Saturday, February 28, 2009

Movie Review: Haunts (1977)

HAUNTS - 1977 thriller from Herb Freed

Written by Herb Freed and Anne Marisse
Directed by Herb Freed

A small-town sheriff's bowling night is interrupted when the raped and mutilated corpse of a local woman is found in her home. This, of course, leads to the usual paranoia and mistrust that one would come to expect...but no one is more paranoid or more mistrustful than Ingrid, a devoutly religious farm woman, who is suspicious of every male that she comes in contact with. This is spawned from some vague and long ago childhood trauma that is flashed upon the screen ad nauseum throughout the film.

When more bodies begin piling up, Ingrid seems to be intimately connected to the killer somehow. One of the corpses is found in her chicken coop, and the weapon-of-choice seems to be a pair of scissors that was lifted from her sewing basket. She has reason to suspect her uncle Carl, but it could just as easily be that new creepy choir boy Bill, or the too-bad-to-be-believed Frankie: you know he's bad because he dresses in layers, wears leather gloves, drinks Budweiser, and listens to atrociously cheesy mock-rock music.

Although it started off promising enough--murder in a small town--it quickly went south in my eyes, and never headed to True North again, despite the twist ending. It's not stylized enough to be giallo, not sleazy enough to be a slasher, and not scary enough to be horror. Part of the problem may be that Haunts is typically packaged as an exploitative slasher movie, as opposed to a psychological thriller, but even that wouldn't change the fact that this movie rests securely on its laurels as a mediocre, not-particularly-effective psychological thriller that plods along in some places at a snail's clip.

I can't recommend it, but it does seem to have a fan base to support it.

Of course, so does Uwe Boll.

Rated PG
97 Minutes


Friday, February 27, 2009

Comic Review: Essential Savage She-Hulk Vol.1

The Essential Savage She-Hulk: Volume 1
(Marvel Comics)

Marvel Essentials SAVAGE SHE-HULK from Marvel ComicsI've been a fan of the She-Hulk since I was a hormone-drunk adolescent. My meager allowance only allowed me a few issues of her titles--notably the first issues of Savage She-Hulk and Sensational She-Hulk--but I poured over these comics countless times, and relished each guest appearance in the pages of Fantastic Four or Wizard Magazine. That she was green didn't matter--my father raised me to be free of prejudice. What did matter was that she was beautiful, brazen and bold. She could kick the ass of any poor fool that stepped in her path, and as the victim of countless bullies, all I really wanted was a girlfriend that could protect me. And her more-often-than-not-shredded clothing didn't hurt either.

So it was with great pleasure that I dived into Marvel Comics' Essential Savage She-Hulk, collecting the entire 25 issue run in the Essential line's standard black and white. This often times hinders the visual experience, especially seeing as how the title character is green, but it also makes it an affordable way to get the whole story.

For those of you who aren't in the know, Jennifer Walters was just your average, hot-shot Los Angeles lawyer who was currently embroiled in a courtroom battle against sleazy mobster Nick Trask. Trask does what any good goodfella would do--he tries to have her whacked. A couple of his thugs gun her down in her own driveway, leaving her for dead.

Luckily for us, Jen's visiting cousin Dr. Bruce Banner (AKA The Incredible Hulk) saw it all, and knows exactly what to do. He gives her an emergency transfusion of his gamma-radiated hemoglobin. This saves the lady lawyer's life, but it also imbues her with the gift--or the curse--of becoming THE SAVAGE SHE-HULK.

She decides that "Whatever Jennifer Walters can't handle--the She-Hulk will do!" The majority of her adventures involve her taking on the mob, like a less-lethal Punisher, but she meets a handful of other baddies along the way, along with a few Marvel Universe goodies, too. Iron Man, Man-Thing, Morbius the Living Vampire, The Man-Wolf, Hellcat--they're all here. Strangely enough, however, beyond her origin issue, the Hulk doesn't make a single appearance.

She-Hulk is aided in her adventures by her lovestruck neighbor Zapper, and hindered in them by slimeball Assistant District Attorney "Buck" Bukowski (think Dan Fielding from Night Court), as well as her own father, the Sheriff, who doesn't know about his daughter's secret identity and is seeking the She-Hulk on murder charges. Understandably, this puts a serious strain on their relationship.

