Off the Shelf: Hatsune Miku Graphics Vocaloid Comics & Art Vol 2

(Image: UDON Entertainment)

(NOTE: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley)

Though “Virtual Pop Star” Hatsune Miku (and the Vocaloid voice synthesizer in general) may not be widely known in the USA, the singing voice synthesizer with a groovy anime look has a huge fanbase, with manga (Maker Hikōshiki Hatsune Mix, Hatsune Miku: Unofficial Hatsune Mix), games, anime, and of course tons of YouTube music videos.  With a performance on Late Night With David Letterman scheduled for October, I’m betting more folks will get bit by the bug.  So why not take a look at the latest offering from UDON Entertainment, a collection of “tribute art” (aka fan created pieces), comics and more?  Gotta say that HMGVC&A2 packs a whole lot of stuff in a little over 100 pages.  Perfect for people who’d like to take a look at all the fuss.

Thoughts: To be honest, I hadn’t heard much about Hatsune Miku before I looked at this book.  Sure, I’d seen her image at conventions, but hadn’t thought much about the fandom.  There’s already a ton of anime and manga on my plate, yada yada.  But this is manga eye-candy at it’s best y’all.  No matter what style you’re into, there’s bound to be someone who has plopped Hatsune into it.  And with each artist comes a very brief — think Twitter-worthy — thank you and “why this matters to me” tidbit.  And also, there are webpage links to check out for folks who like a particular artist.

Fine.  A few of my absolute favorites here?  meola’s (yes, the m is lower case) gorgeous work that looks like Pollock got his hands on some manga.  Nagimiso, who draws a more mature Hatsune Miku.  Arisaka Ako, whose Vocaloids remind me of Black Butler. Hakone, whose colors are soft and shaded.  Milo, and the “just so crazy it works” Busby Berkley style.

And that’s just the first half of the book.  There’s extras, tons of character-specific pages, and even a few comics at the end.  I’m guessing this is just the start of a full-on manga (and maybe anime?) rollout. Though I’m hoping Western dub-y musicians will start sampling her tunes; that’d be cool.

Nutshell:  HMGVC&A2 is like a book of fannishness, with ways to contact/get more stuff IRL from the featured artists.  Gorgeous high-quality artwork, and lots of information on on the fandom as well as Hatsune “herself”.  This book has me wanting to add a Hatsune Miku playlist to my Spotify.  Banzai!

Review in a Flash: The Maze Runner

the maze runner onesheetSometimes I’m too lazy for a full-out piece. Sometimes everything I’ve got to say about a film can be summarized in a sentence or two. Sometimes it’s both. So herewith, a quick-n-dirty on The Maze Runner!

Nutshell:  I’d give The Maze Runner a B.  It’s an interesting spin on the deluge of post-apocalyptic YA that’s been coming down the pike, and the kids all deliver fine performances.  But I couldn’t shake the “Lord of the Flies meets The Hunger Games” mishmosh out of my head, nor the feeling that the filmmakers could have gone beyond the stock character parade.

Before: YA!  Whoop!  I’ve heard good things about this series of books, so I’m looking forward to this.  Sign me up for any and all apocalyptic storytelling y’all.  Plus, who doesn’t love Stiles (Dylan O’Brien, Teen Wolf)?  The maze itself reminds me of Hogwarts, with it’s ever-shifting staircases.  I hope this story isn’t just a compilation of greatest hits that the genre has seen before.  Especially since a group of boys living in nature away from everything else feels like Lord of the Flies.  Wonder if there’ll be devolution?

During:  Nicely done opening scene, with the POV of Thomas (O’Brien) coming up into the maze world.  Instant understanding of the confusion and fear these kids must have felt.  So this is really a reverse Lord of the Flies; everyone is getting together very well thanks to a “we’re all in this together” code taught to them by teen leader Alby (Aml Ameen, turning in a thoughtful and nuanced performance).  Wonder how long that’ll la…oops.  Enter Thomas, the latest kid sent up to this forced paradise from the depths of…who knows where.  New guy = big changes.  Kinda wish director Ball and actor Will Poulter (We’re the Millers) would give antagonist/freakout aficionado Gally more than just knee-jerk reactions to everything.  Because right now Gally is just a cardboard cutout typifying fear of the unknown.  And that’s gonna get old after awhile.

But it’s good to see Ki Hong Lee (The Nine Lives of Chloe King, and shut up it was good) and Thomas Brodie Sangster (Once Upon a Time), though with so many kids in this cast even the leads get short shrift.  And Theresa (Kaya Scodelario, Skins UK) is nothing but “The Girl That Showed Up”. Pity.  Another thing; the maze world is stocked with teen and tween boys, but there’s nary a hormone in sight when Teresa shows up.  Guess saltpeter is part of the supplies the mysterious “WCKD” sends up monthly.

