Thanks to my friend Trevor Snyder’s October Zombie-Thon feature at the 411 Mania website I’ve been turned on to all sorts of movies featuring the flesh hungry undead. I’ve also been encouraged to check out some films on my own. This weekend in honor of Halloween I checked out one of the entries in the growing Nazi Zombies sub-genre, the Scottish film “Outpost” starring Ray Stevenson of “Rome” and “Punisher War Zone” fame. It ended up being an entertaining film, but it’s flaws kept it from being a great one.
In the film Stevenson plays D.C., the leader of a team of mercenaries hired by a businessman to protect him on a recovery mission deep in the heart of an unnamed and war torn Eastern European country. Their destination turns out to be an abandoned underground outpost. D.C. and his men explore the titular outpost and discover a pile of bodies. They also turn up evidence that the facility was used by the Nazi’s for some mysterious purpose. Soon something begins kidnapping, torturing, and killing members of the mercenary army; an useen force that can seemingly disappear and reappear at will. As the attacks escalate D.C.’s client reveals the real purpose of his mission. He’s there to recover a device the Nazis hoped would create a race of invincible super soldiers. What it actually did was turn a platoon of vengeance hungry SS soldier into angry undead monsters.
The most intriguing things about “Outpost” have to be it’s tone and story. Some have classified it as a zombie movie but I think it’s more of a ghost story mixed with an action movie. It’s a low budget film and it’s very ambitious .You can see elements of movies like “Aliens”, “Dog Soldiers” as well as elements from various haunted house films. The actual back story involving what happened at the “Outpost” is cool in a pulpy weird menace sort of way. It feels like something out of a “Hellboy” comic. And there are some genuinely creepy and cool scenes, like when reality shifts ominously to announce the arrival of the full platoon of undead SS troopers, who then march on D.C. and his men
Where “Outpost” falls flat though is in some of the characters and the acting. Stevenson is pretty decent as D.C. Michael Smiley (Tires from the British sitcom “Spaced”) is entertaining as an ex-Scottish soldier and Enoch Forst who plays a former african child soldier turned Belgian Peacekeeper turned mercenary is also pretty good. Richard Burke’s American ex-Marine, Prior, comes off as a psychotic dick though and is more annoying than interesting. The rest of the cast is pretty generic for lack of a better term. They might as well have been wearing Star Trek style Red Shirts.
The other thing about the characters in the movie was they all had different and very thick accents. And unfortunately none of the actors in the movie were really good at speaking up or annunciating their lines. So even though the entire movie was in English there were some scenes where the dialogue was so garbled that I found myself wishing for sub-titles.
So Outpost is by no means a great movie, possibly not even a good one, but it was an entertaining way to spend a Friday night. There’s a sequel being developed that promises to expand upon the interesting backstory of it’s undead Nazi menace and I’ll definitely add it to my Netflix que when it becomes available.
Every week I read a lot of comics; some to stay informed for my job at CBR (so many of the books I mention here will be Marvel ones), some for pleasure, and some for both. Usually what happens is there will be some average reads, some good reads, and possibly even a bad read or two. Generally though there’s at least one or two books that stand out as being the best of the bunch. So to celebrate and pay tributes to those books I’m kicking off what I hope will be a weekly feature, Reads of the week.
Unfortunately I’m kicking off this feature during a week that saw a lot of good stuff come out. So deciding on just one or two books will be difficult but here goes:
Honorable Mentions: “Fantastic Four” #572, “Secret Warriors” #9, “Necrosha X”, “Incredible Hercules” #137
READS OF THE WEEK:
“Dark Reign: The List-Punisher”
Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: John RomitaJr,
I’ve been a fan of the Punisher since I was about 10-11 years old. I’ve read every series the character has starred in. The MAX and Marvel Knights versions of the character are incredibly compelling, but I also think the Punisher of the Marvel Universe is pretty damn interesting too. And I have yet to read a better Marvel Universe take on the Punisher than the current series.
Rick Remender gets that what makes the Punisher interesting and unique in a world of superheroes and supervillains is his background as a soldier. He kicked off the series not by having the Punisher fight super crime but by having him go to war with it. And to make things even more interesting he armed the Punisher with some of the most fantastic and dangerous devices in the Marvel Universe.
