Kirst Words

They only sound cursed.

October 26th, 2014


If you’re going to John Wick for any reason other than fighting or action then you’re not going to get what you want. John Wick is a very basic film but it does what it does very well. And that’s action scenes. Even Keanu detractors have little to work with here as John says very little throughout.

Directed by two former stuntmen, one of which was Keanu’s double in the Matrix, these two know how to shoot a fight scene. They may not know how to shoot anything else but in this case it really doesn’t matter as there are no other scenes. Alright, there really are but they only server to link the fighting scenes. The story is this. John Wick (Keanu Reaves) used to be a hitman working for Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyquist.) He was so good, they called him Babayaga which the movie translated as “boogeyman.” Viggo’s son, Iosef (Alfie Allen,) steals John’s car and kills his dog, a puppy given to him by his deceased wife so he wouldn’t have to grieve her death alone. This doesn’t bode well with John and only knowing killing, decides he’s going to kill Iosef. Even though Iosef is a spoiled idiot (most gangster sons in films seem to be this way) he’s Viggo’s son and has to be protected. Family.


There are a few other characters. Two hitmen of note are Marcus (Willem Dafoe,) a former friend of John’s who the viewer unsure of whose side he’s on initially and Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) whose intentions are very clear. There’s also Avi (Dean Winters) who is only mentioned here because he’s Mayhem in the Allstate commercials and I really wanted him to say “mayhem” at some point. Alas, he did not. (There were ways where it would have really been appropriate but I’m sure he doesn’t want to be typecast as that guy.)

John kills lots of people trying to get to Iosef and it’s all done stylishly, like old school, Hong Kong John Woo films. Keanu’s acting is the same as it always is but it really works here. It comes across as deadpan and sometimes is even pretty funny. Nyquist gets to flex his almost muscles a bit almost channeling Peter Stomare. Almost. But it works as he’s the driving force. The hero is only as good as his villain and Viggo is a fun villain. For what it’s worth, the little bit of world building the film does is very effective with “dinner reservations” and how everything is paid with special gold coins to the hotel with nightclub just for hitmen where they can go to relax without fear as no work is allowed on the premises.


It’s a fun action film and worth seeing.

October 12th, 2014


Let’s lay all the cards out on the table. The Bears had a late start and I had a free ticket at Regal 17 due to expire October 21st. Yes, I could have used it on Boxtrolls or The Equalizer but Dracula opened this week, started earlier and was shorter than the other films so it won.

Now going in Dracula Untold had me intrigued. It had a 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an A- Cinemascore. The only way I could reconcile those was the movie was so bad it was good (and those movies are amazing) but none of the reviews suggested this. And this was not the case. The film isn’t horrible but there’s nothing to give it a good review either. Very ho-hum, middle of the road. It’s kind of the opposite of The Lego Movie. That movie was good but not good enough for a 96% tomatometer. But there wasn’t enough bad for anyone to give it a bad review.

The movie tells the origin of Dracula (Luke Evans) tying him to Vlad Tepes, who Stoker used as the source of the original Dracula story. Vlad is Transylvanian and that country was beholden to the Turkish Empire. As a child Vlad was delivered to the Turks as part of a tribute of 1000 boys who would serve in the Turkish army. Vlad grew to become The Impaler during these times and then returned to Transylvania to rule as Prince. Now, with a beautiful bride and child of his own, the Turks again demand a tribute of boys to serve. Vlad, leader that he is, refuses and the Turks invade. What, O what ever will Vlad do to protect his people?

There is a mountain where none return and in it resides a vampire cursed to stay there until another comes to take his power and free him. Vlad goes to this vampire and is turned, but only for three days. If he can resist drinking human blood for three days he will revert back but until then he is a vampire. Strong, fast, can turn into bats and control them. He’s also vulnerable to the sun but not religious symbols. At least not until he drinks human blood and he should have an insatiable thirst for blood but maybe he’s pretty strong willed. Oh, and silver too. I picture Colin Farrel in Fright Night (2011) after being shot by Imogen Poots saying “That’s Werewolves.” And it is but here, silver burns and in great quantities weakens him. And of course the old stake through the heart will destroy him.

Evans is a fine actor and he stands out as a loving husband and father tormented by vampirism but he’s the only one. No one else is even one dimensional. The CG is fine too. But overall nothing really stands out. It feels very by-the-numbers. There is the potential for sequels and apparently this will end up being part of a shared Universal Monster universe with creatures like Frankenstein, the Wolfman and so on. Dracula Untold was not great but I didn’t feel like I lost two hours of my life which I’ll never get back either. You don’t need to rush out and see this — you’re not missing anything.

