Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

Tallying it up, it looks like I read 21 books, 27 comics (trade paperbacks), and watched 100(!) films in 2012. 45 of the films were documentaries. Looking back, here are the highlights as I remember them:

Top 10 11 feature films I watched in 2012:
The Skin I Live In
Death Proof
Mesrine 1 & 2
the 400 Blows
13 Assassins
Grand Prix
Django Unchained
Somers Town
Red State

Top 5 documentaries I watched in 2012:
Pearl Jam Twenty
Fire in Babylon
One Night in Turin

Top 5 biker flicks I watched in 2012:
The Wild One
Once a Jolly Swagman
C.C. and Company
Sukeban Gerira

Top 5 comics I read in 2012:
Conan (all of the Nemedian Chronicles)
Slaine - the Horned God
Northlanders (all)

Top 5 books I read in 2012:
Icons of Men's Style
Dirty Deeds
Isaac's Storm
Steve Jobs

Top 10 albums that were released in 2012:
Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
Gojira - L'Enfant Suavage
Zodiac - A Bit of Devil
Neurosis - Honor Found in Decay
Alcest - Les Voyages De L'Âme
Graveyard - Lights Out
Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine
Ahab - The Giant
Aura Noir - Out to Die
Hooded Menace - Effigies of Evil

Top 3 albums I procured in 2012 that came out prior:
Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart
Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild Soundtrack
the Prodigy - Experience

I'm as shocked as anyone that I'd pick Converge as the best album of the year...but god damn, just listen to it. The production rips your head off. It's so clear, but so raw and visceral. The layout is awesome, too. The songs are super eclectic. They're relentless. Catchy. Brutal. Technical but accessible. For a band that I thought sucked for 20 years or so...the last two albums are brilliant.

Django Unchained

I sacrificed by doing two things I hate today in order to do one thing I love. I went to Birmingham and I entered a non-indie cinema. And I did these two egregious things in order to see the most anticipated film of the year: Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Miraculously, the scant crowd actually shut the fuck up for the three hours we were there. We had to sit through the most inane trailers before the film, trailers clearly meant to rip out your very soul, but once the lights dimmed and the tension body ruined the movie. The scum don't show up at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Thank fuck.

I think Tarantino and Wong Kar-Wai are probably the two greatest contemporary Directors. That's no secret. Danny Boyle is rubbing shoulders with them, too. Anyway, I was stoked to see Django. And it was pretty fucking good. Albeit, different than what I expected. But so what.

This is far and away Tarantino's most comedic film to date. It's honestly like a comedy set to a dramatic story, rather than a drama with comedic dialogue as one may expect. Definite nods to Blazing Saddles at times.

Best thing about it? The cinematography. The lighting was outstanding. The DP ruled. Great costuming, too.

The entire cast gave a tremendous performance. Christopher Waltz is as charismatic and enthralling as ever. Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson both played their roles perfectly, too. DiCaprio (one of my favorite actors) was probably out-classed for once. Waltz was THAT good. Of course, Tarantino peppered the film with many actors from the 60's and 70's that I've seen in the biker flicks I've been watching: Don Stroud, Russ Tamblyn, Bruce Dern...

Soundtrack was what you expect from Tarantino...and then some. The overt use of rap was an interesting juxtaposition, but a fitting one no-less. You just had to get used to the fact that this wasn't exactly what you expect from Quentin. He's clearly loosened the fuck up and just doesn't give a fuck. He's made his Pulp Fiction. He's made his Reservoir Dogs. If he wants to do something like Django...fuck the rules.

I believe this was the best film that was officially released in 2012.

The best Tarantino feature films in order, according to me:
Pulp Fiction
Reservoir Dogs
Death Proof
Ingrlorious Basterds
Django Unchained
Jackie Brown
Kill Bill 1 & 2

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

I'm gonna save you hours of your life. Don't read this book.

