Friday, June 30, 2006

Camera Obscura - Superdickery, Asian Conflicts and The Silver Surfer

With all the attention being paid to a new "Superman" movie, there are certain notions which most reviewers have abandoned regarding the Caped One which I am happy to provide even if it tarnishes the shine on this American Icon.

It seems most reviews and media praise want to forget how overdone this storyline has become. First, I keep noticing comments that there seems to be overtones of a religious nature - um, folks, isn't that really, really obvious?? - a being with unheard of abilities arrives on Earth; his true nature is withheld during his childhood years until he realizes He Was Sent Here For a Purpose; his real Father urges him to Help Those In Need on Earth; His earthly Mom gives him constant encouragement and his friends don't seem to comprehend his Real Identity; He feels somewhat isolated from the mass populace even though His help is needed; many folks feel compelled to attack and hurt Him, etc etc.

Add to this that the story of this Hero has been on radio, television and in movies for about 60 years or more. Finding new tales to tell is a tall order. Early reviews indicate this newest version is quite entertaining - is this a sign viewers have a need for a Hero who is actually Heroic? Probably.

There has always been a certain cheesy quality to the Man of Steel comics - and one web site (provided to me some time ago by the legendary Cinema Monkey) which is absolutely hilarious - Superman is a Dick defines the aforementioned "cheese". Using only the actual comic book covers from decades past, yeah, ol' Supes has had kind of a mean and tricky side. You'll find much to entertain you at

There are pages and pages of examples on the website, plus a host of many other wildly hilarious comic book covers that leave you wondering just what the heck the publishers and writers were actually trying to say. (click on the image for a larger view)

Some other comic books news for you this Friday -- one that has me hopeful is that one of my favorite characters might finally get his moment in the spotlight. Rumors are flying the next "Fantastic Four" movie will focus on the Intergalactic Surfer Dude - yes, FF 2 will feature none other than the Silver Surfer.

Cinema Monkey was also kind enough to point me to the vast world of comic book blogging via the offerings at Marvel Comics Blogs. Tons of nerd-filled pleasure/debates/news. And I did note with some satisfaction that Marvel's Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada has one titled "Cup Of Blog." I guess he knew "Cup of Joe" was taken, heh heh.

Some sad news to report today too - despite our mutual admiration for Asian Cinema, GoldenAppleCorp at Atomic Tumor took my advice and watched the horror movie "Pulse" (the American remake is out this summer) and GAC says - it was boring and made no sense. Aww, hate to hear that, but in all honesty, about half the people I encouraged to see it said the same, though the other half agreed with me that it was a well-made, disturbing example of the horrors of existential loneliness. (yeah, I know, soooooo many people like stuff like that in a movie).

Maybe my preference simply reveals I live a tenuous existence at the edge of the abyss of Complete Existential Dread with the ghost of Samuel Beckett whispering in my ear.

Using mostly shadows or the offscreen implication of weirdness, I think the movie scored a bullseye on the freaky/disturbing scale. Others say - made no sense, never was scary. I think it's one of those cases where the movie fired up my imagination via minimalistic methods and left others wondering what was the point of all that??

GAC recommended I watch "Volcano High" which I did this week. I liked it okay, especially the way it was filmed and the way images and characters collided in a story (one also kind of hard to decipher) about a new kid at school with amazing powers and the struggle for Power between students and teachers. Now, since this was a movie made in Korea, the plot twist of New Teachers with Super Fighting Abilities arriving to challenge and chastise both students and teachers made me consider the film as a bit of a metaphor for the current political climate in North and South Korea.

But, ya' know GAC, I liked "Pulse" better, as well as "Battle Royale", but still, I did like "Volcano High" - it sort of reminded me of the anime series "Cromartie High School" - a surreal and nearly slapstick action story.

Atomic T. himself expressed much excitement for the 2nd season debut of "The Venture Brothers" on Adult Swim - man was it good. I'll never miss an episode. Newbies can catch-up by getting Season One which is out on DVD. It's just so funny and very imaginative in the ways it plays with the conventions of television cartoons. It's like Jonny Quest meets Mad Magazine. Catch it on Sunday nights on Cartoon Network.

