Monday, June 30, 2014

Decepti-Gross

Paramount is reporting that their latest scifi action opus Transformers: Age Of Extinction racked up an astonishing $100 million dollars in its opening weekend. However, other industry insiders are disputing this claim, accusing Paramount of lying and artificially inflating the box office figures for corporate gain.

Now I have no idea if they really are lying about the gross, but I know for a fact they're lying about Transformers being a movie. Hi-yooooooooooooo!!! 

This Week In Star Trek News: Roberto Orci

Now that J.J. Abrams is off ruining directing Star Wars, the fine folks over at Paramount need someone to step up and destroy helm Star Trek 3. But who could they find for such an important job? Someone with plenty of experience in handling large casts and tons of special effects, right?

Wrong. This week they tapped none other than surly Trek screenwriter Roberto Orci, who's never directed a film in his life.

In a recent interview, Orci announced that in this third Trek outing the characters "will be closer to their television incarnations than in previous films."

I have a horrible feeling that when Orci says "closer to their television incarnations," he's talking about the Third Season. It's the only thing that makes sense. You mark my words.

Orci went on to say, "The first two films – especially the 2009 film – was an origin story. It was about them coming together. So they weren’t the characters they were in the original series. They were growing into them and that continues on in the second movie." 

Apart from employing some appalling grammar, did we really need a two film origin story? Is there anything about these characters – who everyone already knows inside and out – that needed to be stretched out over the course of two separate movies? No. The answer is no.

But Paramount didn't ask me what I think, so they're going with Orci, who will no doubt pump out another subpar film that inexplicably grosses hundreds of millions of dollars, and hammers the final nails into Star Trek's coffin lid. 

Mark my words – it's gonna be about singing Space Hippies.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Brother From A Different Mother (And Decade)

I recently watched The Brood, a 1970s horror film directed by David Cronenberg. It's a charming little story about people whose deep-seated psychological problems manifest themselves as physically real murderous dwarf children. Yeah, that old story again.

I thought the movie was pretty meh, but I noticed something while watching. Canadian actor Art Hindle is the star of the film. Take a good look at him here. See anything familiar?

Hindle looks amazingly like a normal-sized Peter Dinklage! Just look at 'em! They could be brothers! Or different-sized twins!

Actually you'd need a time machine if you wanted them to play brothers now, as that photo of Art Hindle is thirty five years old. Maybe Hindle could land a gig on Game Of Thrones as Tyrion's uncle or previously unmentioned real father? C'mon, casting directors, let's make this happen!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why Do They Call Them Comics: B.C.


Welp, congratulations, B.C. You just introduced the concept of the glory hole to the comics page. Well done.

Excuse me while I go sit down on an ice floe, push it away from the shore and float out to sea...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Five Years Cable Free!

As of today I've been cable free for five years! I cut the cable way back on Thursday, June 25, 2009.

I haven't regretted a single minute of the past five years. In fact looking back I'm sorry I didn't do it sooner. I haven't missed a thing and if you've ever thought about cutting the cord yourself I encourage you to do so. Trust me when I tell you that you won't be sorry.

Why'd I do it? Am I some kind of technophobe who doesn't trust newfangled inventions? Hardly. My reason for dumping cable was simple. There were few shows I had any interest in watching, and it just didn't make economic sense to pay for hundreds of channels I never watched.


I hate Reality TV in all its forms, but in a way I'm glad it came along. Once reality shows began infecting the networks and taking over, it made it that much easier to stop watching TV. So thank you, producers of Reality TV schlock, for ruining TV to the point where I don't miss it.

It's not like I suddenly turned Amish or became some manifesto-scribbling mountain man. Occasionally a show will come along that piques my interest, such as The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones and Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. But I don't need cable to watch any of these shows; I can see them either online or over the air.

I've also got a big pile of DVDs to watch and video games I can play when I feel like being electronically entertained. Again, don't need cable for that! 

Best of all, no cable means no commercials! No longer do I have to sit through twelve minutes (or more!) of shrill, interminable advertisements during a thirty minute show.

Earlier this year I finally bought myself a flat screen TV. Yes, for the past nineteen years I've been watching the same old school picture tube TV set I bought back in 1995. It wasn't because I couldn't afford a new set, or that I was waiting to see if this whole HDTV thing was a passing fad and here to stay. I was brought up to believe you don't get rid of things that still work just because they're old. I finally decided this year that my point had been made and it might be time to consider an upgrade.

Anyhow, once I bought my fancy new 55" flatscreen, my mom asked me if I was going to sign up for cable again. The thought honestly never occurred to me. I said, "God no, why would I want to do that?" Mom looked puzzled and shook her head. She genuinely can't understand how I, or any human for that matter, can live a full and productive life without cable.

This is probably the last time I'll mark the anniversary of my cablelessness, as I'm sure everyone's tired of hearing about it. I will say once again that if you've ever entertained the idea of getting rid of cable your own self, go for it! You probably think that you'll be missing something, but I guarantee you, you won't. Those Duck Dynasty guys will get along just fine without you.

The War Doctor

I'm a big fan of Doctor Who, and a while back I started a series of vector drawings of all the various Doctors. Here's my version of the War Doctor, from the 50th Anniversary Special The Day Of The Doctor.

