Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Slow Sad Season Start

The new season so far hasn't been all that great, at least as far as the major traditional networks go. Things like "Doctor Who" on BBC America and "The Bastard Executioner" on FX being on basic cable don't really count. The things I'm really waiting for - "The Flash," "Supergirl," even "Arrow," and even last night's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." really haven't started yet. And I haven't yet seen the one I'm dreading, "Heroes Reborn."

The other night I had the misfortune of seeing the season premieres of both "The Big Bang Theory" and "Castle," as well as a bit of "Dancing with the Stars." All three shows have seemingly been on forever and are feeling and showing their age. And I think they may have definitely overstayed their welcome.

"The Big Bang Theory" is one of those shows that skates the edge between laughing with a section of society and deliberately laughing at them. In this case it's 'nerds' like me. On many, many occasions I have felt attacked by this show, almost like getting stuffed in a locker in junior high school. Make no mistake, for every cool reference in this show there are three wedgies lying in wait. And based on all the fat jokes on "Mike & Molly," another show from Chuck Lorre, I consider the man an equal opportunity bully.

And all of the above is on a good day for "The Big Bang Theory." The past two seasons and this week's season premiere have been plagued by ridiculous (even for a sitcom) soap opera antics with characters I really don't care about. Add in the show's prerequisite attack jokes, and it's just damned unpleasant to watch. If I'm being honest, the best part of the episode this week was spotting a "Doctor Who" lunchbox in the background.

Being a writer, "Castle" was a series I loved when it first started, no matter how implausible the premise. The light comedic approach to the drama and danger always kept the show within reach as fun entertainment. Then it got dark and serious, and obsessed with a lead character's mother murder. Follow this with the disappearance of the titular writer, and this season's similar plot with his now wife... well, as far as I'm concerned, "Castle" should have ended two seasons ago with the wedding of the two leads. As it stands now, we're in "Brady Bunch Variety Hour" territory. Kill it now.

"Dancing with the Stars" is an entirely different animal. Yeah, you can watch it for the dancing and the spectacle, or for the stars and how cool it is that they're not just learning to dance, but sometimes doing it spectacularly. That alone would be a terrific show, not necessarily in my wheelhouse, but a terrific show. But. They also have to have the freak show. What else would you call the inclusion of stars like Gary Busey and Paula Deen? That unclean feeling is both why I like "Big Brother" and don't watch "Dancing with the Stars." If we're going to do schadenfreude, go all in.

Those are some preliminary thoughts on the new season so far, more to come.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Bastard Executioner

I loved Kurt Sutter's "Sons of Anarchy." Sure, it wasn't perfect - I wish I'd skipped the Ireland season, and of course the show went on one season too long - but I really dug it. The series was at the top of its game in storytelling and characterization, truly a pinnacle in epic television. So when I heard Sutter was doing a medieval series next, naturally my curiosity was piqued.

I have to be honest, I nearly turned the first episode of "The Bastard Executioner" off in the first minute. Before anything happens, before we see scenery or set, before a character takes action or utters a word, we get a history lesson. Enough to make me want to give up and turn off the television.

I have never seen so much history crammed into the first minute captions of a show before. I paused the episode and spent ten minutes on Google. Did I really need to know all this? Would there be a test? I was especially irritated because much of this could have been organically explained in the unfolding of the story, or in the mouth of a character should the writer be feeling particularly lazy.

I kept watching, and I'm glad I did. "The Bastard Executioner" is vibrant, vivid, and visceral. Had I turned it off I would have completely missed the nudity and extreme bloody violence that followed in the second minute. If you ask me, screw the history, you should have started with that. You definitely had my attention now - but you could have lost it much too easily.

The premise follows several storylines and characters as cultures and classes clash between wars in Middle Ages Wales. That said, much like Sutter's "Sons of Anarchy," it's a big soap opera writ large in new circumstances with an epic scale. Rather than California motorcycle clubs, it's 14th century Welsh rebellions. That said, it might be a bit much for the usual historical romance crowd.