For horror movie news - would ya believe it - more and more horror remakes are ahead, including Rob Zombie's new version of "Halloween," and another take at "Aliens vs Predator," Brad Pitt's planned Zombie movie, plus more Romero zombies on the way and in general a heaping abundance of all things horror movie at

Next week, an exclusive peek at the DVD "The Garden" starring Lance Henricksen from Anchor Bay, AND a book review of "Comfort and Joi, by author Joseph Dougherty, which chronicles the career of the mostly unknown actress Joi Lansing, who was featured in "Singing In The Rain," Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil" and grade-Z 1960s horror schlock like "Hillbillys In A Haunted House."


  1. GAC, as Joe well knows, I had to get up and leave the room several times during "Pulse."
    OK... I'm a wimp. But an existential wimp.
    Creepy creepy, super double dog dare ya creepy stuff there.
    Horror for the SRI set.

  2. Anonymous1:53 PM

    See, guys, I'm normally into the off-camera, vaguely hinted at creepiness. I really like M. Night Shamalan's Sixth Sense and Signs, as well as Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar's The Others. The scenery, the understated acting, the building sense of tension, it was all great. I just didn't see that in Pulse. When the girl got to the first guy's apartment, I felt for sure that I was going to be one happy camper. Even when the first fellow went into the forbidden room and the ghost (or whatever it was) stalks after him... that had me peeking through my fingers. But the director, or writer, or someone dropped the ball, because they lost that sense of tension and I became bored.
    Surely you've seen The Devil's Backbone... right? That's a damn fine scary movie.

  3. Devils' Bakcbone is a real chiller with only the barest of hints of what is haunting the school - just excellent!! Made of course by the immensely talented director Guillermo de Toro, who gave us Blade 2, Hellboy, Cronos, Mimic and the soon to be released Pan's Labyrinth (a big hit at Cannes 2006).

    And yeah, that hallway scene in Pulse where the shadow/ghost oozed off the wall and slo-mo'd its way to the victim cowering behind the couch locked me into the movie. That and the scene in the arcade and the other in the warehouse just had me spooked.

    And de Toro proves he can scare with or without and big budget efx. He's a director to keep watching!

  4. I like in your face scares and then subtle scares. I liked The Blair Witch Project, despite its faults, with the off-camera weirdness.
    I really liked the Devil's Backbone.
    So I need to see Pulse?
    This is my parents fault. They let me see the Exorcist at 9 years old.
    Creeped me out. Nothing has ever scared me as much as that movie.

  5. Anonymous5:05 PM

    I have to disagree with you, joe, on del Toro's greatness. I've seen all his other movies you mentioned and was mildly disappointed to vastly disappointed with all of them. Perhaps Devil's Backbone was a fluke, I don't know. I think a lot of the creepy quotient belongs to the lead boy actor. He was great in the role.
    newscoma, I came back to specifically mention Blair Witch. I saw it in the theater before the real buzz hit and I was stunned. Again, though, it was the tension that carried the film. The actors were ok in my opinion, the story was... ok, too. But the tension... wow.
    And joe, I hope you didn't go into Volcano High thinking it was a serious movie, or that I was recommending it seriously. It's a fun, flaky movie with goofy actors. Sure, there might be some underlying social commentary, but that wasn't really the focus.

  6. Of course Volcano High was a romp-filled, comedy more than anything, with some eye-popping efx all in fun.
    Yet, all movies have a subtext, whether the makers intended one or not. It's something that simply accompanies most any movie.
    And yes, Devil's Backbone is very different from del Toro's typical work, almost an old-fashioned ghost story.
    Cronos is an award-winning horror/sci-fi classic, and del Toro's others, with exception of Mimic, are in my opinion expertly made genre movies, which I like very much. I understand he and Helloboy creator Mike Mignola are working in Hellboy 2. As Mignola says, del Toro "gets it" about the making of his comic into a movie.
    High praise as well has been leveled at "Pan's Labyrinth", which mingles drama and trauma in a unique fashion.

  7. oh and I saw Blair Witch in the theatre the same day I saw Sixth Sense -- for tension and mystery, I liked Blair much better, but it's a movie that works best on the first viewing rather than repeated watching.
    same for Sixth Sense.

  8. I agree.
    Both were good one night stand sort of movies, but not good enough for a second date sort of thing.

  9. Anonymous5:58 PM

    Arrrgh! I saw Blair Witch opening weekend and loved the concept, but I have been unable to watch it again because I just want to punch out the cameraman. I know, I know, it adds to the atmosphere, creates an ambiance. Bullshit. It's ANNOYING.

    I've had my doubts about Rob Zombie and now I know for sure that he's a full-fledged idiot.

