Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Review of Jack Archer's YF-1R Veritech from Toynami's Robotech Masterpiece Collection

What can I say? I'm a sucker for miniatures and replicas of characters and vehicles from my favorite TV shows and movies. So when Toynami started releasing Robotech mecha as part of their "Masterpiece Collection", beginning with mecha from the Macross Saga, I knew I had to pick up at least one of these items regardless of their high prices. Fortunately, I caught a break when I saw on sale the only vehicle in Toynami's Robotech line that came straight from a video game and not the original anime series--namely, Jack Archer's YF-1R Veritech from the 2002 Robotech: Battlecry game. Read on for my complete review of this unique bit of Robotech merchandise.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Joe Dante's 3D Movie The Hole (2009) Will Arrive in U.S. Theaters This September

I just heard around the 'net that Joe Dante's 3D movie from 2009, The Hole, will finally make it to silver screens here in the U.S. this September. While I still can't pin down the details about how wide this release will be, all I can say is that it's about time.

The Hole is about two young brothers who find a heavily padlocked door in the floor of the cellar of their new house. After they open the door, they discover that they've unleashed a dark force that torments them with their deepest fears.

Why The Hole has been seen just about everywhere else but here is still a mystery to me. It was shot in Canada and it has a very American look and feel to it--it even won an award at the 2009 Venice Film Festival--and yet audiences in the U.S. will be the last ones to see it in the theaters. Furthermore, it's not like Joe Dante is an obscure or unproven director--he gave us such great films as Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins, Innerspace and Matinee, and yet his first 3D movie doesn't make it into American theaters until three years after its initial release? What gives?

Anyway, below are two interviews that I found with Dante that were done during The Hole's release overseas.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Age of Feature-Length 3D Horror and Sci-Fi Cartoons in America Has Arrived

Feature-length cartoons have been around in American cinema since Disney released Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs back in 1937, but cartoons for genres outside of fairy tale-based musicals have been very rare for most of the time since that milestone. Thus, I've been ecstatic that three horror-themed cartoons--ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania and Frankenweenie--are being released in American theaters between August and October of this year. Furthermore, all three of them are in 3D and two of them were shot using stop-motion animation, a special effects technique that has almost completely vanished from live-action films.

To be sure, these titles aren't horror cartoons per se--they are mostly comedies with plot points and imagery based on the horror genre. Yet having three of these films debuting in American theaters within weeks of each other is unprecedented and I think that it reflects what 3D and CGI technology can contribute to cinema animation in terms of the kinds of subject matter that animators can explore. I've already posted about how 3D technology has found a home in video games and feature-length CGI cartoons; here, I'll examine how 3D and CGI have sparked new life into animated storytelling, which has resulted in a selection of horror and sci-fi themed cartoons (five of which I will discuss in this post) that will pave the way for new generations of horror and sci-fi fans. In a time where live-action horror and sci-fi films that are released on the big screen have been overrun with remakes, reboots and retreads, this can only be a good thing. Read on ...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nerd Rant: Robotech Toys, Then and Now

I was surfing around eBay the other day looking for affordable deals on horror and sci-fi collectibles, when I noticed this picture for one of the listings:

The listing was for a lot of five Ride Armor action figures from the short-lived anime series, Genesis Climber Mospeada, and that these action figures were made back in 2008 by a Japanese toy company called CM's Corporation. Mospeada was later redubbed in 1985 to become the third act of the Robotech saga known as either "The New Genenration" or "The Invid War", and the Ride Armors were renamed in the Robotech dub as "Cyclones". (For the sake of this post, I'll be using Robotech terminology and character names.) These are not the first Cyclone toys to be made, but these are the first--and so far only--Cyclone toys that have been made for 3 and 3/4 inch action figures and that actually transform from motorcycles to battle armor that can be worn by the figures.

