Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sharknado 2

You knew it was coming, how could it not be coming? From the moment Sharknado ended, we all knew that Sharknado 2: The Second One was coming. What the real trick is is how SyFy was able to muster the same if not bigger flurry of hype as the original. Forget the live "Sound of Music" with Carrie Underwood, this is real event television.

It still has the same plot, a tornado made of sharks, only this time it hits New York City. Ian Ziering is our almost indestructible action hero versus an army of wind propelled sharks. It's madness as only The Asylum can deliver. From the opening that rifts on Airplane! (with Robert Hays!) and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" the guest stars come fast and furious. It's almost as much fun figuring out who's who as it is to watch this campy cool classic.

Everybody wants to be in the Sharknado sequel, from Judd Hirsch and Kelly Osborne to the looking their age Mark McGrath and Downtown Julie Brown. There's Andy Dick, Wil Wheaton, the crew of "The Today Show," Biz Markie, Perez Hilton, and even the Naked Cowboy. The entire movie is like the window gag on "Batman" '66, who's going to show up next? Jared from Subway is also in there, probably because there's Subway advertising everywhere.

There's also Vivica A. Fox, who seems to be standing in for the one-handed and ragged Tara Reid who just doesn't seem up to the sequel. Speaking of folks not aging well and unrecognizable, Kari Wuhrer, Robert Klein, and Billy Ray Cyrus are also in here. There are also multiple references to other movies like 1941, Army of Darkness, and Cloverfield. Most of all, written by Thunder Levin who wrote the original, the flick never loses its sense of humor about itself.

SyFy has fun with it as well, promoting live Tweeting of the movie, keeping a running body count, and when they could have saturated this with commercials made breaks swift and painless. Sharknado 3 is planned for next year with SyFy thinking it will be a yearly event, as long as it doesn't jump the shark, that is. This is mindless fun, jump in!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

San Diego Comic-Con Catch-Up

Yeah, I realize it's all over, and no one's really talking about this year's San Diego Comic-Con any more, but I've been busy, and haven't been able to chime in. So consider this your official wrap-up.

We learned new details about the upcoming season of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." including what role Lucy Lawless will play, and who the next big bad will be. Details are here at Biff Bam Pop!. On the "Agent Carter" front, Avengers fans will be pleased as Edwin Jarvis will be in the show, in his youthful prime, hopefully kicking ass and cleaning up. Sorry, butler joke, couldn't help it.

Other Marvel news included the official announcement the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel and animated series, an entertaining Avengers: Age of Ultron panel seen here, and a movie poster and details on the Ant-Man movie. Apparently we will have some kind of Wasp-ish character, and surprisingly, Yellowjacket, who's not Hank Pym, is the villain of the piece.

On the other side of the street at DC Comics, we finally got our first look at Wonder Woman from Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, for a full view, Biff Bam Pop! has it here. There was lots of TV news about "Constantine" and "Gotham," but the real stuff was all about Green Arrow and the Flash. Con goers got to see the pilot for the CW's "The Flash" which I reviewed here, and Ras Al Ghul was announced as the big bad on this season of "Arrow." And that's not even mentioning date night with Felicity or former movie Superman Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer. It's gonna be good.

Other news at the Comic-Con included Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah being in the Godzilla sequel, a King Kong prequel called Skull Island, and the trailer for the new season of "The Walking Dead." It was a good con, shame I missed it.

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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Soulless Z-Day

For more about The Soulless, see Marie Gilbert's interviews with writer/director Chris Eilenstine at Biff Bam Pop! here and here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pop Gear

Pop Gear ~ Known in the United States as Go Go Mania, Pop Gear was an attempt to fill the yearning for British Invasion acts on the big screen in early 1965. Released between A Hard Day's Night and Help!, this flick presented a plethora of Brit bands and performers, and even opened with the Beatles performing "She Loves You" (there's one for the trivia buffs, the Fab Four's second filmwasn't really Help!).

Also on tap for performances were the Animals, the Spencer Davis Group, the Nashville Teens, Peter and Gordon, Billie Davis, and Herman's Hermits, among others too obscure to mention. The whole shindig was emceed by the now notorious Jimmy Savile, deejay and then host of "Top of the Pops." Years later, after his death, hundreds of charges of child sexual abuse and rape would emerge, soiling his reputation for the ages.

Pop Gear was what was known as a revue film, simply a series of performances by different acts, introduced by Sir Jimmy. Highlights included Eric Burdon and the Animals doing "House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits doing "I'm Into Something Good," the Nashville Teens doing "Tobacco Road," and watching little Stevie Winwood rock and roll with the Spencer Davis Group.

Throw in some odd dance numbers, out of place crooner Matt Munro, and more newsreel footage of the Beatles, and that's the movie. Worth watching for nostalgia and some of the great bits mentioned above.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Words in My Head by Zhäriya' Amani

Zhäriya' Amani's book of poetry, Words in My Head, is now live from Mad Writer Publishing. Zhäriya' Amani is a very talented tenth grader who has been writing for three years. She's been published in Stars in Our Heart: Symbols by Word Poetry Movement, and is a resident of Camden NJ. The book, Words in My Head, is a compilation of eighteen select pieces from the poet. Cover design by Kahlil Weston and Eric Jackson. It can be purchased at Amazon here.