The War Doctor (played by John Hurt) is a previously unknown and unmentioned incarnation of the Doctor. He fought in the Last Great Time War, a conflict between his own people the Time Lords and the evil Daleks.

As the Time War dragged on, it threatened to destroy the entire universe. The War Doctor realized that the only way to end it once and for all was by using a super weapon called The Moment. Unfortunately this would result in the utter annihilation of both sides. In essence the only way to save the universe was by destroying his own people.

Ultimately the War Doctor used The Moment and ended the War. Wracked with guilt, he was now the last of his people. This caused him to bury this particular incarnation of himself deep within his psyche, never to be spoken of again.

I know, I know, there's more to this convoluted story (a lot more), but that'll do for now.

I have to admit I wasn't crazy about the whole "Hidden Doctor That's Never Been Spoken Of" thing. It just seemed like a cheat to me, shoehorning him into the show's past history like that. I'm slowing warming to the idea though. 

Let's just hope this is the first and only hidden Doctor and we don't get dozens more crawling out of the woodwork.

It would have been nice if all three of the modern Doctors (the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh) could have teamed up for the 50th Anniversary Special, but unfortunately it wasn't to be. Christopher Eccleston, the Ninth Doctor, refused to appear.

He's got his own reasons of course (citing irreconcilable differences with the BBC management), but it would have been nice if he'd been able to set them aside for the fans. Ah well.

I'm convinced that the War Doctor was created to take the place of the Ninth Doctor. I wish they'd have used Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor instead. Even though he only appeared once (in the Fox TV movie), the Eighth Doctor is a fan favorite and McGann still looks young enough to pull off the part. So why didn't they just use him in the 50th Anniversary Special instead of coming up with a new character? You'll have to ask the BBC about that one.

They did bring back McGann as the Eighth Doctor in a special mini-episode called The Night Of The Doctor that aired before the Special. So he was available, and they were cool with using him in some capacity. So again, why create a brand new character? I don't get it.

As for the drawing, the War Doctor has quite a complicated outfit that I simplified quite a bit. My first instinct of course is to reproduce every tiny detail and texture, so I had to keep reigning myself in and leave things out.

He also needed to match the earlier Doctor drawings I did several years ago, back when I wasn't as experienced in working with vector. I like to think I've improved since then.

The War Doctor has a new sonic screwdriver (so the BBC can sell more toys), which he's holding here. I'm happy with the way it came out.

Please forgive the ugly watermark on the illustration. I swore I would never add one to my art, because I know that 99.99% of my readers would never even think of stealing it. But earlier this year I had a run-in with an art thief who was not only stealing my work, but selling it as her own! Hence the watermarks. This is why we can't have nice things.

Here's my digital sketch of the War Doctor. I'm not a great caricaturist, and sometimes I have trouble capturing a likeness. I think this one came out pretty well though, if I do say so myself. I'm betting it's because of John Hurt's craggy, hangdog features. Generally speaking, older, wrinkled faces are easier to draw than young, smooth ones.

The War Doctor is a vector illustration, drawn all in InDesign. Yep, InDesign.

Tales From The Grocery: The T-Shirt

A few years ago I got a job as a cashier at a grocery store in order to pay off some bills. It was a miserable, humiliating and demoralizing experience in every measurable sense, and I got the hell out of there as soon as my bills were paid. I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who has to work in such a place.

Here is a terrifying Tale From The Grocery. Please note that all Tales are 100% true.

One fine evening a gentleman came through my line wearing a t-shirt that read, in huge print, “F*CK YOU, YOU F*CKING F*CKERS!”

Stay classy, humanity.

We’re very near the end of civilization.

Hot & Cold Running Gremlin

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted an actual illustration here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld. Time to remedy that situation!

Hey, look at that Gremlin! His emotions run hot and cold! He's of two minds about things! He can take it or leave it! He's got a one-two punch! I have no idea what I'm saying!

Sorry he looks so small here. Click and zoom in to see all the overdone detail.

This illustration took forever! I think it's because as always, last year's Xmas card took a lot out of me, and I had to take a bit of time off from drawing to recover. Then when I was finally ready to start up again, it took a while to get back into the drawing rhythm. 

I drew the figure itself fairly quickly, but the gauntlets took much longer-- hard edged mechanical stuff always does. The hardest part was the flame and ice effects. I drew them over and over and over and over until I finally got them right. I'm still not completely satisfied with them, but they'll have to do. I don't want to spend a year on one drawing.

Originally I was going to color the flaming gauntlet a dark red, and the icy one a light blue. Funny thing about that-- there's no way to make a dark red mechanical glove without it looking exactly like Hellboy's Right Hand Of Doom. Whoops! So I made both gauntlets an iron blue color to try and avoid a lawsuit. 

Here's the original notebook doodle I did of the Gremlin. Pretty rough stuff. Note the very underdeveloped and barely sketched gauntlets.

Here's a much tighter digital sketch, with much more defined mechanical gloves.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet, on several thousand layers. OK, maybe not several thousand, but it was a lot.

This Week In Awkward And Inappropriate Book Covers

As most comic book fans are aware, there are wiseacres out there on the interwebs who like to snicker and point at Batman and Robin, insisting that they (and any superhero character with a teen sidekick) must surely be gay. 

