Who Is Wonder Woman?

Who Is Wonder Woman

In recent years, Wonder Woman has finally gotten the respect she deserves. That’s in no doubt due to the absolutely amazing reaction from the cinema going public to the Wonder Woman movie starring the spectacular Gal Gadot.

WW has always been one of DC Comics ‘Big Three’, the other two being Superman and Batman, both of whom have been extraordinarily successful in other medium: video games, cartoons, TV shows, movies… but realistically WW has only ever worked before on TV in the seventies, and even then, it took three goes to get that right.

I’m getting ahead of myself through and I should answer the question that is asked by this very trade paperback: who IS Wonder Woman?

Wonder Woman is a character owned by DC comics and was created by William Moulton Marston, and polyamorous psychologist who also invented the polygraph machine, and first appeared in All-Star Comics issue 8 in 1941, with art from Harry G. Peter.

She is a being from the island of Themyscira, a place inhabited by a race of warrior women, and after proving herself through a series of trials, Wonder Woman… or Diana as she is better known, travels to ‘man’s world’ as an emissary of peace.

Now this origin is where Wonder Woman has her problems: over the years, Superman and Batman’s origins have more or less stayed the same, but Wonder Woman’s have occasionally been reinvented, and in that reinvention become a character whose solid foundations are shaky.

Funny enough, though all that change has rocked those very foundations, this trade paperback, collecting Wonder Woman numbers 1 through 4, and annual 1, embraces all that variety and even celebrates it.

This collection has a really interesting introduction by Brian K. Vaughan, the writer of Vertigo’s Y: The Last Man and Image Comic’s Saga which is a real interesting take on the Spirit of Truth.

Story: This story takes place after a massive upset in the DC universe, as Wonder Woman has killed a man known as Max Lord: the founder of Justice League International, and unbeknownst to everyone, a psychic villain with the power to coerce others into doing as he pleases… by breaking his neck.

This story takes up Wonder Woman’s life a full year after that event, and even though she has been exonerated of his murder, she still feels she may no longer be the symbol of hope she professed to be, and so, hands the title of ‘Wonder Woman’ to her younger ‘sister’, Donna Troy.

N.B.: I put the word ‘sister’ in inverted commas as Donna Troy is another character with an origin that has been screwed up over and over and I honestly can’t remember which this one is.

Anyway, Diana has reinvented herself, with the help of Batman and Superman, as Agent Diana Prince and is teamed up with Nemesis, an older DC character at the Department of Metahuman Affairs and gets to face a cavalcade of her enemies, from Cheetah, to Dr Psycho, and even Circe, who even takes on the mantle of Wonder Woman.

Will Diana Prince reveal herself as being the real Wonder Woman, or is the secret identity more important to who she has grown into?

This entire tale of Wonder Woman is a great read, and even though it does have a bunch of guest stars, it never gets bogged down in re-introducing them. Allan Heinberg, a TV and comic writer who is also responsible for the script for the Wonder Woman movie has created a cool spy story, with a bunch of superheroes thrown in for good measure, and it is a heap of fun and runs at a great clip.

Also, it re-invents Wonder Woman without disrespecting what has come before, and even the 60s martial arts master I-Ching gets a mention, as does Diana’s white jumpsuit from the same era.

As a side note: I must admit to having a sly smirk on my mouth when Hercules is re-introduced, and Nemesis refers to him as ‘the REAL one’, as DC’s Hercules appeared in comics over 20 years earlier than Marvel’s more famous one.

Score: ****

Art: Boy, oh, Boy, do I love the art in this book!

There’s is no doubt that I adore the art of Terry Dodson, and when inked by his partner Rachel Dodson, is a perfect storm of super powered heroes that never… Ok, rarely… descends into the anti-storytelling of the nineties books that were cheesecake and beefcake shots. All of the poses of the characters are powerful looking and the story is told really well with some amazing choices of layout.

The redesign of most of the characters fit this story really well. Diana as secret agent looks tough, Hercules looks godlike, Donna Troy, who with a lesser artist would just look like The Diet Coke version of Diana, has her own look and Circe villainy is apparent by the spectacular lighting choices made.

As a side note, there is also a back-up tale by Gary Frank and Jon Sibal with Dave McCaig which is like a revisiting if all the main Wonder Woman characters origins. Frank’s art is as good as it generally is, his superhero bodies are always super-heroic, but occasionally there are some facial expression that look out of place. There’s not really much substance to the story as it is like a sports recap.

Score: *****

WIRIA: It’s a gem that is worth re-reading if only for the Dodson’s spectacular art.

Tenebrae (1982)

One from the very top of the rewatch pile…

Tenebrae (1982)

The cover of my well worn Arrow edition of Tenebrae.

