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» 2009 » October

Monthly ArchiveOctober 2009

Comic books 31 Oct 2009 04:06 pm

Archie #602


Archie #602 is part three of the Archie Marries Veronica storyline, wherein we learn that Mr. Andrews and his super-rich wife have twins. It’s all part of the futuristic, what-if scenario playing out in the Archieverse’s masthead title. It’s also the issue where a lot of readers (OK, maybe not a lot, but definitely me) will be slapping themselves in the foreheads when they realize that parts four through six tell the same “Married” story with Betty as the blushing bride.

That’s right, Archie Comics isn’t about to actually end its long-standing Archie/Betty/Veronica love triangle by having Mr. Andrews select a winner. Instead, readers will get to see how life might play out for both couples. Being the crotchety old letch that I am, I had hoped that Archie would go on a bender and fall into bed with Betty at a debauched class reunion or something, leading to an issue covering the divorce and custody battle and a finale where Archie’s final years would be spent living with all-American girl Betty in a house trailer, but Archie’s creators optioned for a more family-friendly scenario. Oh well.


Movies 31 Oct 2009 03:35 pm

Revisiting a favorite spook


I spent a part of last night revisiting a favorite holiday movie: the original Halloween, which still ranks highly on my list of favorite fright films. From the low-budget feel (grainy, grainy) to Carpenter’s great score (marred only slightly by some synthesizers that sound out of place) this is a great piece of guerrilla film making, as superior to the dozens of slasher imitators that followed in its wake as the original Mona Lisa is to all the paint-by-number recreations of the original.

The last 20 minutes or so are an intense roller-coaster ride of scares and suspense. Like Jamie Lee Curtis’s character, you want to put your hands over your head and gibber in fear, hoping it will end. Carpenter orchestrates the whole sequence like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from — running away from something that inexorably pursues, trying and failing to open a succession of doors, falling down stairs, hiding in closets, and fearing every shadow in every corner. And instead of an ending that leaves you feeling safe, the denouement of Halloween leaves you feeling just as unsettled as the rest of the film. Great, great stuff.


Books 31 Oct 2009 03:23 pm

Lovely Bones


My wife and I listened to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold on CD. It took us about three weeks to complete. Overall, I liked the book, the story of a young girl, Susie Salmon (”like the fish”), who is murdered following her violent rape and who watches over her family from heaven.

The first-person narration was effective, maybe a little less so on the audiobook, which the author reads in a monotone that undercuts the emotion. Also, the last few chapters suffer because Sebold doesn’t know when (or how) to end her story. Just as Salmon is unable to stop peeking in on her family from the Great Beyond, Sebold is unable to take her leave, so we end up with what feels like the Gone with the Wind of ghost stories, a tale that stretches out too far, too long.

Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings and King Kong fame is releasing a movie version next month. I’m curious how the material will fare on the screen.

Commentary & Movies 29 Oct 2009 09:37 pm

I ain’t afraid of no ghost

Here is this week’s Halloween-themed column from The Alliance Review:

“Paranormal Activity” is this year’s “Blair Witch Project,” a thriller designed to look like a homemade video shot by people who can’t hold a camera still.

The movie raises issues about ghosts that are worth considering this Halloween. To wit:

1. Ghosts haunt people who can afford to be haunted.

When the couple in the film realizes they are being visited by a nocturnal specter, hubby (I call him hubby even though he and his gal pal live in sin, so maybe they are haunted by James Dobson, who’s not even dead) rushes out to buy video equipment. He never asks if they can afford it; they apparently can, so he does.

If I came home with an unauthorized purchase like a video camera, I wouldn’t have to worry if the house
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Commentary 28 Oct 2009 09:13 pm


I’m psychic, I tell ya. A few years back, I made a joke that Wal-Mart should start selling caskets so that it could be known as “Wal-Mort.” Now comes the news that the retail giant is doing just that, albeit online. No word on any name change yet.

I’ll expect my commission check in the mail, ghost of Sam Walton.

Movies 25 Oct 2009 12:48 pm

‘Midnight Movie’


I’m having an ongoing debate with my Film Studies class this semester about the merits of suspenseful horror over more visceral, in-your-face, blood-n-guts special effects. So far, I’m losing. I’ve shown  films like Cat People (the original, not the remake) and Psycho in an attempt to convince them that what you don’t see is more frightening than what you do. But most of the class seems to prefer fare such as Saw, which we won’t be screening in class.

