Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best of 2008: Everything Else


In my opinion, the best movies of 2008:

High School Musical 3, Mamma Mia!, Iron Man, Wall-E, Speed Racer, 21, Hancock, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Premonition and Justice League: The New Frontier.

Movies not from 2008, but I saw for the first time this year and loved: Déjà Vu, Last Holiday, Man of the Century, Girl 27, Crash (2004), Shoot ‘Em Up, and the absolutely brilliant The Man from Earth.

The best things from the internet in 2008:

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Stephen King’s "N," Watchmen Motion Comics, BloodRayne A Fan Film, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips podcast, Derrick Ferguson and Thomas Deja's Better in the Dark podcast and The Writing Show podcast.

The best comic books of 2008:

Jonah Hex, Trinity by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley, Geoff Johns' Action Comics, Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's Fantastic Four, Gail Simone's Wonder Woman, Lone Ranger, Countdown to Mystery, Brave and the Bold, Joe Casey's Godland, and Garth Ennis' brilliant revival of British space hero Dan Dare.

The best music videos of 2008 in my opinion:

"4 Minutes" by Madonna and Justin Timbalake w/Timbaland, "Rockstar" by Nickleback, "Dream On" and "Konichiwa Bitches" by Robyn and Pink's "So What."



Folks and things I’ve discovered in 2008 that probably didn’t actually happen in 2008:

Robin Renee, Os Seminovos, the “Coverage” album by Mandy Moore, Lacuna Coil, Hollywood Undead, Vitamin String Quartet and just how really good Suzi Quatro was and is.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Best of 2008: Music




Here are my top twenty-five songs of 2008:

“4 Minutes” by Madonna and Justin Timberlake w/Timbaland
“Sandcastle Disco” by Solange
“American Boy” by Estelle w/Kanye West
“Handlebars” by Flobots
“Handle Me” by Robyn

“Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield
“More Than Enough” by Bryan Hawn
“Should’ve Said No” by Taylor Swift
“Crushcrushcrush” by Paramore
“Chinese Democracy” by Guns N’ Roses

“Bleed It Out” by Linkin Park
“I’m Good, I’m Gone” by Lykke Li
“In Which Moaning Myrtle Moans” by the Moaning Myrtles
“Astropop” by LOURDS
“Future Ex-Boyfriend” by Rocket

“Solo Impala” by The Fashion
“Love Me Dead” by Ludo
“Five Days” by Jana Losey
“Brand New Day” by Neil Patrick Harris
“Dashboard” by Modest Mouse

“Stop” by Against Me!
“Mercy” by Duffy
“Holler Back” by The Lost Trailers
“Re-Education (Through Labor)” by Rise Against
“Bad Girlfriend” by Theory of a Deadman


And my top ten albums of 2008:

“Robyn” by Robyn
“The Rokomonie” by Robyn
“Speed Racer” by Michael Giacchino
“Funhouse” by Pink
“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” by Various

“Spring Awakening” by Duncan Sheik and Various
“Mamma Mia!” by Various
“19” by Adele
“Raising Sand” by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
“Riot!” by Paramore

Freddie Hubbard Passes


Jazz legend Freddie Hubbard passed away yesterday at 70. He will be missed.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Best of 2008: Television


Yep, it's that time of year again, time for everyone and their mother to pick what they thought was the best of the past year. I'm no different, so yes, I'm going to make you suffer through my thoughts. This time, it's television.

For me the top ten TV series of 2008 were:

"Pushing Daisies" - While canceled, and unlikely to return as anything but reruns or DVD, this was a bright spot for me on the TV schedule. It was thoughtful, innovative and brilliant, and that's not even going into the unique cinematic or storytelling techniques it used.

"Eli Stone" - Another unique show and cancellation victim. ABC canned both of them after giving them a second chance this season. I guess ABC has not only a bone to pick with fantasy, but also television that makes you think.

"True Blood" - Unique marketing set this HBO series apart from any other vampire series before it even hit the air with the "BloodCopy" viral marketing ploy. This TV adaptation of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series is the surprise hit of the year.

"Dexter" - In its third season this Showtime series about a serial killer who hunts other serial killers continues to amaze. Even when it's weak, it is better than 90% of everything else out ther on the tube.

"ER" - This old favorite, now in its supposedly final season, has bounced back and become its best season in years with guest stars galore and maintaining its balance of believable characters and intense situations. I don't want it to go.

"The Wire" - And I didn't want this one to go either, but what's done is done. I came late to the party here and caught up on DVD, but I have to say that "The Wire" is probably one of the best series that has beeen made for television, period.
"Parking Wars" - This reality series from A&E follows the employees of the dreaded Philadelphia Parking Authority around during their workday. It's the only reality show of its type that even comes close to the entertainment value of "Cops."

The bottom five of my top ten are rounded out by Cartoon Network's "Brave and the Bold" and "Venture Bros.," the BBC's fourth season of "Doctor Who," the still refreshing "Chuck," and FX's much-missed and unfortunately canceled "Dirt."

In the honorable mentions and etcetera department would be "Smallville" and "South Park" as most improved series, and BET's "Black Panther" and the CW's "Reaper" as the most looked forward to series in 2009.