Hardee har.

Despite the fact that Robin was created in a more innocent time as an audience surrogate, these wags are insistent that there's a hidden and perverted subtext to the comics, and no amount of argument can dissuade them of this notion.

I don't know where they get such ideas.

Certainly not from this upcoming collection of Frank Quietly's DC artwork. Just look at that wholesome, tasteful cover depicting Robin spreading his creamy white thighs and thrusting his lovingly rendered crotch at the viewer's face, while an unshaven, seedy looking Batman leers smugly from behind.

Nope, nothing salacious or untoward going on here. Move along!

It Came From The Cineplex: Maleficent

Maleficent was directed by Robert Stromberg and written by Linda Woolverton.

This is Stromberg's directorial debut; prior to this he was a special effects artist and production designer on Avatar, Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland and Oz, The Great And Powerful. Maleficent shares a definite design sensibility with those last two.


In addition to starring in the film, Angelina Jolie also served as an executive producer.

This is Disney's attempt at the Wicked-ization of Sleeping Beauty, as they reimagine the story from the point of view of Maleficent and paint her in a more sympathetic light. 

Like it or hate it, you can't argue with the film's success. So far it's grossed an astonishing $500 million worldwide.

MALEVOLENT SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
Maleficent's a young orphaned fairy who lives in the Moors, a magical land next door to a human kingdom. As a child she meets and falls in love with a human boy named Stephan. Years later, she's betrayed by Stephan, who's only interested in greed and power. He mutilates Maleficent by cutting off her wings, an act which makes him king of his realm.

When King Stephan and his queen have a daughter named Aurora, a vengeful Maleficent places a curse on the infant: on her sixteenth birthday she'll prick her finger on a spinning wheel spindle and sleep forever, unless awakened by True Love's Kiss.

Stephan sends Aurora away to be raised by three fairies in the hopes that she'll avoid the curse. Maleficent begins watching over young Aurora, protecting her from the fairies' gross incompetence. Over the years she grows fond of the child and becomes her fairy godmother.

Unfortunately the curse comes true and Aurora falls into a coma. She's awakened by a kiss from Maleficent though, who realizes she loves her. Motherly love, that is. Get yer mind outta the gutter.

Thoughts:
• The film opens on a happy young Maleficent flitting around the Moors. Question: Who the hell gave her THAT name? It sounds like a combination of "malevolent" and "magnificent," but "maleficent" is actually a real word. It means "
doing evil or harm; harmfully malicious."

Why saddle a kid with a horrible name like that? No wonder she turned bad. They might as well have called her Hitlerina Evildoer.

Wouldn't it have made more sense if her name had been "Thistleberry" or something like that, and then after she was violated and turned to evil she renamed herself?

Methinks the filmmakers assumed the majority of the audience wouldn't have any idea that her name was a real word and so didn't bother to explain it.

• I don't mind filmmakers "reinventing" stories like this, but I am NOT a fan of movies that insist on justifying the villain's antisocial behavior. Why can't a character simply be an evil asshole? 
Why does there always have to be some deep seated psychological reason or justification for their actions?

Wasn't Darth Vader far more interesting before we found he used to be a whiny teen Jedi?


• Maleficent's look was created by Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker. To her credit, Angelina Jolie was insistent that the makeup look as close as possible to the animated version. Baker designed a set of lightweight urethane horns for Jolie, as well as razor-sharp prosthetic cheekbones. 

The one big difference from Sleeping Beauty-- Maleficent's skin color. The animated version has a sickly green completion, but Baker vetoed that idea, as he claimed he didn't want to hide Jolie's natural beauty.

• In Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent was voiced by actress Eleanor Audley. You may not recognize her name, but if you watched any TV at all in the 1960s and 1970s you'll recognize her face. She guest starred on virtually every sitcom of the time. She was best known as Oliver Douglas' mother on Green Acres, and Mrs. Schuyler-Potts, headmistress of the Potts School that Jethro attended on The Beverly Hillbillies.

She also voiced the Wicked Stepmother in Disney's Cinderella and Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland and Disney World.

• When King Henry's army attacks the Moors, Maleficent drives them back with winds generated from her mighty wings. It's a cool scene, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out that if her wings are flapping hard enough to knock men off their horses, they should be propelling her backward with equal force.


• Most of the production design is top notch, but take a look at this Tree Warrior. It's the spitting image of the Balrog from The Fellowship Of The Ring. Same drooping horns and everything. All that's missing is Gandalf shouting, "You Shall Not Pass!"

• Stephan wants to be the king, but first he has to defeat Maleficent and her magic army. To do so, he gives her a roofie and knocks her out. He can't bring himself to outright kill her though, so he does something even worse-- he slices off her wings.

First of all, that must have been some knock-out potion he gave her. She slept right through her grisly de-winging! And Stephan didn't use a blade, he used a piece of iron-- which sears fairy skin-- to burn through them. Yikes!

Second, I never thought I'd live to see a blatant rape metaphor in a Disney movie, but here it is. And lest you think I'm reading too much into it, Angelina Jolie herself confirms it.

• After Maleficent's wings are cruelly removed, she's no longer able to soar carefree through the skies. She then enlists the help of a crow named Diaval (that she periodically turns into a human) to "be her wings" and spy for her.

