Comic Review: Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus Five

Published on: June 12th, 2012
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Dan Leister, Elena Casagrande, James Lowder

Devil’s Due Publishing, Image Comics, 300 Pages

Review:

I really loved this series back in the day when it was new and fresh. Reading this fifth and final omnibus, however, makes me kinda glad that this series wrapped up. I don’t know why but it lost its luster for me. I know other people still like it but it just feels like it is moving without a clear direction as to where it’s going. But this does end with the series’ official finale.

I’m several years behind on reading these stories but I’ve spent over a decade with Cassie Hack and Vlad and I do love them but even they seem like they’re bored with the proceedings. Tim Seeley has done well with his creation but this just feels like he was ready to move on and put his focus on his other work.

Most of this book just feels like filler that is working towards winding down but also taking its sweet time in doing so. There is an interesting Mercy Sparx crossover thrown in, which was cool to see but not anywhere near as exciting as some of the other crossovers from Hack/Slash‘s past.

When you do reach the finale, which is a story stretched over the final six issues in this collection, it is kind of welcomed. I thought that finale was actually the best part of the book. Granted, the first story dealing with a monster island of kaiju and a mad scientist was also kind of neat.

I do like how this wrapped up even if the characters don’t get a very happy ending. The ending had impact and real finality to it and any return to the series would cheapen it. It’s not the ending I wanted to see but it did bring closure where so many other comic series that call it quits, leave the door wide open for eventual followups.

This series was its strongest when it was at Devil’s Due before moving over to Image due to Devil’s Due’s financial woes. Tim Seeley gave us a damn good series though, overall.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Hack/Slash omnibuses. But They should be read in order.

Film Review: The Faculty (1998)

Also known as: The Parasite (Japanese English title)
Release Date: December 25th, 1998
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Kevin Williamson, David Wechter, Bruce Kimmel
Music by: Marco Beltrami
Cast: Elijah Wood, Jordana Brewster, Shawn Hatosy, Clea DuVall, Josh Hartnett, Laura Harris, Robert Patrick, Bebe Neuwirth, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Usher Raymond, Salma Hayek, Jon Stewart, Danny Masterson, Louis Black, Duane Martin, Daniel von Bargen

Dimension Films, Los Hooligans Productions, Miramax Films, 104 Minutes

Review:

“I’m not putting that hack drug up my nose – it’s so eighties!” – Stokely, “Aliens are taking over the earth. Weigh it!” – Zeke

I thought I had seen this film before and maybe I did but watching it now, it was all new to me. Granted, at the time when this was a current movie, I was dabbling in extracurricular substances. Angsty Gen-X teen shenanigans, am I right?

And I guess this film isn’t too different from my head space in the era in which this came out. I was dabbling in the party hard lifestyle and all it had to offer like most of the kids in this movie.

Anyway, this film had everyone in it. Seriously, this cast was loaded with talent to the point that it is pretty unbelievable when watching it today. In fact, I’m surprised this wasn’t a hit or didn’t get a much larger cult following. It kind of came and went but it also came out in a time when there were a lot of films like it.

I also didn’t know that this was a Robert Rodriguez film. But when this came out, I wouldn’t have really known who he was yet even though I had seen From Dusk Till Dawn and Desperado.

The story is pretty simple, an alien parasite is taking over the minds of people. Basically, it borrows heavily from Invasion of the Body Snatchers and a lot of other similar stories. This takes place in a high school though and the aliens have pretty much taken control of most of the faculty and a lot of the students. As the film rolls on, a group of teens discovers what’s happening and they decide to stop the invasion.

This was a much better movie than I anticipated when I fired it up nearly twenty years after its release. I was surprised with how fun and nuts it was. There are some parts that don’t make a lot of sense, like the whole opening scene if you reflect on it after watching the rest of the movie. However, Robert Rodriguez gave it a certain spirit that made me think of one of his other films: Planet Terror. Now this wasn’t Planet Terror levels of insane but it was edgier and cooler than other films like it from the late ’90s.

This also had some really impressive special effects and visuals. The scene where the alien queen, in human form, is walking naked through the locker rooms and the shadows of her invisible intertwining tentacles cast shadows all over the room is so fucking cool. Seriously, I loved this moment in the film and it really legitimized the picture as something much better than its contemporaries.

The Faculty is a greater film than it needed to be and that is the mark of a great director. I feel like it was certainly held tightly under the studio thumb and that Rodriguez would have made something pretty insane if he made this later in his career but he was still able to put his unique stamp on it and turn out a film that was damn good.

The film also features the worst Josh Hartnett hairstyle ever captured on film.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Disturbing BehaviorTeaching Mrs. TingleUrban LegendIdle Hands and other late ’90s teen horror.

