We were beginning to think this one would never come! With only a couple of days to spare to not be a full MONTH late, we finally have January’s Loot Gaming box, which was the “Boss Battle” theme. This box featured items from Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario World, Conker, and Earthworm Jim, all video game franchises from our childhoods, so we were pretty excited about it. So what’s the verdict on this incredibly late box of gaming goodies? You’ll have to check out the video to find out!
Pardon me if my thought process seems a little disjointed and distracted throughout this post. It’s the first thing I’m doing on Monday morning after spending the weekend partying with my inlaws and wandering around, shopping and hitting flea markets. As a result I’m a little behind on sleep and I can feel my eyes doing their very best to sneak closed even as I’m typing this. Hopefully my brain will manage to continue to work in the background and whatever pops up on this screen will be moderately literate. Please feel free to let me know if I’ve mucked any sentences up or fallen asleep midway through a sentence and forgotten to go back and fix it. ^_~
Plan #1: Focus more on Writing.
Last week I moaned about how I’d gone backward for the first week of the year so far, and I was rather disappointed in myself. This week I’m happy to announce that, while I didn’t exactly break any records, I did manage to turn myself around and start moving back in the proper direction again. My one personal complaint is that 100% of the words I wrote in week 8 were for blog posts. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; I just wish I’d gotten some work done on The Other World: Book Two as well.
- Goal #1: Write half a million words throughout the year. So, lots of blogging! In week 8 I managed to write 6480 words toward blog posts (I’ve been doing a lot of reviewing!), which is the most I’ve written in a week so far this year. In fact, it beats my previous highest week by 620 words, so yay for me! That brings me to a 2018 total so far of 41281, so I’ve nearly written a novel’s worth of words. I should be writing that much each month, but hey, credit where credit is due. Week 8’s influx sent my daily average moving back in the proper direction as well, bringing me back to 751 words per day. Let’s try to get that up to 800 or more by the end of the current week, shall we?
- Goal #2: Sell more books. Not much to report here. I’ve had zero sales through Kindle or CreateSpace, and zero pages read through Kindle Unlimited, which is fairly depressing. I did sell a couple of books through my shopkeeper friend, and yesterday I traded out new books for the old ones (I’d previously given him copies of Nowhere to Hide with the old cover) to see if sales are improved by the more eye-catching cover. Fingers crossed that he’ll be able to see a few more in the coming weeks!
- Goal #3: Complete and publish The Other World: Book Two. As mentioned above I did nothing toward TOW in week 8. Partly this is because I was simply busy with other things, but for certain part of it is because I’m growing frustrated with the project. Don’t get me wrong; I still want to finish it. It’s just that at this point in the writing process (edits/revisions/checking for issues) is both boring and mind-numbing to me, so I’ve been subconsciously avoiding it like the plague. I definitely have to start cracking the whip on myself though. I have two beta-readers waiting in the wings for me to get them the manuscript, and I want to have the second entry to the series available for purchase by the summer, if possible.
Plan #2: Focus more on YouTube.
There has been effort; oh yes, there has been effort. Read on!
- Goal #1: Film more often. We could have done more – I’m not denying that – but Jason and I managed to get five new videos up during week 8, three of which I filmed with him, and the other two with the little missy. And one thing I’ll throw in here as well is that we’re getting better at flow. That is to say, our videos aren’t as full of jump-cuts as they used to be. Part of that is that I’m getting more used to rolling with mistakes and making jokes out of them rather than just clearing my throat and/or banging my head off the table and starting over. Another part is that Jason and I have both become more relaxed about the final product. That’s not to say that we care less about how “good” the video is when it’s done; more that we’re not as obsessed with “perfection”, because the more casual videos are more fun and entertaining anyway. Progress!
- Goal #2: Put more focus into, and have more fun with, the social media aspect. This is still going perfectly well, in my opinion. No doubt I still spend much more time on Twitter than any other platform, but I’m getting better at the others as well. I’ve been spending more time in the Facebook group (when I have the time), and I’ve been doing my best to share more fun stuff on Instagram to break up the monotony of similar toy shots all the time. Finally, I’ve actually been getting back into Snapchat, to an extent, although I still think this is the weakest platform and I don’t even know if anyone really sees my posts half the time.
#3: Focus more on myself.
