Two For Cat Lovers : “Cat-Tropolis”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

How are you feeling lately? Stressed? Overwhelmed? Worried? Anxious? There’s no shame in that — we all are, by and large, I’d safely wager. And while there may not be a cure for COVD-19, last year the great veteran cartoonist David Lasky prepared, and self-published, a cure in advance for all of your entirely understandable psychological woes in the form of a deluxe, generously-sized illustration ‘zine called Cat-Tropolis.

Unless, ya know, you don’t like cats — in which case, your opinion holds no weight around these parts, nor among cultured, civilized peoples in general. But hey, good luck with everything, regardless.

Musical cats, astronaut cats, robot cats, detective cats, mad scientist cats, super-hero cats, Log Lady cats, Bowie cats, Cobain cats — and even cats just doing everyday cat stuff, some drawn in black and white, others in lush color, are what this book is all about, and I…

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Two For Cat Lovers : “Dramatic Paws”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Believe it or not, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with comics that are just fun, cute, and charming. It may not be cool to admit this in public, but nevertheless — it’s a fact.

I’m assuming that Elena Fox’s 20-page mini Dramatic Paws, published in 2019 by Atomic Books, is autobiographical in theory — she is, after all, the nominal “star” of the show — but there’s plenty of the sort of exaggeration for comic and/or dramatic effect that her type of classically-influenced “humor strip” cartooning both makes a wide berth for and, crucially, excels at. She’s a musician, so comics are only one medium she creates art in, but I’ll just cut to the chase early here and say that this is strong enough work that it leaves me hoping to see more from her in the not-too-distant future.

Her trials and travails are, admittedly, nothing too out of…

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Ministry of Vengeance (1989, directed by Peter Maris)


David Miller (John Schneider) is a former soldier who served in the Vietnam War.  Though David managed to survive the war, the majority of his platoon did not and he is still haunted by the day when he was forced to blow up a kid who was working for the VC.  After getting out of the army, David renounces violence and war and he becomes an Episcopal priest.  (His denomination is never really made clear but he wears a collar and he’s got a family so I assume he’s Episcopal.)  He marries Gail (Meg Register) and they have a daughter named Kim (Joey Peters).  Eventually, the Millers find themselves in Rome, where David works with a kindly minister named Hughes (George Kennedy) and preaches the word of the God and the gospel of nonviolence.

Unfortunately, the Millers just happen to be in an airport when it’s attacked by a group of terrorists led by Ali Aboud (Robert Miano).  As David watches, Aboud personally executes his wife and daughter.  Though David survives the attack because Aboud says, “Leave the priest alive!,” his faith is shaken and he goes from renouncing violence to renouncing peace.  After the local CIA agent (Yaphet Kott) refuses to tell David the name or the location of the terrorist who killed his family, David just happens to open up a magazine and finds himself staring at a picture of Ali Aboud.  Ministry of Vengeance may claim to be about faith but it’s mostly about coincidence.

After David discovers that Aboud is in Lebanon, he decides it’s time for him to fly over and dispense some “eye for an eye” justice.  First, David has to get trained by his old drill instructor (James Tolkan).  Once he’s back in fighting shape, David heads off to Lebanon, little aware that Aboud is actually a CIA informant and that the agency is prepared to kill to protect its assets.

Ministry of Vengeance is one of those direct-to-video films where the majority of the budget was spent on getting a handful of “name” actors to make a brief appearance and give the entire production the feel of being a legitimate movie.  So, along with George Kennedy and Yaphet Kotto, Ned Beatty shows up as a quirky minister in Lebanon while Prince’s former protegee, Apollonia Kotero, plays Beatty’s daughter.  None of them get to do as much as you might like.  It’s always good to see Kotto, even if he’s appearing in a bad film, but his role here is mostly just a glorified cameo.  Most of the film is about John Schneider, trying to balance his faith with his desire for vengeance.  That’s a potentially interesting angle to bring to the story but the movie’s handling of the issue is shallow.  David has doubts about his mission but only when it’s convenient for the film’s narrative.

There are a few good action scenes.  James Tolkan is a blast in the R. Lee Ermey roll of the hardass drill sergeant.  Otherwise, Ministry of Vengeance is as forgettable as a guest sermon.

The International Lens: Polytechnique (dir by Denis Villeneuve)


On a snowy day in Montreal, a nameless young man (Maxim Gaudette) wanders about a cramped apartment.  He loads a rifle.  He drives to his mother’s house and leaves a note in her mailbox.  He goes to École Polytechnique, the engineering school where he’s a student.  Leaving the rifle in his car, he walks around the school.  He stares at the students in the cafeteria, observing them with a hatred that they might not notice but which we’ll never forget.  He goes back outside.  He sits in his car while the snow continues to fall.

As we watch him, we hear him reading the suicide note that he’s written  for the authorities.  He talks about his belief that the world has been destroyed by feminists.  He writes that he’s offended that he is expected to compete with women and that women have an unfair advantage in both the academic and the professional world.  He brags about the good grades that he gets, despite the fact that he rarely attends school.  He says that he’s never fit in with the world and that woman are to blame.  He complains about women competing at the Olympics, showing that he views everything through the filter of his own misogyny.  At one point, he apologizes for not being as eloquent as he believes he could be.  He explains that he only had 15 minutes to put down his thoughts.

