Why “Blood Kiss” Deserves Your Attention

Hi. I didn’t want to do that thing where I don’t blog for months at a time. Really, I was going to be Mr. Blogs a Couple Times a Week at Least. That’s what they were going to call me.

But then I started a podcast with some friends and it was (and is) a great way to get my opinions on current media things out there in a way that I enjoy. Plus, hey, talking is easier than writing. I should know; I’ve been writing a lot more this year. Yeah that’s right, semicolons. I’m on my game. Except this blog has fallen by the wayside a bit, and that’s unfortunate because blogging is cool, or at least cathartic. What an age we live in, eh? You can express yourself and ramble and get off topic and oh that’s right I had a thing to discuss and that’s why I’m back here.

Blood Kiss is a movie from Michael Reaves about 2/3 done with its Kickstarter campaign. The good news is it’s reached its minimum funding goal, so it’s definitely happening. The bad news—not even bad, really, more of an addendum—is that making a feature length film with only $60,000 isn’t easy. Especially a 1940s noir period piece about vampires. Costumes, effects, locations, behind-the-scenes tributes to the Beast, craft services. Moviemaking is some tricky stuff! And there’s a world of difference between sixty and a hundred thousand where indie budgets are concerned.

So the more people who donate to the Kickstarter campaign the better. I like Kickstarter a lot. There’s been some controversy recently over the studio affiliations of the Veronica Mars project and Zach Braff’s thing, and I certainly have my opinions where those are concerned, but that’s not relevant here. Blood Kiss is as indie as they come, the exact sort of project crowdfunding was originally supposed to be about. The money it raises is the money that will be onscreen, so if you want to see it, hey! Give it some money, and you will. Just to be clear for those new to or wary of Kickstarter: This isn’t a charity so much as a preorder service. You can contribute however much you want, but at $17 you’ll get your own copy of the film. The more you give the cooler the rewards. Nothing weird or charitable about that. You’re paying for things that don’t exist yet, but they will, because the goal’s been reached.

So why this project? Well you should read this or watch this to find out all the details straight from the source, but it’s been written (and will be directed) by Michael Reaves, who I didn’t realize until now was responsible for improving my childhood a fair amount by penning episodes of Gargoyles and Batman: The Animated Series—both formative works when I was a wee thing. He’s suffering from Parkinson’s disease, but because the creative urge transcends such limitations, that hasn’t stopped him from writing. Blood Kiss is a passion project, a vampire noir film set in 1940s Hollywood. Beyond that I only know two things: Its vampires aren’t the loving kind; they feast and murder and repulse major studios. And secondly, the script is good enough that Amber Benson (Tara, from Buffy. As in, that show I just blogged about extensively over seven months? Yeah) and Neil Gaiman (GAAAAAAAAAAAH. Gah) have agreed to act in it. Yeah, that’s Neil “My favorite author/role model/reason for living/I’ve pre-ordered three signed copies of his next book” Gaiman, as the kids are calling him these days.

So I’m INTERESTED. Just a little. You know. It’s not in my top ten movies of all time…but that’s pretty much just because it doesn’t quite exist yet. Wait never mind, stop the presses, just saw in an interview that Amber Benson is singing in this thing, like she did in “Once More with Feeling,” the Buffy musical episode. Her song “Under Your Spell” was a beautiful, catchy number about love, magic, and cunnilingus. And Neil’s a vampire? Yeah wow, screw it, top ten.

Which is why I donated a little money, and if anything I’ve discussed here (or linked to) has intrigued, inspired, or excited you, I’m sure it would mean the world to everyone involved with this project if you were to do the same.

Neil Gaiman’s Calendar of Tales Review

’twas a special week indeed, for the great and venerable Neil Gaiman (my idol/role model/favorite author who will totally remember me from that one time I met him when we next cross paths) has produced some new fiction.