Oddly enough all through the movie she has no trouble levitating other people and causing them to float through the air. I guess it never occurred to her to use this power on herself?

• When Maleficent uses her powers, sometimes her magic has a yellowish color, and other times it's a sickly green. I think it's green whenever she's doing something evil. I wish they'd made it green all the time though, as it looked cooler and matched what we saw in the animated version.

• Stephan becomes king, takes a wife and they have a baby girl they name Aurora.

For such a pro-feminist movie with a nearly all-female cast, the Queen definitely gets shafted. She's in the film for five minutes, tops. She doesn't even rate an on-screen death.

• Bent on revenge against King Stephan, Maleficent crashes baby Aurora's christening. In a nice touch, the dialog in this scene is almost word for word the same as in the animated version.

• Maleficent places a curse on baby Aurora: On her sixteenth birthday she'll prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a permanent coma. A couple of things here.

That's a pretty darned specific curse. Why bring a spinning wheel into it? What are the odds that she'd just happen to touch one on her birthday? Especially since she's a princess, and would have armies of servants to do her spinning for her.

Later on Maleficent finds the kid's starting to grow on her and she realizes she was a little harsh with the whole cursing thing and tries to remove it. Unfortunately she can't. Wha...? So she has the power to word a curse in such a way even she can't find a loophole in it? Wow, she missed her calling. With a talent like that, she should be a lawyer, writing ironclad contracts and legal documents.

• After Aurora is cursed, King Stephan decides to save her by sending her away until after she's sixteen. Not the worst plan I've heard. However, he's currently at war with the Fairies of the Moors, so naturally he enlists three of them to raise his infant daughter. Brilliant! 


He just handed his daughter over to three of his sworn enemies! Who, by the way, have no reason to recognize his authority and obey him (but inexplicably do so anyway).

• The three Fairy Godmothers (who are a lot like an all-female Three Stooges) are so incompetent that they don't even know how to nurse a baby. There are two ways to interpret this. 


One, they don't know anything about infant care because fairies aren't human and spring whole from the ground or something. Or two, they're incompetent because they've sworn off magic and don't know how to do anything by hand. I guess it's up to the viewer to decide which is correct.

By the way, Knotgrass, the Red Fairy, is played by Imelda Staunton. You may recognize her as Delores Umbridge from Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix. Apparently any time she's in a fantasy movie she's required to wear red or pink.

• On her sixteenth birthday, Aurora is magically compelled to leave the forest, walk into a dungeon and poke her finger on a spindle.

This actually makes sense, since as I said before, it seems like a very specific curse and one that would be pretty easy to avoid. Making it a magical inevitability was a good move on the part of the screenwriter.

However, I could swear that King Stephan ordered all spinning wheels in his kingdom to be burned. We even see them piled onto a big bonfire right after Aurora was born. So why was there a huge stash of them in the dungeon years later?

• After Aurora falls into her magic coma, Maleficent attempts to break the curse with True Love's Kiss. To do so, she kidnaps Prince Phillip (who Aurora has known for about an hour) and sneaks him into the castle so he can kiss Aurora and waken her. Phillip plants one on her lips and... nothing happens. 

Maleficent, who never believed in True Love in the first place, grimly accepts the fact that Aurora will sleep forever and it's all her fault. She kisses her lightly on the forehead and as she turns to leave, Aurora immediately wakes up. Huzzah! She was saved by True Love's Kiss after all! 

So... does that mean that Prince Phillip doesn't really love Aurora? Kind of seems that way, eh? At the end of the movie it looks like she and Phillip are married. I guess it must be of those royal weddings that exists only to unite two kingdoms and consolidate power rather than one born of love.

By the way, when Maleficent kisses Aurora and wakes her, we cut to Diaval the crow-man, who apparently thinks the audience is a bunch of morons and helpfully points out, "True Love's Kiss." 


Thanks, movie. I'd never have been able to figure that out on my own. I hate when films point out things that we just saw fifteen minutes earlier.

• Surrounded by King Stephan's men, Maleficent turns Diaval into a dragon (a pretty useless dragon too, by the way) in order to defeat them. I kind of wish they'd have had Maleficent herself transform into the dragon herself, as that's always been my favorite part of the animated version. 

• In the third act Maleficent and King Stephan have a final battle. This is a Disney movie, so even though Stephan is trying to kill her, she can't kill him, because that wouldn't be heroic, dontcha know. 


Instead Stephan lunges at her, loses his balance and topples off a tower to his death. Disney villains almost always get their comeuppance by causing their own deaths. See Frollo in The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Clayton in Tarzan, and Syndrome in The Incredibles for other examples.

Maleficent is a stylish reimagining of Sleeping Beauty that concentrates on the poor misunderstood villain instead of the hero. I give it a B.

Tales From The Grocery: The Minor

A few years ago I got a job as a cashier at a grocery store in order to pay off some bills. It was a miserable, humiliating and demoralizing experience in every measurable sense, and I got the hell out of there as soon as my bills were paid. I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who has to work in such a place.

Here is a terrifying Tale From The Grocery. Please note that all Tales are 100% true.