I’m not a horror prude. I know there is a place for the well-timed spray of blood or gross-out effect. But I still believe that real terror comes from more suspenseful build-ups and cut-aways before the violence, that the mind conjures up more graphic images than any director and special-effects artist.

Midnight Movie proves my point. The film has an original premise: The serial killer in a ’70s movie comes to life
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Commentary 23 Oct 2009 06:43 am

Up, up and away…

Here is my Oct. 22 column from The Alliance Review:

Are you sick of hearing about “Balloon Boy” yet?

Those who feared that tabloid journalism died with the folding of the Weekly World News, whose headlines of Bat Boy and Bigfoot and Elvis sightings disappeared from grocery store checkout lines a few years ago, can breathe a sigh of relief. The tradition is alive and well, having merely moved to more upscale headquarters among cable news channels and the mainstream media.

The aptly named Falcon Heene soared into infamy last week when Colorado authorities went hunting for him after his parents reported he had been hiding inside a homemade weather balloon that came untethered in his backyard. He was quickly dubbed “Balloon Boy” — with capital letters to distinguish his balloon-ness from all the lower-case balloon boys out there — when it was learned he had been hiding in a box in the family garage.

You’d have to have been hiding under a box yourself to miss the hoopla. Reports went out live on major cable news channels, proving that a live video stream of any event, no matter how innocuous or far removed from the lives of viewers, captures the interest of the udder-chewing cows in charge of TV news.

“Hey, Fred, we got a kid in a balloon over in Colorado!”

“So what?”

“But we got moving pictures too!”

“Well, why didn’t you say so? Cut the Afghanistan coverage, the health care debate coverage, and the ‘if the
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Books 21 Oct 2009 07:10 pm

More ‘Pearls’


I’ m behind in reading the treasury editions of Pearls Before Swine, but it doesn’t matter. With the exception of a few topical punchlines, the humor of Stephen Pastis is timeless. In The Crass Menagerie, he continues to expand his cast, ranging far afield from the strip’s stars, Pig and Rat. We meet a killer whale who moves next door to a family of seals, watch the crocodiles in their desperate attempts to capture the zebras (they eventually take on part-time work to buy food because their predatory skills are lacking), and observe the bizarre goings-on of a pair of effeminate miniature vikings.

Like other treasury editions in the series, Pastis provides commentary beneath many of the strips and serves up a helping of cartoons that were rejected by the syndicate or that didn’t meet up to his standards. 

The hits far exceed the misses. Pearls remains the best strip that my hometown paper, The Alliance Review, doesn’t run.  

Comic books 20 Oct 2009 07:32 pm

Warlord #7


Although this issue of Warlord feels like a beat-by-beat retelling of a story from the original series, I’m willing to cut it a lot of slack because creator Mike Grell is back to write and illustrate the title again. As far as I know, Grell’s return to the drawing board is slated to last only this issue and next, which is a shame, because this is how the book should look every issue.

I’d be willing to wait for bi-monthly or even quarterly installments if they maintained this level of quality, but DC likely isn’t thinking that way. Given how slowly the book sells at my local shop, I wonder how much longer we’ll be entering the lost world of the Warlord, at any publishing frequency.

Movies 18 Oct 2009 04:02 pm

31 Days of Halloween revisited


Two years ago, I wrote a blog entry every day in October to review a different horror film. I filed them under the “31 Days of Halloween” umbrella, and they dovetailed with an article I wrote for The Review about scary movies.

This year, I can only marvel at the amount of time I had to spend on such an endeavor. No way I can carve out anything approximating that this month. But all those entries are still archived here, and it seems a shame not to trot them out to share again.

So, for those who aren’t faint of heart (and who don’t mind a liberal helping of “old school” horrors from Universal and RKO intermixed with a few newbies), here is an encore presentation of the 31 Days of Halloween. Enjoy, and if you have any additional films to add to the list, don’t hesitate to mention them here. The way my schedule looks, I might be able to dig out in time to do a sequel for Halloween 2010.

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