I was pretty stoked to get this for x-mas. I love comics, books and I love documentaries...what better than to mix them all up and read about the origins of freakin Marvel? Well, when you find out what a fucking shambles the company is and what a bunch of money-hungry idiots were crafting the kinda bums you out.

This book is 430 pages of "this happened" then "this happened" then "this happened." It's reads like an accountant wrote the damn thing. And it all seems to focus around money. The creators remind me of whiny Occupy Movement kids who failed to grow up. They essentially sign contracts, do work, get paid, and then bitch about it afterwards. Motherfucker, if you don't like the contract terms, don't sign it.

It's impossible to keep names straight when reading this because SO MANY people come, go, defect, come back, double-cross, etc. Artists are constantly ping-ponging between DC and Marvel, and then eventually more indie publishers. There's tons of shit-talking.

The shittiest part about this whole thing is how Marvel has been handled for the last 70 years. You can't have Creatives running the business because that's not their strength, but you equally can't have bean-counters running the Creative because that's not their strength. It seems at no point in Marvel's history did they ever really have good management or anyone with any sense making business and creative decisions. Something was always sacrificed and it ALWAYS seemed to hurt the fans as a result.

Reading this books just makes Marvel look like a money-making machine first and foremost. And it makes the content-creators look like greedy douchebags. I read the whole thing thinking it was such a squandered potential. If only they had brought in people with artistic INTEGRITY and business-savvy to run the damn company...

The only guy who still seems cool after 430 Stan Lee.

Friday, December 28, 2012

One Night in Turin

This film gave me the chills.

This is a great documentary narrated by Gary Oldman. It doesn't matter if you like football or not, this is one of those excellent films that transcends any preconceptions or preferences. For 90 minutes you will care about football. And you might just get the chills.

I was 10 years old when England got into the semi-finals of the World Cup. My family was on vacation in England when we watched their last game. I remember it vividly. Italia '90 is the football event that I measure everything against. It's really cool to see such a well done documentary about such an important time in English football.

The only down side: The hooliganism is fucking disgusting. It really sucks to see it here in all its standard definition glory. But that was part and parcel of everything that went down. Can't bury your head in the sand. I'm glad it's behind us, for the most part.

Moving on...the soundtrack is brilliant. It's all British shit from the mid-90's. Dance/indie crossover shit like the Farm, Joy Division, Adamski, the Charlatans, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, James, etc. It's probably the best soundtrack I've heard all year, to be honest.

Stream this on Netflix. It's well worth it.

the 400 Blows

I have a ton of DVDs that I've been meaning to re-watch, but I always get side-tracked by Netflix. I'm going to make it through a lot of those DVDs in 2013. I started by revisiting the 400 Blows.

It's a ballsy bloody move as a Director to shoot your debut film and hang it on the shoulders of school kids. But that's what Truffaut did and "ballsy bloody moves" were the cornerstone of the Nouvelle Vague. So I guess it makes perfect bloody sense after all.

It always blows my mind how intellectual young French kids seem to be in movies. They might be twelve years old or whatever, but they're always going on about Balzac, the politics in Indo-Chine, socialism, or some other aspect of philosophy or literature. Maybe that's just what they were like in the 60's. Now they're probably just playing video games on their iPods or whatever.

Anyway, the child actors don't let you down in this one. Just like Louise Malle or Godard, Truffaut's put together a great cast that can really carry the weight of the mostly non-events that populate this narrative. It's not REALLY about anything in particular plot-wise. It's more theme driven, I would say. It's about being a kid, dysfunctional families, nurture, education, attitudes towards crime and punishment. It's real life. It doesn't need a dramatic turning-point to anchor everything. It's just real life. I definitely think Truffaut was borrowing a page from the Italian neo-realists and British kitchen sink dramatists when he penned the 400 Blows. Then as he started creating more films, he started putting his own idiosyncratic twists and styles into the films. It's a fucking great start, though. Definitely one of his best. But honestly, if you put it up against Breathless or Elevator to the Gallows (debuts from Godard and Malle), then it comes in third. Just saying. Elevator and Breathless are actually my favorites from their respective auteurs.

