The Walking Dead

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Kong: Skull Island Brings Monster Mayhem!

Published March 13, 2017 by rmpixie

Kong: Skull Island (2017, 1 hr., 58 mins)

If you know me, you know this pixie loves her monsters. Big, small, ugly, or cute, I need a weekly dose of monsters and creepy crawlies to keep me going. The promise of that plus the iconic King Kong being revived for 2017 in Kong: Skull Island made me perk up in the hopes of some great monster action, and I definitely got my fill.

Set in the same universe as the 2014 version of Godzilla, government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman) and seismologist Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) go to Washington in 1973 to beg for funding and a military escort to a remote island. It’s their hope to be the first to discover a whole new eco-system. The Viet Nam War has also ended, and their military detail is led by Lieutenant Col. Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who, after the war, feels a sense of loss and displacement after the sacrifices he made for his country. Randa adds the surly and ruggedly handsome ex-soldier and tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and the weathered but plucky photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) to be a part of their quest. They must all overcome personal agendas and fight for their lives as the island holds way more than they bargained for.

Kong: Skull Island is more fun than a barrel of monkeys (sorry!) because we get one gigantic primate and his prehistoric friends (and foes). It’s a clever blend of traditional war movie, adventure and fantasy quest at its best with some not-so-subtle nods to Apocalypse Now, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (see various character names for proof), and even Platoon. These nods would normally distract me, but aside from some clichéd music choices, the writers somehow got the right balance without regurgitating the same old war stories. They also made the right choice with splitting up characters into teams with different agendas. It made for great adventure a la Jules Verne, and gave us a snapshot of who they were and what they wanted out of the expedition with the right amount of exposition; in fact, I thought the story and pacing made the almost 2-hour film seem a lot shorter.

Some interesting choices were made for the cast. Most of the supporting talent I could take or leave, but it was nice to see Corey Hawkins from Straight Outta Compton and The Walking Dead don his nerd hat, Boardwalk Empire’s Shea Whigham as the all-or-nothing Captain Cole and a woman of colour with Tian Jing as the biologist San Lin (Hey Hollywood, we need more, please!). I was thrilled to see John C. Riley in the trailers (he, aside from the monsters, was a huge draw for me) and he didn’t disappoint as the hilariously loopy fighter pilot Lieutenant Marlow who had been stranded on Skull Island since World War II.  He was necessary for the plot, but at times I felt he was put into the story with a neon “comic relief” sign over his head. This is in part to the uneven treatment of tracker Conrad and photographer Weaver. They were so perfectly coiffed after each perilous moment, with glowing skin and shimmering lip gloss, that there wasn’t any room for their characters to be developed. The one actor that did surprise me was Jackson. In a rare moment he actually showed some range outside of his potty-mouthed villain shtick, showing us a conflicted, revenge obsessed man portrayed with a lot of passion.

And the monsters? Oh, the monsters!! Kong was a thing of beauty, with all the detail and emotion from a CGI character you could want. Terry Notary did the ape acting for Kong and is another simian movement expert alongside his colleague Andy Serkis. The horrifying “Skullcrawlers” made me jump for joy with their reptilian bodies and huge gaping mouths. Kong’s sensational fight scenes made me want to see more fantastic animals, but there was only so much time! Hats off to the long, long list of the incredible concept team and digital artists for a job well done. I also want to point out the “Iwi” people, the indigenous tribe of Skull Island that took Marlow in after he was stranded. The concept for them was really beautiful, although their silent society spoke volumes thematically. There are actually a lot of themes in this film, with Kong representing nature or the rage against war, and the indigenous people silenced against or perhaps because of the march of progress, but upon further reflection, this film just doesn’t have the legs for heady discussions.

Yes, I enjoyed Kong: Skull Island despite the handful of issues I had with it.  Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ first big budget movie offers an intro for the newly imagined Kong and his world, and I can only hope for meatier stories in the future. The film should definitely be seen on the biggest screen possible (I saw it in IMAX 3D thanks to the horror boyfriend), and stay for the end of credit scenes that made me squeal and clap. Godzilla and Kong met in 1962, and with this new “Monsterverse” where there’s a franchise afoot with all my favourite monsters, there’s a juicy re-match on its way!

Check out this cool website for Monarch, the research company in the Godzilla/Kong Monsterverse here.

