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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Quickies 8-31-2008


This Filthy World ~ This one-man show with cult movie writer and director John Waters was directed by Jeff Garlin. Basically Waters is just let loose on a stage and he talks, and talks, and talks. That’s not to disparage him at all, he’s absolutely mesmerizing, and his knowledge of film, both pop and obscure is unparalleled.

Among the subjects he touches on in this 86-minute extravaganza are film, books, teaching, Jackie O, his early movies, drugs, Michael Jackson, bears, capital punishment, Liz Renee, Divine, kids, juvenile delinquency, homophobes, fans, the mainstream, Baltimore and movies he’d like to make. He also talks a bit about Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol and for those of us in the Philadelphia area, the infamous Uncle Ed.

My favorite quote from the show: ”Even Divine had his limits. The first time he met Richard Simmons he felt homophobic.” This is a must-see.

I Love Your Work ~ Does Giovanni Ribasi ever not put in an Oscar caliber performance? And does Jason Lee almost always shine in roles with just a touch of creepy in them? These two are just a couple from the superior cast that make this very slick piece on stalking, paparazzi, and the dark side of Hollywood such a great film. What it lacks in story and character it more than makes up for in brilliant direction and cinematography. I Love Your Work was co-written and directed by Adam Goldberg, of Hebrew Hammer fame, and is recommended.



Monster Ark ~ So symptomatic of what is wrong with most Saturday night movies on the SciFi Channel – faulty premise, cliché characters and a totally predictable plot. The only thing this one was lacking was Casper Van Dien.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry ~ After a few Adam Sandler films where he was almost bearable, now I get this. Just because the characters learn the error of their ways and side with the gay community at the end of the film does not excuse all the verbal hate crimes committed before that. Avoid this.

The Crippled Masters ~ It must be seen to be believed. Check the trailer below. The best part is watching the villain’s facial scar morph and move throughout the flick. I actually liked it, recommended.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Villains



The season three trailer for "Heroes" is now online with a sneak peek at the new storyline - "Villains." Not only is Sylar back, but we'll also see teleporter Hiro contend with an evil super-speedster, and from the looks of things, perhaps another trip into a potential future. Looks like "Heroes" has recovered from the crippling writers strike that plagued the second season and the new one should be quite a ride.

"Heroes" the third season premieres on Monday, September 22nd.

Slashers and Sequels

Slashers ~ Presented by Fangoria, Slashers is the ultimate Japanese game show crossed with The Running Man and a bucketful of gore. Really, what more do you need? There are enough beautiful Asian girls in short skirts any anime fan happy and enough blood and gore to thrill any torture porn Saw/Hostel fan. If you can take it, Slashers is an entertaining look at reality television and humanity in general, but it’s also an exercise in extreme bad taste that needs to be watched with a sense of humor – a sick one. That said, I liked it, a lot. And of course it’s got the catchiest theme song of any flick in a long long time. You’ll be singing it for days afterwards.



The Lost Boys: The Tribe ~ What a disappointment. If you’re going to make a remake using the same plot as the original with different characters, don’t call it a sequel. Especially when it’s a movie that people have been begging and waiting for a sequel to for decades. This makes me wonder whatever happened to the Lost Girls script that floated around Hollywood for so long. There are no surprises here, nothing you haven’t seen before, and seen better – especially the Two Coreys. Give this one a miss.



WarGames: The Dead Code ~ There was considerable, if a bit under the radar, promotion for this one – most notably a preview that premiered alongside the 25th anniversary showing of the original WarGames in selected theatres this summer. Wired magazine even had a write-up that interviewed many celebrities, of the political, technical and Hollywood type, regarding how the original affected the world when it first came out. After watching the new one, I doubt they’ll be doing the same thing with it in twenty-five years, or ever.



While it tries very hard to be cutting edge and in the moment, it is also very much the same formula as the original movie. And so, while it’s well done, if a bit predictable, I have the same problem here as with Lost Boys, is it really a sequel if it’s the same plot with different characters? Like I said, it’s well done, possibly worth watching on free cable, but don’t pay for it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Aelita

Aelita, Queen of Mars ~ This one is a silent Russian science fiction film from 1924 that may have influenced Metropolis as much as it was in turn influenced by The Cabinet of Caligari. It has amazing and innovative sets for the time, and even today, some odd and impressionist enough to give Caligari a good run for its money. The costumes are intriguing as well, especially Aelita’s weird triangle pants. There is an overwhelming cast of characters, so vast it seems an awful chore for the filmmakers to include them all. The Martian scenes are more alluring than the Russian ones obviously. And other than the building of a spaceship in a night, it’s a highly plausible story.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Irony, Thy Name Is Duchovny



Actor David Duchovny was admitted into rehab this week for sex addiction. You can read the details here.