Speaking of missing things Box Office Mojo seems to have temporarily disappeared and now seems to sorta be back.

Trailers: Interstellar, Hobbit 3, The Interview, Kingsman, Seventh Son and Blackhat. The Interview, a Franco/Rogan vehicle, looks amazing.

October 11th, 2014

This was a big week for comics.
This is what I bought:

These were other things I considered and would have normally bought if I hadn’t already spent some $250 in comics already. Maybe not Ravine, Doop or Powers but certainly the other three.

I had dinner with Pat and Dal on Tuesday where I got $80 of comics from them and ended up at Rick’s for the Drink and Draw (minus the drink) on Wednesday where I got $180 of comics. Granted, the Elfquest original art edition was $125 so it was hard not to spend lots. I get a discount if those numbers don’t add up and you’re wondering. I had also been invited to D&D Encounters at Game Knight on Wednesday evening when I stopped in last weekend to see if they had a copy of King of Tokyo (they did, $40) and we got talking about 5th edition and the newly released Monster Manual. I bought that for $35 at Barnes & Noble on Thursday. It was 20% off and I had another %20 coupon which was cumulative. I also bought a copy of Christopher Moore’s Sacre Blue.

I’ve also backed some games on Kickstarter. Japanese the Game, Tokyo Edition ($80, this is part two and the $80 pledge gets all seven decks), Rise of the Kage ($150) and Yashima ($105) — two miniatures-based board games.

The funny part is this is me attempting to slow down.

October 4th, 2014

This is how good David Fincher is. If you had told me I would like Tyler Perry in a movie I would have beat the shit out of you, raped you, and then murdered you. And yet here were are. The whole cast, including Tyler Perry, was completely wonderful in Gone Girl.

Gone Girl is adapted by Gillian Flynn from the book by Gillian Flynn. It is a movie of anger and revenge so obviously it’s really about marriage. I did not choose what I would do to you if you had told me I would like Tyler Perry in a movie lightly. There is spousal abuse, rape and murder in this film. Or is there? The thing is it’s a mystery and I can’t talk about things that matter without giving things away. So, Tyler Perry.


The movie starts with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) who goes out on the morning of his 5th anniversary (5th is wood, mind you) and returns to discover his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), missing, possibly the victim of a struggle. He calls the police who start an investigation and while Nick is initially presumed innocent, very soon everyone believes he killed his wife. Nick is a bit too slick and flirty for his own good. I mean, at the press conference he smiles next to a poster of his missing wife. Things get so bad he has to hire hotshot lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry).


That’s the set up. The way the story unfolds it looks like Nick’s been set up by Amy. We see flashbacks of how they met and of Amy past as “Amazing Amy” a character in a series of children’s books who’s life is vastly improved on the real Amy’s. They meet, fall in love, get married and then things go bad. They both loose their writing jobs and then Nick’s mother get’s very sick and they move from New York to Missouri to be with her. She has all the money from a trust fund set up by her parents because of Amazing Amy and so she is able to lease the house and buy a bar for Nick and his sister, Go (Carrie Coon), short for Margo. Nick and Amy grow apart in the boredom of southern suburbia with very little for either of them to do. And so plots begin to formulate.

I have a very dark sense of humor and I found myself laughing a lot in the epilogue? third act? Not sure but there were things I found unbelievably funny that no one else in the theater did. If you’re interested, yes, you see the full Affleck at some point but what no one seems to have hyped is that you can also see the full NPH as well. Though if you’re squeamish you’ll miss it — box cutters are involved. I can say no more other than go see Gone Girl.

October 1st, 2014

So my short description was that it’s a tween Resident Evil. Why? It’s an “I’ve lost my memory and discover it with the audience” premise with some monsters tossed in. That screams RE to me. Overall it was fun.

