EPISODE 7 HAS IT’S DIRECTOR!

 

jj-abrams-star-wars-episode-7Now we have it; JJ Abrams is now been picked to direct, once again, one of the most anticipated films in history- STAR WARS: EPISODE VII! My mind is blowing out having just now wrote that!

Not since Dylan went electric has there been a bigger brouhaha over who will direct Episode 7. The nerd community went ape-poop-crazy, dropping names like they actually knew the people- everyone who has held a camera in the last ten years was ‘vetted.” Some inspired choices like David Fincher, Matthew Vaughn, but some truly awful choices, Tim Burton and Jon Faverue, anyone? No! Of course not!

One that kept popping up and then was denied, was JJ Abrams.  A lot of nerds freaked their shit out considering he’s in charge of Star Trek at the moment and one man can’t be in charge of both. For some vociferous nerds, this feels like a Bryan Singer situation when he had two excellent X-Men films under his belt, was prepped for Part 3, but bolted in 2005 to make “Superman Returns.” That situation had two casualties, X-Men 3: Last Stand” has not gained any popular votes since its release and will probably be “erased” thanks to the forthcoming, “X-Men: Days of Futures Past.” Directed by ironically by Singer, who it seems is going to right the biggest snafu of his career.  “Superman Returns,” a film I like; hardly terrible, but understand its mostly cool reception that left many fans dissatisfied and annoyed at Singer for nearly killing two franchises.

This is hardly Abram’s situation. He’s just a very lucky nerd given two nerd properties that fans love with a great deal of passion, pain and history.  With two Trek’s under his belt and now he’s bolting for Star Wars, it’s easy to see a Singer comparison, but things are considerably different as this is F****** Star Wars and any fool to blame Abrams for leaving his Trek universe is a Shad-like Fool!

Abrams deserves this for several reasons. He brought Trek from the cinematic dead basically in 2009 and for all intents and purposes, and most likely by design, made his version of “Star Wars.”  Abrams was disliked for this by many trekkers, but a lot of fans, myself included, dug what he was doing as it was needed. Audiences loved it and made it the most successful film ever starring a Spock and Kirk.

And now Abrams has been put into a nerd-size dilemma as big as the Death Star since being tapped for Director of Episode 7. I feel sorry for the man, from this point forward, he will soon take Uncle George’s place up-top the Nerd sacrificial cross, alongside Ridley Scott and Peter Jackson. Henceforth, he will be dragged, beaten and called all kinds of names simply for taking the job and far worse will happen once the movie is released and his work will be dissected with more scrutiny than the Kennedy/Zapruder film.

Per usual the geeks don’t know what they speak of nor do they research, assuming and declaring things that are irrelevant to the situation without simple investigation. Let’s jump in the way-back machine to 1979 when “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” was headed into production. George Lucas at that time had struck not only cinematic gold, but created a pop-culture phenomena and was fool-enough to make a sequel to the then-most successful film of all time. He was tired, worn out and needed to take it easy the second time around so he hired a director; bankrolling the film himself he hired an old friend from his USC days, Irvin Kershner.

To many of you who just now said WHO? I say exactly!!!!

Who was Kershner? His resume is rather unimpressive; “Up the Sandbox” with Barbra Streisand is the most famous pre-Empire film he directed, but it was a box-office flop and a sequel to the western, “A Man Called Horse,” titled “Return of the Man Called Horse.”

Still Lucas felt he was the right choice, giving his reasons for picking him as, knowing everything a Hollywood director should know, but wasn’t Hollywood. Lucas also liked Kershner’s focus on character development, thought he would be great with the actors and liked him personally. He was right.

The rest is history as they say, as Kersh directed the most esteemed entry of the entire series. It’s a masterpiece, of fantasy genre- nay, of any genre. Striking, bold colors, murky, threatening and dark themes and tones. The emotions are turned up to complex levels as the characters are taken to extremes and put in constant danger. Wild alien characters, thrilling action, deeper emotions and through-provoking narratives blew the minds of fans in 1980 and continue to do so. It was a good thing Kersh did such a stellar job as his follow-ups did nothing to remind us he directed a Star Wars movie. “Never Say Never Again,” with Sean Connery as Bond and “Robocop 2,” the latter being his final theatrical directing gig, were tedious at best. Hell, his final directing gig period was an episode of the piss-awful television series, Sea Quest! Not with a bang, but a whimper!

My point to all this is to shut the naysayers down with the disagreement; Kersh was far lesser known as Abrams at this point and as stated above, his resume far less impressive and yet look what he accomplished. No one had a clue as to what this guy was capable of, but what he did have was Lucas’s guiding hand and a flawless script by Lawrence Kasdan, but still, comparing the two, there is no comparison. Abrams too has Lucas and Kasdan so there should be no worries!  Take “Empire” from Kersh’s resume and he’d be remembered as possibly a competent director, but not a memorable one.

JJ Abrams’s resume is not without a few turds; his television series “Felicity” was about as fun as an autopsy on a baby and I hated “Lost” for the most part, yet a very popular series with a lot of fans and the critics so….no worries. On the good side, he did “Fringe” one of the best science-fiction series in years. His years as show-runner on “Alias,” are flawless…. Super 8” was a fantastic little nostalgia ride into the 80’s and is the best Spielberg movie not directed by the Beard.

Plus, his former mentors were Kathleen Kennedy, former Spielberg producer and now the boss, head of Star Wars and the Beard himself, Steven Spielberg, who is good, from what I hear…. Not too shabby so the nerd rage needs to stop. The Phantom Menace can no longer be their excuse for their life failures and embracing of empty values. Move along!

Now things have gotten serious as he preps for directing duties on Star Wars: Episode Episode VII (I can’t believe I just wrote that!). What I hope and what I want is what all the fans expect- a great, memorable film. Let’s keep the style in check, no stupid violent camera shakes or choppy editing, or inappropriate forgettable music- that’s what I don’t want. Everything else- SURPRISE ME!

Good luck, JJ!

 MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

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Best & Worst of 2012!

 

 

 

 The Avengers – Marvel’s best picture to date! A new gold standard has been set by Writer/Director Joss Whedon’s whose trademark snark fits perfectly with the always squabbling Earthiest mightiest heroes. Perfectly cast and performed, this is what summer entertainment, and comic book heroics are all about. Certainly not a game changer creatively, but definitely one to emulate- what a magnificent ride! Almost nostalgic in its transportation effect of recalling bigger and better summers of years past. A unique contender as it entered into the exclusive billion dollar box-office club, a feat well earned.

Skyfall- James Bond at 50, the 23rd entry in the franchise and 007 has never been better. Directed by Sam Mendes, this wonderfully gritty character study has some of the finest moments the franchise has ever seen. A great villain in the form of Javier Bardeem plays it to the hilt, (hints of Ricardo Montalhban for future reference) without taking it too far. Wonderful shot in the arm; dark, agile, and scattered with moments of unanticipated visual genius. Judi Dench steals the show as M, but Director Mendes is the true star as his brings a sheen of classiness; his approach is elegant – no manic editing and blurry unintelligible images here – but what makes the movie special is the attention he pays to the characters. Not since the also brilliant “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” has Bond been so open, interesting- human. 

We Have to talk about Kevin – Bleak and very prophetic, the shootings in Colorado and Connecticut reverberate here. This is not exploitation, but a smart and exhaustive examination of a meaningless, horrible act. Tilda Swinton plays the mother of the son convicted of unspeakable acts. Despite its oppressive sadness, the film is enormously compelling and never takes the Lifetime Movie of the Week route with trite emotional gushers.

Bernie– Jack Black gives his finest performance as Bernie Teadme, a guy nice who murdered the town’s meanest resident played by Shirley MacLaine. Directed by Richard Linklatter, this twisted little black comedy is based on a real and true story. Matthew McConaughey is hilariously sleazy as the town’s District Attorney. Surprisingly funny despite its morbid outcome.

John Carter – Disney bungled the marketing of this film to colossal proportions. Had they left the title alone, “John Carter and the Princess of Mars,” they might have had a franchise on their hands, despite its failure, the film is tons of fun. Excellent special effects and a capable performance in lead Taylor Kitsch. I say capable because no one goes to see films like this to get Lee Strasberg’s style acting.  Inspired action and plenty to get a thrill from as the seeds for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones are buried within. A film that will gain its respect in the decades to come.

Moonrise Kingdom– Director Wes Anderson has a style all his own. Like David Lynch he has a bent sense of humor that is lost on most people. His best film to date, the joys and pains of first love, and the adults who seem to get in the way.  Interjected with his trademark wit and whimsy; his sense of the absurd, and his singular visual style is at peak performance. Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand lead the cast.

Cabin in the Woods– It was definitely Joss Whedon’s year; co-written by the man of the hour, he does what Scream did 15 years ago (but far better) by removing the guts of the horror genre, examining them, poking fun and shoving them back in for future use. Funny and ingenious, the film nearly was lost in a studio bankruptcy having been completed in 2009. Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins are excellent and a genre favorite makes a clever cameo.

Prometheus – Ridley Scott returned to his sci-fi roots, the ALIEN universe to bring a long-awaited prequel, this time detailing the Space Jockeys, Misunderstood by most of the geek community, as they leveled stupid, ignorant gripes that are answered by doing something miraculous- PAYING ATTENTION TO THE MOVIE!  Scott’s visual eye is unrivaled; magnificent in every scene, a real eye-popper. It’s not without some narrative weight to throw around and chew on after the movie is done. An excellent film, Roger Ebert agrees!