Going to war against super crime meant trying to topple Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign. And in “TheList-Punisher” Remender brings Frank’s year-long crusade against Osborn to its logical conclusion. “The List-Punisher” is a brutal, violent, exciting, powerful, and even poignant story about standing tall in the face of impossible odds. I won’t spoil the story by saying how it ends but readers of the special did get a hint about where Remender is taking the series and it looks quite interesting
And if the story wasn’t enough “The List-Punisher” featured the art work of John Romita Jr (whose depiction of the Punisher is second only to Mike Zeck). Plus for my money nobody draws New York better than John Romita jr. The end rooftop fight scene of “The List-Punisher” has to be seen to be believed
Die Hard Year One #2
Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Stephen Thompson
I’m a huge fan of the first “Die Hard” movie. I think it’s one of the greatest action movies of all time. I enjoy the later installments in the series as well but not as much. They’re fun, but none of them hold a candle to the original and as the series progressed it got more and more cartoony. So the present-day adventures of John McClane aren’t as interesting to me as the past.
That’s why I got very excited when I heard about Boom! Studios ongoing “Die Hard: Year One” series, which takes you back to 1976, John McClane’s first year as a New York City cop. And to make things even better Howard Chaykin was writing it. Chaykin knows how to write crime and action incredibly well. I’d read a cop book set on the mean streets of NYC circa 1976 by Chayking even if it didn’t star John McClane.
So I had high hopes for the first issue of the series and was a little bit disappointed. The first issue was all about introducing readers to a young John McClane and an eclectic cast of characters that will become embroiled in his first adventure, which is happening on America’s bicentennial July 4th, 1976. With the second issue though the pace picks up and you start to see where Chaykin is going with this first story. Lots of threads develop and come together and it’s hinted that the arc might climax with explosive action set piece on the crowded yacht of the third richest man in the world. This issue had quite a bit of set up but it did what the best comics do, make me eagerly anticipate the next issue
Stephen Thompson also did nice job with the art. I see hints of Michael Lark in his work, and Lark is one of my favorite artists.
I imagine it’s got to be tough writing the same character for 17 years. You can continue to try to do something new with your protagonist and have their life evolve. Or you can go the other way and basically never change the status quo. Personally I don’t want to read the latter. No matter how great you are with dialogue or how cool your characters are if they’re static I get bored.
Fortunately though there are writers like Michael Connelly who believe in making their characters change and grow. Connelly has a few series characters, but the one he’s been most prolific with is LAPD Detective Hieronymus Bosch. For 17 years and 15 novels Connelly has been taking readers of the Harry Bosch novels on harrowing, exciting, powerful and often poignant journeys. Some are admittedly better than others, but the one thing they almost always do is leave Harry in a different place.
And Connelly’s latest novel “9 Dragons” is no exception. Not only does Harry’s life change in the novel, but Connelly also takes his protagonist on a different kind of adventure. Most Harry Bosch novels are police procedurals. You follow Bosch as he gathers evidence, tries to solve a crime, and deal with the politicians, and police brass who are more concerned with press than results. The first half of “9 Dragons” reads like that, but the second half is a decidedly different Bosch novel.
“9 Dragons” open with Harry investigating the murder of Chinese liquor store owner. All evidence points to a local Triad, a secret society and organized crime ring. Things become personal though when it appears that associates of the Triad kidnap Harry’s 13 year old daughter who is living in Hong Kong with his ex-wife. A desperate Bosch flies to Hong Kong determined to do whatever it takes to get his daughter back.
So “9 Dragons” reads like a better episode of “Law and Order” combined with the movie “Taken”. The pacing is quick and the action is exciting especially when Harry is on the ground in Hong Kong looking for his daughter. It almost moved too fast though. The novel doesn’t end in Hong Kong. It moves back to Los Angeles where Harry tries to close the case that started everything. I personally wish Connelly would have spent a little more time in Hong Kong. The scenes there have a noirish tone as Bosch breaks laws and does almost whatever it takes to get his daughter back. It’s a morally murky side of Bosch that we don’t often see and I liked it.
I also thought Connelly did a great job depicting the relationship between Bosch and his daughter. You feel for the girl because of it and Bosch’s quest to get her back becomes even more intriguing and heart rending.
