Saturday, 31 January 2009

Sketch Saturday: Solomon Grundy



Solomon Grundy, a hulking undead powerhouse, is an unthinking muscle-wall in the DC universes. Grundy usually kicks it in and around Gotham City, proving problematic for the first Green Lantern Alan Scott, and everybody's favourite grumpy billionaire Bruce Wayne. Grundy has been hasslin' capes since October 1944, first appearing in All-American Comics #61. Grundy was recently, and rather winningly, used as a natural disaster / Hulk analog in the Justice League Unlimited animated series.

Zombie!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

It's 2006 in my house, in my house.



Wireless broadband soaking my house in invisible, deadly wi-fi rays, I found myself finally making full use of my sputtering, neglected Xbox 360. We had a fraught little affair over Christmas, I muddled through Fallout 3's investigate rad-lands, the 360 breathlessly expelling delighted wheezes. Following that I tried to spice things up with some of EA's sci-fi magpie dress-up Dead Space. It didn't last. The tryst unravelled when I found something toothy in the garden. I hadn't prepared myself for that. Sad little 360. All alone with DVDs and Blu-Rays piled high on top. Why ever should I play you? Wireless broadband! That's why. Finally I am able to steal gameplay from thin air! This was just too good an opportunity to pass up. Besides, if my testicles were to rendered inert and useless by all the invisible information floating around, I might as well have fun. From the comfort of my own bedroom, I can finally reach out and touch anyone else in this big wide world! And by touch, I mean 'murder a high resolution avatar of, with bullets'. Exciting, heady times!

Obviously Microsoft is not in the least bit inclined to make this service free. Quite apart from the annual subscription fee, there's the small matter of coaxing your system into receiving signal. PC and router three feet away? Wicked! Just run a cable. Stuck at home leaching off a family set-up, rooms away? You'll find yourself investing in £60 worth of wireless adaptor. There are other options, but in the end I decided I valued ease of use at a premium. Unpacking the limp dongle, I was struck by how little effort had been made to make it seem worth the investment - this is in non-connect isolation of course, otherwise it's a window into a world of uninventive slander - vacuum packed into Microsoft's regulation lethal plastic death-trap, once liberated all you're getting is the clip-on plastic chip, and two brief black and white booklets. Value for money!

Installation's easy enough, but zoot alores! The updates! In theory my 360 is about three years old. It's the second actual machine, but the hard-drive is vintage 2006. Having took the off-line route for so long, minor updates issued sparingly with brand new titles, I wasn't privy to Microsoft's Mii copycat Experience. What wonders awaited me! Like the 360's functional blade slip and slide? Up yours bud! Here's acres of little video windows that lead to dead-end coin shills. It's maddening. Fool that I was I expected a years old xbox.com tutorial on keeping offline achievements to get me somewhere. It didn't. It seemed to be working up to the point where I was presented with a screen that in no way corroborated my step-by-step printout. Options I required were nowhere to be seen. Curses! Luckily, the tutorial did steer me away from simply overwriting years of gameplaying, leaving me with a brand new online account, seperate from my offline one. User friendly! Time sink weathered, I was ready to go!

If, for some bizarre reason, you want to be my phoney Xbox Live friend, feel free to spam friend requests to TheManFrowns. If I like your gamer name, you're in! Be warned though, my online tastes haven't quite evolved past Call of Duty 4 yet. Left 4 Dead's lying about, so that'll get thrown on eventually, but right now I'm all about running headlong into eighteen months worth of practiced children, each and every one screaming frenzied racial epithets into their headset mic.

Web 2.0!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

"Uh wuh bucuhh Uhfuhh!"



Look! It's a make-up test from the forthcoming Sam Mendes Preacher movie. That's teen-rock suicide surviving sensation Arseface. Can you guess why he's called that? It's because his horribly deformed face looks like an anus. Funny that! Despite the script being cobbled together by an uncredited re-writer of anti-smash Titan AE, confidence is fair to middling here at Disaster Towers. Why? Mendes made a decent comic adapt fist of mobbed up Lone Wolf and Cub variation, Road to Perdition a few years back. So, you know, safe hands and all that. God knows why Arseface is rearing his twitch-stink face so early though. I want some Bayou flashbacking!

"How do I get out of this one John Wayne?"