Film:

In 1929, Italian publishing company Mondadori started publishing a series of crime books that had garish yellow covers. It is from here that the Italian thriller/ horror film gets its name: giallo, the Italian word for yellow. The films from the early sixties started as adaptation of these early thrillers, but eventually became a genre of their own. The main characteristics of the giallo film take elements from detective stories and slasher films, with operatic elements and a large dose of blood, gore, violence and nudity. While many films from Italian directors can come under the ‘giallo’ title, the masters are truly Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Dario Argento, son of producer Salvatore Argento, began his career as a writer for a film journal, before heading into screen writing. He worked for Sergio Leone on such films as Once Upon Time in the West before heading into his own movies, thrillers that kept in mind his childhood love of Italian folk lore, the tales of the Brothers Grimm, but most of all, the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. Argento is responsible for some of the greatest horror films ever: Deep Red, Suspiria, and this one -Tenebrae.

Author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) has come to Rome to promote his latest novel, titled Tenebrae. His arrival is marred, however, by a series of killings that copy those in his novel. The police, Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Detective Altieri (Carols Stagnaro) are frustrated by the murderer, who is directly referencing Neal by leaving pages from his novel at the crime scenes.

Anthony Franciosa asks Daria Niccolodi how one can star in more Argento films.

Neal, along with his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon), his assistant, Anne (Daria Niccolodi)and his other employees begin their own investigation to uncover the identity of the killer…but what Neal doesn’t realise is that someone, an ex-lover, Jane (Veronica Lario) is in pursuit of him, but what is HER connections to killing? Does she even HAVE a connection?

John Saxon – legend.

Tenebrae is the film that saw Argento return to traditional giallo after his sojourn into the supernatural with his previous two films Suspiria and Inferno, two chapters of his so called (and as of early 2006 unfinished) ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy and then right back into it with his next film Phenomena. With its rich exterior shots of some exquisite Italian locations, and an unusually bright palette for a horror film…a lot of the murders take place in broad daylight, Tenebrae is a pleasure to watch. Some really great performances by the actors, and some great bloody effects, particularly a brilliant axe murder.

I must admit that Tenebrae is one of those ‘perfect storm’ horror movies for me. My favourite director, an interesting story, a great soundtrack, a big dash of violence, John Saxon and beautiful Italian women. I honestly think there is only one horror film that is better than this one and that is Re-animator.

Score: *****

The menu for the Arrow Bluray Of Tenebrae.

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video multi-region Bluray release from 2011, which runs for approximately 101 minutes. It is presented in a grainy, but clear 1.85:1 and a good mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Some amazing extras on this disc, but you’d expect nothing less from Arrow! Before the disc, though, the package contains four options for the cover of the disc, a poster of the new disc art and a booklet about the film written by Alan Jones.

There are two commentaries on this disc, both which are super interesting. The first is with horror journalism legends Kim Newman and Alan Jones, and the other is with screenwriter Thomas Rostock.

Screaming Queen! Daria Niccolodi Remembers Tenebrae is an interesting interview where she talks about her character in this film, and her history in cinema and with Argento.

The Unsane World Of Tenebrae: An Interview With Dario Argento where he talks about his career and Tenebrae.

A composition for Carnage: Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae sees the lead player in the band Goblin and composer (as well as hero of mine) Claudio Simonetti discuss his work on this film and his career.

Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches is footage from 2011 of Claudio Simonetti and New Goblin playing live. I admit I caught them in Sydney in 2015 so seeing this brought back fond memories.

Trailer is, well, the trailer for the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: Tenebrae is one of my favourite films of all time so it gets regularly rewatched, and it should be by you, too!

Sometimes, guests arrive when you are still getting ready.

R.I.P. Steve Ditko

Was sad to see that comics legend Steve Ditko, co-creator Of Spiderman, Dr Strange, and the lesser know, but still important Charlton comics Blue Beetle and Captain Atom, as well as supernatural comic from Defiant Dark Dominion.

I discovered Ditko’s work as a kid with the reprints that Newton comics did in Australia of various Marvel comics, and whilst I was really into the dynamic action of Jack Kirby, I also appreciated the quiet moments that Ditko was able to convey, as well as his depiction of Spidey as a lithe hero, something Kirby perhaps could not have done.

He also had this amazing capacity to add an almost regal, austereness to every panel featuring Dr. strange.

I think the last time I really read a Ditko comic, other than reprints, was in the failed Jim Shooter comic company Defiant, who he drew an amazing comic called Dark Dominion, and his artwork always contained that same calm beauty.

Rest In Peace, Steve, and thank you so much for giving us opportunities to see some amazing artwork.

