Category Archives: Deb’s Den

Kong :Skull Island 4/5 – Rob “The Encyclopedia” Deb

In some ways, the BvS of a new shared universe Kong is a companion to ‘Godzilla’ but peels back on the science and focuses heavily on a taut story extremely well told.

Set in the 70’s days after America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, the film opens stylishly enough with exposition kept to bare bones and setting characters. What we see is an ever-affable John Goodman and his Corey Hawkins confirm the existence of skull island and, through Hawkins conviction, get the budget and build an assortment of characters to help them explore it.

Tom Hiddleston is the most difficult character or actor in a sense as he plays the British tracker with such reserve he rivals Adrien Brody in ‘Predators’ for distancing the audience. Brie Larson’s photo journalist woman is played with pluck aplomb and humour but sadly does little in terms of plot.

It is Sam Jackson and his entourage of soldiers that drives most of the conflict of the movie as soon after encountering KONG, the giant monkey becomes the Moby Dick to his Ahab as he orders and exploits his units’ loyalty to take the King down. The films plot is part revenge tragedy and part escape plan as #TeamTom want off the island while #TeamSam want to search and destroy the great ape.

Largely building from the first act of the original King Kong the film is a refreshing change of pace while showing that classic genre can still be a draw, maybe not through originality but rather just getting it done. Kong deserves to be seen on the big screen as the island, well everything will kill you. And I mean everything! Everything. See that tree, it will kill you, see the Skull crushers, they will kill you, see that bison, it will kill you, see that pigeon, it will kill you. The sense of watching characters having to trek on blades of death over an island is amazing.

I do rate the film highly because while it doesn’t do anything new, just given a 70’s soundtrack and lifting ‘Predator’ ‘Alien’ and film land politics of the era, it does it with such superb craft I could not complain. My own pulp thrills do not excuse the meeting with the native Islanders or the adventures of Brie Larsson’s’ incredible shrinking shirt. Much like one of her previous films ‘The Shallows’ it’s just incredibly well done.

Its visceral in its violence which I applaud as opposed to the roid rage Laser tag of other franchises and ends with a post credit that left me intrigued with the concept of how this world works.

In many ways, this is the Fast and Furious for Genre fans. I can see many contingents having a field day with the antiquated sensibilities in this feature but as a middle-aged man or a certain upbringing they were a mild distraction at best in what was a great return of the KING!

4/5

2000ad 40th Anniversay convention review by Rob “The Encyclopaedia” Deb

For those who were a little thrill in their daddy’s eye on 11th Feb 1977, last Saturday saw their 40th birthday coincide with anniversary celebrations for one of the greatest Progs known to man. 2000ad. Forged from the ashes of Action by Pat Mills, it took the subversive, confrontational and almost anti-social punk tendencies that saw Action routinely canned by the Whitehouse brigade and draped them in sci fi settings to make them more palatable.

This convention had a lot riding on it too. I got an early bird ticket at £40 which is quite steep when you consider the price of a typical MCM, but in many ways it delivered.

Given the ticket price and the fan base it was a much older crowd and less diverse then you would get at some of the broader cons, having said that being dedicated to a title meant there was a lot more camaraderie involved in the environment as no one could argue which was the best band, we were all there for the greatest hits. There was little concession activity wise, a display of ‘Dredd’ props with some judges on hand to pose with and a ‘perp’ corner for those who wanted to do some ‘simping’. Sadly as my colleague was not arriving until much later I felt too self-conscious to ask folk to take my photos in the outfits so I missed the fun in that section. Its notable there were no games on display given Rebellion is first and foremost a Games studio, but given the first announcement that morning they plan to put up their intellectual properties to other developers explains this was for the hard core comic fan first and foremost.

The main draw when talking to other fans were to meet the creators, of which pretty much everyone was there from the whole era. I managed to meet briefly in no particular order: Kew-K, Steve McManus (my Tharg, a fictional role all editor assumes, in many ways the Doctor Who character of publishing) John Higgins, Andy Diggle and co-creator of Judge Dredd John Wagner. Most of the alumni were there and more comfortable than I ever seen them before at these things. From Alan Grant, Pat Mills (the retrospective with him is currently on Facebook) Dave Bishop and of course Dave Gibbons.

