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Monday, October 24, 2016

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 149

 Doctor Strange and the Sorcerer Supreme #1
by Javier Rodriguez

I've been a big fan of Rodriguez for a while, and this is some excellent mystical superhero work here!

 ODY-C #12
by Christian Ward

I love the transposition of sci-fi, psychedelia, and horror in this one.

 Seven to Eternity #2
by Jerome Opeña

On top of the excellent design on this series' covers overall, I like the sense of scale and the unsettling background on this one.

 Tank Girl: Two Girls One Tank #1
by Jamie Hewlett

Excellent color work that's fresh and eye-catching, plus some really nice cartooning on all the characters here.

 The Skeptics #1
by Devaki Neogi

I like the muted, classic color palette and the carefully balanced design.

 The Ultimates #12
by Kenneth Rocafort

An excellent amalgamation of psychedelia and cosmic sci-fi. Love it!

Wonder Woman #9
by Jenny Frison

Frison does really incredible character work, but this goes beyond that with some very cool lighting and backgrounds.

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 135: Comic Club #7 - Black Hole

As part of our Halloween series of podcasts, we return to the GeekRex Comic Club to discuss the seminal graphic novel BLACK HOLE by Charles Burns! We dig into whether it belongs in the canon of great comics, the multiple meanings, and of course, the horror aspect. Make sure to read the book before listening, and join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter!

Music Used in this Episode:
"Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden

You can listen below, or subscribe on iTunes to never miss an episode! If you like the show, or have any comments or ideas, we'd love to hear them! Check us out on Facebook or Twitter. See you next week!

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: SHIN GODZILLA sets the standard for the modern monster movie

2014’s Godzilla produced by Legendary Pictures was a disappointment to some; personally, I found some very redeeming things about it, from its portrayal of the military as not-a-cliche-villainous-organization to the way Godzilla and the MUTOs operated with complete disregard for the human dramas going on around them. That said, I was certainly excited to hear that Toho was producing their own new Godzilla film, completely unrelated and in fact the first full reboot of the franchise since the iconic original film in 1954.

Shin Godzilla is probably not what most people are expecting to see when they think giant monster movie; while Godzilla is enormous (the biggest to date, in fact) and wreaks incredible havoc on Tokyo, the focus is largely on the people trying to find a way to stop him. The film focuses on a large ensemble of characters in various Japanese political groups from the Prime Minister on down, digging into the bureaucratic minutiae of how a bizarre disaster like Godzilla would really be handled by modern bureaucracy.

This results in what is largely a dark political comedy that in places feels like a cross between Aaron Sorkin and Edgar Wright as we cut from meeting to meeting to meeting in action movie style as an endless parade of government agencies request permissions and schedule meetings. This might sound dull, but the result is both unsettlingly realistic and at times quite funny. The film obviously borrows heavily from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and the way those real-life disasters were handled.

All this is not to say that there isn’t some great Godzilla action; I don’t want to spoil it, but the film does a fantastic job of using the original Godzilla design as a base, but exploring the creature’s physiology and mythos in a way that hasn’t been done before. This results in some unique carnage and genuinely thrilling action sequences, and with the exception of a few questionable CGI shots, the visual effects are pretty good. Without spoiling it, I’ll say that the way Shin Godzilla explains how Godzilla transitions from a marine creature to a land-based one is fantastic and terrifying.

What results is a truly unique film that is dense in both dialogue and meaning. It is edited very well, using quick cuts to carefully blend a sense of life-threatening urgency and the absurdity of modern politics in the face of such threats. It manages to balance these two sides surprisingly well, and the action bits (maybe 35% of the film) will satisfy any fan of kaiju mass destruction while the bulk of the film will engage with you on a bit of a deeper level. While I probably would have gotten more out of it if I had a better knowledge of the Japanese government, there is plenty of thematic meat to chew on between Japan’s inner troubles and the struggles with U.S. intervention. With a cast this large (328 credited actors!), it is difficult to say that anyone in particular stood out, but as an ensemble overall it works very well.

In many ways, Shin Godzilla sets a new standard for how a giant monster movie can work, going back to the human and governmental drama that marks the original film and was lost in the dozens of sequels. A must see!

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Review: Marcin Wrona's DEMON Is This Fall's Best Horror Film

Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together here today... to be, perhaps, possessed by an angry spirit.