The Hole (2009)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Hole (2009)

The cover to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

The cover to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

Film: This is one of those times where I felt like rewatching as it’s like comfort food. First, it’s directed by Joe Dante, responsible for 80s classics like The Howling, Gremlins and Innerspace, and the awesome late 90s kids flick Small Soldiers and written by Mark L. smith who wrote the Vacancy films and The Revenant.

The Hole tells of single mum, Susan (Teri Polo) who has moved to a small town and away from big city life with her sons, Dane (Chris Massoglia) and the younger Lucas (Nathan Gamble) and into a house which, as these sorts of movies alway do, is far to big for her ever to be able to afford.

Our hero, Dane (Chris Massoglia) tries to open his hole.

Our hero, Dane (Chris Massoglia) tries to open his hole.

This house has a weird secret in the basement though: a seemingly bottomless hole that cute next door neighbour Julie (Haley Bennett) suggests may have been dug by previous tenant Creepy Carl (Bruce Dern), but very quickly our young trio discover than maybe, just maybe the Hole has deeper secrets…

…supernatural secrets… secrets that drove Creepy Carl out of the house and into a state weird he fears the stones and what it hides. Will the kids survive the contents of this bottomless pit?

Dane and Julie (Haley Bennett) discuss the dangers of their open hole.

Dane and Julie (Haley Bennett) discuss the dangers of their open hole.

This film really is classic Joe Dante with the small town being attacked by ‘something’ and as usual, he hires a charming cast of good guys and an oddball bunch of weirdos. Special mention has to go not just to the casting of Kate Hudson lookalike, Haley Bennett, but to see Bruce Dern in a film again was a heap of fun, and you can throw in a bit of legend Dick Miller as a pizza boy for a great trifecta.

The unfortunate thing about this film is it’s SO damned generic. Every new boy in town moves into a cute, available girl and has an annoying/ embarrassing younger brother/ quirky aunt/ mental grandfather and there is something weird in the basement/ next door/ at the pier. I will say this film succeeds with its extremely likeable cast, and there are some genuinely creepy moments, but there is not much new being brought to the table to allow it to stand out. It just seems to be a classic trope of ‘kids’ horror movies… those gateway movies for young horror fans…that is wearing out its welcome.

Honestly that trope was the only thing I didn’t like about the Jack Black Goosebumps film. I just think audiences may have evolved beyond that point.

Anyway, all in all it’s not a hateful bad film, it’s a nicely shot slice of average with a loveable cast from a reliable director.

Score: **

The menu to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

The menu to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

Format: This film is presented on the disc as both a 3D or a 2D movie, but only the 2D was reviewed as I don’t have the capacity for a 3D viewing at home. The film looks and sound great with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and DTS-HD 5.1 Dolby digital sound, and runs for approximately 92 minutes, which is about the average attention span of an early teen horror fan.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Aftershock, Uninhabited, Larry Crowne and Cane Toads The Conquest, which can also be accessed separately in the extras menu.

In addition to those spectacular trailers though, we also have:

Gateway To Hell: The Making of the Hole which is, well, the making of the the film, The Hole, featuring a whole bunch of interviews with various cats and crew members.

A Peek Inside The Hole looks at the special effects of the film.

Family Matters looks at the relationships between the lead actors and their characters.

The Third Dimension looks at the process of making a 3D film.

The Keeper of the Hole looks at a Bruce Dern’s Creepy Carl character.

Like a lot of extras, all of these featurettes could have been cut together nicely and made a decent 40 minute to an hour ‘making of’ styled thing, rather than a bunch of what feels like worthless little ‘bits’ but I guess more is better, right?

Score: ****

WISIA: The Hole is a cute kids film, but really doesn’t hold up like some of Dante’s other films. I wouldn’t probably watch it again.

This strange ghostly girl crawled out of Dane’s hole.

This strange ghostly girl crawled out of Dane’s hole.

Mondo Topless (1966)

One from the rewatch pile…

Mondo Topless (1966)

Film: You have to love ‘mondo’ movies! Titilation and cheap thrills disguised as serious documentaries by directors looking for a quick buck for a budget price, because stock footage and not having to pay for actors and special effects is cheap cheap cheap!

The most famous of these mondo movies usually feature animal slaughter, executions and bloodshed designed to disgust/ thrill the viewer… but these are NOT the ones for me. I prefer the soft, less violent films that feature what used to be called ‘the fairer sex’ before that became a totally sexist and outdated term. Now this film is certainly a product of its time, and today this type of film wouldn’t be produced and shown at a mainstream cinema, but when this was produced, these types of films, like Teaserama and others, replaced the ‘men’s’ club burlesque shows.

Every fan of exploitation should have a basic knowledge of Russ Meyer: World War 2 combat photographer who couldn’t get a break making ‘legitimate’ movies, who then moved into cheesecake photography for Playboy, and settled on making films, the way he, a self-confessed ‘titman’, wanted to see them. Over his career he made 23 films, the best known being John Waters’ favorite film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! KILL!