But this wasn’t anything so conventional as a book or TV episode—both of which, I might add, he also has due for release in the coming months—no, this is a weird artsy project sponsored by BlackBerry that I’m still not sure I understand in its entirety.

A few weeks ago Neil spent an entire day on twitter, asking a different question every sixty minutes about the months of the year. Twelve hours later he’d assembled a massive stockpile of inspiration for potential stories, and, selecting one for each month, wrote a dozen short stories in just three days in order to create a “Calendar of Tales.”

Earlier this week the stories were all released for the next step: People will read them, get inspired, and create their own art that Neil and BlackBerry or whoever’s in charge of this thing will select and combine with the prose to make the actual calendar. Fun stuff.

But my chief concern, of course, is that I just read a dozen new very short stories from Neil Gaiman and now I have feelings about them. After initially tweeting my reactions as I was pouring through the tales a couple of days ago, I’m now ready to go back for a more in-depth appraisal of each of them, and perhaps how they function when viewed as a unified project.

I would of course recommend you first read them for yourself here.

January’s tale made for a thrilling start. I expected we’d ease into these stories, but the response about a veteran and a new recruit that answered the prompt “Why is January so dangerous?” led to a piece on soldiers embodying the years themselves—a very nice little twist—fighting off extra-dimensional beings that want to creep into our reality. It’s the sort of visceral action that Neil rarely indulges in, but here he does so while keeping it distinctly his own.

That applies to all of these tales, by the way—they scream “Neil Gaiman” to a one, and this is not at all a bad thing. In fact there’s a lot of variation going on here, but never did it feel like anyone else could have written them. And why would I want that? It’s like an ice cream sampler. The flavors are all different, but there’s no denying it’s all ice cream. And it’s delicious.

Yet I admit the next tale didn’t stick with me that much. The answer selected for the strangest thing that ever happened to someone in February was intriguing, but practically a story in itself, so that Neil mostly just elaborates on it and adds some fantastical elements that I found a bit too confusing for their own good. Not that it wasn’t good—I enjoyed all of these—merely that it wasn’t stellar.

March, though, has pirates. Neil chose Anne Bonny as the historical figure to center this tale around, and it’s quite nice indeed. Jumps around a bit, and maybe it loses something in tying itself to a real person, but when that person is a female scourge of the seven seas I’m not exactly upset. And the stark tone here is wonderful. You can smell the salt in the wind.

April is the funniest. The request for a happy memory received an account of duck feeding that Neil transformed into a father/son con team fleecing the poor mallards until they reveal themselves not so helpless after all and turn the tables. This one’s a punchy good time, and a suitable tale for my own birth month. My favorite whimsical story in the calendar.

May revels in its own nonsense, and isn’t at all what I would have thought I’d be reading after the request for the weirdest gifts people had ever been given turned up an anonymous Mother’s Day card. But this tale doesn’t stay confined to May, instead detailing a bunch of glitches in the matrix suffered by a poor soul over an entire year. Some great, irreverent imagery.

The wittiest of them all is June. Looking back over these three I was disappointed that they were all such light fare, but now I see the (likely unintentional) progression, with a more mature sense of humor each time. As such, the parents’ disagreements in this one are very clever, but in the end I prefer it when Neil takes things a tad more seriously.

He proceeds to do so again starting with July, which turns a suggested igloo of books into a beautiful journey across a paper and ink tundra that conjures up more vivid imagery in two pages than many works manage in their entirety. It’s easy to understand why Neil’s claimed this as his favorite—it’s a story about stories, imagination fueling imagination. What he does best, in other words.

Then August turns the temperature right back up with the best of the chosen responses. What would August say if it could speak? “August would speak of its empire lasting forever whilst glancing, warily, at the leaves cooking on the trees.” Gorgeous. And the fire imagery mixed with biting hubris in the following tale more than does it justice.

September might be the shortest of them all, telling of a ring that doesn’t stay lost. The concept is fine, but it turns dreadful and dark at the end in a way I didn’t find that compelling. A bit too slight to justify it, perhaps?