What's ironic is that after getting Showtime free from our cable service I've been checking out his latest TV series "Californication." In the series, Duchovny plays a sex-obsessed writer living and schtupping in Los Angeles.

While Showtime had no comment, I can't help but wonder how long before Duchovny's character Hank Moody also enters rehab.



Season two of "Californication" starts September 28th.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Four Is a Magic Number?



When "American Idol" returns for its eighth season in January there will be a new face behind the judges table. Joining Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell will be award-winning and Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Kara DioGuardi.

DioGuardi is no stranger to the series, having written songs and hits for former American Idols Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, as well as Pink, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani and AI's own Paula Abdul. She should definitely add a new dimension to the precedings, as well as a tying vote in disagreements. We'll have to wait until January to see how that twist works out, to say nothing of her chemistry with the other judges.

It is worth noting that with the announcement today, Kara has yet to sit with the other judges, and the audition tour for season eight has already hit eight different cities. Perhaps the newest judge won't be weighing in until the finalists have been chosen.

This is of course not the first time the producers have tinkered with the winning formula of the show. Last season some contestants auditioned with musical instrument accompaniment. Having singer/songwriter Kara DioGuardi would be a logical next step in that evolution.

Notoriously a fourth judge was almost added in the second season, until the female disc jockey chosen admitted she'd never seen the show. That second season also eliminated original co-host Brian Dunkleman. Dunkleman, who left on his own, is now well known as a Trivial Pursuit answer.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Pineland Players Presents “Beauty and the Beast”



The Pineland Players, based in Medford NJ and established in 1977, are doing Disney’s "Beauty of the Beast" this weekend. The production is quite elaborate for local community theatre, but that’s standard practice for the Pineland Players. This musical based on the Broadway play is first rate and can be seen the rest of the weekend at the Burlington County Institute of Technology Westhampton Campus. Nathan Titus steals the show as Le Fou, Gaston’s toady sidekick, and some woman named Jennifer Walker is elegant charm as Mrs. Potts (no nepotism here, The Bride really is good). Michael Carty is also notable as Gaston, perfectly cast. It’s a wonderful show that definitely should be seen while it’s running.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Julius J. Carry III RIP



Sadly, actor Julius J. Carry III passed away yesterday from complications of pancreatic cancer.

He was probably best known for his roles as Sho'nuff in Berry Gordy's cult classic The Last Dragon and as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."

He'll be missed.

Silver Screen Classics

I discovered something a couple months back. At our local National Amusements theater, Showplace at the Ritz in Voorhees NJ, they have a weekly feature called “Silver Screen Classics” where every Monday they show a classic film from yesteryear for only two bucks, including popcorn and a soda. What a bargain!

Some of the films shown that I’ve seen so far:


The Time of Your Life ~ A quirky little flick that was a labor of love for James Cagney and his wife Jeanne. Based on a William Saroyan play and shakily brought to the screen, it’s more of a series of character studies set in a bar rather than an actual story, and yet it’s quite entertaining. William Bendix shines as Nick the bartender, Tom Powers plays the heavy and crazy old James Barton steals the show as Kit Carson. Enjoyable.

Busy Bodies ~ Classic Laurel and Hardy, this time as sawmill workers. Offered as a pre-show to the above flick, this was a wonderful reminder of the comedic genius of the team. Great gags and stunts sure to entertain children and adults of all ages.

At War with the Army ~ This first Martin and Lewis film was a bit of a disappointment. First the print wasn’t so hot, but also because it just wasn’t that funny – to me at least. The audience was roaring. I just never found Jerry Lewis to be all that funny with Dean, he was annoying if anything, and here he does his finest annoying. Dean is good here and the bits of him, without Jerry, being funny were good I thought.

Wine, Women and Bong ~ Shown before the above movie, this was a pleasant surprise. And it should be noted that the pre-shows for the Silver Screen Classics are sometimes the best part. Directed by Three Stooges veteran Jules White this short featured the short-lived comedy team of Max Baer and Max ‘Slapsie Maxie’ Rosenbloom. What was interesting was that they were both ex-boxers, but it was only Rosenbloom who acted punch drunk most of the time. Rosenbloom actually sounded much like Michael Rispoli in Death to Smoochy. They were no Three Stooges and some of the gags were a bit predictable, but I laughed harder at this than at Martin and Lewis. Great stuff.

