Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kingstone Media Delivers Biblical Adventures Through Comic Book Medium

Films based on the Holy Bible are as popular now as they were in the 1950s and 1960s when studios gave us epics like “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben-Hur,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “King of Kings,” “Samson and Delilah,” and many others. Recently, “Son of God” made quite an impact in cinemas and there’s plenty more coming our way. Ridley Scott’s “Exodus” tells the tale of Christian Bale’s Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt. Nicolas Cage will help those seeking answers to the disappearances of loved ones and face the disastrous consequences of being “Left Behind.”

Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” hits Blu-ray and DVD giving those who didn’t watch the movie in theaters an opportunity to see the latest Hollywood Biblical saga. Many might not know that it was actually based on a graphic novel Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel made with Canadian artist Niko Henrichon. It wasn’t the first time the Bible was adapted into comic book form.

Kingstone Media has been publishing Bible-based comics for a number of years. Their books cover several genres from science fiction to historical and present-day inspirational tales. After viewing “Noah” and seeing several pages of the graphic novel, my curiosity led me to seek out three titles from the Christian-based publisher’s past releases to explore.

“Job” is one of the latest books Kingstone has released. The famous account from the Bible is adapted by writer Ben Avery. He’s well-known for his work on George R.R. Martin’s “The Hedge Knight,” “The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles,” and several others. He takes the words of scripture and breaks them down so they’re understandable for anyone twelve years old and up. The bottom of each page features a footnote stating the Bible chapters and verses it addresses. Jeff Slemons delivers wonderful artwork that accents Avery’s words with strikingly expressive images. Slemons is a veteran penciler who’s worked on Micronauts, Suicide Squad, "Captain America vs MODOK and AIM," and Frank Frazetta's "John Carter One Minute Later," to name a few.

“The Revelation” gives us writer and Kingstone Media CEO Art Aryis’s interpretion of the Apostle John’s vision of the future as given to him by God. He gets literal at times as does artist Danny Bulandi when it comes down to translating the prophetic book. Bulandi loves taking the Biblical descriptions of certain creatures and adding in his own monster-like fantasy elements to make them even more extraordinary and appealing to comic book readers.

Both Art Aryis and Danny Bulandi teamed up for an exciting reworking of “Samson.” The two inject loads of visual goodness that rouse up memories of sword and sandal epics like “Spartacus,” “Hercules,” “Conan,” and “Clash of the Titans.” It has all the romantic and fantasy elements found in the great tales of Greek and Norse mythology. However, Samson’s tale is made even more sensational through the knowledge that it’s based on true events. This is a great way to introduce readers to the original strong man from the Bible.

Kingstone Media has even more comic book fun coming in the near future. They’ll soon be releasing the true Biblical account of “Noah” to coincide with Darren Aronofsky’s vision of the Great Flood and the life of the Man of God. The supernatural action/thriller “The Remaining” hits bookshelves in August followed by the movie in September. It stars Alexa Vega (the “Spy Kids” movies, “Repo! The Genetic Opera”) and is produced and directed by Casey La Scala (“Donnie Darko,” the upcoming “Amityville”).

“Job” is available now in print and Kindle editions.

“The Revelation” is available now in print and Kindle editions.

“Samson” is available now in print and Kindle editions.

“Noah” is available now in print and Kindle editions.

“The Remaining” is available now in print.

Kingstone Media Delivers Biblical Adventures Through Comic Book Medium

Films based on the Holy Bible are as popular now as they were in the 1950s and 1960s when studios gave us epics like “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben-Hur,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “King of Kings,” “Samson and Delilah,” and many others. Recently, “Son of God” made quite an impact in cinemas and there’s plenty more coming our way. Ridley Scott’s “Exodus” tells the tale of Christian Bale’s Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt. Nicolas Cage will help those seeking answers to the disappearances of loved ones and face the disastrous consequences of being “Left Behind.”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Superman and Batman At Odds in "Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2"

The world of the hit video game expands even further with “Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2.” Set in an alternate universe, it’s an open invitation for writers to take our beloved super heroes in directions we never thought we’d see them go in. Anything goes and anything will when preserving the continuity of the “real” DC Universe isn’t an issue. As you read this review, keep in mind I’ve never played the game. My opinion of the book is based solely on what I read.

“Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2” takes place before the events in the video game. The collection is made up of issues 7 through 12 and Annual 1 of the series. The Justice League has been divided over Superman’s decision to end crime and evil through any means necessary including killing. Batman won’t stand for the lines the Man of Steel has crossed in his fight for Justice. A clashing of the titans is inevitable, but who will come out the victor?

Author Tom Taylor fleshes out the backstory for the hit video game from the makers of “Mortal Kombat.” He has plenty of experience writing stories outside of DC continuity through his work on “Earth 2.” Taylor weaves together drama, explosive emotions, and non-stop action in a way that makes the reader want to finish the book in one sitting.

Mike S. Miller, Tom Derenick, and Bruno Redondo are only three of the many artists who add their individual touches to “Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2.” However, the differences in each approach to penciling doesn’t distract from the story. Although they’re working from concepts dreamed up by the game designers, they do a phenomenal job translating writer Tom Taylor’s words into visual masterpieces.

If I were to give “Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2” a rating based on movies, it would be PG-13. Violence, scary images, and mild language all play a part in my decision. I would imagine seeing Superman kill someone might scar a younger child for life. There’s also a lot of bickering between “good guys” that could confuse kids.

“Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2” doesn’t contain much in the way of bonus material. Three pages of DC Collectibles variant covers are included. The scenes feature Superman, Aquaman, Catwoman, Doomsday, and Black Adam.