This is not easy! I’ve been finding that even when I do have a bit of time that I could be spending on myself, there’s always something I want to get done.
- Goal #1: Take time daily to read/watch/play. My TBR list has suffered immensely in February. I finally managed to get around to reading the TMNT/Usagi comic Derek sent me, but I haven’t touched Tomie or the Buffy Season 8 book yet, and I’ve only got 2 days left in the month as of the writing of this post. That’s pretty said, considering I only chose comics for this month’s TBR, but I’ve found that I could never put enough time together to focus on reading. The little bits of time I’ve had to myself I’ve spent playing a quick round of Pokemon TCG or scrolling through Twitter for a few moments. And occasionally passing out on the couch for 15-20 minutes. Not exactly productive time spent, though I AM hoping to crush Tomie before the month runs out.
- Goal #2: Stay active, but don’t obsess. I wasn’t overly active in week 8, but I wouldn’t say that I was sedentary either. For the most part I did a lot of work around the house, specifically the basement, so there was a lot of stair-climbing, carrying stuff, moving stuff around, building things, stretching, and so forth. So all that wasn’t too bad. I have been thinking about starting to run again once the weather begins to warm up a bit, but I’m having a hard time picturing it since I’ve gained weight and feel heavy as sin lately. I’ve been doing my best to eat breakfast and drink lots of water in order to combat this…but it doesn’t really seem to be helping. I’ve been ravenous when it comes to food, and I find it very difficult to remember to drink water since it takes a long time for me to actually feel thirsty. But I am trying, so I guess that’s better than nothing!
Okay, that was week 8 for me. Not the crowning achievement of weeks, but I got a few things done and am progressing overall.
How was your week? Were you able to accomplish anything? Do anything fun? Make any progress toward your own goals? Feel free to share!
You may have noticed by now that Jason and I are a bit into Dragon Ball. It should come as no surprise, then, that we picked up the entire first set of Bandai’s Dragon Stars Build-a-Figure action figures! We’re unboxing series 1, featuring Super Saiyan Goku, Beerus, and Vegeta, and series 1, featuring Super Saiyan Vegeta, Frieza, and Goku, and we’re also summoning the wish dragon himself, Shenron! Check it out, and click this link if you’re interested in checking out Dragon Stars figures for yourself!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Usagi Yojimbo is a 72-page hardcover book celebrating the reuniting of Kevin Eastman’s Ninja Turtles and Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo in comic format after more than two decades of being apart on the page. Though I never read either of the iconic characters’ comics as a child, I have fond memories of the samurai bunny appearing in the original TMNT television cartoon, and he always struck me as such a fun character. Recently I was gifted this book by our good friend Derek, The Border Geek, which marks the first time I’ve enjoyed Eastman and Sakai’s creations together in comic book form.
There are a few different sections to the book, with the main one being an all-new story by Sakai featuring the Turtles joining Usagi in an adventure to save Japan from destruction. This short one-shot, called “Namazu” or “The Big Fish Story”, is based on an ancient Japanese story about a giant catfish called Namazu who causes earthquakes strong enough to destroy the island. The thunder-god trapped the creature under a giant rock, which pins him down and stops him from being able to flail around and cause these earthquakes. In the comic, a piece of that ancient rock has broken off, and Splinter tasks Usagi and the Turtles to help him return it to it’s place in the Kashima Shrine before Namazu can gain enough power to begin thrashing and destroy the island of Japan. Along the way the group meets resistance against one of Usagi’s nemeses, Jei – The Blade of the Gods – along with a huge group of brigands that Jei has gathered to his cause, and a battle ensues.
Having previously only experienced Usagi as a visitor in the TMNT cartoon universe, the first thing I have to comment on is Sakai’s art style, which is much different from what I was expecting, though not in a bad way. Without prior knowledge I had expected something akin to Eastman’s style in the original TMNT comics, but while some similarities can be seen in the design of the Turtles themselves, Sakai’s art style has a bit more of a cartoony tone to it. The world he created for Usagi is of an Ido-era Japan inhabited by sentient animals, and the art reminds me irresistibly of some of the older animal-based anime I saw as a child. In particular some of the character’s faces bring “Samurai Pizza Cats” to mind, although that show had a cleaner and brighter style, whereas Sakai’s comic has more of a sketch-and-shade style with bubblier bodies as opposed to lots of straight lines and strict edge-work. You can tell that Sakai draws the way he sees it in his head, and rather than trying to be very deliberate with things like body proportions, he has fun with funny faces and wacky poses when possible. It might take a little bit of getting used to if you’re a fan of a more serious style of comics, but if you’re a fan of older anime and manga, you’ll feel right at home among Sakai’s art.