Beat the Devil ~ An all-star cast and great folks behind the camera, this flick never lives up to what it could have been. I can easily see this remade as a suspenseful caper, but here it never gets up to a lukewarm drama. Directed by John Huston and written by Truman Capote and starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Robert Morley and Gina Lollobrigida, there is much promise, but as I said, no impact, in this flick about conmen out for oil-rich property in Africa. A big part of the problem is Jennifer Jones, acting as an amateur here, and also that Bogart was sick at the time and not up to his usual antics. The pacing is also deadly dull. This could be good, as I said, it’s just begging for a remake.


Call It Murder ~ Originally released as Midnight (actually a much more logical title), this was pushed as a Humphrey Bogart film even though he’s only peripherally in it. Obviously it was repackaged after Bogie made it big in gangster films. Still, it’s a nice little stage drama. It borders on preachy in a few places when talking about the death penalty but for the most part delivers the goods.

Second Chorus ~ Never been a Fred Astaire fan but this was a surprise. The biggest surprise was Burgess Meredith out of "Twilight Zone" and "Batman" mode. The man has quite a range – here he’s Astaire’s best friend and rival for the girl and a job with Artie Shaw’s orchestra. He might lose that contest but he certainly steals the film from Fred Astaire and his dancing feet.

For the latest schedule of upcoming films, please check out the Silver Screen Classics website.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Savage Dragon Endorses Barack Obama



From Comics Continuum:

SAVAGE DRAGON BACKS OBAMA

Image Comics has revealed that in Savage Dragon #137, the lead character will endorse Democrat Barack Obama for president with a special variant cover.

"Four years ago the Dragon was a reluctant presidential candidate," Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen said. "Fans have asked if he'll be running again, but given the importance of the upcoming election it seemed appropriate that he would back Barack Obama, the candidate whose politics most reflect his own. Savage Dragon will be giving Barack Obama his full support."

Savage Dragon made his initial play for the presidential election in the 2004 campaign, but rescinded once the man claiming to be his running mate turned out to be Dreadknight, a supervillain bent on world domination.

Savage Dragon #137 will sport a special 1:5 variant cover featuring Dragon formally endorsing Obama.

The issue will be in stores on Sept. 3.


I really dislike talking politics on this blog but I figured I should say something about this.

Personally I am myself leaning toward Barack Obama this election. I'm not a follower of party lines but more of what is actually said and done. I think Obama is a good man.

Likewise, at different points in the Savage Dragon's publishing history I have followed the character's adventures. The Dragon's creator, Erik Larsen, is an amazing force in the comics industry. Sometimes I am in awe of his business savvy and creativity, and sometimes I am stunned by his outspokenness and outright stupidity (at least to my mind).

My main question and confusion comes from the idea that anyone would take the endorsement by a fictional character seriously...

Well, "Laugh-In" helped Nixon and "Arsenio Hall" helped Clinton... who's to say that a front cover endorsement in Savage Dragon #137 won't get Barack Obama elected?

Brad Meltzer's Book of Lies

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes 1942-2008



We've lost another one of the good ones. Multiple award-winning composer, musician and actor Isaac Hayes passed away this afternoon in his home. His theme to Shaft will probably go down as one of the greatest movie tunes of all time, and despite the unfortunate circumstances that forced him to part ways with the program, he'll never be forgotten as Chef on "South Park." You'll be missed, brother.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Quickies 8-9-2008

Picture This! ~ An Ashley Tisdale vehicle to whet the kids’ appetites for the High School Musical sequel hitting theatres in October, this really isn’t as bad as it could have been. As a matter of fact, it’s quite a lot of fun. Clever cellphone hijinks abound in this Disney family flick as well as a musical number or two. And Ashley is much more grounded and likable here than in the HSMs. Recommended.


Thomas and Friends: The Great Discovery ~ Yes, that’s right, it’s a “Thomas the Tank Engine” movie. My nephew was in town so we went to the movies. Once I got over the acid trip weirdness that all the vehicles had faces it wasn’t bad. Wonderfully narrated by Pierce Brosnan and easily accessible to adults it wasn’t bad. I did fall asleep however, not because I was bored, but tired from the night before. The point at which I fell asleep had Thomas jealous of a competitor, when I awoke that competitor had vanished and didn’t show up again for about twenty minutes (an eternity in a kid flick). I thought for sure Martin Scorsese was actually a ghost director and Thomas had done his rival in! Trust me, that nod-off made for a much more exciting film. Good one for the pre-school set, and also for sleepy, imaginative adults.