Okay, there’s a lot of checking out the maze, but even more bickering.  It’s like all the back-biting of Lost, but with kids.  Any time now I’m expecting Terry O’Quinn to pop up.  But once the core group of teens and tweens decide to make a break for it, things wrap up pretty quickly.  I’m surprised nobody else tried to do what Thomas figured out Day One.  Still, the twist at the end makes me want to know more about this world, but…SPOILER ALERT — how in the bleep did the kids live in such a lush woodland if the sun has reduced the rest of the world to smoke and ash?  I’d believe it if their mini-world was in a bio-dome, but as the helicopters fly over, it’s shown to exist in the open air.  Holy continuity error, Batman!

After: I could have done without the constant laughter from the peanut gallery behind me.  Did a few scenes — especially every single one where Gally was freaking the [RADIO EDIT] out — deserve derision?  Sure.  But the non-stop chuckles made me wonder who was hoggin’ the dooby back there.  Though they did have a point as the credits rolled; “I’ve never seen a movie where so many kids died and I didn’t care about a single one of ‘em.”  Not 100% true for me, but close.  With the scary (and wonderfully designed) Griever monsters in the maze, there are plenty of casualties in The Maze Runner.  But there’s not much time to get beyond name, rank and serial number with the cast before the you-know-what hits the fan.  That equals a ton of hurt dumped on a ton of kids I haven’t been able to bond with.  That’s unfortunate.  So is the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad garden the kids are tending in “the Glade”; couldn’t the prop department spring for real plants?  I couldn’t stop staring at the fake “grape vines”, so obviously a craft-store purchase that it sucked me right out of the story for the entire scene.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad story, and the actors gave it their all.  Here’s hoping the inevitable sequel brings living, breathing characters rather than stock kids that are going through the paces in order to move the story along.

Elsewhere Review: This is Where I Leave You

Nutshell:  I’d give This is Where I Leave You at B.  The Altman family may be dysfunctional, but the film is a well-oiled machine.  Funny, inappropriate as hell, and so much like real life it’s oftentimes uncomfortable.  Luckily the cast excels at screenwriter/novelist Jonathan Tropper’s witty banter, and director Shawn Levy nails the “we are family” vibe of the original novel.

Movie Review: This is Where I Leave You

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Jane Fonda walk into a movie.  Wait wait, there’s more; Connie Britton, Rose Byrne, Corey Stoll are there too.  Punch line?  Tons of ‘em.  There’s also plenty to squirm over, as the cast has no problems showing you their characters good and bad sides.  I found myself disgusted and hilariously amused by this family; it’s like the family down the street that are definitely hipper than thou, but that you’d never switch places with in a million years.  In the end This is Where I Leave You left me with more laughs than pauses.  That’s thanks to the brilliant work of the cast, and director Shawn Levy’s easygoing but well-timed pacing.

This is Where I Leave You deals with the pain and strangeness of losing your dad, and how families that are prickly can have surprising tenderness for each other.  At least when they’re not titty-twisting the younger kids.  I mean c’mon, sweet is all well and good but let’s be real.  Middle kid Judd Altman has just found out his wife has been cheating on him with his boss.  While in his funk of self-pity, sister Wendy calls to tell him that their father has died.  As they come together with their brothers Paul and Phillip, momma Hillary tells them their father’s final wish; for them and their families to all sit Shiva for a week in the family home.  Wendy’s picture-perfect marriage is seen to have problems that aren’t helped by her reunion with former boyfriend Horry (Timothy Olyphant).  Paul and wife Alice are desperately trying to conceive, and the fact that Alice and Judd used to date isn’t helping things.  Phillip, the baby of the family and lifelong screwup, brings home fiancee Tracy (Connie Britton), who used to be his therapist but can’t seem to help him rein in his destructive behavior.  And Judd gets a visit from his ex telling him that she’s pregnant…and it’s his. Got all that?  Good.  Surprisingly, all that plays out easily, and TIWILY has an ensemble feel that’s in no small part due to the chemistry between the leads.

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So. Z Nation happened.

Lucille!  Not.  (Image: SyFy)

Lucille! Not. (Image: SyFy)

As I don’t have cable, I’m missing my usual campy genre awesomeness.  Oh, don’t worry; I take advantage of friends and family by parking my keister on their couch for extended marathons of The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Doctor Who.  I have my priorities. (And no sense of pride or common decency.)