Fans of the game will be drawn to “Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2” to find out what happened before they pushed the “Play” button on their remote. You don’t have to play the game to enjoy the book, though. I’ve barely ever watched my son play the game. It stands on its own as a must-read graphic novel for an entertaining storyline and stunning illustrations that keep the reader hooked.

“Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2” is available now in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle editions.

Superman and Batman At Odds in "Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2"

The world of the hit video game expands even further with “Injustice: Gods Among Us Volume 2.” Set in an alternate universe, it’s an open invitation for writers to take our beloved super heroes in directions we never thought we’d see them go in. Anything goes and anything will when preserving the continuity of the “real” DC Universe isn’t an issue. As you read this review, keep in mind I’ve never played the game. My opinion of the book is based solely on what I read.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Batman Fights His Way to Apokolips in Robin Rises: Omega

When Damian Wayne was killed off, I immediately knew it was only a matter of time before the character would somehow be resurrected. He was becoming such a pivotal part of the Batman legacy. By the time he met his demise I knew there was no way they would waste an opportunity to tell more stories about who I consider my favorite sidekick out of all of the Robins. The character was so complex emotionally and had a captivating backstory that further complicated the Dark Knight’s personal life and crime fighting persona.

The one-shot Robin Rises: Omega kicks off an all-new event which leaves us hanging on the edge of a cliff as Batman is about to transport himself to Apokolips for a daring rescue mission. The agents of Darkseid have stolen both Damian and Talia al Ghul’s bodies. After a fierce battle, the sinister forces take them back to the tyrant’s hellish home world. Can the Caped Crusader attain Robin and Talia’s bodies from Darkseid and his cronies alone? Will he need the help of his super powered friends to get them back?

Peter J. Tomasi steers the story in a direction all super hero fans will love. He adores big battles as you’ll no doubt notice by the end of the book. However, he still wants some emotional substance found throughout the tale as well. Tomasi wants both tons of vigorous action and complicated character relationships.

Artist Andy Kubert appreciates anytime he can use his talents to add another level to books about Damian Wayne. He’s worked on several major projects featuring the character, most recently for the successful Damian: Son of Batman mini-series. His efforts add a touch of realism and excellence to Robin Rises: Omega.

The one-shot of Robin Rises: Omega is rated “T” for Teens. There’s the usual comic book violence and mild language. One panel features Batman in nothing but his mask. He’s naked, but it doesn’t really show anything except the side of his bare butt. Some adult situations come up, too.

Robin Rises: Omega is a great kick-off to what will no doubt soon be one of my favorite journeys of rescue and heroism It’s packed full of the sort of super powered mayhem Batman fans are becoming accustomed to in the New 52. I, for one, can’t wait until Damian dons his costume again. It might be a long road until we get that visual. As long as the journey keeps moving us in exciting directions I’ll be interested.

The Robin Rises: Omega one-shot is available now in print and Kindle editions.

Batman Fights His Way to Apokolips in Robin Rises: Omega

When Damian Wayne was killed off, I immediately knew it was only a matter of time before the character would somehow be resurrected. He was becoming such a pivotal part of the Batman legacy. By the time he met his demise I knew there was no way they would waste an opportunity to tell more stories about who I consider my favorite sidekick out of all of the Robins. The character was so complex emotionally and had a captivating backstory that further complicated the Dark Knight’s personal life and crime fighting persona.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

First Annual "Batman Day" a Success in Arlington, TX

It’s safe to say the first annual “Batman Day” was a success for Barnes and Noble Bookstore at Parks Mall in Arlington, TX. Crowds of children and their parents were in attendance to celebrate the anniversary of the Dark Knight’s 75th birthday. Although the super hero’s first appearance was in the May 1939 issue of Detective Comics, its publisher DC decided to postpone the big celebration until July 23rd.

Participants at Barnes and Noble were given a bag featuring the 75th anniversary Batman logo on one side and the cover image of the limited edition Detective Comics #27 being handed out at the event. The issue featured a reprint of the original debut of the Caped Crusader and a modern re-telling of the story as well. 

Each bag included the comic, one of four different masks the child could choose from, bookmarks, and two posters that featured important graphic novels to read and a timeline of important events in the history of the Dark Knight. Those who didn’t show up on time lost the opportunity of getting most of the goodies as they ran out in about twenty minutes.

Once they were given their goody bags, the families were ushered to a reading area. After being seated, a woman came out and read two short stories to the excited crowd. One was a book about general super heroes while the other tale featured Batman and Robin having one heck of a night when all their biggest super villains escaped from Arkham Asylum at the same time. The Dynamic Duo’s misfortune served as great entertainment for the young audience.

The event closed out with a short craft time where kids were given the opportunity to participate in a couple fun activities. The first thing they could do was make their own Batman mask. They were also each provided a “Beware the Batman” coloring sheet to enjoy. 

As the masked children and their parents shared in the festivities, they enthusiastically chattered about Batman or their personal favorite super hero. One girl was more interested in Wonder Woman understandably. Each seemed pleased with the thrilling items they were given for “Batman Day.” On my way out, I witnessed the fruits of the celebration. A little boy’s imagination had been piqued and he was making his mom buy him a graphic novel featuring our favorite crime fighter. It’s never too early to become a fan of the greatest comic book character ever created. 

You can click here to see pictures of "Batman Day" from Barnes and Noble at the Parks Mall in Arlington, TX.