The story line itself is cute and fun, with the titular characters fighting when they first meet before teaming up to tackle the task at hand. As I said, it’s based on a Japanese folk tale, and it’s fun to see how Sakai explains and animates the tale as it is conveyed to the Turtles. All in all the story is a simple one, short and straight-forward, a standard one-shot comic. There isn’t a huge amount to talk about here as the entire comic is only 38 pages, but it’s well-done and a lovely little tribute back to the days when Usagi and the Turtles fought side-by-side. Additionally, at the end of this one-shot is a page of text explaining the details of the folk tale on which the story line was based.
The remainder of the book is a collection of fun extras for fans of both franchises. This section begins with some character design sketches of the Turtles drawn by Sakai in preparation for the comic, and moves into a reprinting of the original crossover between Usagi and the Turtles, a short, 6-page one-shot titled, “Turtle Soup and Rabbit Stew”. This black-and-white story first appeared in “Turtle Soup #1” in 1987, and features Leonardo being thrown into Usagi’s world for no particular reason, whereupon they both fight a group of brigands before turning on each other, at which point Leo gets unceremoniously popped back into his own world. It is the most basic, logic-free style of crossover with no explanation for the encounter what-so-ever, but at the time that was likely the point, and it’s a fun, silly little comic that was surely a thing of beauty for Usagi and TMNT fans back in the late 80’s.
The book then moves on into several photocopied pages of Sakai’s story outline notes for the “Big Fish” comic, and then into several pages of “thumbnail layouts”, which are very rough storyboard-style sketches showing the plan for the layout of the comic panels. Finally we are treated to several pages of alternate covers for the “Big Fish” comic, including several different drawings by Sakai, but also alternate covers by Sergio Aragones and David Petersen, as well as three special pieces of artwork created by both Kevin Eastman and Stan Sakai. All are beautiful pieces that would look gorgeous in a frame on a collector’s wall (although obviously I won’t be tearing them out of the book any time soon).
As a whole, the book is a beautiful item for fans of Usagi Yojimbo and TMNT alike, with some excellent extras through in behind the main comic. If you’re a fan of Stan Sakai in particular, this is a must-have, and if you’re a Usagi collector this gorgeous hardcover book would look beautiful posed on a shelf next to toys, art prints, or other beloved items relating to the samurai bunny.
Have you read Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles / Usagi Yojimbo? What did you think? Feel free to share in the comment section!
It’s always a concern when a long-running franchise reboots or moves forward without the actor who made them what they are. Doug Bradley was the “lead cenobite”, Pinhead, since the original film landed in the late 80’s, and while no one would ever argue that the later Hellraiser movies were master-crafts of modern cinema, fans of the franchise would certainly agree that Bradley made the character his own. He is Pinhead, and he is Hellraiser. He remained so until the 2011 Hellraiser: Revelations, when Stephan Smith Collins took over and, let’s just say, wasn’t widely loved for his version of the iconic character. So, understandably, horror fans were both intrigued and concerned when yet another actor, Paul T. Taylor, took over the role for Hellraiser: Judgement. Would he be able to pull off the necessary look? The definitive voice? The required sense of terrifying stoicism in the face of limitless pain and torture?
The irony here, which I’m making my way toward, is that Taylor was one of the only good parts of the movie.
Judgement opens with the cenobites discussing how they need to “get with the times”, for lack of a better phrasing. They talk about how the puzzle box (which, if you’re a Hellraiser fan, you’ll know is an incredibly important part of the movies’ lore) is obsolete, and that in a world of technology they must adapt in order to stay relevant. It’s an amusing conversation that sets the tone for…a plot twist that never really occurs. Though the cenobites’ methods are quite different in this movie from previous ones, “embracing technology” is not even remotely part of those new methods. The closest thing we see is when the “Auditor” character uses an old-school typewriter to record the victims’ sins. Now, I’ll grant that seeing the cenobites using modern technology is definitely not what I look for in a Hellraiser movie, so I’m not terribly disappointed in this respect. However, I thought it worth mentioning simply for the fact that it makes the opening conversation seem unnecessary and misleading about what’s to come.