So when Google Play made the pilot episode of Z Nation a free download?  Hello!  I should have known better.  Here’s what happened:

The Good:  DJ Qualls!  Harold Perrineau!  Tom Everett Scott!  I love that I get to see Garth, Augustus Hill & Andy McDermott in one show!  Qualls, as a left-behind soldier stuck waaaaaay up north.  Boyfriend doesn’t realize how good he’s got it, until he decides to just hang it up and go all pirate radio.  I’m sure he’ll be the voice/connection for all the other folks running around with the zombies.

There’s a baseball bat in Z Nation, and it’s not Lucille (though I’m sure somebody here has read TWD and thought a spikey bat would be teh kewl.)  But it gets points for looking like something that someone would actually be able to cobble together.  Plus, it’s pretty sweet.  Oh, and there’s a zombie baby that I’m sure you’ve seen in the trailer.

Gotta love the eyebrows. (Image: SyFy)

Gotta love the eyebrows. (Image: SyFy)

The Bad:  See: zombie baby.  Great idea at the start, but the idea that the little posthumous punkin’ can zoom around at light speed just because it’s undead?  Nup.  Also, the dialogue made me weep.  “Let him go or I will send you to walk among the dead.”  Yeah, poor Harold Perrineau had to deliver that clunker.  And that’s only one of many tidbits scattered all over Z Nation.  But you can forgive bad dialogue when the FX are so amazing…sike!  The makeup and CGI here is nothing less than subpar.  Again, this is from SyFy, the station whose catchphrase seems to be “SyFy: Getting RTVF Majors To Do Our FX Since 2009″.

But the main thing that makes me shake my head in sadness is that the plot seems to have no idea where it’s going.  It’s as if whoever pitched this decided that zombies were awesome (that’s not an incorrect assumption), and that simply throwing a few rotting undead on the small screen would be enough to have genre fans a’runnin’ (that’s the incorrect assumption right there.)  The Walking Dead delivered action, gore and character development in it’s pilot ep.  Z Nation delivered…a zombie baby.

The Result:  Think of this not as competition for The Walking Dead, but as something zombie fans can watch/make fun of while they wait for their Darryl fix.  (What?  Who doesn’t love a man with a bow?)  I’m not gonna lie, I’d love to see another ep to find out if this first episode was a hiccup.  Considering this is from the folks that gave us Sharknado — yep, this is a The Asylum joint — I’m thinking there’ll be more of the same sad dialogue, strange pacing and hiccupy continuity.  Ah well.  But it could be fun for a drinking game Netflix night a year from now.

Wayback Review: Real Steel

Watching Shawn Levy’s This is Where I Leave You last night made me think back to the last movie of his I’d caught at the ol’ multiplex.  Herewith, my review from Atomic Popcorn of Levy’s Real Steel.  *theatrical bow*

Nutshell: I’d give Real Steel a B+.  It’s a sweet but satisfying romp in a near-ish future just cool enough to have robots.  Come for the cool CGI, stay for the touching father/son bonding tale.

As always, clicky on the hypertext for the original piece!


Movie Review — Real Steel

“Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots” get their day on the big screen in Real Steel, a movie that transcends the one-joke premise and is instead a heartwarming, fist-pumping mechanized fairy tale of a father and son coming together amid some of the baddest technology you’ll ever wish was really available.  Not to bad for a few plastic robots from the 60s.

Okay, so Real Steel isn’t based on the old game you played with and trashed back when you were a kid, it’s actually based on the story “Steel” by the amazing and incredible Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, Hell House, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet).  But the storyline sure quacks like a toy robot: it’s sometime in the not-too-distant future, a time where boxing has ditched humans and amped up the amazeballs factor by using robots.  Big, powerful, amazing robots, that are controlled/worked by human handlers and treated like superstars.  Robotics engineers are the new cool kids on the block, and as with all types of fighting there’s the legal big-leagues, and the shady underground scene.

Cue Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman, looking scruffy but gorgeous; does the man ever look bad?), a poor schmuck whose every decision seems like the wrong one.  After hurting himself in human boxing, he’s a robot boxing promoter, but he’s been reduced to staying one step ahead of the law and his myriad of creditors.  When Charlie finds out that he’s the father of 11-year-old Max, his son from a girlfriend he only barely remembers, having to take care of a kid puts a cramp in his style.  So he makes a deal with his dead girlfriend’s sister Debra; Charlie will watch Max over the summer so Aunt Debra and Uncle Marvin can go away to Europe, then Deb and Marv will take Max off Charlie’s hands for good.  But when Max, a kid who’s already a huge robot boxing fan, gets his first taste of competition, he decides to try his hand at the sport himself, along with a robot he finds in a spare-parts dump.  If you think Charlie and Max don’t bond over this, you obviously don’t get out much.

