Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski (8/10)

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Season of Storms is a fitting palette cleanse after the main Witcher series thud of an ending. There’s no more Ciri multiverse antics and it’s just a nice solid tale about Geralt that harkens back to the short story compilations. Even though there is an overarching plot, it feels episodic as the various sub-plots are told in discreet chunks. I certainly enjoyed it but opinions around the ‘net are mixed.

The Utopia by Thomas More (7/10)

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This is the first book I’ve read that was written by a saint. It’s the description of an ideal state in which everything is free and everyone is awesome. A lovely thought, but just about everything about the society More envisions is negated by the simple fact that humans are flawed, At least he thought women were people too.

The Devil’s Possessed (5/10)

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Never mind the satanically suggestive title, this is just a cheesy riff on Robin Hood. Naschy plays the king who is convinced by his sorceress wife to abduct and torture village girls in search of everlasting life. The hero of the tale (not Naschy) runs around in tights and does some mediocre swashbuckling. The story has some promise but the end product is just too cheap, dull and flatly filmed to recommend.

Quake II: Remastered on PC (8/10)

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Decades ago I played through Quake II and I remember being quite impressed with the opening cinematic. Starship Troopers was still fresh in my conscienceless and that feeling of being part of a botched invasion and left alone on a hostile planet really struck a chord. With the fancy 3-D graphics, it all seemed so real… and brown. Seeing this new remastered version, despite its many improvements, reminded me of just how primitive this game is compared to what we have today.

Fortunately for Quake II, the actual mechanics of the game are what made it so great. This is the definitive (I loathe this term) Boomer Shooter. Fast motion, twitchy gunplay, barely any attempt at story. The main drawback of the game is its drab and repetitive level designs. This remaster includes a huge, newly created mission pack that proves that the engine is capable of some more creative and non-brown environments. This bonus pack is worth the cheap $10 price tag, but, if that wasn’t enough, you also get the N64 version and two other expansions. Admittedly, by the end of the last expansion, I had quite enough Quake II for this lifetime.

This remaster has widescreen support, better enemy A.I., better lighting effects, and, most importantly, an in-game “quest arrow” system to help you find your way to the exits.

A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (7/10)

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Paul Naschy’s attempt at a black-gloved (and red pants’ed) killer giallo feels like result of a twisted game of telephone. All the cornerstones of the genre are there, but there’s something off-kilter about it all. Naschy plays a cigar chomping cop investigating a series of murders involving drug addicts and prostitutes. Before he knows it, the murders start to affect he circle of hip, pervy friends. The movie has its moments, but they are few and far between and the extremely weak plot does it no favors.

An Ultimatum - Woodcut

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The image here is based on some ideas I had for a more involved piece. Lately, I’ve been reading about and re-visiting a bunch of Goya’s art so highwaymen and other scofflaws were on my mind. I had this small wood block and thought this image of a man holding a knife would look good at that scale.

Process Photos

Hunchback of the Morgue (8/10)

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Paul Naschy is back to his old tricks. Yes, once again he’s killing animals for your cinematic enjoyment. Ok, it’s nowhere near as gruesome as Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, but still, rats are people too. In this one, Naschy plays a hunchback who is teased, put-upon and also happens to work in a morgue. He spends most of the movie needlessly killing people who have wronged him and also unknowingly helping a mad scientist create a blobby monster. This film is weird, gory, and somehow managed to keep my attention throughout it’s runtime.

Two Evil Eyes (5/10)

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This is a horror anthology film featuring two stories, one by George Romero and the other by Dario Argento. The Romero one feels like a Creepshow 2 reject. It’s a standard inheritance plot with the supernatural twist of corpse talking and hypnotism. It does its job but is really too long and has none of the humor and flair of the Creepshow movies. Argento’s offering is yet another in the endless series of Italian directors making a version of Poe’s The Black Cat. This is Argento at his absolute worst. Nothing makes logical sense, Harvey Keitel is absolutely hating having to be in this movie, and gone is any of Argento’s stylism. It’s downright embarrassing to watch.

Fellini’s Casanova (7/10)

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Donald Sutherland is miscast as the titular Casanova in this beautiful looking interpretation of that story. Every colorful frame of this movie is a surreal compositional masterpiece. Unfortunately, the hodgepodge of a story here doesn’t really work and gets downright tiresome for the last third. I guess this is supposed to be a comic satire and maybe it would make more sense if I was better familiarized with Italian sex comedies. It mostly serves as a study of a pompous, arrogant fool whose life is lonely and empty of real meaning despite his many sexual conquests. Huzzah, art!

Exorcism (6/10)

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The Paul Naschy Collection II went on sale and, of course, I had to get it. I’m starting off by watching this obvious cash-in on The Exorcist in which Naschy plays a priest who is asked to help out a young girl who was in a car accident, is dating a druggy, goes to secret pagan ceremonies, and also is possessed by a demon.

As you can see, the make-up effects are pretty great, but you don’t really get to the expected writhing and cursing until the last ten minutes. Most of the build-up to the final confrontation is pretty slow and unimpressive. Sure you get to see a group of naked cultists and a snapped neck or two, however there is no real tension or suspense. I won’t say I was bored and I do love the style, but this could have used a little more effort.