Tag Archives: monsters

Trump, El Chapo among most popular Halloween costumes in Mexico

Two of the hottest Halloween costumes in Mexico this year are the country’s most wanted man — and arguably its most hated.

Striped prison jumpers and detailed latex masks representing the mustachioed, twice-escaped drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman are selling like hotcakes ahead of the late October holiday, according to Diego Esponda, CEO of costume maker Caretas REV.

Caretas, which operates a small factory in the city of Cuernavaca, has produced more than 2,600 “El Chapo” masks this month, with many of them being exported to the United States and Canada.

Besides brutal killings and the shipment of huge quantities of narcotics to the United States by his organization, the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel is notorious for breaking out of a maximum-security Mexican prison not once but twice. The most recent was in July when he fled from his prison cell through a sophisticated mile-long (1½-kilometer) tunnel.

Designer Hector Bustos said the idea of producing a costume based on the drug lord began as a dark joke among colleagues but then they thought: Why not?

Its popularity reflects the gallows-humor japes that many Mexicans told following “El Chapo’s” second escape.

“It’s kind of funny, isn’t it: We captured him twice and he escapes twice, right?” Esponda said with a chuckle. “So, you know, we aren’t glorifying anybody. On the contrary, I think this is a wake-up call to the government, which captures him and then he escapes.”

Another popular getup this year is Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul and reality TV star who angered many south of the border this year when he denigrated Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug traffickers and “rapists.”

The unflattering mask captures Trump with mouth agape and caricatures his signature blond hairdo.

“The Donald Trump one is also selling very well in the United States,” Esponda said. “I mean, he is the most hated person right now in Mexico.”

Halloween has traditionally played second-fiddle in Mexico to the Day of the Dead holiday, which takes place Nov. 1. But with each passing year more and more Mexican kids are also dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating the previous night.

Review: No monkey business in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’

Digital characters have by now long populated our movies like unwanted house guests. Some of these CGI inventions, like Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings,” have been pleasant, even precious company. But most have disrupted our movie worlds – and not just as monsters tearing our cities apart, but as awkward distractions to our cinematic realities. The name Jar Jar Binks will forever be followed by solemn head shaking. Never forget.

But in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the tables have turned, and not just because apes now rule a world where all but 1 in 500 humans have been wiped out by a so-called simian flu virus. No, the biggest uprising in the sequel to 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is by those digitally created, nonhuman characters which have finally and resoundingly come of age.

Hail Caesar.

That’s the ape played by Andy Serkis, the motion-capture maestro of creatures like Gollum and a much bigger ape, Kong. Serkis played Caesar in “Rise of the Planet Apes,” the surprisingly good origin story of the rebooted “Apes” franchise wherein chimps, injected with a serum meant to cure human brain damage, develop great intelligence.

Caesar was a fine character then, but in “Dawn,” he shifts to center stage.

It’s 10 years after the last film ended and Caesar is now a weary leader and firmly-rooted family man with a wife, a teenage son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a new baby. Who gets credit for Caesar’s deep, troubled eyes, Serkis or the effects by Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon? Does it matter?

Looking for a dam to restore power for a colony of human survivors, a group (Jason Clarke, Keri Russell) stumbles upon the monkeys’ Muir Woods home in the Redwoods outside San Francisco. The encounter sets off panic on both sides, as the firebrands in each community – the ape Koba, played by Toby Kebbell, and his human corollary, Gary Oldman – urge their species toward battle.

To a surprising degree, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” belongs to the monkeys. In the uncommonly sure-handed fusion of computer-generated and live-action images, apes are the more fully realized, expressive characters. Given that the apes communicate in sign language and spurts of English, this may be the biggest summer movie with so many subtitles.

Whereas Pierre Boulle’s original “Planet of the Apes” was satirical, director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) and screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback have given this “Apes” the grandly gloomy “Dark Knight” treatment, complete with an exceptional score by Michael Giacchino.

