Saturday, April 23, 2011

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment #6

I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades, but even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

So sit back and enjoy this totally Out Of Context Star Trek Moment.

Dig those ca-RAY-zee Space Hippies, man! Those cats really wail! They're the most! They're space groovy!

That's character actor Charles Napier there in the hot pants, cape and hip boots, twanging away on what appears to be a crossbow. Napier has been in a ton of movies, usually playing manly roles like army generals and such. He was in Rambo: First Blood Part II and Silence of the Lambs, among many many others. Something tells me he leaves this part off of his resume.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

So today's Earth Day, is it? The day when I'm supposed to alter my lifestyle and be more "green" and save our precious Mother Earth? You wanna know what I think of that? I say nuts to Earth Day!

The Earth doesn't give two hoots about you, me or any of the other six billion people living on it. In fact it's doing it's level best to wipe us out. Read the news on any given day and you'll see stories of floods, fires, quakes, tidal waves, tornadoes and more. Those are just a few of the gentle ways our beloved Mother Earth chooses to caress her children.

Heck, just in the last two years my own property has been beset with floods, ice storms that left me without heat for five days in the middle of winter, damaging winds, an earthquake, and despite the fact that I live several hundred miles inland, the remnants of a hurricane.

The Earth does not want us here, plain and simple. So please excuse me if I say Screw Earth Day and Screw the Earth. Why should I do anything special for it? What's it ever done for me, besides try and kill me? I plan to celebrate Earth Day by turning on all the lights and appliances in my house and then going out, just to show it what I think of it. Take that, Earth!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Joey "The Mutant" Calzone

Bronski burst into Chief O'Leary's office.

"Chief!" said Bronski, "I just got the news from a patrol car. There's been another mob hit over by the old toxic waste dump!"

O'Leary moaned. "Not another one! Well, you know what to do. Round up the usual suspects. Let's see, there's Jimmy "Two Heads" Morton, Murray "Shark Lips" Nelson, Eddie "Tentacles" Malone, Paulie "Stiletto Heels (literally)" Gambini and Sonny "Acid Pores" Grubowski."

Bronski jotted down the names on a notepad and headed for the door. "I'll get right on it, Chief!"

"Wait a minute, Bronski!" shouted O'Leary. "Don't forget Joey "The Mutant" Calzone!"

Joey was drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet. I'm kind of getting stuck on these yellowish-gold backgrounds. I know I need to try some different colors, but I just like the way the gold looks.

Here's the original pen & ink sketch of Joey. Why do people always say "pen & ink?" A little redundant, isn't it? Shouldn't it be "pen & paper?" Anyway, Joey started out as sort of an alien in a jumpsuit.

Here's the digital sketch I did of him. By now he was a mutated mob hit man, dressed in a double-breasted suit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment #5

I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades, but even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

So sit back and enjoy this totally Out Of Context Star Trek Moment.

Just in time for Easter, the Cadbury Bunny pays a visit to the crew of the Enterprise! Remember, Vulcans are vegetarians, so no eggs for Spock!

R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen

I was shocked, surprised and genuinely saddened to hear of the death of Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen today.

Sladen was best known for her role of Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor's all-time most popular companion. She joined the show in 1973 (near the end of Third Doctor Jon Pertwee's run), teaming up with Fourth Doctor Tom Baker for three seasons.

Sarah Jane was the most beloved of all the Doctor's dozens of companions. Even my mom would watch Doctor Who if it was a Sarah Jane episode!

She was an incredibly important part of the history of the show. Before Sarah Jane, the Doctor's female companions tended to be the "damsel in distress" type, providing him with someone to rescue. They also served as expository devices; someone to which the Doctor could explain things.

Sarah Jane broke that mold. She was independent, fearless and not afraid to stand up to the Doctor if need be.

After her initial departure, Sladen returned to the show many times throughout the years. She guest-starred on the new Doctor Who series in 2006, which led to a spin-off series called The Sarah Jane Adventures in 2007. Sladen looked remarkably unchanged as she played Sarah Jane once again, leading a team of teenagers who investigate monsters and alien invasions each week.

The Sarah Jane Adventures was a bit more kid-oriented than Doctor Who, but perfectly watchable by adults as well. It introduced her to a whole new generation of fans, who fell in love with her just as we all did in the 1970s. The series has been very popular in England, running for four seasons. Sadly, Sladen's death occurred during filming of the fifth season.

By all accounts Sladen was very much like her character in real life, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who had anything negative to say about her. Everyone who's met her in person has gushed about how nice she was to her fans. 