Django Unchained – Tarantino gives out some genre love with his cross-pollinating of spaghetti western and blacksplotation; using plot points from the trashy 1976 Mandingo;” he creates a fascinating monster that underscores the horror of slavery while showcasing the strength of the human spirit. Not nearly as talky and tedious as “Basterds,” but a tad too long in the running time. Still it’s worth the effort, some outstanding performances make this his best film since “Kill Bill.” Jamie Foxx in the title role and Samuel L. Jackson as Steven, the foul-mouthed Major Domo to Candyland, are the two best performances with Leonardo DeCaprio having a great time as Plantation owner, Calvin Candy. Despite this fantasy, it’s one that truly clatters the chains of slavery, confronting not just the racist expectations but also the economic power structure that buttressed it — the ironies, duplicities and sinister evils that permitted the system to thrive for so long. Only Tarantino could take such an ugly chapter in human history and make it enjoyable. It’s an emblematic, even epitome of the Tarantino strategy: to take two obsolete, infamous genres, dust them off and mash them together into a digestible meal.

Lincoln – Daniel Day Lewis stars the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. Unusual for Lewis, his performance is surprisingly low-key, very well-modulated as is the Directing by Steven Spielberg who could have taken this to the extremes by revering Lincoln to a sickening and untruthful degree. Sally Field is excellent as she grapples with Mary Todd’s fragile emotional stability. Not necessarily the best version of Abe’s life, but a damn good one as DDL makes him about as real and human as we’ve ever seen. A wonderful look at how our government if used for noble intentions, can work miracles. Abe’s moments with his son Tad, cuddling with him on the floor are profound in their simplistic way. James Spader and Tommy Lee Jones offer great support as Abe’s opponents in the Senate.

 

Best Comedies 

 That’s My Boy – At this point in his career, Adam Sandler is Jay Leno. Tired, lame, irrelevant and enormously unfunny…left to his own devices he is the worst. Formula pays the bills and his ego and the nice guy schmaltz take over and render his comedies instantly forgettable and clichéd.  Except when he pushes himself, like FUNNY PEOPLE and PUNCH DRUNK LOVE– he’s funny as hell when he doesn’t play it safe. Ignored by audiences and trashed by critics, I’m not sure what the beef was; this is far and removed from the pain of JACK & JILL as it takes come real chances and goes for the juggler to get its laughs, some of the most un-PC laughs might I add of any recent film. Andy Samberg offers great support and plenty of SNL alumni, make cameos, the best part- NONE for David Spade or Chris Rock!

Ted – Seth McFarlane has finally branched out in this love letter to the geeks who grew up in the 80s. With appearances and references to Bond, Indiana Jones, Star Trek and Star Wars. Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis are fantastic, have some great jokes; infinite rewatchability. Who would have thought that Sam J. Jone’s best performance would be playing Flash Gordon– again! Love this movie!

21 Jumpstreet – The trend of adapting long dead television series into mediocre movies is a trend that was on the go-bye due to massive suckage, except this time it works. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum team up as youthful looking cops who go back to high school to stop a drug ring. It follows all the usual action-comedy tropes, but with tons of wit, great supporting performances; Ice Cube being the stand-out and the most important- great jokes.

The Dictator – Sasha Boron-Cohen is attacked by a female assassin that uses her breasts as the weapon…exactly!

 

Best Re-Releases:

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D– An impressive box-office take of $100 million worldwide- not bad for a movie that is supposedly hated. Per usual, the crybaby losers are wrong and the pod race and Maul saber duel rocks it-again…

Raiders of the Lost Ark IMAX – Only two films have ever impressed me on the IMAX screen; this one and Prometheus. ‘Nuff said.

 

Best Television

Dallas– A sleeping dragon was awaken in the form of Larry Hagman as oil baron J.R. Ewing as he headlined the revival of televisions biggest phenomena when it returned in  the summer to TNT. Picking up twenty plus years after the original ended; “Dallas” (The Next Generation) is vastly agreeable, a snarky cauldron bubbling over with oil and sex, power and betrayal; just as it was all those years ago. And there is a sense that, in spite of the new faces and the injection of some 21st-century pace, sensibilities underneath everything, it’s still the same old same old and that’s exactly how it should be. With the passing of Larry Hagman in November, the show’s challenge will be to carry on and thrive if that’s even possible without him.

Biggest Disappointments

 

The Dark Knight Rises

Chris Nolan’s movie was a victim of the previous entries near-perfection. On my initial viewing I thought Nolan had pulled it off, broke the third-in-the-trilogy curse that nearly all superhero films have suffered; Superman III, Spider-Man III, Batman ForeverRises is not nearly the epic failure as those, but for its pedigree earned, it should have known better and makes mistakes too freely. It’s mind-boggling in the ineptness that sneaks through. The narrative being fractured and spread out; why do the cops stay in their underground “jail” for so long and yet don’t change in appearance….when Bane breaks the Batman’s back, sends him off to the pit- how much time has passed? How long did it take to heal? And yet during all of this Gotham is held hostage by Bane and his goons… there is no clear timeline and the film feels like a total mess….

 

Trouble with the Curve

Clint Eastwood returned to acting for the first time since “Million Dollar Baby,” and he seems very bored. He plays a baseball scout on his way out and estranged from his daughter. I was surprised by the film’s overall dull vibe. Eastwood can usually make any line work, and sell it if needed, but here he strains to find good words to speak. Amy Adams as his daughter is the best, full of piss and vinegar, she is a real doll.  At 80 plus years old, Eastwood is always a welcomed force and his talent appreciated, but he needs to stick to his pledge of ‘no more acting.’

 

Worst:

Piranaha 3DD- The first film knew what it was and knew its boundaries, it embraced its B-movie orgins and exploited it with a fair amount of skill and fun. Part 2 is a parody of the first and is about as subtle as a Benny Hill sketch, only not nearly as funny. 

This Means War– Chris Pine and Tom Hardy star as friends, who are really spies, and fall for the same woman. The problem is that they are written as gay guys really in love with each other, they just don’t know it. Neither romantic nor comedic- the attempt is forgettable.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance– Ugh! Hard to believe it could be worse than the first, but it is…it is. Nic Cage has got the formula down pat on playing freaks, weirdoes and oddballs, he does a good job of playing up the absurdity of it all, but he doesn’t know when to quit. Ghostrider is a cool character, if only the producers would get off the campy, wink-wink garbage, we might have something…

Wrath of the Titans– More noisy eye-rape that makes even less sense than the pointless first. Ugly cinematography, bland special effects and incoherent editing, render this horribly forgettable.

Parental Guidance– What would Christmas be without a terrible holiday release? Not sure why Billy Crystal continues to get work with his very mediocre resume, but Mr. Box-office Poison proves his comedy is still antediluvian as it ever was. Bette Midler held hostage for 90 minutes proving to everyone she will do anything for money as well. Typical, family claptrap with emotions and sentiments about as subtle as a Benny Hill skit.

The Hunger Games– A stale rip-off of the The Running Man, written for pre-teen girls. Obnoxious, ugly. Despite its well-earned swipe at Liberalism, yet once again, infinitely forgettable.

Project X– Mean-spirited and insufferable, this yet another entry in the found footage genre fails to do anything but bother and annoy. All of the teen movie tropes are here, but the characters are all unlikeable and occasionally psychotic douchebags seeking selfish goals. The worst humanity and the genre has to offer.

Killing Them Softly– Someone forgot to write a third act and an opportunity for greatness was lost! This heist movie has some cool moments, and it’s always good to see Ray Liotta working, but too much talk and no action bring this to a crashing bust. Monotonous- forgettable dialogue, uninteresting characters, yet occasionally stylish is ruined by an obnoxious pointless performance by James Gandolffini and one boring performance from Brad Pitt. If the script read as dismal as it would be watching the movie, why did this get made at all?

 

Worst Remakes

Total Recall – The original had the charms and talents of Director Paul Verhoven and star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The remake has nothing and lacks the intricate plotting, wry humor, thrilling wild violence and bizarre, (Quado, anyone?) fleshed out characters that made the original a sci-fi classic.

Red Dawn – A foreign country invades the shores of the pacific northwest-high school kids from a small town band together, hide in the woods and fight them off. The original film was a bit on the far-fetched side, but had a nice pro-American message. The remake is stupid from the ground up. Korea is the invading force…..KOREA? I guess in Obama’s weak-ass era, they seem like a deadly force. The movie is just deadly dull.

The Worst thing ever in 2012

The re-election of President Barack Obama. Not since Jimmy Carter has an incumbent President had a worse performance record. The economy was in the toilet in most parts of the country, debt had accumulated to $16 trillion in a mere 3 and half years. Yet every loser, lazy moron, idiot, cement-head, half-wit, nit-wit, drooling shithead who apparently hates to work, got their wish. If ever there was a need to dump the Electoral College, this is it! I don’t think we can take 3 and half more years. It will take at least two generations to clean this idiot’s mess up.

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John Dies at the End

John Dies at the End is a fun, sometimes clever mash-up of Army of Darkness, Phantasm, the Winchester brothers of Supernatural, with hints of Re-Animator and a dash of The Naked Lunch. It’s bizarre, often times makes zero sense, but it’s a memorable ride!