On the bad side, boos and hisses for "Heroes" and Everybody Hates Chris" for dying a slow death in 2008, and the worst show I've seen this year would, of course, be the American version of "Kath and Kim."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Zack and Miri Make a Porno



Zack and Miri Make a Porno ~ All the hype about taking the “porno” out of the title and the advertising and even the movie listings aside, this is actually a rather sweet film from Kevin Smith – or at least as sweet as Kevin Smith gets. It seems that as much as making the critically panned but well-intentioned Jersey Girl and visiting familiar turf in Clerks 2 with a eye towards fun rather than gloom, has mellowed Smith – it also seems that the presence of Seth Rogen has invigorated him. Formerly Smith stayed within his own bounds and used the same entourage of folks in his films, but Rogen (and Elizabeth Banks as well) has brought the new blood and the new vision needed to make this Smith effort that much more entertaining. Craig Robinson and Superman Returns' Brandon Routh, as well as Smith alumni Jeff Anderson are priceless. A great film (for fans of Smith), and hopefully the start of a new partnership.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

That Time of Year Again

The last few weeks of the year are here and it’s time for Hollywood to roll out their finest stuff in hopes the Academy will take notice and bestow an Oscar on these films. There are a lot of them out there.

Doubt is getting a lot of hype. Milk and Gran Torino promise career performances from Sean Penn and Clint Eastwood respectively. The much talked about reverse-aging epic The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is out there as well. There’s also Will Smith in Seven Pounds, Tom Cruise in Valkyrie, the animated Waltz with Bashir from Ari Folman and Revolutionary Road from Sam Mendes.

Like I said, there are a lot of them, and this is the way it’s been at the end of the year for the last couple decades. The studios want their Oscar hopefuls in the Academy’s faces right before nomination time, and for the most part, this simple ploy usually works. Mark my words, most of the above flicks will make up the majority of the noms this year.

This is bullshit in my opinion. Time of year shouldn’t matter. A good movie, an Oscar-worthy movie, is Oscar-worthy no matter what time of year it is released. If these studios had any reall balls they would release all of these in January. If a flick is really that good, the Academy will remember it come December. And if not, if the Academy is that dim-witted and memory-handicapped, why are they allowed to vote?

Bolt



Bolt ~ More computer animation from Disney, this time doing its level animated best to take advantage of the Miley Cyrus phenomenon while it lasts.

The premise of Bolt is that of a dog actor who doesn’t know he’s acting in a TV show about a super-powered dog. It’s sort of Truman Show gone to the dogs, if you can forgive the pun. Bolt gets out of the studio, and learns the hard way that he doesn’t really have super powers. Cyrus is his mistress and he’s set loose across the country searching for her.

John Travolta in an unsteady step backwards plays the title role. He plays Bolt with his Vinnie Barbarino voice from “Welcome Back, Kotter” back in the 1970s. It’s almost like take Vinnie, add a touch of Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction, add some fleas and shake briskly. I tried to get it out of my head, but failed. Weirdly, at some points, the voice works. On the opposite end of the Travolta stuff, the voice work of Susie Essman ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") and Mark Walton make the flick that much better.

Sadly however, for me, in the long run, the movie fails. It never matches up in the reality scenes to the pure adventure thrill of the faked scenes from the Bolt TV series. Why didn’t they just make a movie about the TV Bolt character? A bit clichéd, but exciting and nail-biting, but for me, it would have been a better movie.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Avengers Forever Holiday Chat Schedule


From the Avengers Forever website:

The Avengers Forever Chatroom is open for the holidays! Some of us are lucky enough to have a bunch o' time off from work and or school for the holidays so we thought it might be a good time to dust off the chat room and have at it! That said below is a tentative schedule that includes chat room dates, times and topics. Please feel free to stop on by for some great conversation over the holidays.

Dark Avengers
Friday, December 26 @ 9:00 PM (EST)

Ultimate Avengers
Saturday, December 27 @ 9:00 PM (EST)

New Avengers: The Reunion
Sunday, December 28 @ 9:00 PM (EST)

Avengers Classic Chat - Focus on Volume III
Monday, December 29 @ 9:00 PM (EST)

Mighty Avengers
Tuesday, December 30 @ 9:00 PM (EST)

Enter the Chatroom here!

Hope to see you soon! Happy Holidays! And Avengers Assemble!

Eartha Kitt RIP


Eartha Kitt passed away Christmas Day after a long battle with colon cancer. The singer, actress and star of Broadway was 81. She was one of the stage's most seductive entertainers whose trademark purr eventually landed her the role of Catwoman in the 1960s "Batman" TV series, for which she is known by many baby boomers. She recorded the original hit version of the Christmas classic, "Santa Baby," and in her career spanning nearly six decades, she was nominated for numerous Grammys, Emmys and Tonys. We have truly lost of the great ones. Miss Kitt will be missed.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Dr. Horrible on DVD



Now finally on DVD, you can watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog anytime on your TV. For those of you living under a rock for the last year or so, Dr. Horrible is quite possibly the best entertainment to come out in and around 2008. While not exactly a movie or a TV show, it’s a new form of entertainment that is - up until the DVD release – was dependent on the internet.

Available in iTunes, this metahuman drama/musical/online vlog tells the tale of Billy aka Dr. Horrible, a wannabe mad scientist/super-villain out to join the Evil League of Evil, and get the attention of Penny, a girl at the Laundromat he crushing badly on.

Former Dougie Howser and current star of "How I Met Your Mother," Neil Patrick Harris brilliantly fills the title role, with Felicia Day as Penny, and Nathan Fillion of "Firefly" as Horrible’s arch-nemesis superhero Captain Hammer. Speaking of "Firefly," the whole shebang is the brainchild of Joss Whedon. If you liked his work with that short-lived series or his "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," you’ll love this. I think this is the best thing Whedon has ever done, and that’s saying a lot.

See it here, with, as they say, ‘limited commercial interruption.’ See it, buy the DVD, live the blog – you’ll love it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What Does a Comic Book Colorist Really Do?



What does a comic book colorist really do? As you can see above - everything. In the video you can see colorist Rod Reis take an interesting yet flat piece of art and make it absolutely come alive. Think about this next time you're reading your favorite comic. Rock on, Rod.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majel Barrett Passes at 76



Majel Barrett, wife of the late Gene Roddenberry and the First Lady of Star Trek, has passed away from complications of leukemia this morning.