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Off the shelf: Harbinger #25


Image: Valiant

(Note: I received a free copy of this comic from creator Vivek J. Tiwary.)

Story: Think Misfits with a dash of X-Men & Babylon 5‘s Psi Corps. Peter Stanchek is a kid with psionic abilities that looked to Toyo Harada for guidance. Bad move: Harada is a power mad loon with the usual “must control the world” agenda Harada builds through his Harbinger Foundation. Peter has banded together with other teens with similar skills…but so far even their successes are of the two-steps-back variety.

Thoughts: I’m iffy on superhero stories, unless they involve snark or mythology. The Harbinger series has neither, but the world building here is impressive. Being as this is my first dip into the storyline, I’m pretty lost; though the basics are clear, the sub-plots and character tics are lost on me.

What hits home is Barry Kitson’s gorgeous two-page spread at the end of the issue, and the one-page “sizzle reel” on the inside cover by Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans and Brian Reber. All I needed know, beautifully drawn and simply described. “Into Memory” by Vivek Tiwary (The Fifth Beatle) has the same type of groovy color focus found in Beatle, but this time it’s artist Lewis LaRosa doing the art. It’s beautiful and touching, but again, without knowing the back story? I stared at the last panel hoping I’d gotten the gist, but figuring I hadn’t. “Fan Fiction” by Justin Jordan and Rafer Roberts is a hoot, and I liked the way he pictured the teen heroes’ reactions to what’s on the interwebs.

Nutshell: #25‘s “Anniversary Celebration” feels like more of a love-letter to their fans rather than a jump-in point for newbies, with eight different sections instead of focusing on story arc continuation . (Granted, as this is my first look, this series may do this every issue. But I hope not; this format is fun as a one-off  but it’d definitely grate if I wanted story progression.) Some great, fun moments, but that’s it for this newbie.

Subscribe or Shelve?: Even though Harbinger looks like the winds of all-out war are blowin’ – the series spins off into Harbinger: Omegas next month – I’m not chomping at the bit. The characters are detailed just enough, yet I’m not connecting with them. Perhaps it’s because so much was crammed into a single issue. I would read it again if it was available, to see if the story would grow on me. But I’m not sure it’s currently my cup of tea.

Off the shelf: Chastity #1

(Image: Chaos!Dynamite/Bleeding Cool)

(Image: Chaos!Dynamite/Bleeding Cool)

Not only am I a sucker for horror comics, but I’ll read just about anything that’s free.  So when I saw that Dynamite was trotting out Chastity #1 (the Dynamite re-launch of the ol’ Chaos! Comics vampire assassin from the 90s) for a free look-see over at Bleeding Cool?  I looked, and I see’d.  Yeah I know it hit shops in July.  I’m slow.  So far?  Well…

Story: Chastity is a teen gymnast, or at least was until her ACL flipped her the bird.  Her mom had high hopes for Chastity’s Olympic chances, but now gives zero fucks about the poor girl.  So, what’s a teen to do but lose herself in the hottest new vampire fiction?  One thing though; it’s written by a real vamp, and that vamp wants Chastity.  For dinner.  Death’s a-knockin’, as Chastity’s origin story takes off.

Thoughts:  Fans of the original Chastity series at Chaos! will notice a BIG change in her origin story here, but with the whole YA Paranormal Romance thing that swept in like a plague of locusts is so popular now, I think it works well.  I saw the “twist” involving the author of the “Blood Rose” series a mile away — as anyone who loves vamps would — but I enjoyed the ride nonetheless.  Told in flashback, Chastity is no-nonsense and doesn’t veer off on tangents.  In fact, Chastity #1 felt a little choppy at times, but as this is an origin/Exposition Fairy issue, I’m okay with that.

Nutshell:  I’m not up on Chastity as much as I’d like — gotta admit I was more an Evil Ernie gal back then — but I love Dave Acosta’s pencils, and Thiago Ribeiro’s gorgeous (and gore-geous) colors.  Emanuella Lupacchino & Ivan Nunes bring on a hot-but-not-tacky Chastity pin-up-y pose that looks fantastic and lays out the basics of the character beautifully.  I’m liking the details and depth in this standard cover more than Tim Seeley’s subscription cover for this particular issue.

Subscribe or Shelve: Definitely looking forward to seeing where Marc Andreyko takes this character, and Ribeiro’s slaughter-riffic panels have me hooked.  I’m all in.  Off to grab #2 & 3!


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