Anyway, this film is Essential.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Batman: Year One

I don't have a lot to say about this one. It's an hour-long adaptation of Frank Miller's incredible "Batman: Year One."

It's good. The comic is a million times better. Obviously.

Stream it on Netflix if you're in dire need of some Batman in your life. It's not a waste of time. The violence is pretty legit and the story is great.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

If I ever die, I want to come back as a lesbian in 1969.

Russ Meyer makes the late 60's look fucking amazing in this flick. It's a total send-up of the original Valley of the Dolls (which I haven't seen yet). Meyers and Ebert's satirical take on Hollywood stereotypes. And good god, do they fill the film with boobs! Glorious breasts in every scene.

I'd recommend seeing this flick on boobs and costume alone. The soundtrack is great, too. It's a fun film that's sort of like Scooby-Doo on acid. It follows a female power-trio who move to Hollywood and hang out with rich Hollywood folk. They do a lot of drugs, get naked a lot, fuck porn stars in Rolls's, party every night, make good music, and get murdered from time to time. It just sort of goes with the territory.

I imagine this is the kind of film that rustled a lot of freakin insider feathers upon its release. Most of the characters are spoofing actual people, like Phil Spector and Muhammad Ali. There's even a whole Sharon Tait murder tie-in at the end. The film was written in 6 weeks and the cast didn't even know if it was serious or not. They weren't sure how to play the parts and didn't want to ask Meyer if it was a comedy or a drama. He played it real straight because he wanted them to deliver the lines in earnest, even though the film was a total parody.

"Z-Man" is particularly good in the film. Most of the actors do a good job, but some are total crap. It doesn't really matter because even if they're total crap they're bound to be involved in a lesbian scene sooner or later and that negates any past errors.

I dug the editing, too. All the chicks are way hot. It's a fun film and it makes me want to live in Russ Meyer's world circa 1970.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

King of Devil's Island

Hammer of Doom and Bad Eye both recommended King of Devil's Island. I gave it a watch tonight and was pretty stoked on it.

It's a Norwegian tale based on true events in 1915. There's a reform school for troubled young lads who can avoid prison by doing a stint on this fucked up island. As you can imagine, the authority running the island don't exactly have the boys' best interest in heart all the time. Shit hits the fan and almost a hundred years later there's a film about what went down.

It was actually not as heavy as I thought it was going to be. Don't get me wrong, it's heavy, but thankfully it wasn't overly brutal. It didn't need to go there. You don't always need a cerebral and visceral pummeling.

Great acting. Good overall aesthetic. No complaints on any front.

Dig this.

Friday, December 21, 2012

the Leather Boys

The Leather Boys. Sounds gay, huh? Well, yeah it is actually. Ever wanted to see a love-triangle between two dudes and a chick set in Britain circa 1964 that uses the Café Racer subculture as its backdrop? Have I got the film for you!

We had "Shitty Biker Movie Night" last night and I curated something a little out of the ordinary. I had read about The Leather Boys in one of my Biker Movie books and I knew I had to hunt it down. Most of the flicks we watch are set in 60's America with Chopper culture. Here was a chance to hang out at the Ace Café with Rockers on their Brit bikes for once.

Both of the British biker flicks we've watched so far have been in a league of their own in regards to...let's say..."artistic merit". The cinematography in this was pretty sweet. The framing was good. It was a 1960's kitchen sink drama that unfolds to the tune of vintage Triumph exhaust notes! We've got a high school age couple who get married, go through troubles, and do some soul-searching. They argue over sex, over money, over dinner and housework. Y'know, that kinda crap. But in between the arguments they drink a lot of tea and hang out at the Ace quite a bit. Bumpin shoulders with lots of like-minded Rockers in London.

Oh yeah, the gay bit. It's pretty provocative for the early 60's. I don't wanna give away the whole damn plot but there's an interesting wrench thrown into the gears, if you know what I'm sayin'.