She appeared in several different incarnations of "Star Trek," including the original series, "Next Generation," several of the movies, and even in the fan-produced "New Voyages."

Her voice also is that of the Enterprise computer in the upcoming theatrical release of "Star Trek" from producer J.J. Abrams.

She'll be dearly missed.

The Return of Smallville


Finally we get the Legion of Super-Heroes episode we've all been waiting for, also the return of the Martian Manhunter, more Doomsday, the Persuader (???!!!), and just who is that bald guy in the shadows with all the wires? Is it Luthor? Or Brainiac? Or someone even more sinister? Tune in, same Smallville time, same Smallville channel on Thursday, January 15th.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crash (2004)



Crash ~ This 2004 offering from writer/director Paul Haggis (who would later go on to revitalize the James Bond franchise – not that it needed revitalization, in my opinion at least) won several Oscars that may have been more worthy for the individual performances of the actors than for the entire film or screenplay. Several vignettes intersect in post-9-11 Los Angeles with a slant toward exposing many different kinds of prejudice and stereotypes. It never truly comes together in my opinion. And several scenes seem to have either been ghost-written by Quentin Tarantino trying to ape his own style from Pulp Fiction - or by someone doing a bad parody of the Q-man. Sandra Bullock shows her rarely seen acting chops in an unpleasant role, and Larenz Tate and Ludacris absolutely steal the movie from the much more experienced actors involved. Worth watching for the acting, but don’t expect an ending, happy or otherwise.

Scrubs - Sneak Peek


"Scrubs" returns to network television on January 6th, this time on ABC, and with Courtney Cox.

A Very Lipshitz Christmas



The Dumpsta Players present...

"A Very Lipshitz Christmas"

Wednesday, December 17th
10pm doors, 11PM showtime -- sharp!

Bob and Barbara's
1509 South Street
Philadelphia, PA

Info: (215) 545-4511
$1.99 cover

MISS TONY VS. HOMOPHOBIC DEACON DICK

LIBBY LIPSHITZ-BARRY GOES GOY

TINY COLLETTA EATS HER WAY THRU HOLIDAYS

It's Christmas at the Lipshitz home, but wait a minute, they're Jews! The economy is so bad that the family is flat broke and battling mother Libby and rebellious daughter Bethsheba have to peddle their wares and enter a financially lucrative dance contest at the ex-Gay Ministry Church, led by swishy Deacon Dick Dunceworth and his evil assistant Ethel Witzenheimer. Southwest Philly's finest Tiny Colletta and daughter Lurlayne are just there for the free food! But look who's here to crash the party and show everyone how to dance: 13th Street queen Miss Tony and her cousin Rosita Conchita Rodriguez-Johnson. Will the Collettas eat all the candy? Who gets the Christmas tree thrown at them this year? Has Deacon Dick really prayed the gay away? Will Miss Tony finally teach everyone important lessons in homophobia and how to come correct? And will they listen this time?

Find out in... A Very Lipshitz Christmas

Monday, December 15, 2008

X-Men Origins: Wolverine - Sneak Peek


Posted here mainly so you won't have to go see the pointless remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, take a sneak peek at the trailer for X-Men Origins: Wolverine here. Yes, that is Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth, and Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. And yeah, that's the Blob, and oh baby, yeah, that's Gambit. This might be worth it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Van Johnson Passes at 92



Film and television actor Van Johnson has passed away from natural causes. He was 92. His wholesome boy-next-door good looks made him a heartthrob of the movies of the 1940s and 50s. He continued his career on television into the 1970s and 80s.

Bettie Page RIP


After a four-week-long stay in the hospital and nearly half a lifetime hiding from her career as a 1950's pinup model, Bettie Page has passed away at the age of 85.

Her scandalous (for the time) photos in Hugh Hefner's Playboy magazine and the bondage mags of Irving Klaw helped to ring in the beginning of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Of course she may have been unaware of that as she vanished, fighting mental illness and becoming a born-again Christian. She shunned interviews for years, refusing to be photographed in her old age.

In the 1970s and afterwards, she became a cult figure and once again experienced a rush of fame, in the form of comics, movies and posters. She remains one of the most beautiful and recognizable female pop icons of the 1950s and beyond. Rest in peace, Bettie.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Twas the Night Before Christmas



The Pineland Players present:

A Visit from St. Nicholas

Friday, December 12th, 7:30 PM

The Gibson House Community Center
535 E. Main Street
Marlton, NJ 08053

It's Christmas Eve, 1822, and Clement Clark Moore's house is not as quiet as a mouse -- everyone is stirring even the mice! The tale takes place around the writing of the famous children's poem.

Adults $6.00 Seniors & Children $5.00

The Spirit - Sneak Peek



This trailer focuses on the women of The Spirit. Yes, women have always been an important part of the Spirit's life but this (for several reasons) looks more like the women of Sin City than The Spirit. I hope Frank Miller hasn't ruined the Spirit like he did Batman...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Chat with the Authors of Carpathian Shadows Volume II




The Writer's Chatroom

Chat with the authors of "Carpathian Shadows: Volume Two"

Carol Cole is a pediatric physical therapist and has worked for the past twenty-five years in a Virginia school system. Always a voracious reader, Carol began writing six years ago. Her stories have been published in over thirty-five online and print magazines. She has storied in two other anthologies, "By the Chimney With Care" and "Aleatory's Junction" She lives with her husband and twenty-one year old son, in Vienna, Virginia.

Christina Barber is an award-winning author of speculative fiction works noted for their dark tones. Christina's published books include Seely's Pond (Dark Urban Fantasy, March 2008), Ghosts of Southern Crescent, Georgia (Non-Fiction, Summer 2008) and Greystone (2006 Speculative Romance). She has short stories appearing in magazines and anthologies across the writing spectrum.