Dave Wong (Chase Williamson) meets reporter Arnie Blandstone (Paul Giamatti) late one night in an empty Chinese restaurant. Dave has a story to tell, about the arterial ichor nicknamed “soy sauce,” and how this strange new drug can allow users to see through time and communicate with the dead. Before Arnie’s night is over, he’ll hear the details of how Dave and friend John (Rob Mayes) used the sauce to combat flesh-eating slugs, an inter-dimensional invasion and a monster built entirely out of frozen dinner meats. And as the coils of Dave’s weird tale roll around Arnie and gradually pull tighter, it becomes apparent that Arnie really isn’t going to like how this story ends…

Hard to believe this is director Don Coscarelli’s long-gestating follow-up to his acclaimed 2002’s Bubb Ho-Tep that is best categorized as a comedy/horror rather than horror/comedy. The man has made some of my favorite B movies of all time; going back to the late 70’s with Phantasm and the 80’s cable favorite, The Beastmaster. His output has been a bit low compared to his contemporaries and he’s gotten a lot of mileage out of just few films, (no more so however than Tobe Hooper) but that’s because you get something a little extra with Coscarelli, he doesn’t cheat on the action, humor, delivers great performances and t gore or whatever the story requires and JDATE is no different. Not a gross out or scare fest per say- it’s far more interested in getting off a good joke and that’s fine, nearly all horror movies today lack any kind of distinction and are forgettable as soon as you leave them. Based on the bizarre book of the same name, Coscarelli’s mission is to entertain, he throws everything in the mix; zombies, giant bugs, insects, a giant door-knob penis (don’t ask, just watch) bloodsucking slugs, monsters with tentacles, reanimated corpses, mask-wearing naked cult followers and exploding heads- all played for laughs of course. It’s funny, always disgusting and usually inventive. The humor dries about a third into the flick, but the effects sustain it and you can’t help but enjoy the chaos as it pelts you with one freak show after another. Call it cheap, call it sick, call it irresponsible, but Big Daddy Don knows, despite my gripes, how to get the most out of a B movie budget. He gets more entertainment value and effects from just a few million dollars, which in today’s economics- that’s dirt cheap, than most Directors can with $200 million- (Michael Bay, Tim Burton, Brett Ratner- I’m talking to YOU!)

The leads are very good, Chase Williamson as Wong and Rob Mayes as John Cheese, but the familiar faces are what’s the treat; Paul Giamatti, investigating the kids wild claims about the ‘soy sauce, Clancy Brown and a special appearance by the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm, looking like death warmed over and ready to drop! All are great as they give credence to the absurdity. We get plenty of practical effects that look fantastic, but the CG enhancements in the final act, as if Director Don was milking the cheapo teat for all its worth, it suffers a wee bit, but you can’t bag on any movie so programmed and designed to entertain. A fan of Corscaelli (I certainly am) or the book, you will enjoy this psycho mayhem, everyone else will not. Their loss. Definitely destined to be a cult hit for years to come. Now, to you Mr. Coscarelli, where is that new Phantasm flick?

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Merry Christmas, Dammit!

As the Christmas holiday is approaching, here are some that underscore the reason for the season or just merely take place on the holiday and have a great story to tell. In no particular order or preference.

Die Hard 1988. The definitive action movie of the 80’s that not only made Bruce Willis, as John McClain, a household name, but also created it’s own sub-genre that today any action taking place in a cramped space is called, ‘Die Hard on a _______.”  We all know the story… as the film plays out, we have to ask how certain stunts were done as the film constantly reminds you what a logistical speculate, a marvel of engineering, and relentlessly, mercilessly thrilling and entertaining to this day. Die Hard set the bar that many movies today still can’t quite compete with this sumptuous, noisy extravaganza that gets the adrenaline pumping. Willis’s smirk and every-man persona still rings true and as he nervously drops some one-liners. Enormously popular, three sequels followed, the fifth film is on its way in February 2013. Yippee Kay-Yay, Mr. Falcon!

Lethal Weapon 1987.  The first pairing of Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, Directed by Richard Donner revamped, revitalized, rechristened the Buddy-cop formula purging it of its bloat, excess, stupidity and contrivance. Fun and razor sharp, the action is plentiful and the performances strong and memorable. The action delivers adrenaline jolts with both barrels while not skimping on character development and wry humor, but amped up with stylish and sharp direction, efficient and just a solid, well told story. Gibson’s emotionally unstable, Martin Riggs, is the film’s hook. He jumps into danger, doesn’t care if he might get killed; he’s missing his dead wife and spends most nights with a loaded Beretta in his mouth; he seems to enjoy it as do we. Glover is the sane guy with a family who constantly grumbles, “I’m too old for this shit.” Composer Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton deliver an excellent musical score just as energetic and interesting as the characters on screen. Solid all the way around! One great, one good and one lousy sequel followed. First remains the best. Still not sure what it has to do with Christmas, but it’s in there- enjoy!

It’s a Wonderful Life 1946.  What else can be said of Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra collaboration that has not already been… it’s just simply, wonderful. A box –office disappointment, (it lost $555,000) in its initial release, the film gained a following once it hit television in the 1970’s and now is in heavy rotation becoming a holiday favorite. Highly powerful, it is one of Stewart’s most complex performances, one that didn’t get proper recognition until decades later, as he is confronted with the realization and driven to near insanity as he realizes his town doesn’t know him and he ponders the question, what would life be like for your family if you had never been born? Stewart takes George Bailey to dark places as does Director Frank Capra who was not known for edgy material, his most bold piece of work, was made to denounce atheism… The holiday setting only underscores the power and thematic point; the impact of living a good, decent, fulfilling life cannot be underestimated. The impact a person has on just one other can have massive reverberations. Our actions do speak loudly and the film’s happy ending is not merely expected, but demanded.

A Christmas Carol 1984.  Forget all previous reiterations- this is the definitive version. Broadcast on CBS television. George C. Scott stars as Ebenezer Scrooge and captures every Dickensian moment and nuance flawlessly. It’s fidelity to the novel is a sight to behold and even though this path has been taken many times, in the endless adaptations and episodic television episodes that did their takes, the end is still heartwarming. Production is simple, imaginative, at times, very dark, but well staged and never feels stiff or cramped like most television productions of the time.   One of Scott’s finest roles, his best from his television movies, he takes the character to the extreme as a grouchy old hate-filled old sinner to gleeful man of the people and a grateful believer in all things Christmas. His character arc is full, effective and believable and by the time he seeks his redemption, it’s a cathartic experience to say the least. Never once do you question his non-English, English accent, more of an old English accent with full and proper enunciation.  Scott is supported by a wonderful cast, Robin Rees as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, David Warner and Susanna York as Bob and Mrs. Crachit, Edward and Woodward headlines the Ghost cast as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

The Muppet Christmas Carol 1992. The first production released after Henson’s death in 1990 is surprisingly, still full of charm and appeal. The Muppet’s  vibrant take on the story is fun and breezy; it’s still up there with the best. Michael Caine is excellent as a mean and moody Scrooge with a heart of stone. Gonzo and Rizzo the rat provide most of the laughs as our courageous narrators, and the rest of the Muppet gang all take part, with even Sam the Eagle making a memorable cameo (“it is the American way!”). The musical interludes are memorable (I will never tire of hearing “there goes mister humbug”) and despite huge chunks of the original story being left out, it’s a balanced and hugely entertaining take that deserves to be a festive TV staple.

 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 1989. The best of the quad, surpassing the original with its manic performances and laugh-a-minute jokes provided by the genius writer, the late, great John Hughes. Chevy Chase heads the Griswold family as Clark, the upbeat goof who doesn’t really learn his lessons from family gatherings. Packed from scene to scene with one memorable joke after another, (the kids have changed again, this time Rusty is the younger child) the film has a sentimental streak a mile wide that is hard to deny. Cousin Eddie and his brood are equally dysfunctional in their redneck ways. Critics missed the boat on this one, but the film continues to endure, 23 years later.

Scrooged 1988. The best off-shoot adaption of one of the most adapted stories ever. Bill Murray and Director Richard Donner give a comedic take on the Dickens tale and although misshapen and at times pandering; Murray gives an entertaining performance, even though he’s meaner than the real Scrooge ever was. Cast as Frank Cross, a nasty, heartless television network executive who green lights such inspired and inappropriate Christmas specials titled, “The Night the Reindeer Died“, with an AK-47 toting Lee Majors and “A Cajun Christmas with Robert Goulet.” All of the television jabs are dead-on perfect; the Solid Gold dancers showing their nipples during a live Christmas broadcast is brilliant. It’s when the Dickens story comes in and tries to take over, that doesn’t quite work, Murray is still yucking it up when he should just shut up and act. The script is filled with dark and ingenious twists on an over told tale. Still, despite its wobbly pace, the jokes are still great some a little too adult, as when Cross throws water on a burning waiter, “I’m sorry, I thought you were Richard Pryor.”  The supporting cast is full of familiar faces; Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Alfre Woodard, Ann Ramsey, Carol Kane steals the show as an abusive Fairy, former front man of the New York Dolls, punker David Johansen, is perfect as the cigar chomping Ghost of Christmas Past and Bobcat Goldthwait as Bob Crachit. Cross’s transformation is expected of course, but Murray has fun with it and the ending, with its breaking of the fourth wall, makes for an unlikely holiday favorite.

Bad Santa 2003.  Billy Bob Thornton plays the worst Santa Claus- ever. Foul, mean-spirited, inappropriate, politically incorrect demented, twisted and tremendously funny. This raunchy comedy has more heart and Christmas spirit than most traditional holiday-themed flicks. Despite its cast of wackos- Bernie Mac, John Ritter (his last film) and Lauren Graham give great performances. Thornton lets it all hang out as Willie, a drunk, a loser and a thief, who has a black midget sidekick dressed as an Elf, he as Santa as they plan to rob a local mall. Willie finds redemption in a very Dickensian sort of way becoming an unlikely role model for a lonely kid named Thurman who lives with his clueless grandmother. Not for everybody and especially the entire family, but it makes for a great antidote when things get a little too sickly sweet.