Mondo Topless starts as a travelogue of San Francisco, where a nubile naked wonder drives us around town showing us not just the city sights, but a couple of hers as well!! The footage is narrated by John Furlong, a Meyer regular, who introduces the city and each of the well-endowed women as well. Over the next 60 minutes we are treated to the sights of 15 women, performing pulsating pastiches of gyrating go-go, irresistible writhing and thrilling thrusting. The film travels to Europe, visiting various strip joints around the world with accompanying footage of dancers from each country. Also as an added bonus, some stock footage of Lorna Maitland, star of Meyer’s film ‘Lorna’, is also seen in random scenes, showing off her ample assets. The display of dynamic dames with dominating domes is not all the film is about though, each of these marvelously blessed misses has a lot to say about the troubles in their lives: the curse of curvaceousness, their opinions towards men who find them sexy or exciting, what they think of the problems in South America, and the threat of the Cuban missile crisis… Ok, so maybe they DON’T discuss some of those subjects, but at times, their now-dated opinions are hilarious, and to a younger viewer, possibly quite scandalous!

Now rest assured this is no soft core or hard core pornography… no no no!! It is pure go-go, GO!!! This is low-priced kicks at their finest, and filmed by King Leer, the Fellini of the sex industry himself: Russ Meyer, you know these women are going to be filmed at obscure angles aimed to excite!! Not all of the footage in this flick was filmed for this flick; some of it comes from Meyer’s 1963 Europe in the Raw feature, which was essentially the same film, but with only European performers in it. The surf guitar soundtrack is supplied by The Aladdins and is a classic example of its type, to be sure!!

Even though this was banned when it first was released in many countries, it is quite tame by todays ‘pornographic standards’… which I guess is an oxymoron, but you, dear reader, know what I mean!!

I would like to end this review with a quote from Meyer himself which sums up the film perfectly: ‘nothing is obscene providing it is done in bad taste’.

Score: **1/2

Format: This film was reviewed using the Arrow DVD release which is presented in an average 4:3 image that does contain a bit of grain and an occasional artefact. The audio is present in 2.0 stereo and isn’t special but the era of the film, and type of film don’t really lend itself to needed high quality sound.

Score: **

Extras: There is a bunch of really cool extras on this disc, not a huge amount, but a decent set… um… of extras… anyway:

Trailer Reel features trailers for Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Blacksnake, Mudhoney, Vixen, Wild Gals of the Naked West, Supervixens, Beneath the Valley Of The Ultravixens, Cherry, Harry & Rachel and Common-Law Cabin, which is a pretty fair overview of Meyer’s output, though a trailer for ‘Lorna’ was conspicuous by its absence.

Photo Gallery is 18 promotional pics from the film, and whilst I am normally not a fan of this sort of thing, it does show the advertising campaign for the film.

Johnathon Ross: Interview with Russ Meyer sees a very young Johnathon Ross (from 1988) interview the master himself, taken from his series of docos ‘The Incredibly Strange Film Show’. It runs for about 40 odd minutes and is a nice look at his history and a selection of his films. Also featured in this doco are Tura Satana, Roger Ebert and Malcom McClaren.

Score: ****

WISIA: Like all of Meyer’s films it’s not one to sit around and watch with the family, but I have to admit to having seen it several times but not due to the boobs: the dialogue is occasionally hilarious and the lounge music soundtrack is pretty awesome.

Dead Awake (2016)

One from the to watch pile…

Dead Awake (2016)

Film: This film shouted out at me from the shelves of my local store for one reason: how absolutely stupid the title is. I get that throwing the word ‘Dead’ into a title will make most younger (and this older) horror fan stop and check something out, and if it were a term that was actually used in the English language, you know, like Dead End, Dead Stop, Dead Tired, I’d be impressed, but Dead Awake was such a stupid combination I had to check it out.

Then I read the back of the Bluray slick and I find that it’s about sleep paralysis, which is something I find both horrible to think of, and an interesting idea for a horror film, especially when it’s mixed with a little American-styled post-millennial ghost story like Grudge/ Ring/ Darkness Falls/ Boogeyman films that haunted the cinemas in the early 2000s. I’m not really a fan of many films of this period, but for some reason I find I revisit these films occasionally.

This film was written by Jeffrey Reddick, the guy who came up with the concept of the Final Destination movies so it has some positive providence , and directed by Phillip Guzman, who directed A Kiss and a Promise.

When Kate Bowman’s (Jocelyn Donahue) recovering drug-addict sister Beth dies during a sleep paralysis episode, she discovers that perhaps her sister was being haunted by a creature who kills people in their sleep during these episodes.