Donna Amato is a nurse who works with transplant patients. Her stories have been published in a variety of online and print magazines and two anthologies. She lives with three of her children in Shreveport, Louisiana and is currently working on her first novel.

Kevin Tipple: In addition to having been the editor or assistant editor of several different zines, his book reviews appear extensively online and he is the book reviewer for the Texas edition of the newspaper "Senior News." His short fiction has appeared in magazines such as "Lynx Eye," "Starblade," "Show and Tell," and "The Writer's Post Journal" among others and online at such places as "Mouth Full Of Bullets," "Crime And Suspense," "Mysterical-e" and others.

Kristin Johnson is an award-winning short story writer and poet, a produced screenwriter (PIRATES OF GHOST ISLAND) and an animation writer for Dotcomers.tv. She is a book reviewer, journalist, novelist and (no pun intended) a ghostwriter. Her story "Quicksand" appeared in the MuseItUpClub anthology Aleatory's Junction.

Lea Schizas is an award-winning author and editor and founder of The Muse Online Writers Conference and The MuseItUp Club, both Writer's Digest top 101 Writing Sites.

Rob Preece is editor and publisher of BooksForABuck.com. Under three names, he's published in mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and romance with multiple publishers. Prior to opening BooksForABuck.com, he worked in the high technology field, for the US Government, and as a college instructor. When he's not writing, editing, or reading, Rob practices martial arts (he's a black belt in Tae Kwon Do), and plays and teaches bridge. Rob lives in an eclectic neighborhood in south Dallas where he sets many of his stories. His most recent novel, MIDLIFE MURDER (writing as Amy Eastlake) was Fictionwise's highest rated mystery for a number of weeks when it first came out.

Seana Graham's short stories have appeared in a variety of magazines and literary journals, the most recent ones being Ping Pong and Salamander. Her story "The Pirate's True Love" was recently anthologized in The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and " Marina " was granted the seventh annual Zone 3 fiction award . She has also co-authored a trivia book on Southern California with Lisa Wojna for Blue Bike Press.


WHEN?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Eastern USA Time.....7 PM

Not sure what time that is wherever in the world you are? http://www.worldtimeserver.com

WHERE?

The Writers Chatroom at: http://www.writerschatroom.com/Enter.htm

Scroll down to the Java box. It may take a moment to load. Type in the name you wish to be known by, and click Login. No password needed.

Odetta Passes



Music legend Odetta passed away this week. We've lost one of the greats, and she'll be sorely missed.

The Secret Invasion Chat




AVENGERS FOREVER PRESENTS
The SECRET INVASION CHAT

http://www.avengersforever.org/chat

Secret Invasion #8 is out, the smoke has cleared, and the summer's most talked-about comics event has come to a close. What did you think of the story, the art, the ending, the death, the set-up for Dark Reign, and the return of Bobbi? Should Bendis be applauded as a genius or run out of town with torches and pitchforks? Was it all worth it? Come and talk about it with us!

WHERE:

The Avengers Forever Chatroom at: http://www.avengersforever.org/chat

Type in a username and click on "login" to join the fun!


WHEN:

Monday evening, December 8, 2008

US Eastern Standard Time: 9:00 PM

US Central Standard Time: 8:00 PM

US Mountain Standard Time: 7:00 PM

US Pacific Standard Time: 6:00 PM


Hope to see you all Monday night!

http://www.avengersforever.org/chat

Friday, December 05, 2008

Rest in Peace, Forry



Barely a week after his 92nd birthday, the great Forrest J. Ackerman passed away yesterday from heart attack.

He was perhaps the godfather of sci-fi (a term he coined) and genre fandom in general. Among other things, he founded and edited the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland which he edited for decades, and he also discovered Ray Bradbury. His Los Angeles home was veritable museum of film which was open to the public every Saturday morning he was home. He was also a writer himself as well as a literary agent as well as a movie and television star.

Forry was one of the greats, and he will be missed.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Tale of Two Michelles

This is the tale of two Michelles, one with one L and one with two, and a happy situation, unfortunately at the expense of a Judi.


Several months ago, New Jersey 101.5 FM’s After Hours program with Michele Pilenza went from a train wreck that I would listen to only to hear the carnage, to an actually interesting radio show. This was due to the presence of Michelle Jerson, subbing for Pilenza while she had her baby.

Michelle Jerson was a breath of fresh air. Not only was she a more experienced, and in my humble opinion, a much more entertaining broadcaster, but she was much more open-minded - something that might be important in doing a radio talk show that purports to give advice about lifestyle, relationships, sex and romance.

When Michele Pilenza with one L returned from maternity leave, she stepped easily back into the same shoes she left. Judgmental and close-minded as ever, she was back, and I was out of there. I was missing Ms. Jerson badly, as I really wanted to enjoy the show as an intelligent talk show instead of a nightly train wreck. Seriously, I just couldn't take Ms. Pilenza saying inane things like "fat people shouldn't date" or "ugly people should just give up" or telling callers that they were "freaks" because of some miscellaneous fetish. Like I said, she was real open-minded.

Luckily, or unluckily depending on your outlook, Ms. Pilenza has left the evening airways for the mornings, joining Dennis Malloy to replace the departing Judi Franco. As I wasn't a fan, this didn't affect me, but the side effect did - Michelle Jerson returned to the nighttime After Hours slot. Way to go, Michelle, you've got a regular listener.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Watchmen Sneak Peek



The second trailer to the Watchmen film is now available.

This time we get to hear the voices of the characters, the infamous opening sequence, and closer looks at the Owlship and Rorshach's inkblot-morphing mask, all set to a Philip Glass-like score.