First Annual "Batman Day" a Success in Arlington, TX

It’s safe to say the first annual “Batman Day” was a success for Barnes and Noble Bookstore at Parks Mall in Arlington, TX. Crowds of children and their parents were in attendance to celebrate the anniversary of the Dark Knight’s 75th birthday. Although the super hero’s first appearance was in the May 1939 issue of Detective Comics, its publisher DC decided to postpone the big celebration until July 23rd.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Celebrate 75 Years of the Dark Knight with "Batman Day," Anniversary Collections, and More


Batman is pretty spry for a 75-year-old super hero. It’s easy to explain away Superman staying so fit and young over three quarters of a century: he’s an indestructible alien powered by our sun. Bruce Wayne and his alter ego are perfect examples for the phrase, “You’re only as old as you think you are.” As far as he’s concerned, he’s still the same guy who pulled on the cape and cowl back in June of 1939 to solve “The Case of the Crime Syndicate.”

I won’t deny that Superman is the most powerful super hero in the world. He also stood tall as the greatest Boy Scout and patriot of the U.S.A. Until recently, however, I’ve never been able to fully connect to the Man of Steel. He was too perfect and too strong. Now, DC Comics has given the character more humanity and made him a bit more fallible than before.

From the very beginning, the Dark Knight had issues to deal with as a real human being and guardian of his extended Bat-Family. Rich or not, Batman had to fight his way out of scrapes through the use of his detective skills, blood, sweat, brawn, and technical smarts. He didn’t have super powers to fall back on. The Caped Crusader was always easier for me to identify with as a brooding, rebellious teenager who just wanted to be an individual in a country town full of cowboys and sports fanatics. 

Lovers of the character will get a chance to celebrate the 75th anniversary of his creation as July 23rd is sired “Batman Day.” Fans everywhere can go to participating comic book stores and pick up a number of items that will thrill them. The big ticket piece is a copy of “Detective Comics #27 Special Edition.” The extra-sized issue features a re-telling of Batman’s first appearance and stories written by Brad Meltzer, Scott Snyder, Bryan Hitch, and Sean Murphy. The original premiere adventure of the Caped Crusader is also re-printed in full for this incredible release. It also includes a sneak preview of Brad Meltzer and Chip Kidd’s re-imagining of Bruce Wayne’s first outing as the crime fighter. 

There are other things select stores will carry as well. Many will have bookmarks, bags, 75th anniversary capes, and four masks to choose from chronicling different eras of the Dark Knight’s long career. Fans can be their choice of the Caped Crusader from the 1930s, the 1960’s TV show, “The Dark Knight Returns,” or the modern day “New 52” Batman.

If that’s not enough for die-hard fans, you can always pick up new copies of DC Comics’ hardcover salutes to both Batman and the Joker. Each book contains various tales featuring the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime from their long and storied careers as super hero and super villain. Whether you’re new to the world of Batman or reading the stories for  the 75th time, these special volumes will have you captivated from beginning to end.

“Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years” is 425 pages of action and adventure from over seven decades. Every incarnation of the character is given its time in the spotlight. The brooding vigilante sleuth and the smiling patriot of the 1930s and 1940s; the out-of-this-world science fiction / fantasy do-gooder of the 1950s; the campy Caped Crusader of the 1960s; the gothic specter of the 1970s; all the way through to his re-launch for the New 52. Contributing writers and artists include Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Frank Miller, Carmine Infantino, Dick Sprang, Chuck Dixon, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and many more.

“The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years” is over 390 pages of zany and disturbing anecdotes featuring the Clown Prince of Crime at the top of his diabolical game. There’s no denying the Harlequin of Hate is Batman’s most well-known archenemy and this collection is the perfect example of why that is. From his first appearance in Batman #1 in 1940 to his latest facelift (pun intended) in the re-booted New 52 world, readers have come to love the charismatic character even though he causes them to laugh nervously at his deranged deeds. Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Scott Snyder, Neal Adams, Scott Capullo, Paul Dini, and others all get a chance to showcase their different takes on the Dark Knight’s unforgettable nemesis.

On July 23rd, take the chance to commemorate one of the first super heroes ever created. Without the Batman, the world would be a lot less thrilling to live in. He’s one of the most famous comic book characters to have captured the hearts of so many people the world over.

You can go here to find a comic shop or store participating in “Batman Day.”

“Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years” is available in hardcover and Kindle editions. 

“The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years” is available in hardcover and Kindle editions. 

Celebrate 75 Years of the Dark Knight with "Batman Day," Anniversary Collections, and More


Batman is pretty spry for a 75-year-old super hero. It’s easy to explain away Superman staying so fit and young over three quarters of a century: he’s an indestructible alien powered by our sun. Bruce Wayne and his alter ego are perfect examples for the phrase, “You’re only as old as you think you are.” As far as he’s concerned, he’s still the same guy who pulled on the cape and cowl back in June of 1939 to solve “The Case of the Crime Syndicate.”

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Grudge" Creator Takashi Shimizu Brings Horror Fans "Rigor Mortis"


I make it no secret to anyone that I love the movies of Takashi Shimizu. One of the most exciting moments of my career as a movie blogger was getting the opportunity to interview the talented Writer / Director / Producer. While many grew weary of “The Grudge” after so many spin-offs and sequels, I actually enjoyed and found most of them terrifyingly entertaining. 

His other works like “Reincarnation,” “The Shock Labyrinth,” and “Tormented” are all fine examples of what Shimizu can do outside the box of his most famous creation.  I’ve been waiting years for his film “4700” to be released either straight-to-DVD or in theaters. It looks like we’ll have to settle for projects produced by him for a while. One of those was recently released by Well Go USA Entertainment.