The film definitely hits on some interesting and relevant themes. I'm going to re-watch it again soon so I can catch all the witty dialogue and bike scenes (of which there should have been more!).

Acting was pretty good all round. Music could have been better. Dug the cinematography.

If you're into Café Racers this is a must-see. It's a good movie. But if you don't care about bikes then I'd skip it because it's not easily found on Netflix or anything. I had to drop $25 on Amazon.

Overall, good shit.

oof, that hair.

Monday, December 17, 2012


I used to watch Aliens all the time as a wee lad, but I'd only ever seen Alien once. So fast forward a couple decades and it was time to revisit the original. After being let down by Prometheus I wanted the mythos to redeem itself. Thankfully, it did.

Alien is clearly influenced by 2001 big time. Which is a damn good thing. Alien is pretty much everything Prometheus should have been. All the places that Prometheus went wrong; Alien got right. The story lines are pretty much the same. Prometheus just reads like someone re-imagined Alien 30 years later and did a crapper version of it.

Alien is much more concentrated and focused. It's tense. It's singular in its approach. Something happens and now we're dealing with that for 2 hours. Thank you. Great pacing. It's really well done.

Obviously it doesn't have shitty CGI. OK, so the chest-burster puppet and the main Alien aren't all that great..., but fuck it. If my memory is correct then they really nailed them in the sequel. The environments are all real cool, and the face-hugger is well done.

Very entertaining. I'll put Aliens in my queue to re-watch again, too. I can't be bothered with Alien 3 again. Shit, they probably even made a 4, didn't they? Meh.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


How the hell did I forget to review this thing? I'm normally so bloody diligent about that. Damn.

Criminal: the Deluxe Edition. It's amazing. It's tremendous. It's worth every penny. Did I really miss reviewing it?

I read the first story (Coward) after Bad Eye loaned it to me. I waited around for the Deluxe Edition to come out, as it was a collection of all the books in the Criminal series (plus extras). Coward was amazing and I needed more.

Criminal is modern noir. But it's a little bit more on the realism tip than say Sin City. It's stylized in its own way. It's incredibly cinematic. There's a lot of humanistic aspects to the drawing, especially the postures and facial expressions, that really elevate the art past everyone else out there. It feels like you're reading a film, frame by frame, as opposed to reading a comic. The brilliant art and great writing just suck you into the Criminal word from the get-go. You're immersed. You live it.

All the stories are worth reading. Characters and places reoccur from story to story and it makes you feel like you're part of a Criminal universe. It makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Similar to Sin City in that regard.

I gotta look back, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the best comic I read in 2012. It's essential.


I read Criminal by Brubaker and Phillips and absolutely LOVED it. So I talked to my man, Sanguis, and he turned me onto Incognito by Brubaker and Phillips. It sounded weird, but I was more than willing to give it a shot based on the strength of Criminal. These guys are a brilliant duo.

Without giving it all away, the gist of the book is there's a dude with super-powers who used to be a "bad guy." He gets put in witness protection by the gov't and forced to lead a normal life. They use drugs to inhibit his super-powers, so he's just an average joe. Well, one thing leads to another and he ends up being a "good guy" and using his powers as a masked-avenger. But it's not quite as straightforward as all that. His past comes back to haunt him and you're sucked down a really fucking cool tunnel of heroes and villains.

The premise is novel, the writing is great, and the artwork rules from beginning to end. I love the colors, too. It's just a fucking great book to read. You blaze through it. I've immediately put it back on my "to read" shelf because I need to re-read it slower and scrutinize the art more. It's too damn good.

Top class. If you have eyes you should get this book (after you've read Criminal!).

Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone

I honestly don't think I'd ever heard Fishbone until I saw this doc'. I'm not losing any sleep over it. As it turns out I don't like what they do at all, but I figured I'd give the documentary a shot and see what they were all about.