She meets Beth’s doctor, Dr Davies (Jesse Borego) and at first isn’t convinced of this weird malevolent being bent on killing that he tries to tell her about, until she starts having episodes herself, as does her sister’s boyfriend, Evan (Jesse Bradford… remember Cliff Pantone from Bring It On? THAT guy!).

So Kate and Evan start a trail that starts at a sleep hospital run by Dr. Sykes (Lori Petty) to try and defeat whatever it is that haunts them, but how many people will die along the way, and can this creature, that appears to have existed for centuries, even be destroyed at all?

I really wanted to like this film. The cast are all really well picked, it’s filmed beautifully, the script is ok, but the premise is just so generic.

Dead Awake is a bizarre 80s-nightclub styled megamix of A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Grudge and Ring, that is, the male and female lead of Ring versus a dream monster, who moves like the ghost from The Grudge. It’s not that this is a bad film, it’s just been done before by other films that did it far better. Emulating something is fine, but doing so with no point of originality is detrimental to your product.

To provide a metaphor, this film is the nerd who desperately wants to be a cool kid, but ends up being the kid from the Pretty Fly for a White Guy film clip.

Score: **

Format: Dead Awake was reviewed with the Australian region B Bluray which runs for 99 minutes and is presented in a 2.0:1 image and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Audio, both of which are immaculate.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Revolt, Faults, Eat Local and 13 Sins.unfortunately, that is it for the extras, but those last three films I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for… Revolt, not so much.

Score: *

WISIA: Probably not.

Day of the Dead Bloodline (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Day of the Dead Bloodline (2018)

Film: Another day, another ‘Day’. It seems that a lot of Hollywood need to feed from the undead teat of the late George Romero, and if they screw it up, they give someone else a go. The Night of the Dead remake by Tom Savini was a decent watch, Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead was suitable impressive too, even though it was more of an action film with dead people than a horror film with a message like Romero’s, but remakes of Day have constantly screwed up.

Horror legend Steve Miner’s heart may have been in the right place… in his chest, not on a plate… when he remade Romero’s Day Of The Dead, but it just fell a little short with some odd casting, like Mena Suvari, and Ving Rhames, but playing a different character from that which he played in the Dawn remake… confusing! Next we had Day of the Dead 2: Contagion and here we… actually no, the wounds are still too fresh, even after 13 years… and now we have a brand new, 2018 remake, Day of the Dead Bloodline, with a script by Hush’s Mark Tonderai and Baby Blues’ Lars Jacobson, and directed by The Corpse Of Anna Fritz’s writer/ director Hèctor Hernández Vicens.

The Dead walk, and mankind is screwed! You know the story: when there is no more room in Heck, the Dead walk the earth when something fell from space or something, and mankind is in some deep doodoo.

It’s 5 years latter Day Z, and medical student Zoe (Sophie Skelton) is now one of the medical personnel at a military run refugee camp, filled with army personnel, as well as families. One of the children at the camp gets a strain of influenza that desperately needs anti-biotics that she knows is at the University facility where she was five years ago, so of course, she and a bunch of muscle-bound army men travel off to retrieve it.

The problem is though, when they get there, the place has a small zombie problem, and particularly for Zoe, a creepy dude, who was obsessed with Zoe and had a strange and rare blood type, named Max (Johnathon Schaech) is still residing there. Now, though, he’s a zombie, and due to his weird blood type, he only half-turned and still retains some memory or being alive.

Well, this is the assumption, anyway…

Of course, he is intelligent enough to find a way to break into the facility, and when captured, Zoe convinces Lt. Salazar (Jeff Gum), the boss of the refuge that he may be the key to creating a vaccine to protect mankind from become ‘rotters’ (this film’s word for zombies) and she starts her experiments… but will the refuge survive?

So how bad is this? Well, it’s not. It’s interesting insomuch as there is a real proactive movement towards creating an inoculation which is an interesting aspect to the zombie breakout idea, which yes, has been done before but if you overlook some of the stupid script bits and pieces as a few moments of emotional melodrama, it’s actually works.

Schaech does his rapist freak Bub impression just fine, and Gum’s wound-back version of Captain Rhodes actually works far better as he at no time really becomes a caricature like Joe Plato’s did. The army aren’t the enemy here, they are here to protect us,

The zombies all look pretty good too, and the special effects are of a pretty good quality, but there is one problem with the film.

You can definitely tell this isn’t Romero’s Dead World is it all looks new. The story tells us it’s 5 years after the Dead first came back, but everything: the military vehicles, the guns, the uniforms, all look like they were unpacked yesterday. Also, even though supplies are getting thin, everyone at the refugee camp looks like a catalogue model: clean skin, even tan, manicured beard/ hair… thank Revlon a decent hairdresser/ waxer survived the zombie apocalypse.