Film Review: Disturbing Behavior (1998)

Release Date: July 24th, 1998
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: Scott Rosenberg
Music by: Mark Snow
Cast: James Marsden, Katie Holmes, Nick Stahl, William Sadler, Bruce Greenwood, Steve Railsback, Katharine Isabelle, Ethan Embry

Village Roadshow Pictures, Beacon Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Meet the musical little creatures that hide among the flowers.” – Betty Caldicott

My, god, man… look at that poster. It’s such a ’90s cliche. But then so is this entire movie.

I saw this in the theater way back in 1998 on a date. She picked the movie but I agreed, even though I thought this looked like teeny bopper pop horror bullshit. Luckily, horror hadn’t completely turned to shit by 1998 but I also had no idea that it would get so bad. But this film, in retrospect, showed me that the writing was on the wall for the sterilization of the horror genre. I probably saw the trends then but also didn’t think it could get much worse. A few years later, everything went PG-13 and theaters were full of middle schoolers screaming over half assed jump scares and CGI ghost arms.

This film’s plot is incredibly derivative. It borrows ideas from The Stepford WivesVillage of the DamnedChildren of the Corn and a bunch of other similar pictures. Basically, what you have is a town full of teens being brainwashed out of being angsty, rebellious youth. Okay, maybe it’s like Footloose where religion is replaced by science and dancing is replaced by sex and drugs. It’s also hard to ignore the narrative similarities to the much more recent and super successful Get Out. But that’s obviously not this film’s fault, as it predates Get Out by 19 years.

Anyway, a lot of horror is derivative. There isn’t a whole lot of innovation in the genre but that’s fine. Those of us who love horror don’t care so much about ideas being recycled, as long as it gives us something with a new twist or a new perspective. This film doesn’t really do that though.

I still find it enjoyable to watch however, in that sort of late night, nothing to do, mindless fun as I puff on a joint and drink painkillers (the cocktail not the pills from my Uncle Terry’s medicine cabinet).

This follows that mid-to-late ’90s trend where instead of populating a horror film with mostly unknowns, we get a studio trying to wedge in as many hot, trendy, TV teen actors as possible. This one unites Katie Holmes of Dawson’s Creek, James Marsden from the short lived Second Noah and Nick Stahl, who wasn’t a TV darling but was a young, hot commodity at the time. You also get Ethan Embry and Katharine Isabelle, both of whom had blossoming careers at the time. But you have to have a good veteran to kind of steer the ship in these sort of movies and that man was the always enjoyable William Sadler. Sadler was the best part about this picture.

One thing I like about the film is the tone. It had a ’90s grunge/industrial look, which was popular in the music videos of that decade. But also like ’90s music videos, it used overzealous editing techniques that made the movie a bit of a headache to watch for 83 minutes.

Speaking of which, 83 minutes?! Really? This film was so short and really, it could have been fleshed out a bit more. Would it have hurt to develop these characters more and enhance the story for an extra ten to fifteen minutes? This thing goes by like a flash and you don’t really feel connected to any of it.

Also, what’s the deal with that “shocking” ending? It makes no sense and I’m not sure what it was supposed to convey. Okay, one of the brainwashed kids survived and he’s a substitute teacher in a rough school. So does he have the ability to brainwash these kids? I mean, the evil doctor died. Did he program his minions with the knowledge of his work? It was a cheap attempt at trying to be surprising and clever and it was neither of those things. Maybe it was there to setup a pointless sequel with terrible writing that wouldn’t have been able to explain the asinine twist.

Disturbing Behavior definitely isn’t a bad time but it isn’t a great time either. It’s watchable, it’s enjoyable, it’s barely fun though. But I almost forgot how cute Katie Holmes was back in the day before Tom Cruise hid her away in a cave somewhere for like a decade.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The FacultyTeaching Mrs. TingleUrban LegendIdle Hands and other late ’90s teen horror.

Film Review: The Craft (1996)

Release Date: April 26th, 1996 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Written by: Andrew Fleming, Peter Filardi
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Fairuza Balk, Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich, Cliff DeYoung, Christine Taylor, Breckin Meyer

Columbia Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Girls watch out for the weirdos.” – Driver, “We are the weirdos, mister.” – Nancy

Man, I hadn’t seen this in a long time but I used to take a copy home to watch a lot when I worked at a video store in the ’90s. I’ve also seen it on television a bunch of times. But I came across it on my Starz app and thought, “Hmm… I haven’t seen that in ages.” So I decided to fire it up.

The Craft is about four teenage girls that dabble in witchcraft, which was pretty normal for some high school girls when this came out. I went to a few schools and there was always some sort of neo-pagan clique hanging about. I don’t know if that’s still the case because if I hung out around high schools now, I’d get arrested.

