Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mutant Lamb Born with Human Face -- Yes, This is Real!

Apparently in a village in Turkey, near Izmir (along the Aegean coast), a lamb was born with human-like facial features. The eyes, nose and mouth are very human, and it kinda reminds me of Pinocchio in donkey form (just look at those ears!). But it gets even better.

The genius governor of the province where the he-calf was born publicly stated that it was a human/lamb cross breed. He said, "This incident is very shocking. It is my first time to see such an evil thing. It is really embarrassing. The head belongs to a man while the body is that of a goat. This is evident that an adult human being was responsible. Evil powers caused this person to lose self control. We often hear cases of human beings who commit bestiality but this is the first time for such an act to produce a product with human features."

On a similar note, apparently a goat with a similar "human" face was born alive in September 2009 in Zimbabwe, but was soon killed by the terrified local villagers.

Seriously. I'm not making this up.

It's funny, because I was just thinking the other day about how I need a good mutant post, as I haven't really written one yet. Well, ya can't beat mutant people-sheep.

You can check out the full story here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Avatar's Mad Marines and Boring Blue People

I wish this was a better movie -- Grr!

So I've been meaning to write up a post about what I thought of James Cameron's supposed magnum opus, Avatar. To be blunt, I thought it kinda sucked. I don't think it's even really a bad film. It didn't totally suck or was the worst fucking thing I've ever seen, it was just a much lesser product than what I was expecting, so it just kinda sucked. Sure, the effects were mind-blowing and worth the price of admission alone, but the story was tired, predictable, and worst of all, boring. Also, because it's Cameron, my expectations were much higher than they would be for any old Joe Schmo director. After all, this is the dude who wrote and directed Aliens, Titanic, The Abyss and Terminator 1 & 2, so the guy certainly knows how to create and shoot compelling characters and engaging narratives.

Anyway, my wife and I drove for an hour or so to one of those real, no-shit Imaxs. Not those pussy little expanded conventional theaters where they take out the first few rows of seats and shove the screen forward and charge you an extra $5 for it, we went to a real deal Imax. (Note: the last and only other time we have done this for a film was for last summer's Transformers flick, and that movie did totally suck and may well have been the worst fucking thing I've ever seen (not really, but it is high up there on my shit list).

I'm not trying to change any minds here, just stating my opinion. Avatar has been out for 3 weeks and is already the 2nd highest grossing picture of all time (I wonder what Cameron's going to say at the Oscars this time, "I'm king of the universe," perhaps?). Chance's are, if you're reading a post on a blog called Monsters, Mutants and Aliens, you've already seen the movie and have your opinions about it one way or the other, which is fine.

However, I really expected more from Cameron. I've been playing an older Xbox 360 game for the past few weeks (Mass Effect), and I have to say, it's story is everything I wanted Cameron's Avatar to be. Compelling, unpredictable characters, a gripping narrative and an amazing sci-fi setting. But that's not what we, or at least, I, got.

Instead, we're given static, boring, predictable characters who are either good or bad. We never get a real look at the personalities of the Navi people. Every scene and shot they're in focuses on making them either A: heroic, or B: sympathetic. Sure, they have a few disagreements, but we're never afforded an actual glimpse into the dynamics of their society. Every alien we meet belongs to the upper class and act as guardians of the planet. There is no betrayal, no complexity. Hell, I don't even remember seeing any little blue children.

On the other end, we have the human marines, and Cameron's presentation of them is shameful. He portrayed them like trigger-happy killing machines and, in reality, these people fight and die for us everyday, so that is just fucking inexcusable to me. Also, after Sam Worthington turns into a blue hippy thing with a USB tail, I found it jarring that we're suddenly supposed to be all happy when we're seeing the Marines die. Sure, Colonel Quaritch (the bad guy) was a single-sided cartoon villain with no determinable motivation to do anything other than blow shit up and be an asshole, so it's fine to watch him expire, but everyone else was just following orders.