See it here.

Watchmen, barring further legal troubles, opens march 2009.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Feel Terribly, Terribly Old...


"Nevermind," the album by Nirvana that changed everything back in 1990 has now officially become nostalgia, I suppose. The baby featured on the album cover is now eighteen years old. Wow.

I feel terribly, terribly old now. I was twenty-eight when "Nevermind" came out and changed music and pop culture, and nastily put the wooden stake into the back of hair bands and bubble gum (at least for a little while), and brought grunge and alternative music into the limelight.

Despite nearly two decades passing, "Nevermind" remains just as crisp and innovative now as it did when I first heard it. Clearly it's in the realm of a "Sgt. Pepper" or a "Pet Sounds" or "Tapestry" and not just a trendy flash in the pan.

I feel even older when I think about the fact that twenty-eight is usually the age when folks give up on new music and settle into oldies mode. Luckily, or unluckily, I didn't. Hmmm... maybe that's why I feel so old now...

Dark Corridor #2



Dark Corridor #2 from Main Enterprises is now available!

Available at last is the second isue of this popular magazine of horror, fantasy and suspense fiction and illustration.

Returning are authors Sam Gafford ("Exchange" and "The Council of Forever"), Michael Vance ("Cross Purposes") and newcomer Mark Orr ("Plastic Jesus).

Illustrators include Terry Pavlet (front cover), John Lambert (inside front cover), Barry Southworth (inside back cover), David Simmons (back cover), Noor Hafizah, Jack Bertram, Dan Taylor, Greg Woronchak, Rick Limacher and Jeff Mason.

Also our new review section, "Den of the Dark," begins this issue - featuring a review of Kim Richards' "Death Masks."

Get your copy now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Mouse Turns 80


Eighty years ago, on November 18th, one of the world's major cartoon icons was born - Mickey Mouse!

The cartoon short, "Steamboat Willie," was released theatrically on this day and was notable for being the first syncronized sound cartoon.

The creation of animation genius Walt Disney as well as a few of his friends, Mickey has gone on to worldwide fame. Surely there are not many in this world who don't know the Mouse.

More info can be found here.

Happy Birthday, Mickey!

Star Trek Sneak Peek



The new Star Trek trailer is now online. You can see it here.

Curiouser and curiouser. Was Kirk blond? And did he and Uhura hook up back in the early days? And why would he trash a perfectly good (and probably a valuable antique as well) Corvette like that? Other than that, the spx look pretty awesome. Time will tell.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bender's Game


The third straight-to-DVD "Futurama" flick, Bender's Game, is a true mixed bag. It could have been one of the more hilarious half-hour episodes but they stretched it to feature length making it for the most part insufferable.

It begins with clever parody of Dungeons & Dragons, the current oil crisis and quite possibly a little bit of Sarah Palin thrown in for good measure, and then turns to mush. Most of the second part of this one is an adventure taking place in a D&D-like world satirizing Lord of the Rings, and doing it badly.

This DVD doesn't even have any fun extras that could possibly make up for the lack of quality in the actual feature. In my opinion, more Hypnotoad, both figuratively and literally, could have helped this package quite a bit. I recommend you skip this one, wait for it to show up on basic cable, and hope for the final "Futurama" feature to improve on this downward spiral.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Michael Crichton R.I.P.


We've lost one of the great ones.

Michael Crichton, perhaps one of the greatest writers of the late twentieth century, author of "The Andromeda Strain," "Jurassic Park" and "The Great Train Robbery" among many others and the creator of "ER," died unexpectedly this week after a private battle with cancer.

The man will be missed.

Friday, October 31, 2008

More Halloween Quickies


The Little Girl who Lives Down the Lane ~ This is one of my favorite movie-of-the-week-style suspense thrillers from the 1970s. Very straightforward, only a few characters to worry about – heck it could be a stage play easily, and most importantly, it’s scary without being bloody or gory. Are you paying attention, Eli Roth? These things do not go hand in hand. Now I may have gone a bit hard on Jodie Foster earlier this month, but I really do like her. She is a talent powerhouse and here she shows just how good she was even at a young age. Also showing his superior acting chops is Martin Sheen, always a favorite of mine (pre-“West Wing” at least). He is the epitome of the creepy pedophile in this flick. Excellent fodder for a popcorn-filled Halloween Friday night.

The Batman Vs. Dracula ~ I was kinda put off by “The Batman” animated series when it began with its manga design, obsession with the telling of the early stories and its changes for the sake of change. This made-for-DVD movie pitting this new animated version of Batman against the real prince of darkness turned my head and got my attention. In my opinion, this movie was also the turning point for the TV series as well. Dracula is a real vital threat outside the safe constraints of ‘children’s programming’ and the creators take full advantage of it. This is a rare Halloween treat for genre and non-genre fans alike.


Invisible Enemies ~ This is what I get for stopping on one of the Christian broadcasting stations in the middle of the night. Actually this mini-movie with a lesson is pretty good. Like a “Twilight Zone” episode crossed with They Live with heavy evangelistic overtones poured on top, this is the tale of a young man who finds a pair of magical glasses that allow him to see demons in our world. As good as it could be to teach a lesson, and still hold your attention.

Kongo ~ This entry from 1932 is a talkie remake of the classic Tod Browning flick West of Zanzibar. It’s okay but it lacks the power of the original. Walter Huston is good, but he’s no Lon Chaney. But then again, no one is, and few approach him.

The Films of Harry Houdini


What better time to talk about master magician Harry Houdini than Halloween? It's actually eighty-two years ago to the day when he died.

Many folks know of Houdini's career as a magician, illusionist, escape artist and debunker of spiritualists, but did you know he was also a movie star? Yep, in the 1920s, Houdini embarked upon a career as a silent action star.