The story begins with Thomas (Dylan Obrien) being delivered on a freight elevator to a forested environment populated by boys of varying ages, all of whom have no memory. The area is surrounded by tall walls that lead into a maze. There are Maze Runners who run the mazes during the day trying to map them. The maze closes up at night and no one has survived the night in the maze. One of the runners is injured and the leader of the tribe, Alby (Aml Ameen) runs it with Minho (Ki Hong Lee), the lead Runner. They don’t make it back in time before the Maze seals up but Thomas enters the Maze at the last second to help them. They survive the night and discover things that might get them out.
Shortly after Thomas arrives there is another elevator arrival. They’re normally monthly and they always carry a new boy and supplies for the tribe. This one is within a few days (though the passage of time is not expressed well in the film) and carries the first girl, Theresa (Kaya Scodelario), who somehow knows Thomas. There is a message with her indicating this is the last elevator shipment. There are those who think Theresa’s arrival coupled with the idea of trying to escape are bad omems which leads to a split in the tribe. Things get a little Lord of the Flies-ish and the group that wants to escape have to now try their hand at escaping both the tribe and the maze.
Thomas was a bit too impetuous and hot headed from the get go. He arrived with no memory and instantly wanted to break every rule. Maybe we can blame it on memory loss but you think he’d want to get an understanding of what he’s facing before leaping headfirst into the unknown. Of course the tribesmen could have tried to explain things and not just say don’t do it and glower at him.
The silliest thing was Minho’s hair. If he’s been there long enough to be lead runner, he’s been there at least a year and yet his hair is always perfectly spiked, even after a day of running. All the boys clothes seem to stay at a stylishly dirty state as well. Maybe the supplies that came with each elevator shipment included hair product and new clothes.

The movie is part of a trilogy and while the Maze Runner portion ties up well enough there is more than enough lead in for the next part.

September 28th, 2014

I found out about this at the Lucy Knisely signing at Challengers. (Lucy may have promised to drop off a few “Weekend in Forkes” prints at his store for purchase so I can finally be complete! Do it Lucy!) Anyway he pointed out a postcard for the con this weekend which seemed legit so I decided I’d go and take a look. I guessed that I’d need no more than an hour (I guessed correctly) and I worked it in before the bears game which I’m watching now as I write this.

This was a pretty small deal at Aurora’s North Island Center across the street from the Paramount. It was $15 for the weekend or $10 a day. There were two vendors at the entrance and an artists alley area. The artists alley was small and very dark. I don’t know why they pulled the shades and kept the light so low. Maybe it was to make people go closer to the tables in order to see stuff.

I ended up buying a few things but really the only thing I would have bought if it were a little bigger was Ali Canarella’s “The Hasty Pastry,” a book she kickstarted which looks pretty good. Of artists I knew, the local Sun brother of the Sun Bros Studios was here as well as Erika Swanson of Bellossoms. Part of me thinks I missed another room as I did not see Angel Medina but I somehow doubt that.

I don’t know how much it cost to rent the room but $10 was too much for 1 day admittance. The con was so small there was no way one would return. I’m not sure if kids had to pay either but let’s hope not. I don’t know if they contacted a local comic store (is there anyone besided grahams?) to do stuff but of the two external vendors one was a prints guy ($10 each, 4 for $30) and the other a toy guy with a non-mainstream selection. It seemed more like a family thing and a store with a selection of kids books would have probably done pretty well.

The Hasty Pastry $20
two (2) Asa strip collections $6
Chinatown $15
bellossoms vol 2 $15
Adventures Close to Home $10 — this was a Punk Zine that screamed quimby’s. It was really cool for what it was and one of the few things I think the artist should have charged more for.

September 19th, 2014

Neil Gaiman once wrote “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch” in response to a fan who was disgruntled at the fact Martin took a long time to write his books. Because he’s Neil Gaiman you may have heard of this.

Greg Rucka writes a web comic called Lady Sabre & the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether and he created a kickstarter to fund a hardcopy version. This did phenomenally well but, as many kickstarters go, Greg was unprepared for many of the issues with producing a book or for the manpower required to deliver those books. There were many reward levels including different editions as well as numerous add-ons preventing a simple mailing solution. Then he had a death in his family. All of these things add up.

The books were initially due in December, 2013. As I write this it is September 2014 and I have not received my copy. This is no big deal but Greg seems to imply there are those who are “disappointed” at the pace of his shipping. Was Greg naive and unprepared for all minutiae involved in producing a physical book and shipping it to three thousand people? Yes. Is it his fault for being naive and unprepared? Unfortunately, also yes. People make mistakes and even the best laid plans do not always come to fruition but that should not absolve either. Nevertheless, I still say Greg Rucka is not my bitch. Even though I paid him for a book that he said was going to be out much earlier and he’s had in his possession for months, Greg Rucka is not my bitch. Even if he’s intentionally being slow for whatever reasons, justified or otherwise, Greg Rucka is not my bitch. Life happens and I believe he’s trying. Now if Greg comes out and says I’ll never get a book then I might tell him, “Oh hell no, bitch! You’re my bitch and you better get me my bitchin’ book!” But until that day comes (and I don’t think it will) Greg Rucka is not my bitch.