“Rigor Mortis” is a supernatural tale featuring vampires, zombies, ghost hunters, and other creatures that haunt your nightmares. They all seem to have a fixation on the apartment building a washed-up suicidal actor moved into. As you can imagine, all sorts of very strange and disturbing occurrences unfold. Mix in some martial arts and you have a perfect homage to the classic Chinese vampire films of the past.

“Rigor Mortis” is presented in 16x9 widescreen with 5.1 HD Surround Sound. The natural color scheme is stylishly altered throughout giving it different moody elements. The audio features all sorts of oddly disturbing sounds for horror fans to enjoy and immerse themselves in.

There’s not much here for folks who like bonus material. All that’s included is a trailer for the movie. It would have been interesting to see a “Making of” featurette containing interviews with the cast and crew and production footage.

Although “Rigor Mortis” is unrated, I would give it an R. There’s a lot of gore and disturbing horror imagery. Bad language and some nudity can be found as well.

I can definitely see why Takashi Shimizu took a liking to “Rigor Mortis.” After seeing the filmmaker’s more bizarre stylings in “The Shock Labyrinth” and “Tormented,” I perceive why he was drawn to the strange characters and peculiar phantasmagorias Director Juno Mak came up with for this unique genre entry. If you grow weary of the typical American monster movies we constantly get, “Rigor Mortis” is a step in a curious direction.  

"Rigor Mortis" is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and as a Digital Download.

"Grudge" Creator Takashi Shimizu Brings Horror Fans "Rigor Mortis"


I make it no secret to anyone that I love the movies of Takashi Shimizu. One of the most exciting moments of my career as a movie blogger was getting the opportunity to interview the talented Writer / Director / Producer. While many grew weary of “The Grudge” after so many spin-offs and sequels, I actually enjoyed and found most of them terrifyingly entertaining. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Few Survive "The Purge: Breakout"

“How would I react if I was put in that position?” Did you find yourself pondering the frightening idea when walking out of “The Purge: Anarchy?” Thousands of people found out as “The Purge: Breakout” experience rolled into Dallas, TX for a sold-out long weekend of shocks and terror.

“The Purge: Breakout” was an interactive experience which mixed together the best elements of a haunted house and scavenger hunt into one suspenseful and unforgettable adventure. Each team was made up of five to six people who had to make their way through two semi-trucks attached to each other and made up on the inside to look like the interior of a serial killer’s rundown house. Once you went through the entrance, you felt as if you were trapped in a nasty old home where crazy people lived.

The fact that we were locked in a cramped cage together with a gagged and chained up girl doing her best to yell at us to free her didn’t help us remember we were in a game. To get out of our predicament, we had to locate rope and a magnet to tie together and retrieve the keys outside of the bars to our prison. Once we did that, we had to make a decision whether to release the girl from her shackles or leave her. After all, what if she was one of the killers?

Each room in the “house” was made up to look like a living room, kitchen, or office. The goal was to make our way through the trail of locked doors by solving riddles left for us in each area. Our only hints were shouted at us by an extremely panicked girl who followed us to escape. We were given thirty minutes to get out before the siren marking the beginning of the Purge went off and we’d be eliminated.

I was very impressed by the attention to detail in every “room” designed for “The Purge: Breakout.” Most all the props looked authentic and you really felt like you were trapped in a dilapidated old house. Anyone with fear of the dark or claustrophobia would’ve had a meltdown.

As my group entered “The Purge: Breakout,” we were informed that only two percent of participants “survive” and actually finish successfully. We were not one of the lucky two percent. After taking what seemed like an eternity looking for clues in all the wrong places, we were just in time to make our way to the last room as the siren went off. One of the walls dropped down and the killer yelled as he acted like he was butchering us. Indeed, we had been purged.

“The Purge: Breakout” was a fun time and showed me how absolutely unprepared I am for the annual holiday. I would definitely be one of the first to meet my demise. I’ll just stick to watching other people suffer and try to survive in the movies.  

Go here to see more pictures from "The Purge: Breakout."

Few Survive "The Purge: Breakout"

“How would I react if I was put in that position?” Did you find yourself pondering the frightening idea when walking out of “The Purge: Anarchy?” Thousands of people found out as “The Purge: Breakout” experience rolled into Dallas, TX for a sold-out long weekend of shocks and terror.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Are You Ready for "The Purge: Anarchy?"

Much like the “Saw” films, it looks like Producer Jason Blum plans on making it an annual summer tradition to visually take part in “The Purge.” I’m sure many critics and audiences were surprised when the modestly budgeted $3 million horror flick made almost $90 million in its theatrical run. I found the first movie to be a thrilling study in one of the most frightening concepts a devious mind could come up with for a countrywide “holiday.” “The Purge: Anarchy” takes the concept to a whole other level.

Where the first film kept audiences in the confines of one home, “The Purge: Anarchy” puts us out in the streets of the big city where a group of characters must rely on each other to stay alive through the night. It’s a journey through madness as the group of survivors makes their way through the deadly streets, alleys, and subways of the metropolis. It becomes all too apparent that nowhere is safe on this terrifying and vengeful night.

While it’s the natural progression from the first movie to the sequel, I can’t help but feel it lost a certain personal charm the confines of one home and its family provided. That being said, the characters are brought together quite sensibly and in a manner that is believable even if it does seem convenient at times. They’re well-established and give you some personality to latch onto and become emotionally involved with.

“The Purge: Anarchy” reminded me of “Judgment Night” in the beginning. Everybody is running around the streets trying to survive one attack after the next. However, it switches gears and starts getting a bit political as it strays into territory explored previously in Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and an independent film recently released entitled “Butcher Boys.” It was written and produced by “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” co-creator Kim Henkel and explores the different classes humanity is broken into and how they treat each other.