The most interesting angle played here is, believe it or not, a love triangle. As Jen Walters, she falls for lifetime loser Richard Rory (ripped from the pages of Man-Thing); but as the She-Hulk, she's involved with Zapper. It's a clever take on the alter ego/romantic interest theme, surpassing anything seen (or hinted at) in the Clark Kent and Lois Lane/Superman and Wonder Woman territory.

The art is sometimes amazing (especially in issue one, courtesy of John Buscema), and actually even looks good in the black and white. Come issue two, Buscema is gone but the good art still remains, thanks to the dynamic duo of penciler Mike Vosburg and inker Chic Stone. For those who doubt the artistic merit of an inker (Chasing Amy fans, I'm looking at you), just compare the duo's work with any of the Chic-free issues, and tell me you can't see the difference.

So does the She-Hulk live up to my, ahem, fantasies? Not completely. Perhaps I've been jaded by reading the likes of Sandman and Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, but the stories just don't hold up to today's standards, although this is surely the case with many classic comics. Marvel did used to be known as Timely, after all, not Timeless.

As for the dialog, it gets a little weak in places. The instance that sticks out the most in my mind comes from issue #22. I mean, I'm all for a little philosophical exposition in the funny pages, but it's got to fit the character. The Savage She-Hulk does not say things like, "The metaphor doesn't escape me! All my life I've felt this sort of constriction! I felt it freeze up my father, sealing him in a rock-hard exterior! Let this metaphor be my strength! I won't wear a shell!"

I can forgive a lot of things. I forgave the phenomenally embarrassing Man-Elephant (issue #17), for Christ's sake. But every man has his limits.

Still, it was a lot of Retro fun, a look back at the not-too-distant past that, if nothing else, serves to make you appreciate the present.

And Shulkie? You've got my number. Just leave the metaphors at home.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Movie Review: Hallettsville (2009)

HALLETTSVILLE - 2009 horror movie starring Gary Busey

Written by Andrew Pozza and Tim Massey
Based on a story by Derek Lee Nixon
Directed by Andrew Pozza

Derek Lee Nixon...Tyler
Jesse Janzen...Jonathon
Jordan Brower...Mark
Katie Fountain...April
Brooke Baker...Candice
Karoly Giardello...Kristin
Gary Busey...Sheriff David Ketchum

After a bumpy first 20 minutes or so, a group of annoying college kids--some more annoying than others (I'm looking at you, Jonathon!)--head out to the country town of Hallettsville for a weekend at a ranch house in order to rekindle their fading relationships. The plot of land that the house was built on has a bloody back story, of course. It was the site of a school back in the early 1900s where all of the young students were murdered, seemingly by a man possessed.

The strange happenings begin almost immediately upon their arrival, as some of the youngsters start seeing people that aren't there and ghostly reflections of long-dead children. When one of them panics, they are all left stranded to be picked off one by one at the hands of their unseen supernatural stalker. When running doesn't work, and giving up seems their only other option, the survivors instead opt to make a stand.

Many of the characters are pretty much your standard slasher movie fodder, despite the fact that this isn't strictly a slasher film. It's kind of a cross between Evil Dead and Friday the 13th.

The leads did a good job with what they had, and Gary Busey was surprisingly (and thankfully) restrained in his role as the local lawman. It's probably not going to get his career back on track, but hell, it's a start. And he probably works pretty cheap these days. I didn't really understand the point of one of the character's having a friendly ghost that rooms with him in his house. It seemed contrived and, well...pointless. But I guess a friendly ghost is better than no ghost at all.

The special effects that were shown were decent, with a few standout spooky moments (for example, the smoky figure running through the woods at night). The scoring was well done, too. Not too invasive, and in fact most of the time you didn't even realize you were listening to it--which is really the ideal. The background music is just that: background, and it swells only when it needs to.

Violence against children and animals is still pretty much taboo these days, so its shocking when you see it. The flashbacks to the school massacre were the most disturbing scenes of the film, and they pretty wisely didn't dwell on them for too long; long enough to give you a taste, but not so long that you stop finding it shocking.

Overall, it was a good little flick once the characters made their way to the cabin. Prior to that, I was honestly a little bored and confused, and even in the end, not all of the plot threads were succinctly tied up. It's probably not going to top your list of favorite horror movies, but this is writer-director Andrew Pozza's first film, and it's a damn fine attempt. Given a little more experience, and if he stays on track, he could be capable of some very, very good things.

Watch for him in the future.