I won’t say what happens because of spoilers but “9 Dragons” ends on a note that takes future Bosch books in a new direction and I applaud Connelly for doing that. That direction also comes organically I’m a Harry Bosch fan and anything that keeps the series fresh and makes sense I look forward too. All in all “9 Dragons” was an entertaining and fun read. It’s by no means the best book in the series, but it is a solid entry and the author should be applauded for trying something different and continuing to take his character some place new
In 1997 I was a fan of writer James Ellroy. I discovered him thanks to comic writer James Robinson who recommended Ellroy in the letter column of his late, great private eye comic “Firearm.” So I knew of Ellroy and liked his work, but had little idea that he was going to write one of my favorite books of all time “American Tabloid.” When I read “Tabloid” I devoured it. It was the powerful tale of three men who were both lawmen and lawbreakers depending on your point of view and their circumstances and the parts they played in some of the pivotal events in American history. “Tabloid” began in the late ’50s and ended in 1963 on a fateful November day in Dallas. It was a great book and I still love it to this days
So several years later I eagerly picked up “The Cold Six Thousand”, the sequel to Tabloid. “Six Thousand” picked up the day after the JFK assassination and followed the exploits of the survivors of “Tabloid” as well as a few new characters. The story ran all the way up to 1968 and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F Kennedy. “Six Thousand” proved to also be a hell of a book. It’s not as good as Tabloid, but still pretty great.
So I was very excited to pick up Ellroy’s latest novel “Blood’s a Rover” the third and final volume to his Underworld USA trilogy, which kicked off with “Tabloid”. I finished the book today and I’m happy to report that it’s a pretty compelling and fascinating read. It’s not as great as “Tabloid” but it is better than “Six Thousand”
“Blood’s a Rover” takes place from 1968 to 1972 and follows the exploits of three men: Wayne Tedrow Jr., a former cop turned bagman for the Mob and Howard Hughes; Dwight Holly an F.B.I. agent and personal enforcer of director J. Edgar Hoover; and Donald Crutchfield a low level private eye whose also a master peeping tom.
All three men are very interesting characters. They’re all well rounded and have their noble traits as well as their ugly sides. And boy do they indulge in their ugly sides! Like all great crime fiction though these characters’ moralities are not fixed; they’re fluid. At different times during the epic length novel you will love and hate all three men. Ultimately “Blood’s a Rover” is really the story of one of them, but I won’t spoil things by saying which one.
Over the course of the novel Tedrow, Holly, and Crutfield find themselves confronting the prevailing hardcore right wing and left wing ideologies of the time through their associations with organized crime and political figures like Hoover and Nixon, as well as the femme fatale of the story Joan.
Each character becomes fascinated and obsessed with Joan and to Ellroy’s credit you can understand their fascination. She’s a shadowy communist agitator, rebel, and some times terrorist. She’s ruthless and determined, but she’s also quite human and haunted by many of the horrible things she’s seen and endured.
Joan isn’ the only thing the three characters become invested in. They also end up obsessed with a mysterious armored car heist that happened in 1964. As the plot progresses more about the heist is revealed and you see it has roots in a larger story.
Ellroy also populates “Blood’s a Rover” with fascinating supporting characters as well. There’s Karen Sifakis, Dwight Holly’s secret left wing girlfriend. She ‘s a revolutionary who feeds him intel on violent people in the “Red” movement and he lets her blow up a landmark or two. Then there’s Marshall Bowen an LA cop who is both cunning and duplicitous. And Scotty Bennett, a psychopathic LA cop with a penchant for shooting armed robbers.
While there’s a lot to love about “Blood’s a Rover” it’s not a perfect book. It’s about 635 pages and there were times when the pacing slowed down. And there were other times where you found yourself wishing you were spending your time with a different character than the one that was being focused on.
Ultimately though, “Blood’s a Rover” was a powerful and satisfying read. If wading through the blood soaked morally murky waters of history is your idea of fun (and it is mine) you’ll love “Blood’s a Rover” and really all three books in Ellroy’s Underworld USA trilogy.
My name is Dave Richards. Some of you may know me from my work as a staff writer for Comic Book Resources. You also might be a friend, relative (hi mom!) or coworker I’ve nagged to come here, or just some one who’s randomly stumbled across the page. Whatever the case may be I’m happy that you’re here
Now that we’ve established who I am and that I’m happy to see you, you’re probably wondering why the heck am I blogging? Well a long time ago a friend of mine said I needed to get a blog and I’ve been putting it off or forgetting about it. Now though, THE STARS ARE RIGHT! The purpose of this blog will be to showcase reviews, thoughts, and possibly interviews on not just comic books, but all forms of popular culture! I plan on talking about all the various forms of entertainment that interest me.
I hope to have a couple of entries for you each week. So check back soon to see which one of my pop culture obsessions is currently on my mind.