Lawrence Fishburn does the narration. The production value is pretty good throughout. The film lets the members tell their tale in their own words, with a few interjections from the narrator every once in a while. Archival footage is paired with recent interviews and animation to weave the whole narrative together. It's done pretty well.

I really don't like their fusion of ska, punk, pop, r'n'b, metal, funk, and weirdness. I don't like RHCP or No Doubt or any of the other bands that look up to Fishbone. But that's besides the point. The documentary is worth watching cuz it's an interesting trip regardless of the music. A weird group of guys playing weird music for 25 years. It's entertaining. You learn everything you'd ever care to know about Fishbone in the movie. You're all set. Such a bizarre band. I honestly don't see how people like their music. Probably the same people that like Mr. Bungle and worship everything Mike Patton does.

Anyway, it's worth watching. Most of the characters are pretty likable and there are some really interesting ups and downs in Fishbone's career.

Steaming on Netflix. Word.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Cycle Savages

We kicked off this season of "Shitty Motorcycle Movie Night" with a good one. Well, "good" is relative when describing 60's moto cinema. Generally the worse it is; the better it is. And this one ruled! Confused? Good.

Bruce Dern really held it down in this. A legitimate actor doing a legitimate job in a genre devoid of acting talent. So that made for a change. Anyway, Bruce is actually really good as the President of an outlaw M/C. Casey Kasem holds it down as his brother, who's a bonefide pimp in Vegas. This isn't the only motorcycle exploitation film that Kasem has appeared in, believe it or not. The dude wasn't always so squeaky clean...

The rest of the cast sucks. But what totally rules is the AWFUL plot. The whole thing revolves around a bad ass illustrator! There's an ex-marine who's drawing pictures of women in the park and whatnot, and even drawing pictures of the M/C. They get wind of this and they're pissed! What if the Man finds out!? They'll be thrown in jail over these drawings... Yup, that's the crux of their hatred for this artist. If the law sees these drawings that will incriminate the M/C and they'll all get locked up.

I'll give you a second to ponder that "logic".

So, what's any druggie/prostitute ring oriented M/C to do? They need to fuck up the illustrator's hands and make it look like an accident! But how? Well, they're gonna have an orgy, get wasted on acid, and then come up with a way to seek revenge on the illustrator. I won't spoil the surprise. I'm afraid I've already said too much.

It was a pretty memorable flick. Definitely recommended. For being a a biker flick and having some amazing bikes (no doubt), they don't show enough riding! It looks great, but they focused too much on the plot. And that's NOT what we watch biker flicks for. This was almost too legitimate. It was like a hybrid of typical moto genre shit with some half-baked idea that they could direct a "real" film. I think they should have had a lot more riding. That's my only gripe.

This still ruled.

Kasem, you pimp! Look at that shirt.

The Walking Dead: Vol 17

Holy fuck! Remember when that fucked up shit happened to the Governor way back when? How you put the book down to digest what you just saw? You had to re-read it to see if your eyes were playing tricks on you. Well, issue 100 is contained within volume 17 and this is the second-most-fucked-up thing you've seen since the Walking Dead started. It's brutal as all hell. It's merciless. It's psychological. It's a bit of a bummer.

Anyway, we're introduced to some new characters and new threats. And some shit is really gonna go down in volume 18. I can't wait to see how this plays out. The ante has been upped. I think it's interesting how Rick is handling this. And I dig the Jesus character.

This is gonna be good.

The Walking Dead: Vol 16

I'd gotten behind on the Walking Dead. I cracked open trade 16 and it took me a little while to remember the bloody characters. Problem with the artist is that he kinda sucks. Half the time you don't know if it's a dude or a lesbian, or if the character has suddenly gotten Downs Syndrome. Wait, is that Maggie or Glen on this panel? He's terribly inconsistent in his physical portrayal.

Anyway, once I realized it was a dude and not a lesbian things started to fall back into place.

Overall, this volume seemed like a good little segue into volume 17, which is where shit REALLY hits the fan...