Monday, September 30, 2013

Movie Review: Oblivion

For my last post before switching over to my month of examining Hack/Slash I thought I would talk about a pretty great movie I saw over the weekend; Joseph Kosinski's Oblivion.

Adapted from an unpublished graphic novel (once the film was picked up, the publication date for the graphic novel was moved to coincide with the release of the film), Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise was a pretty amazing looking film.

As a story, I ran into the issue that I've read a lot of science fiction over the years and was pretty confident as I went through the film what all of the major plot points and twists would be - I still enjoyed the movie, but it was for other reasons.

First of all, the film is staggering in how good it looks - the sets (specifically the house in the clouds the two main characters live in) was simply amazing to look at - I'm used to spotting computer-gernated effects in films and there really didn't seem to be a lot as far as the sets were concerned.  Secondly, the score, by M83 was just great - I haven't purchased a lot of scores in the last few years, but I have to admit I was pretty tempted here.  I felt the acting was pretty great - I just sort of wish the story had a bit more of a wow factor for me - which again, may just be a jaded science fiction fan's response.

Definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Things I've Noticed: My Wife is Pretty Amazing

Sorry I didn't get this post up earlier in the weekend; I came home on Friday expecting to have an evening's worth of stuff to do, and would hopefully get out a review of the book I was planning to finish (should come next week), when my wife told me she had a surprise for me - which turned out to be a copy of the new PS3 game The Last of Us from my local library.

So, as a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories, I've spent my weekend working my way through the game (also schoolwork, hanging with the family, visiting friends, etc.), and so far I've got to say it's pretty amazing.

The company who produced the game, Naughty Dog, are the same folks who created the Uncharted series, so I've found a lot of the controls are similar (which is nice), but what really amazes me about the game is just how amazing it looks - considering I'm playing a guy fighting zombie-like creatures, the sheer level beauty of game, showing a world where nature is slowly creeping back up on the remnants of our modern world.

I'm still probably in the first quarter of the game, but wow; it's a huge amount of fun.

Have I mentioned how amazing my wife is?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Choosing A Halloween Movie Marathon

As a dedicated Horror fan; every October I try to get some friends over to my place to check out some Halloween-themed movies.

Rather than watching a series, or specific production company of movies, I've opted to try for something a little different.

I'm going to try and catch up on some classic horror titles I've never got around to see before.

First up (and as a guy who spent a year reading/watching/playing all sorts of zombie-themed stuff this is a little embarrassing), I'll be screening George A. Romero's 1985 film, Day of the Dead, the third of his original Dead Trilogy (after 19689's Night of the Living Dead and 1978's Dawn of the Dead) which honestly I've just never had the opportunity to check out before.

Honestly, as a zombie fan I really don't have an excuse for not seeing the film before, it just never came up as an option for me, and when I watched my largest amount of horror films (Junior High and High School), I was more focused on Slasher and Ghost movies.

I'm still working on deciding which other classics of Horror I should finally get around to seeing, but I think this may be a pretty fun way to spend my Friday's this October.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: Redshirts by John Scalzi

So last May I first came across the book Old Man's War for one of my book clubs and pretty much immediately jumped on the John Scalzi band wagon; telling friends to check out the book and deciding (as I often do) to work my way through the various novels of any new author I come across who really impress me in Fantasy, Science Fiction (SF) or Horror.

Since then I've read a majority of Scalzi's fiction, and I've honestly got to say it's some pretty great stuff.  As a die-hard SF fan I could draw a lot of comparisons with other SF authors, but in simplest terms what it comes down to is the guy writes book I like, my mom likes and (when they get around to it), I'm pretty sure my kids will like.

Which brings us to Redshirts.  

The thing is, much like with Old Man's War, some of the best parts of the book come from discovery, so here I am with a book I'd like to review/recommend, but without saying much about it.

It's science fiction, it focuses on a number of new crewmen on a starship, and after joining the ship's crew they all quickly begin to notice that something is very very wrong with the ship.

Also, the term redshirts is a pretty clear reference to the original series of Star Trek wherein the lead characters would go through all sorts of dangerous situations, but escape while token characters (often wearing red uniforms) would be killed to show the viewer exactly how dangerous the situation was.

The book is a lot of fun, just won a Hugo and again, having read most of Scalzi's novels at this point, I'm pretty confident in saying it's worth your while.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bookmonkey vs Hack/Slash this October!

After spending the last few months deciding on what I wanted to focus my October posts on, I've finally come to a conclusion - HACK/SLASH by Tim Seeley.

