Art Book of the Day : FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA by Edwin Lord Weeks

hourofprayer

Less an art book than a travelogue/diary and historical exploration of an at the time still largely mysterious region, FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA is an 1890s scholarly work (done during a time of an earlier Afghanistan War)on that area between the lands of Nubia and Asia that today we call the Middle East, by one of the preeminent artists of the 19th century, Edwin Lord Weeks.

persian-empire-2

I first became aware of his glorious oil paintings when visiting the Richmond Art Museum a couple years back. His HOUR OF PRAYER painting in person, is simply massive in scale, and cannot truly be appreciated except in person (when you stand in front and beneath the painting, it’s like you could walk into it), carrying as it does not just the seminal strokes of a realist at the height of his powers, but the weight of history and a moment of time, and region, and culture (all of which is under threat of going away) preserved here; hauntingly captured.

For more on my first exposure to Edwin Lord Weeks go here!

I have since seen several other Edwin Lord Weeks paintings in person, Weeks was a very prolific artist, and another standout is INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA.

While not as large as HOUR OF PRAYER it is a gorgeous painting at any size, unlike HOUR OF PRAYER where pictures on the web don’t do it justice. Part of what makes HOUR OF PRAYER the award winner that it was, is the play of yourself against its vast spaces. There is an alchemy that happens when you see that picture in person, that is not reproducible on your computer screen. INTERIOR OF THE MOSQUE AT CORDOVA, in contrast, is a far more repeatable image. What you see on the web or in a book, is a good approximation of what you’ll see in person.

edlordweeksml

Along with Virgil Finlay, Robert Duncanson, and Zdzislaw Beksinski; Edwin Lord Weeks quickly became one of those IT artists for me. A massive artistic talent whose work was largely unknown, or under appreciated to this day, and definitely still largely unheralded/uncollected in a comprehensive tome. He became an artist I set out to find books by and about.

Today’s selection is one of those books.

“With the permission from the War Department to visit Central Asia came an urgent telegram from the American legation at St. Petersburg, advising us not to go on account of the cholera which, after devastating Meshed, had left Persia and invaded the Russian provinces. We were then leaving for Constantinople by the Camboge, and finding that she would not proceed to Batoum, by reason of quarantine we were again forced to change our route. This time we elected to follow the old caravan from Trebizond on the Black Sea, to Tabreez, through the mountains of Kurdistan, that country of indefinite boundaries.

In short, there was no other route left open to us; we must either turn back, or, setting our face forward, head straight for the Persian frontier, five hundred miles away, and we decided to go on.”
—-Lord Edwin Weeks, from the preface to FROM THE BLACK SEA THROUGH PERSIA AND INDIA.

Being in the public domain there are numerous variations of this work online. The quality is all a bit less than stellar, as largely it looks to be photocopies of photocopies, and the pencil drawings/sketches that accompanies the words, all a bit muted… still there is enough there to get the brilliance, and you can flip to any page, read a paragraph and be entranced by Weeks’ evident love and romance for the region.

So until a proper tome dedicated to Lord Edwin Weeks is done, for reasons both historical and cultural this 462 page book, to any fan of the work of Weeks, is a must own.

Get your copy here:

From the Black Sea through Persia and India

Nineteenth-Century American Painting: The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

And American Gallery offers a great look at Weeks’ paintings here.


Movie of the Day [Streaming and Blu-Ray] : 3 DAYS TO KILL

three_days_to_kill_ver2_xlg

3 DAYS TO KILL – With over 50 movies under his belt, Kevin Costner continues to mature into a better and better actor. Deftly and pulse-poundingly directed by McG from  a Luc Besson script, 3 DAYS TO KILL is simply a joy from its impressive opening credit sequence to its close.

A great and surprisingly smart and humanistic action-thriller, Costner is compelling as Renner, a man who has grown tired in the killing, and his understated performance is picture perfect, and is but one of an across the board great cast. Add to that vibrant cinematography and an ebullient score, and you have the kind of emotionally rich action movie that Pekinpah  would have made, and that’s high praise indeed.

Catch it free on streaming, then buy the Blu-Ray for the commentary and special features. It’s that good. Grade: A-.