A launch party for the book will be held at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Camden NJ on Saturday, July 12th, from 6:30 PM to 10:30 PM. Come out and show your support! $10 for admission and food, $15 for admission, food, and an autographed book. There will be food, drinks, great music, raffles, special performances, a sneak-peak, and plenty of copies there to buy. Come out and meet this bright young talent!

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Lost Hits of the New Wave #32

"Rock Me Tonite" by Billy Squier

Here we have another example of a rocker trying to climb on board the New Wave sound and ride it to a top charting hit. Billy Squier was always a hard rocker, probably best known for his hit "The Stroke" with its unique use of certain synth drumbeats. In his day, he was a rock god, notably opening for both Queen and Pat Benatar for two of the greatest concerts of my high school days.

I first got into him with his early AOR hit "The Big Beat" (you might not know it, but trust me, if you're a hip hop fan, you've heard it sampled hundreds of times), and rode along happily when "The Stroke" carried through to two hit albums with a string of hits from each. He was even one of those artists savvy enough to record a holiday song so he'd get played at least once a year. Then came "Rock Me Tonite," and it was all over.

Previously Billy had done only performance videos, him and the band on stage rocking out, now he decided to make a more traditional -or as luck would have it- a more bizarre video, to go along with his more pop new wave sound. The video featured Billy dancing and prancing in a pink Flashdance shirt and sliding through silk sheets. His dance, his affectations, and his gestures could at best be described as 'flamboyant.'

Here, take a peek…

Yeah. You get the idea. And that was the end of Billy Squier's rock career. Surprisingly, the song was his biggest charting hit, but the video, directed by Kenny Ortega, the mastermind behind Disney's High School Musical, succeeded in crashing Squier's career and causing many to question his sexuality.

Billy Squier continues to record and to perform today, including a stint with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. He does a lot of blues, jazz, and charity work, and on occasion, he does still rock. Just don't rock him tonite…

Monday, July 07, 2014

Quickies 7-7-2014

The Black Knight Returns ~ This low budget superhero flick comes from Tomcat Films, the same folks who brought us Thunderstorm. Yeah, I know, I'm a masochist to watch this. This was pretty bad, it was no Thunderstorm, mind you, but pretty bad. It's about on par with the 1966 "Batman" TV series (without the humor or sensibility) crossed with the terrible Marvel movies of the 1970s. The problem? It's 2014. Pass.

Quick ~ At first glance, it's Speed, on a motorcycle, made in South Korea. Based on those three things, I thought this would just be derivative drivel, but I was sooo wrong. I was pleasantly surprised by the opening sequence that reminded me very much of the beginning of Akira. The terrific score only helped to pull me in. This fast furious and fun flick has a motorcycle messenger racing to destinations before the bomb in his helmet explodes, and it rocks.

Nazis at the Center of the Earth ~ Only from The Asylum could something so bizarre originate, well, there or Troma. Scientists in Antarctica finds Nazis living underground. Yep, it's just like Pellucidar or Skartaris, only instead of dinosaurs, it's got high tech Nazis. It's got Josef Mengele, robo-Hitler, and did I mention it stars Jake Busey as, wait for it, a scientist? Twisted fun, Asylum style.

World Without End ~ This 1956 scifi B-movie used footage and sets from 1951's Flight to Mars, and at first seems to be a precursor in plot and theme to both The Time Machine and Planet of the Apes (and its sequel Beneath… for that matter) but it soon falls apart into an uninteresting cross between a town meeting and a frontier western. Worth watching for the 1950s scifi nostalgia.

Thursday, July 03, 2014


This is an Oscar nominated and winning film. Let me be clear, Gravity is a B-grade scifi thriller that got very lucky. It breaks tradition. It has stars, it has special effects, a high caliber for cinematography and direction, so it gets a pass. I truly wonder if the names George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, and Ed Harris were not involved, would the art film snob crowd that usually haunt the Oscar movies even be interested?

Astronauts are on a Space Shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Telescope when debris from a destroyed Russian satellite scrag the mission and the shuttle. Untethered and lost, two of them, Kowalski (Clooney) and Stone (Bullock), try to get to the International Space Station after the debris hit. Only a preliminary knowledge of gravity and physics is needed to know how truly and totally screwed they are.

Kowalski is the voice of reason and experience in contrast to Stone's inexperience and panic. Their audio interaction when we really can't see facial expression is testament to these two actors' superior ability. These are two professionals, two artists in the field. Once separated, with only Clooney's voice, he proves what real acting is. Bullock substantially carries the film solo after that. No Oscars, Academy? Really?

Those awards went to director Alfonzo Cuaron, and to the cinematography and visual effects folks. It won the most Oscars that year and similarly swept the BAFTAs, the Critics Choice Awards, and the Golden Globes, while still being basically a 1970s scifi thriller with a good pedrigree. The visuals are stunning, and I can imagine it might have been dizzying in 3-D, or simply on the big screen.

I dug Gravity a lot. Despite its space trappings and apparent scientific inaccuracies, it explores the truly horrific themes of loneliness and helplessness in a very real way. Highly recommended.