"The Bastard Executioner" is bloody and violent, yes, sometimes ranging from the horrific hide your eyes type to the silly Monty Python and the Holy Grail's Black Knight type, but either way, it's graphic. It is however also engaging and surprising, with just a little bit of that I don't want to know "Rome" and "Spartacus" realism thrown in for good measure. I'm not sure I can recommend it for everyone, but it's definitely worth a look.

Monday, September 28, 2015


As I sit here, still hermited away at the Borgata in Atlantic City, the Pope has left Philadelphia, and the city is still wracked by the aftermath. I have nothing against the Pope, and while I kinda like the guy, I'm not exactly Catholic either. Specifically, I'm a lapsed Episcopalian, which is basically Catholic light. But this post is not about religion at all, so those of you who tightened, can loosen, if you know what I mean.

It's the crazy security measures that the city of Philadelphia went to for the Pope that I want to talk about. What the hell, I mean seriously, what the hell? They closed the Ben Franklin Bridge, closed highways, made businesses close their doors, towed residential cars for out of town parking (though how one would get there I don't know), diverted traffic patterns for miles, and in the process also closed most of South Jersey as well. We're so close to Philadelphia, we, along with most of the people we know, fled the city.

The Pope gave wonderful speeches, gave hope to thousands, perhaps millions, was on almost every channel (even today), but I wonder what it was like on the ground where the man was. The crowds looked insane. Philadelphia's plans for South Jersey included having people park in Camden, and walk across the Franklin Bridge to see the Pope. Is it pointless to mention that Camden has been voted the most dangerous city in America countless times in the last few decades, and has had its police force cut in half in the last couple years? Who thought of this idea?

Weirdly, neither our national capital, Washington DC, nor New York City had any such security measures. I find it very odd that NYC, a city that fourteen years ago survived an actual terrorist attack where buildings were bombed and burned, had very little security in place for the Pope's visit... but Philadelphia, a city that thirty years ago bombed and burned itself over women and children they thought were terrorists, is going insane with security measures for the Pope's visit.

Yeah, politics, not religion. Feel free to tighten. Rant over. And relax, I'll be back to writing about pop culture tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Getting Prepped for the New Season

Just a recap of my reviews to get ready for what's coming this season…

"Arrow" begins its fourth season on October 7th, and you can read my complete reviews of its first three seasons right here. Reviews for season four will continue to appear here on this blog.

"The Flash" begins its second season on the CW the day before on October 6th, and you can read my complete reviews of its first season from Biff Bam Pop! right here. Reviews of season two will continue on BBP.

"Supergirl," from the folks who brought you both "Arrow" and "The Flash," begins on October 26th. If you'd like to read my spoiler-filled review of the pilot episode, you can see that here.

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." enters its third season on September 29th, and you can find my complete reviews of its first two seasons right here. Season three's reviews will also continue to appear at BBP.

If you'd like to see all of my reviews of "Doctor Who," which just started its ninth season of the new series last week, you can see them here, and they also continue at BBP.

And as long as I'm pimping television reviews, you can also check out my complete reviews of "Daredevil," "Agent Carter," and "Avengers Assemble." Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Announcing the Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Toronto, Ontario/Marlton, New Jersey - Pop culture website Biff Bam Pop! today announces the launch of the Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network, an umbrella to house and promote a host of podcasts featuring various members of the BBP staff. Please meet us after the jump for the details.

“For the past two years here at Biff Bam Pop!, we've featured The GAR! Podcast, the work of myself, and my partner Ray Cornwall,” says Biff Bam Pop! Senior Editor and Writer Glenn Walker. “Recently it occurred to us here onsite that I was not the only one who had a hand in the world of podcasting. We should organize the podcasts of our writers under one umbrella, adding to each show's promotional power for the betterment of everyone. Each time a new episode goes live, it would be featured here onsite. Thus was born the Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network.”

The currently running podcasts that will now fall under the Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network umbrella include:

The Audacious Eleven Podcast featuring Wendy Sheridan, Mary McGinley, Donna Juzva, and Biff Bam Pop's own Robin Renee. The show is described as a reality podcast that ventures from Pagan spirituality and life empowerment to technology, entrepreneurship, love, sex, and fandom.