These girls take their dabbling to all new levels and their magic starts to work pretty effectively. The jerk guy at school obsesses over one girl, the racist mean girl starts losing her hair, the burnt girl gets healed and becomes a slut, the psycho girl just starts magic murdering people and ocean life. It all culminates in the psycho girl embracing her psycho tendencies and getting into a magic cat fight with the only rational character in the entire group.

The movie is cheesy but it’s the right kind of cheese and now it’s well aged and has a thick layer of nostalgia around the edges. Point being, this was still enjoyable and I was pretty tuned in from start to finish.

The four main actresses all did a good job and Fairuza Balk owned her character’s insanity and gave one of the most memorable performances of her career. In fact, she still kind of frightens me because of this movie.

I thought Robin Tunney also gave one of her best performances, as she was the one beacon of light in the evil witchcraft storm. She had a good presence and was still able to offset some of Balk’s over the top antics and keep things mostly grounded.

The Craft has its hardcore fans. Or, at least, it used to. I don’t hear people talking about it much these days. I was never a hardcore fan but I always thought it was a solid way to spend 101 minutes of my time.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Other ’90s teen horror movies: Idle HandsScream and The Faculty.

Comic Review: The Unbelievable Gwenpool, Vol. 1: Believe It

Published: November 29th, 2016
Written by: Christopher Hastings
Art by: Gurihiru

Marvel Comics, 152 Pages

Review:

In a time when Marvel books haven’t been very good, I wasn’t anticipating enjoying this. In fact, I put off reading it for awhile, as it seemed to be just another aimless attempt at gender swapping a character and also a soulless attempt at trying to piggyback off of the success of the Spider-Gwen series. I assumed, as I’m sure many people have, that this was yet another version of Gwen Stacy pushed into the role of a popular Marvel hero. Well, it isn’t. Sure, the name and the look are obviously trying to capitalize off of the contemporary Gwen Stacy shtick but this character is actually a girl named Gwen Poole and she is from the real world… our real world.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Spider-Gwen for the most part and have reviewed all of the books, as they’ve been released. She is a better example of Marvel taking a character of the opposite sex and pushing her into a role that was originally a male’s. But since I have always adored Gwen Stacy, I thought the idea of her having powers was badass. Plus, the art and her costume design was incredible.

Gwenpool, on the other hand, and let’s be honest, looks hokey and cheesy and like it’s more of a manga than an American comic book. While I like some manga, I’ve never been a massive fan of the style. But it works here because it truly fits the tone of what Gwenpool is.

Point blank, this is one of the funniest comics I have ever read. Marvel’s humor in the modern era just doesn’t work for me, as it is full of Millennial dialogue, randomness and absurdity. Maybe being a Gen-Xer means that I’m now in an older demographic than the people that comics are written for but from what I can tell, most comics are still sold to Gen-Xers. And maybe this is why these Millennial styled books sit on shelves and most people don’t want them.

Gwenpool sets itself apart in that it is goofy but it really feels like it’s taking its stylistic and narrative cues from the manga style its art seems to be an homage to.

Sillyness aside, this is a well written story arc for any genre. I love that the origin of the character is just dismissed and this thing just gets going. What we do know is that Gwen Poole is from the real world, like our real world. She knows everything about everyone in the Marvel universe, as she is an avid comic book fan from our reality.

This story sees her forced into working for the villain M.O.D.O.K. She also has run-ins with other famous Marvel characters: Doctor Strange, the modern female Thor, the modern Ms. Marvel, Black Cat and Howard the Duck. She also receives some combat training from the villain Batroc.

This was just an enjoyable and a refreshing experience and I shouldn’t have slept on it. But now that I’ve given it an honest chance, I’m certainly going to pick up volume 2 at some point.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Gwenpool releases and Spider-Gwen for some obvious similarities.

Film Review: License to Drive (1988)

Also known as: They Live and Drive in L.A. (working title), Daddy’s Cadillac (Germany)
Release Date: July 6th, 1988
Directed by: Greg Beeman
Written by: Neil Tolkin
Music by: Jay Ferguson
Cast: Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Carol Kane, Richard Masur, Heather Graham, James Avery

Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Les, that license in your wallet, that’s not an ordinary piece of paper, that is a driver’s license, and its not only a driver’s license, it’s an automobile license, and it’s not only an automobile license, it’s a license to live, a license to be free, a license to go wherever, whenever and with whomever you choose.” – Dean

The world and all of its cultures are diverse enough to provide us with countless types of cheese. In fact, I love cheese. Who doesn’t love cheese? So being that I am a cheese connoisseur with an incredibly diverse palate, there is still just one cheese that I have to put above all others: ’80s cheese.