When first taking it all in, “The Purge: Anarchy” seems to have trouble figuring out where it stands or what it’s trying to say morally. What I came up with was that guns don’t kill people. People kill people. That sounds like a rally cry for the NRA and Republicans everywhere. On the flipside, I felt another politically correct message was being given. It doesn’t matter why or who you kill. It’s still killing and still wrong. Both ideas have their merits.’

“The Purge: Anarchy” is rated R for strong disturbing violence and for language. Honestly, the movie is nowhere near as graphic as it could’ve been. People get shot, stabbed, beaten, and ran over. It’s really no worse than anything we’ve seen in any of “The Expendables” movies.

I couldn’t help but snicker at a few scenes in “The Purge: Anarchy.” Producer Jason Blum is seriously obsessed with the “found footage” concept. Every movie the guy has worked on finds a way to fit shaky-cam shots somewhere. Here we get a cam mounted on a motorcycle filming the driver as he races around the city. There’s also surveillance, night vision, security, and traffic light footage people use to track their victims as they scramble around on the streets.

“The Purge: Anarchy” doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. At the same time, it is entertaining and keeps the audience’s attention through it’s fast-paced energy and edge-of-your-seat thrills. It gives people who wanted to see more of what went on in the cities exactly what they craved. I’m just wondering how they’re going to follow this one up next year. 

Are You Ready for "The Purge: Anarchy?"

Much like the “Saw” films, it looks like Producer Jason Blum plans on making it an annual summer tradition to visually take part in “The Purge.” I’m sure many critics and audiences were surprised when the modestly budgeted $3 million horror flick made almost $90 million in its theatrical run. I found the first movie to be a thrilling study in one of the most frightening concepts a devious mind could come up with for a countrywide “holiday.” “The Purge: Anarchy” takes the concept to a whole other level.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Scream Factory and Chiller Gift Viewers "The Monkey's Paw"

Although I can’t remember a Chiller movie I couldn’t stand, their entertainment value and production qualities do vary. I always try to go into a film without any sort of pre-conceived notions, but let’s be honest. That’s nearly impossible to do once you’ve read any type of publicity material on a movie. I was carefully optimistic as I placed the Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of “The Monkey’s Paw” in my player and sat down to review it.

As many of you may know, “The Monkey’s Paw” is an updated version of W.W. Jacobs’ supernatural short story from 1902. Three wishes are granted to the owner of the title object. Unfortunately, the wishes come with a terrible price.

Director Brett Simmons and Writer Macon Blair did a great job of establishing a group of engaging personalities through quick character development. It's a simple and entertaining tale that keeps your attention as it plays out. The solid camerawork for this independent genre piece also came as a surprise.

“The Monkey’s Paw” boasts an ensemble cast of stars to help draw in their individual fans. Some of them fully committed to the movie, while others appear to have been paid as much as the budget would allow to get them for a day’s work for name recognition. Charles S. Dutton plays a detective who pops up a few times before making his dramatic exit. He might be in the movie for a sum total of ten minutes at the most.

Corbin Bleu continues to shake his Disney stigma by taking on a more mature role for “The Monkey’s Paw.” He plays a blue-collar factory worker named Catfish. It’s much different than his roles in “High School Musical” and “Free Style.” He also looks like he’s bulked up a bit over the years. This isn’t Bleu’s first genre film, as he was also in “Nurse 3D” and “Scary or Die.”

“The Monkey’s Paw” was given a 1080p high-definition transfer and is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The video quality is clear, clean, and easy on the eyes. 5.1 surround sound puts the viewer right in the thick of the action. There are no recognizable issues with either the video or audio transfer of the movie.

Scream Factory included a minimum amount of bonus material for “The Monkey’s Paw.” Audio commentary is provided by Director Brett Simmons, Cinematographer Scott Winig, and Actor C.J. Thomason. The featurette “Making ‘The Monkey’s Paw’” includes interviews with the cast and filmmakers. A trailer for the movie is found as well.

“The Monkey’s Paw” is unrated, although I would consider it PG-13. You won’t find anything out of the ordinary for supernatural horror films. There’s some violence, gore, adult situations, and language. The one thing we don’t get surprisingly is any nudity.

If you like supernatural thrillers, “The Monkey’s Paw” will provide some entertainment for horror hounds looking for an old-fashioned tale in a new package. Some might find vague comparisons to “Pet Semetary” are in order. I found it to be satisfying and was pleased by its overall quality and level of suspense.  

"The Monkey's Paw" is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and as a Digital Download.

Scream Factory and Chiller Gift Viewers "The Monkey's Paw"

Although I can’t remember a Chiller movie I couldn’t stand, their entertainment value and production qualities do vary. I always try to go into a film without any sort of pre-conceived notions, but let’s be honest. That’s nearly impossible to do once you’ve read any type of publicity material on a movie. I was carefully optimistic as I placed the Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of “The Monkey’s Paw” in my player and sat down to review it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nightwing Loses His Costume and Goes Secret Agent in Grayson

I have to admit when I first read that Dick Grayson was giving up his costumed crime fighting as Nightwing to become a secret agent I was disappointed. The character has quickly become one of my favorites among the reboot of the DC Universe and there’s so much more that I felt could be done with him.  Alas, I don’t run the comic book publisher and have no say in the decision. I’m simply along for the ride when it comes to new series Grayson, whether it is an agreeable or inadequate one.

After his secret identity is compromised by the Crime Syndicate of America, Dick Grayson abandons his battle against evil in the city of Gotham. He takes his crusade against crime to an international level by joining an organization known as Spyral. Together with his super-powered partner, he embarks on a rescue mission that could end up a fatal one for him.