This is where the suspension of disbelief gene that all movie fans have, fails. I don’t like comparing originals to remakes, but the grit and filth of the facility in the abandoned mine in the original gave a sense of realism, whereas even though the zombies look fine in this, it’s all Ikea fresh. Even the abandoned towns don’t look TOO abandoned, and a little like a movie set.

This is an Ok zombie film, and is more like a sequel to the Snyder Dawn with its slick presentation. I’ve actually seen many worse zombie films than this, and two of them were also called Day of the Dead.

Score: ***

Format: Day of the Dead: Bloodline runs for approximately 90 minutes, and this review was performed on the Australian, region B Bluray which has a perfect 2.35:1 image and an DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 of matching quality.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a single extra on this disc called Behind the Scenes is a 5 minutes fluff pieces which pays homage to Romero’s original work, but quickly turns into a self-congratulatory thing. Interesting one of the producers says ‘we are not trying to replace Romero’… so why not call your film ‘Military Hospital Of The Dead’ or ‘Blood Type Z’ or something.

Score: **

WISIA: Aside from how stupidly new it looks, it’s good enough to watch again, even though the end may be a little… well, really schmaltzy, but it’s certainly a different ending for a zombie film, that’s for sure.

Black Panther (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Black Panther (2018)

Film: Now even though this is technically a rewatched film, I’m going to label it a To Watch Piler… why? Well I received a free ticket to see this at the cinema, and unfortunately it was a Mum’s and Bubs session, which means the house lights were on the whole time, so any scene that takes place at night is almost unseeable, especially when the lead cast member is wearing all black!

Black Panther is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which all join together in a story ten years in the making which will all be resolved in 2019’s sequel to Avengers: Infinity War. Black Panther has been an important character in the Marvel comics universe since his first appearance in Fantastic Four comics in 1966, and has been an important member of not just that team, but also the Avengers as well as having several impressive comics series’ himself.

The film was directed by Creed director Ryan Coogler from a script that he co-wrote with Amber Lake’s Joe Robert Cole, and what they created caused a massive bag of excitement for its positive role models.

Black Panther tells of the country of Wakanda’s new King T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), who has ascended to the throne after the death of his father (in the film Captain America: Civil War) but the road to his regency isn’t smooth.

First, whilst being watched by his people, including his mother Ramona (Angela Bassett), potential wife Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright – the real revelation of this film), he must prove his worth as a leader in battle, but all the while, machinations are happening outside of Wakanda that may still threaten his rule.

A man calling himself Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has teamed up with arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) but what is there nefarious plan, and how does it effect the rule of the Black Panther.

This film initially reminds me of a superheroic version of a James Bond film, much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did. It has exotic locations, improbable inventions and a wry sense of humour as Boseman performs his African James Bond alongside Wright’s ‘Q’ and Forrest Whitaker’s ‘M’ as they face off against an eccentric bad guy with a sidekick with a bizarre weapon, not to mention a bevy of women, all of whom are defined by their skill, brains and asskickery rather than their looks.

The design of the film is magnificent: quite possibly the best a Marvel film to date has to offer, and the colours jump from the screen and are a nice tribute to the beauty of many African cultures, but occasionally the CGI effects fail. Ok, they don’t actually fail, but there is a standard of effects that some blockbuster films seem to think is ok which occasionally don’t sit right, due to the physics of gravity or the extension limits the human body has. I get it’s a movie based on a comic, but if you are selling it as real, it shouldn’t look like a comic. Also, there is some CGI animals that just don’t look quite right.

Ultimately, the one thing I find about this film that doesn’t work is it’s just an introduction. The Black Panther storyline is reminiscent of the first Iron Man’s story of the rights of ascension in a technological world, and serves really as just frosting on the cake that is actually film that could be called Wakanda: A Prelude to Infinity War, as it sets up one of the battlefields for the next Avengers movie, just as the first Thor and Captain America films were really just a way of getting the punter ready for a more complete film experience with the first Avengers film.

In saying that though, I don’t want to discount the amazing work it did with having a sympathetic bad guy and a great set of role models for various groups that in pop culture don’t get as many as the white male population.

This film, even though it is a fun film, in 100% sticking to the Marvel formula so if you are expecting TOO much different from the stations that the hype train stopped at whilst this film was at the cinemas, you will be disappointed.

Score: ***

Format: This film is presented in an impeccable 16:9 image with a matching DTS-HDMA 7.1 audio which is absolutely amazing.

Score: *****

Extras: As one expects with Marvel films, they have a pack of extras ready to role, some about this film, and others to advertise other product, but why wouldn’t you do that with a captured audience?