I list dates because Greg’s kickstarter is by no means the latest I have backed. Karl Stevens’ Imitating Life was originally due in October 2012. He has rarely updated and eventually declared he needed to delay his already late project to fall 2013 because he got a job that paid him. While I find this unprofessional I understand he needs money and that good paying art jobs can be few and far between. It is almost a year later than that and he now believes the book will be out in fall 2015. With all that I don’t even think he’s my bitch. He occasionally posts and I believe he is trying to get it done, horribly delayed as it is. I will get my book when I get my book. Unless, of course, I don’t…

September 12th, 2014

What a weird, slow, late summer movie season it’s been. I’m almost tempted to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


I bought Cap 2: Winter Soldier on 3D blu-ray as it was the same price as the 2D version. Since Marvel is now owned by Disney and Cap 2 was both financially and critically successful, it is unlikely the price of the movie will decrease over the next 10 years. So why not buy it now. But Godzilla next Tuesday — maybe wait until Christmas or next summer for it to be $10 or less. But… Godzilla.

I got my check for Jury Duty and it was ~ $83. Jurors are paid $40 a day plus a flat travel rate based on home zip code. $43 seems like a lot for travel though I guess it comes to about $1 a mile at 20+ miles each way. I doubt I would have been paid for missing the day I forgot to call in for if they needed me and that would make travel $3 which seems low for one day. Who knows. Not in jail.

Pam challenged me to write stuff I’m grateful about seven days in a row. I think I’d've had a hard time doing it when I was in a good place. I’m no longer in a bad place but I don’t think I can do 7 days of things to be grateful about. Why couldn’t I have been challenged to the 15 movie thing that’s going around?

My fire alarms all went off yesterday morning while I was in the shower. They’re linked so if one goes off they all go off. I wandered around the house wet and naked carrying a fire extinguisher hoping not to find anything. The house is all comics, books and paper for art so I’m sure it would go up in a second if there were a real fire. This spring I discovered I had a smoke alarm in the basement through it’s constant but irregular beeping. I never changed the battery for that cuz I never knew it was there. In tracking it down and other stuff I found the alarms the house came with needed to be replaced by 2014. That’s now so with the false(?) alarm yesterday I decided to replace all my smoke alarms. I hadn’t turned the heat on yet (it’s on now) so it wasn’t that but I’ve had issues where if it was too windy and the windows were open they would also all go off. Hopefully this will fix things. Amazon had them $6 more each than Crescent Electric and CE only charged $9 for shipping which turned out to be 1-day shipping. Well worth it. Even with shipping and tax it was still $25 cheaper than Amazon, and next day instead of the 2-weeks my non-prime customer service would get.

I thought of a better way to display all my books/comics in a two tiered fashion. I’m doing a test on how well the Ikea (f***in’ Ikea!) Besta shelves hold up. If only I ever had people come over to see them.

September 6th, 2014

So I’ve been summoned to jury duty plenty o’ times but never federal jury duty. There are only a few federal courts, but at least one per state, of which there may be nine in Illinois but I’m thinking it’s much less. Like three. A month or so back I was summoned and two weeks ago I began my service period. The federal courthouse to which I was summoned was the Dirksen Building at 219 S. Dearborn in Chicago. Initially I thought “they have it wrong, I live out in the burbs. I used to live in Des Plaines which was close to Chicago but not anymore.” Working at the Aurora Police station which also houses the Kane County Courthouses I thought I would go to work and just walk to the other side of the building. But I was wrong. Federal Courts have a wide area to choose their jury pools from. I had to appear the first day, Monday August 25, and if not chosen to serve, I would have to call in the night before for every following business day to see if needed.

I took the train in, giving myself almost an hour to get from Union Station to the Dirksen building as opposed to 20 minutes which the next train would allow. It takes a while just to get out of the station with everyone exiting and I figured I’d grab a meal or something but if I had to I could make the later train. As it turns out there were issues with the train and all trains from my area ended up about 25 minutes late. I arrived with 25 minutes to spare which turned out to be the minimum needed to “get me to the court on time.” Once there I had to pass through TSA level security which involved all electronics being removed from bags and placed separately on the conveyor belt. I brought a laptop, a 3DS, a hotspot, a usb charger, my work phone (an iPhone 4s) and my personal phone (a blackberry — it’s small which is something to consider when you have to carry two phones at all times.) I also had to take off my belt. The procedure ensured I would not be going out for lunch nor would I be bringing much if required to return.