One day I saw the store’s undercover cop confront two male customers-- one older and one younger-- who were buying beer. He said he’d been watching them and saw that the younger of the two had paid the older one to buy beer for him. He didn’t arrest them, but he gave them a warning and told them to beat it.

One of the teen cashiers saw the commotion and asked me what was going on. I said the cop threw the guys out because the older one was buying beer for a minor. He looked shocked and said, “That’s illegal?”

Wow. Like so many of the things that happen at that store, I didn’t know how to respond to that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: Edge Of Tomorrow

Edge Of Tomorrow is Tom Cruise's latest opus and was directed by Doug Liman (Go, The Bourne Identity) and written by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth. I've never heard of those last two, but I really like saying "Jez Butterworth." Based on the graphic novel All You Need Is Kill.

Cruise's previous scifi epic Oblivion was a stiched-together, Frankenstein-ian pastiche of several much better films. Edge Of Tomorrow is just as derivative, recalling films like Groundhog Day, Source Code, Deja Vu, ALIENS and Starship Troopers. Despite this, Edge Of Tomorrow's clever script and direction help it succeed where Oblivion failed. 

It's a miracle the film turned out as well as it did. Six months before filming started, director Doug Liman scrapped two thirds of the script and hired the Butterworths to rewrite it. They were replaced by writer Christopher McQuarrie just eight weeks before filming. The movie didn't even have a satisfactory ending when filming began (which is always a risky move).

Brad Pitt was originally going to star in the film, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Actress Berenice Bejo was originally cast in the role of Rita, before Emily Blunt took over. 

A while back I wrote about the film's horrible, horrible title and feared it would hurt the box office (just like the John Carter debacle a couple of years ago). Fortunately for Warner Bros., the bland, nondescript title doesn't seem to have affected the film much, as it looks looks to be on track to pass the $300 million mark.

Speaking of which-- apparently the filmmakers wanted to call it All You Need Is Kill after the graphic novel, but Warner Bros. president Sue Kroll changed it because she was concerned with "negative chatter about the word 'kill' in the title." Jesus wept. I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

ENDLESSLY LOOPING SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Plot:
It's the near future, and alien invaders known as Mimics have taken over Europe. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is ordered to the front lines, despite his alarming lack of combat training. He's thrown into battle with little or no preparation. Cage gets off a lucky shot and kills an alpha Mimic, showering him with the alien's blood, before he himself is killed. 

Suddenly Cage wakes up alive and well the previous morning. It seems the alien's blood has magic time traveling properties, and he's now caught in a loop, reliving the same day over and over. Each time he dies (and he dies a lot) he starts over at the beginning of the loop, remembering everything from each cycle. Eventually he uses this to his advantage, training with famous war veteran Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) to become a proper soldier and defeat the Mimics by finding a way to destroy their central brain (oy, these aliens and their central brains).

Thoughts:
• This is probably the most video game-like movie ever made. Every time Cage is killed he "respawns" back at the beginning and learns how to advance a little farther each time through the loop, just like in a video game. Too bad for him there were no save points though.

• In a very surprising move, Cruise plays a bonafide coward in the film. One who even resorts to blackmailing a superior officer to stay out of the front lines.

This is a huge departure for Cruise. Apparently he's now at the point in his career where he's willing to risk his usual action hero image. Remember, this is the same Tom Cruise who once campaigned to play Edward Scissorhands, but only if he didn't have scars marring his perfect chiseled looks. He's definitely maturing as an actor.


Well, mostly maturing. Cage starts out the battle wearing a helmet, but after a couple minutes he rips it off and tosses it away. When a fellow soldier asks him where his helmet is, he replies with a lame, "It was a distraction (!)." 

Hmm. Now I wonder why the star of a multimillion dollar film wouldn't want to wear a helmet. Surely it couldn't have anything to do with it obscuring his leading man features, could it?

• Kudos to director Doug Liman for somehow figuring out how to make a film that repeats the same scenes over and over, yet feels fresh each time. Many times we see Cage in a situation and think it's his first time, but then we find out it's the fiftieth. This keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, and the audience on their toes.

• I wonder how many times Cage lived through the same day? A hundred? A thousand? More? Just think how tedious that would be after a while. He needs to get to the end of the loop, but has to go through the motions of the same day again and again and again and... 

Living the same day over forever would be my personal version of hell.

• We're told the aliens are called "Mimics" because of their ability to copy and anticipate human actions. Hmm. So apparently humans like to burrow underground, spin like tops and bounce from object to object like a ricocheting bullet, because that's exactly how the Mimics move. Surely there was a better, less misleading name they could have come up with?

• Speaking of the Mimics, I am not a fan of their design. Everything else in the film-- the battle suits, the troop ships, etc.-- looks top notch and plausible, but they really dropped the ball with the aliens. They look vaguely like glue-covered squids that rolled around in a pile of metal shavings-- I think. Throughout the film they twirl around so fast it's impossible to get a good look at them. 


This is something that's been going on in scifi films for quite a while now. Just because you can make your aliens and ships zip around the screen at Mach 5 doesn't mean you should. Slow the hell down and let the audience actually look at your designs!

An example of why this super speed thing is a bad idea: the first time through the loop Cage kills an Alpha alien, which is supposed to be a really big deal. Unfortunately we don't recognize it as an Alpha because it's the first good look we get an ANY alien. You've got to show us the grunts before we can be impressed with the officer.

