Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Sellen River

And since the Internet demanded it in a non-Facebook spot... here's the direction of flow for the East Sellen River, Sellen River, and West Sellen River.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Creepy Critter...

So... found a big stack of old artwork I did years ago. This guy particularly amused me because he has mouths for eyebrows.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monster #20—Giant Worms

So, last week's post about giant centipedes got me to thinking about what happens when you cut off those 100 legs. You end up with a worm. And as if  it's those legs that make them, for whatever reason, not compelling monsters for stories, I guess that would explain why when you think about giant worms, there's all SORTS of stories and movies out there! It's certainly easier to do a giant worm in a movie; they're easy to build, after all!

And I'll get it out of the way right here. Although I do like the sandworms from Dune... I'm not gonna say anything more about them here, because overall, I really don't care for Dune.


Giant Worms are even in the same movie I mentioned last week—Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong. And elsewhere as well. Heck... I guess I don't have much more to say about giant worms, but the list below is pretty big nonetheless...

Recommended Viewing:
Recommended Reading:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Book Review—Doctor Sleep

I've been reading Stephen King for about 30 years. Started reading him at what a lot of folks might say is too young... but my parents, fortunately, were not among them, and they had no problem with me reading Cujo and  Pet Semetery at the age of 10 or so. The fact that my Grandma gave me these books to read probably helped.

Anyway, as the world knows, Stephen King's written a bazillion books. And when you write that many, some will be brilliant and some will be terrible. His latest, Doctor Sleep, isn't brilliant (although it certainly has a few moments of it at the start and at the end), but it's consistently good. It's less concerned with horror than it is with character, and since character is where King is the best, that's fine with me. It's also interesting that, while there is a large cast of villains in the book (a band of road-wandering child-killing vampires who drink psychic powers, not blood) who are pretty reprehensible (what with the child killing and all that)... you kinda end up feeling a little sorry for them. In fact, the villains of Doctor Sleep are strangely out of their league against our protagonists, which is an unusual way to tell a story about child-killing mind-drinking vampires.

OH! It's a sequel to The Shining also. One of the scariest books King's written, and one of the best, perhaps THE best book about a haunted house I've read—it's only competition would be Nazareth Hill or The Haunting of Hill House. As he mentions in is afterword, Stephen King was a very different person when he wrote The Shining, and it shows. And not in a bad way! But... I love The Shining, and it's hard to top it. King doesn't try to top it—Doctor Sleep tells a VERY different story that just happens to be about Danny Torrence, the same little boy, now all grown up, who once saw something very bad in the Overlook Hotel.

Doctor Sleep...
  • ... needed only 7 or so pages to give me the chills. It never really equals the dread of those first few pages... but then again, it's not really trying to. The dread is a cool carry over from The Shining to ease you out of that book's world and into the world of Doctor Sleep.
  • ... will confuse folks who only know the Kubrick version of The Shining. King's version is pretty different.
  • ... makes me eager to see King do squeals to other novels. Pet Semetery, in particular.
Grade: B+

Movie Review—The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Sometimes, things that are wildly popular are actually pretty good. I went into The Hunger Games a few years ago not expecting much—not expecting anything but a tame PG-13 sanitized version of a similar movie, Battle Royale. What I got was much more than that—the central concept of Battle Royale—"Put a bunch of kids out in the wild and then film them killing each other," is obviously a key point of inspiration for The Hunger Games... but that's not all The Hunger Games is about. The competition is about 1/2 of the movie—with the setup being just as important to the evolving mythos of the world. In Catching Fire, that mythos expands, and whereas the first part was a pretty self-contained movie, this one is anything but. It's an over two-hour-long preamble for the REAL movie that's yet to come—an epic saga of revolution against an overwhelming government. And I'm really looking forward to seeing that movie. Quite a lot.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire has great actors, a compelling script, some impressive special effects, and all the rest that makes a great movie, but as entertaining as it is... it really isn't a full movie. It's the first act of a three act arc, and if the next two movies fall flat, then all the work put in to this one will have been wasted. I certainly hope they don't mess up what they've set up, because it's a compelling storyline. Don't go in to see it expecting resolutions is all I'm saying!
So... yeah, went to the bathroom at what I foolishly took to be a slow part, and when I returned... MONKEYS!
 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is...
  • ... hopefully going to make the studio plenty of money so they don't do something stupid like pull the plug on the Mockingjay movies!
  • ... doing just fine in the moneymaking category, as a quick check online confirms. Whew!
  • ... has a bad-ass heroine in it who isn't invulnerable or superhuman or even all that particularly heroic. YET.
  • ... also has some pretty cool archery scenes!
  • ... feels a little too close to predicting the future now and then.
  • ... was almost directed by David Cronenberg. THAT would have been incredible! I'd love to see what he can do with an enormous budget some day!
Grade: A–

