Friday, February 26, 2010

Toonces, the Sleep Thief

I’ve been gone a while but not because I’m just lazin’ around. Well, not unless you count feverishly reading Stephen King’s UNDER THE DOME as lazin’. It’s King’s best book in years. (Actually, I have to qualify that because I actually haven’t read the last few.) With King, I’d gotten to the point where I’d reach about the 100 page mark and hit a “wall” that would take me several attempts to get past. I’d lose interest and have to struggle to regain it. When this happened with BAG OF BONES, I set the book aside for almost a year before picking it back up again. I was glad I did because it was a great story. But his books are so long it became a chore to finish them. As a lifelong Kind devotee, this was heartbreaking. But none of that with DOME. From page one, I was hooked and for the last two weeks, every free moment has been dedicated to finishing the book. I’ve got less than a hundred pages to go and should be finished before I turn in tonight. (So don’t spoil the ending!)

One unfortunate side effect has been a lack of sleep. I’ve been suffering from that enough lately as it is. Ever since college, I’ve had job after job that required all-nighters or, at least late-nighters. And often. The result has been that I’ve been subsisting on 5-to-6 hours of sleep per night for going on 20 years. (An addiction to Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network hasn’t helped.) And for the last several months, our aging kitty Toonces has started howling for his breakfast earlier and earlier. He used to start in at 7:00 a.m. if we were sleeping in. These days, he’s chiming in at 4:30 on the worst days. It’s taking a toll. Last night, I was at my LCS and having a conversation with my friend Marvin. My mind kept wandering and I couldn’t concentrate, often asking him to repeat what he’d just said. My body was aching all over and I couldn’t seem to finish a sentence. Today, I couldn’t tell you what we talked about or even which books I bought without checking. Last night I managed 8 hours of sleep and the difference is amazing. I’m going to make an effort to do that more often. I’ve heard that getting less sleep takes years off your life. And I believe it.

On a happier a horror fan and overgrown kid, I have an enduring love for the monster cereals manufactured by General Foods. Mom tried to keep us healthy but she also liked to let us be kids. Though we usually got Cheerios or Kix (or mostly plain ol’ oatmeal) for breakfast as kids, Mom would sometimes favor us with such treats as Cocoa Puffs, Sugar Smacks, Cap’n Crunch (the peanut butter variety is my all-time favorite) and Fruity or Cocoa Pebbles. (I loved how the milk would taste after a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles.) All the Kellogg’s mascots, at one time or another, were close breakfast companions. And, on happy occasions, Mom would come home with a selection of the monster cereals. BooBerry, FrankenBerry and Count Chocula were the favorites, of course, but we were even around for the brief but welcome appearances of Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy. Though those two are no longer manufactured, they hold a warm place in my heart.

For the last few years, I’ve been living through a second childhood of sorts, collecting all my old favorite movies, re-reading favorite books and comics, listening to ‘80s-era music and watching old, old TV shows. And I’d been hitting the Walmart cereal aisle to buy the occasional box of Count Chocula and FrankenBerry. But, sadly, Walmart has stopped carrying the cereals and they aren’t available anywhere else in Richmond. Trust me, I’ve looked. I was hugely disappointed. So, imagine my delight two days ago, when I came in to work and found a large cardboard shipping box on my desk. I opened it to find two boxes each of Boo, Frankie and the Count! Suzanne, the reigning Best Wife Ever, had struck again, ordering a case for me from an online candy retailer she’d located. I was so happy, I thought it warranted a sketch. I hope you like it.

Have a great weekend. I’ll be getting plenty of sleep. Well, unless the sugar high keeps me up. Mmmm...

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Now, that was a Wolfman movie. Went to an early matinee with Christian instead going by myself Friday night, as planned. And that was a good thing. Despite the long lines of cabin-fever suffering Richmonders hitting the road after being snowed-in all month, people who see horror movies during the matinees are people who are there for the movie, not so they can be seen.