 

Outcast Review: More Than Just Personal Demons

Published June 21, 2016 by rmpixie

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Outcast (Cinemax TV series, 2016)

 

There’s a new show in town and it’s called Outcast. Created by The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman and adapted from his comic of the same name, it follows a troubled young man Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), who has had an abusive childhood and is now estranged from his wife and daughter. Kyle is not the most popular guy in Rome, West Virginia due to his violent history and lives secluded from everyone around him. The community is wary of him and his only friends are his adoptive sister Megan (Wrenn Schmidt), and his sympathetic neighbour Norville (Willie C. Carpenter).

When a young boy’s strange (and gross) behaviour turns unbelievably violent, his mother goes to the town reverend for help. She is convinced her child is possessed and wants the Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) to exorcise him. When the demon proves too strong, he calls on Kyle for help. It seems Reverend Anderson has known Kyle for most of his life, and feels that he is destined to help with ridding people of demonic possession due to Kyle’s own experience with a malevolent entity that stole his mother from him. We learn there are very dark forces at work, and they want to make Kyle’s life a living hell so-to-speak.

I’ve watched the first 3 episodes and I’m hooked. The opening credits alone are pretty brilliant. A shadowy substance seeps into the everyday mundane of a small town, and the camera pans slowly like a rollercoaster on Valium. Add an ominous score and my interest was piqued with the disconcerting atmosphere as the names of the cast and crew came in and out of focus. That atmospheric dread comes with each episode as the story is revealed little by little, so if you’re looking for a fast paced show, you’re out of luck. What it does instead is keeps you guessing with tidbits of clarity. We know that Kyle still lives in his run-down childhood home but is plagued with memories of his mother’s horrific abuse. We also know people around him hold him responsible for his estranged marriage because of his supposed violent nature. He lives in a close-knit community, but as the plot goes on, the fabric starts to unravel creating a lot of intrigue and a whodunnit feel that I’m really enjoying. The show is chockfull of violence, and some of it is tough to watch, especially Kyle’s flashbacks of the intense childhood abuse, but it leaves you with a compassion for his character that you realize he needs to give himself.

Patrick Fugit as Kyle Barnes

Patrick Fugit as Kyle Barnes

Fugit who often plays quirky characters, is the right choice to play Kyle. He has a lost look to him that draws you in and makes his anguish believable. British actor Glenister’s disheveled demeanor as the Reverend channels Kolchak from The Night Stalker, and it works. Their mismatched personalities create an unlikely duo with a bumbling chemistry. I also love Reg. E Cathey, most recently seen on House of Cards, who plays the town’s Chief Giles. His character is one to watch, and keep your eye out for Lee Tergesen (know for his many TV series appearances on shows like Oz and Defiance) who plays a really nasty guy!

Kyle (Fugit) and Reverend Anderson (Glenister) banishing demons.

Kyle (Fugit) and Reverend Anderson (Glenister) banishing demons.

I’m curious to see where Outcast will go. It covers horror well for those who love a good demonic possession but also brings in a human element making each episode extremely compelling. Kirkman’s brain is made of horror magic, and the show is already renewed for a second season, so the forecast sounds promising. You can catch it on Cinemax in the States Fridays at 10 p.m. and HBO Canada at 11 p.m.

Pixie’s Day at FanExpo 2013

Published August 27, 2013 by rmpixie

So this weekend, I decided to check out the 2013 FanExpo.  Why, you ask? Because I am a nerd? Well, yes, there’s that, but also because even though I am not exactly a groupie, I thought I’d come out of my shell and head out to meet a couple of people, one of whom I might not get a chance to see again, perhaps ever, but more on that later.

I was originally going on my own, as most of my friends aren’t interested in horror or live out-of-town, when I found out that my good friend Nicole’s brother-in-law Henry Shel had a booth there and was promoting his books.  She wanted to go and lend her support,  so I ended up having company, and since she gets a kick out of anything against the norm, away we went!

Let me first say that I wished I had eaten a high calorie breakfast of eggs, waffles, pancakes, whipped cream, and syrup, because the amount of walking we did was insane.  We walked a couple of blocks from the subway to be ushered into a tunnel, (reminiscent of some sort of disaster movie where we line up to enter a bomb shelter) and waited in a four person deep line to buy tickets.  It moved fairly quickly and once inside, we meandered past cosplay enthusiasts, fellow nerds, and giant strollers filled with costumed babies.  Bumping into Henry Shel, we headed to his booth where he was promoting his books Space, Love, Superheros:  The Chronicles of My Secret Identity Crisis on Infinite Earths  and Operation:  DREAMGIRL (The Reluctant Diary of a Lovesick Average Joe).  pretty cool guy and definitely worth taking a look:  www.lulu.com/henryshel  Click on either of the 2 books to see a 10 page preview, or just buy em’!

