awful action, awful acting.

Say “It’s not a tumah” again! I dahble dare you mathu fakkah!

What is Best in Movie?

There is some excellent cinematography in this film. The outdoor scenery is gorgeous, for a ravaged wasteland, anyway. There are about half a dozen truly great moments in this movie. The first comes almost instantly. Hearing Mako as the narrator was absolutely epic. It excited me for what was to come. The moments after the opening action scene are amazing. And the final two action scenes were also fantastic. It’s really too bad it drags so much in the middle. In the 80s the good would have far outweighed the bad. At Uni, I would have had a blast lambasting the bad.  Either of those would have been good enough for me. If only I could trow open a portal in time.