October is my favorite of the lot. Neil asked for a mythical creature to meet, and it’s no surprise he went with a djinn. That’s the role he’s fulfilling in this project, in a way, bringing to life the wishes of a lucky dozen twitter followers (and likely not in the ways they expected, taking their words and twisting them for his own ends). This tale reminded me of his short story “Chivalry,” in which a kind old woman stumbles upon the Holy Grail. Understated reactions to fantastic circumstances are great, and the romance angle here makes it all the better. A perfect little piece of wonder.

The next month’s prompt is the most personal, expressing a desire to burn medical records, “but only if that would make it all go away.” So Neil grants that wish as would be expected, with a brazier that burns away reality. Couldn’t help thinking about whatever real life sorrows afflict the person who inspired this one, and wondering at the mix of catharsis and pain this tale brought them.

The calendar ends with a woman meeting her younger self as a runaway. That premise is so powerful that it led me to brace for something more heart-wrenching almost out of a sense of masochism. C’mon Neil, make me cry. It wasn’t that intense, but worked well all the same. And I suppose it makes sense that he would want the calendar to end on a hopeful note. It was a fitting December tale.

As a whole, I loved these stories. There was never really a chance that I wouldn’t. And even though I didn’t adore every last one, keep in mind I’m holding them to the standard of my favorite author. Even those I criticized still appealed to me more than almost anything else would.

This was a splendid way to whet my appetite for Neil’s upcoming Doctor Who episode and, more importantly, his first novel since I became such a tremendously devoted fan. I’m not quite sure how I’ll handle it. But for now we’ve got a great collection of stories that’s going to be turned into some kind of calendar. Here’s hoping it’s a physical thing, because I for one would love a copy.

Holy Musical Batman! is the Superhero Parody we Deserve

Ah, internet parody musicals. Truly a burgeoning art form, always good for a laugh, and I don’t hesitate for a second to crown Starkid Productions as the obvious champions of creating staged, lyrical tributes to culturally relevant phenomena.

I discovered Starkid before they won over any kind of a following, when A Very Potter Musical had about eight thousand views on Youtube and wasn’t yet titled A Very Potter Musical. It took maybe until Darren Criss sang the line “No way this year anyone’s gonna die” that I was completely sold, and since then I’ve followed the activities of the University of Michigan-originated group with great enthusiasm.

A couple of months ago I was ecstatic to learn that their next show would be Holy Musical Batman!; no doubt it would offer a brilliant take on the caped crusader and his world. It premiered online April 13th, and I’d say I was was…pleased if not blown away.

What stuck out the most was the streamlined nature of the production. Batman! runs for around two hours, a reasonable time to expect someone to invest that vastly cuts down on last year’s Starship and especially A Very Potter Musical and its sequel, both of which are sprawling, wide-eyed epics that lack any sense of restraint. I sort of loved that about them, and making the story more straightforward while only really fleshing out some of the characters diminishes the fun of what Starkid can achieve.

I also got the impression that they simply had less to say about Batman and the DC Universe than they did about the world of Harry Potter…or maybe I’ve just thought about Batman enough that nothing they could go for would feel all that original.

But those points aside, I still adored the show. Joe Walker is phenomenal as the emotionally idiotic Dark Knight, the guy doing Alfred deeply upsets me simply by virtue of how not terrible his Michael Caine impression is (why can’t I do that, dammit?), and Brian Holden is a pretty fine Superman.

The songs are adequate. Alfred’s lament in part 3 and then the song between Superman and Batman were the only ones I found especially wonderful. Darren Criss did all the music for AVPS and Starship; clearly he’s the most talented in the songwriting department, so his absence here hurts a bit.

Ultimately, everyone owes it to themselves to watch every Starkid musical. They’re just phenomenally well done. If I sound reserved it’s only because I was hoping to swing from the rafters with praise for Batman!, but it turns out it’s just really good. So check it out, just don’t expect the best thing a group of fans have ever done for the franchise (which is what I’d call A Very Potter Musical).