The queues….well it’s a hard one to judge. I don’t collect artwork or sketchings. I don’t have the space for them. There were queues and some of them were quite long. I think if you’re wanted to get something off Carlos Esquerra you would be waiting an hour minimum. Me and my late comer colleague were not that keen for that but given what you would get ….I mean it’s a small matter when you consider I went for Boland and McMahon cursed earth signing at Gosh and that was an hour and a half. Personally at £40 I was more about the talks. And there were loads.

I went for the writing ones, as again the big room the big talks. Well it’s like going to a theatre and seeing the massive queue for the big show and ignoring it to be comfortable in the B venue. I went for the writers and I got loads. Robbie Morrison, Robbie Williamson, Al Ewing, Emma Beeby, all in good form.

The only disappointment was the ‘Slaine’ Bar. I was expecting a whole decked out corner. But it was basically an, admittedly rather ornate fascia placed on the front of the bar. And then you get the regular gripes of a convention. The price of hotel drinks.

 

In short though it was a great day for those more hard-core fans then me. And I hope we see a growth in more of this style of conventions rather than the one size fits all of the MCM. It put the comics front and centre and the atmosphere was great.

4/5

ROGUE ONE REVIEW : A DIM HOPE 3 stars Ron “The Encyclopaedia” Debb

Well this was the bold decision, to create a hidden chapter in the franchise. While it would be familiar enough to the ‘classic trilogy’ it would also suffer for being a foregone conclusion in many ways, so one does not envy the task given Gareth Edwards in this first foray into a cinematic expanded universe.

In many ways, the film takes us to a much greyer world than the classics. A brutalistic one, because not only has the sense of hope been removed, but with it any sense of dashing escapes, wit and daring dos. While we follow the story of Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen Erso the man who would be at the core of creating the death star we slowly see her back story as the film sees her come to join the rebellion and lead the cadre to steal the plans.

While the force awakens was criticised for being too much like A New Hope, this film is closer in beats and story, complete with cantina like scenes of intrigue and politicking. In many ways, this is like a bizarre Mirror Universe of the first film. With Erso as skywalker, Cassian as a more bloodthirsty “shoot first, shoot last and shoot always” Han Solo with an evil goatee, Alan Tudyks Reprogrammed android the new Chewbacca and Forest Whittaker shouting platitudes and grievances like the Obi Wan Kenobi toy when it gets kicked out the pub in an Adam and Joe sketch.

Admiral krennick is charismatic as the evil lead, he has poise lines and wit. Sadly, he seems somewhat perfunctory to the events as they unfurl and ends up being the Empires most aggressive admin assistant. I mean the best dressed one too but ultimately…. a man from H.R who needs you to sign a form.

Rogue_One,_A_Star_Wars_Story_posterThe problem I think that lies in the heart of this is the film neatly breaks in two. The first half is showing a Star Wars world with more desperate measures being undertaken and no force powers to save us. Unfortunately, by doing that the years have been unkind to this era and by covering everything in a filter of shit the underdog scum lands look pretty unoriginal compared to all the direct underdog skive lands that stole from Star Wars in the 80 and 90’s. I did have points where I was thinking …” fuck it …put Trancers on”

Having said that though the second half kicks like a mule and once the mission is a go I was enthralled. I think it takes some doing in this case as while so much of the events are a foregone conclusion Edwards has created some of the best space battles ever put to screen and the last 20 minutes manage to confirm everything we thought happened while showing us it in such a way you cannot help but be excited.

I often have told friends and confess that whenever I watch Star Wars again on my own, I tend to skip straight to the cantina and watch it from there as the desert stuff bores me. In many ways, this is the same. You will have a great time at the end, but whether or not it was worth it with a leaden start is harder to say. P.s. I really suggest strongly you think about taking younger kids or not. I have  a 6 year old nephew and have texted his dad to have a look first. It’s the grimmest most viscerally and brutally violent Star Wars yet. And I think is the poorer for it.

3/5

Zombie Women of Satan 2 Review Rob “The Encyclopedia” Deb 3 stars ***

This is a terrible film, this is a Troma level of terrible without the effects or even multiple cameras. But I have been asked by our editor to talk about the whole DVD and it is surprisingly rewarding. Even if the editor turns up halfway through and …. well he also asked me to review the whole experience so here you go.