Rarely have I been this saddened by the death of a celebrity. This news has punched me in the gut just as surely as if a member of my own family had died. I guess in a way, that's true— I've been watching Sarah Jane on TV since I was a teen.

Sladen was a much too young 63 at the time of her death. She is survived by her husband and daughter.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Master #1

I'm working on another Doctor Who Infographic, this time featuring the Doctor's enemies. It's been slow going, so in the meantime I thought I'd post a sneak peek at one of the characters.

The Master is an evil renegade Time Lord, and the archenemy of the Doctor. Think of him as Moriarty to the Doctor's Sherlock Holmes.

The Master has but two main goals: becoming Ruler of the Universe (that's a pretty ambitious plan; maybe he should start with something small, like the galaxy first) and the destruction of the Doctor.

He often used disguises and mind control to conceal his identity while constructing his elaborate plans for conquest. He also sometimes manipulated alien races, often pitting them against one another to further his evil agenda.

The early version of the Master was suave and sophisticated, able to be both polite and evil at the same time, which is no doubt what made him such an appealing villain. He usually dressed in a simple black Nehru-like jacket with matching pants and always wore black gloves.

Like the Doctor, the Master has gone through many regenerations over the years. Not even apparent death has stopped him, as he's possessed the bodies of non-Time Lords from now and then to prolong his malevolent existence.

The Master and the Doctor were childhood classmates on Gallifrey, and possess similar levels of intellect. During the 2010 episode The End of Time, it's revealed that Time Lord children undergo an initiation in which they look into the Time Vortex itself. Apparently the sight of the Vortex can cause some Time Lords to go mad, which presumably explains the Master's motivations.

He often used a TARDIS to travel through time and space. Unlike the Doctor's TARDIS, which is permanently stuck in the shape of a Police Box, the Master's featured a fully functioning chameleon circuit and was able to disguise itself as any number of objects (a tree, a computer bank, a Romanesque column and even a grandfather clock).

The Master's original weapon of choice was a Tissue Compression Eliminator. This device shrank its victims, leaving behind grotesque, doll-like corpses (given the budget of the early series, that's exactly what they were too-- Ken-sized dolls!).

The First Master was portrayed by Roger Delgado, and is the version depicted here. He first appeared during the Third Doctor's tenure in the 1971 episode Terror of the Autons. The Master clashed with the Third Doctor (played by Jon Pertwee) many times during Delgado's three seasons in the role. In real life, Delgado and Pertwee were good friends. Sadly, Delgado was killed in a car accident in 1973. Many fans have speculated that Delgado's death led to Jon Pertwee's decision to leave the show.

The Master is a vector drawing, done all in InDesign. It's always tough drawing a character who's dressed predominantly in black. You have to cheat a little and use dark grays, otherwise you end up with just a black silhouette.

Here's the original pen & ink sketch I did of the Master. I drew him from memory, so it doesn't look a whole lot like him. I googled some reference photos of him for the final drawing.

Friday, April 15, 2011

DVD Doppelgängers: The Human Centipede Fest

It's been a while since I did a DVD Doppelganger post, so let's get right to it!

First up we have DVD cover of the bizarre and disturbing The Human Centipede. It's the heartwarming tale of a retired doctor who specialized in separating conjoined twins, and has now decided he can best serve humanity by stitching people together. He does this by kidnapping three victims, er... I mean test subjects and sewing them together, butt to mouth. No, that's not a typo. He literally sews the mouth of Person #2 to the anus of Person #1, and so on. What he was attempting to prove by creating his "human centipede," I have no idea.

Note that the box says that the movie is "100% Medically Accurate." It is too, if by medically accurate you mean "far fetched" and "peppered the script with some terms pulled from Gray's Anatomy." 

It's a very twisted and disturbing film, and definitely not for everyone. I need to do a proper review of it one of these days.

Next we have the movie Last Breath. I know absolutely nothing about this movie, except that the marketing team is really, really hoping that you liked The Human Centipede so much that you'll automatically want to watch this one as well. It's got pretty much every element found in the Centipide cover: murky, indistinct figure lurking behind a translucent panel, hands pressed against the glass, searching for escape, and a monochromatic color scheme. Oh, and don't forget the off-kilter type treatment in the logo. Well done, Doppelgängers!

Finally we have VirusX. Again, I know nothing about this movie, but once again we've got some marketing people who want to remind you of a previous film you may have enjoyed, hoping to subliminally influence you. Yet again we have the vague figure behind a semi-opaque glass, lots of hands pressed against it, and the ever-present monochromatic color scheme. They even did the uneven font. Bravo guys! Come on down and accept your Doppy Award!

