Action! Violence! Dismemberment! This month’s Pop Culture Destruction is all about the tearing of shackles and rejigging of the status quo this month. Find out how and why by sending an email telling all that your soul desires on schlocksubs (at) gmail (dot) com. The Schlock Magazine hivemind will thank you!
Here’s the trailer to the sequel to 300, the film where a multicultural mega army led by a giant naked glamrock star soundly defeats a bunch of meathead fascists in penis satchels. Let’s all hope Xerxes and company win this one as well!
Finally got around to watching the 4th season of Arrested Development. No review, since I need to watch it again – the fragmented, flashback-based structure demands that. Still, it’s pretty amazing that a 4th season of a show that’s been of the air for 7 years actually even got made, never mind without network interference other than that of the budget and cast schedule variety. It’s still not a show for (ugh forgive me for even saying this) everyone but if stories involving dreadful people and jokes based less on set-up and more on pure punchline are what you want, that’s what you’ll get.
Until Animal Crossing: New Leaf hits the market HUGPUNX is my GAME OF THE YEAR 2013.
Here’s a reference to those damn pre-Raphaelites by Simon Hanselmann, whose Meg, Mogg and Owl comics are my exact cup of darkly funny and extremely bleak tea. The Comics Journal have an interview with Hanselmann that’s well worth reading here.
More misery! A number of Friends of Schlock (including Nel “pretty pictures” Pace and Thom “voice of the intros to the first Schlock podcasts you might have listened to that time” Cuschieri) went and made a game based on that Love Will Tear Us Apart song by miserablists Joy Division. What’s the game like? A bit like Warioware starring depression instead of a fat moustachioed weird. Or three slightly baffling minigames dealing with heartbreak. Either way, go play (then cheer yourself up with more HUGPUNX).
IRON MAN 3 (dir. Shane Black, 2013)
With the third Iron Man film Marvel has the making of films in its so called “cinematic universe” down to a science – hire the services of a relatively successful yet not too remarkable director (Shane Black), retain the services of a charismatic lead (Robert Downey Jr.), find a suitable supporting cast (Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle et al) and wrap all around a suitably punchy script. While visually uniform with the other Marvel films, being indistinct and awash in the colour palette of superhero cinema choice (blues/grays, primarily), at least a couple of action sequences impress. Still, action is not Black’s forte, directing witty banter is. That a second act involving Tony Stark befriending a nerdy boy (Ty Simpkin) manages to genuinely entertain is a minor miracle, as do the parts where Tony and Rhodey playing buddy cops sans suits and the merciful minimum of references to previous Marvel films (Tony suffering through PTSD following the events of the Avengers films is a recurrent theme – been there too, buddy).
Also impressive are some genuine smarts – how Black managed to sneak in a story dealing with the military-industrial complex (and the negative consequences thereof) in what amounts to a movie designed to sell toys for boys is nothing less than a minor miracle. However the plot (inspired by the Warren Ellis-penned Extremis comic storyline) wears thin, even before it developes into an unexceptional scrum of super people punching robots in a dark, dark shipyard. Still, taken as a whole Iron Man 3 is better than either the messy, broken second Iron Man film or the cynical fanbait that was Marvel Studios Presents: Marvel’s Avengers Assemble: The Movie, even if that’s not really saying much. Still, chalk that one up for the less mediocre miracles, eh?
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (dir. J.J. Abrams, 2013)
When J.J. Abrams rebooted the Star Trek franchise in his breezy, err, Star Trek (2009) we were promised the excitement of a fresh, yet undiscovered country, a new playground where we could all play our fantasies of utopian futures and round spaceships. Thus it’s disappointing to report Into Darkness is little more than a retread on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) even if it still makes for fast and furious (more Star Wars than Star Trek, really) entertainment, with Kirk (Chris Pine channeling his best William Shatner) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) leading the U.S.S. Enterprise and its jolly crew into furious adventure against that most malevolent of genetically modified spaceman, Benedict Cumberbatch (John Harrison).