A Christmas Story 1983. Mostly overlooked during its initial release, (sounds familiar) the movie gained its now classic reputation from the many cable television airings and 24 hour marathons throughout the 1980’s. This brilliant comedy, Directed by Bob Clark, (Yes, the same guy), the film takes place in Indiana in 1940 pre-WWII middle America. A nostalgic and easily relatable look back is also loaded with sarcastic jokes and inspired one-liners.  10 year-old Ralphie wants a BB gun for Christmas, but the adults object, “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid.” What follows is a quest by Ralphie as he persists and cajoles to get the best Christmas gift- ever.  A humorous narration by the story’s writer Jean Shepard provides some of the film’s best moments as adult Ralphie taking a walk down memory lane ass he recalls with fondness the foibles of his parents. The Old Man, his Dad, Darren McGavin is hilarious as he becomes obsessed with a leg lamp in the shape of a female leg “Fragile… Must be Italian.”  His schoolyard, friend, Schwartz, who sticks his tongue on the icy flagpole, gets a beating and the false blame for saying the dreaded “Queen Mother of Dirty Words,” the “F-dash-dash-dash” word, the F-word. Hilarious and heartfelt, there is never a false moment or over-the-top corniness. It’s sentimental without being fake and genuine without being calculating never trades a thing for a good joke. The cast is great from the top on down, especially Peter Billingsley as the bugged-eye and enthusiastic Ralphie.

 Love Actually  2003.  British Director Richard Curtis set out to make the “ultimate romantic comedy,” and although I usually cringe as such tripe, this one works in the face of it’s massive attempt of a dozen main characters, eight couples each weaving his or her way into another’s stories over the course of one particularly eventful Christmas in London. The film is about love in its many forms and guises: love between siblings, love between parents and children, love between spouses, puppy love, platonic love, unrequited love, and (of course) sexual/romantic love. Not all of the stories are comedy, two go the dramatic route and are quite good; Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, married couple, Karen and Harry, seeking to rekindle some passion, Harry, secretly pines for a young colleague of his. Thompson is the movie’s best performance as she opens a package not intended for her realizing it’s for the other woman. Lara Linney’s office crush on her younger co-worker comes to a crashing end as she can not deny her mentally ill brother’s constant attention. A huge cast led by mostly British actors- Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Kiera Knightley, Alan Rickman, Billy Nighy and Rowan Atkinson. We have a few American actors, Billy Bob Thornton as an American president who’s Bill Clinton sleaze factor is obvious, Eliza Cuthbert and Laura Linney. Probably not recommended for those with Diabetes as things get a little too sweet, but it’s nice not to have to suffer through modern cynicism via Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigel.

Black Christmas 1974. Bob Clark’s underrated horror gem is stylish and skillfully done, subtle, tense and peppered with familiar genre faces like, John Saxon, Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey and Keir Dullea…An escaped mental patient takes refuge in a Sorority sister’s house. At first he makes obscene phone calls which leads to the films great sense of humor, but then gets nasty as the killer begins to pick them off one by one. Even up to the climax, the film never goes for cheap scares of over-the-top violence, just good old fashion tension and some excellent mood setting. Highly influential and admired, a sequel was planned to take place on “Halloween,” but John Carpenter beat them to it with his brilliant opus. Many forget this created a sub-genre of film that still exists today.

 

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2013 Film Release Schedule

henry-cavill-new-man-of-steel-poster

Ahhh, 2012 says goodbye, and 2013 is almost here. Here’s some highlights for the next year I’m looking forward to.

1/18 The Last Stand (Schwarzenneger)
2/1 Warm Bodies (Zombie comedy)
2/14 Die Hard 5
2/22 Dark Skies
3/1 Last Exorcism Part 2
3/15 From Up on Poppy Hill (Miyazaki), Carrie
3/22 The Croods
3/29 GI Joe 2
4/12 Oblivion, Evil Dead (remake)
5/3 Iron Man 3
5/17 Star Trek Into Darkness
3/24 Hangover 3
6/7 After Earth (will smith, M. Night), Much Ado about Nothing (Whedon)
6/14 Man of Steel
6/21 Monsters University, World War Z
6/28 Kick Ass 2
7/3 Despicable Me 2
7/12 Pacific rim
7/19 RIPD
7/26 The Wolverine
8/2 Red 2
8/9 Elysium (Blomkamp)
8/30 Insidious Chapter 2
9/27 The Tomb (Shwarzenegger, Stallone)
10/4 Sin City 2
10/11 The Occult
10/18 The Seventh Son
10/25 Paranormal Activity 5
11/1 Enders Game
11/8 Thor: The Dark Worlds
11/22 Hunger Games 2
11/27 Frozen (Disney Animated, Kristen Bell)
12/13 Hobbit 2 (put here for brevity)
12/20 Saving Mr. Banks (tom hanks, Disney true story)
12/25 Jack Ryan

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Skyfall

SPOILERS INSIDE! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM! 

It’s almost pointless at this stage to sing Skyfall praises, but after a four year delay, Bond is back and better than ever and looking damn good for a middle-aged, 50. Bond’s appeal is definitely air-tight as audiences have accepted different interpretations, as long as the girls, gadgets, villains and explosions deliver. Three is certainly the magic number for Bond, at least for Connery, Moore and now Craig as James Bond who all can say it was their first finest hour. Brosnan got screwed on his third outing with the uneven “The World is Not Enough,” Lazenby and Dalton didn’t stick around long enough for us to see. Despite a few turds over the years, Bond has endured, changed with the times and kept the swagger alive.

During a botched operation to retrieve a secret hard drive containing the identities of undercover MI6 agents stationed around the world, Bond is accidentally shot by fellow operative Eve (Naomi Harris) and presumed dead. During his three-month absence, retreating to a corner of the world to drink himself into submission, MI6 is attacked, with villain Silva (Javier Bardem) out to destroy an organization that betrayed him a long time ago, a violation the monster holds M (Judi Dench) personally accountable for. Backed by insuperable computer hacking skills, Silva launches a sinister campaign to expose MI6’s darkest secrets, working his way from a remote island to the heart of London. Bond, returning to duty a broken man nursing a painful bullet wound, heads off to tangle with Silva, traveling to Shanghai and Macau, bedding the terrorist’s confidant Severine (an effectively unsettled Bernice Marlohe) in the process. With M’s life in danger, Bond transforms into protection mode, scouring London for any signs of Silva, while Intelligence and Security Chairman Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) struggles to grasp the severity of the situation, pressuring M about her methods while her top agent scrambles to wage war against a clever, demented enemy. That’s the studio’s version, but there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.

Director Sam Mendes instilled little hope for me considering his indie roots and Michael Apted, also a great director of actors botched “The World is Not Enough,” filled with great performances, but a lousy action movie. Here, Mendes handles everything superbly. Cinematographer Roger Deakins gives the film a lavish, polished, but never phony look despite it being totally digital, it looks as realistic and beautiful than any film this year. The realism and clean look transitions into tone of the film which takes itself serious, but constantly reminds us this is Bond.
The action is fierce and thrilling, the editing smooth and efficient, with never a wasted shot or a fatty narrative. Despite the tricks for most action films, the stunts look practical and put Bond in danger from time to time. No more shaky cam that has plagued and officially ruined the Jason Bourne series; the camera is steady and soaks up the action as it sees it, coherent, memorable. The opening sequence in Turkey with Bond chasing a bad guy on top of a moving train and using the claw of a caterpillar to keep the train from escaping, (while smashing some VW beetles in the process) is clever and so typical 007, he proves his wits are his greatest weapon of all. Editing smoothly and with perspective, we know what’s going on at all times, there is never any doubt and unlike some of the final moments in  “Quantum of Solace,” the direction is razor sharp and stylish.  The music is a bit of a bust however, aside from Adele’s catchy, classy title tune, the score is mostly forgettable.           007 has traveled to every corner of the globe over the years, trekked the deepest oceans and even braved the wilderness of space, but rarely have the journeys been as internal as in his latest adventure. Taking it cues from the single best Bond of the 1960’s, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” Bond’s psyche is laid wide open for us to dissect. Not since the death of his wife, Tracy have we seen him get so introspective and personal. Daniel Craig is cool a customer though, but he’s not nearly one-note as he was in the previous installments, he runs the gamut here and puts his stamp on the character for a wonderful legacy. The most interesting element of the Craig run is his relationship with M, (Judi Dench) his mother figure who has no problem ordering him to a possible death sentence, as she very well does thanks to Eve, but is quick to mother him when he’s in pain and allow him to do what he must as she did in QOS. This is what separates Craig’s entries from all the other Bonds; a female voice that doesn’t have Bond’s tongue in her mouth. There really isn’t a Bond girl per say, Bond has a couple of conquests, but his co-star is M. She’s tough, authoritative and he genuinely respects her which adds to the poignancy when she meets her fate. Dench gets her most screen time ever as M, retiring from the role, she’s excellent.