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment #4

I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades, but even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

So sit back and enjoy this totally Out Of Context Star Trek Moment.

Ach du lieber! Who knew Spock was a Nazi? And a member of the S.S. to boot! I know Vulcans had a strict and ordered society, but this is ridiculous! Come to think of it, that V-shaped Vulcan hand gesture looks suspiciously like the Sieg Heil salute.

I bet Spock is quoting Mel Brooks and saying to Kirk, "Don't be stupid, be a smarty. Come and join the Nazi party!"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baby Demon

Aw, isn't he cute? And look, he's teething too! I wouldn't want to change his boom-boom though.

Baby Demon was drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original pen and paper sketch of Baby Demon.I ditched the building blocks in the final drawing. I was going to have the blocks spell something, but my brain's worn out lately and I couldn't think of anything clever, so I nixed them.

Here's the digital sketch I did. I decided his face ought to be wider and more gator-like.

Architectural Oddities: The Mary Tyler Moore Show

I know this is only 40 years late, but whatever. I was recently watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show and noticed something strange about Mary's living arrangements. 

Above is a shot of Mary's apartment building from the opening credits of the second season (That's Mare's car parked in front). If you look closely you'll see a central arched window on the top floor. Behind that window is the cozy little one-room apartment where Mary lived for the first three or four seasons of the series. So far so good.

However, in many episodes, Mary's best friend Rhoda Morgenstern is described as living above Mary. Virtually every week she tells Rhoda to "come on down" to talk, and when she leaves she always says she's going "back upstairs."

So where exactly is Rhoda going?

I'm not seeing any space for another apartment above Mary's. In fact, the real-life owners of the house stated that the "third floor" where Mary supposedly lived was actually an unfinished attic at the time the series was filmed. So unless the attic has its own second attic, I'm not seeing any space for an "upstairs." Maybe Rhoda beds down on the roof? Or perhaps she sleeps vertically in that cone-shaped turret on the right? Or maybe she roosts in one of the trees surrounding the house? No wonder she hangs out in Mary's apartment so much.

Now excuse me while I go stand in the middle of a busy intersection and giddily throw my hat into the air.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment #3

I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades. I've seen every episode countless times, I've got tons of reference and behind-the-scenes books, action figures, model ships, trading cards-- you name it, I've got it. With that said, even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

So sit back and enjoy this totally Out Of Context Star Trek Moment.

Apparently the crew of the Enterprise-D finally got fed up with Data's constant barrage of questions, so they shaved his head, dressed him in a burlap sack and shot him right in the breadbasket.

I do like that forlorn expression on his face as he stares at the arrow.

Wherfore Art Thou, Gnomeo?

I have absolutely no desire to see this movie, but I do have one question about it: Do Gnomeo and Juliet kill themselves at the end?

I mean, they'd have to, right? If you're gonna base your movie on the Bard's most famous play, you've got to use the whole thing, tragedy and all. Anything else would be false advertising.

I fully expect to see hordes of hysterical kids sobbing inconsolably as they exit the theater, their little cardboard 3D glasses soaked through from bitter tears.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

HorrorHound Indianapolis 2011

Last weekend fellow blogger KW Monster and I attended the HorrorHound convention in Indianapolis. It was the first time either of us had gone anywhere fun in at least six months. I was happy just to be going somewhere besides one of my jobs. I'd have been excited to go to a quilting bee; it's been that long since I've done anything recreational.

The last time we went to this show it was so crowded inside we could barely move. They weren't even letting anyone in unless someone left-- it was that bad. Fortunately this time they opened up several more rooms in the venue, and there was enough space to breathe and move around.

Which one's the mutant?
Here we see me meeting some sort of mutant soldier. The character looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place where I'd seen him. I'm kind of thinking he might be from some video game, which would explain why I don't recognize him. Anyone out there have any ideas?

KW gets chummy with the mutant.
Whoever he's supposed to be, his costume and makeup were top notch. Movie quality even! His goggles were even glowing with light. The person playing him did an excellent job as well. Instead of portraying him as a stereotypical scary monster,  he made him simple and childlike, communicating through a series of hoots and grunts. He was pretty funny.


In addition to the usual dealer room full of merchandise, they also had a large room full of masks for sale. All the masks were very impressive, but unfortunately they were way out of my price range. Some of my favorites were these giant baby head masks. They were incredibly realistic, and honestly a little disturbing. If you look closely at the screen behind the baby mask, you can see them in action: they were playing a video of people wearing the masks and walking around some city. The oversize baby head on top of an adult body was a pretty bizarre sight.