Honestly, Writer Tim Seeley and Co-Plotter Tom King couldn’t have done a better job tackling the near-impossible job of following up the satisfying tales we were getting in the Nightwing series. They start issue #1 with an action-packed chase atop a racing train and end it with a cliffhanger that leaves you with a shocking reveal and feelings of betrayal and dread.   

Artist Mikel Janin brings all the action of Seeley and King’s storytelling to the printed page. His style isn’t really anything new, but he’s good at what he does. He utilizes elements of realism and animated qualities in his work. Jeremy Cox accents all the pencils with his dramatic coloring for each page.

It’s difficult coming to terms with the idea of seeing Batman's former sidekick fighting crime minus his costume in Grayson Issue #1. A promising tale of mystery and suspense coupled with the attractive elements of espionage and globe-trotting reminiscent of James Bond gives the new title a shot at longevity. It will certainly be interesting to see what territory the concept will move into in the future. 

Grayson Issue #1 is available now in print and Kindle editions. 

Nightwing Loses His Costume and Goes Secret Agent in Grayson

I have to admit when I first read that Dick Grayson was giving up his costumed crime fighting as Nightwing to become a secret agent I was disappointed. The character has quickly become one of my favorites among the reboot of the DC Universe and there’s so much more that I felt could be done with him.  Alas, I don’t run the comic book publisher and have no say in the decision. I’m simply along for the ride when it comes to new series Grayson, whether it is an agreeable or inadequate one.

KISS Unleash Their Energy and Charisma on Dallas, TX

If it’s at all possible to perform an intimate set for 20,000 fans, KISS did it on July 13, 2014 at the Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas, Texas. As a longtime fan of the “Hottest Band in the World,” there was something unique about their set that night. Not that the band has ever shown anything different to their legion of fans, but there was an even higher level of sincerity in the voice of Paul Stanley as he addressed the audience.

The band kicked off the night with an energetic performance of the title track off of their reunion album “Psycho Circus.” The opening riffs of the song rang out as the band was lowered to the stage. They stood on a platform in the center of the now-famous metal-framed spider they’ve used on the past couple of tours. To say KISS was amped up and ready to fulfill the dreams of fans looking for a high-octane concert would be an understatement.

As a lone gun reporter, I had the wonderful opportunity of reviewing and taking photos of KISS for my article as well. Being the professional showmen they’re known to be, the guys immediately made their way to the front of the stage and put on a spectacle that would make any other rock act on tour right now embarrassed of themselves.

Paul Stanley jumped in the air and danced pompously all over the stage before kneeling at the front of the stage and playing his guitar between his legs. Gene Simmons fully embraced his Demon persona by lashing his tongue in and out of his mouth, skulking around the stage, and looking menacingly into the cameras and at fans lucky enough to have front row seats. Lead guitarist Tommy Thayer picked away at his instrument as he marched around adding electricity to each song. Drummer Eric Singer beat the drums and added his own signature style and hard-hitting rhythms to every song.

Between each adrenaline-fueled song, Stanley addressed the crowd on what felt like a more personal level. Instead of his usual rock and roll preacher role he takes, he told the crowd how appreciative the band was of their fans and thanked God for being able to be onstage nightly. It was impressive how heartfelt his words and mannerisms were.

Simmons was having a fun crisis of identity as he lumbered around the stage. He switched between ominous blood-spitting monster and loveable rocker having a grand time making funny faces at the crowd. It was nice to see him having so much fun onstage.

The group’s set list consisted of hits from most eras of their discography. They played classics found on their self-titled album, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Mixed in to these were selections off of their 1980s offerings like “Lick It Up” and “Hot in the Shade.” The only thing missing was one or two tracks off of their latest offerings, “Sonic Boom” and “Monster.”

One of the most memorable moments of the night was when Paul Stanley announced they were going to forgo the usual encore ritual to save time and play more songs. Dallas has a curfew and sound ordinance which would have caused the band to cut a song from their set. Instead of walking offstage and waiting for the crowd to beg them to play one more, they just fired through another couple songs to give the attendees more bang for their buck.


I’ve seen KISS six times now, and their live performance for this show was very much at the top of their game. The group has never promised perfect renditions of their songs in a live setting. All they’ve ever vowed to deliver is a show you’d never forget full of passionate playing and all the glitz and glamor possible to cram into one hour and a half concert. They delivered the goods plus some in Dallas this time around. 

Click here to see more pictures from the concert.  

KISS Unleash Their Energy and Charisma on Dallas, TX

If it’s at all possible to perform an intimate set for 20,000 fans, KISS did it on July 13, 2014 at the Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas, Texas. As a longtime fan of the “Hottest Band in the World,” there was something unique about their set that night. Not that the band has ever shown anything different to their legion of fans, but there was an even higher level of sincerity in the voice of Paul Stanley as he addressed the audience.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" Restores Faith in Big Cinema as an Artform

I’ve had an obsession with “Planet of the Apes” since childhood. I remember one of the first novels I read in second grade was “Battle for the Planets of the Apes” by David Gerrold. I read it during Math class hidden behind my textbook. I hadn’t even seen any of the movies at that time, but was fascinated by the cover art of gorillas and chimpanzees storming forward bearing arms.

My first exposure to the “Planet of the Apes” onscreen was the ill-fated 1974 television series. My parents would let me stay up every night during the Summer for “Planet of the Apes Week.” Two episodes of the series were edited together to make one movie. I loved those and still do to this day. I bought the box set of the show the day it came out in stores.