Hancock ~ I really wasn’t expecting much from this year’s Will Smith Fourth of July offering. It looked more like a rip-off or parody of the superhero genre than anything else. I was surprised. Hancock, while a bit predictable in places (mostly from the later previews and trailers), is still this summer’s best superhero flick this side of Iron Man. Smith plays a man gifted with superpowers but with little regard for the people (or property) his position indicates he protect. An alcoholic, a slacker and a drifter he’s just not your typical hero. The police hate him more than they probably would a super-villain. As PR worker Jason Bateman tries to help Hancock we learn more about his past and where he came form, and from there the action really starts rolling. Not really a parody at all, but a sly homage to the genre, this one is worth seeing in the theatre.


Déjà Vu ~ I hate movies whose synopses give away vital plot points. This one did it for me, and because I loved this film so much, I won’t do it for you. This Denzel Washington thriller comes with my highest recommendation, along with the proviso you don’t read anything about it before you see it. That’s right, it’s Sixth Sense secret cool. I loved it.

Bernie Mac 1957-2008

Actor/comedian Bernie Mac passed away this morning from complications of pneumonia. He'll be missed.



Above video clip contains what some folks might call offensive language. You've been warned.

Awakening Comics #0 for Charity

For immediate release:

New Awakening Comics Prequel Issue Is An All-Star Charity Event


Available on 08.08.08, Awakening Comics #0 is a precursor to Steve Peters' Xeric Award-winning series, Awakening Comics. It covers its creator's entire artistic life, from birth to the time period in which the first issue came out in 1997. It is a prequel issue that sets up the events of Awakening Comics and casts them in a new light.

The main story line of Awakening Comics #0, like most issues of Awakening Comics, deals with a cosmic crisis and time travel. "I got the germ of the idea from the British T.V. series Doctor Who", says Peters. "The Doctor is a Time Lord who occasionally has to "regenerate", which allows the character to be played by different actors. There was an episode called 'The Five Doctors'---a time travel story that allowed the various actors who played the Doctor to appear together in the same episode".

"So my idea was to do a story about 'the four Steves'---my childhood self, my teenage self, my young adult self, all being guided by my old self from the distant future." All of these selves meet together on the Starship Paradox, which made its debut in 2007's Runner's Paradox comic. "As the selves from each time period is featured in turn, we get glimpses of the comics he was creating during his time".

Peters originally executed this idea as a 24-hour comic. As he drew it on 24-Hour Comic Day, a national event, he knew that he would eventually go back into the story and add artwork from the various time periods. Once added, these inserts rounded out the page count from 24 to 32. One of the inserted pages originally appeared in Cerebus #146---Steve Peters' first published page in a comic book.

The comic also includes an 8-page Rabbit Hell story, which, like the main feature, adds a back story to the Rabbit Hell tale featured in the original Awakening comics series. It includes jam art by a number of well-known comic creators, pulled from the vaults of the Awakening archives. Many of these jams are 15 years old and are being published for the first time.

"They were originally done for an epic story that I ended up abandoning", explains Peters. "It dealt with a" (you guessed it) "cosmic crisis in which a hole in the fabric of space/time begins to suck characters in from other realities". The logistics of putting that jam piece together ended up being too much of a headache, though Peters did eventually present a different version of it in Awakening Comics #3: The Everwinds Awakening War, using all the characters from both his series Everwinds and the various Awakening realities instead of those created by other artists.

"I was going through some old artwork and came across these old unused jams, and started thinking about a way I could finally use them. Eventually I realized they would fit perfectly into the prequel issue. Since the basic storyline was used in Awakening Comics #3, I turned the jams into a dream sequence that would foreshadow that issue". The jam art includes beautiful contributions from Sergio Aragones, Stan Sakai, Paul Chadwick, Gahan Wilson, Evan Dorkin, Greg Hyland, Steve Remen, Mark Bode, Jim Lawson, and David Chelsea.

Less elaborate jam contributions include cameo appearances of characters drawn by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Ben Edlund, David Mazzuchelli, Colleen Doran, Howard Cruse, Steve Bissette, Marc Arsenault, Peter Bagge, Dan Clowes, Bob Camp, Bill Wray, Bob Fingerman, Bill Neville, Rod Ollerenshaw, Jeff Peters, and David Nowell.

To cap things off, the back cover features a previously unpublished full-color jam with Joe Matt from 1997.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to Philabundance, the Greater Philadelphia Food Bank.

Awakening Comics #0 is a B&W 40 page book.
Published by Awakening Comics. Art and story by Steve Peters and various artists.
$3.99 US, released on August 8, 2008.

Contact: Steve Peters
AwakenCmx@aol.com
www.awakeningcomics.com

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Dexter Season Three



One of the best, coolest and most deviant series on television returns on September 28th. America's favorite serial killer is back, with a vengeance.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Robert Hazard 1948-2008



Philadelphia hometown hero and musician Robert Hazard passed away yesterday due to complications from pancreatic cancer. He would have been 60 later this month. The singer/songwriter will be greatly missed. In the 1980s he epitomized the Philadelphia music scene, ruling South Street at the Ripley Dance Club.