Movie Review—All Is Lost

My dad always had a low opinion of amusement park rides. He is fond of saying things like, "Why would I pay to ride around on a roller coaster when I can go out on the ocean and do it for real?" I've been out on the ocean on pretty rough days—not as rough as some of the days he's seen, but rough enough to get what he's talking about. With a roller coaster, the thrills are manufactured, and there's the notion that as frightening as they might be, they're designed to thrill and not hurt. The ocean doesn't have that psychological safety net. It doesn't want to kill you or save you or hurt you. It just is what it is, and when humans get in its path, they must respect it or they will suffer. And even respect isn't always enough.

All Is Lost gets this idea across better than any movie I've seen. This movie is already something of a miracle and a wonder, in that it's got barely any dialogue in it, because it's only got one actor in the entire thing. The movie starts with Robert Redford's character waking on his sailboat somewhere in the Indian Ocean with water rushing into his cabin–his boat struck a container that fell off a ship, and now there's a hole at the waterline. The captain doesn't panic or freak out—he knows that won't solve the problem. He just goes to work, doing his best to fix the situation. A situation that spirals out of control despite the fact that he increasingly does every thing he can do to survive.

Because the ocean doesn't care if you survive or not.
Believe it or not... it gets worse.

All Is Lost ...
  • ... brought back memories of the smell of fiberglass resin.
  • ... is PG-13 pretty much entirely for one of the most despair-fueled uses of the f-bomb I've seen.
  • ... confirms my suspicions of how harrowing it would be to be in a storm in a sailboat where the swells are bigger than your boat.
  • ... is one of the best movies of 2013.
Grade: A+

Movie Review—Grabbers

Grabbers belongs to the same category of horror-comedy as Tremors—a small town beset upon by a strange sort of weird monster that has a quirky sense of humor about all that's going on. Unlike Tremors, though, Grabbers is pretty much a mediocre movie in every way that Tremors was exceptional, from the acting to the story to the creature design to the special effects (more on that later) to the humor. Especially the humor. There were a few funny parts in Grabbers, but nothing on par with Earl's elephant gun or the aftermath of blowing up a Graboid or Kevin Bacon's discovery of the "ass end." In fact, even though I haven't seen Tremors in many, many years, the fact that I can  recall lots of funny scenes from it and can't recall any specific ones that were that funny from Grabbers (which I saw just a week ago) is pretty damning.

And special effects. The fact that CGI is so affordable these days is great. There are a lot of low-budget movies out there that make great use of CGI, such as Monsters or Lovely Molly, but it's SO easy to overstep the capability of your effects with CGI it seems. At least with practical effects, even if it's fake looking, the actors are still interacting with something, and that really helps to sell the scene. The effects in Grabbers were actually quite good, but they weren't themselves enough to elevate the movie out of mediocrity.

Which is too bad, because the monster itself is pretty cool. Too bad they went with a boring "space alien" source and didn't just embrace the Lovecraftian vibe full on!
Throw it back! Throw it back!

Grabbers is...
  • ... a little too enamored with its central idea of "the aliens drink blood and alcohol is poison to them, so being drunk saves us!"
  • ... disapointingly mediocre, as far as monster movies go.
  • ... filled with beautiful scenery—the shots of Ireland's coastlines were enough to make me want to visit! Preferably when tentacle monsters aren't flopping around!
Grade: C+