I was a nerd way before it was cool to be one. I remember writing my own “Planet of the Apes” stories and acting them out. Fast-forward thirty-two years and I’m still the same nerd that loves gun-toting monkeys (don’t tell General Ursus I called him that), but now it’s something to shout on high about at San Diego Comic-Con with half a million other geeks in attendance.  

There’s been a lot of reviews of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” already published. It’s been certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes and critics have exclaimed things like “Better than the first” and “The only bad thing about the movie is it ends.” Are these statements true or just the mad rantings of an uber-fan suffering hype-fever as they leave the theater? I can tell you it’s all true.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is one of those rare films that bests its predecessor. Director Matt Reeves takes Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver's script and brings it to vivid life onscreen. I don’t say this lightly, but it will be crowned an epic in the future volumes on cinema history.

The world of CGI truly has taken a step forward with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” I can’t believe that a CGI ape can show so much emotion. It’s quite possible the apes were better actors than the humans in the film. How can “The Hobbit” movies look so bad when this movie looks so good?  WETA handled the CGI work for both of them! It’s a question I’ll ponder for one second and no more. I simply don’t have time to waste dwelling on such forgettable tripe.

Actors I simply must mention in this review include Gary Oldman and Andy Serkis. Oldman does a stellar job in a role that anyone else would’ve turned into a soulless bad guy. He makes you feel sorry for the character through his emotionally-charged and convincing performance.

Serkis should win an Oscar for best performance for his portrayal of Caesar. I don’t care if his real face is seen onscreen. The emotions seen in the expressions of that CGI ape are all Serkis’s doing and he deserves props for it.

I can only imagine what original franchise Producer Arthur P. Jacobs and creator Pierre Boulle would think if they saw “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Boulle would no doubt be in shock at how impactful his little book has been on both pop culture and the evolution of filmmaking. He considered it “one of his lesser works” when he wrote it in 1963. Jacobs would’ve broken down in tears to see something he fought so strongly to get made be brought to life in such a realistic form.

Original “Battle of the Planet of the Apes” Director J. Lee Thompson would exclaim that he finally got to see his true vision of that movie reflected onscreen. It’s no secret he was very limited to what he could do by the budget of the final sequel to the original series of films. He had to film much of the battle close-up to make it look like there were more apes and men fighting than there were. That problem has been solved in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” takes what “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” accomplished and ups the emotion, tension, and action, much like “The Empire Strikes Back” did for “Star Wars.” I know you’ve heard that comparison before, but it’s really the only way to describe what it brings to the table. It’s a perfect example of a movie you don’t want to end when the credits start rolling. You want to see more… and you don’t want to have to wait three years to do it! 

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" Restores Faith in Big Cinema as an Artform

I’ve had an obsession with “Planet of the Apes” since childhood. I remember one of the first novels I read in second grade was “Battle for the Planets of the Apes” by David Gerrold. I read it during Math class hidden behind my textbook. I hadn’t even seen any of the movies at that time, but was fascinated by the cover art of gorillas and chimpanzees storming forward bearing arms.

Batman Faces The Wrath and More in "Detective Comics Volume 4"

All eyes are on the Dark Knight in 2014 with the 75th Anniversary of Batman upon us. One way DC Comics is celebrating the milestone is through the release of “Batman - Detective Comics Volume 4: The Wrath.” Made up of issues 19 through 24 and Annual 2 of the monthly series, the book keeps the super hero investigating different crimes the way his creator Bob Kane originally envisioned him to.

Batman has his hands full as the super villains of Gotham City continue their reigns of terror. The Caped Crusader crosses paths with the enigmatic 900 and must also foil the devious plans of both Emperor Penguin and a murderous vigilante calling himself The Wrath. While Batman is fighting his archenemies, scientist Kurt Langstrom is battling his own personal demons as it begins to look like his alter ego Man-Bat is committing horrific murders nightly.    

“Batman - Detective Comics Volume 4: The Wrath” was written by John Layman, James Tynion IV, and Josh Williamson. Layman did most of the heavy-lifting for the book and you can tell he loves a good mystery. He gives the reader a little to go on one page at a time before revealing the secrets of each story. They might not be the best “who-dun-it” tales to grace “Detective Comics” over the years, but they’re still satisfying for those who want to get back to the hero’s roots.

While Andy Clarke and Jason Fabok share the top credits for the art of “Batman - Detective Comics Volume 4: The Wrath,” they’re helped out by a sea of talent who each get their chance to delve into the dark recesses of Gotham City. Although styles vary, each one gives the different characters featured a personal touch.

Twelve pages of variant covers are included in “Batman - Detective Comics Volume 4: The Wrath.” Artwork is provided by Dustin Nguyen, Alex Maleev, Nathan Fairbairn, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Chris Burnham, Andy Clarke, Jason Fabok, Emilio Lopez, Cameron Stewart, Jeremy Cox, and Tom Richmond. One of the covers is based on the MAD Magazine style and features Alfred E. Neuman as a Man-Bat who left a “surprise” for Batman on the hood of the Batmobile.

“Batman - Detective Comics Volume 4: The Wrath” isn’t the usual graphic novel you would expect. Many collections revolve around one or two central storylines. This book feels like it goes off into a few different directions. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. It can work as an incentive for those who like tales wrapped up in one or two issues. Either way, there’s plenty here for fans of the Dark Knight to enjoy.

“Batman - Detective Comics Volume 4: The Wrath” is available now in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle editions.