However, despite all the good looks, lens flares and well edited action one can’t escape a nagging feeling. Maybe it’s the rib poking of insistent references to earlier Trek. Maybe it’s claustrophobia of constant, relentless action. Maybe it’s the sheer sexlessness of it all (an scene Kirk with sharing his bed with not one but two female members of a tail-equipped alien race holds much promise, but nothing more). But it’s a scene that all but repeats the video rental gag from Spaceballs (1987) that caused this reviewer’s eyes to roll back so hard they near damn got stuck behind his skull. Thankfully, the Klingon’s enjoyably brief appearance, a showdown where giant evil round spaceship chases the Enterprise down a warp tunnel and ultimately dashed hopes of seeing more of Alice Eve in her underwear brought them eyeballs right back into place. Light, frothy and entirely illogical action has its uses after all.
FAR CRY 3 (Ubisoft, 2012)
Spare, if you will, a thought for Riley, Liza, Oliver, Daisy and Keith, a group of rich kids whose dream holiday was horribly cut short following their capture via rather nasty pirates. Their only hope of rescue lies in Jason, whose escape from said pirates was but a first step into turning from spoilt, whiny idiot to all out bad guy killing machine. He now has the arsenal, supplies and skills required to traverse treacherous terrain of the ominously named Rook Islands and defeat the bad guys – too bad he’s too busy making his own fun by hunting animals (their pelts make excellent wallets and quivers) and doing favours to the local populace (killing pirates, clearing bases from pirates) to care about his friends yet.
It’ll be a long wait for Riley, Liza, Oliver, Daisy and Keith. But they’re prick kids of the 1%, so who cares?
Yes, the strength of Far Cry 3 lies less in its plotting or characterisation and more in its letting the player loose within the confines of a beautiful yet dangerous tropical island. Sure, the island hardly involves mojitos and traipses on the beach, but when the hunt is so much fun, who cares? The early hours of Far Cry 3 nothing less than a pleasure as one gets to grips with the gunplay, simple yet effective stealth mechanics and vehicular mayhem making its bulk. Experience points garnered from kills and missions feeds a trio of simple skill trees, while simple World of Warcraft-style crafting (yes, crafting) allows one to make powerups and other useful items by either collecting plants or, yes, killing animals and stealing their skins. Making things more exciting is a “living” ecosystem of sorts, with dynamic events taking place where enemy troops meet vicious animals. Hilarity, predictably, ensues.
And if you’re bored of making your own fun, you can drive the plot forward (and save your asshole friends) by doing story missions. Sure, the writing might not be exactly stellar – the theme of madness on the battlefield is handled far better in the understated Spec Ops: The Line (2012), the Alice in Wonderland quotes punctuating the game’s chapters are sophomoric, and a hideous flavour of White Saviour permeates the narrative even if the game’s creators insist it’s all “satirical” – but it does in the least offer a couple of memorable performances in the shape of insane pirate leader Vaas and the unfortunately named Buck (who likes to f… oh you can guess). Thankfully the missions themselves are, more often than not, well designed and fun to play. At one point the game even turns into first person Tomb Raider (2012), complete with mysterious WW2 facilities and a massive underground temple, just because it can.
So, good luck Riley, Liza, Oliver, Daisy and Keith. Eventual fatigue means you’ll be saved soon enough, but before that I need to craft the biggest possible wallet out of finest animal skins.
JUPITER’S LEGACY #1 (Mark Millar, Frank Quitely et al, 2012)
The first issue of Jupiter’s Legacy is as bland and inoffensive as a comic drawn by Frank Quitely can get.
Technically there’s nothing wrong with this comic. Sure, Mark Millar’s self aggrandising is aggravating (THE GREATEST SUPERHERO EPIC OF THIS GENERATION the back cover claims), but his set up to the comic’s universe, with its Great Depression era adventurers gaining superpowers post-visit to a mysterious island, manages to pique one’s interest. And, hell, there’s no man able to draw underwear perverts as well as Frank Quitely, whose previous collaborations with Grant Morrison (All Star Superman, We3) are the stuff of sequential art legend. But once the issue moves to modern times intrigue rapidly shifts to lack thereof, since all we see is an unexceptional scrum of superpeople beating on a large green guy intercut with the story of cover stars Pink Underwear Girl and Scumbag Boy. Borne from the loins of lead underwear pervert and unsubtle Superman analog The Utopian, the two siblings refuse to carry the burden of their super parents’ legacy because something something children of the 1% problems.
Quitely gets to stretch his art muscles exactly once, in a panel denoting the big green villain being pulled into a “psychic painting” or memory-based prison of sorts. Hell, check that shit out right there!