To prevent such feelings, Cameron made sure to show us the Marines' callousness towards the Navi people, but they were just regurgitating the only information they had been given about the alien species. It actually reminded me of a documentary I watched recently, History Channel's World War 2 in HD (fucking awesome doc, by the way, and easily the best WWII doc I've ever seen). Anyway, it uses actual footage from the period, and there was one part when the marines were making their assault on one of the Japanese controlled Pacific islands, and the Jap citizens started killing themselves and their families when it became clear that the US was going to take the island. It was nuts -- mothers grabbing their babies and jumping off cliffs, fathers slitting their children's throats and then their own -- very, very sad shit. Anyway, they did all this because they had been told that the Americans were bloodthirsty savages and were going to rape, loot and murder every last one of them. They killed their children out of love -- they truly believed that it would be better for their kids that way. They were acting on the only information they had been given about us, just as the marines in Avatar were acting on the only information that had been given to them about the Navi. So I thought the final battle was cool and all, but impossible to get into. My sympathies were torn, and an amicable, non-confrontational solution would have been ideal but, of course, would have also been pretty lame in an action film.

The world was lush and beautiful, but ultimately empty. It was like Sesame Street, full of compelling characters and environments, but ultimately telling a story that anyone over the age of 6 is going to be able to predict.

I hope that Cameron will give us both amazing effects and a compelling narrative in his next, already-announced sequel. It's an awesome world, I'd just like to see it inhabited by complex characters instead of boring cartoon castoffs.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

John Connolly's "The Gates" Makes for a Hell of a Read


I just finished an excellent book called "The Gates" by John Connolly. I'd never heard of Mr. Connolly before picking up this book, but apparently he's quite a respected and well regarded author, and with good reason. The book is amazing.

The closest work I can equate it to is Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's "Good Omens," which is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece of apocalyptic humor and is one of the greatest books I've ever read. Connolly's book isn't quite as good as Omens, but that's like saying Megadeth isn't as good as Iron Maiden. There're both amazing artists and should be consumed post haste, but let's be honest, they can't all be Iron Maidens.

Connolly's work is a funny and engaging vision of a satanic apocalypse. It's rife with British humor and centers on a young boy, Samuel, who inadvertently witnesses some bored neighbors accidentally open a portal to hell and get possessed by demons. It is then up to Samuel, his dog, his friends, and a kind-hearted demon to prevent big red (referred to in "The Gates" as "the Great Malevolence") from entering our world and tearing it asunder.

What I really like about the book is, unlike so many authors today, Connolly uses science, not magic, to make his story work. Sure, we are still talking about hell and demons and whatnot, but he attempts to ground the fantastic elements of his tale in factual reality. Magic is such an easy out, but Connelly uses alternate dimensions, wormholes, black holes, dark matter and the Large Hadron Collider to make it work. I'm incredibly fascinated by all this stuff to begin with, so I truly appreciated the extra effort he took to make the story work. At the end of the day it's still about the devil trying to escape hell and destroy the earth, but the added science really helps the story not feel clich├ęd or recycled. He even uses comical footnotes to inform the reader of relevant real-world historical events and to make scientifically complex story elements comprehendible.

So, anyway, if you're looking for a funny, good read, pick up "The Gates" by John Connolly. It was released in October, but it's available in hardback at both Borders and Barnes and Noble for $12, or from Amazon for the same price.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Wolfman Poster is Really Something to Howl About

Sorry about the title; I just couldn't resist. This poster does a lot more to get me pumped about the new Wolfman flick than the trailer did. This image looks so awesome! Check out the official unveiling of the poster at AICN.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Regarding the Cake Boss, Army of Darkness and Shameless Self-Promotion

Before you begin reading this post, I'm going to warn you that the entire thing is really shameless self-promotion with very little (and I mean by the smallest amount) pay off.

Of the few people who read my blog, most of you probably don't know that I work as a full-time freelance writer for Discovery Channel through HowStuffWorks and TLC. I know, who cares, right? And what the hell could either HowStuffWorks or TLC have anything to do with mosters, mutants or aliens? Well, truth is, not much. But a little -- so bear with me.