87 Minutes
United States

A sheriff named Ketchum? Isn't that like a library cop being named Bookman?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Movie Review: Horror In The Wind (2008)

Horror In The Wind
2008 alternative sex comedy Horror In The Wind
Written & Directed by Max Mitchell

Morse Bicknell...Ed Picante
Jiji Hise...Lisa Picante
Perren Hedderson...Richard Holbrook
Courtney Bell...Joan Holbrook

No, it's not a horror movie. No, it's not an alternate title for M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening. Horror In The Wind is, in essence, the Bizarro World version of the sex comedies of our world--aimed purely at a liberal audience. And, despite the warning that this movie "Contains Nudity Not Suitable For American Children", there really isn't that much nudity in it--although there are some sexy scenes of nude yoga.

Richard and Ed, two best friends and bio-engineers for Farmasuiticals Laboratory, have already won the prestigious Silver Tomato for saving tomato crops from fruit flies by eliminating their urge to procreate. Next in line is their attempt to do the same to the overwhelming rat population in New York City, but they're not getting results fast enough. When their funding is threatened to be pulled, they receive a call from a very important person: The newly elected President Pat Robertson.

President Robertson (the real life host of TV's The 700 Club) and his vice president James Dobson have declared a War on Sex, which would seem to be even more unwinnable than President Bush's War on Drugs. Which is why he pays Richard and Ed an obscene amount of money to alter their research and create an abstinence drug, and an antidote that will only be given to "Christian Married Couples."

After a few trials and tribulations, and much tech-talk (which probably didn't make any sense, but at least it sounded convincing), the scientists come up with Formula 4708, an airborne agent that appears to suppress the sexual urge. The President, too gung-ho for his own good, steals the Formula before testing is complete--before, in fact, an antidote is even created--and inundates the world with it. Only when it's too late does the truth come to light: Formula 4708 doesn't suppress your sex drive; it reverses it.

If you were heterosexual, you're suddenly homosexual. If you were homosexual, you're suddenly heterosexual. The majority becomes the minority and vice versa, turning the world on its ear...and on it's rear (sorry...couldn't resist.)

As any close-minded religious fundamentalist will tell you, the only thing worse than premarital sex is gay premarital sex, and so the search for the antidote begins.

The filmmakers did a pretty good job at touching on all of the societal changes that such an event would cause, everything from the King James Bible being thrown out to make room for the Princess Diana Bible to birth control companies filing Chapter 11. The only thing that I wish they would have mentioned is, what exactly happens to bisexuals? Perhaps they were the only ones that were truly immune.

Also, I must say that I admire the fact that the filmmakers didn't go in the same direction that many others would. For the most part, the newly-homosexual characters weren't depicted as whoring freaks or leather-clad queens (save for those in the oval office). They were depicted as monogamous--although unsure and awkward--lovers. It was refreshing to see, as even many films created by and for homosexuals tend to characterize gay characters as less-than-honorable. In fact, Richard and Ed were sleeping with the others wife while they were straight, but were committed to each other when they were gay.

The leads did a decent enough job in their roles, but the smaller parts weren't quite as admirably performed. Most of the jokes were amusing, if not laugh out loud funny, but the best ones were far and away the fake headlines crawling across the bottom of the screen during the Fax News ("News You Can't Get Away From") scenes. All in all, it was a fun little film for those with an open enough mind to get past the sheer gayness of it all, and even though it could have stood a little more editing, and a few more beats of action and excitement, I would definitely be interested in seeing what else this studio has up its sleeve.

United States

Feel The Power Of The Great Uterus!

(Hump Day: Not as good as it sounds, not as bad as we make it out to be.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Movie Review: Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)

The Beast of Yucca Flats
So bad it's interesting - THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS

Written & Directed by Coleman Francis

Joe Dobson...Larry Aten
Jim Archer...Bing Stafford
Joseph Javorski...Tor Johnson

Rogue scientist Joseph Javorski, wanted dead by spies “from behind the iron curtain”, is en route to Yucca Flats to witness a test detonation of an Atomic bomb. In an incredibly Hulk-like turn, he’s caught in the explosion and, presumably, killed.

But wait. Who’s that strange, twisted figure creeping out from the shadows to strangle whatever hapless innocent that happens to be in reach? Could it be Joseph Javorski, A.K.A….THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS? You bet your sweet bippy. And before the Beast can even drag his poor man’s Fay Wray to his lair, Joe and Jim—your friendly neighborhood desert patrolmen—are on the case, a couple of quick little buggers to say the least. Can they destroy the Beast before he makes mincemeat out of the next family to breakdown along the road? Here’s hoping!