Unlike the two previous entries, we finally get a new Q and Miss Moneypenny, radically overhauled, but in a good way; modern and hip. Ben Whishaw as Bond’s new Quartermaster, “Q” is very young and Bond makes note of it. He hands Bond his new field equipment: a biometrically-encoded Walther PPK (coded to Bond’s palm-prints) and a radio transmitter for tracing Bond’s whereabouts in the field. A sense of humor runs as the undercurrent of their conversation as 007 is rather underwhelmed by his new equipment, causing Q to retort “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for those anymore.”
Naomi Harris is introduced as Bond’s equal, Eve, as she fires the shot that nearly kills him. She feels not fit for the field and takes a desk job, introducing herself at the end of the movie to Bond as “Miss Moneypenny,” – let the seduction begin.
Ralph Fiennes as Mallory, the new “M” is decent as he starts off as a potential bureaucrat but shows he has a kinship with Bond as they share some chaos when Silva attacks MI6.
Of course, what Bond movie is worth damn if it doesn’t have a good villain, most Bond flicks, even the rotten ones have a memorable bad guy. I think we all remember, or shall we forget, Christopher Walken’s fun, but so terrible performance as Max Zorin in the equally awful, “A View to a Kill.” Thank the maker that Javier Bardeem as Raul Silva, donning a platinum blonde wig, does a great mix of Blofeld (Charles Gray’s version from “Diamonds Are Forever,”) crossed with Max Zorin. That’s as outlandish as this film gets and it works with his great back story. During his years in MI6, he worked alongside M in Hong Kong. She, noticed that the operative had engaged in unauthorized hacking of the Chinese. Whilst she was overseeing the transition in Hong Kong from a British colony to a special administrative region she sold out Silva in exchange for prisoners held by the Chinese government. During his capture, torture and imprisonment by the Chinese, Silva attempted to take his own life using a cyanide implant in one of his molars. The suicide attempt failed, horrifically scarring Silva both mentally and physically. The acid damages his upper jaw, part of his skull seems to have collapsed, and all but a few teeth melted away with the few left extremely damaged and deformed, requiring Silva to wear a prosthesis under his skin.
To say the boy is pissed off is an understatement, Bardeem does not go overboard, however. He’s charming and exacting, doesn’t rush his plans for vengeance. With his implied tendencies, Silva’s rage runs deep, a megalomaniac for sure, but just in presentation as he doesn’t want to control the world, kill millions or destroy England, he merely wants some good old fashion vengeance. It works perfectly as he is one of the most memorable baddies in quite a long time. If this wasn’t a perfect audition for Bardeem as Trek’s best baddie, Khan Noonian Sign, I don’t know what is. Silva is a mad schemer, but not quite so brooding; sure he’s crazier than a shithouse rat, but he’s more of a competitive sibling jealous of his more successful brother Bond, he screams at M to notice him and recognize her screw-ups. The bratty kid who refuses to take responsibility-Silva’s payment is blood, He tells Bond, and “She sent you to me knowing you are not ready, that you will most likely die…Mommy was very bad.”
As with the villain, Q and Moneypenny the film does a clever job of staying modern, yet acknowledges the past, Mendes is kind to us as he throws the fans a bone and gives an appearance from old friend- the original Aston Martin- it too has a fitting exit.
Rumors swirled for months that Sean Connery was to make a small cameo, it of course didn’t happen, Albert Finney took the role of “McGregor,” Bond’s caretaker of his family’s Scottish estate, Skyfall. An appearance by Sir Roger Moore or even George Lazenby would have been just as welcomed. Although there is a nod to Connery’s legacy as the family estate is located in a lush Scottish highland; an allowance made by author Ian Fleming when Connery was cast; he was so impressed with his performance, he made Bond’s heritage part Scott.
It worked out of the best as Skyfall is not about stunt casting or gimmicks, it’s about the character James Bond and we get some personal tidbits that had only been hinted at over the years. We fans know his parents died in a skiing accident, he was an orphan. Although many like to claim this forever demolishes any notion that Bond was merely a code name to go along with his 007 designation, that’s he just one guy. Um no. Not really, if whoever has the name JAMES BOND, will have to have that character’s history, live it, perform it as if it was real. Who knows how MI6 conditions its agents, maybe there’s tons of brainwashing and memory loss. Yes, I like that. Whatever the case, Bond is an interesting fellow again and for those involved we are grateful as SKYFALL is the best Bond since Casino Royale and actually, one of the best- ever.

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*Cue Laugh Track

 

I hate The Big Bang Theory, there I said it. I’ve been told by some friends that it’s the show to watch, it has geek references, geek jokes and basically a love of all things nerdy…except it doesn’t  I’ve tried to watch a handful of shows over the years, to have an open mind and perhaps surprise myself by digging it- I didn’t  In fact, my initial reaction was the correct one- I hated it, still do.
So why is it one of the most watched comedies on television right now? Not sure, it seems either the zombies who watch CBS and all of its repetitive crime shows are of the zombie persuasion and wouldn’t know a good joke if it were in the laps or perhaps even series creator/producer Chuck Lorre signed a deal with the devil; I like to believe that last one since Lorre also is responsible for the even-worse “Two and a Half Men,” which is offensive on every level, the least of which is the alleged comedy, but that’s for another rant….I’m not making fun of those people that do dig it, I’m merely pointing out the makers of this and why the show is as phoney as a $3 bill.
Having grown up on copious amounts of classic television, good and bad, I know my way around a great sitcom and Big Bang is not it- it’s basically nerd/geek blackface; it’s full of unfunny jokes, inauthentic speak and exaggerated stereotypes. The stories are from the usual sit-com tropes sure, yet nothing original is done or said. The jokes are lazy, obvious, over-sold, under-baked, low-brow, low-frequency and bogus. The characters never feel like real people with “funny” problems or funny people with real problems; just hack actors waiting to deliver their trite lines. The character of Sheldon should be an easy sell; he’s a genius in his field of study, yet treats everyone around him like dirty hobos knowing he’s smarter than everyone in the room, except there’s no room for comedy when that happens. He instead comes off as an asshole, borderline Sociopath. An irritating know-it-all that no one wants to root for or be around… You can’t do that with comedy, IF he was funny he could get away with murder but since he’s not, the “jokes” fall flat and sucks the humor right out. That’s the problem with most network television today- they wrote from PLOT, not character, which is dull as hell; isn’t that right, “Law & Order?”
Sheldon: I’d have a diet coke.
Penny: Please order a cocktail. I need to practice bartending.
Sheldon: Fine, I’ll have a Virgin Cuba Libre
Penny: That’s rum and Coke, without the rum?
Sheldon: Right?
Penny: So coke!
Sheldon: And will you make it diet, please?

*cue Laugh track!
Why is that funny?

Or they will throw in some science techno jargon to make Sheldon a real card…

(A sick Sheldon on phone with Leonard)
Leonard: Take rest, and drink plenty of fluids.
Sheldon: What else would I drink?? Gases?? Solids?? Ionized Plasma??!

To be fair, the above is probably just a matter of taste- ME having some! *rim shot!
Except my problem with this show goes deeper, after watching several episodes I noticed a fatal flaw. Recall all the classic sitcoms and a formula will emerge; not so much a formula as the required ingredients in sitcom DNA. The series is a bust right down to its mechanical structure. It violates nearly every rule established for a quality show and the rules it does adhere to, it abuses them.

Below are the best examples of said template on how to use great stock characters, the huge difference is the following series ran with them. Gave the characters nuance and foibles. Not only stock characters, but real, well-rounded people we got to know. They weren’t always right or even good, but always human and always, always funny!

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” -every show has the main kid, the well balanced one- usually told from this character’s POV, they tend to balance out the wackiness created by the others; Mary Richards was the sane one who balanced everyone else out. Dorothy from “The Golden Girls” and Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” did the same on their respective series.

Cheers” -the dumb one, Ernie “Coach” Pantuso, was mostly a dim-bulb, but once in a while he would say something very sensible and wise. Occasionally they will exhibit more wisdom and sanity than anyone else. Rose from “The Golden Girls often did the same; a real putz, with stupid stories and nearly insane form of naivety but would surprise everyone with her wisdom and tough competitive streak. Diane Chambers was a great character because she was high-strung, pretentious, so completely self-analyzing that she was often unaware of her surroundings and was ripe for a great insult. Despite being the best educated, she was at times, the dumbest, an huge irony indeed.

“The Andy Griffith Show”, the buffoon- Sometimes these are separated into two different characters or combined with the dummy, in the case of Barney Fife from he was three. Another great angel to write a character from as they could grind him in the dirt and humiliate him anyway possible, but often would have the audience feel his pain and empathize with him. Andy would go to great lengths to protect Barney’s feelings from being hurt. Barney was easy to relate to, but easier to laugh at. Ted Baxter was another great example, slightly more destructive than Fife with his rampaging ego as a TV weatherman. Always good for a laugh, but occasionally would surprise everyone with his courage.

Everybody Loves Raymond” is a perfect example of a modern series with classic ingredients. Ray’s wife was the sane one, usually, while her in-laws were definitely a mix bag of buffoons and dummies and all the other archetypes. Husband Ray was somewhere in the middle and often exhibited all these traits.

“Sanford & Son” – Son Lamont was the steady, usually the rational mind while his father Fred was the schemer, the conniving and constantly played mind games with his son to keep him home. Both characters filled most of the stock character roles/archetypes. The strong supporting cast filled out everything else- especially friend Grady Wilson as the dumb one and sister-in-law Esther Anderson as Fred’s nemesis. Despite the quarreling between father and son, they loved each other deeply and would do anything for each other when called for.  

“Seinfeld” had all those in play with Jerry acting as the normal one, yet exhibiting all of the above traits at one time or another. Kramer and George were of varying degrees of buffoons and dumb and Elaine filled in the rest of the blanks. They all worked in tandem, without one, the group would be ruined and not nearly as funny. Despite their near mental psychosis, the gang was funny. Their selfishness was horrifying yet occasionally relatable and the show gets points for having the guts to not always go for the safe, obvious joke and would relish any moment to make fools out of the characters to sell a joke, but never went cheap and stepped out of character at the expense of a joke. Even though the characters were all ciphers, the show wrote comedy from the characters, not PLOT.

Three’s Company”- for all the critical drubbings it took; it had the classic formula down pat. Jack was the crazy/buffoon, Chrissy was the dummy, and Janet was the normal one that balanced out the others. The Ropers were a mixture of all of the ingredients with neighbor Larry Dallas filling in the blanks, but mostly was a skirt-chaser. Landlord Ralph Furley was definitely THE buffoon. This was farce taken to the extreme and done with hilarious results.

