Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Strain

Currently airing on FX, "The Strain" is based on three novels by horror and fantasy writer/director Guillermo del Toro and crime author Chuck Hogan. Del Toro should be pleased as he originally envisioned the story as a TV series and so far it works well. His concept successfully blends the unusually diverse genres of biological terror and vampire horror with the usual del Toro spin.

My first thought when hearing del Toro was coming to the small screen was that TV would be too small for him. I was wrong. Downsizing the environment has only made the big horror that much more terrifying. The first two episodes have already aired and they were so tense and tight, I think in the future this might be a huge hit for binge watching. Each time the credits rolled, I wanted more.

I also have to give FX props for not structuring this series as an ongoing TV series, but as a close-ended story. For more on "The Strain," check out Biff Bam Pop!'s Marie Gilbert's reviews of the books here and here, and her recaps of episodes one and two. Check them out.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

RIP James Garner

Actor James Garner passed away last night, he was 86. Whether you knew him as Bret Maverick or Jim Rockford, from The Notebook, or dozens of other roles, he will be missed.

The award-winning actor was one of the few who had successful careers in both film and television. He was in The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, Tank, The Children's Hour, Support Your Local Sheriff, and Murphy's Romance for which he was nominated for an Oscar, just to name a few.

My favorite roles of Garner's were both geeky and intellectual. I really dug that he played the wizard Shazam in a recent DC Comics animated feature, but my favorite flick of his, a great movie, and in my opinion, his best performance was in 36 Hours. Seek it out, it's worth it.

James Garner will be missed. We've lost another Hollywood legend, one of the good guys.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Make Mine Magic Podcast

Many of you know that I do a weekly podcast with my buddy Ray Cornwall, that is also featured at Biff Bam Pop!, called The GAR! Podcast. It's a nerd exploration of a nerd world, completely unrehearsed, and we end up talking about anything under the sun, but usually it includes comics, wrestling, French fries, Prince, and "Breaking Bad."

But did you know I also do a podcast with The Bride as well? Every week we take on one or more topics dealing with one of our favorite obsessions - Disney! Sometimes we're talking about attractions at the parks, movies coming out, travel advice, or favorite characters. As long as it's Disney, it's fair game.

Recent episodes include topics like the American Idol Experience, Disney Villains, more villains, and Figment! You can find The Make Mine Magic Podcast here, and it's also on iTunes and Facebook. You can contact Jennifer on Twitter here, and me here. Enjoy, and Make Mine Magic!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nothing Lasts Forever

Nothing Lasts Forever ~ You may or may not have heard of this obscure 1984 film with Bill Murray. Shot in black and white and shelved by MGM, it was never officially released in theaters or to video retail. Directed by fellow "Saturday Night Live" alum Tom Schiller (remember the brilliant Schiller's Reel?), it has remained unseen for decades but is now, possibly only temporarily available on YouTube.

Ostensibly a Bill Murray vehicle, it stars the immediately post-Gremlins Zach Galligan as a young man, Adam, who returns to New York from Europe with dreams of becoming an artist. The trouble is that America has been through hard times and some things have changed. A transit strike has put the Port Authority in control of New York City in an almost fascist state. Artists are frowned upon and Adam is put to work at the Holland Tunnel for a wacky boss played by Dan Aykroyd.

With me so far? 'Cause it's about to get weird, and yes, weirder than it already is. After Adam is kind to a beggar, the kindness is returned when the man reveals that there is a secret underground of bums that really control the world. After a truly disturbing purification process, during which we go from black and white temporarily to pseudo sepia colorization color, the masters of the world give Adam a mission - to bring art to the moon where he will meet his soulmate.

Adam goes back up to black and white NYC where no one believes him. And then he gets on a bus to the moon, where a young, pre-arrogant, and not-as-grumpy Bill Murray is his possibly sinister sky host. Look quick or you'll miss Larry 'Bud' Melman. Once on the moon, we're in pseudo-color again. But even on the moon things are not as they seem.

This New York City is like a cross between Fellini Paris and Hell here, and in that way, the black and white is used to good effect, very German Expressionist, with just a touch of Val Lewton and David Lynch. The tour of the NY art scene is both surreal and far too real, imagine Andy Warhol in 1920s Germany, bizarre. There are many bits lifted from old movies that may have had something to do with its non-release, rights problems, perhaps?

Zach Galligan, as in Gremlins, does a great It's a Wonderful Life Jimmy Stewart, perhaps much more naive. Lauren Tom, who this writer knows from voice acting in the DC Comics Animated Universe, is his lovely lunar soulmate. The amazingly named Apollonia Van Ravenstein is also quite good. Also look for Eddie Fisher, Imogene Coco, Sam Jaffe, and Mort Sahl.

Perhaps the reason Nothing Lasts Forever was not released was its pre-Tim Burton oddity or its painfully non-mainstreamness. Maybe the studio didn't know what it was - scifi, drama, comedy, period piece, musical? Even I'm not sure. It certainly is intriguing and worth a look while you can. Check it out.