Anyway, so I recently had the opportunity to interview Buddy Valastro, a.k.a. TLC's Cake Boss, for an article on Christmas cookies. I'm not going to get into why the Cake Boss was answering questions about cookies, but I do get the irony. But, honestly, it's cool, cause I'll take cookies over cakes any day. I fucking love a good cookie. Seriously.

So, to try and bring this post back to something relevant to this blog, I also love Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy (as I'm sure most of you do). In fact, I think it's safe to say that I care more for Mr. Campbell and those ever-persistent deadites than even the most delicious batch of cookies, and that's really saying something.

Now, I don't know about you, but I also consider myself a bit of a film connoisseur. I love all film, from the great silent pics of the teens and 20s, to the dark noir of the 40s to the gritty, balls-out, bad ass flicks of the 70s. And in all my cinematic undertakings, I have never heard a better one-liner than that which is spoken by Mr. Campbell in Army of Darkness.

So, drum roll, please … check out the title of this page.

Yep, that's it. You just read all that to find out that I titled one of the pages of my Cake Boss interview after the greatest line in cinema history.

However, if you want more, I did also mention the Troma-classic Rabid Grannies in How Rabies Works (it's in the sidebar on the Bats vs. Dogs page).

Yep, that's all I got for ya today. That's it. Nothing else. Seriously.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Alien Sequel "A Brand New Box of Tricks" According to Ridley Scott

Hell yes! Ridley Scott, the man who crafted one of the best Sci-Fi pictures of all time, Alien, is returning to the franchise to direct a prequel to his original film. Regarding the flick, Scott said, "It's a brand new box of tricks. We know what the road map is, and the screenplay is now being put on paper. The prequel will be a while ago. It's very difficult to put a year on Alien, but if Alien was towards the end of this century, then the prequel story will take place thirty years prior."

It's not much, but he seems excited. You can read the whole article here, but I pretty much covered everything.

If you're in the mood for some intelligent rumination on Aliens, war, and the apocalypse check out an excellent post entitled "Express Elevator to Hell: Aliens as Apocalyptic Literature" over at The Action Effect. It's good stuff.

Note: My exclamation at the beginning of this post was more in reference to Ridley Scott talking about another Alien movie. If he had just walked by, turned and looked into a camera and said "Alien," I would have undoubtedly written a very similar post with the same opening.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trick 'r Treat is as Good as a Pillowcase Full of Halloween Candy and Much Better for You!

So I finally watched Trick 'r Treat, the long-canned Halloween fright flick that's been garnering excellent reviews and positive press for several years now. Despite the overwhelming reactions from fans at conventions and special engagements, it never received a real theatrical release and got dumped on DVD and Blu-ray a couple of weeks ago (notice the release date in the poster above).

So did it live up to the hype? In a word, yes. Trick 'r Treat is just fucking awesome. It's an anthology pic written directed by Michael Dougherty (the dude who also wrote and directed X2 and Superman Returns), and it pumps some much-needed fresh blood into the Halloween horror genre.

It's a lot like the Creepshow series, so much so that it even uses comic book-styled opening credits. However, Trick 'r Treat eclipses those classic 80's flicks, despite the lack of the genius talent of George Romero and Stephen King. What separates it from Creepshow, or any horror film in recent memory, is Dougherty's inventiveness and disregard for audience expectations. There are 4 stories, and only one of them was at all predictable. He uses your own horror knowledge against you, and just when you think you know what's going to happen, he surprises you with something plausible but unexpected and deliciously grisly.

Don’t' get me wrong, this isn't in the running for the title of greatest horror movie ever made. It's inventive, but Night of the Living Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre this is not. Instead, it's a quick, surprising and immensely fun little horror flick from a Hollywood bigwig (which is perhaps the most amazing thing about the movie). So if you're even half as sick as I am of the vastly overrated Saw franchise dominating the entire month of October, stay home and pick up a copy of Trick R' Treat. You will not be disappointed.

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