Piotr (Itay Tiran) isn't living in Poland. But when he and Polish beauty Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska) meet and fall in love, they decide to get married and move back to Poland, to fix up an old house Zaneta will inherit and return it to its former glory. There, Piotr meets Zaneta's father and mother - "Why couldn't you have married a nice local boy?" - and works to endear himself to the locals. He promises to help rebuild a nearby bridge destroyed by the Germans in World War II, and he throws himself into fixing up the old house and the traditional Polish wedding. But while he's doing some work around the house, a tree gets uprooted, revealing a long-buried skeleton. And that's when things start to go wrong for Piotr and his bride -- but never quite in the ways you expect.

Because the heart of Demon is only half a horror film; the other half is that of dark comedy about the perils of trying to forget the past. Almost the entire film takes place during a wedding and the reception that follows. As Piotr's condition deteriorates rapidly and supernatural goings-on begin to encroach upon the evening, the increasingly drunk partygoers, particularly in Zaneta's family, try to pretend like nothing is going wrong. The sight of Zaneta's family trying to balance Piotr's possession with looking good in front of all the guests they invited was never not funny, and the willingness of the increasingly hammered guests to go along with some pretty weird stuff made the humans seem more odd and inhuman, at times, than the spirit that invades their party.

Itay Tiran, a veteran stage actor, give the performance of a lifetime as Piotr as he fights off - and eventually succumbs to - his possession. We've all seen a hundred different actors possessed by a hundred different demons on screen, but Tiran's performance is so brutally physical that it's impossible to ignore. Particularly delightful is the decision to have him drinking heavily throughout much of the early film, confusing the symptoms we'd normally expect. Is he drunk, or possessed? Is he epileptic, or is he the victim of a haunting? Wrona makes sure the answer is never all of one or all of the other, which has a wonderfully disorienting effect for jaded longterm horror fans.

Agnieszka Zulewska is similarly excellent, though she has, unfortunately, less to work with. For much of the film, Piotr tries to downplay how ill he is feeling and how weird things are getting, worried about ruining his new bride's day, but as things become clear, Zulewska gets to play both the tormented bride and the resolved wife, and she manages to make a potentially thin character resonate powerfully. Her whole family is well-cast, but it is Zulewska who is the clear stand-out to me.

I'll often see a horror movie with a brilliant premise that gets so wrapped up in providing the expected genre thrills that it lets its own greatest ideas go to waste. Demon is not that movie. Demon took its brilliant premise and built on its in unexpected but undeniably entertaining way. Part of the power of great genre entertainment is the way it can explore complex thematic ideas through audience-friendly metaphors that ditch some of the heavy baggage in favor of fleet, effective storytelling. Demon is phenomenal in that regard. 

Because, sure, there's a reading of the film that makes it an inverse to the excellent 2014 horror film Honeymoon, about how little you know about the person you are marrying. But that's not the core of what Demon is about. Instead, Demon's fears lean more towards a different 2014 film I absolutely loved: Ida. Because Demon is secretly also a film about Poland's troubled history with its Jewish population during World War II and beyond. In Ida, two characters went digging for a past that the small town Polish people had tried so hard to hide; in Demon, that past, sick of being hidden, reveals itself explosively to a small town that badly wants to pretend like it never happened. It is important that the creature be a dybbuk, an evil spirit in Jewish lore; it is equally important that it be unleashed by an unexplained skeleton buried surreptitiously on the family's grounds, something they gloss over every time it is brought up. Even its more oblique conclusion, which feels fairly unsatisfying in the moment, grows in depth the more one considers what it means within the film.

Demon has it all. Gorgeous, eerie performances, a striking theme explored with depth and nuance, and excellent camerawork and editing that make the supernatural feel mundane and everyday in a way that can sneak up on you. In a year that has seen the release of some of the finest horror movies and psychological thrillers I've ever seen, Demon more than earns a spot as one of the year's best. Sadly, this is Wrona's final film, as he tragically committed suicide shortly after its premiere last year, but it stands as a powerful, chilling statement about the unspoken and unseen forces that can define and perhaps derail our lives.

Demon is out now in limited release. It will be available on Amazon Instant in December of 2016. Written and directed by Marcin Wrona, Demon stars Itay Tiran and Agnieszka Zulewska.
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Monday, October 17, 2016

Best Covers of the Week, Vol. 148

 Aquaman #9
by Joshua Middleton

Middleton continues to create great covers with this one. I love the use of traditional Aquaman colors to create a very unique, bitter look.

The Beauty #11
by Jeremy Haun

Another cover that uses distinctive color choices to really catch the eye, and the use of the strange, vertical pose works great here.

Black Hammer #3
by Dean Ormston

This uses the classic blue on orange color contrast to make things really stand out, and the way the color creates depth and a creepy, pulp horror look is pretty awesome too.