License to Drive is ’80s cheese that is so robust, with a beautiful texture and a richness to it, that it’s place in history can’t be denied. Is it the best example of ’80s cheese? Well, no. But it is still a good, solid example of its flavors and characteristics.

In the late ’80s, there was a powerful union that nothing could stand against: The Two Coreys, or just simply, The Coreys. While both of them were uber popular on their own, the Earth’s gravity sort of shifted when they started teaming up to do movies. This was their second film. The first was The Lost Boys, which is considered by many to be a classic. License to Drive isn’t quite a classic but it is still a fun romp with The Coreys that doesn’t pit them against vampires but instead pits them against the fascist system that makes it hard for slackers to get their driver’s license.

Frankly, Corey Haim’s Les is quite the shithead. All he cares about is getting his license but won’t put in the work to study for it. He doesn’t even know basic stuff and completely bombs the written test. However, he lies to his family and friends but that backfires. So what does he do? He steals his grandpa’s car because all he cares about is wooing Heather Graham. The film plays on and Haim doesn’t seem to learn anything or grow up. But it’s an ’80s teen movie that puts more emphasis on materialism and being cool than it does on life itself.

It’s the wacky adventures that make this work though. Haim and Feldman are good together and both have charisma. Heather Graham is also fantastic in this, even though she is drunk and passed out for a big portion of the movie. The real highlight for me though, was the sequence of Corey Haim taking his driving test with James Avery a.k.a. Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I’ve always enjoyed Avery but this is one of the best things he’s ever done. I mean, he’s perfect in this, even if he only has a few minutes of screen time.

The Coreys were once the epitome of teenage cool and this was a cool movie, even if it was nonsensical and sort of soulless.

Plus, I loved his parents, as Carol Kane has always made me laugh and Richard Masur is just fun to watch in these sort of roles.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other movies featuring both or just one of the Coreys: The Lost BoysDream a Little DreamNational Lampoon’s Last ResortLucasThe GooniesThe ‘Burbs.

Film Review: Idle Hands (1999)

Release Date: April 30th, 1999
Directed by: Rodman Flender
Written by: Terri Hughes, Ron Milbauer
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Henson, Vivica A. Fox, Jessica Alba, Jack Noseworthy, Robert Englund (voice), Fred Willard, Connie Ray, Kelly Monaco, The Offspring

Licht/Mueller Film Corporation, Team Todd, TriStar Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“There is evil out there, and I’m gonna kick its ass!” – Debi

Idle Hands is a bizarre and fun movie.

It follows a stoner and his buds. The main stoner, played by Devon Sawa, who was a hot commodity circa 1999, has a possessed hand. His hand murders his parents very violently while he is asleep. The rest of the film sees him trying to control his hand, as it yanks him around like a rag doll while looking for more people to murder.

This isn’t a film that did well when it came out and critics weren’t kind to it. It is sort of a niche movie that found its audience once it hit video stores. I remember that it developed a cult following pretty quickly and when I was in my early twenties, this was on the TV at a lot of parties. And rightfully so, as it is unique, cool and has a certain charm to it.

I have always been a fan of horror, especially when it has a comedy element to it. This film has the right balance between its scares and its laughs. It is also pretty gory, which was still fairly normal in 1999 before the ’00s brought tame PG-13 horror.

Seth Green has played a lot of good characters, the best of them always seeming to be an extension of himself. Here, he plays maybe his best character as one of the stoner buds. After he dies, early in the film, he is basically a zombie pothead with a bottle lodged into his forehead. The other stoner, who walks around holding his decapitated head, was played by Elden Henson, who modern audiences will probably recognize as Foggy Nelson from the Daredevil series on Netflix.

Jessica Alba is also in this, as the apple of the stoner’s eye, and she’s never been more adorable. Most guys my age fell in love with her in the TV show Dark Angel but it was Idle Hands that got me crushin’ on her hard.

I also love that Fred Willard is in this, albeit briefly, as the father of Sawa’s character. He meets his violent demise pretty quickly in the film but Willard is enjoyable in everything. Here, he is a straitlaced dad that’s sick of his stoner son being a useless coach potato with no ambition.

This movie has really good style. I love the set design, the characters’ looks and the score is actually pretty damn good.

I love the opening theme by Graeme Revell, as it truly sets the tone of the picture. The rest of the film is accented by Revell’s score mixed with a lot of notable ’90s rock. The Offspring even play the school dance, where they cover The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated”.

Idle Hands is just a good time if you are into horror comedies with a good amount of gross out moments.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Disturbing BehaviorThe FacultyCan’t Hardly WaitBrainscan and Final Destination.