Saturday, December 19, 2009 Uruguay vs. Giant Mecha

Who wins? The film's creator! From the BBC:
YouTube video leads to Hollywood contract

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A producer from Uruguay who uploaded a short film to YouTube in November 2009 has been offered a $30m (£18.6m) contract to make a Hollywood film.

The movie will be sponsored by director Sam Raimi, whose credits include the Spiderman and Evil Dead films.

Fede Alvarez's short film "Ataque de Panico!" (Panic Attack!) featured giant robots invading and destroying Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.

It is 4 mins 48 seconds long and was made on a budget of $300 (£186).

So far it has had more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.

"I uploaded (Panic Attack!) on a Thursday and on Monday my inbox was totally full of e-mails from Hollywood studios," he told the BBC's Latin American service BBC Mundo.

"It was amazing, we were all shocked."

The movie Mr Alvarez has been asked to produce is a sci-fi film to be shot in Uruguay and Argentina. He says he intends to start from scratch and develop a new story for the project.

"If some director from some country can achieve this just uploading a video to YouTube, it obviously means that anyone could do it," he added.

YouTube recently revealed the most watched videos of 2009. Britain's Got Talent star Susan Boyle topped the chart with more than 120 million views worldwide of her debut on the show.

Friday, December 18, 2009 R.I.P. Dan O'Bannon

1946 - 2009

Yesterday we lost someone you've probably never heard of, but whose creations you've known and loved for over twenty years.

Dan O'Bannon created and wrote the first screenplay for Alien. He essentially invented the fast zombie in his Return of the Living Dead. The comic story he did with legendary artist Mobius, "The Long Tomorrow", is widely acknowledged as one of the first cyberpunk works and was a primary inspiration for the look of the film, Blade Runner. He wrote Total Recall, Blue Thunder, Screamers, and Lifeforce. The creepiest segment of the Heavy Metal movie, "B-17", was taken from his original art and story. He even did special effects work on the first Star Wars film.

O'Bannon was an unheralded giant who contributed greatly to geek culture. Next time you hear a zombie calling for brains, think of ol' Dan.

O'Bannon in John Carpenter's Dark Star

Thursday, December 17, 2009 Beware the Kung Fu Monkeys!

From the web's most trusted news source, Ananova:
Kung fu monkeys turn tables on trainer

A Chinese man who trained monkeys martial arts to entertain shoppers was shocked when they turned the tables on him.

Lo Wung's taekwondo monkeys have become a regular feature outside a shopping centre in Enshi, Hubei province, where they were trained to show off their martial arts skills on each other.

But one quick-thinking monkey saw his chance when Lo slipped - and caught him with a perfect flying kung fu kick to the head. The rest then joined in the affray.

Hu Luang, 32, who caught the incident on camera, said: "I saw one punch him in the eye - he grabbed another by the ear and it responded by grabbing his nose.

"They were leaping and jumping all over the place - it was better than a Bruce Lee film."

At one point the monkey trainer grabbed a staff to hit the monkeys, only to find himself facing a stick-brandishing monkey that cracked him over the head.

Lo only managed to get the monkeys under control by tangling them up in the rope that had been used to stop them running off.

No, I don't believe it, either. But I really really want to.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 Iron Man 2 Trailer

While it lasts, here's the trailer for Iron Man 2.

Not 100% sold on Russian-Whiplash-who-turns-into-Crimson-Dynamo, and I'm a bit worried that they're squeezing too much into one movie ala Spider-Man 3 (in addition to Whiplash/Crimson Dynamo, the Black Widow and War Machine are also introduced). But man, that last bit at the end of the trailer is sweet!

Thursday, December 10, 2009 Frazetta vs. Frazetta

I mentioned Frank Frazetta a few posts back, and today he makes the news. From KOMO News via
Artist's son swipes $20 million in paintings, police say

Story Published: Dec 10, 2009 at 2:00 PM PST

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania man used a backhoe to break into a museum owned by his father - the pioneering fantasy artist Frank Frazetta - in an attempt to steal 90 paintings valued at $20 million, police said Thursday.

State police charged Alfonso Frank Frazetta, 52, of Marshalls Creek, with theft, burglary and trespass after they say he was caught loading the artwork into his trailer and SUV.

The elder Frazetta, 81, is renowned for his work on characters including Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan and Vampirella. He was in Florida at the time of the theft.

His son's motive may stem from a family feud over the master illustrator's assets, according to a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is still early in the investigation.

Frazetta was arraigned and sent to the Monroe County jail. Bail was set at $500,000. Officials didn't know whether he had a lawyer yet.