Even before I begin I get the sinking feeling at the scrawl on the back of the envelope says the dvd is “out of sync”. Sighing I take it up stairs looking at the cover that is a montage to make a bad thing look even more trashy. Then I wait until the folks are away and get myself ready to review this.

Having not seen the first film (who did?) I was not sure about Pervo.  Part Alan Partridge and part Chubby Brown, he is a survivor of some previous zombie women attack desperate to get back in the limelight. Grubby encounters with several entourages later and we see him takingzombie-women-of-satan-2_1 a road trip to a deserted area with his adhoc entourage making up the fodder.  One of them was on Big Brother and he seems as incapable as most of the script. The film is largely improvised, great. You need talent for improv or at least a tight script to rephrase from. This is just shouting cunt a lot. Which is kind of funny, with timing, nuance, pause. And the word cunt. But that’s not what happens.

Special mention should be given to the strong female super team “The Bad Habits”. Sizzling in sass as the Four Force Fox four they have a great chemistry and a sense of purpose but that is soon spent like one of Pervos “jokes” very quickly. Given how they do most of the genuine action there was a faint promise of me finally seeing the “renegade Nuns on Wheels vs Batwinged Bimbos From Hell” film I am constantly kickstarting but it never happens. All of this gets padded out with more and more scenes which it seems only exist to hit the magical feature length run time. I think it says a lot when the main zombie conversion only occurs a good forty minutes into the film. And they spend most of the film shuffling off the side of the camera like an irate mob from the Benny Hill Show. An obvious inspiration for some of the Japes, but again without the pacing, puns or levity.

Warren speed has given himself a tough role relying on sheer energy to bulldozer this through. However, the screen has amazing stopping power as does the makeup he must have endured to keep that look on throughout. On a low budget feature (the first of many low budget feature comments) if you can’t afford good shots to get the expression, then don’t cover the expression with kiss make up.

Watching this is Like watching through a flickering peephole for bad taste.  The lighting is off. The location looks like holding placements/ those inter scene bits you would see on shitcoms to show where the groovy gang are now. Apparently, they only had one camera, and that camera could not move through any of the sequences. This film could do with a D.O.P and…another camera. Even iPhone level would have helped.

The commentary is in many ways a bizarre experience. After sitting through a badly shot, badly lit, poorly veiled softcore with no story we get a rather earnest viewpoint from the director who, bless him obviously put so much work into this. At every point. Yet for what. I get the feeling the relationship with warren was warren screaming what was important to his mind and the director being some freakishly capitulating soul. There is a drinking game to be had in this, down a shot every time he says “in a low budget movie” it’s almost like a mantra. Made even more incomprehensible as so many decisions about a low budget movie are poor. The wet t shirt scene serves no purpose, he knows it serves no purpose, but it makes the film feature length. That’s not a feature. That a short with some tits in it boring everyone. He is dedicated to trying to make a story. That did not happen. He is obsessed and to be fair to him he dolls out credit to all the people who made the film happen. From the sound mix to getting a ford Capri. The Capri is good for a scene and how much do you need to hear Pervo swear in High Def? watching my editor pratfall like a massively cheap Finsbury Park (The Harry Hill Show ed.) tribute was good but not enough is made of it. And some lighting would have helped a lot.  Even another camera would have helped. And actors. And…you know what. Watch it with the commentary as it’s like the Don Quixote of fucking commentaries.

In short the film is nothing you haven’t seen clogging up the content folder of amazon prime to try and compete with the quality on Netflix. Its badly filmed and paced and the moments of game high kinetic punch it seems to try and capitalise on would have been better in a 15-minute short. I do bizarrely enough recommend this DVD. I recommend it because the commentary. If you’re interested in making films, whatever else these fuckers did it. You can learn so much from this and I know my next short will be better for it so with that in mind.

***stars

DOCTOR STRANGE REVIEW ***** (five stars) by Rob “The Encyclopaedia” Deb

DOCTOR STRANGE REVIEW ***** (five stars) by Rob “The Encyclopaedia” Deb.