• Many have criticized the lack of motivation for the aliens' attack. Eh, that didn't bother me. If Earth was ever invaded by a truly alien species like we see here, we probably never would find out their reasons for doing so. Their minds and methods would no doubt be unknowable to humanity.

It's not like they're going to Tweet their intentions to us. "Invading third planet from yellow star. Inhabitants easy to defeat, LOL."

• I've missed Bill Paxton. Can he be in every movie from now on please?

• The battle suits in the film are fictional of course, but are supposedly based on designs being developed by DARPA (our government's secret mad scientist division). Each suit weighed 85 pounds, which explains the actors' lumbering gait when running in them.

• Cage is thrown into J Squad, which seems to be the platoon in which the Army dumps all the misfits and rejects. They're a colorful group, but unfortunately they're all so shallowly written that I wouldn't be surprised if the script refers to them as Fat Guy, Soccer Hooligan, Hillbilly Girl, Crazy Silent Guy and so on.

• On Cage's first time through the time loop, he receives so little training that he doesn't even know how to deactivate the safety on his weapons. He literally begs his J Squad pals to tell him how to turn it off, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. 

The implication here is that the lovable scamps of J Squad are deliberately trying to get him killed. Sure, he's a coward and a deserter, but fragging him seems a bit harsh to me. You can't redeem yourself if you're dead. Can't they just tie his uniform in knots or short sheet his bed?

To make it even worse, later on the film wants us to weep for these psychopathic members of J Squad as they sacrifice themselves for humanity. Nice try, movie.

• When Cage meets up with Rita, she uses the time loops to train him how to be a proper soldier. The training area is filled with simulated Mimics that careen around the room at high speed, complete with sharp, whirling blades. Just like the X-Men's Danger Room.

At one point a robotic Mimic slams into Cage with so much force that it actually breaks his spine, paralyzing him. Jesus Christ! That seems a bit extreme. I get that the simulation needs to be as real as possible to be effective, but losing your head during a training exercise seems counterproductive to me.

On the other hand, deadly simulations aren't totally without precedent, as our Army often uses live rounds during obstacle course training. 

• Whenever Cage is grievously injured during his training, Rita resets the loop by killing him! It's shocking to see the heroine just up and shoot the hero in the head, but given the circumstances it makes sense. And after a while it's actually funny. At one point Cage is injured and resigns himself to the fact that Rita's going to kill him, sighing, "OK, do it."

• In the third act Cage talks his pals in J Squad-- who've known him for less than a day, mind you-- into accompanying him on a suicide mission to kill the giant alien brain (called the Omega) controlling the Mimics, which is located in the Louvre. 

A couple things here. One, I don't care how many times Cage gives them his "I know this is going to sound crazy, but the longer I talk the more rational it's going to sound" speech, there's no way in hell that J Squad would gleefully follow him into certain death.

But the script demands they indeed follow him, and so they do. Once they reach the Louvre they're all mowed down in rapid succession. As I mentioned earlier we're supposed to feel bad for them, but they're so shallowly written and have so little screen time (in a film that repeats the same scenes over and over yet!) that their deaths have little or no impact on the audience.


• Once again we see an alien invasion in which one central brain controls the entire army. When are aliens going to learn that this is a terrible, terrible idea? Once the giant Omega brain is taken out, the hordes and hordes of Mimic soldiers drop lifeless to the ground like rag dolls.

I've seen this over and over in many scifi films, and it's a sure sign of lazy writing.

• Thank god this film finally premiered. I've been seeing the same damned trailer for it every single weekend for the past six months. At least. I was starting to feel like Cruise's character, reliving the same day over and over and over and...

Edge Of Tomorrow is a derivative, but well written and enjoyable scifi take on the "endless loop" trope. I still hate that title though. I give it a B+.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Things George R. R. Martin Is Doing Instead Of Finishing The "Game Of Thrones" Books

Welcome to a new feature here on Bob Canada's BlogWorld, entitled Things George R. R. Martin Is Doing Instead Of Finishing The "Game Of Thrones" Books. Here I'll be spotlighting all the many, many, many ways that author George R.R.R.R. Martin is wasting precious time gadding about in public instead of bellying up to the typewriter and finishing his goddamned novels.

This past weekend Martin was spotted throwing out the first pitch for his local MINOR league baseball team, the Albuquerque Isotopes (whose owner is apparently a fan of The Simpsons).

That's great, George R.R. In the time it took you to make that incredibly important public appearance in front of an obviously packed stadium, you could have written a new chapter of Book Six and killed off nine or ten more beloved characters. Stop with all the needless distractions and GET BACK TO WORK!

Be sure and check back often for more Things George R. R. Martin Is Doing Instead Of Finishing The "Game Of Thrones" Books.

And yes, I'm aware that technically his series of novels is called A Song Of Ice And Fire, but the vast majority of people out there know it as Game Of Thrones. So I went with the flow.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why Do They Call Them Comics: Rex Morgan, M.D.

Here's a couple of Rex Morgan, M.D. comics from this week.