And apparently sometime this year they will indeed put on a third and final Harry Potter-centric show. My most anticipated entertainment release for the rest of 2012? Well that would be absurd…

The Origin of Inspector Spacetime

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, that WAS slick. So very much.

Anyway, apparently Graham Chapman of the Pythons was the Sixth Inspector. And Stephen Fry was one of them. Seriously, utter madness. Check out the tvtropes page, the huge fandom tumblr, and if you’re really loving it, donate to the Kickstarter.

And all of that, once again, came from this:

Okay, I seriously need to stop thinking about this before I implode.

Our Sins died for Superman

I saw this video posted on a few sites over the last couple of days but for some reason didn’t get around to watching it until just now, which was a mistake, because it’s pretty damn amazing. Max Landis, screenwriter behind the newly released pseudo-superhero found footage movie Chronicle (it’s good go see it) got a bunch of very talented people together so that he could make a stylish, fifteen minute plus rant about that time Superman died. It might be the most well-done self-indulgent airing of geeky grievances that I’ve ever seen.

I have no idea why famous people agreed to be in this thing, or how much effort must have been required to act out, illustrate, or otherwise depict everything he says in such a madcap yet coherent fashion, but I very much appreciate it. It’s so obvious Landis has wanted to get all these complaints off his chest for over twenty years, so it’s more than a little satisfying to witness his righteous, nerdy catharsis.

Not a big Superman fan myself (pretty much for the reasons he lays out at the beginning) but I do think that the way people react to the character and his place in history are pretty important, so this video is as valuable as it is entertaining. I especially like the realization at the end that Superman essentially managed to single-handedly defeat the concept of death throughout an entire industry.

Very well done, very worth a watch, and seeing this right after seeing Chronicle gets me very excited for Max Landis’s career.

My Internet Haunts

In the interest of spiraling gradually outwards (and because I may or may not have to write this up for a class) I figure I should discuss my most-frequented blogs from around the web and why I consider them worthwhile.

For my movie news I rely pretty heavily on /Film, a nicely designed site that gets right down to it: Scroll through the story headings to get a sense of what’s going on, open up the full stories in tabs if you want more, and you’re good to go. Their layout is visually pleasing yet straightforward and the writers give you a pretty good sense of what’s going on. They’re actually somewhat terrible at integrating trailers or set photos, but I still read it every day. It probably helps that I listen to their podcast, so I feel a definite connection to the site. Other film blogs I check out include CHUD and Film School Rejects, the former for the quality of their reviews and the latter for their features.

IGN has been the most popular game site out there for a hell of a long time, and I use them a lot now as a reliable one stop sort of media hub. In the online community it’s usually good to know their take on something. Destructoid, though, is definitely my favorite video game blog just by virtue of their fantastic staff, laid-back approach, and highly dedicated readers. I used to be far more active over there than I am now. Their site still really holds up, though, and has a damn fine design.

In terms of blogs that have a special regard for fiction, Mark Watches stands out for the way it offers nothing but one very particular man’s reactions to television and literature. The following he’s gathered through his (frankly adorable) writing is pretty great. Then there’s All Leather Must be Boiled, which shows tremendous and in-depth reverence, analysis, and insight into George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. That he keeps it interesting with such a narrow scope is notable, especially considering that here I plan to talk about…well, everything I feel like.

Famous folks who keep great blogs are, not coincidentally, two of my idols, Neil Gaiman and Roger Ebert. Their sites are more about content than form (although Neil’s looks great) and I’ll certainly talk more about these two plenty in the future.

And finally there’s Topless Robot, a blog that covers everything nerdy with a style and enthusiasm that makes it an absolute pleasure to follow. It’s hilarious and very casually done. Lots to learn from that one.

So basically, there are a bunch of blogs you could read instead of this one. But hey! I’m just getting started, here. We’ll see if we can’t make this worthwhile.