UPDATE:

Word reaches me that this image is neither exciting, nor new. Curses! Apparently the shot dates back to when Electric Entertainment held the rights to mishandle Preacher. Rachel Talalay, the director of Tank Girl and longtime John Waters collaborator, was at the helm, with Ennis scripting. Thanks to Mark for the correction.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Sketch Saturday: Conan the Cimmerian

Robert E Howard's melancholic barbarian debuted in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales, in The Phoenix on the Sword - a heavily rewritten Kull of Atlantis yarn the magazine had previously rejected. Howard would go on to write twenty one complete Conan adventures before his suicide in 1936. Frequently referred to as an idealised alter-ego for Howard, the hero shares both his height and weight. Conan is more than a lunk thump savage - the barbarian is gifted strategist and leader, able to speak a variety of languages. The Conan mythos have enjoyed a variety of adaptations, most notably John Milius' 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian, and Roy Thomas' tenure at Marvel Comics in the 1970s.

For my Conan, I wanted a squared chiseled face, with dark, troubled eyes. I think I just about managed that. There's a bit of Schwarzenegger in there too, but not much.



If I'd had my thinking cap on I would have drawn Conan as a granite handsome Howard shadow.

"Better Blue Than Red!"

Friday, 23 January 2009

More Wrestler



Took in The Wrestler again last night, this time with a much bigger audience. Like all truly great movies, it seemed shorter, slighter, quicker. It barely began, and it was away again. Rather than write another rambling love letter, here's a couple of rambling love points I completely failed to make in my previous review. No doubt it'll end up longer than the review it supplements. A touch more specific this time, so if you haven't had the pleasure yet, you might not want to read on.

1. Unashamed male tenderness.

Professional Wrestling is a soap opera. The choreographed dance men can watch and enjoy without ever feeling like their sexuality is being called into question. If you're a fan, this, despite the oily tanned muscles on show, is all butch. If you're a fan. Otherwise: marginalised and largely centralised since it's 80s heyday, the theatre clings desperately to the invented idea of 'sports entertainment'. It's unloved. It's critically derelict. It's fake. It's for dolts and thugs. It's gay even.

The Wrestler portrays these slighted lunks as a generous family of of back-patters, all eager to dole out praise for their fellow performers. Ram is treated like a God by the kids. They call him sir, and fawn when he compliments them. They love him. His steroid dealer giggles like a child when Ram inspects his muscles. The titty bar bouncer Big Chris can barely get a crossed word out when Ram starts acting the prick.

In-ring nemesis Ayatollah is concerned when Ram visibly starts to flag. He lies down and begs Ram to end the match. After hearing some bemused indifference from a group of women exiting the cinema last night, it's hard not to see The Wrestler as a purely male emotional experience. I'm not even sure why. Is it deep seated gender identity? Fulfilment in working to provide? Being unable to adequately express your feelings? At it's core, Wrestler is about a failure pulling himself together long enough to shine very very brightly. It's about doing one thing exceptionally well, while everything else crumbles.

2. Music.

It's the moment that Ram's rambling guitar theme finally stops it's confused circling, transforming into a triumphant, throbbing rock and roll pound. It's Springsteen's close-out poem to earnest losers - a fee-less favour to his friend Mickey Rourke. It's providing context for a Guns N' Roses hit I never cared even a little bit for: clod-rock melodrama united to wonderful, trembling image. In The Wrestler, Sweet Child o' Mine sounds like a transcendental angel choir; an unspeakably mournful, hair prickling melody.

Nostalgia Bubble! Street Hawk

The 1980s were a golden period of TV intro sequences; whilst today's hits are content to give you a sharp jab of logo ident, all those years ago audiences would be treated to a full minute of hyper-cut series highlights set to a grandstanding theme. Themes eh? What ever happened to themes? You can't hum Lost's wheezing yawn. It doesn't get so stuck in your head that it replaces every single other element associated with the series. Swill, christened in 60 seconds of blood-pumping awesome. Mainstream 1980s evening actioners are all dreadful. Staid lifeless action propped up with mannered ego acting. If you saw the A-Team right now, you'd probably break down and cry. But the theme! Absolutely incredible. Part exposition, part manifesto, all excellent. Right now, I guarantee you're picturing that jeep cartwheeling forwards in your minds eye. How could you not be? Looked like it hurt didn't it?



Forget all that, the very best opening sequence was undoubtedly Street Hawk. Disregarding everything in the proper show - a boring tale of some rubbish cop, and his nerdo G-man mate - instead focus on the opening gambit as text: you've got a slow ponderous robot suiting up in jet black blank-man leathers, pacing around an enormous vacant machine hub. You've got the techno-bike, lifeless until the robot-man sits on it - they seem to be two halves of one symbiotic shitkicker whole. This sequence scored by the bikes' low mechanical growls as interpreted by Tangerine Dream's German electronica.

As a child I was probably dimly aware that it wasn't two robots; one shaped like a man, the other a bike, in Street Hawk. People were definitely in the show. There was a human character associated with riding Street Hawk. As soon as he suited up though, he was a robot. No question. Being generous with my fledgling self, I could point out there's no chance the lead actor could be performing the daredevil stunts, hence the disconnect. It's an 'other' does the riding, some faceless stunt worker.