While he had appeared in some of the earliest films ever made in France performing parts of his act, his first real foray into Hollywood was the 15-part movie serial The Master Mystery in 1919. The cliffhanger format of the serial suited Houdini's skills to perfection as each episode ended with his character, the appropriately named secret agent Quentin Locke, in predicament after predicament that needed a 'magical' escape from.

Other films followed, including The Grim Game, notorious for its real life collision of two bi-planes 4000 feet in the air, and The Man from Beyond, about a man revived after a hundred years of being frozen in the Arctic. There was also Terror Island and Haldane of the Secret Service.

While none of these four were movie serials, they were rife with the cliffhanger formula allowing Houdini to do his thing. But that was part of the problem. On the screen audiences could not be sure whether the stunts were real or just Hollywood trickery. And the fact that Houdini was not the best dramatic actor around certainly didn't help the situation. So while the films were quite successful, these factors helped him decide, along with the fact he could make more money live on stage, that Hollywood was not for him.

These films, being made back in the 1920s, in an ever-growing age where more and more movies are considered lost, are not intact for us to see, but what remains has been restored and put into a DVD collection called Houdini - The Movie Star.

As complete as possible, restored here are Haldane, Terror Island and Master Mystery. Also included are intensive notes, clips and information about the other films as well as much about Houdini's life in Hollywood. You can see footage of the bi-planes from Grim Game, as well as actual escapes from his act. This is an excellent collection for any fans of Houdini or film in general. Recommended.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who Is the Phantom Stranger?




Another darn fine blog from Rob Kelly, this one about The Phantom Stranger, is coming your way on October 31st. Check it out here.

Halloween Quickies


Premonition ~ When I heard the plot to this one, I thought that surely Sandra Bollock must have lost her mind – another freaky anti-logical time travel story? With the bad headache of The Lake House fresh in my mind I tentatively watched this one, and was pleasantly surprised. While traveling backwards and forwards in time, a young housewife and mother attempts to right her life which has become a tragedy. This is a smart thriller and worth seeing.

Mystery of the Wax Museum ~ Fay Wray is just a delight as fast-talking spunky reporter Charlotte Duncan in this two-strip Technicolor horror classic from 1933. Lots of fun and spookier than any of its rip-offs and remakes. This is the real deal.

Angel Heart ~ This flick made quite a bit of press when it came out because of the nude scenes featuring Lisa Bonet, at the time a co-star of the top ten “The Cosby Show.” If memory serves, it lost her the gig. Beyond that, we have Mickey Rourke, back when he could act and wasn’t quite so sleazy – pre-Barfly in other words, along with a phoned-in performance from Robert DeNiro in a film written and directed by Alan Parker. The trick to enjoying this movie is to not pay too much attention. If you do pay attention, it becomes predictable and very transparent, and it’s a long way to the end. Worth seeing once, but that’s about it.

The Happening ~ I’m a huge M. Night Shyamalan fan, but this 2008 film is nothing but a disappointment. I still think he’s one of the best writer/directors working in the business, just he maybe got lazy or perhaps was knocked in the head or something. The Happening, while showing off M. Night’s direction and cinematic skills, is nothing but a derivative rip-off/homage of Hitchcock’s The Birds only with plants enraged at man rather than our feather friends. The similarities are shockingly unoriginal and I have to admit I’ve lost more than a bit of respect for M. Night. He’s better than this, or at least I thought he was.

Near Dark ~ A very young Adrian Pasdar, Nathan Petrelli from “Heroes,” is the naïve lead in this 1987 vampire flick written and directed by Kathryn Bigelow – the woman behind Blue Steel, a film solidly in my bottom ten. Near Dark must have been quite innovative when it came out, but now it feels dated, and yes, a bit cliché.

Superman Vs. Raiden??



Above are preview scenes from the new Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe video game due out in November, available for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

I'm always intrigued by crossovers of any sort, but shouldn't they at least follow some sort of logic? Shouldn't Superman, Green Lantern and Captain Marvel be able to take any (or all) of those MK guys? And heaven forbid, superheroes should not have 'kill moves.'

Yeah, it might look cool, but count me out on this one.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Boo Who



For real this time, not a Sun rumour, David Tennant is leaving his role as The Doctor.

Tennant, the second Doctor of BBC's new "Doctor Who" series, brought the intensity and reality for folks new to the TARDIS while bringing the quirky fun and eccentricity that made the original version so cool for classic fans.

We'll still have him in the role for four movie-length specials throughout the year as well as in the annual Christmas special at the close of 2009, titled "The Next Doctor." Three guesses what that one will be about, and the first two don't count.

We'll miss you, David.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

High School Musical 3



High School Musical 3: Senior Year ~ What needs to be understood is that HSM is not just a movie, it’s a phenomenon. The theatre that we saw this in is one where I have never seen anyone younger than their twenties in attendance. The lobby and parking lot was packed. I had never seen so many folks there before, ever. And they were all under twenty.

Further evidence would be the origins of this flick – it was intended as a made-for-TV movie for the Disney Channel, and its just as popular sequel was made for straight-to-DVD, now, number three is the number one opener for this weekend’s box office. Thus is the power of HSM.

Yes, we know that Zac Efron has irresistible baby blues but that doesn’t mean he gets to look directly I to the camera whenever possible. Unlike the original, I found Vanessa Anne Hudgens about as charismatic as toast. She really didn’t want to be there for whatever reason. Ashley Tisdale makes every scene she’s in hers and hers alone. Her portrayal as Sharpay is a scene-devouring monster and it’s a delight. There should have been more. Lucas Grabeel is fun and also shines, but not as brightly as previously. The underclassmen are played simply for laughs – I certainly hope the powers that be don’t expect them to carry the franchise if it continues.