Batman Faces The Wrath and More in "Detective Comics Volume 4"

All eyes are on the Dark Knight in 2014 with the 75th Anniversary of Batman upon us. One way DC Comics is celebrating the milestone is through the release of “Batman - Detective Comics Volume 4: The Wrath.” Made up of issues 19 through 24 and Annual 2 of the monthly series, the book keeps the super hero investigating different crimes the way his creator Bob Kane originally envisioned him to.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Actor Zach Gilford Talks "The Purge: Anarchy"

Zach Gilford has come a long way in his eleven year career as a Hollywood actor. His first major role was in an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” Gilford’s next big break was a regular spot in the cast of the hit television show “Friday Night Lights.” The opportunities continued to roll in and he found himself side-by-side with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the action hero’s return to filmmaking, “The Last Stand.”

His most recent roles see Gilford carving out a nitch in the horror genre for himself. The actor played one of the two lead roles in “Devil’s Due” earlier in 2014. He’s about to be seen on the big-screen again in the highly anticipated sequel to the surprisingly successful home invasion thriller “The Purge.”

“The Purge: Anarchy” takes viewers out of their homes and into the streets as the time has come for another annual night of legal murder and mayhem. Zach plays a character named Shane who makes his way through a dangerous city with his girlfriend Liz and a group of strangers during this year’s Purge. Will he and Liz survive the night?

I recently had the opportunity to interview Gilford as he made his way across the United States on a press tour for “The Purge: Anarchy.” The actor was extremely nice and down to Earth. He was easy to talk to and I immediately felt comfortable with him. Maybe it was the fact that I had read up on Gilford before meeting him and saw he was originally from my birth state of Illinois that helped put me at ease. He definitely was more a reflection of his small-town roots than he was a star from Hollywood.

Another tidbit of information some might find interesting is Gilford stars in “The Purge: Anarchy” with his real-life wife Kiele Sanchez.  Ironically, she plays his girlfriend in the movie. He spends the entire film trying to keep her alive and out of danger. They’ve been happily married since 2012.

Gilford was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions regarding his role in “The Purge: Anarchy” after I attended a press screening of the movie. He was gracious enough to answer my questions about the challenges of making the film. Gilford and I also discussed what the movie might be trying to convey to its audience. Click on the video to see the entire interview.

"The Purge: Anarchy" will commence on July 18th, 2014.

Actor Zach Gilford Talks "The Purge: Anarchy"

Zach Gilford has come a long way in his eleven year career as a Hollywood actor. His first major role was in an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” Gilford’s next big break was a regular spot in the cast of the hit television show “Friday Night Lights.” The opportunities continued to roll in and he found himself side-by-side with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the action hero’s return to filmmaking, “The Last Stand.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Scream Factory Sends Us Into the Woods for "The Final Terror"

Every month I grow more and more amazed at how many great slasher films I missed growing up. My constant reminder is Scream Factory as they continue to churn out one restored 1980s slasher film after the next. The latest pleasant surprise to get the high-definition treatment is 1983’s “The Final Terror.”

A group of young campers travel into the wilderness to perform community service. After getting settled in at their remote site, the group is left by their bus driver to get to work. After a hard day of labor, many of the workers explore the woods.  One by one, the bodies start piling up. Someone is slaughtering the group and, with no way out, it looks like they’re left to fend for themselves from an unseen evil.

“The Final Terror” is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an old-fashioned slasher thriller where there’s a nutcase in the woods taking out sexually active pot-smoking teens. What makes it work is the fact that it’s very survivalist-based. The campers are thrown into primal situations where they either do what they have to do to stay alive or die. Another reason it works is because of the time period it was made in and its setting. The group is isolated out in the middle of nowhere and not only do they not have cell phones, but the technology wasn't readily available yet.

The death scenes in “The Final Terror” are rather convincing. The movie has a certain “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” charm to it. It feels like it could really happen and puts you in the middle of all the mayhem. The most intense moments occur when the bodies are found. You’d think the director didn’t tell the actors where the corpses were on the set and they just ran into them by chance. Their reactions are very believable and it’s where we get to see the most carnage.

The movie features two actors in the early stages of their careers. Adrian Zmed plays a studly rebel who wants in on the pot crop two of his associates are looking for. The role foreshadows his future career playing the same type of cocky, party animal characters he did in “Bachelor Party,” “Grease 2,” and other movies of the era. Daryl Hannah plays a teen who just wants to make the most of her time off from community service by hanging out and smoking some weed. Joe Pantoliano (“The Matrix,” “The Fugitive”) plays the creepy mechanic / bus driver that leaves the group stranded in the wilderness.

The Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack for “The Final Terror” was built from several different film elements. I give the restorers props for going to the trouble I know they went through to piece together this edition of the cult classic. I would imagine it looks as good as it possibly can for what the actual film footage went through over the years. There’s a lot of lighting flicker, but it adds to the low-budget independent atmosphere of the movie. We’re treated to a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono transfer as far as the sound goes.

“The Final Terror” is rated R for graphic violence, gore, language, sexual situations, and nudity. The bloodshed is highlighted many times when the bodies are found, although there are scenes of violence present onscreen. The sex scene is what you would expect from a slasher film released in the early 1980s.

Scream Factory packs “The Final Terror” Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack with plenty of entertaining bonus material as expected. Actors Adrian Zmed and Lewis Smith, Post Production Supervisor Allan Holzman, and Composer Susan Justin all provide interviews. Director Andrew Davis delivers audio commentary for the feature film. A theatrical trailer is included as well.

Although it’s rather predictable and plays out the way you figure it will, “The Final Terror” still holds the viewer’s attention and deserves respect simply because of its storytelling process. You know what’s going to happen, but the journey to get there in this case is worth the trip. Great location shooting, solid camerawork, and convincing practical effects are the icing on the cake. 

"The Final Terror" Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack is available now right here.