Archive for October, 2010

Sunday Web Short: Mon Ami Le Robot (Playing with Light)

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Another French student film out of Gobelins, Mon Ami Le Robot is a beautiful short work that could be the bastard love child of Steve Zissou, Isaac Asimov, and Walt Disney (yes, I know Steve Zissou is fictional).

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Inception-style Serenity trailer

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Proving that Hans Zimmer’s über-intense Inception score makes everything more awesome, Youtube user Mechanical Biscuit’s Serenity trailer makes one think the film might have been a better commercial success if it had been marketed as the brain-bender it really is.

Based on Joss Whedon’s short-lived show Firefly, 2005’s Serenity tells the origin story of the Reavers, a group of subhuman monsters. The film has achieved cult status today among both Whedon fans and film-lovers. Both the show and the film are required viewing for all hardcore science fiction fans.

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Halloween means ‘Thriller House’

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Making a light show takes talent, but programming a crazy detailed light show in front of your house with all 6 minutes of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” takes a ridiculous amount of skill.

Thanks, KJ92508 for this awesome new addition to your light show line-up on YouTube. I know you must get this a lot, but I wish you were my neighbor.

Enjoy the thousands of flashing lights and singing pumpkin faces.

Happy Halloween!

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Rare Exports — Another potentially awesome Scandinavian horror film

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Perhaps it’s due to global warming, or the worldwide recession, or maybe all those damn Swedish metal bands, but 2010 is turning into a banner year for weird nordic horror movies.

First, there was the Blair Witch-style trailer for The Troll Hunter, a faux documentary out of Norway that followed a band of possible vikings as they chased trolls around cold places.

Now we’ve got the Finnish Rare Exports, a re-imagining of the Santa Claus myth wherein the giant red blubber blob is not a source of toy-dropping joy but is, instead, a murderous evil thing that looks like your average homeless grandpa.

According to variety, Santa’s elves are played by “naked elderly men” which is “are more likely to torment kiddies than give them gifts.” I’m assuming variety forgot a key adjective in describing these elves: “spry.” Or nimble or agile or whatever. Cause, cmon, there’s nothing terrifying about naked old men — emotionally scarring, yes, but not terrifying.

Anyway, now I want to see some animated death match between evil Santa and Futurama’s Robot Santa. Robot Santa would totally win.

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Visit to Hell on Halloween turns bloody in ‘holiday’ episode of Ugly Americans

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Mark Lilly takes his social services help group on an expedition to Hell. While there, he schmoozes with his half-demon girlfriend Cali’s family, who treat Halloween—or rather Samhain—as a Thansgiving-like holiday. As with almost every other episode of this charming little show, carnage ensues.

Arriving at Hell, we see that stores with names such as “Bloodbath and Beyond” and “Dante’s Infurniture” take up almost all of the pit’s business area, which is now called “New Hell.” Mark asks the group to ignore all the bustling consumerism in New Hell and leads them down to the demon-producing factory in the older part of the abyss. At the factory, we see conveyor belts of demon babies getting blown up into adult demons as well as inspectors making sure the demons are “Pure Evil.” We also learn that a Japanese shopping-mall magnate is responsible for the redevelopment of Hell, edging out the Devil’s bloodline as heir to the firey kingdom. After their group is dismissed to go shopping, Callie and Mark run into Callie’s dad, Satan himself, who invites Mark to Samhain dinner. Mark accepts the invitation, looking it as an opportunity to get to know other cultures, of course oblivious that Callie’s dad has different plans in store for him.

From then on, the story’s pretty chock-full of dismemberment, human cloning and weird traditional rites that Satan forces Mark to partake in to protect the Devil bloodline in Hell. The story just gets weirder and gorier, culminating in a brutal episode of sporagmos and omophagia for Mark in a death-match with Twain, who we learn is a damaged, preppy mama’s boy.

The episode “Hell for the Holidays” moves crazy fast and is packed with some of the best gags in the show. Even a quick shot of the factory’s demon’s sheet, for example, reveals a wonderful little DnD alignment in-joke. The side stories of Leonard’s social work case of a neurotic Amittyville-type house and of Randall’s movie-making venture pile on the dark comedy as well.

The shock of seeing Mark’s dismembered corpse is alarming at first, but his explanation for how he gets away serves as yet another brilliant illustration of Ugly Americans‘ bleak and silly humor.

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Neutron star continues to puzzle astronomers

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Illustration of a neutron starA closer look at a super dense neutron star 4000 light years away has debunked what some scientists thought made up the star type’s core.

According to a new study published in Nature, a spectral analysis of the neutron star’s gravitational path proves once again that we have no fucking clue about what kind of matter makes up densest object we know.

It doesn’t matter what these stars are made of, just don’t forget to aim your Wii-mote around it to catch the Star Bits that came loose when the supernova collapsed in on itself.

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8 Bit rendition of There Will Be Blood gets robbed

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

I think there is some kind of 8-bit jack in my brain. Blocky pixels and tinny music jump start my neurons into some kind of adolescent euphoria. So full disclosure: I might be biased. But I think the results of Empire’s recent Done in 60 Seconds contest is bunk.