Nah. It was a robot.

Two robots, working in high speed unison, jumping out of abandoned fairgrounds, racing around like liquid data in a child's brain.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Wrestler



Recalling the directionless plight of Jake Roberts from Barry Blaustein's 1999 grapple confessional Beyond the Mat; Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler strikes a similar observational nerve, passively tailing Mickey Rourke's washed-up hair-hero Randy the Ram as he puzzles through the dregs of his pro wrestling career. Twenty years past his prime, his best days rendered as lurid NES-bit distractions whilst indulgent neighbourhood kids prattle on about Call of Duty 4. He has a daughter that won't speak to him, a week-day job he hates, and the closest thing to an adult relationship is infrequently pestering an equally past her prime stripper, played by Marisa Tomei.

Finding himself in hospital after a staggeringly brutal hardcore match, Ram attempts to put his life back together. As an outline: ho-hum. Thankfully, Mickey Rourke (and indeed every else involved with the production) is (are) incredible. Ram's return from the wilderness to a nostalgia baiting confrontation with a newly relevant heel is easily read in the context of Rourke's tossed-out acting career. A shining light in the 80s, Rourke lost himself in booze and amateur boxing, destroying the matinee star looks he was partially cherished for.

Providing able support in a couple of Tony Scott flicks, Rourke was back front and centre playing 'Conan in a trenchcoat' Marv in 2005's Sin City. Not everyone was convinced though, it didn't help that Rourke was short-changed with the Marv role, the fearful second dimension of that character jettisoned for one-note kill chuckles. Still, who can argue now? Rourke's life is the role, the years of success and self-destruction informing every inch of Robin Ramzinki. Rourke's earnest, dignified performance perfectly compliments Aronofsky's unfussy, documentary styled direction. The Wrestler is not some career-crash geek-show, it's a Springsteen sketch of the private lives of macho dreamers. It didn't quite work out for them.

Sketch Sunday: Nick Fury

Nicholas Joseph Fury first appeared chomping cigars and leading an elite unit of hellcats in Marvel's world war II adventure title Sgt Fury and his Howling Commandos, dated May 1963. A prototype incarnation of the Bond riffing super spy Colonel Nick Fury turned up a few months later in Fantastic Four #21, initially reporting to the CIA, before making the full jump to SHIELD front-man in Strange Tales #135 in August 1965.

Fury is a particular favourite of mine, best seen performing pop-art superfeats in Steranko's peerless run, and as an undying meddle-bot in continuity clog Earth X.



Take that HYDRA!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Rest in Pease Patrick McGoohan



I shan't pretend to be familiar with Patrick McGoohan's work outside of The Prisoner. I have read that J K Rowling approached Mr McGoohan in the early stages of the first Harry Potter adaptation, with an eye to seeing him cast as super-wizard Dumbledore; McGoohan refused on the grounds of ill health. Other than that, I'm familiar with his role as Edward I in Mel Gibson's Brit-basher Braveheart, and agenting about in Howard Hughes' sit-in favourite Ice Station Zebra. He'll always be Number 6 to me though, not for any quality sleight elsewhere mind you, but because his big-browed bruiser braining in The Village is indelible.

A danger man hands in his notice and retreats home, where he is drugged. He wakes up in The Village, a bureaucratic deprogramming nightmare town with indistinct global allegiance. Throughout the series McGoohan is battered physically and psychologically as a parade of Number 2's attempt to learn his secret: why he's jacked it all in. They fail miserably. Prisoner is the quintessential renegade thriller. Where Bond is, more often than not, about committee sanctioned cruelty, Prisoner is a broad shouldered side-part scrapper out-thinking stooges who want to steal the hinge of his identity. McGoohan utterly convincing as an autonomous island of resistance in a sea of compliance.

Here's the opener:



Rather than prattle on, why not let McGoohan have the last word? Via the unending gift of YouTube, here's a couple of interview pieces with the man himself, talking about the motivations behind the series. First a 1977 interview with Warner Troyer, courteously of The Ontario Educational Communications Authority. Here, McGoohan answers questions from an unusually informed and inquisitive live studio audience:

The Prisoner Puzzle Part 1

The Prisoner Puzzle Part 2

The Prisoner Puzzle Part 3

The Prisoner Puzzle Part 4

Lastly we have an older McGoohan pontificating on the show's appeal and meanings in an extract from Channel 4's never-repeated 1984 documentary Six Into One: The Prisoner File. Judging by the rapidly receding sunlight behind him, this was snatched at day's end. McGoohan's a little nice, like he's had a few to drink, and is just getting to the chatty part of the booze. A great way to remember a great man.