 

REASONS TO GET THE BLURAY: “watched this film on an excellent Blu ray transfer. It comes in a 1080p resolution and a 2.37:1 aspect ratio. Beautifully detailed – check out the gracefully aging Costner face – and provides some terrific panoramic shots of Paris. Colors are excellent. Great picture. The audio is excellent as well. The primary track is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. It works great, especially in the numerous action sequences including the requisite car chase, several gun battles and some close up fighting. Dialog is clear and well positioned. Subtitles are available in Spanish, English and English SDH. Extras include a making-of short, a profile on director McG, a piece featuring a real CIA operative and a trailer. There are 2 options as well as to which feature to watch. The theatrical version and an extended version (5 minutes longer).”–Amazon.com review

 

This is a really beautifully shot film, and depending on time of day or bandwidth issues, that can be lost when viewing via streaming. Which is why I say streaming is a try before you buy medium. When you determine this is a movie you’re going to come back to, that’s when you want to purchase the Blu-Ray.

3 Days to Kill [Blu-ray]

This Weekend’s Favorite Free Roku ON-DEMAND channels and WHY!

This Weekend’s Favorite FREE Roku ON-DEMAND channels and WHY!

 

PBS-

A CHEF’S LIFE – All 13 episodes of the first season of this Farm to Table restaurant series is available. Following Chef Vivian Howard’s journey to establish her dream restaurant in the small southern town where she was born. Recommended, Grade: B.

GREAT PERFORMANCES- A bevy of great filmed theatrical performances among the highlights Patrick Stewart (of Star Trek fame) stars as the title character in MACBETH, and David Tenant (of Doctor Who fame) stars as the young, tragic prince in HAMLET.

MASTERPIECE – Sports some of BBCs best programs, including SHERLOCK

 

HISTORY-

Full episodes of PAWN STARS, INVENTION USA, PAWNOGRAPHY, TOP SHOT, ULTIMATE SOLDIER CHALLENGE, HUMAN WEAPON, THE UNIVERSE, 10 THINGS YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT, FOOD TECH & STAN LEE’S SUPERHUMANS.

A&E-

Full episodes of BARTER KINGS, BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR, STORAGE WARS, LONGMIRE, EXTREME SELL THIS HOUSE, and SHIPPING WARS

 

If you own a Roku you can sign up for these channels here:

http://www.history.com/roku-channel

http://www.aetv.com/roku-channel

http://www.pbs.org/roku/home/

 

ENJOY!!

UNCOLLECTED CLASSICS : DAREDEVIL 126 AND 127! Favorite Comic Books!

daredevil127

daredevil126

UNCOLLECTED CLASSICS : DAREDEVIL 126 AND 127! Favorite Comic Books!

With Netflix and Marvel Studios currently hard at work on a live-action Daredevil TV series, I thought the time was right to highlight some of my favorite Daredevil comics.

This installment is on DAREDEVIL 126 and 127, from 1975, sporting great Gil Kane covers, and a fun Marv Wolfman story with Bob Brown/Klaus Janson, it is one of my favorite Daredevil two-parters. While written for a 1975 audience of kids, it still holds up and builds to a surprisingly poignant ending.

RATING THE EPISODES : KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER Best and Worst Episodes

kolchak


Netflix On-Demand Classic TV: KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER Best and Worst Episodes

THE SENTRY episode of KOLCHAK THE NIGHT STALKER, the last episode of the short lived series and some would argue the worst, is actually a tense, atmospheric, well paced episode. What sinks it is the laughable ‘monster’ creation.

The director does what he can to underplay the ludicrousness of the ‘monster’, showing it as little as possible. I don’t think anyone would argue the monster creation was anything other than a pathetic disappointment even by 1970s standards, that someone should have been fired for.

It is so bad it makes the bargain basement cardboard creatures of early Doctor Who look almost good. Star Darren McGavin rightly pulled the plug on this series when he saw the quality not just dipping, but plummeting.

All that said, despite the poor monster design, this particular episode still works, and is quite engaging and fast paced. As opposed to the oft praised VAMPIRE episode, which I find to be plodding. A solid GOOD, and one that using CGI to draw in a better monster could only help. Grade: C.

THE SPANISH MOSS MURDERS- This is Kolchak at his best, as this episodes mixes the cutting edge dream experimentation studies of the day, with supernatural monster lore, to create a bigfoot sized dream assassin. Quite enjoyable and fast paced. Grade: B/B+.