From what I've heard, the CM's Cyclone toys have their own problems and they certainly aren't cheap. Yet the impressive details and features of toys of such a small size can't help but to evoke some comparisons between them and the Robotech toy line came before them in mid-80s courtesy of Matchbox. Read on for a more detailed comparison, along with some pictures for detail and scale.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Experiments in Unorthodox Horror: House (1977) and Detention (2012)

When crafting a horror film, directors use a variety of cinematic tropes to convey to the audience that the story they are watching belongs in the horror genre. Sometimes, the director may choose to get under the viewer's skin by keeping the source of terror off screen and only hinting at it through narrative hints and suggestive sound effects and camera angles. In other situations, the director may opt for graphic depictions of explicit violence and gore--either in brief and sudden bursts or repeatedly throughout the story--to keep the viewer anxious and off balance. But what happens when a director foregoes the mood-building techniques that are often associated with horror movies and chooses instead to utilize tropes from other genres to tell a story of dismemberment, death and despair?

Two examples of off-kilter horror can be found in Nobuhiko Ohbayashi's House (1977) and Joseph Kahn's Detention (2012). Even though these films are three decades apart, they both are coming-of-age horror films that are difficult to describe due to their unpredictable, illogical selection of counter-intuitive cinematic styles as a key part of their storytelling process. House is a dark fairy tale that's told in a psychedelic, stream-of-consciousness succession of images and moods, while Detention is self-referential teenage comedy/drama that's vigorously mashed together with time travel sci-fi, body horror and slasher film archetypes. Both films could have been scripted and shot as conventional horror movies, but the fact that they weren't makes them fascinating films to watching in their own right. Read on for my complete comparison.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Flip Top Box: A Song About Necrophilia from the 50s

Did you ever remember loving something from your early childhood only to realize when you're much older that the object of your prepubescent affection wasn't what you originally thought it was? If so, I've got a story for you.

Way back when before I was in kindergarten, my sister and I would listen to some 45 rpm records (give yourself points if you know what a 45 rpm record is) that our mom bought when she was a teenager. One of these records that I used to play repeatedly--usually when my buddies from down the block came over--was called "Nee Nee Na Na Na Nu Nu" by Dicky Doo And The Don'ts. As you can tell just by the title, it is a very silly song that easily amused pre-kindergarten kids like us. You can listen to it here:

There was another song on the other side of the 45 that I would also listen to once in a while, but I didn't understand what it meant so I didn't play it often. It was called "Flip Top Box", and I had no idea what the lyrics were talking about so it didn't hold my interest. Leave it to my memory and curiosity to get the better of me, and I recently decided to look up the lyrics to the song to understand what it really meant. You can read the lyrics here.

From what I have read elsewhere, rock songs about monsters and morbid subject matter were written and performed long before the arrival of heavy metal music and "Flip Top Box" is certainly one of the more ghoulish tunes from its time. Indeed, a love song about a man who is buried in a coffin with an easily removable lid so that his girlfriend can dig him up later for some "hugging and a-kissing" is a love song that's not meant for beating hearts. Listen for yourself:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Batman Ends in The Dark Knight Rises

I know that I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises while on vacation and here are a few thoughts that I have about Christopher Nolan's final chapter in his Batman trilogy. So much has been written across the blogosphere about this eagerly awaited film, so I'm limiting my observations to a fan perspective. While it's lacking in some areas, Dark Knight Rises successfully concludes an impressive trilogy of superhero films the likes of which we probably won't be seeing for a long time to come. Read on ...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

An Interview with Jaws Maquette Sculptor Mike Schultz (Part 2 of 2)

Here is the second half of my interview with Shark City Ozark’s Mike Schultz about his ongoing series of Jaws maquettes. In this half, Schultz talks about the responses he’s been getting about his Bruce maquettes from Jaws fans of all stripes, what he’s learned from working with the Jaws franchise, and the challenges and rewards that come with earning a living in the scale replica business. This half also includes a picture gallery of Shark City Ozark’s Jaws 2 maquette (a.k.a. “Brucette”), which will make its debut at the upcoming JawsFest in Martha’s Vineyard. (Photos courtesy of Shark City Ozark.) Read on….