The finale, featuring songs from not only this flick but its predecessors, is a high point, but the real tour de force is “The Boys Are Back,” a song that is one of the only ones to showcase Corbin Bleu. He and Efron dance up a storm in a junkyard using moves reminiscent of the King of Pop in his heyday. Great sequence, really.



The biggest secret of HSM, and especially Senior Year, is that it’s actually good, and not just for kids. Yes, it’s a bit simplistic, and predictable, and suffers from the same faulty logic all musicals do – but it is very entertaining for kids of all ages. Recommended.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Coming Very Soon



Written and directed by one of my favorite folks on the planet, Kevin Smith, has been getting a bit of bad press. Apparently there are theatres that won’t put the title on the marquee because of the word, ‘porno.’ Wow. Aren’t you glad we all live in the oh-so-enlightened 21st century? Sarcasm mode off. Screw it, it’s Kevin Smith, I’m seeing it. He hasn’t let me down yet… even with his forever late Spider-Man and the Black Cat



2006’s Casino Royale was a fantastic action flick, and a serious return and restart for the James Bond franchise. If I had one nitpick about it, it would be that it was missing the wit and wry sense of humor the Bond films had developed over the years. While it’s true it wasn’t something that was a major part of Ian Fleming’s books, it was sorely missing in that film. I’m guessing that it will definitely be gone in this second installment, Quantum of Solace, a Fleming story in name only, with James out for revenge. So very unBond-like.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Too Much Free Time?



Really, Bill? Come on, man, George's wedding was more than a few months ago. Why are you still fuming? Priceline and "Boston Legal" not keeping you busy enough?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dolemite Dies


The 'Disco Godfather' Rudy Ray Moore passed away from complications from diabetes this week.

He was one of the icons of the blaxploitation film genre as Dolemite, a black protagonist who was sort of a streetwise hustler of questionable yet good intentions. This was a role Moore returned to several times over the years starting with The Human Tornado. The character of Dolemite experienced something of a revival in recent years with Aries Spears portraying 'the son of Dolemite' on "MadTV." Rumor has it there is a Rudy Ray Moore Dolemite film yet to be released, as well as a remake in the works possibly starring Snoop Dogg in the title role.

The original Dolemite trailer is below. Not for the kids, nor is it work-safe. View at your own risk.



Rudy Ray Moore, over and beyond his legendary status as an actor, action hero and black film icon, was also a writer, stand-up comedian, rapper, musician and producer. The man will be missed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bunnies and Book Burning

"If I can't have you, no one can."

How many times have we heard that sentence in those thrillers where some borderline psychotic can't have the person they love, who has refused to return that love? It's usually followed by some psychotic behavior. It's an example of extortion, and it doesn't just relate to love. It could also involve terrorism.

"If you don't believe as we believe, we'll kill thousands of innocent people."

A bit extreme, but it's in the same ball park. And then we have the case of Taffey Anderson, an Oregon parent who wants to burn books. Just like the Nazis did.

The book in question is "The Book of Bunny Suicides" by cartoonist (and television writer) Andy Riley. Incorrectly referred to as a graphic novel by the media (but when do they get anything right, or check their facts for that matter), it's a cartoon book of black humor about bunnies who want to end their lives. It's really no more harmful than anything by Gary Larson or Gahan Wilson, just tasteless is all, and depending on your sense of humor - hilarious. I think it's hilarious. But again, humor is like taste, everyone's is different.


Taffey Anderson doesn't have a sense of humor when it comes to the book however. She contends that "This book has absolutely no curriculum value to anybody." That point might be arguable. The book was purchased by her son's high school library as part of a program to encourage reluctant readers. But of course, this is America, and I'm sure there are many folks who don't want people to read. It makes them smarter, and a smart citizen is a smart voter... but that's a whole 'nother bag o' rats.

I would say personally that the curriculum value of "The Book of Bunny Suicides" is quite clear. It's about censorship and protecting the First Amendment.

Keep burning those books, Taffey. I'm sure Adolf Hitler would be proud.

Negadon

Negadon: The Monster from Mars ~ Also known as Wakusei Daikaijû Negadon, this is a loving homage to the great Japanese giant monster movies of the 1960s and 70s. Writer/director Jun Awazu utilizes computer models and animation to construct this kaiju eiga for the 21st century.



At just under a half-hour we get the full story of an anguished scientist, the terraforming of Mars, a giant monster destroying a city and the giant robot that saves the day. All the elements are there, done in wonderful detail. Well worth seeing for not only fans of the genre but anyone interested in special effects or computer animation. Excellent.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Best and Worst Dressed...?



Mr. Blackwell, a leading authority on fashion and a king of snark, who compiled the most quirky cool best and worst dressed lists for celebrities, passed away yesterday. The man's eye for fashion and way with words will be sorely missed.

Latitude Zero

Latitude Zero ~ The winning Toho combination of director Inoshiro Honda, composer Akira Ifukube and special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya made this scifi flick in 1969 for a million dollars. Besides Japanese superstar Akira Takarada (47 Ronin, Mothra Vs. Godzilla, Monster Zero and the original Godzilla just to name a few), this one also has, believe it or not, Joseph Cotton and Caesar Romero. This camp movie serial adventure, also known as Ido Zero Daisakusen featuring utopian underwater cities, super-submarines and even a monster or two is fun for the whole family with some amazing special effects for the time. Recommended.



It’s not in German (or Japanese for that matter), but the above trailer is.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Brave One


The Brave One ~ Revenge is always a vital plot for movies and in other media as well. From Batman to The Crow to Death Wish (all have elements borrowed for this flick), it grabs your attention and hints at the monster inside of all of us.