The movie feeds off a sense that, given the state of the planet, a reordering of the animal kingdom may be due. There’s a pervasive jealousy to the primates in “Apes”: their comfort in nature and simplicity of life. Audiences, in fact, will cheer the animals over the humans. And few will miss the gun control argument shallowly buried throughout the film. What would Charlton Heston have made of that?

But there’s also a question of putting too much gravity on an essentially absurd story. Eventually we have screaming monkeys on horseback firing automatic weapons amid roaring flames. One is tempted to lean forward and whisper, “`Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,’ your camp is showing.”

It’s gotten to be a very familiar ploy in Hollywood to remake previously light, cheesy entertainments with well-crafted, heavy grandiosity. So if there’s a failing of “Apes,” it’s that it feels like yet another manufactured franchise. Talented people like Reeves and Serkis are brought in like HGTV fixer-uppers to restore mossy pop-culture properties.

But, alas, they’re very good at it.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language.” Running time: 130 minutes. Three stars out of four.

‘Bigfoot’ hair samples from wolves, cows, bears

DNA testing is taking a bite out of the Bigfoot legend. After scientists analyzed more than 30 hair samples reportedly left behind by Bigfoot and similar mythical beasts like the Himalayan Yeti, they found all of them came from more mundane creatures like bears, wolves, cows and raccoons.

In 2012, researchers at Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology issued an open call asking museums, scientists and Bigfoot aficionados to share any samples they thought were from the legendary ape-like creatures.

“I thought there was about a 5 percent chance of finding a sample from a Neanderthal or (a Yeti),” said Bryan Sykes of Oxford University, who led the research, the first peer-reviewed study of Bigfoot, Yeti and other “anomalous primates.” The study was published online Wednesday in the journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Sykes and colleagues tested 36 hair samples from Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Russia and the U.S. using DNA sequencing and all of them matched DNA from known animals. Most were from bears, but there were also hairs from a Malaysian tapir, horses, porcupine, deer, sheep, and a human.

While Sykes said they didn’t find any proof of Bigfoot-related creatures, he acknowledged their paper doesn’t prove they don’t exist.

“The fact that none of these samples turned out to be (a Yeti) doesn’t mean the next one won’t,” he said. The scientists did find two samples from ancient polar bears in the Himalayas, who are not known to live there. That suggests there could be a new or hybrid bear species out there, Sykes said.

Others said proving that Bigfoot is real requires significantly more than a mere hair sample.

“I would want visual or physical proof, like a body part, on top of the DNA evidence,” said Todd Disotell, a professor of anthropology at New York University. He warned Bigfoot enthusiasts not to make assumptions when they find weird things in the forest. “Every mammal in the forest leaves hair and poop behind and that’s what we’ve found,” he said. “Just not the big guy himself.”

Some experts said that if Bigfoot existed, there would be a lot more to find than just a few errant hairs.

“Those who believe in the Yeti, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster need basic instruction in sex,” said Stuart Pimm, an ecologist at Duke University, in an email. “Each Yeti has two parents, four grandparents and so on,” he said. “There should have been herds of (Yetis),” he wrote. “Where were they hiding?”

A quiet zombie drama from Sundance: ‘The Returned’

One exception to the mysteries of death is a certain cold comfort in its finality. “Dead as a doornail” leaves no room for doubt.

But “The Returned” imagines an unsettling alternative: Loved ones back from the grave, stirring things up as they re-enter a community that has moved on without them – or tried to.

Though it inevitably will be branded as another zombie drama, “The Returned” couldn’t be further from “The Walking Dead.” The eight-hour Sundance Channel series, premiering at 9 p.m. EDT on Halloween, is set in a seemingly idyllic French mountain town where a succession of past residents, long dead and buried, begin showing up, as bewildered by what has befallen them as are the locals they want to rejoin.

They aren’t snarling, wild-eyed or decomposing (hold the latex makeup). Each of them – whether the schoolgirl, Camille, a victim of a terrible accident, or Simon, who died on his wedding day, or Victor, a parentless child whose life was brutally cut short – appears just as he or she did in life, frozen in time at the moment it ended.