Since we were in the artist section, where there were scads of talented artists signing and selling their work, I realized that Steve Niles was in the area.  I am a big fan of his and he was one of the two people I really wanted to meet. 30 Days of Night is an incredibly crafted story, and was my introduction to his talent.  I have since followed his work, the latest being Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem (which I plan to devour this Labour Day weekend as a treat), and was really jazzed to meet him and get him to sign a copy of my 30 Days of Nights graphic novel.  I would just like to add that I had a Starbucks coffee that morning.  For most, this is not an issue, but for this pixie, it’s a problem.  I just needed a boost, see?  To get me through a long day of walking around.  So I was kind of, um, supercharged.  When I found his booth, I was ecstatic!  Steve Niles!  Creator of the best vampire story around!  Eek!  Well, I really nerded out, spouting coffee fueled babble about the film adaptation of 30 Days, my 30 Days of Night manicure, Danny Huston as the best vampire ever, and turtles, but he was just lovely!  He signed my copy, and took a picture with me.  Worth the sore feet for sure, and who knows if I will ever get the chance to chat with him in person again!  http://www.steveniles.com/

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Pixie and Steve Niles!!

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My 30 Days of Night manicure. Inspired and yes, obsessed!

Other highlights included seeing  Luis the Suspect Guy from Suspect Video, some of the cast of Bitten and the hosts from InnerSpace, and ridiculous cackling over complete nonsense Nicole and I were prone to as we dodged the crowds.  We also stopped to check out a unique comic called The Black Bastard.  I was familiar with this one because I had met the creator, Matthew Mohammed, a few years ago at a previous FanExpo.  He was cool then and is still just as cool with his satirical take on racial stereotypes.  That site is currently under construction, so check your local comic book store for copies.

On to the “stars” as we kept putting it.  Where were they?  Way over in the North building.  Which meant around 5 escalator rides combined with a fair bit of walking to the main exhibition area.  Just before that was a walkway above the action.  It was here we could look down and see the tables where celebrities were signing autographs and posing for pictures.  However, we were promptly told to move as we were obstructing the flow of traffic, which was moving quite smoothly past us.  Whatever.  As we made our way down, I felt this side of the expo had a weird vibe.  We walked past different booths selling their wares, huge models of Daleks, K.I.T.T. the car from Knight Rider and then past the autograph areas.  Michael Rooker (Merle of The Walking Dead), Ron Perleman (Clay of The Sons of Anarchy and star of freakin’ Hellboy!), Dean Cain (Lois and Clark), Shawn Ashmore of X-Men fame, Laurie Holden (Andrea of The Walking Dead), George Takei (Sulu of Star Trek), and Linda Hamilton of Terminator fame were all graciously signing autographs that you basically had to pay for.  I don’t know the ins and outs of this fan expo business, and I’m aware everyone has to make a buck and bills have to be paid, but a lot of the costs for pictures and autographs were a bit steep.  I would have liked to have seen Norman Reedus (Darryl of The Walking Dead) but a) he was on a 30 minute break, and b) my sixty dollar photo fee did not include a foot massage from him.  Because for sixty of my hard-earned dollars, that’s what I would have wanted, if not more.  I also couldn’t be bothered to do any stealth photos liked I planned.  My contacts were drying out and the vibe was like a party that hadn’t quite taken off yet, with people milling around awkwardly watching the celebrities.

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Trust me, there are “stars” down there. Right Nicole?

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Exterminate! Exterminate!

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Some sort of K.I.T.T hybrid car thingy

great cosplay of Dr. Who's Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint

great cosplay of Dr. Who’s Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint

Anyhoo, after some lunch and a great bevvy, we returned to the fun South Building so I could meet Adam Lopez, founder and director of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.  I’ve corresponded with him via Facebook and email, so it was finally time to meet face to face.  Greeted with a lovely and warm welcome, Adam told me about some of the exciting sneak peeks coming up in the next few weeks.  He was super nice and super excited about the Spotlight Screening Nights-films being shown before the actual festival to get fans revved up for October.  Check out this link for show times and info.  The cost for tickets are really reasonable, and it’s obvious that Adam and his crew put a lot of effort into this event every year.  Because the festival is being held at the Scotiabank Theatre for the first time, it should be an awesome venue to pack in rabid horror fans.  I can’t wait!!

http://torontoafterdark.com/2013/

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TADFF founder and director Adam Lopez and Pixie!