The Biff Bam Popcast is our own video roundtable recorded from Google Hangouts that features BBP staffers and occasional guests talking about the pop culture topics of the day in film, television, comics, gaming, books, and music.

The GAR! Podcast is the Glenn Walker and Ray Cornwall weekly podcast where they talk unrehearsed about whatever happens to come to mind. It’s an audio-zine for your mind, a nerd exploration of a nerd world, coming to you from across the vastness of suburban New Jersey via Skype.

Gobbledygeek features hosts Paul Smith and AJ Wiley and focuses on a variety of entertainment subjects, with our hosts and special guests frequently discussing films, comics, and television. BBP staffers K. Dale Koontz and Ensley F. Guffey are frequent guests.

The Make Mine Magic Podcast features Jenn and Glenn Walker talking about Disney, parks, movies, travel advice, characters, Marvel, Star Wars, Studio Ghibli, etc., if it’s Disney, it’s fair game.

The Official Popshifter Podcast, features Popshifter managing editor Less Lee Moore and featured contributor Jeffery X Martin shifting the tone of pop culture criticism and tackling the fields of film, music, and rest of the genre world.

Along with these shows, beginning on October 15th, we will launch the monthly Biff Bam Podcast. The inaugural edition will feature interviews with Kane Hodder and Brandi Cyrus, the stars of the new horror film Old 37, along with a roundtable discussion on the best movies to watch for Halloween, and contributions from various BBP staff writers.

“We’re very excited to be bringing Biff Bam Pop! to the podcasting world,” says Editor-In-Chief Andy Burns. “After seven years of writing on the web, we’re now going to entice your ears with our brand of pop culture talk.”

For more details on the Biff Bam Pop! Podcast Network, and the Biff Bam Podcast, contact Andy Burns or Glenn Walker.

Established in 2008 in Toronto, Canada, Biff Bam Pop is a pop culture website that features writers from across North America. Find us online at, and via Twitter @biffbampop.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Defendor ~ Insomnia does crazy things to you sometimes, besides keeping you from sleeping of course. With me, it makes me methodically peruse the OnDemand menus. One such search brought me to Defendor.

Now other than "True Detective" and some scenes in Zombieland, I have never been able to stand Woody Harrelson, and yet here I am watching him playing superhero. Of course, the Woody factor (as well as the comedy factor, dark or not) is kinda outweighed by it being in the broadest sense a superhero movie, and also starring Sandra Oh and Kat Dennings, both serious movie crushes for me.

Harrelson plays a functionally special needs man who takes to the streets to dish out vigilante justice as Defendor. Sandra Oh is the doctor examining him as he tells the tale of the film in flashback, while Kat Dennings is a prostitute who befriends him. There's also Elias Koteas as one of the bad guys. All put in better than expected performances.

Defendor is nowhere near as bad as first impressions or the trailer makes it look. It's actually more Kick-Ass than Blankman, and worth a look. I wanted it to put me to sleep, but I wanted to see how it ended. Yeah, a bit predictable, but I liked it. And there you go.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monsters: Dark Continent

Monsters: Dark Continent ~ I watched the first Monsters film because I was intrigued to see the work of writer/director Gareth Edwards, specifically to see what has gotten him the gig of the then-yet-to-be reboot of Godzilla. I was not impressed. I was more than a little disturbed by the monster love scene, and Edwards' aversion to showing us the monsters bled over into his Godzilla.

So it was with great trepidation that I watched the Gareth Edwards-less sequel, Monsters: Dark Continent. While the original was a bad human story, commentating on the US immigration policy, with the monsters as both allegory and backdrop, the sequel is something far beyond, and yet the same. The monsters have invaded the Middle East, and the US is fighting them, but there's still a war going on.

While we actually do get to see the monsters this time, the movie is not about them this time either. It takes place in the Monsters world, but this is Full Metal Jacket meets The Hurt Locker. This is a war movie, with far more in common with the films above or Three Kings than any kaiju eiga you could name.