Back in 2011 I wrote a post on the first HACK/SLASH Omnibus, and since then I've collected each omnibus (there are five in total) that make up the entire series without reading any of the others.  So now added to my giant pile (metaphorically - I've actually got them all on shelves) of books I mean to get around to are these five large omnibus volumes of a horror series which plays with the concept of the Final Girl, and does some really interesting crossovers with other Horror films, comics, and webcomics.

So you've been warned - I'm going to be spending my fourteen posts next month looking at a pretty interesting series that focuses on my favourite genre and will allow me to revisit (and visit) a number of other aspects of the world of horror fiction.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time - The Graphic Novel

Like many, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time has sat quite nicely in my mind as one of my favourite childhood experiences in Science Fiction (the other that immediate springs to mind in Monica Hughes 1978 YA novel The Tomorrow City – but to fair I may be biased as it takes place in a future version of my hometown – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) so when I saw the recent Graphic Novel adaptation by Hope Larson I was both intrigued and a little apprehensive. I haven’t read the original book since I first found it in the fifth grade, and I even kept away from the 2003 TV Movie as I felt that the original story was doing just fine in my memory (strangely enough I never had such an issue with The Lord of the Rings, although I may have seen the 70s animated version of it before I read the book, it’s hard to remember).

 I remember reading the original novel at home over a weekend away from school, and honestly as my parents had separated years earlier and I was living with my mother, a story about a couple kids going on a mission to rescue their Dad probably resonated very strongly with me. The cover of the paperback edition I had didn’t display any of the kids, just a picture of a flying centaur and a brooding image of The Man with Red Eyes (pictured right).
Picking up the Graphic novel, I was struck by two things immediately – first of all, the artwork is almost entirely black, white, grey and blue (interesting choice when one of the principle villains is described as “The Man with Red Eyes”) and, by having the three main characters depicted in colour on the cover, I wouldn’t need that colour repeated throughout the book, I simply took their various colouration for granted.

The book itself comes in at just under 400 pages, and I found myself quickly immersed in the story again, and although some of Larson’s choices may not have been mine (I would have made the man with red eyes have red eyes – keeping the rest of the colour choices in the book intact, but that’s just me), but she really did a wonderful job of adapting the original story. I was especially a fan of the sequences where Meg travels across space, how her body is shown spread out across all the panels on a page, bending the rules of what you traditionally expect in a comic (and reflecting how the rules of space travel are also being bent). In the end I really enjoyed the graphic novel and would definitely recommend it to fans of the original or just about anyone who enjoys great Young Adult Science Fiction.

Also I do appreciate that when deciding to take on the project, Hope Larson was actually concerned with “…the people-the people on the Internet-who throw up their hands and moan about their ruined childhoods whenever anyone adapts anything” (Larson, 2012), and as one of those people, I’d have to say that my childhood would have loved this adaptation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why buy used books?

Like pretty much everyone else, I subscribe to a number of blogs that relate to things I'm interested in (my profession, genre stories, video games, etc.), and every once in a while I come across a pretty neat post somewhere else.

Yesterday I came across an infographic entitled Why Buy Used Books at The Modern MLIS which, as a used book buyer, seemed to make a lot of sense.


Why Buy Used Books? from

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Movie Review: Insidious Chapter 2

I just got back from an advanced screening of Insidious Chapter 2 which was pretty darn great.

Unlike the sequels in the Saw Franchise (the original was written and directed by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the same guys who would later do Insidious and The Conjuring) Insidious Chapter 2 sticks very close in tone to the first film, rather than turning it into something else entirely.

The film begins the day after the events of the first film, so I would strongly recommend you see the first movie before you check this one out.  I first watched Insidious back in 2011 when it came to DVD, and then rewatched the film last month with my 21-year-old daughter who hates horror films, but was willing to tough out this series so I could have company to the sequel.

In the end the movie is pretty great, works well for what it is, and will almost definitely end up on my DVD shelf next year.

Also kudos to my BFF Mike for getting me the advanced screening pass.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Genre Character of the Week: Chris Weiner

Back in May I was lent a copy of the Dead Gentlemen Productions film The Gamers by a friend and was treated to a delightful little story about role-playing games and why you would never want a realistic look at how rpg characters actually act in their various worlds.

Following up on my viewing of the film, and noting my love of the horror genre, my friend then lent me two of the earliest films made by the production company: Demon Hunters, and Demon Hunters: Dead Camper Lake (Luckily both contained on the same DVD).

The two films focus on a young man (and our genre character of the week) Chris Wiener.

Played by Steve Wolbrecht, Chris is an accounting student at a small university who gets swept up the battle between an Earthwalker demon called Duamerthrax the Indestructible and The Brotherhood of the Celestial Torch.  What’s great about Chris is that he’s basically a punch line in the first film, a character designed to ask questions so the other characters can give expository dialogue about their backgrounds, but in the second film, he actually gets to shine as a full fledged character (with a story-arc and everything!)