Police said that Frazetta and another man used the backhoe to enter the Frazetta Art Museum in the Pocono Mountains region on Wednesday afternoon, tripping a burglar alarm.

A trooper who responded said Frazetta claimed he had been instructed by his father "to enter the museum by any means necessary to move all the paintings to a storage facility," according a police affidavit.

The elder Frazetta told police that his son did not have permission to enter the museum or to remove any artwork. Frank Frazetta's attorney, Gerard Geiger, said the stolen paintings were insured for $20 million, according to court documents.

Geiger did not immediately return a phone message Thursday.

Police say charges are pending against a second suspect.

My first thought: "Wow, there's a Frazetta museum?"

My second thought: "Is it a bunch of customized vans parked close together?"

It's located in the Poconos, so you can honeymoon at the same resort your great-aunt Gladys did and see The Death Dealer in all its original glory! I understand the Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce is hoping to stay competitive by establishing a Boris Vallejo-themed bed & breakfast.

And this story confirms my long-held belief that the backhoe is not a proper tool for the gentleman thief.

Saturday, December 5, 2009 Fooey

I was really looking forward to going to the show tonight. But first all my friends bailed on me and then the movie itself did.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was really looking forward to catching [REC] 2 at the Portage Theater. However, when I tried to order my ticket on-line this morning, I learned that movie had been pulled from the triple feature and replaced with Black Christmas. Needless to say, I am greatly disappointed.

I'm also peeved at the event's organizers. They make no mention that tonight's line-up has changed anywhere on the sites they're using to promote the screening. They simply edited all their ads and blog entries to reflect the new program. I was lucky I noticed the difference.

So no Spanish zombies for me tonight. Guess I'll just get drunk watching Svengoolie instead.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 A Gentleman of Virginia and a Super-Club for Teens

In which I natter on about the things I read as a child like a senile old man waiting for the nurse to bring him dinner. Where's my Salisbury steak? Are you my granddaughter?


Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series was one of the joys of my childhood. I came to the books in an odd way. I was making my weekly comics purchases at the local Walgreen's one day when the cashier asked me if I read Marvel's Warlord of Mars. She said she really didn't like comics, but something about that series really grabbed her and she couldn't get enough of it. It was an odd thing for a thirty-something woman to confess to an eleven-year-old stranger, and she seemed pretty reluctant to do so. I guess she didn't have anyone else to talk to about it; geek culture had none of its current cachet in the 70's, even post-Star Wars, and suburban housewives of the time hadn't a lot of outlets for discussing such things. Obviously, her comments stuck with me. I figured if someone like that as a fan, there had to be something to this John Carter fellow.

The comics didn't take my fancy at the time, but when I received a gift membership in the Science Fiction Book Club a short while later, I decided to go with a Barsoom book as one of my picks. It was an omnibus of Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars, with interior illustrations and a terrific cover painting by Frank Frazetta.

The grand sweep of the action, the exotic setting, the bizarre monsters and beautiful women and dashing heroes - needless to say, I was hooked. I soon ordered another SFBC two-fer, Thuvia, Maid of Mars and Chessmen of Mars, and began haunting the local used book stores in pursuit of more in the series. A short while later, Del Rey started reprinting the books with evocative Michael Whelan covers that, rather blasphemously, my brother and I found more stirring than even Frazetta's covers.

The Dungeons & Dragons craze was booming at the time, and even Sears was stocking RPG's and wargames. It was there that my brother and I discovered SPI's John Carter, Warlord of Mars game. We had to have it. We told our mom it was the only thing we wanted for Christmas. However, she was newly-divorced and struggling to support the three of us. We were looking at a pretty rough Christmas as it was, and there was just no way she could afford to spend $25 on a game. I'm pretty sure we took the news well - we were well aware of how bad things were at the time - but it was still a crushing disappointment.

Thus, it was a wonderful surprise that Christmas morning to find out that "Santa Claus" had left the game for us under the tree! We poured over the maps of Barsoom, studied the pamphlets describing the fauna and famous personages of Mars, organized the little chits representing the various heroes and monsters and compared their stats - I don't think we ever played a full game, but good Lord, did we spend hours enjoying the damned thing. I will never forger the generosity of the aunt who bought the game for us, and I treasured that game until it was devoured by squirrels. Yes, that's right. Squirrels ate one of my most cherished childhood mementos. My life is weird. I found another copy on eBay, but it's not the same. My blood enmity with Sciurus carolinensis continues to this day.