THE KNIGHTLY MURDERS – the opening to this one does not fill me with confidence. An out of focus suit of armor dispensing out of focus death. But with the appearance of John Dehner as an erudite and forlorn and quixotic Captain, the stock on this episode begins to rise. Add the great Hans Conried as the curator and it becomes just a fun, enjoyable, well-written episode. Really enjoyable. B/B+.

HORROR IN THE HEIGHTS – A very imaginative and smart episode. Add the murder of Jewish elderly, rats, swastikas, Hindu spirits, death that comes like a friend, and the myth of the end of the world, and you have a particularly compelling and enjoyable episode. Of all the monsters that Kolchak has faced this one may be the most insidious. B+.

VAMPIRE – Just a plodding, overrated episode. The only thing this episode has going for it is the very ending, with the audacious, and possibly inappropriate visuals of a cross burning and staking as the solution to Kolchak’s problem.

In fact watching this series all together there is a lot of questionable but reoccurring Nazi and Klan imagery throughout (swastikas in CHOPPED, HORROR IN THE HEIGHTS and burning crosses in VAMPIRE). Grade: D-.

kolchakvpire

CHOPPED – An incredibly fake looking headless horseman helms this poor man’s version of THE WILD ONE. Like VAMPIRE this is a plodding, boring episode. Another embarrassment of a monster design. Grade: D.

You can view the episodes for yourself courtesy of ON-DEMAND or buy the DVD at a savings here:
Kolchak – The Night Stalker DVD

The DVD is worth owning just to have the episodes HORROR IN THE HEIGHTS and THE SPANISH MOSS MURDERS always at your fingertips.

Come back for more RATING THE EPISODES!

COMIC OF THE DAY: Al Ewing and Greg Land’s MIGHTY AVENGERS and the Black White Nick Fury?!


Marvel Comics.

MIGHTYAVN2013001_HitchVar

You know them? They are owned by Disney, they are brother to Marvel Studios that produces those box office shattering movies that have been all the rage for the last several years.

Well Marvel Comics while not the money maker of the film or video division, is the idea-space for those other mediums, and as such has an importance that belies its modest publishing revenue. As such, they are not going any place.

That said they could be doing better. But at every turn the publishing arm seems to be almost antagonistic to their customer base.

Tactics such as over-saturation of the market and expensive cover price of its titles ($4 is way too much to pay for an ad strewn comic with no additional content) translates into the audience (me) making a conscious choice to avoid all their books at best, and limit my consumption to one or two titles at worst.

Enter… THE MIGHTY AVENGERS.

THE MIGHTY AVENGERS by Al Ewing and the criminally castigated and underrated Greg Land is my favorite Marvel Comic, and the only one I purchase monthly.

Now don’t get me wrong there are other Marvel books I like, Aaron’s THOR, Remender’s CAPTAIN AMERICA and UNCANNY AVENGERS, the new MOON KNIGHT and IRON FIST has me interested, and if all those titles were $2.99 rather than $3.99 I would pick them all up. But I really do feel if any company can successfully ‘hold the line at $2.99′[an euphemism for not raising prices]… it is Marvel Comics, and their refusal to do so… is a misplaced arrogance, a belief that the entrenched fan-base will buy the books regardless.

It is a price gouging mentality, and I am proof to the contrary.

Rather than them getting $15 a month from me for five $2.99 comics, they get $3.99 for one comic. That greed, that one dollar extra cover price, has cost them $11 from me, $11 that now gladly goes to Image Comics or Dark Horse Comics.

And more than that, I am now trained to wait. I’ll wait till a Marvel series gets collected and is available at my local library and I’ll read it for free. So yeah Marvel Comics, that $3.99 cover price… here is one concrete case where you have actually lost business because of it. So great job there.

And the one Marvel Comic that I do get, is Ewing and Land’s MIGHTY AVENGERS.

Al Ewing creating a frenetic and pulp-inspired book that every month delivers a satisfying story, and one of the only books on the stands that offers multiple characters of color, treated respectfully (rather than as punch-line’s such as other Marvel Books are doing. Example being ‘Nick Fury’ gate. :).

Movies made workable the character of Nick Fury, by using the popularity of actor Samuel Jackson.

Now Marvel Comics wants to integrate that successful character from the movies with the 1960s comicbook version. So the brilliant way Marvel Comics decides to do that is by labeling the Black Nick Fury as the ‘son’ of the White Nick Fury. Wtf? Really? :).