“All in the Family”- the single best sitcom ever produced, had the stock recipe down to perfection along with its provocative writing and flawless acting you didn’t really notice; the dumb character was wife Edith, the loud-mouthed bigot (or buffoon) was Archie. The Loud-mouth arrogant youngster was son-in-law Mike and the mostly normal character, daughter Gloria who balanced the other three out when she wasn’t doing her own freak out. ALL stock characters, but taken a little further than expected. What could have easily have been cliché is ignored for truth and a good joke- the execution was so mechanically and creatively sound we never noticed the formula. The humor and topics rose above the premise and created something bigger, it become the first water-cooler show that would have tongues wagging the following day. Full of passion, guts and humanity, the series never sacrificed character for a cheap joke and it never sacrificed a joke for fake emotions. When it was dramatic it deserved it and when it was funny, it earned it. Instead, we got variations and nuances from each every character; they had their moments to shine and would surprise the viewers with some personality revealed. Sometimes Edith was the wisest character on the show. Although Archie was a bigot with distasteful opinions, he’d often surprise everyone with his generosity and humanity. He and Mike fought like cats and dogs, they would band together in times of crisis. Mike, the crusading Liberal was often wrong and Gloria could at times be as dense as her mother. Archie Bunker with all his flaws was an inherently good man, who worked hard all his life and was only saying what society and his father had taught him, he was just confused and the changes were too fast for him. The audience over the years grew to like him, cheered him on, laughed and cried with him and at him… only through the love of his family does he occasionally see the error of his ways and at least, soften his opinions. That’s real, that’s relateable and that’s excellent writing! That’s what good comedy does, delivers the laughs, but gives us something of the characters to relate to- real human moments with some unexpected bits thrown in. The nuance, the human foibles that makes us who we are; this is why we laugh at those shows decades after they’ve left the air.

“The Big Bang Theory” has NONE of that! It will enter syndication and leave undisturbed or talked about, and dull as a silent fart. When you break it down the series is paper thin and terribly lacking in good, well-constructed, memorable jokes. Having watched two episodes two days ago, I cannot recall a single one-liner or funny aside. It’s also enourmously fake and inauthentic… the following proves to me this show is full of crap!

 Sheldon: “Saturn 3 and Deep Space 9 are on tonight. What shall we watch?”

Raj: “Deep Space 9. It’s better than Saturn 3 anyway…”

Sheldon: “Since when is Deep Space 9 better than Saturn 3?”

BULLSHIT! IF Sheldon was a big nerd as he is suppose to be, IF he is as smart as he says he is, then he would know what a terrible movie “Saturn 3” is and would never say its’ better than “Star Trek: Deep Space 9,” but per usual, the people watching this show yuck it up because it sounded nerdy, the laugh track kicked in therefore it’s funny…. right?!

WRONG!

In the same episode the same two debate which is worse, “Star Trek 5” or “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” Sheldon thinks TMP fails, but again, this is not a true geek talking… this is a fake nerd speaking words writen by posers and idiots who hate nerds but think it’s funny to make fun of them… Epic Fail. Every Trekkie knows TMP is a beautiful, accomplished film with plenty of admirers and fans… fake tv nerds are not among them…
Perhaps I’m asking too much by comparing gold to tin foil, but it’s a legitimate gripe and a serious problem for nearly every 3 camera sitcom/live studio audience on the air today. There are no pauses in the humor for real moments; it’s an endless assembly line of soulless mechanical writing that lacks humanity and truth. The show has stock characters, but refuses to anything with them; they merely sit around, spout their stupid lines and let the laugh track do the heavy lifting. It’s not just the humor that doesn’t work, but the inside structure, the building blocks to what makes a series solid and a test of time are not there in “The Big Bang Theory”.
Humanity, nuance, originality, surprise-none of that is on display in Instead, its surface, crappy writing. A pack of writers sit around a table eating their pizza trying to beat a deadline writing whatever comes to mind forgoing logic, quality of the jokes and taste.  There’s no depth, no interesting quirks, Sheldon only exists to serve as a “comic” foil to his roommate Leonard, who serves to only cower and kiss his ass. If Sheldon was a bully with sociopath tendencies, which he has, then Leonard is a scared, wimpy, wispy weakling who’s afraid of his own shadow. The characters are annoying jerks- neither are unlikable in a funny way, but both are unlikable in an unlikable way.
His friends are equally horrible.
Leonard is supposed to be smart and possibly smarter than Sheldon, but his kvetching Jew shtick is beyond pathetic- there are some occasional signs of competition with this as Sheldon’s narcissism comes out whenever his intellect is challenged- again, not very funny. Leonard’s self-esteem is so low and his nerdiness so over-powering that it’s enormously hard to swallow that neighbor Penny would show an interest in him, but of course she does…but she is dumb of course, god forbid they write a beautiful girl in the Lorre universe that’s also smart. The romance between her and Leonard is phony, why a girl that hot would show the slightest interest in a cream puff like that is still a mystery even Colombo couldn’t solve.
Would it not be more interesting and funny if Penny were as smart as the guys….?
Anyone? ….Bueller?

The girl that Sheldon does have an interest can’t look like a real woman- sorry, Mayim Bialik is not easy on the eyes…but of course since she’s smart, a borderline genius, she has to look like an Ape dressed up as Bette Midler. Keep those clichés coming; we can’t have realistic people and identifiable human traits on display.
Howard is whatever he is, a punching bag for Leonard when Sheldon gets pissed off. Rajesh is Indian and that’s why he’s funny…I guess? Those two serve no purpose other than to reinforce old racial stereotypes and to fill the sitcom quota for “Dumb guy” and get a condescending look from Sheldon from time to time with the laugh tracking kick into over drive. Which itself is not a terrible thing, IF something was done, inject some personality, HUMOR, do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, but the laugh track ticks on every five seconds laughing off every trite stupid joke and nonsense one-liner. If that weren’t enough, it’s the geek pandering; throw some Nimoy references around (a funny way to show off Sheldon’s sociopath tendencies), have the gang dress up like a comic book characters- oh how funny!!…and best of all- lets revive the old fashioned stereotype of guys who like science also like Star Trek/Star Wars!  
I love both of those and I HATE science and it goes back and forth between those two distinct personality types mixing them up liberally showing the audience they have no clue- This is why the show is a fraud-it may not matter to most watching but the lack of edification is annoying. The show has no idea what the difference is between a Geek and Nerd and it shows.
Splitting hairs perhaps, but there is a huge quantifiable difference. A geek is someone who lives a reasonably normal, healthy life, but “geeks-out” over whatever they like, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, movies in general…and that’s basically it…they go on about their lives, have a family and are usually socially sound, date are and fun people to be around. They usually have other interests, a job and are not afraid of expanding their horizons.
Nerds are near mental cases. They live for whatever they are obsessed with and suck it dry. Nitpick and dissect it to death. They tend to be those basement-dwellers, unkempt mouth-breathers that live for only one or two things. If they have a job, it’s usually some dead-end retail madness. They are usually mean-spirited, self-centered jerks with zero interest in anything in life outside of their sphere of influence, emotionally regressive and social retards. They like only what they like, they don’t engage well in conversations if it’s not about them or their interests; they will keep it always about them and how it impacts their lives are generally jerky people that do not participate much in the game of human existence with very limited horizons. World of Warcraft seems to attract this type.
I realize they have to mix and match to make these freaks palatable and give them some mass appeal, but it’s insulting to my intelligence, again, it would not be a deal break, IF this damn thing was funny, but it’s not… the nerd/geek thing is the gimmick, the hook, the point of the show, but it seems, at least for me, to end right there… too bad…they don’t show the normal side of these guys, the mundane with the absurd, it’s JUST the absurd. We don’t laugh at the characters because they are funny, we are suppose to laugh at them because they are awkward, goofy and weird.  If this show wanted to go for the nerd/geek jugular, it could and really have fun it. There’s plenty of material- take aim at the basement-dwellers and the tubby unhygienic crowd.  Humiliate these freaks like crazy, but give them some humanity first and make one of the gang a normal person or twist it up and make Penny a nerd and the guy next door is the normal guy looking in or just have the main character the normal guy with nerdy friends and he keeps them balanced as they all learn from each other. Don’t just make it one long gimmick of assembly line and unfunny jokes.

*cue laugh track!

This show would have fit right in during the 1980’s/early 90’s sitcom renaissance sandwiched between “Family Matters” and “Step-by-Step,” with “Webster” coming up the rear- three horrible shows with all the same problems; lack of great characters, lack of solid joke building and the rudimentary concept of humor.

The worst part is that Jim Parsons has won the Emmy twice for his portrayal as Sheldon. and if that doesn’t make you sick enough here’s some disgusting trivia- Andy Griffith, Jackie Gleason and Redd Foxx never won an Emmy.

Penny: Umm, I guess the jokes only funny in Nebraska.

Sheldon: No, from the given data, all you can say is that this joke is not funny here…

Exactly!

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Star Wars Forever!