Jodie Foster grabs it here with a vicious, if preachy, intensity. After she is brutally beaten and her fiancée murdered, radio talk show host Erica Bain (Foster) goes vigilante – part Batman and part Bernie Getz she stalks the streets looking for payback. Terrence Howard, Rhodey from the first Iron Man movie, is very good as her love interest/detective friend.

The dialogue gets a bit silly in the quiet times but all in all a good flick – up until the last five minutes. And I’m surprised that Foster even let this happen. I really dislike movies where two hours are spent building a strong female protagonist only to have her saved at the last moment by the male lead. After all she’s just a woman. Sheesh! Where are we, in the 1950s?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Eminem's Relapse

Yesterday Eminem announced the details of his new album "Relapse" scheduled to drop sometime in early December. After a considerable break, he has re-emerged with an interestingly different sound. Time will tell if it hits or sells.

As with most of Eminem's material, the video presentation below is not for the kiddies nor work-safe.

Levi Stubbs RIP



Legendary Motown performer Levi Stubbs, former lead singer of the Four Tops, passed away earlier today. He'll be missed.

Cannibal Holocaust


Cannibal Holocaust ~ One of the most infamous films of all time. Four filmmakers take a journey to the ‘Green Inferno’ deep in the Amazon rain forest… their footage survives but they don’t. Sound familiar? That’s right, and it predates The Blair Witch Project by more than two decades. So much for originality.

There’s an amateurish quality to this Italian film, and I’m not sure if it’s on purpose. Whether it’s bad acting or just bad dubbing, there are still segments that are unwatchable, and not at all for the reasons you’re thinking of. And then there are the scenes that the movie is known for, also unwatchable, but for a completely different reason.

As a rescue team sets off in search of the filmmakers we learn of the mysterious natives of the Green Inferno. At times it’s part mock National Geographic documentary and equally gross-out slasher flick. When it tries to be reality television, of course decades before what we now know as the genre, it fails badly.

The side story here is of the professor, who finds the footage, fighting not to have it shown publicly is almost ludicrous in comparison to the rest of the flick. We know we’re going to see the footage, and we know it’s going to be horrific, why fight it?

As with any good horror film, the bad guys get what they deserve. This can only be recommended, if at all, as a curiosity, and definitely not for the squeamish or weak of heart. Just a side note, PETA would absolutely love this flick.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Edie Adams 1927-2008


Probably best known as the Muriel cigar lady and Ernie Kovacs' widow, television queen and Tony Award-winning actress Edie Adams has passed away.

She also gained fame bringing Daisy Mae to life in the Broadway musical production of "Li'l Abner," based on Al Capp's classic comic strip.

She appeared in dozens of television series up until a few years ago and also worked in film in the likes of Evil Roy Slade, The Honey Pot and even The Oscar.


New Crew, Same as the Old Crew


...almost.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Neal Hefti RIP




Composer Neal Hefti has passed away. Among his work were the scores to two of my faves, How to Murder Your Wife and Boeing Boeing, as well as Barefoot in the Park and of course the TV themes to "The Odd Couple" and "Batman."



“He told me he tore up more paper on 'Batman' than on any other work he ever did,” his son Paul told the New York Times. “He had to find something that worked with the lowest common denominator, so it would appeal to kids, yet wouldn’t sound stupid. What he came up with was a 12-bar blues with a guitar hook and one word.” It's a hook that will never be forgotten. This great composer will be missed.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Dumpstas Are Baaack!


After the summer break, folks have two chances to catch the Dumpsta Players -

Sunday October 12th at Outfest and Wednesday October 15th at Fluid!

DJ K-Tell & The Dumpsta Players present:
“LAST HOUSE ON THE RIGHT”
Wednesday, October 15th
10PM Doors & DJ Robert Drake (Sex Dwarf & WXPN)
11PM showtime -- sharp!
@ Fluid*
613 S 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA

Info: (215) 629-3686
$1.99 cover

http://www.dumpstaplayers.org/
http://www.fluidnightclub.com/

Please note: This show will not be held at the Dumpstas’ usual venue, Bob & Barbara's. When they re-open their second room, the Dumpsta Players will be happy to return there.

C*ntaleeza Rice vs. Siouxsie Sioux!
Rev. Allawaysus Wright vs. Dr. Mendrakis!
Alaskan "Barracuda" Hockey Mom and V.P. Nom Sadley Playin!

Have you ever noticed a big old house, up the street, on a hill and overgrown with weeds? Legend says creepy things happen there... People disappear and are never heard from again. Most people say it isn't true, but doesn't even a part of you wonder what really goes on?

It's 2008, and the Presidential Election is upon us! Can't think of a better way to celebrate the Halloween season then a trounce through the frightening houses of Right Wing America! War takes the front stage, as does poverty, racism and misogyny! Still not sold? How bout other scary things such as materialism and religious fanaticism?

Join The Dumpstas as we present Republican't puppet Cuntaleeza Rice, fire and brimstone preacher Rev. Allawaysus Wright, dour Goth kid Wrongly Accused, and a war spectacular with thousands of innocent lives taken! Play hockey with Pageant Queen and Hockey Mom Sadley Playin! Carve the Jack-O-Lantern, Trick Or Treat but never step to tha ... Last House On The Right!


The Dumpsta Players are a bi-monthly themed interactive improvisational theatre experience that parodies society's joys and ills in an irreverent and over-the-top style. Dumpsta was chosen as a name because the company recycles costumes, actors, characters, and comic bits month after month. Dumpsta also brings to mind the trashy nature of our performing -- drag queens, genderf*ck, and all walks of life come together and express joy, rage and general chaos through live mic and lip-synched sketches every other month!

Catch the old Dumpsta Players shows on DUTV (Channel 54, or 62, for Comcast subscribers) Thursdays at 11PM!