There is a Featurettes section which contains 4 parts: Crowning a New King which looks at the character of Black Panther and his world, The Hidden Kingdom Revealed is an introduction to the fictional African nation of Wakanda and making it a ‘real’ place, The Warriors Within looks at the actors who play the various Wakandans throughout the film and finally, Wakanda Tevealed: Exploring the Technology looks at the cool toys in the film.

The usual Marvel Gag Reel is present which seem to get less and less funny each time, as the actors seem to almost be acting the gags.

There is four Deleted Scenes which, like the rest of the film, are quite charming, and honestly, whilst I normally think most deleted scenes are better off deleted, there are a couple of bits here that have some heart that would not have hurt the film at all.

From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion is a really cool look at all the writers of the character, including not just the movie creators, but also comic writers like Don McGregor, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Christopher Priest.

Marvel Studios:The First Ten Years – Connecting The Universe is the first of the Marvel sales pitches on this disc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is no doubt it is extraordinarily clever and it is pretty cool when any series of films have a linking world, like Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse and more importantly, Universal’s monster movies of the 40s that had multiple crossovers in the form of House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. This is a fine albeit short celebration and for a moment, you look at all these separate movies as one big story, rather than a series of films with a, to date, continually unresolved plot device as it’s connective tissue.

Exclusive Sneak Peek at Antman and the Wasp is another one of those aforementioned self-promotional pieces that shows off the next attraction coming to the ci emas, in this case, Antman and the Wasp. The first movie was so charming that I actually am really looking more forward to this that either the sequel to Infinity War or my beloved Captain Marvel movie (in which I believe the main character has been miscast, but prove me wrong, Marvel).

There is also an Audio Commentary by writer/ director Coogler and production designer Hannah Beachler is fascinating as it doesn’t talk about the usual writer/ director stuff, it also explores the design of the entire world of Black Panther and Wakanda.

Score: *****

WISIA: As it is a part of the greater world of the Marvel movies, I will watch it again, but it’s not a top tier Marvel movie for me.

The Slayer (1982)

One from the to watch pile…

The Slayer (1982)

Film: Even though I am taking this from the ‘Re Watch Pile’, I am actually regarding it as a ‘To Watch Pile’ contender as the only way I have seen it before was on a pretty awful DVD release from the UK from several years ago. I remember seeing the video cover at my local video shop, but never got to hire it as there must have been some other horror fan in my area who totalled bogarted this tape and no one else EVER got to watch it. He’ll, I even had a copy of the poster hanging up in my bedroom as a kid.

The Slayer was written and directed by J.S. Cardone, who also gave us Puppetmaster and the remake of Prom Night, and co-written by Bill Ewing, who also produced the film.

Artist Kay Church (Sarah Kendall) has always had nightmares, and she exorcises the images from them through her art. On the eve of an important art show, her husband David (Alan McRae), brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and his wife, Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), decide to take her away to a secluded island to rest and relax and wind down after the child up to the show.

Once on the island, though, Kaye gets a weird feeling like she has been there before, even though the island is mostly abandoned during the off tourist season, and she starts to recognise places on the island that she has painted from her memory.

Kaye feels off the whole time on the island, and when her husband goes missing, things begin to unravel.. has she actually been here before or has she been getting premonitions about the place that feel like a warning, and when the deaths start happening, who, or what is responsible….

For its time, The Slayer is unusual as the trend was really mainly sexy, slutty teens being killed and this clearly features adults in peril. It also doesn’t feature a murder event ten minutes to keep the short attention spanned audience interested either, and instead slowly tells a story of a woman who may be descending into madness.

I really like this movie. It’s not just a good watch, it’s also a charming document of the time (smoking in a 6 seater Cessna is something no-one under 30 could even comprehend, let alone pass by without a complaint to the management) and has some pretty creepy bits in it, and a left field ending that in lesser hands could potentially have not worked, but actually works really well within the context of the universe the film exists in.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Arrow Video multiregion Bluray, and is presented in a nicely restored 1.78:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It was nice to actually SEE this film for the first time and not on some terribly mastered DVD.

Score: ****

Extras: It’s an Arrow Video release, so you expect there to be HEAPS of extras, and there is!

First, the film is available here on both a Bluray and a DVD version, and the packaging has a reversible sleeve, one with an original image from the film, and the other by Justin Osbourn, which is amazing! There is also a booklet with articles by film historian Lee Gambin and Arrow’s Ewan Cant.

Nightmare Island: The Making Of the Slayer is an exhaustive almost hour long documentary about the making of the film and a great mix of talent are interviewed for it, including writer/ director Cardone, actress Kottenbrook, production executive Eric Weston and a bunch of others. It is a fascinating look at the whole process with some interesting anecdotes from all involved.

Return to Tybee: the Location Of The Slayer is a look at Tybee Island, where the film was made, today. The best thing is in the film there us a dilapidated old cinema which has been restored to its former glory, and enjoying a showing of The Slayer.