Although the original Demon Hunters is the weaker of the two films, it does an awful lot of set up, and many of the jokes started in the first film pay off in the second.  My favourite bit (trying to spoil as little as possible)? How the end credits of the first film play out in the second film.

Although there were a lot of great characters in both films (Demon Hunters Gabriel, Silent Jim, and Tree were standouts for me), I love how Chris moves from being a one line character (his catchphrase is to stare directly in the camera and exclaim “Damn!”), through some pretty hilarious training sequences and ends up as a pretty functional Demon Hunter in his own right.

How can you not love the underdog?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Game Review: Lollipop Chainsaw

So I just finished the zombie-themed horror comedy game Lollipop Chainsaw yesterday which pits an eighteen-year-old cheerleader/monster hunter against a potential zombie apocalypse and in the end it was pretty fun.

The best parts of the game were the concepts and dialogue, the banter was witty, the zombies were silly (think Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead wherein the zombies generally speak one liners and you get the idea), and the idea of racing through zombie hoards with the goal of getting home for your birthday party and pairing zombie destroying with interpersonal relationships was pretty fun.  A personal highlight - fighting the video-game themed zombies in levels which mirrored classic arcade games.

The game did fall a little in the control department - the controls felt a little clunky, and often I would be hitting the combos as outline with no result multiple times before a combo would occur.

I did like the fact that each level ends with a report card (counting zombie kills, number of continues used, etc), so it would be easy to play the game again and see if you could beat your old score.

Having long been a fan of the films of James Gunn (Slither, Super, etc.), I felt the game had a pretty fun feel overall, but could have had some help in the monotony of the levels - different types of zombies appeared, which was fun, but each level was a "clear the room and move on" type, with limited puzzles or other types of games involved.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Things I've Noticed: Coming up with a research paper can be tricky

As part of my Comic book course I'm taking this fall, I'm required to do a research paper project on a topic that interests me about comics and graphic novels.

The tricky part now is narrowing it down to just one.  As a horror fan, I'm definitely interested in how horror comics are handled in terms of school and public library collections aimed at youth.  People tend to get touchy on the idea of scary things being made available to their kids, so I'm sure I'd find a lot of existing papers on the project, but it may be a case of biting off more than I can chew.

Next up is a look at comics that focus on Superheroes, but from non-traditional directions - think Gail Simone's Welcome to Tranquility or Kurt Busiek's Astro City, heck even Greg Rucka's Gotham Central, to get an idea of what I'm talking about.

Finally, I'm really interested in comics crossing over with other styles of stories; fables, urban legends, even nods to the pulps (which is where comics really came from).  In the end it's pretty tricky, but I need to make a decision this week, so I've got some thinking to do.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Genre Character of the week: Prince Colwyn

For my birthday this year my friend Ron got me one of my favourite genre films from my childhood - Krull.  Directed by Peter Yates and featuring music by James Horner, I would have first seen this film on our local subscription movie channel - Superchannel, when I was about nine-years-old.  Although I can look back at it now as an intriguing mix of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, at the time I was mostly drawn to the main character (and this week's genre character) Prince Colwyn, played by Ken Marshall.

The film begins at this wedding, and would you know it (mild thirty-year-old spoiler here), things go horribly wrong, aliens attack, Colwyn's family is killed and his bride is kidnapped.

The rest of the movie focuses on his attempt to find and rescue her.

At age nine, I was impressed by his single-minded need to find his love, his amazing magical weapon, and the many friends he gathers, including thieves, wizards, shape shifters and cyclops(es?), to aid him in his quest.  Basically this was one of my first experiences with the heroic quest on film.

Of course I had already seen Star Wars, and although Willow would end up having a bigger effect on me throughout my life, Krull has always sat proudly as one of my favourite early experiences with Science Fantasy.

If you've never given it a try, it is definitely worth a viewing, and I promise if you find it isn't your cup of tea I will forgive you (eventually).

Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labour Day Everyone!

Happy Labour Day everyone - I had a pretty great long weekend, picking up some B-Day gifts from friends (gifts that include robots, magic and zombies), and was treated to the excellent 2007 Bollywood film, Om Shanti Om which, having never been exposed to much of Bollywood in the past, was a wonderful introduction.

Past that, I finished my current PS3 game, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, found a local spot where I can get Vietnamese coffee, and am now pretty much set to start my new courses at school tomorrow.

Overall, a great weekend with family and friends and in the end, that's all anyone can hope to get out of a long weekend.

Your pal,