The same company that made the giant baby heads also made this incredible Charlie Sheen mask. It was truly a wonder to behold, especially close up. My hat's off to the sculptor. This whole Charlie Sheen business started up barely a month ago, which means he sculpted this thing (complete with realistic skin texture and pores), painted it, and hand applied every strand of hair to it in that time. It even has realistic teeth! Incredible!

And yes, that's some white residue under his nostrils. I have no idea what that's supposed to be. No idea at all.

Here we see the mask in action. If not for the fact that it was just a wee bit larger than normal, I would have sworn Charlie Sheen was in the room. It was that good.

Note that the baby head mask in the foreground has the exact same expression I wear any time I hear about Charlie Sheen in the news.

By the way, this is the only time you will ever see anything relating to Charlie Sheen on my blog. He doesn't need any more attention, thanks.

Here we see KW being menaced by a ghoul. This guy's mouth (the ghoul's, not KW's) was about eight inches wide and full of rotten teeth. At first we thought he was just wearing a mask, as no human could have a mouth that wide (apart from perhaps Mary Tyler Moore). But just then he closed his lips over the teeth! Can't make a mask do that! I guess he was wearing some sort of special dentures that stretched his mouth & lips far past normal human limits.

 Some more of the masks on display.

I liked the Maggot Head mask. And the Honeycomb one in the background. But not enough to pay several hundred dollars for one.

I thought these cartoony Universal Monster masks were pretty cool. Actually I don't think they were masks, as they were a bit too small to put over your head. Maybe they were puppets?

There was also an entire room full of current horror hosts from around the country. I'm not sure what show these two were from though. It did my heart good to see that there are still so many horror hosts out there, even if I can't see any of their shows. I thought horror hosts had gone the way of buggy whips and land-line phones, so it's good to see there are still some out there.

By the way, that guy above is wearing a pair of plastic "nerd glasses" that you can buy at many novelty stores. I have a pair of those in a drawer somewhere, and I remember I couldn't wear them for more than a couple of minutes before becoming seriously nauseous. Kudos to him for being able to wear them for hours at a time.

There were also lots of horror/sci-fi celebrities there. In the interest of saving money, I didn't get any of their autographs (which of course I now regret), but I did talk with quite a few. I met Kristanna Loken, who was the female terminator in Terminator 3. She was surprisingly tall, at least six feet without her heels. Most celebs I meet look tiny to me. What's really depressing is that she was born the year after I graduated high school. Excuse me while I go take my rheumatism medicine.

I also talked with Jeffrey Combs, who's been in a ton of horror movies, including the Re-Animator movies, The Frighteners and three different Star Trek series! I've been a fan of his for a long time, so it was nice to meet him. I also talked with Andrew Robinson, who's also been in a million things (horror and otherwise), including Hellraiser. He also played Garak on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

After the show was over we were starving and found a really awesome authentic Korean restaurant. The food was amazing, and we ate till we practically popped. If you're ever in Indy, check out MaMa's House Korean Restaurant. You'll be glad you did!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Doctor Who: Space & Time

I'm always going on about Doctor Who on my blog, so if you've never seen the show, here's your chance to watch a bit of it with the current cast.

This is a short (7 or 8 minute) mini-episode created for BBC's Comic Relief Night charity. Doctor Who usually does a short episode like this every year to help our the charity.

It's written by series producer Steven Moffat, who's written some of the very best episodes of the new series. It's a fun little romp starring the Doctor and newlyweds Amy and Rory.

I was quite impressed by this little story. They managed to pack an entire mind-bending time travel tale into seven minutes, which is no doubt much tougher than it looks. Plus it's darned funny, almost like a Warner Brothers cartoon. I kind of wish they'd do more of these mini-episodes. They could even play them in theaters before movies (instead of Coke commercials).

It Came From The Cineplex: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is the latest movie from Zack Snyder, director of the Dawn of the Dead remake, 300 and Watchmen. How to describe it? It's a main course of Inception and Shutter Island with a side dish of Kill Bill and An Incident At Owl Creek Bridge. Or call it Inception-Lite (tastes great, less filling).

After the death or her mother, Baby Doll (everyone in the movie has cutesy nicknames like that) and her younger sister are left in the care of their vile stepfather. When the stepfather attempts to molest the younger sister, Baby Doll attacks him. Unfortunately in the melee she inadvertently kills her sister. The stepfather then commits Baby Doll to a horrible mental institution in order to get her out of the way so he'll inherit the mother's fortune.