Capping the insult of a rather unexceptional punchup is an argument between The Utopian and, umm, Psychic Guy over whether superpeople should interfere more actively in current, 21st century affairs. Because that sure is a topic that was never discussed in a far more effective, non dialog-based fashion by writers including Warren Ellis (The Authority), Joe Casey (Wild C.A.T.S.), Grant Morrison (JLA, Zenith) and, hell, Alan Moore (Watchmen, Miracle Man).
Don’t spend money on aggressive mediocrity. Please. Instead, spend it on…
COPRA #6 (Michel Fiffe, 2013)
This issue is concludes a first story arc, making it as good an excuse as any to talk COPRA, a series I’ve been wanting to write about for a while. Written, drawn, lettered and published by a single man, Michel Fiffe, and a lovely physical artefact to behold, COPRA is ostensibly a tribute to the John Ostrander post-Infinite Crisis revival of DC’s antihero squad for hire concept, Suicide Squad. However COPRA is, by far, the superior example of the (sub)genre as much as it is a loving riff the character stables of the Big Two American publishers. The plot is basic if pleasingly twisty (COPRA gets double-crossed, vows revenge, fights ex-team member turned god) but the star here is the art, mixing Kirby action with Ditko-esque panelling with outstanding brush work and a gorgeously muted colour palette. Around halfway through the action and companion page layouts take a turn towards the astoundingly abstract, before the concluding pages return to a basic 6 panel grid to portray a satisfyingly brutal conclusion.
Here’s to the indies showing the big boys how to do it right. Now go order. http://michelfiffe.com/comics/
PRIMAVERA SOUND 2013 SPECIAL REPORT EDITION
In need of a holiday (admittedly I’m always in need of a holiday, even when I’m on holiday) yours truly managed to jet off to Barcelona for a few days with some of his best knuckleheads. Why? To finally check out what everyone was saying about Primavera Sound, of course. And let me tell you, it’s truly… something. And that’s despite the Catalan weather turning from “pretty good” to “good grief this looks really shitty” in the space of, oh, 3 days. But then again not even what amounts to a British summer can ruin the many charms and delights of a city like Barcelona, no? Never mind a festival.
The only problem with Primavera Sound is sheer scale – with 7 stages and an auditorium, clashes are a sad, sad inevitability (hell I missed the likes of Blur, OM, Fucked Up, Fuck Buttons and Jesus and Mary Chain because of that) while the distances to traipse between sets are immense, especially when it’s 5 in the morning and your feet are killing you. But otherwise it was impressively organised, and the general lack of queues at the many bars was the most pleasant of surprises. Oh, and the sound was generally excellent, other than during My Blood Valentine. Theirs was pretty horrible.
**what follows is a handful of notes on the bands/sets that particularly struck my interest**
TAME IMPALA: or Lame Timpana, in that kind of dumb joke that only funny to a very specific slice of my readership. You fuckers read POP CULTURE DESTRUCTION, right? You don’t? I’LL CUT YOU.
DEERHUNTER: frontman Bradford Cox might look like a scarecrow in a dress (literally, he was clad in a rather fetching dress during the set) but he can sure fill a stage up. The opening and closing were particularly impressive, too.
DEATH GRIPS: loudest damn thing at the festival – loud enough one feel like they’re about to get a nosebleed. Fantastic.
MULATU ASTATKE: the grandaddy of Ethiopian jazz was the absolute highlight of the festival, no doubt.
THE BREEDERS: they played the entirety of Last Splash (1993) and were surprisingly fun for what amounts to a group of middle aged ladies on guitars.
TINARIWEN: the set where I inhaled the most passive smoke, no doubt. Seriously, everyone next to me was burning one up. Worse still, no one was sharing. Assholes.
SWANS: was really looking forward for them, but good lord they were tiring. Also very, very loud – enough to be heard perfectly even way back in the food court.
APPARAT: listening to Krieg und Frieden (2013) live in the auditorium was really impressive, to say the least.
WU TANG CLAN: the chief reason for my going to Primavera Sound. And, yes, they ain’t nothing to fuck with.
OMAR SOULEYMAN: as the only dude cool enough to wear sunglasses at night without looking like an utter prick Omar Souleyman was as good as a (personal) festival closing as any.