The Shape Of Days Gone By : Paula Lawrie’s “My Geometric Family” #2

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I was thoroughly transfixed by the first self-published issue of Paula Lawrie’s My Geometric Family and her unique approach to blending the surreal with the real to illustrate the beauty and vagaries of the nature of memory in equal measure, and the promise that more installments were forthcoming was exciting news indeed, but I really have to give her credit for getting #2 out so quickly and for not only maintaining the high standard of quality she’d already established, but broadening and deepening the scope of her project and finding ways to increase its thematic resonance in a manner entirely unforced and organic. Simply put, this is an artist who appears to be getting more confident with her vision as she goes — and she was approaching already it with plenty of confidence from the starting gate.

As Lawrie continues her childhood memoir in this issue, the central event affecting…

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Narc (2002, directed by Joe Carnahan)

Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) is an undercover narcotics agent who has spent the last year under investigation for a shooting that went wrong.  Nick was firing his gun at a fleeing drug dealer but he hit a pregnant woman instead.  After 18 months of being caught in administrative limbo, Nick is made an offer.  It’s thought that, with his knowledge of Detroit’s crime and drug scene, that he might be uniquely suited to investigate the murder of another undercover agent, Michael Calvess.  Nick agrees but, in return, he wants a desk job.  He’s got a wife and a baby and he’s tired of putting his life on the line for nothing.  Nick also wants to work with Detective Henry Oak (Ray Liotta).  Oak was one of the original investigators of Calvess’s murder.  Nick is warned that Oak has a reputation for being unstable and out-of-control.  Nick isn’t fazed because he has the same reputation.

Oak turns out to be more than just out of control.  He is the epitome of a bad cop, beating suspects and thinking nothing of threatening to kill a man unless he confesses.  However, Oak gets results.  Oak suggests that you can’t fight crime in Detroit if you play by the rules and Narc is the type of grim and gritty film that doesn’t give you any reason to think that Oak is incorrect.  Oak and Nick investigate Calvess’s death and both of them discover that the department would rather just sweep the case under the rug than actually discover what really happened.  The department just wants someone that they can pin the crime on, not the truth.  Even after the case is officially declared as being closed, Nick and Oak continue their investigation.  Nick, however, starts to suspect that Oak knows more about Calvess’s death than he’s willing to admit.

Narc opens with an amazingly shot chase scene that will leave you breathless and then it just keeps going without once letting up on the intensity.  Narc is a grim and violent film about two damaged men trying to solve a case that no one else cares about.  Jason Patric has never been better than he was in Narc and, while Ray Liotta has played his share of unstable cops, he takes things to whole other level with Narc.  Director Joe Carnahan does such a good job of capturing the decay and desperation of life in Detroit that, even while you’re worried that both Nick and Oak are going to end up going too far in their pursuit of what they consider to be justice, you still can’t help but feel that they’ve both got a point.  Who plays by the rules when the world’s on fire?

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together : Alex Nall’s “Kids With Guns” #2

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

It’s always a tricky thing, when you want to convince people to not just read, but actually buy a comic — yet you don’t want to give much, if anything, of said comic away. Such is the case with the second issue of Alex Nall’s self-published series Kids With Guns, so I guess the best way to go here is to proceed with caution — just as I probably would if confronted by, say, an armed child.

I gave the first issue of this comic high marks, but I was expecting something of a slow burn — the unusual, but for all intents and purposes reciprocal and healthy, inter-generational friendship between 10-year-old Milo and his eighty-year-old neighbor, Mel, was the focal point of that debut installment, and while there were hints that the provocative title Nall chose for this project was going to come into play at some point…

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Love On The Shattered Lens: The Path of the Wind (dir by Doug Hufnagle)

The 2009 film, The Path of the Wind, begins with a man being released from prison and discovering that living in the real world can be just as confining.

Lee Ferguson (Joe Rowley) has spent the last few years locked up, convicted of killing a man.  It was a spontaneous fight and Lee didn’t intend for the man to die but that doesn’t change the fact that Lee is responsible for taking another man’s life.  He was a model prisoner and he intends to be a model citizen.  Fortunately, he’s inherited a nice house and a good deal of money from his father.  He’s also got a job waiting for him, as the well-meaning manager of the local grocery store has agreed to give Lee a chance.