Nice to see Bobby Hill's still getting work after his show was cancelled.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It Came From The Cineplex: A Million Ways To Die In The West

A Million Ways To Die In The West was written by Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild (producers and writers for Fox's The Family Guy). It was directed by MacFarlane, who also stars in the film, wrote lyrics for at least one of the songs and even authored a tie-in novel based on the script. 

We get it, Seth. You're a very talented person with an impressive resume. But leave a bit of room in the credits for some other names, huh?

It's your typical modern comedy, chock full of crude humor and R-rated language. Your enjoyment of it will depend on your tolerance for such things. If you like fart, poop and semen jokes, you'll be LOLing in the aisles. If you're a fan of subtle, intelligent humor, you're in for a rough time.

A MILLION SPOILERS AHEAD, INCLUDING A SURPRISE CAMEO APPEARANCE!


The Plot:
In 1882, anachronistic sheep farmer Albert Stark is dumped by his girlfriend Louise. A mysterious woman (Charlize Theron), who is secretly the wife of infamous outlaw Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson), arrives in town and takes an interest in Albert. She teaches Albert how to shoot in order to win a duel between him and Foy (Neil Patrick Harris), Louise's new beau. That's pretty much it. 

Thoughts:
• Seth MacFarlane is an accomplished voice actor, but proves here that that skill doesn't necessarily translate into live action. He's easily the weakest part of an otherwise top notch cast. In addition to his distractingly Peter Brady looks, he just doesn't have the chops to be a leading man. It might have been better if he'd stayed behind the scenes in the director's chair and let someone else-- Owen Wilson perhaps-- take over the starring role.

Speaking of the cast, Neil Patrick Harris gives it his all in a standout performance. Kudos to him for being so committed to the material that he literally craps in a hat not once, but twice.

• Many have compared the film unfavorably to Blazing Saddles, saying it falls far short of the Mel Brooks classic. To that I say, huzzah! I know this is sacrilegious, but I've never been a fan of Blazing Saddles. Especially that ending, with all the fourth-wall breaking and dance number bushwah. Give me the far superior, more coherent and better written Young Frankenstein any day.

• The film has a frustrating, meandering tone, touching briefly on idea after idea but never committing to them. For example, the whole "Deadly West" thing. We see just three or four examples of the many ways to die, but then the concept is quickly forgotten. 

Then we get a few "this century sucks" jokes (such as how there are only three songs and they're all written by Stephen Foster), and for a while it seems like that may be the film's new focus, but then that's dropped as well.

The movie would have benefitted greatly from choosing a direction and then sticking with it.

• The film has some great John Ford-style classic western cinematography. It also features a rousing and awesome score, reminiscent of those of Alfred Newman and Elmer Bernstein. It made me actually wish I could watch some old-school westerns on the big screen again.

• My favorite character in the film: hands down, it's Albert's dad, a sour, miserable and unpleasant troll of a man who looks forward to the sweet release of death. Highlight: when he places sheep manure under his son's pillow to teach him that there's no such thing as the tooth fairy. The film could have used more of him.

• Since this is a Seth MacFarlane production, naturally it includes a big song and dance number. Foy, the proprietor of the local "Mustachery," and a troupe of fellow dandies perform a show stopping number called, "If You Only Have A Mustache."

Since MacFarlane wrote everything else in the film, I naturally assumed he penned this song as well. It's such a bizarre and ridiculous (and specifically appropriate) little ditty that I was very surprised to find out it's an actual old song, written by Stephen Foster (of course-- he wrote all three songs in existence, remember?). MacFarlane did write some additional lyrics for it though (of course).

• My favorite quote from the film: When Albert says, "I'm not the hero. I'm the guy in the crowd making fun of the hero's shirt." 

I gotta admit, that line hit pretty close to home, describing me to a T.

• There's a running joke in the film about how no one ever smiles in photographs, and how insane it would be to do so. There's actually a grain of truth to this. Early daguerrotype photography required extremely long exposure times. In the 1820s, it took a whopping eight hours to take a photo! 

By the 1830s they got it down to a slightly more reasonable fifteen minutes. That's still a hell of a long time to sit rock still, so often photographers would hide supports and braces behind their subjects so they could sit motionless during the long exposure time.

By the 1840s it "only" took around sixty seconds to take a photo. Hence the movie's joke about no one ever being able to smile for that long unless they were insane.

In addition to the long exposure times, people most likely didn't smile because back then portrait photography was a huge deal. It was expensive and so most likely a once in a lifetime occurrence. People tended to take it very seriously and not smile in their photos.

• The film's loaded with cameos, including Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Maher, Patrick Stewart (voice only), Gilbert Godfried and Jamie Foxx. 

Christopher Lloyd makes a surprise appearance as Doc Brown, from the Back To The Future films. Funny, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out that the film takes place in 1882, and Doc Brown was sent back in time to 1885. Whoops!


• A word or two about that poster. Look at that thing! Each one of those faces has been Photoshopped within an inch of its life. Especially Charlize Theron. She's a beautiful woman; was it really necessary to give her such smooth, plastic-like skin? This thing's been touched up so much it qualifies as a painting.

A Million Ways To Die In The West is a mildly amusing gross out comedy that boasts an great cast and musical score, but ultimately suffers from a meandering tone and uneven humor. I give it a B-.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ooh, That's A REALLY Useful Invention!