 Like everyone else, October 30, 2012 will be a day long remembered. I sat down to read the news and BOOM! As if a Hutt fell on me, I too saw those words, “NEW STAR WARS FILM IN 2015! LUCASFILM SOLD TO DISNEY”
Wow! I had no idea such a thing was cooking and to be honest, had it been vetted as rumor first, I probably would have dismissed it.
Now that it’s true, I’m excited for all parties involved, Lucas for keeping the franchise alive, for allowing other, talented, fresher folks to come play in his yard, take his creation to places he never considered, to set his “baby” free and allow future generations to experience the purity of the thrills.
My story with Star Wars is not unlike millions of other kids born at the exact perfect time, 1972, being 5 y/o at the time of ANH’s release. I was hooked. In 1983, after the release of JEDI I believed George when he said he’d do no more SW movies and he was correct for at least eight years, nothing new came from the franchise…I should have learned my lesson to never pay attention to George’s declarations of NO, he may mean it at the time, but he changes his mind too often to stick it out. It happened with the prequel trilogy and now it’s happening for a new sequel trilogy begining in 2015!
Many are probably asking, why did he sell? Tired of the game I guess and realizes there is more to life than to create movies for ungrateful pricks. His flock turning on him like a pack of churlish spoiled babies; the immature fat, dumpy losers who focus too much on someone else’s work and not their own, the nagging, stupid, whiny fan boys who vilify him for trivial reasons. He is probably just sick of it all; sick of the name calling, the dumb questions from the press and most of all, and the idiots just not getting what he’s selling.
I’m all for film criticism, but to take the guy to task personally, wish him dead, call him filthy vile names, for you own glitches, I don’t get that. I will always forever side with Lucas, mainly because the fanboys are self-centered and ignorant beyond belief. Once they lost sight of their issues and turned their personal glitches into public displays of adult temper tantrums, I was out and once they used his work for parasitic gains, (Red Letter Media, Plinkett et all douches, I’ am talking about you!!!!)… DONE!
Nope, not going to side with the virgin, sexless geeks, ever again in a Star Wars conversation. If it’s not that, it’s the whining over the Special Editions, which save for one, are all welcomed. If anyone honestly thinks those slight alterations completely ruin the experience, they are so full of hate and myopia and are beyond help… all on you my stupid friends, the so-called Star Wars fans who grew up to embrace bad values, and stabbed him in the back. Why would anyone stick around for that crap?
To be fair, he created this monster and he opened a nerd Pandora box that probably perplexed him. As the leader of the ship, he will and deserves some of the heat…I will admit, some of his ideas, aren’t great; Jar Jar should have been dialed down a bit, not quite so insanely goofy…but you can’t bash a guy for showing off his new creation and you don’t go to a Star Wars film for its ACTING!

 

 Lucas’s only sin is that he’s too creative and has way too many cool tools to make them a reality. He needed a partner, a sparer, someone to bounce off of, to let him know what works and what doesn’t  He’s like that kid in the candy store unsupervised and he will eat until his stomach hurts. Hey no big deal, I was never one of those that bitched too loudly, I ignored the stuff I disliked, which wasn’t much and embraced the rest… why is that still so hard to do for some? I’ve never understood why people can’t sidestep stuff they don’t like – as if Elvis sucks because someone likes Velvet Elvis’ or Vegas Elvis cookie jars. Huh? This is why Trekkers have more dignity! They can move on to the stuff they like and live with the stuff they don’t. There is plenty to love; if not, move on, we don’t care about your pathetic moans about the “raping of your childhoods” (a truly despicable term, by the by). Calling Lucas filthy awful names, wanting him to die, making fun of his kids…what is wrong with you geeks?

It’s time to move on, as a great Poet once said,

GET A LIFE, YOU PEOPLE!

It’s not going to be “cool” on the Internet to hate on Star Wars for much longer. You no longer have Lucas to blame for your pathetic existence. He never once disappointed me and so I keep coming back for more.  Haters of Lucas, you take to the internet every chance you get and smear his name and insult his work; why are you still paying your money?

Let’s take a moment and admire the man’s accomplishments, of legendary proportions with five masterpieces on his resume, “THX-1138, “American Graffiti,” “Star Wars: A New Hope,” “Empire Strikes Back,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Not a bad run I must say. For those flicks alone he’s in my cool book and a legend.

For the misguided hate and stupid fury aimed at the prequels, well, that’s all on you…what else can be said, Lucas made those for himself, he answers to no one and either you dig them or you don’t.

I found plenty to like and did something smart people do; I use the movie measuring stick, the kooky one with gradation scale and guess what- they are NOT the worst things in the history of ever… so learn to calm your emotions and put things in their proper context. No one cares about your loser lives and that your parents divorced… Not everything Hobbit related is good and not everything Star Wars related is bad.
Lucas has made a profound gesture with this sale, in his own lifetime, choosing the path for the continuation of his creation (and making the money he wants to doing so) instead of having it raided and exploited in a manner not of his choosing. He fully acknowledges the desire to hand it over to a new generation of filmmakers and is doing it in a structured way that shows he still cares a lot about what he created. He wants it to endure.

What’s wrong with that?

So many of the cranky brats demanded he relinquish control once they felt their pathetic hopes were dashed, and now that he has, they continue to gripe?
I say let the negative nimrods have at…they will never be happy, they will pick, dissect and bitch the life out of everything they touch, no wonder George took the last train out.

I’m thrilled he had the foresight to let others partake, he’s always been his best when he collaborates and now that he’s given it to people who also love Star Wars, it will be quite a happening.  I’m just excited because for the first time since 1983, we have no idea what’s going to happen. The prequels we had sketches, some history and our own imaginations to fill in the blanks, but now, the possibilities are endless and the only gurantee we get is we will get nothing what we expect…

at least aside from the vehicles, the weapons and possibly music….

So disgruntled morons clutching your original versions, watching them in the basement, wishing the Special Editions never happened and cursing Lucas and now Disney’s name- bugger off. You’ve had your pathetic tantrums. Time to find a new song to sing and ease that bitterness in your nasty little black hearts because honestly, truly and completely it sucks to be you.

 I just can’t wait! 

This is amazing! It’s 1997 all over again- the buildup, the lines, the collective love for Star Wars will be over-kill and I will love every second of it.

For the rest of us…the future looks bright! Get a life, get a good job, make some money, buy a house, drink some booze, stop mooching off others and ENJOY THE NEXT STAR WARS MOVIE!

The Force WILL Be With Us…Always!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Underrated Horror

Underrated Horror

Submitted for your approval, some forgotten, ignored and just plain discard horror and horror-themed films that have never gotten their proper dues. Below is a list of varying quality that do the trick and should get some Halloween Holiday love.

Terror Train 1980 – Jamie Lee Curtis, enjoying her reign as the first lady of slasher films is the reason to watch in this reasonably inventive premise on board a train full of college students with a killer on board. Solid direction by future Bond Director Roger Spottiswoode in his first film makes use of the sets and creative lighting. A simple effective story with some nice stylish touches keeps this on track.

Abbot & Costello Meet Frankenstein – 1948
Universal’s horror franchise was on its last legs with “House of Frankenstein,” (1944) and House of Dracula (1945). Abbott & Costello’s films were suffering from dwindling returns until someone got the brilliant idea to put them together. This genre mash-up, one of the best of its kind, has become an unlikely classic considering Bud Abbott hated the film and said his ‘5 year-old daughter could have written a better script.’ Not sure why he felt that way, but the results show a film of great accomplishment on both ends- the comedy is really funny and the horror is effective and honors the classic monsters surprisingly well. They are part of the humor, at times the trigger, but they are never the butt or ridiculed and best of all, the results are never campy or mocking.
If you have any credibility as a horror fan, especially the Universal gang, this is must see. Check the roster: original Dracula, Bela Lugosi returned as the Count (his first and only reprisal of the role he became famous for in 1931), the original Wolf Man, Lon Chaney Jr. (who first portrayed Larry Talbot in 1941’s The Wolf Man), and Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster. Boris Karloff was wooed, but felt the project was doomed and was a little too over-protective of his most famous role. Glenn Strange is just as good; he portrayed him in the aforementioned House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein and has similar qualities brought by Karloff. The best part these guys play it absolutely straight, which works for the horror fans and makes for some very funny jokes.
The plot is more of a framework upon which the set pieces and jokes are inserted and wrapped around, just enough of a plot existences to get the mash-up going. Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello) are working as baggage handlers when a shipment arrives for a wax museum, McDougal’s House of Horrors. Larry Talbot calls to warn Chick and Wilbur that the two crates contain the actual bodies of Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster… The details are irrelevant as the physical comedy is plentiful, and the reaction and double takes by Lou upon seeing the various creatures in action is inspired. On a sad note this is the last time Lugosi would play Dracula and the very last time Frankenstein’s monster would be on-screen under the Universal banner. Hammer would resurrect the entire roster of creatures for their own studio renaissance in the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Daybreakers  2009 –  What’s this? An original take on Vampires that doesn’t include angst, sparkles, sullen high school girls and one ugly mothertrucker as the main vamp… Instead we see a stripped down take on the Vampire legend wrapped in a neat genre piece. The opening crawl establishes its 2019, a plague has turned most of the planet’s human population into vampires. A vampire corporation, (led by Sam Neil) sets out to capture and farm the remaining humans while researching a blood substitute. Lead vampire hematologist Edward Dalton’s (Ethan Hawke) work is interrupted by human survivors led by former vampire “Elvis” (Willem Dafoe), who has a cure that can save the human species.
Ethan Hawke, who is usually worthless does a reasonably job as the protagonist. He’s sympathizes with the humans and deals with his own traitorous brother. His usual douche-bag persona is dialed down to tolerable levels. Willem Defoe plays, “Elvis,” a normal good guy for a change equipped with all the one-liners. Sam Neil is excellent as the main baddie bastard. Directed by two Australian brothers, they have plenty of visual skill and panache; it’s photographed beautifully, making use of its sets, location shooting and a great score to boot. I enjoyed the lack of the mysticism, supernatural and other Vampire tropes. A simple scientific explanation is all that’s needed and it mostly works. The film has some fun with the storyline as it skewers corporate greed and Neil’s character as head of a big deal company literally seeking blood.
My only quibble with this and films of the same ilk is the incessant blue hue! It looks like a cheapo video game and big budget music video. I thought in this era of superior technology films would look distinct, but it’s just the opposite as of late. Despite that it’s well made and entertaining.

