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.