    Zombie movies are always welcome. Just have respect for the genre, or daringly create and encapsulate your own (28 Days Later, Reanimator, etc.).

    Love the Jap movies (So, I'm, not politically correct; at least I'm not ANONYMOUS). Ju-On is still my favorite, but I haven't seen Battle Royale yet. Hell, I was watching Godzilla movies as an infant. This ain't no new thang.

  10. hang on the the Rob Zombie thoughts now -- he was a production assistant on Pee Wee's Playhouse (according to Adult Swim).
    And while House of 1,000 Corpses was derivative, the sequel The Devil's Rejects was much much better - and yet worse too, cause it had me begging for horrible death to the film's bad guys - and the finale has the best use of Free Bird ever in a movie.

  11. Anonymous6:44 PM

    And here I thought I was only a legend in my own mind! I'll give you an affianado's review of the new Supes flick as soon as I see it.

  12. Anonymous8:26 PM

    You know, I think I've give more verbal and mental space to Silver Surfer more in the past month than in the years prior to that. Its a shame his movie debut would be in FF2, after the way the first one was done. Granted, I didn't watch the movie, so don't take that as a review. I don't, however, intend to ever watch the movie, despite being a huge fan of FF back in the 80s, and a massive fan of the Surfer since I could walk.
    The thing I've always liked about him, and what I think I may have said here before, is that he has damn near omnipotent power, an unlimited range, and a wealth of crazy things to get into, so he spends all his time on existential musings.
    My kind of superhero.

    And here I go turning a horror movie into a comic book geekoff...


    BTW, I think the anonymous up there was our own GAC, so, y'know, there you go. Clicky le button, honey.

  13. i think "clickly le button, honey" would be a great blog title!!

  14. Anonymous10:54 AM

    I did click the button. I even filled in the little annoying code word. I'm not sure why it didn't work.
    Anyhoo, yeah, Blair Witch was unwatchable for me the second time around. Of course, I think it had as much to do with motion sickness as anything. It made me sick to watch it at home on a 27" but not in the theater, go figure.
    Other than the Spiderman franchise, I could pretty much take or leave superhero movies. Well, X-Men 1&2 were good. That's why I'm avoiding the third one. Don't want to ruin a legacy.
    I've not seen House of 1,000 Corpses, but I did see The Devil's Rejects... and hated it. The dialogue was trite and hokey, it wasn't just gratuitously violent.. it managed to go beyond that. And the blonde chick at the hotel was Terri in Three's Company. That's all I could think of while she was getting pawed by the skinny bad guy. And EG Daily as a foul-mouthed prostitute was disconcerting and uncomfortable.

  15. Anonymous11:28 AM

    I hate "Freebird" even more than I hate Rob Zombie movies.

  16. Beyond gratuitous is probably "Cannibal Ferox". Maybe it's "I Spit On Your Grave", but it isn't "The Devil's Rejects". Perspective, people! And relativity!

    Then again, I suppose it all depends on your definition of "gratuitous". I wouldn't expect someone who dislikes the exploitation genre to throw an H.G. Lewis Triple Feature Jamboree just to gain a more relative understanding of the Torture Porn Quotient, just as no one should expect me to sit through "Joe Versus the Volcano", "Sleepless in Seattle", and "You've Got Mail" just to fully understand how Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan affect the Romance-to-Comedy Ratio.

    Also, "Cronos" rocks.

  17. In all honesty, I would be quite horrified to think someone watched The Devil's Rejects and felt good about it.
    Squalid, depraved and vile to the point that when I began hoping and praying for a horrible on-screen death for the villians, I realized I had played right into the director's plans.

    And while Joe Versus the Volcano is avery poorly constructed movie - i love his "brain cloud" problem.

  18. Anonymous6:38 AM

    There actually were non-Horror movies discussed here. Am I in the wrong forum to ask about intelligent perlingulation about them? (Yeah, I made "perlingulation" up; wanna make sump'm of it?)

  19. Anonymous8:03 AM

    I love made up words. They're the most complicidious of words.

  20. I believe there has been a panoply of cinemagraphicitical perspicacity available within the realms of this weekly digital chautauqua.

    While I know some view a discussion of horror films guilty of spogging the workings of these presentations, I trust readers will realize I attempt to offer the widest range of perlingulations encouraged here in order to provide the most complicidious opportunities within the known world.

    Or, in other words, yes.