Horror Express – 1972

I do love me some Hammer horror and despite it looking like one, this is not from the esteemed studio but a Spanish production. In 1906, Professor Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee), a renowned British anthropologist, is returning to Europe by the Trans-Siberian Express from China to Moscow. With him is a crate containing the frozen remains of a primitive humanoid creature that he discovered in a cave in Manchuria. He hopes it is a missing link in human evolution. Mysteriously, passengers begin to die and have strange, opaque white eyes… Hammer legends, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee team up on the same side for once fighting an unknown force that is right under their collective noses. Very much reminiscent of Carp’s “The Thing,” (an unknown force picking off characters in an isolated, cramped space) takes advantage of the isolation and claustrophobia and is wonderfully atmospheric; despite being shot on the cheap and on sparse sets, the film looks like a classy period production and the acting ties it all together. The paranoia created by the killings is played up and exploited perfectly. Cushing and Lee have fun with their team-up; some witty, playful dialogue is exchanged, they establish a friendly, efficient working relationship with a nice sense of humor; a welcome respite from the usual dead-serious British dirge of the era. The ensemble cast is a freaking blast; complete with a female spy, a Russian count and his impossibly gorgeous wife, a turn-of-the-century engineer marveling at the prospect of space travel, and Alberto de Mendoza as a mad monk whose allegiances shift from God to this ancient evil. The film’s best performance belongs to Telly Savalas, who arrives a tad late, into the third act, but injects the film with some much needed energy and all around strangeness, an underrated actor in an underrated film.  After having seen it decades ago on the generic cable monster movie marathon, the one indelible image that remained vivid, despite the fuzziness of the plot and the actors who starred; those damn bleeding eyes that would roll over white–made quite the impression and still does. The absurdity aside, the film is played straight and works far better than I expected.

Night of the Creeps  1986- One of my favorite movies of all time celebrates all things horror and a love for movies in general with nearly all of its supporting characters named after famous directors; Cameron, Landis, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Romero, and Tobe Hooper. Written and Directed by Fred Dekker, (who would be put in Director Jail for “Robocop 3”) would helm the slightly overrated “Monster Squad” the following year. That film is fun, but this is vastly superior using the perfect mash up of alien invasion/zombie films. Tom Atkins stars as the tough guy right out of a 50’s noir. Campy, of course, but a geeky, snarky love letter to all things B! Ignored mostly upon release, it now has become a cult classic.

The Blob  1988 – Continuing on the then-trend to remake all the 1950’s monster flicks, this 80’s update turned the Blob into a true menace instead of some goofy special effect. The story nearly follows the same beats, but instead the focus in on high school cheerleader Meg, played by the luscious Shawnee Smith, in an inspired performance full of toughness, resourcefulness and good humor. For gore hounds, some excellent gross-out moments; a hobo turned into a nasty pizza-like goo, limbs ripped off and a dude sucked down a kitchen sink drainpipe… two odd miscasts; elderly Joe Seneca plays an evil government hack and the obnoxious Kevin Dillon, Meg’s friend and the film’s required male anti-hero, as Brian Flagg. The film works so good you don’t notice these two blips, except for Dillon’s stupid, ugly hair. The ending promised us a sequel, but sadly, the film was ignored by the critics and was a box-office flop.

In The Mouth of Madness 1995 – The third installment in what Director John Carpenter calls his Apocalypse Trilogy, preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness and sadly, is his last great film to date. A true mind-bender and a tribute to the greatness of H.P. Lovecraft as the film is peppered with quotes and themes from his stories. The film has fun playing with reality as we really never know who is truly insane. An outstanding cast, Charleton Heston, Sam Neil, John Glover and David Warner deliver the goods. Yet another Carpenter film that did not get the bank it deserved, but has now become a cult classic and acknowledged as an exceptional film.

Humanoids From the Deep– 1980- Roger Corman produced, this drive-in trash that has everything a fan could want; nudity, gore, and excellent make-up for the creatures. A coastal town in the Pacific Northwest is showing strange evidence of mutant fish in its rivers and streams and missing females from the nearby towns. What they discover are some ghastly creations due to corporate pollution. Brazen in its sleaze, it makes no pretense about its B movie trappings ripping off nearly every film in the genre, from “Friday the 13th” to “Alien,” it’s shameless and we love it. Doug McClure is the dull protagonist and Vic Morrow, one film away from his grisly fate in “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” plays the baddie who too meets, ironically, a grisly end. Favorite moment- a couple is making love on the beach when the creatures attack; pay attention the ventriloquist dummy-priceless! Avoid the remake and embrace this smarmy beauty for exactly what it is. Disowned by its female Director who took offense to the carnage, (rape, nudity and excessive gore) added in by Corman without her blessing… Bless his heart.

The Legend of Lizzie Borden 1975- A criminally under-seen television movie about one of the most infamous murders in history. Elizabeth Montgomery gave the finest performance of her career as the titular character who was accused of murdering her father and step-mother with an axe in a small New England town in August, 1892. The trial, dubbed the ‘trial of the century,’ followed resulted in a town obsessed as evidence slowly stacked against her. The film is now strangely forewarning, almost a mirror to the Simpson trial, as the media frenzy went overboard to cover the story. Flawlessly directed and performed; although technically not a horror story, (no more so than something like, “Misery”), but it does have horrific elements and it plays out like a spooky gothic tale told on the playground or around campfires as that creepy nursery rhyme plays in your head. It has a classy, chilling vibe that is hard to resist. We see the carnage, the aftermath and the chilling events that led up the events. Montgomery is enthralling (a distant cousin to the real Borden) as she goes from innocent to guilty and back again with a simple facial expression; she’s aloof and concise. A terrific performance that earned her and the film itself an Emmy nomination prompting the viewer to question her ultimate fate, did she do it? Katherine Helmond is solid too as her older sister, Emma. A must see on any day of the year. Extremely hard to find on DVD, if at all, but well worth the search.

From Beyond 1986 – Director Stewart Gordon’s S&M trash masterpiece is often over-looked due to the greatness of “Re-Animator”, likely story since Barbra Crampton and Jeff Combs both star here as well. Based on a story from H.P. Lovecraft, of a mad Dr. Pretorius (Todd Sorel) searching for a telepathic sixth sense by exploiting the pineal gland in the brain, from a device he has invented, Resonator, unleashing all kinds of nasty creations and sensations! Gordon lets loose the insanity for reasons unknown, but they sure look good wrapped in this sleazy, sexual vibe that gets going when Babs is dressed out in her freaky outfits; this new realm opens up all kinds of oddball creatures and happenings. Not for the faint of heart as there are plenty of gross-out moments; eyeballs sucked out, characters swallowed by slimy monsters and the pineal gland sticking through skulls. Great fun, with some excellent acting by Crampton and Combs. Plenty of gross-out moments and other things to ponder. Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, Candyman) co-stars. Strange and very weird.

Omen III: The Final Conflict 1981- A rarity, a horror sequel that’s not only good, but better than the original and it’s a third entry in a horror franchise that is ridiculously underrated. An excellent trilogy that follows the life of the anti-Christ; a fitting end to the story of Damian Thorne. Sam Neil stars as Thorne, CEO of Thorne Industries who is soon appointed Ambassador to Great Britain. After he announces his intentions to run for President, his heritage is soon discovered as Thorne consolidates his power and prepares to battle Jesus Christ himself. Neil in one of his very first roles, is charming, intense and Jerry Goldsmith delivers another fantastic, memorable score.

The Descent  2005– The British import, by Director Neal Marshall has a fresh take on a familiar premise. Six female friends go on weekend trip to explore some caves, what they find of course is terrible. This is ALIEN in a cave, in essence, but that’s not a bad thing as it exploits the concept to the fullest extent with an excellent all female cast and unbearable, intense tension, especially uncomfortable for those that are claustrophobic. Compelling, creepy and cruel, this is a tough flick and the things it says about women’s reactions in a crisis is very bleak and pointed. Excellent all the way around. A box-office and critical hit, yet it’s often neglected to make Best Horror lists. Give it time.

 The Devil’s Rain 1975–  William Shatner, Tom Skerrit and Ernest Borgnine star in this oddity that makes next to zero sense, but has a great 70’s devil vibe that is too much to resist especially since Satanist Anton LaVey is credited as the movie’s technical advisor. For a low-budget flick, we see plenty of famous faces; Keenan Wynn, Eddie Albert and John Travolta in his movie debut and Ida Lupino as Skerrit and the Shat’s mother.The story revolves the Preston family, who is cursed, caused by their betrayal of the satanic priest John Corbis (Ernest Borgnine) who has followed the Preston family for generations, in pursuit of a Satanic book through which he obtains great power. Borgnine, as Corbis, a goat/demon of sorts chews his scenery up like a crazed beaver. The story sort of falls out, by the middle act and becomes slightly incoherent and a bit dull, but we stick around for three things; the sacrifice and melting of Shatner, the melting of John Travolta and the melting of Borgnine as Corbis. Sure it’s mostly a narrative bust, but the make-up for the time all done on such a cheap budget are damn excellent! Especially, Borgnine. A film that if done right today is ripe for a remake, instead we get Poltergeist … *sigh.  As a side note, Borgnine claimed the film was funded by mobsters and he and the rest of the cast were never fully compensated. Ha!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBBN97vG3UM

 

 

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