There were plenty of seminars on writing, gaming, larping, cosplay  and screenings which we unfortunately missed, along with a David “The Hoff” Hasslehoff sighting, but all in all, this pixie had a great time.  FanExpo is a place where all the weird and woolly folk can go to express themselves as their favourite characters, buy all kinds of weird stuff, see their favourite stars, and feel like they belong.  Hope to attend next year!

Face Off Season 4 Episode 7: Muzzle Up!

Published February 27, 2013 by rmpixie

This week’s episode “Howl at the Moon” brings us some bummed out contestants.  They all miss Alam, and so do I!  They quickly cheer up at the Foundation Challenge, however, where they team up again to create a host of zombies.  I loved how their models introduced themselves by stumbling zombie style out of a barn.  Their guest judge was Gale Ann Hurd, executive producer of The Walking Dead.  That in itself was pretty amazing.  She tells them to think about how their zombies died to create a makeup.  Eric F. and Wayne, Meagan and Anthony, and House and Eric Z. all worked well with each other and banged out some cohesive, complete zombie looks.  Unfortunately Kris got teamed up with Autumn and they could not work as a team.  Autumn had a temper tantrum over her lack of sponges, and I loved how Kris just ignored her and kept going.  Gale Ann said their makeups were not complete because there was no attention paid to the backs of their models.   The winning team of this challenge was Meagan and Anthony, with Meagan surprisingly (at least to me) winning immunity.  Gale Ann said she liked how Meagan took charge of the all the models to get organized, and felt she could hire her to work on a set tomorrow.  Sure, whatever.

The Spotlight Challenge was pretty cool.  Once again in teams, they had to choose a planet and create a werewolf that might exist there.  They gang seemed energized with this challenge, and got together to create their looks.  House and Meagan chose Mars and designed an astronaut in mid-transformation after an attack from a Martian werewolf.  Eric Z. and Autumn went for Jupiter and came up with a werewolf partially made of stone to withstand the gravitational pull.  Eric F. and Anthony get Saturn and go for a design where the model will have to walk backwards for the makeup to be effective.  Wayne and Kris end up with Neptune and create a creature that dwells in darkness and comes out at night to feed, transforming into a werewolf in the moonlight.

Poor Eric Z.!!  His patience was tested to the limit with his partner Autumn.  The usually calm and collected man finally had to step away as their project got steamrolled by Autumn’s overbearing personality and over confidence with her skill.  She even had the nerve to call out Eric when mentor Michael Westmore came to see their progress.  Oi Autumn!  Please shut your mouth!!  The other team members plugged away, casting sympathic looks and shaking their heads at the kerfuffle.  Meagan surrendered full creativity to House since she had immunity, and she seemed to annoy him, but they did work fairly well together.  As always, there was the usual scramble at last looks before the final judging.

The top looks came from House and Meagan and Kris and Wayne.  the judges loved how House and Meagan created a solid back story that was obvious, the proportions that stayed true to a classic werewolf, and a great head sculpture and paint job.  Kris and Wayne got props for an interesting and beautiful werewolf and they loved the detailing of the spine, the paint job and the cohesiveness of the makeup.

The bottoms looks were created by Eric Z. and Autumn, and Eric F. and Anthony.  Eric Z. and Autumn’s werewolf was called “terrier-esque” by one of the judges, and even Eric has mentioned something about the face looking like a chihuahua.  The judges also disliked the sculpting and felt there was no blending of the makeup and no teamwork, and called Autumn bossy (thank you!!) for bullying Eric during the challenge.  The amount of work Eric F. and Anthony put into their design was acknowledge, but ultimately, the judges felt the reversal of the suit would prevent the model from functioning properly and the head look like a Halloween mask.  They also felt that Eric was always going big and hoped the sheer size of his makeup would get him through.

The top team ended up being Kris and Wayne, the winner being Kris because of his great sculpting of the back piece to their design.  I’m very happy that he won because he is really coming out of his shell and it seems like his confidence and comfort level has risen to the challenges.  I don’t want to sound like a mean person, but I actually cheered when they sent Autumn home.  They hated the werewolf from Jupiter, and called her loathsome for her behaviour and throwing Eric under the bus.  So glad!  She was really difficult and deserved to go home.  I think the judges are going to keep an eye on Eric F. and Anthony now, as they are quickly being challenged by Kris, Wayne, House and even Meagan.  And I hope that Eric Z. gets it together and uses some of his calm to step up because the judges noted that he didn’t really defend himself this time around.  Can’t wait for next week as the crunch for a winner get crunchier!!

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