From the minute he leaves the prison, Lee feels out-of-place in the world.  He’s still struggling to control his temper and, because of his past, he’s hesitant about letting anyone get too close to him.  He knows that if he tries to get close to anyone, he’ll eventually have to tell them why, despite his obvious intelligence and education, he’s currently working as a stocker in a grocery store.  And, after he tells them that he’s been in prison, he’ll then have to explain what he did to find himself in that situation.

Still, on his first night of working at the grocery store, he meets a young woman named Katie (Liz DuChez).  When he first sees her, Katie is being harassed by her violent ex-husband.  Lee chases the man off.  It turns out that Katie runs the local video store and she thanks Lee by offering him all of the free movies that he wants.  Eventually, Lee works up the courage to go to the video store and gets a bunch of western DVDs.  Later, he reveals that he not only doesn’t have a DVD player but he’s not totally sure what a DVD player is.  I guess Lee was in prison for a while.

It takes a while but Lee and Katie finally start to date.  Katie opens up about her past as a stripper and Lee finally tells her about the time that he spent in prison.  (It turns out that Katie already knew.)  They fall in love but there are still problems.  For one thing, Katie is rather religious whereas Lee is a committed agnostic.  Secondly, Katie refuses to have sex unless she’s married.  Lee, meanwhile, really, really wants to get laid….

Of course, that’s not all that’s going on in The Path of the Wind.  There’s about a different dozen storylines running through The Path of the Wind and the film doesn’t do a particularly good job of juggling all of them.  Along with having to deal with Katie’s psycho ex-husband, Lee also has to deal with not one but two evil coworkers and his bitter sister.  This is one of those films where a lot of plot points are raised but then mysterious abandoned.  There is one effective scene, in which Wilford Brimley shows up as the father of the man that Lee killed.  Brimley’s only in the film for a few minutes but he brings so much natural authority to his role that he basically takes over the entire movie for the limited amount of time that he’s on screen.

The film’s a bit of a mess but there’s a low-key sincerity to it that’s kind of likable.  According to the imdb, it was made for a budget of $100,000 and, with the exception of Wilford Brimley, the cast is largely made up of amateurs.  That said, both Joe Rowley and Liz DuChez have enough screen presence to be watchable and, even if the dialogue sometimes sounds a bit awkward, they have a likable chemistry and you can believe them as a couple.  Add to that, the film does attempt to deal with a very real issue, the difficulty that ex-cons face trying to rejoin a society that often values punishment and revenge over forgiveness and rehabilitation.  This is an amateur film but it may hold your interest.

The Pan Book Covers of Hans Helweg

Hans Helweg was a Danish illustrator who is probably best remembered for the work he did illustrating Michael Bond’s series of books about a guinea pig named Olga da Polga.  For example:

However, before Hans Helweg brought Olga de Polga to adorable life, he illustrated several covers for Pan Books, a British paperback publisher.  In the 50s and 60s, Pan’s paperbacks was known for their colorful covers, which has since made them highly attractive to collectors.  Helweg was responsible for some of the most colorful.  And since Helweg, as opposed to many other illustrators, almost always singed his work, his covers are some of the most eagerly sought after.

Here are just a few of Han Helweg’s Pan Book covers:

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Lee Marvin Edition

Prime Cut (1972, directed by Michael Ritchie)

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

96 years ago, Lee Marvin was born in New York City.  After getting kicked out of several prestigious prep schools for “bad behavior,” 18 year-old Lee Marvin enlisted in the Marin Corps, was briefly a corporal before getting demoted back to private (again, because of “bad behavior”), and was wounded in action during the Battle of Saipan.  (Marvin was one of the few members of his unit to survive the battle.)  After he was discharged from the Marines, he worked as a plumber’s assistant at a local community theater and, after being asked to temporarily replace an actor who had fallen ill, Marvin decided to pursue a career as an actor.

Marvin became one of Hollywood’s premier tough guys.  He played his share of gangsters, cops, and cowboys but, because of his background, he was a natural for playing military men.  Whether it was The Dirty Dozen, The Big Red One, or The Delta Force, Lee Marvin was a natural leader and brought authenticity to every military role the played.  His final film was The Delta Force, which just happens to be the greatest film ever made.

In honor of Lee Marvin’s birthday, here are:

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962, directed by John Ford)

Point Blank (1967, directed by John Boorman)’

The Big Red One (1980, directed by Sam Fuller)

The Delta Force (1986, directed by Menahem Golan)