After checking in, within an hour I was selected in the first group to be a potential juror. I’m not sure if I can legally say anything about the case so I won’t. The room was beautiful. Modern classic with everything in nice stained wood. The public benches where we waited ended up being beautiful but after about 5 minutes just drove you crazy. It was like the old Fine Arts Theater where you were just in pain. I had to sit there for more than two hours.

The judge explained jury duty and then wanted to see if people needed to be excused. One person was a sole care provider for someone with disabilities and was out. Another said Jesus forgave him and he would always forgive. No matter what. So he was out. I wanted to murder his family and see if he would forgive me but the judge had probably been through this enough that he just let him go. Some people had pending trials and convictions and he kept them. One person tried to argue he had pending court case which could not be delayed to which the judge said, “if you’re chosen, have anyone involved with your case call me and I guarantee they’ll make time.”

After people were weeded out that way came the actual jury selection. Twelve jurors and two alternates. They started with six and asked them a series of questions and then the prosecution and defense could question them. They could then eliminate potential jurors. If they eliminated a person from seat 2 the next potential juror was seated in seat 2. We got through the first 6 and had done the first round of questioning for the second six when we had lunch.

At lunch, there was a group of us that eventually sat together and discussed things. Not the case, the judge had forbidden that, but things like where we were from and if we got paid. Jurors are paid $40 a day plus an amount for travel based on your zip code. The money isn’t taxed and only has to be declared if you make above a certain amount from jury duty per year. Whether you take public transportation or drive and spend $40 on just parking it makes no difference. There was a student who was thrilled to be chosen as she had no job and this meant she was making money.

After lunch the second six were chosen and I was almost chosen as an alternate. The juror seats were hella comfortable and the speakers for the courtroom were not as loud in the juror box. One of the cool things was when there was a sidebar someone hit a switch and the speakers produced static to drown out any possible eavesdropping. I was still amazed the prosecution and defense were able to discuss amongst themselves without being heard. At least by me. After sitting through all that I was disappointed to not be chosen. Especially if it meant having to go through that again if summoned another day.

I got out just before 2:30 and tried to make the train that left around then but just missed it. I debated whether to call someone up and hang out but really just wanted to go home so I waited the 45 minutes for the next train and made it back shortly after 4:00. For the next two weeks I called the evening before every business day except for the evening of Tuesday, September 2nd. I wasn’t needed any of those days and suppose if I get a subpena or federal marshals show up on my doorstep, I was needed for the Wednesday I didn’t call. The last day of calling I put it on speakerphone at work so everyone could hear whether I was needed or not.

No pictures. Photography of any kind was expressly forbidden in the summons as well as at every other stage of the jury duty process.

August 27th, 2014

This is one of those viral things going around, like name your life in the songs of one artist or any of those surveys everyone did in the early days of Facebook and the height of MySpace. This one is 10 books (not necessarily good, even) that stayed with you.

1. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. Hornby captures the social intricacies of specialized retail life with uncanny accuracy and still manages to tell a story acceptable to mainstream audiences.
2. The Collector Collector by Tibor Fisher. An hilarious, strange tale about a shape shifting pot that is actually collecting collectors.
3. On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony. While many lives were furnished in early Moorcock, I read Piers Anthony. Xanth. Split Infinity. Everything. But On A Pale Horse was a cut above the rest. It exceeded the rest of the series and most of his other works and is still worth reading.
4. Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock. Elric was the true, tormented anti-hero before I understood such concepts. I found Corum a cooler character conceptually but Elric’s stories were easily better.
5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Still my favorite Gaiman book. And I’ve read them all. I thank that’s the issue in that there’s a type of story Gaiman tells and I can feel it. Ocean at the end of the Lane is a close second though he doesn’t necessarily break new ground.
6. Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore. Moore’s sense of humor shines in all of his books but this was my first and much like many of the other books on this list, the new experience really stuck with me.
7. Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. Dan Brown showed me the world of the thriller with a catch. I blame him for my love of Pendergast and Sigma Force. All of his books really are the same book but they’re well done and fun. My challenge is to read Angels & Demons and DaVinci Code in any order. The one your read first is most likely the one you like more.
8. Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde. The second of the Thursday Next books. It’s invention of the footnoter phone is still the cleverest thing I have ever read and something that can only exist in books.
9. Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein. My first real favorite book. I have read it at least 10 times in the 25+ years since I first read it, though not in the last 5.
10. The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Audrey Niffenegger and Erin Morgenstern bot cited Tartt as one of their great influences but I found this book a good, if marred, first work and could never get through her second book. Erin confessed to never reading that one either. But still, it sticks with me and I have even recommended it over better books for reasons unknown to me.