A film version of A Princess of Mars has been in the works for quite some time. Like with other adaptations of properties I'm fond of, I'm taking a "meh" attitude to it so as not to get my hopes too high. This way I won't be crushed if it turns out bad, and I'll be pleasantly surprised if it turns out good.

I've not been paying much attention to the film's development. I do know that Robert Rodriguez was attached at one point, and I think he would have done an excellent job. Jon Favreau was also slated to direct for a while; at the time, I was unsure of his ability to handle a fantasy adventure like Princess, but he has since gone on to kick all of our asses with Iron Man. Currently, the project is in the hands of the writer and director of WALL-E and Finding Nemo. He has some strong credits, but this will be his first live-action effort. It could go either way, especially with Disney involved, so I'm still sticking with the "meh" approach. Yet I know I will be seeing this film on its opening weekend, provided I'm still alive by then.

But of course, the claim-jumpers at The Asylum have beaten Disney and everyone else to the punch. The first Barsoom novel is in the public domain, which is all the guys who brought you Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train, and The Day the Earth Stopped needed to know. Witness:

Okay, let's leave aside the dubious Avatar tie-in, and the fact that the green Martians have terracotta mistakes for heads. But did you see who's playing red-skinned, raven-tressed Dejah Thoris, warrior princess of Helium? A shrieking middle-aged blonde.

I understand The Asylum would want (what passes for) names (at their pay rates) in the cast, but Traci Lords is just all wrong for the part. Nothing against her personally, and Cthulhu knows I find women my age attractive. It's just that she simply isn't Dejah Thoris. Don't they film these things in Eastern Europe? They couldn't find a dark-haired young beauty out there willing to work extraordinarily cheap? After all, a thick accent wouldn't be too inappropriate for the role. And then if they still felt they needed to plump up the marquee, they could have cast Tars Tarkas with someone like, oh, I don't know, Lance Henriksen or that big dude from Stargate.

I know it may seem like a silly point to get hung up over when there is so much wrongness displayed in the trailer. But I grew up with crappy sword & sorcery films, and my tolerance for bad cinema is the stuff of legends. As long as The Asylum tried to get the spirit of the books right, it wouldn't have mattered to me how gawdawful the end result would be. Heck, rename Lords' character, make her an Earthwoman transported to Barsoom with John Carter, and I would have been cool with the whole thing. But as it stands...

I would have at least rented a bad version of A Princess of Mars, maybe even might have bought the thing when it hit the five buck bin at WalMart. But A Soccer Mom of Mars? Pass.


my very first Legion story
In a post yesterday, I mentioned my fondness for the Legion of Super-Heroes. It reminded me that I had recently lucked across volumes 11 and 12 of the Legion of Super-Heroes Archives at a Half-Price Books. I felt a bit guilty about buying them, but I've wanted these collections for a long time, and between markdowns and coupons I ended up paying only a third of MSRP.

When I settled down to read them, any regrets I may have had over the purchase instantly dissipated. The first story in volume 11 was the very first Legion comic I ever read. Rediscovering it triggered a flood of memories; of making my own flight ring out of construction paper, drawing Legion Cruisers on the backs of paper gliders, and long discussions with my younger brother as to who was the coolest Legionnaire.

(It's Mon-El, of course. He's got all of Superman's powers with a better costume and a hot blue-skinned girlfriend. I had a rude awakening a few months back when I realized I may have been subconsciously patterning my hairstyle after his for almost thirty years. And let's not mention the puffy-sleeved red shirt I affected for a while in the 80's.)

For someone encountering these stories for the first time, they'd probably seem juvenile and painfully dated. The only saving grace may be the dynamic Mike Grell artwork, and even then there's those awful costumes he designed for the likes of Tyroc and Cosmic Boy. Writing on the LSH wouldn't approach modern standards until Paul Levitz came aboard and began laying the groundwork for his later, legendary run on the title. However, the LSH Archives series appears to have ended with volume 12, leaving the Levitz stories uncollected. Which sucks, because I'd love to have the EarthWar saga he did with Jim Sherman in some form other than my deteriorating old pamphlets.

I can't really recommend them to anyone else, but these comics will always hold a special place in my heart. They may be crap, but they're my crap and I love 'em. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to install an Interlac font on my laptop.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 SuperVision

I've never followed Smallville. The initial "Dawson's Creek with superpowers" concept didn't exactly bowl me over, and nothing I've heard or seen about the series since has grabbed me, either. I don't mind that the show has it's own take on the DC Universe, but that take simply lacks appeal for me. However, I did watch the episode featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes, if just for the novelty of seeing live-action versions of some childhood favorites. And I'm being drawn back again by the upcoming two-parter featuring the Justice Society.