Inside the school, another engineering student, Jean-Francois (Sébastien Huberdeau ) struggles to complete an assignment before his next class begin.  He sits in the cafeteria with open books scattered across the table in front of him.  Later, we’ll see Jean-Francois running through the hallways of the school, trying to warn the other students that something terrible is happening.  He’ll run to a security officer and ask him to call the police, just to be given a somewhat confused look in response.  Later still, we’ll see Jean-Francois outside of the school, visiting his family and haunted by guilt.

One of Jean-Francois’s classmates, Valerie (Karine Vanasse), goes to a job interview where the older male interviewer states that he’s shocked that Valerie wants to go into engineering after graduation.  Most women, he says, don’t do that.  It’s a profession that requires a lot of hard work and it’s not ideal for someone who wants to start a family.  Stunned, Valerie lies and says that she doesn’t have any desire to start a family.  Throughout the film, we watch as Valerie stop several times at her locker so that she can switch shoes.  When she has to deal with stuff like her job interview, she puts on high heels that are obviously very uncomfortable for her.  When she just wants to go to class, she has to stop and switch to shoes that she can actually walk in and, at that moment, I knew exactly what she was feeling.  Every woman watching will instantly know what she’s going through.  Later, she complains to her friend and roommate, Stephanie (Evelyn Brouchu), about how condescending the interview was.  Stephanie tells her not to obsess on it.

Outside, the snow continues to fall in the night, creating a bleakly cold landscape and making Montreal look like a barren and bombed-out wasteland.

Later, we’ll see Jean-Francois arriving late for a class.  Valerie and Stephanie are already in the class, listening to the lecture.  Not long after Jean-Francois claims his seat, the unnamed man steps into the room, carrying his rifle.  He orders the males to gather on one side of the room and the women on the other….

These are the moments and images that stick with you, long after the 2009 Canadian film, Polytechnique, concludes it’s brief 77-minute run time.  It’s a haunting film, definitely not one to watch if you’re already feeling depressed.  What makes it especially disturbing is that it’s based on a true story.  On December 8, 1989, an Algerian-Canadian student opened fire at École Polytechnique in Montreal.  (The film does not name the killer and I won’t either, because to name him without naming his victims does a disservice to their memory.  Those who really want to know his name are free to look it up on Wikipedia.)  As seen in the film, the gunman specifically targeted women and even ordered all of the males in the classroom to leave before he opened fire.  Also, as seen in the movie, the men did just that, with not a single one trying to stop the gunman or warn others until they were already out of the classroom.  The character of Jean-Francois stands in for all of the men who were haunted by their decision to leave.  As I watched the film, I had mixed feelings about the men who left that classroom.  Yes, the gunman was armed but there were enough men in that classroom that it’s hard to justify the fact that not a single one attempted to intervene.

Before shooting himself in the head, the gunman killed 14 women and wounded 10 women and 4 men.  It remains the deadliest mass shooting in Canada’s history.  When the police found his body, they also found a suicide note in his pocket, the same note that we hear read at the beginning of this film.  In memory of the lives lost, the anniversary of the massacre has been commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Poltytechnique, which is dedicated to those who died, was directed by Denis Villeneuve, long before he would come to America and make a name for himself with films like Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049.  Polytechnique is filmed in harsh black-and-white and Villeneuve skips around in time, often showing us the consequences of the killer’s actions before showing us the actions themselves.  It’s an approach that reminds us that the Montreal Massacre and all other acts of violence are events that will forever haunt us.  The past will always cast a shadow over both the present and the future.

As I said, it’s not a happy film but perhaps not every film needs to happy.  With Polytechnique, Villeneuve mourns for the lives lost on that day in 1989 and he encourages us all to try to create a better world for the future.

Zombies run amok in the Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula teaser!


Whoa!! It looks like we have a sequel to 2016’s smash hit, Train to Busan! Train to Busan Presents Peninsula takes place four years after the events of the original film. The zombies have taken over the land, and what’s left is more of a post-apocalyptic setting, with armored vehicles and cage matches. Director Yeon Sang-Ho returns for this update.

A Release Date hasn’t been set, though we’re told the film is coming soon. Until then, enjoy.

Music Video Of The Day: Stacy’s Mom by Fountains of Wayne (2003, directed by Chris Applebaum)


Adam Schlesinger, R.I.P.  Fuck COVID-19.

Adam Schlesinger wrote this song and he intended for it to be a tribute to the Cars.  The opening guitar riff was meant to sound like the riff from Just What I Needed.  The video itself is full of references to the Cars.  Keep an eye out for the license plate that reads, “I ♥ RIC,” not to mention the the boy in the opening scene who appears to be meant to be an adolescent version of Ric Ocasek.  Schlesinger even invited Ocasek to appear in the video but Ocasek never replied to the invitation.

The video also pays homage to Fast Time At Ridgemont High, with Stacy’s mom taking the place of Phoebe Cates.  Stacy’s mom is played by Rachel Hunter, so who can blame the main character for having a crush?  Apparently, before settling on Hunter, the band hoped to cast Paulina Porizkova in the role.  Porizkova was, of course, married to Ric Ocasek.

Enjoy!

Thank you for the music, Adam.