The return of dead people, however lifelike they may be, disrupts the fragile status quo of the living. No wonder these undead get a mixed reception.

In Camille’s case, her parents, still haunted by her death three years earlier, are hard-pressed to fathom her return to their household, and all the more at a loss to account for it to others. Camille must therefore stay at home, hidden from sight, only heightening her sense of otherness while her twin sister, now three years older, treats her with suspicion and contempt.

And imagine the reception Simon gets from his former fiancee, Adele, still in love with him, and his very different welcome from Thomas, the town’s police captain, who’s now engaged to marry her.

While investigating a gruesome recent murder, Thomas discovers Adele cheating on him with Simon. So, yes, there’s the occasional attack.

But the mood of “The Returned” is elegiac, not bloody. It’s beautifully, meditatively paced. Evocative soundtrack music comes from Mogwai, the Scottish progressive rock band. Even an early, shockingly violent scene takes place at a disinterested remove, displayed to viewers with disturbing detachment.

The message: Pain and fear cut deeper than human flesh.

Last month the A&E network announced it’s developing an American version of “The Returned.” But this is the French original, with English subtitles and actors who will likely be unknown to Sundance viewers. Among these fine cast members are Yara Pilartz as sad-eyed Camille, Clotilde Hesme as wispy Adele and Jean-Francois Sivadier as Pierre, an overzealous community leader.

Cheating death is often seen as life’s highest achievement. But not when those who cheat it don’t fit in. “The Returned” explores the question: How can the living move on when the dead get a do-over?

Online …

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Researcher: Zombie fads peak with societal unhappiness

Zombies seem to be everywhere these days.

In the popular TV series “The Walking Dead,” humans struggle to escape from a pack of zombies hungry for flesh. Prank alerts have warned of a zombie apocalypse on radio stations in a handful of states. And across the country, zombie wannabes in tattered clothes occasionally fill local parks, gurgling moans of the undead.

Are these just unhealthy obsessions with death and decay?

To Clemson University professor Sarah Lauro, the phenomenon isn’t harmful or a random fad, but part of a historical trend that mirrors a level of cultural dissatisfaction and economic upheaval.

Lauro, who teaches English at Clemson, studied zombies while working on her doctoral degree at the University of California-Davis. Lauro said she keeps track of zombie movies, TV shows and video games, but her research focuses primarily on the concept of the “zombie walk,” a mass gathering of people who, dressed in the clothes and makeup of the undead, stagger about and dance.

It’s a fascination that, for Lauro, a self-described “chicken,” seems unnatural. Disinterested in violent movies or games, Lauro said she finds herself now taking part in both in an attempt to further understand what makes zombie-lovers tick.

“I hate violence,” she said. “I can’t stand gore. So it’s a labor, but I do it.”

The zombie mob originated in 2003 in Toronto, Lauro said, and popularity escalated dramatically in the United States in 2005, alongside a rise in dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq.

“It was a way that the population was getting to exercise the fact that they felt like they hadn’t been listened to by the Bush administration,” Lauro said. “Nobody really wanted that war, and yet we were going to war anyway.”

The mid- to late 2000s also saw an uptick in overall zombie popularity, perhaps prompted in part by the release of post-apocalyptic movies including “Dawn of the Dead” and “28 Days Later.”

As of last year, Lauro said, zombie walks had been documented in 20 countries. The largest gathering drew more than 4,000 participants at the New Jersey Zombie Walk in Asbury Park, N.J., in October 2010, according to the Guinness World Records.

“We are more interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered,” Lauro said. “And the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast population is feeling disempowered. … Either playing dead themselves … or watching a show like ‘Walking Dead’ provides a great variety of outlets for people.”

But, Lauro pointed out, the display of dissatisfaction isn’t always a conscious expression of that feeling of frustration.

“If you were to ask the participants, I don’t think that all of them are very cognizant of what they’re saying when they put on the zombie makeup and participate,” she said. “To me, it’s such an obvious allegory. We feel like, in one way, we’re dead.”