The special effects are good, better for a war movie than a monster movie, but apparently they made their choice. It seems fairly obvious that someone (writer/director Tom Green, no, not that Tom Green) wanted to make a war movie, and used the contractual sequel for Monsters as the vehicle. I really feel like I've been invited to a steak dinner, but ended up at a vegetarian restaurant.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Shadow People

Shadow People ~ As I've mentioned in this blog many times before, I'm a big Art Bell fan, or at least I was when he was the host of Coast to Coast AM. If I'm being honest, neither entity has done all that well separately and on their own, which is a damn shame. I blame George Noory, but that's a fight for another day. One of the things I used to love about Art on Coast is when he would talk about Shadow People, those nights would creep me out.

I'm already afraid of the dark so listening to Art talk about malevolent living shadows with the lights out was always a bad idea, but a lot of people have encountered them and believe in them. So when I first heard of this flick called Shadow People, also known as The Door, involving a talk radio host, I had to track it down and watch it.

What's really weird about this flick is that everything about it seems like it stepped out of an Art Bell episode of Coast to Coast AM. It's based on a viral video, seen here, that may or may not be real. Sleep Study GR 16 was supposedly a real thing and caught shadow creatures on video, maybe. Right.

The movie is also very social media conscious and features a late night radio talk show host, Charlie Crowe, who's like an old school cross between Art and Joe Frank, with just a touch of Morning Zoo as well. A paranoid caller, claiming to be pursued by shadow people, sends Charlie photos and files from the Sleep Study, and we're off.

Half documentary, half thriller, Shadow People is interspersed with interviews, sort of a poor man's Blair Witch Project. Because of this, it's really hard for the movie to find its flow and rhythm. Just when I started to care about a character, 'real' footage or interviews would take me right out of it.

The movie is of course all fake. This is neither documentary nor thriller, it's just a horror movie, and not a very well executed one either. Shadow creatures that come when you fall asleep could be pretty frightening, but this movie can't quite seem to mine the material. Nowhere near as good as I wanted it to be.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Three Memories and More

We've lost three more actors from Hollywood's past this previous week - Dean Jones, Judy Carne, and Martin Milner. They may have been minor celebrities on the totem pole of such things, but each held specific memories for me.

Dean Jones was an actor and name for me that was inextricably attached to Disney. His name might as well have meant Disney when it came to live-action Disney movies. He was the good guy, the straight guy. He was the star of such films as That Darn Cat, The Love Bug, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, The Million Dollar Duck, and Monkeys, Go Home - all of which has some specific memory for me. You can hear me talk more about Dean Jones on the latest episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast.

Judy Carne, though probably nowadays more remembered for her failed marriage to Burt Reynolds than being the "Sock It To Me" girl on "Laugh-In," also holds memories. She was two firsts for me. I remember asking my mother why Carne talked funny and she explained about accents. Judy Carne also represented my first experience with TV catchphrases as I recalled kids saying "sock it to me" all the time in kindergarten although I don't think any of us knew what it meant.

I was too young for "Route 66" (or "Dragnet" for that matter), but Martin Milner left a huge impression on me as Officer Pete Malloy on "Adam-12" created by Jack Webb. Malloy was cop, role model, and friend, and I remember watching it in syndication every weeknight with my father, while learning the police ten code so we would know what was going on on his police scanner. I also remember watching the end credits every time because my father kidded that one of these days the guy with the hammer would get tired and miss. A year or so ago I watched the whole run of "Adam-12" on MeTV and gained a new respect for the series as there was much more going on than my child's mind could grasp.

 As I said, these three weren't big stars but they sure left an impression on me. Dean Jones, Judy Carne, and Martin Milner will be missed, and will live on in rerun and video.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Ace Kilroy Is Back!

Just a quick note to let you all know that my favorite webcomic, Ace Kilroy, by friends Rob Kelly and Dan O'Connor, has come back for a pre-third season adventure. "Wish You Were Here" began last week, and features part 5 today.

You can see it at the main Ace Kilroy website, Follow on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. Check it out!