As the MCU continues to expand in delightful ways, Strange exists as a film to give some breathing space to the relatively cramped Marvel Universe depicted in Civil War. For those unfamiliar with the character this is a bold step for Marvel, one they waited to introduce until the right time and they do it brilliantly.

Doctor Strange movie poster 2016Opening with an origin story We see the witty lines, the rejoinders and the now obligatory pop music sound track commentary that admittedly made me feel I was about to embark on an Iron man retreat. However this hand holding is crucial for the realms about to be introduced. Strange is a man, like Stark, at the top of his game and a crisis pushes him into learning humility and real power.

As he travels to heal his hands we see an incredibly Strong supporting cast in the roles of Wong, The Ancient one and Moro. Mordo Deserves special mention at this point, by giving what was previously a sinister Evil twin to Strange, into a fully fleshed character and motivation in his own right . Fans of the comics know he becomes one of Strange’s greatest enemies, but here we see a partner more than rival and how he will develop in the future.

The story itself without the performances or the rich characterisation is pretty route. However, the Finale and the way the greater evil is defeated is something really setting up the tone for future Doctor Strange adventures.

A film cannot exist on its spectacle alone, but the spectacle in this is truly outstanding.  It’s very much like watching Ditko’s most fevered dreams smeared across in the screen in dazzling delight. As a side note, for an adaption that takes so many ques from the comics visually it was irritating to see the new Marvel studios intro logo. Rather than the montage of Doctor Strange comics within the letters, we get clips from various previous marvel films, a choice I feel distances the universe from its heritage and is a bit insulting. Having said that the changes it made with the original source has definitely contemporised the characters in a way that a more ‘trad’ telling would have been frankly questionable.

In short it has definatly reinvigorated my interest in the MCU and I look forward to further adventures of The dark/mirror/multiversal realms Strange Travels.

Suicide Squad review by Rob “The Encyclopedia” Deb ** 2 stars

It’s been a few days. I have recovered from what was an assault on taste, senses and storytelling so I feel I can now share.

The premise of the film is a classic outlaw staple in cinema from the Dirty Dozen to Battle Beyond the Stars to the upcoming Magnificent Seven. The notion of a ragtag bunch of outlaws being flung together to help save the world from a bigger evil, coupled with the recognition and iconic power of Harley Quinn, the Joker and Batman should have been enough to draw anyone in.

I went to a Friday afternoon screening filled with people who were so geared to love this film. They all came out sighing.

It’s not so much that it has no plot but rather that it is spread so thinly amongst the two hours of neon carnage it’s almost imperceptible. We take 20 minutes of establishing the characters, 15 of which are spent saying Deadshot loves his daughter, did we mention he loves his daughter, he shoots people, and he loves his daughter, and the other three on Harley Quinn being hot and the other two for the rest of the losers.
From this we follow the team from point A to point B. Really. Ultimately it’s a bunch of goons walking down a street. And then they get to the skyhole (as an aside I’m sick of fucking skyholes). The only redemptive part of this film is they don’t have a fight on a bridge or a train. But still. It’s another fucking skyhole.

This film felt like going round to a rich kid’s house who’s got a fantastic new console and the latest triple AAA release and spending two hours watching him play the game while you watch the fucking clock. Quicktime moments aplenty as this on rails platformer overdoses on gummy bears and glow sticks, throws them up, picks it up and throws it in your face.

Batman barely registers and The Joker adds nothing to the film. Nothing! I think he looks good and at first I thought he was terrible, on reflection that’s unfair as he does nothing to be terrible with.

suicide-squad-movie-2016-posterBy the time we get to the end people are assuming special abilities like Mario picking up a power pill as suddenly they go full on power rangers and shit super powers out their hot pants.

I give this film two stars for some of the lines, most of which you have seen in the trailer, and frankly for taking chances. They don’t pay off but its bold strokes. The D.O.P and casting have done a tremendous job but this is not so much a polished turd as one with rainbow sprinkles hidden on a Wurlitzer and you don’t know when it might hit you.
Since I saw the film many people have come out to defend it. I myself have some sympathy as I really enjoyed BvS. I don’t think this works though and the notion that it’s for the fans? Well I’m a fan, a fan of comic books and good films. This is neither. Avoid the big screen and wait for the stream.