I've long loved the JSA. It's probably due in part to my fondness for the 30's and 40's, the era in which the Justice Society originated. They got to ride on running boards, wear fedoras, and slug Nazis - how cool is that? And I prefer "mystery men" types to heroes with limitless powers. I think that good guys who aren't invulnerable and who can't solve their problems with a wave of their hands are more interesting and more heroic than their bullet-proof brethren. And though the JSA has members who pretty much define "omnipotent", most of the team are regular joes like the Atom and the Sandman. Finally, the relative obscurity of the characters and the whole Earth-1/Earth-2 arcana surely appealed to my geek nature.

So as a fan, my interest was piqued when I heard about the upcoming JSA appearance on Smallville. Then this week, Entertainment Weekly had some promo pics of the episode:

Now, I should be geekgasming over the sight of a live-action Doctor Fate. Instead, I can't help but feel that the costumes may look kind of ridiculous in the context of the show. Again, I'm not a fan, but from what I've seen, Smallville aims for a more realistic (ha!) depiction of superheroes. Compare the JSA shots to the Smallville versions of the Legion and Justice League:

Very streetwear, more X-Men biker gear than comic book spandex, nothing that screams "superhero". So it's a little jarring to see Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and Stargirl in such traditional, four-color togs. It may be that Smallville is starting to fully embrace its comic book roots, but their JSA bucks the trend established by the show, and I'm a bit worried they might come off looking silly as a result. Hell, check out this still of Hawkman. I know, right?

I worry because I want the audience to embrace these characters. I want this episode to be a hit. I want the possibility of another show featuring the likes of Wildcat or Hourman or Starman or the current, way-cool Mr. Terrific. I don't care if it requires a more modern take on their costumes or personas. That's what adaptations are for - if you want something exactly like the source material, go read the source material.

Anyway, the trailer for the episode has me a lot more excited than the stills do. The classic round table! Green Lantern! That group portrait! The Sandman! Woot!


While I'm on the topic of superheroic television, I just finished watching the first episode of Misfits, a new British show about urban yoof who gain paranormal powers while performing court-appointed community service. So far, the young characters are realistically drawn, which means they are almost unbearable and nigh unintelligible. The mix of powers displayed so far is interesting and has plenty of dramatic potential, and with only six episodes to a series I'm pretty confident the plot won't be slowly dog-paddling in circles like any given season of Heroes. Well worth a download, though you'll pine for subtitles.

Pishtaco Update

Peru suspends cop behind gang of 'human fat sellers'

01 Dec 2009 20:16:56 GMT

Source: Reuters

* Top investigator put on leave for misleading public
* He said up to 60 people murdered and their fat extracted

By Terry Wade

LIMA, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Peru suspended its top organized crime investigator on Tuesday after he misled the country by saying he had caught a gang of serial killers who acted out an ancient Andean legend and sold their victims' fat.

Eusebio Felix was put on leave from his job for telling Peruvians last month that four suspected murderers apprehended by police were "Pishtacos" -- the legendary killers who roam the Andes mountains extracting fat from travelers.

In the legend, the Pishtacos strung-up the torsos of their victims above candles and heated them to collect fat.

Police initially said the gang murdered up to 60 victims and exported their fat for thousands of dollars a liter to Italian cosmetics makers. In the end, there may have been only one victim.

When they announced their big find, police held a news conference and displayed what they said was human fat stored in an empty bottle of Inca Kola, the electric-yellow soft drink popular in the Andes.

They also showed a video of police pulling body parts from a shallow grave at a house in the mountainous region of Huanuco.

But on Tuesday, after weeks of doubts about the case, police in Lima, the capital, said the investigation had been botched.

General Miguel Hidalgo, the head of Peru's police, said he was embarrassed.

"This affects the image and respectability of the police," he said.

Police in Huanuco, who complain they were excluded from the inquiry, said there was only one murder victim and that he was linked to the cocaine trade.

They believe the four alleged killers, who are still in custody, may have bottled his fat to intimidate their rivals in an area rife with drug trafficking and violence.

Police have been harshly criticized.

Anthropologists said investigators foolishly believed the Pishtacos legend when searching for a motive for the murder, and then played on people's fears by turning the legend into reality.

"It seems a myth that has been in Peruvian culture for a long time was used to explain a very strange crime," said Juan Rivera of the Catholic University in Lima.