Black Widow #7
by Chris Samnee

I love the contrast and color design, and how the Black Widow logo is prominent but somehow not so obvious.

Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1
by Michael Avon Oeming

This one just oozes psychedelia, and I love the meta-ness of the comic book themed segments.

Rumble #15
by James Harren

This is a really well done version of the hero-diving-into-a-sea-of-enemies thing, and I really dig the integration of the title of the book into the image.

That's it for this week. What did I miss? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!
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Saturday, October 15, 2016

The GeekRex Podcast Episode 134: Horror Books and Comics

Starting out an October full of horror-themed episodes, this week we talk about our favorite horror books and comics, as well as revisit our current pop culture picks! Have a listen for some great hair-raising reading recommendations!

Music Used in this Episode:
"Delirium Cordia" by Fantomas

You can listen below, or subscribe on iTunes to never miss an episode! If you like the show, or have any comments or ideas, we'd love to hear them! Check us out on Facebook or Twitter. See you next week!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: DENIAL makes its case against deplorables

Denial is a strange film to watch during this election season. The (true) story revolves around historian and Emory professor Deborah Lipstadt, played by Rachel Weisz, and the libel case brought against her by famed Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall), who sued Lipstadt in England for defaming his reputation as a historian. Irving took the case to trial in his residence of England because defamation cases are notoriously easier to win there; rather than the presumption of innocence, the courts start with the presumption of guilt and places the burden to disprove libel on the defense. 

He also likely did it for the media attention it brought to himself and his beliefs - namely that Hitler was not responsible for the Holocaust, and that it may even have been propaganda created by the Allies to discredit Hitler's cause. In an election season that has seen white supremacist David Duke endorsing a presidential candidate and mobilizing his followers around a mainstream political cause, it's hard not to link Irving's media ploy to the present day. 

Where Denial works best is when it unravels the strategies and logistics in defending Lipstadt in court. Lipstadt, a lecturer used to working the academic circuit, comes into the case with a clear picture of what she wants to do to defend herself. She's ready to take the case of the Holocaust itself to court, enlisting Holocaust survivors as actual eyewitnesses to the event in order to discredit Irving's views. It's surely something she's envisioned a thousand times, practicing the exact lines she'd use to tear him down. But Lipstadt's legal team, Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott) and Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), have a different strategy in mind. They refuse to subject survivors to Irving's mind games, fearful that he'll bully the witnesses, confuse them, or use tricks to provoke them. They also advise Lipstadt not to defend herself in the case either. She must instead watch silently from the sidelines as they slowly undermine Irving's credibility, making the case against him personally rather than against Holocaust denial on the whole. 

We're currently witnesses to an election cycle that's seen an obvious shift to valuing shock value over policy, truth, or any of the fundamental issues that should underscore a presidential campaign. Whether you lean left, right, central, or completely indifferent, almost any rational U.S. citizen would agree that the likes of David Duke have no place weighing in on our political discourse, but here we are, referring to the "alt-right" on a regular basis and publicizing their latest stunts, normalizing views and behaviors that don't deserve to be normalized. 

What Denial does so well is showcase the surgical precision needed to credibly and artfully dismantle fringe lunatics in search of a spotlight. That task isn't about yelling louder, getting emotional, or getting personal. The defense refuses to engage in headline-grabbing moments or go for the emotional reactions they'd elicit by letting survivors tell their story. They instead get out of Irving's way and let his lunacy speak for itself, occasionally prodding him on specific details so that he'll further elaborate. This kind of denial of self-satisfaction is, at the end of the day, what Lipstadt struggles with throughout the trial, but what she needs to win. She denies herself the "Emotional Speech In A Courtroom" moment to starve Irving of the attention he wants. 

I've always been a big fan of Weisz, and she artfully captures Lipstadt in a way that gives her character without making her a caricature, a trap a lesser actress could've easily fallen into. The performances were strong across the board, though, and I'd be hard pressed to name any actor or actress who didn't work here. 

My least favorite part about Denial were the scenes that felt forced into a procedural story to engender emotion. For a movie that felt like it was about avoiding those kinds of tactics in trial, they felt out of place in the film - small scenes like a lawyer's boyfriend complaining about people not getting over the Holocaust, or Lipstadt saying an emotional prayer at Auschwitz while standing on the ruins of an oven. These are of course completely acceptable ways to frame and discuss the Holocaust, but they still felt out of place in this context.

Overall, the film makes a few small missteps in tone and context, but it was well worth seeing and feels particularly relevant in today's political climate. I also wouldn't be surprised if Weisz also ends up with a nomination for her work in this film. 

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