** 2 stars

Deb’s Den : Graph Novs you should read 1 – Rob “The Encyclopedia” Deb

Hi there and welcome to my first of many Deb’s Den.

Please pull up a pew.  You can move the cape anywhere you like, my mum will be up in a bit with some tea and biscuits as I give you the Rob Deb recommends you have demanded.  OK, admittedly it was more Mike “The Woman” Belgrave who badgered me to start earning the crust I so eagerly gnaw on and asked me to choose a selection of graphic novels a new to comics reader could enjoy. So here is a selection of cool ready to read trades I know you will enjoy.  And if you don’t, you are obviously dead from the waist down.

 Green Lantern rebirth by Geoff Johns, et al.
Bringing back a character so well loved as Hal Jordan was always going to be difficult, especially to appease the old guard and bringing in new readers at the same time, but Geoff Johns managers to convey character and bring all comers up to speed.

A sharp retooling for one of DC’s flagship characters and a great primer for Superhero comics and how they can be done in general.

Ultimate Spider-Man – Ultimate Spider-Man (Paperback) 1 by Bill Jemas, et al.
Ultimate Spider-man is a swift and sharp re-imagining of the Spider-man mythos, largely aimed at teen readers in its inception, and drawing back old, hem, mature comic book fans who’s interest has been sparked again with the new movie franchise.

By starting over Bendis has been able to modernize Peter and the world around him in a stylish ‘dialogue of references’ you get in many American dramas. Mark Bagely’s artwork is vibrant and clear, with a touch of manga to it.

For spidey fans who want to start over before the wedding, the last hunt, the clones, and the carnage, I can’t think of a better beginning.

Hitman by Garth Ennis, et al.
Bringing many elements that typify Ennis style (shock, cynicism, and a deep irreverence for any established authority) into a light hearted romp through the underside of the DC Universe, Hitman is an enjoyable read with a deeply charismatic protagonist.

John McCrea’s artwork is suitably dark and eccentric and his take on batman alone should be worth the price of admission alone for many readers.

Incredible Hulk: Return of the Monster by Bruce Jones, et al.
On the run, a man alone with his rage, Bruce Banner seems to finally come to an understanding with the monster within, until it all unravels around him.

Bruce Jones brings an earthy sensibility to the hulk, which is rarely on panel and more of a force because of it. Jones also brings in a great deal of enemies against whom banner can vent his rage, a cloudy version of x-files with a meaner bent, this collection is a dark reflection on the character of the Hulk.

In a word Smashing!

Transmetropolitan by Darick Robertson, et al.
Searing, satirical, and sarcastic, the story of Spider’s Gonzo infused odyssey against the American political and corporate structure is gripping from page to page.

Robertson’s art enthuses Warren Ellis’s humor with a level of detail to rival George Perez and your eyes will feel like its feasting on each panel, unlike many of the low background ‘image’s you get in new comics

a must read

Daredevil by Kevin Smith, et al.
A great stylish form of art work from Quesada accompanied with a great line of dialogue that typifies the Kevin Smithsonian institute of writing, this book is a fantastic (re)introduction to one of Marvel’s most hardboiled heroes.

Also emotional sense of closure from the threads left with frank Miller’s work ‘Born again’ and an emphasize on the theatrical aspects of the character rarely covered in later works.

nuff said

Identity Crisis by Brad Meltzer
A hard boiled crime story in a world that has encountered numerous cosmic threats, but never faced such simple human villainy. Meltzer writes character that conveys more (in compliment with the sharp iconic style of Morales and Bair) humanity within our heroes in a single panel than some could do with an entire chapter. A must read for any fan who wants to reacquaint themselves with their childhood idols, as we have grown up, so have they!

Well that brings me to the end of my selection I think you will find something to enjoy in this collection of mutants, misanthropes and murder mysteries, and if you did never worry much like ‘The Sandman’ you can consider it all a dream. So until next time does excuse me as I break out inflatable Kara and the puncture repair kit. KLATU!

Rob Deb at Meanwhile ComixRob “The Encyclopedia” Deb also writes for Cape Lifting and will be performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe with Rob Deb 20th Anniversary Edition.