The Prisoner File Part 1

The Prisoner File Part 2


Enjoy.

Be seeing you.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Deprive



Presented for your viewing pleasure, a delirious segment from 1987's anthology anime project Robot Carnival. Directed by Hidetoshi Omari, usually seen plying his trade on a variety of mobbing mech shows, Deprive is a seven minute shorthand account of 80s OAV genre obsessions. Fraction men crush building-bots in resplendent clothing, fey counter-culture criminals cackle, and the love of a slight woman allows the hero to transcend his limitations. Deprive is a concise, snack antidote to the flabby navel-narratives modern anime frequently succumbs to - everything you could possibly need to know is told through cross-fades and soundless scream images.

Crush them all Flame-haired Robot-Man!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Disaster Year is not avoiding the issue...



I just haven't had a chance to see it yet. I remain cautiously optimistic.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Hanzaisha!



The dizzying conclusion to Takashi Miike's Dead or Alive. Surely the last word on cops vs robbers myth-making? Apocalypso!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Big in Japan: Watchmen



Actually, I can't imagine it is - the comic anyway. I'm sure they'll have a shit fit for the big bright light motion picture though. I digress, this is how Warners is selling Watchmen: The Movie to Japan. No The Smashing Pumpkins, and little in the way of yawn-motion action; instead Japanese cats are treated to comic-skewing false history reels. What Moore implied is rendered moving. See! The Comedian delinquent about history! Was that your head Mr Kennedy? See! The sun set on Castro! - I can't help but feel they missed a 60s black-op trick by not having him paw at his wilting, CIA irradiated beard.

Trailer Japan marks the mood somewhere at costumed political potboiler, likely of a 70s vintage. The central investigation is given serious, methodical sell-time! It's a sharp contrast to the slow-seizure-shills that have done the rounds this side of the world - we've instead been treated to endless Where's Wally? money shots: "Did your favourite bit make it into the trailer?"

Good lord! It's like they're actually trying to sell a piece of narrative film-making! The most encouraging footage yet, by a clear margin.

Sketch Saturday: Darkseid

First seen mouthing off to an incompetent subordinate in Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #134, Jack Kirby's master antagonist Darkseid has since risen to the enviable position of go-to omega threat for team-up tales up and down the DC multiverses. Feet unt feet of towering granite think-thug, topped with creation blessed eraser lasers, Darkseid ain't to be trifled with.



Crikey!

Friday, 9 January 2009

RealMorimoto



Studio 4°C and Koji Morimoto's latest animated shill-short for Nike's ever expanding custom shoe line. Concrete playground kaleidoscope! Gaze enthralled as three roof-hop sell-cyphers bring cascading colour into your tennis shoe free lives. Wonderfully fluid world-roof racing; puts me in the mind of Sega smash Jet Set Radio gaming, and Blighty menace Spring Heeled Jack. Smiling! More please.

"It is the 31st century.."



".. and Ulysses is the mother fucker."

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Crank 2: "Fuck that!"



Did you catch the Crank 2: High Voltage red band (sweary, sleazy) trailer that did the rounds last week? Dreadfully sorry, had meant to link. If you're lucky, you might find a snatch of it on youtube, but vids are being pulled at an alarming rate by grumpy studio Lionsgate. Down with free publicity! So, what's Stephen King's favourite wideboy shitkicker up to in this wildly improbable sequel? Looks like Statham is in the clutches of nefarious Chinese organ harvesters, who have designs on his penis! Fucks sake! Armed with an experi-mental clockwork heart, Statham must twat about town, upstaging the previous film for gross indecency. It's a tough call, but I think he can do it!

It's heartening to see Statham back at the forefront of tasteless cheapy action narratives. My last brush with the baldy high-kicker was the neutered, flustered Transporter 3. PG-13 Statham is practically an oxymoron.

I really should get cracking on my Statham super-script: Fucka. Fucka sees Statham defending his pub from terrorists, and what-not, armed with only a sock full of snooker balls. I'll post some extracts soon!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Sketch Saturday: Mighty Atom / Astro Boy

Osamu Tezuka's most beloved creation this week: Mighty Atom, or Astro Boy if you prefer. I struggle not adding superfluous linework at the best of times; but trust me when I tell you that Atom's dishevelled / worn look is entirely intentional. I wanted to do a future projection take on the character, maybe stranded many years hence with no-one to maintain him. No grim fortitude though, he's still a pure hearted underclass champion. A wonderful character, blessed with an incredibly distinctive, but economic design. Tezuka understood the importance of silhouette.



This is my favourite Sketch Saturday so far!