That’s the direction you’re going? Can you say demeaning, bigoted and stupid? Hey Marvel here’s a solution for you… How about they are both just Nick Fury, with no relationship to each. Nick Fury being a title, like ‘Christopher Chance’ that gets passed to whoever is worthy. Took me two seconds to come up with a better way for both Nick Fury’s to coincide without demeaning and denigrating the Samuel Jackson version.

Who would have thought it would be the movie Marvel Universe that would get it right, and the comic-book Marvel Universe that would increasingly be the disappointment.)

Which is why Al Ewing’s MIGHTY AVENGERS is such a treat and a surprise. Despite being hamstrung with having to participate in Marvel’s various events (could not be less interested in Marvel’s Crossovers) Al Ewing manages to use the handicap of the crossover as a springboard to tell his own highly imaginative and absorbing tales of werechickens (don’t laugh, it’s pretty cool)and inter-dimensional evils, while at its heart always being a very generational story. A book that is about… Fathers and Sons.

Add to this Greg Land, who has had to suffer the recriminations of people with not a fiftieth of his talent, self styled art ‘critics'(parrots jumping on a bandwagon) who unable to create art, and ignorant even of the process, yet think themselves schooled to heckle their betters.

If you think Greg Land uses ‘porn stars’ for some of his inspiration, I would say two things to you, 1/ who cares and 2/you probably watch way too much porn. :).

Every artist from Jack Kirby to Gene Colan had a little stock/trace file, for poses or buildings or cars or fashion. You know why? Because it is a bloody job and stock photography and images are tools, and drawing, making your deadlines, is a job. And being able to take those inspirations, regardless of where they come from, and craft a functional and beautiful story out of it, takes immense talent. Greg Land is an immense talent, and his work on MIGHTY AVENGERS is drop dead gorgeous, brimming as it is with 70s Indie Black Empowerment images.

mightyavengeers

So from writing to art, there is a one-two energy Ewing and Land have going here, that hopefully will continue for sometime. But when and if MIGHTY AVENGERS goes the way of other Marvel Titles, here’s hoping these guys create a similar creator owned title at Image.

I would love to see Al Ewing creating his own pulp-inspired or sci-fi tinged characters, and Greg Land drawing them. For all the good things Image has, a book with a majority of ethnic characters is not one of those things.

Perhaps it is time there was such a book.

So Marvel for all my bashing on them has to be applauded for THE MIGHTY AVENGERS. But if all involved really want the series to grow, 1/add a letters page and back-matter, 2/focus on stand-alone stories primarily, and 3/making it a $2.99 rather than $3.99 book wouldn’t work.

But other than that a fantastic read, month in and month out.

Oh and Al and Greg, two more suggestions, One/change the preamble that starts the book to be something with a little more import and oomph, and two/ Let Luke Cage take back the name Power Man. It’s a good name, and it’s his.

Thanks for reading and if intrigued by the above you can buy back copies of the Mighty Avengers or the Trades here:

http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=24852602&affid=200301p0

http://www.mycomicshop.com/search?TID=25358810&affid=200301p0

Enjoy!

FAVORITE & THE BEST : Favorite July Podcasts! Part 1 of 2!

July’s FAVORITE podcasts Part 1 of 2!

B MOVIE CAST- A great 2+ hours of B-movie celebration. A long running and well enjoyed favorite, that I have praised for years, that I look forward to every week. Consistently one of the best!

COMIC GEEK SPEAK - One of the earliest podcasts and still one of the most popular and enjoyable, this one is a bunch of friends letting you in on their love of all things comics. With closing in on 1500 episodes, this show has seen many changes and many moments memorable and heartfelt. Dedicated to Jamie D, this show will always be one of the best.

FILM SPOTTING - One of the newer movie podcasts I’m trying, after the hiatus of a couple other movie podcasts.

FILM SPOTTING SUV – For those of us who have cut the cable bill and have embraced all things streaming this is an informative listen, keeping you abreast of the latest movies and shows to watch… courtesy of streaming.

HORROR ETC - Another long running show, this Canadian horror movie podcast is up there with B MOVIE CAST as being one of the best, while still being very unique. Always a highly recommended listen.

SIDEBAR – A trio of impressively versed art lovers, helm this excellent process show, with interviews and commentaries of some of the most acclaimed cartoonists, pencilers, painters, etc. A must have addition to anyone’s podcast rotation!