Moving into the judgement process itself, I don’t want to give much away because I found this to be one of the most interesting parts of the film, but I will tell you that it involves a trial-like process of auditing, judging, and sentencing. This process was, in my opinion, very odd, very creative, and – in places – very visceral. I enjoyed it, while simultaneously wondering about the mental state of whomever came up with it. The sentencing part in particular, which involves “cleansing” from the jurors followed by a visit from the Butcher and the Surgeon, was in line with the kind of disgusting torture I would expect from a Hellraiser film. Additionally, I loved the design of the characters in these roles, particularly the Butcher and Surgeon, whose bodies are stitched together. The jurors, who are beautiful women with destroyed faces, satisfy the gratuitous nudity quota of the film, and perform, subjectively, the most disgusting acts of the process. These acts – while not necessarily gory – are the kinds of things that will make the average person gag. One scene in particular seems to exist purely for the gross-out factor, but also fits in with the task they’re supposed to be performing at the time, so it at least makes sense while making your stomach turn.
You may notice, as I’m speaking about this judgement process, that I’m not mentioning Pinhead. That’s because he’s not involved in the slightest, and that’s the – rather large – downside. During all of this judging, Pinhead is only seen a small handful of times, for a few seconds at a time, lounging in a stone chair in another room, listening to the screams. Taylor’s look and mannerisms during these tiny scenes are spot on, but still, I found myself constantly wondering when Pinhead was going to have any input to anything that was occurring.
The other side to the plot follows a group of three detectives as they investigate a series of murders perpetrated by a killer who bases his killings on the ten commandments and those who he perceives to have broken them. Aside from the crime scenes left behind after a few of the murders – which, admittedly, are creative – this side of the movie was rather boring to me. The three detectives aren’t particularly interesting or likable, so I didn’t find myself rooting for anyone, or even rooting against them (as one might be wont to do in a slasher flick). I just, generally, didn’t much care about them at all. I wanted to see more of the cenobites, more of the gruesome killings, and more of Pinheadalreadyomfg, and the exploits of these three vanilla human characters did nothing for me at all.
There was a bit of heavenly influence into the plot as well, which I won’t comment on for the sake of spoilers, but I will say that I, personally, thought it was silly. The idea had promise, but I didn’t feel it was played out well, and didn’t add anything to the movie at all, though admittedly the plot, such as it was, would have made less sense without it.
Taylor’s Pinhead finally got a few lengthy scenes coming up to the end of the movie, and here I’ll let you know that I think he did a great job. Taylor’s portrayal of the iconic character was very similar to Bradley’s in many respects, and was overall as good as we could have hoped for from anyone who isn’t Bradley himself. He got the stance, facial “expression”, and voice down, while the costume and makeup team nailed (ha ha) the look. I felt it was an excellent performance, all told, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Taylor in the role again in the future. Given the right script and some key scenes, I think he could cement himself as the lead cenobite of this age of Hellraiser films.
With that, however, I must make one last point about the movie, and that’s that I hated the ending. In part my disdain is because of the fact that it’s one of those endings that just happens, all of a sudden, when you feel like there really should be more to it. But also, I just thought it was a stupid idea for an ending. I get what they were going for; I just didn’t like it. At all.
In conclusion, Judgement was hardly the worst of the Hellraiser line of movies, but it definitely wasn’t one of the best and would have been completely forgettable if not for the judgement scenes. It had some good points, but large chunks of it were very “meh” and I felt that Taylor’s Pinhead was drastically under-utilized. My overall feeling by the end of the film is that I would love to see Taylor team up with the costume crew and whichever insane mind came up with the judgement process for this story, retcon this film, and go for a reboot that hearkens back to the original Hellraiser movie. I’d love to see what they could do with the other original cenobites, especially after getting a tease of Chatterer in a couple of small scenes throughout Judgement.
An okay movie with some very interesting ideas pasted against a mostly underwhelming plot.
Have you seen Hellraiser: Judgement? Let me know what you thought of it in the comment section below!