This week a desperate United States Secret Service challenged the scientific community to invent a social media Sarcasm Detector. Que hundreds of "Wow, that sounds like a GREAT idea" comments.

I admit that on the surface it seems like a preposterous idea, but I get why they need one. When their agents are sitting in their underground bunkers, monitoring every online comment we make, it's tough for them to tell when we're serious and when we're just being snarky assholes. 

When some Tweeting tween types "All men must die," does it mean they're a fan of Game Of Thrones? Or are they planning on poisoning the city's water supply with a compound that kills anyone with a Y chromosome?

So a sarcasm detector does make a certain amount of sense. It's just too bad the government is asking for devices The Simpsons already invented...

M-O-O-N, That Spells "I've Got A Bad Feeling About This"

This week Josh Boone (director of the current "dying-teens-in-love cancer epic" The Fault In Our Stars) announced he's working on a film version of Stephen King's novel The Stand. If that wasn't enough of a red flag for you, Boone also says he plans to turn King's sprawling epic into ONE three hour film. Oy gevalt.

As a longtime fan of The Stand, I'm extremely disappointed by this news. 

I first read The Stand way back in 1979 and became an instant fan. I've read both versions of the book many, many times over the years, so I know of what I speak. Trust me when I say that trying to cram the novel into one movie is a very bad idea.

The Stand is a massive book with a huge cast of characters-- at least 28 by my count. I can guarantee they're not all going to make the cut in a three hour film. The 1994 ABC miniseries was six hours long. Even at that length they had to drop certain characters and combine others, as well as eliminate entire subplots. There's no way in hell a two or even three hour version can do justice to the book. It'll be The Stand Lite

I don't understand why Boone wants to make just one measly film. Hollywood is positively desperate for franchises these days, optioning any multi-book series they can get their hands on. The Stand could easily be turned into a trilogy along the lines of The Hunger Games and Divergence. Heck, the book's already divided into three parts-- Captain Trips, On The Border and The Stand-- for the filmmaker's convenience. They could feature the super flu plague in the first film, deal with the survivors and their attempts to rebuild society in the second, and then confront Randall Flagg in the third. It seems like a no-brainer to me.

Not only does one film not make artistic sense, it's a bad financial decision as well. Why make one subpar film that'll piss off fans of the novel and tank at the box office, when you could make three good ones that'd rake in at least $150 or $200 million each? They could even split the third film in two, as is the ever increasingly popular custom these days (again, see The Hunger Games and Divergence), and generate another aircraft carrier full of cash.

And once the theatrical runs were over they could sell each of the three (or four) films separately on DVD and blu ray, then combine them and sell 'em all over again in a special collector's set. It'd be like a license to print money!

Please, Josh Boone, stop siding with The Walkin' Dude and reconsider this cockamamie three hour film idea and turn The Stand into a trilogy like it deserves. As Tom Cullen would say, "M-O-O-N, that spells boffo box office!"

Friday, June 6, 2014

It Came From The Video Store: Grabbers

Grabbers is a 2012 Irish sci-fi/horror film that was directed by Jon Wright and written by Kevin Lehane.

If you see only one Irish-made monster movie this year, this is the one to see. I highly recommend it.

I know what you're thinking-- that DVD cover makes it look like some dreadful Syfy Channel reject. I thought the same thing when I saw it on the video store racks, but it's surprisingly well-written and acted. It's also quite funny and filled with many colorful characters, and gives us Yanks a peek into Irish culture. It's very similar in tone to Tremors, but with more pubs and ale and alien squids instead of sand worms.


The Plot:
Eager young policeman (known as Garda in Ireland) Lisa Nolan (played by Ruth Bradley) is transferred to remote Irish island, much to the chagrin of her alcoholic superior Ciaran O'Shea (played by Richard Coyle).

The two investigate a herd of mutilated whale corpses that wash ashore, and realize some... things are attacking the remote island village. A violent storm hits the island, preventing any hope of escape or rescue. The town then has to fend for itself against the hungry alien attackers.

Thoughts:
• The special effects in Grabbers were surprisingly sophisticated. Apparently America and New Zealand aren't the only countries that can produce good CGI.

• There's absolutely no reason this film couldn't have been shown in U.S. theaters-- it's easily as good or better than many Hollywood films I've seen in the past year. I'm betting the lack of recognizable stars is what kept it out of our cineplexes. Studio executives all believe that audiences will shun a movie if doesn't have big stars in it (which I believe is a bunch of bull). That's why we get so many foreign film remakes here. Expect to see an Americanized version of Grabbers any day now.


• Russell Tovey plays Dr. Adam Smith in the film. Tovey guest starred in Voyage Of The Damned, the 2007 Doctor Who Christmas Special. Back then series producer Russell T. Davies suggested that Tovey would be a worthy candidate to play the Doctor when David Tennant left the show. Frankly I just didn't see it. I thought Tovey was way too bland to play a quirky character such as the Doctor. 

But after seeing him in Grabbers, I get it. He can definitely do the whole quirky and funny thing, and there were a few scenes in which he acted very Doctor-y. I could definitely see him manning the TARDIS someday.

Grabbers is a criminally underrated scifi/horror/comedy with big budget effects and a lot of charm from its two main leads. I give it a B+.
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