The movie itself was a lot of fun. It's a direct remake of the original '40s Lon Chaney Jr. version but adds some (telegraphed) plot twists I won't spoil. Hugo Weaving as Inspector Abberline (yes, that Abberline) and Anthony Hopkins as Lawrence Talbot's father were great, as expected. Emily Blunt played her part well but was really not given much to do. And Benicio Del Toro certainly looked the part and was a great Wolfman but ultimately never came across as very sympathetic. In the original, Lon Chaney Jr. was extremely likable but Del Toro has such an edge to him he may have been miscast. And that's not even taking into account the fact that his accent was constantly slipping. Talbot was supposed to have spent most of his life in the U.S., so it was forgivable that he sounded American most of the time. But every now and then, he sounded Puerto Rican. And that was just weird. Which is a shame because I love Del Toro in just about everything, he bears a passing resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr. and he looked absolutely fantastic in the makeup.

Tthe film does succeed in the most important parts. It looks gorgeous. Like a Frank Frazetta painting come to life. Rick Baker's makeup is the usual feast for the eyes. And the scenes where the Wolfman wreaks havoc are a brutally good time. Even the CG transformations which caused such an internet furor were not that bad. Probably the best I've seen on film. They wisely didn't spend all that much time on them, just using them to accent the change. Talbot's transformations take place fairly quickly (unlike the ten-minute change David Kessler underwent in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) so you don't have time to wonder if they looked convincing enough before the blood starts spraying and heads start flying.

The gore is out of control. In torture porn movies like HOSTEL, that's a bad thing because it becomes the whole point. In WOLFMAN, it's a means to an end and it turns Del Toro's Wolfman into a ferocious, fearsome beast to be avoided at all costs. In the original, Chaney Jr. would pounce on his victims and choke them to death with a high-pitched snarl. I remember watching it the first time and thinking, "Aww. Cute! Throw him a ball!" Del Toro's Wolfman is anything but cute. Unfortunately, they do show him running on all fours quite a lot and it looks weird because when humans run on all fours, their butts stick up in the air. Legs are longer than arms and all that. He is called "The Wolfman", and they should have just stuck with the ol' bipedal locomotion. But the way it was shot, in quick cuts and in foggy low-light situations, it was a lot more convincing than Sabertooth in the WOLVERINE movie. That was just ridiculous.

Sadly, there was something not quite right about the movie. I can't put my finger on it (maybe a lack of emotional involvement) but it keeps it from being a great monster film. But it is a very good one. All in all, a fun entry into the Werewolf genre and worth your ten bucks.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Wolfman

Though I haven't been much enjoying the weather this year (we've just had our third massive snowfall in a month) I have to say this is one of my favorite times of year. Because of the horror movies. A lot of them get dumped in the theater around this time because, though they usually make a profit, they aren't really family-friendly enough to be considered summer tent poles. So early this year, we're getting LEGION, THE CRAZIES and a film I'm looking forward to more than any other movie this year, THE WOLFMAN. It seems like this thing's been in production forever. I think Ain't It Cool News began reporting on it at least 5 years ago. But it's finally done and will be in theaters next weekend.

Werewolves are my favorite monster but they've always had a spotty record in theaters. People just don't seem to know what to do with them. I guess it's the whole full moon thing. Kind of makes it hard to come up with a convincing threat if you know exactly when and how the monster will strike. (The movie BAD MOON tried something interesting with that. Michael Pare handcuffed himself to a tree each night. But how did he manage to get loose each morning? Never figured that one out.) But everything I've seen from THE WOLFMAN looks promising. This looks like great old school werewolf stuff, right out of the Lon Chaney playbook. And I can't wait. I just hope I can make it to the damned theater. I'll be spending tomorrow digging out of the snow (just like last weekend) and we're supposed to get even more snow this coming week.

Anyway, to get myself in the mood, I did the sketch above. I still stink at drawing werewolves but I kind of like it.


One more quick note. Christian had been after me all week to go with him to the book signing of AFRODISIAC creator Jim Rugg at Velocity Comics Friday night. Suze and I were doubtful we'd make it because of the impending storm. Fortunately, the snow fall didn't start in earnest until late last night and all we were getting was a nasty, soupy slush. So we went ahead and checked it out. Only to have Christian bail on us. (Get it? Christian bail?) Still, it was nice to be able to check out Rugg's beautiful original artwork and pick up a signed copy of the AFRODISIAC hardcover. Nice stuff. If you haven't read it, please do. Mr. Rugg will be signing more books today, Saturday, February 6th at the awesome Chapel Hill Comics in Chapel Hill, NC. If you remember, that's where Mike bought all his books. Check it out if you're in the area.