The contest invited people create condensed versions of famous movies. There were tons of entries, over a dozen of which are fantastic. The video below, which is, I must admit, awesome, was the ultimate winner:

HOWEVER.

Somehow this 8-bit rendition of There Will Be Blood — one of the greatest movies of all time, containing possibly the greatest bowling scene of all time — was only a finalist.

A total travesty. Watch the vid below.

And while we’re at it, this Predator in 60 seconds is pretty damn good.

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New feature: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Del Toro’s atypical creations do not have fangs – they have stingers, like frogs with scorpions for tongues. They are not beautiful and hypnotic – they are dirty, twisted, and vicious. They’re nasty pieces of work – inhuman monsters through and through. And they are terrifying.

— Read Sonya Bateman’s review of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain here.

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The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

How many people are sick of vampire books?

Here, I imagine vast hordes of people raising their hands, crying, “Please! Save us from Twilight fever!” (No offense to the multitudes of Twilight fans out there…) I know I’m at least overwhelmed by the sheer mass of vampire fiction out there – sure, I love a good fanged feast as much as the next fantasy buff, but there is an undeniable influx of vamps in the literary world these days. So many varieties – blood-drinking, sparkling, evil, romantic, psychic, bestial, vamps in suits and vamps in jeans, vamps with sidekicks and minions and familiars, old and young and in-between vamps, funny vamps, serious vamps – much like Chicken Soup for the Soul, any type of vampire you can conceive of, they’ve written about.

Confronted with such a vast sea of choices, my brain kind of glazes over like a day-old donut and I wander off in pursuit of easier reading material decisions. Such as any book that includes the words “Terry Pratchett” on the cover.

However. This is Guillermo del Toro we’re talking about. And no self-respecting fan of fantasy should pass over anything with del Toro’s stamp upon it. So I picked it up.

And I loved it.

The Strain
is the first novel in The Strain Trilogy. Book Two: The Fall is available now as well, and Book Three: The Night Eternal is scheduled for a spring 2011 release date.

Here’s the official description of The Strain:

They have always been here. Vampires. In secret and in darkness. Waiting. Now their time has come. In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country. In two months—the world. 

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . . 

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city—a city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.

Now – I said that I loved it, and I did. The Strain discards all those romantic notions of vampires thirsting for true love in addition to scads of blood (a thread that goes all the way back to the grandfather of vampire fiction, Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and seats vamps firmly in monster territory. These bloodsuckers don’t love anybody. They don’t wear fashionable clothes, woo maidens, or angst over the torment of having to feed from human beings. They crave blood, destruction, and the replication of the virus that warps their bodies into powerful undead machines. There is no saving them. Once you’re bitten, you’re fucked.

Del Toro’s atypical creations do not have fangs – they have stingers, like frogs with scorpions for tongues. They are not beautiful and hypnotic – they are dirty, twisted, and vicious. They’re nasty pieces of work – inhuman monsters through and through. And they are terrifying.

Exactly what I want out of my vampires. Read The Strain, and you will lose sleep.

Being a writer, however, I have to qualify my love for this book. I loved it as a reader. The plot zipped right along and had me bulldozing through to see what happened next. There were enough main characters to keep things interesting and framed in various perspectives, but not so many that I got confused. I could easily (and probably will, soon) see this as a movie.

The actual writing… well, suffered in places. Here, I don’t know whether to blame del Toro or Hogan, so I’ll reserve judgment. Most of the characters have specialized occupations with processes the average person doesn’t understand, and there were several instances of “As you know, Bob” explanations of CDC procedures and airport equipment usage that just wouldn’t have occurred to the characters whose viewpoints we’re in, because they are part of their everyday lives. One particularly egregious transgression – a cold, clinical description of a piece of medical equipment in the middle of an intense action scene – ripped me from the world of the story and left me ranting for a good half hour.

But once the reader in me managed to bludgeon that pesky internal editor into unconsciousness with a lead pipe, The Strain was a hell of a thrill-ride. I’m looking forward to The Fall.

Sonya Bateman lives in “temperate” Central New York with her family, where she spends six months out of the year cursing the existence of snow, and sometimes writes novels. Her debut urban fantasy novel MASTER OF NONE, first in a series about the world’s unluckiest thief and the genie who hates him, is currently available everywhere books are sold. Except airports, for some reason.

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Man travels through time, hangs out with 60-year-old self

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

This video is 2 years old, and we still haven’t had a follow-up on whether or not Håkan Nordkvist has a working time portal under his sink. Look at the grainy cellphone video — how much more proof do people want? Because if I traveled through time and met myself from the future I wouldn’t ask any questions that could help me. I’d just play a game of catch, shoot some video, and then crawl back through my time portal. Which is under the sink. In my kitchen.

Is it a hoax? Of course it is. But it’s a pretty decent hoax at that. Turns out it’s viral marketing advertisement for a Swedish pension firm. The most interesting thing about the hoax is that this Super Mario-themed, plumbing-based time travel scenario was take fairly seriously on the intertubes. There’s another video that explains the whole situation over at Metacafe.

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