The Tybee Post Theatre Experience features the screening mentioned above (which can be watched on this disc with the sound of the audience played as well), and also has a speech from Arrow’s Ewan Cant and a Q&A with the films DoP Arledge Armenaki.

There is a stills gallery which is a slideshow with a combination of behind the scenes stuff and stills from the film, with the soundtrack played over the top.

There is a trailer.

Finally, there is a commentary with Cardone, Weston and Kottenbrook, another one with The Hysteria Continues (a horror podcast from the UK), an isolated composer score track with accompanying interview and finally a repeat of the Tybee Post theatre audio track!

Score: *****

WISIA: As I mentioned, I’d only ever seen this as a pretty poor quality DVD which was a chore to watch, but now I’ve seen it in this cleaned-up version, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back.

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

One from the rewatch pile…

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Film: You have just got to love a good monster movie, and it’s especially great when that film has a monster that is either based in reality, or is reality tweaked to some tiny degree to make it even more fearsome, or in the case of a film like, say Zombeavers or Night of the Lepus, a tiny bit fearsome.

So, of course everyone loves a good shark movie; hell, if the Sharknado films are anything to go by, everyone loves even a BAD shark movie! Deep Blue Sea came along at just the right time: The 90s, in general, was a wasteland of bad horror being made as studios tried to tap into what made the 80s franchises so great, but missed either the point, or the boat.

Sure this decade gave us Scream, which in itself was a parody of Craven’s own work, and The Blair Witch Project, which was more about clever marketing than good filmmaking or storytelling but in general, horror had temporarily gone the way of the western.

Deep Blue Sea was somewhat of a surprise. Written by Valentine’s Donna and Wayne Power, and Bait’s Duncan Kennedy, one thing from the 80s this film did utilise was Renny Harlin as director, who is probably best know for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, and a whole bunch of action films from the 90s, including Cliffhanger and Die Hard 2.

Deep Blue Sea tells of a scientific facility in the ocean known as Aquatica, where scientists, including Dr. McAlester (Saffron Burrows), Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgård) and other are attempting to show off to a potential investor, Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) their research into getting proteins from genetically altered shark’s brains and using them to repair the broken pathways in the brains of sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease.

The problem is the sharks have gotten smarter, and even though shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) has suspicions, even he isn’t aware of just how smart, and very soon the sharks have figured out how to flood the facility, and using the staff as their very own human smorgasbord…

This film honestly could have been called ‘Deep Blue Trope’ as it took generic formulas from 80s slasher films and turned them into a monster movie. This is basically Friday the 13th, with the stereotypical teens (the cool black guy, the oversexed couple, the frigid final girl and the cool tough guy… and some throwaway characters you would never care about) in an abandoned area with no way out and something stalking them, which is a shark instead of a serial killer: it even does the killer POV camera shots! Maybe the juxtaposition of these two horror tropes is what makes the film kind of interesting.

The movie, yes, is generic, but I have to admit that I have a big problem with just how smart the sharks became. An animal working out that a gun is something that can hurt you is one thing, but figuring what video cameras do and then disabling them, with no context, is quite another, and ultimately, Jane’s character’s realisation as to the shark’s motivation, we’ll, even for a monster movie is pretty far-fetched.

There is some nice early appearances of some actors who went on to the greater things. Samual L. Jackson was still an actor when this was made, and didn’t just play Samual L. Jackson, like he does these days.

The real tragedy of this film is the closing credits are choked with an awful rap by LL Cool J, who also plays the chef who works at the facility. I also must admit to feeling sorry for Saffron Burrows: Even though her character is possibly the most important one in the film, and is even the only human on the cover, she actually doesn’t get a cover credit, and instead Skarsgård and Michael Rapaport, who aren’t in it as often, do. That’s a pretty sad indictment on the film’s release.

Score: ***

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B Bluray release of the film which runs for approximately 105 minutes and is presented in a satisfactory 2.35:1 image with a pretty spectacular DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: There’s a couple of Ok extras on this disc.

First there is a commentary with Harlin and Jackson, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t recorded together. Jackson talks about the story of the film, and Harlin looks more at the making of the film and the processes.

When Sharks Attack is a selection of behind the scenes footage with an occasional sound byte from a cast or crew member, which, to summarise, comes together as ‘sharks are scary’.

Sharks of the Deep Blue Sea looks at all the various effects used to make the special effects sharks work.

There is a trailer for the film.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes as well, and, as expected, the optionally accompanying commentary does little to convince otherwise.

Score: ***

WISIA: Deep Blue Sea is an amusing distraction that I have watched a couple of times, but realistically, if it weren’t for a sequel coming out, I probably would not have revisited it.