Friday, September 04, 2015

A Trip to the Moon in Color

The 1902 classic short by George Melies, A Trip to the Moon, known in the French as Le Voyage Dans Le Lune, is the stuff of film legend. Only fifteen minutes long, even if you're not a film buff, you've seen parts of, if not all of it. I'm showing my age, but it was most notoriously used as inspiration for the Smashing Pumpkins music video of "Tonight, Tonight" as well as in the film Hugo. And those are only recent memory.

At well over a hundred years old and one of the earliest films, it was itself inspired by the Jules Verne works From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. At the time this was a huge production with lavish special effects and the best theatrical actors France could offer. It even stars writer/director and film pioneer Melies. For its time, it was a big deal, and quite an international sensation, showing audiences what film could do, and ushering in, long before the age of the blockbuster, the special effects film.

The short is of course the stuff of madness, the word surreal does not quite cover the insanity. A group of scientists, looking more like wizards or heretics at first, get on a bullet-shaped rocket - shot from a gigantic cannon - and visit the Moon, where they meet its explosive inhabitants. It's madness, but visually stunning, and one of the earliest achievements in special effects and science fiction cinema.

As if that wasn't enough, the black and white silent short A Trip to the Moon was originally proposed - and made - in color. In fact, the hand-colored print was for almost a century considered one of the great lost films. In 1993 a badly damaged copy of that print was found and restored, using newly colored segments of other versions in 2011. As if the film was not already fifteen-odd minutes of madness, the bright colors bring it to an acid trip level of surreality.

Add in a weird progressive art rock score by Air, that would make even early Genesis and Pink Floyd fans blush and cringe, and we are clearly in pot smoke filled midnight movie/planetarium rock territory. This new soundtrack however do what it should, give the already stunning visuals a new spin, a different take, and for that I applaud Air.

Besides the insanity of sight and sound, and the short's stature in film history, there is also the underlying theme of imperialism, and the eternal imagery of the rocket stuck in the moon's face. Also of interest are the real life parallels to the actual trips to the moon that the film predicts, like the earth rise and the splashdown.

In black and white or in color, with or without sound, George Melies' A Trip to the Moon is a must see film classic.

Thursday, September 03, 2015


Other than being an action flick with a strong female protagonist, I have to admit that Lucy was never really on my radar as a movie I wanted to see. I do like Scarlett Johansson, both from Ghost World and as the Black Widow - yeah, I know, nerd alert - but the film's premise of someone gaining superpowers by accessing 100% of their brain just turned me off. It's just an absurd concept, even for science fiction, the ten percent brain myth is just nonsense.

Two things got me to watch however when Lucy came around to cable. Writer/director Luc Besson, who dazzled me with a similar female protag in The Fifth Element, was one reason. The other was the opinion of a female friend whose opinions on film I usually respect. She is notably an art film fan with a disdain for blockbusters, action, science fiction, and pop culture. But she loved the movie Lucy. Yep, I had to see it. And curiosity killed the cat.

While Morgan Freeman lectures on the ten percent brain theory in alternating scenes, we watch Johansson in the title role accidentally infected with an experimental designer super drug. As Lucy quickly ups her percentage and becomes smarter and more powerful, she goes to war with the drug cartel that put her in this predicament.

While she's doing that, Lucy goes after more of the drug, and seeks out Morgan Freeman to help her with her own dwindling mortality. It's at this point the story starts counting down, or up considering what percentage of brain power she's using. Among her powers are invulnerability to pain, remote viewing, telekinesis, and time travel. Yeah, this movie is a trip.

Lucy is very show rather than tell, colorful, vibrant, and visually stunning - just what one would expect from Besson. This is not a film you can casually watch as it requires your full attention. That type of storytelling requires a top-notch performance from Johansson, and she does not disappoint.

There's a whole lot of cool special effects, some wink-wink nudge-nudge philosophy, a little bit of religion, and a whole lot of back alley pseudo-science. Yeah, I kinda liked it. Lucy wasn't perfect by any means, but it was mindless fun. And no, I have no idea what my friend saw in this flick, but it's still worth checking out.