Politicians blamed the police for scaring away tourists.

"This has been a ruse of bad taste," said Jorge Espinoza, president of the region of Huanuco.

Doctors said it would be pointless to kill people to harvest their fat when it could be easily collected from plastic surgery clinics that perform tummy tucks.

"We wouldn't throw out hundreds of liters of human fat if it were worth $15,000 a liter," said Julio Castro of Peru's board of medicine. Others said fat spoils too quickly to be useful.

So there's no legendary monster prowling the Andes, and I can't get rich selling my saddlebags.

I'm making a very sad face right now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 (Very) Odds and Ends

Had a long holiday weekend with limited internet access. Not much is going on, anyway, but a few topics have come up worth blathering about but not deserving of their own entries.


Last Friday, Wired's Danger Room ran a bit on a zombie-awareness version of Army Knowledge Online, the US Army's intranet service. I've no idea of what kind of info is available on the site, as access is limited to AKO accounts. Still, it's heartening to see Our Boys preparing themselves for the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse, even if the whole thing is officially a spoof. Wink-wink.


Speaking of zombies (and I do, ad nauseam), I stumbled across this charming bit of garden sculpture:Manufactured by something called Design Tuscano and sold via friggin' Skymall, of all places, it's proof of just how far the walking dead have permeated the mainstream.

I haven't heard of Design Tuscano before this. They seem to mix geek appeal with more mainstream tat, offering cast iron chimeras and pricey reproductions of Waterhouse paintings in addition to cutsey angels and Maurin Quina tin signs. They're a bit like an upscale version of that tacky Noble Collection whose catalogs plague my mailbox.

Their zombie sculpture isn't the only garden oddity Skymall is offering. A quick look shows some more Tuscano stuff, a Bigfoot statue (three times more expensive than the Archie McPhee version and probably three times nicer), and some alien gnome snatchers. The last one is the only item I'd consider owning, but only if I had a garden gnome and, of course, a garden. I do really like saying "gnome snatchers", though. Maybe I should form a band.


Hey, everyone knows that Twilight is pure, soul-sucking evil. It's either undead propaganda intended to sway our youth into accepting vampiric overlords, or it's some seriously messed-up broad convincing young girls that it's not twoo wuv unless he's a domineering stalker seeking total control of your life and you're willing to risk death to be with him. But it has given us some good things, hasn't it? Like sparkly marital aids and cougars battling tweens and these images:

Oh God, what I wouldn't give to see that last one become reality...


Finally, a buddy of mine has been forwarding me interesting news items from India. This one in particular took my fancy:
India targets 'Mr Pee' ahead of Commonwealth Games

NEW DELHI — In an effort to improve New Delhi's image before the Commonwealth Games next year, the Indian capital is to launch a publicity campaign to stop people urinating in the street.

"Don't be su su kumar" ("Don't be Mister Pee") goes one of the catchy slogans for billboards that will be displayed at city intersections, reported the city's Midday newspaper.

"We have prepared 600 signboards with messages related to cleanliness. These will be displayed to educate people," Delhi Mayor Kanwar Sain told the paper.

Some 8,000 athletes and 100,000 spectators are expected in New Delhi for the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games next year.

The mayor said the drive would also target the habit of spitting in public and the city's many litterbugs.

Lessons in etiquette are already being imparted to the city's auto-rickshaw drivers, who have been criticised for their fast, dangerous driving and for over-charging foreigners.

Yeah, good luck with that. Public urination was epidemic everywhere I went in India except the temples. The cab drivers especially would pee anywhere, right in front of you. They'd pull over, pull it out, and let fly no matter how many women or children were walking by.

The littering, however, was worse. Everyone would toss paper cups, empty cigarette packages, food wrappers, and anything else wherever they went. No one picked up after themselves, and no one showed any consideration for the environment. This attitude carried over to the trainees we had here as well; the area set aside for their smoke breaks was covered with butts despite the conveniently-placed ashtrays, and pop cans were left everywhere. Maybe the caste system has most people believing that cleaning up their own mess is beneath them. Or maybe they're just all jerks.

As far as over-charging foreigners go, I tell first-timers to always settle upon a destination and a fare before you get in the cab. Don't hire any of the cabbies who badger you with offers of sight-seeing or shopping trips as you walk down the street; "sight-seeing" is driving all over the city to ring up an exorbitant fare, and the shopping is at places that kick back money to the driver. And be sure to have the hotel pick you up when you arrive at the airport, either by shuttle bus or private car. It's when you're most vulnerable to unscrupulous drivers, and they know it.