Assault (7/10)

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A British mystery thriller featuring Suzi Kendall. The more I see of Suzi the more I like her acting and her style. This is by no stretch a great movie. It’s hardly even a good movie but there’s a certain charm to it. For one, is bright and colorful. Not in a Bava lighting sense, but an overall color palette that permeates every frame. Second, the soundtrack is truly awful to the point of wrapping around and becoming ironically funny. It’s like something you’d hear in a 70s television drama. And then there’s the ridiculous plotting. An art teacher thinks she sees Satan killing a teenage girl and she paints Satan in hopes of luring out the killer. Britain is weird. That’s all I have to say.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow (9/10)

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On the surface, this a horror movie about a small mountain town that has been plagued with a number of murders of which many of the locals are beginning to suspect there might be a werewolf involved. But horror takes a backseat to the story of a recovering alcoholic policeman who is desperately trying to emerge from his father’s shadow and prove that he can actually accomplish something in the world besides his drunken fits of rage. Overall there is an underlying comedic tone to the grim goings on. The horror elements feel like they are happening in the background and it isn’t until the end that you realize that it has all been a carefully crafted and subtle build up of clues leading to the final climax. So subtle, that a Agatha Christie style wrap-up may have helped ring the right bells at the end. The point is moot because I would gladly re-watch this in a heartbeat.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst on PC (6/10)

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The original Mirror’s Edge was one of only a handful of games that I had gone back and replayed almost immediately after completing it. It was an excellent game that had you puzzling through levels using parkour skills. This sequel does not hold up to the original at all.

First, it’s open-world. I’m really beginning to dislike this gaming format. It tends to make games longer than they should be by filling game-play with mindless item collection and dull side missions. Also, in Catalyst every place in the world has the same white minimalist design so there is no way to get your bearings. It’s cool art direction but it hinders game-play.

That brings me my second gripe. The first game was built upon well-designed levels. A single object would be colored red and that would guide the player’s eyes in the proper direction. There was just enough there to make the player feel like they were instinctually finding their way through the world when it was all a finely crafted race course. The new game does this dynamically and it just doesn’t work the same. You follow a ghost image which is referred to as your runner’s vision. This really just ends up feeling like following a standard RPG quest arrow.

Finally, the story here is just a dud. Turns out this is a reboot and has nothing to do with the first game (which wasn’t exactly Moby Dick either). It’s not just a grittier retelling or something like that. Faith’s backstory has been changed and now major characters that were good are now bad guys. And, of course, in this world corporations are evil and have no incentive to be good to their customers (let alone not kill them). Lazy, lazy, lazy.

At least the parkour aspects remain pretty solid. I don’t think there have been many new moves added to your repertoire except for maybe swinging around corners and a grappling hook attachment. Combat has improved. There is no shooting and it’s all just fists and kicks. This makes mastering parkour a more integral part of fighting.

In the end though, completing the main mission was about enough for me. I have no desire to test my skill in all the user-created races that pepper the world. Races in which the leaderboard is always topped by some player that managed to complete a two-minute race in twelve seconds. Hmm.

The Fifth Cord (6/10)

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The two big positives of this giallo are: a creepy, abstract Morricone score and lots of wonderfully composed shots featuring various modern/brutalist architecture backdrops. One of these days I need to see that hotel spiral staircase in person (also seen in Dr. Goldfoot and a few other 70s Italian films).

I mostly found the story to be lacking in suspense or even just a basic sense of mystery and intrigue. It think most of this had to do with underdeveloped supporting characters and confusing/bad/unfocused editing. There a scene where a paraplegic woman is stalked by a killer except that they never establish that a killer is actually stalking her. It just becomes woman crawling on the ground for five minutes.

Don’t Torture a Duckling - Wood Engraving

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I ended 2020 with the largest wood engraving I have ever created. This print is the first in a series I am creating in which I encapsulate the plot of a giallo movie in a detailed print. This one is based on Lucio Fulci’s legendary film Don’t Torture a Duckling. The movie is about a small Italian village which is plagued with a series of child murders. The movie can get pretty sleazy, but it’s not the usual gore-fest one would expect from Fulci (with one hilariously bad exception).

The block took me many weeks to engrave and I think I have arthritis now, but it was worth it. I also managed to come close to perfecting my laser print transfer process which made seeing my design much easier than usual. Here are some images of the process:

South and South and South by Landon Knepp (8/10)

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The second book in this series moves along nicely as the various characters continue to do the things they were doing. We still don’t quite know what it’s all about, just that there is deadly evil beyond the borders of the realm and there’s a Wildboy™ who has visions and all that fantasy gobbledygook (please don’t make this a story about The Chosen One). It all very much still feels like set-up, but I enjoyed most of the characters as they each make their way towards their not-so-clear goals.

Hell Bound (5/10)

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1957 noir film about a gangster who organizes a heist of drugs from a ship at sea. The movie opens with the heist taking place perfectly—complete with cheesy narration. This is soon revealed to be a sales pitch film that was created to get backing from the mob. The rest of the film sees the real crew being assembled and, whaddya know, they’re all incompetent. I guess the movie was okay, but all the scenes just seem drag out. Even the final chase is goes on forever and nothing happens.

Hans Baldung Grien: Prints and Drawings by James H. Marrow (9/10)

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An excellent catalog of graphic artworks by this famous student of Dürer. A good chunk of this deals with how Baldung’s work relates to that of his former master. As such, many of Dürer’s and other possible source works are also included for comparison. All art history books should do this. Eventually, Baldung emerges from Dürer’s shadow and his prints are some of the most weirdly fantastic (in both senses of the word) prints to emerge from the Northern Renaissance.

All of Baldung’s images are presented in large and clear reproductions, many of which are printed at actual size. Unfortunately, any of his chiaroscuro prints and drawings don’t quite survive the transition to black and white. Those images end up being murky and difficult to read. A few color plates would have been nice.

As an added bonus, the writing is actually quite interesting with overviews of historical context, related source imagery, and thematic discussion. Not quite your typical drab art history narrative.