Inside the institution, a slimy orderly assures the stepfather that he’ll see to it that Baby Doll is lobotomized so that she'll never be able to squeal to the authorities about his attrocities. Baby Doll has five days before her lobotomy is scheduled. When the doctor arrives to perform the operation, Baby Doll retreats into a fantasy world, where she lives in some sort of PG-13 rated brothel with several other women, performing Moulin Rouge-like dance numbers (and apparently nothing else) for the high roller clientele.

We never actually see Baby Doll perform, as each time she begins one of her dances, her mind slips into yet another fantasy world. This one is very much like a video game world, where a mysterious mentor/guide outlines the mission parameters for Baby Doll and her team (her fellow Brothel dancers). In the first mission, the guide gives Baby Doll a list of items she'll need to escape the Brothel (and presumably the Asylum in the real world), and she has to single-handedly take on a variety of giant Japanese golems. Next up she and her team are in a bizarre World War I fantasy world, full of cool looking steam-powered zombie German soldiers. The third mission is a World War II setting, except that the Nazis appear to be Orcs. Oh, and there are dragons as well. The final mission is set on a futuristic moon of Saturn, full of hordes of deadly robots and nuclear bombs. When the missions are over, Baby Doll snaps back into the fantasy world of the Brothel.

The girls formulate an escape plan from the Brothel, collecting various items needed to distract the guards and allow them to flee. Several of the girls fall along the way, and the one who ultimately escapes the Brothel (and into the real world) is the one you least expect.

Many have dismissed the movie as being mindless, but there's much more going on than is readily apparent, if you're willing to think about it a bit.

The various levels of reality are very distinct, so there should be no confusion as to which world you're watching. The second level fantasy worlds are all very imaginative and well designed. They play very much like the cut scenes in modern video games, with mission parameters, fights scenes and even a "boss" to defeat at the end of each sequence. Also, Baby Doll becomes a veritable superhero in these worlds, as she jumps, kicks and punches with the power of Superman. The only problem is the movie spends very little time in each one. I'd have liked to have seen more of these various fantasy worlds.

There's one part of the movie that puzzles me a bit. When Baby Doll first arrives in the Mental Institution, the harsh reality of her situation cause her to escape into a fantasy world in her mind. So she conjures up a 1940s Brothel, which doesn’t seem all that much better than the Institution. If you’re going to retreat from reality, why would you think up a world that's only marginally better? Why not a pleasant world full of unicorns and rainbows?

I really liked the opening sequence in which we see Baby Doll’s back story. Told wordlessly, there's never any doubt or confusion as to what's happening. It's similar to the opening credits of Watchmen, and Snyder seems to be a master at this type of sequence. I don’t know if you could pull such a style for an entire movie, but it would be an interesting experiment some day.

Critics and most audiences have savagely ripped this movie apart, proclaiming it the worst they've ever seen. A large number even said they walked out halfway through. I really don’t understand all the hate. It’s full of scantily clad attractive women fighting dragons and robots. What’s not to like? I was entertained by it, and isn't that a movie's job? I was entertained by it, and isn't that a movie's job? I give it a B.

April Fooled

Egad, another April Fool's Day. I'm going to go into Old Man Mode here, so prepare yourselves. I hate April Fool's Day. Always have, always will. Even as a kid I hated it, especially after twenty seven people came up to me and told me my shoe was untied.

Also, shouldn't such antics be performed when, oh I don't know, the subject's not expecting it? Setting aside an entire day to play pranks on one another kind of sucks the element of surprise out of it, and makes no damned sense.

And in an effort to vex me even further, April Fool's has transcended the physical world and now plagues the virtual landscape of the internet. Today's a good day to just turn off your computer and go for a walk outside, even if it's still snowing in your area. All day today the internet will be full of "too good to be true" stories that you'll want to believe, but which are ultimately false. Blogs will be filled with news of new Star Wars movies directed by Peter Jackson, cell phones you tattoo on your arm, or cars that run on dishwater.

I would think that serious bloggers would be concerned with credibility. Walter Cronkite (ask your grandparents, kids) worked long and hard to become the most trusted name in journalism; most bloggers would kill to have 1/100th of his credibility. So then what do they do as soon as they begin to be trusted by their readers? They piss away any and all credibility they may have by running stories that Sony just replaced Blue Ray discs with far superior Green Ray.

Although these types of stories are meant to amuse, they just end up infuriating the readers when they find out they've been had. Not the best way to keep your readers, bloggers.

So until this obnoxious fad dies a well deserved death, don't believe anything you read today. Except this.
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