He became nationally known as the writer of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and also with his own ‘new wave’ one-hit wonder, “Escalator of Life.” It may have been a one-hit wonder for the rest of the world but folks in Philly had been hearing his music for years. His first EP, named after himself and his band, the Heroes, featured radio staples like “Change Reaction,” “Hang Around with You” and “Out of the Blue,” but these were all songs we all knew for years listening to WMMR and WYSP.



A song from that EP, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind,” betrayed where Hazard’s heart really was, in the folk vein, a place he would return to more than a decade later. For the moment however he stayed and rode the rock and new wave to seeming success. Between Cyndi Lauper and the Hooters, Philly music was hot, so he followed.

A second, more commercial and nationally distributed album followed in 1984. Wing of Fire was an odd lot of music and lyrics, more rock than before, it was inspired by the film Blade Runner, a bold project from a bold man. Personally this was one of my favorite albums of Hazard’s, but critics didn’t agree. After a third try, Darling fizzled on the charts, Hazard disappeared for a time and returned to his country/folk roots. When he re-emerged in the late 1990s he was a new man.



With 2004’s Seventh Lake and Blue Mountain and especially 2007’s Troubadour he had established himself as a folk singer to be reckoned with. As a fan from the Ripley days I took great joy in rediscovering this wonderful artist. Seventh Lake includes my all-time favorite Hazard composition, “Route 666,” a haunting tune about the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

From rock ‘n’ roll to synth-pop dance music to heartbreaking folk, Robert Hazard was a music legend, and a Philadelphia icon. As he rides the escalator of life to its final destination, he’ll be remembered and missed.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

She


This 1935 film means a lot to me and I’m really happy I finally got to see it. One of the few times my father took an interest in my writing was when he suggested I see this flick. It must have been at some point when I was watching Raiders of the Lost Ark or Star Wars, and he said, “If you really want to see a good adventure story, you should see She, the original, from when I was a kid.” At some point when I was older I picked up a collection of H. Rider Haggard novels, and I immediately devoured it. Asking my father about it however, I learned he’d never read the books, and had only seen the original film version of She.

Finding that version has been a long road. Even when I worked in video retail, it was considered a ‘lost’ film, with only sparse footage remaining. It was made in 1935 but was seen by a whole new generation in re-release, double-billed with The Last Days of Pompeii (also from ’35) in 1948. Recently restored by Ray Harryhausen, believe it or not, from a print that Buster Keaton had in his garage - it is now available on DVD. Oddly it was originally meant to be a color film but because of budget restraints done in black and white. The restored cut includes a colorized version that uses actual scenery and wardrobe orders to make the colors match the originals.

Now that I’ve seen it I know what my father was talking about. If he had ever seen Raiders of the Lost Ark he might have marveled at the special effects, but the rest of it would be old hat to him because of She. The sets are amazing, especially the hall of the kings, and the dance number/ceremony that takes place there is breathtaking if dated. Max Steiner, composer for 1933’s King Kong, scored the terrific soundtrack, one of his best. Randolph Scott, mostly known for his cowboy flicks, is our hero in the mode that would later spawn Indiana Jones among others, and the startling beauty Helen Gahagan Douglass plays the title role. It was the only film appearance for the Broadway singer who later became a Congresswoman.

She was adapted by Ruth Rose (the writer of King Kong) from the Haggard novel, and produced by the legendary Merion C. Cooper, father of Kong. The action is a step above that of the time, no simple movie serial with a budget is this. The saber tooth tiger and avalanche scenes are great. This is one of the great adventure flicks of not only its time, but, dare I say it, all time. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Wonder Woman Animated

While we're waiting for the Joss Whedon Wonder Woman film or that Justice League movie, neither of which may ever see the light of day, here's the trailer for the new straight-to-DVD animated Wonder Woman flick:



It's from the same folks who brought us Justice League: The New Frontier and Gotham Knight and stars "Felicity"'s Keri Russell in the title role. Also cast are Alfred Molina as arch-foe god of war, Ares, and the sexy Rosario Dawson as Diana's rival Artemis. The DVD is set for release in February 2009.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Cleveland Show

My first question, knowing the workings of Seth MacFarlane's mind after several seasons of "Family Guy," is - Is this for real?



"The Cleveland Show" is supposedly coming to Fox for mid-season. I guess it's a matter of when it's done if it's even being made. It promises to be more of the same, from the folks at "Family Guy."