This film is a strange thing indeed. Clocking in at around 50-minutes, there’s no time for any sort of preamble or build-up, it’s just wham-bam, right into the tale. And yet, even then, much of the movie seems padded, showing pointless scenes of young boys sharing their soda with potbellied pigs and playing with coyotes. It’s painfully obvious that the filmmakers didn’t have the benefit of boom mikes, and so all sound was added in later. There’s practically no dialogue, and what little there is is delivered through utterly ridiculous narration: “Nothing bothers some people. Not even flying saucers.” And no, there aren’t any flying saucers in the film, which serves only to raise the ridiculousness.

The characters are thin as origami, like paper dolls blowing through the desert. And these supposed lawmen have got to be the worst officers in existence. No matter how much you try to suspend disbelief, you can’t help but wonder how they got their badges.

So yes, it’s a bad film. And not a film so bad that it’s good. It is, however, a film so bad that it’s interesting, which is a rare animal indeed. You can’t help but be intrigued by such a bizarre method of movie making and have a certain respect for the crew. I‘m sure there were a hell of a lot of problems during production, but nothing was going to stand in the way of getting this movie made!

Worth a look if you’re craving something a bit…different.

ALSO KNOWN AS: Girl Madness; The Atomic Monster; The Violent Sun

Believe it or not, I enjoyed this film enough to make a comic version of it...starring myself! 
Click HERE to take a look!

54 minutes
Black & White


Monday, February 23, 2009

Movie Review: Inside (2007)

French pregnancy horror film INSIDE from 2007

Written by Alexandre Bustillo
Directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury

Alysson Paradis...Sarah
Béatrice Dalle...The Woman
François-Régis Marchasson...Jean-Pierre

This movie is quite possibly every pregnant woman's worst nightmare.

Imagine that you are Sarah, a very-pregnant news photographer who lost her husband in a horrific car accident four months ago. It's Christmas Eve, and at 6:00 tomorrow morning, you are scheduled to be admitted into the hospital to induce labor. You are so far into your grief, that you seem to have very little emotional attachment to the child inside you, much less anybody else in your life.

Then there's a knock on your door. You don't know the woman...but she knows you, and she wants you to let her in. When you refuse--and in fact call the police--she punches her fist through the window, just to let you know that she's not here for polite conversation.

The police arrive, but find nothing. They promise to check in later, but you know that they have their hands full. Not only is it the holiday season, but there are full-scale riots occurring elsewhere that demand their attention. When you finally feel safe enough to sleep, you take a pill or two and hit the sack.

You wake up in the middle of the night to find the woman--dressed like a velvet Gothic Lolita--standing over your exposed bulging belly, and it's not until she sterilizes the large cutting shears she's holding in her hands that you realize what she's after.

She wants your baby. And she plans on cutting it out of you.

Remember Takashi Miike's Audition, where the gorgeous (but insane) Asami pulls out all the stops in her torture session on her suitor? Well, it's quite a bit like that...only this loony tune isn't nearly as attractive, and the action is NON-STOP. These two women, armed with a laundry list of household items, bring the pain like you won't believe, and the blood and grue quotient is astounding. Not only that, but it looked great...meaning it looked terrible, because this is no pleasant film. It's a cross between a slasher film, the suspense drama, and torture porn. This is the kind of movie that Eli Roth should be making...but we all know that's not going to happen.

Inside should also be commended for the 'reaction shots' of the unborn child inside of the womb, nearly going so far as to make the child an actual character instead of just a prop or a plot device. This is something I've never seen before--and because it was so disturbing, I almost hope never to see again.

I can't even begin to describe the tension felt while watching this movie, upped quite effectively through the masterful use of illumination, shadow and flickering light, as well as a minimalist score that thrummed like a helicopter heartbeat at all the right moments. I was literally wide-eyed throughout most of the movie, shoulders bunched and hands clenched.

It's difficult to watch even as a man with no children, so if you're pregnant, ever plan on getting pregnant, or even have a loved one who is pregnant, I would strongly advise that you stay far, far away from this film. But for all other lovers of the genre who can stand the intensity that this movie brings, Dimension-Extreme's Inside is highly, highly recommended.

AKA: À l'intérieur

83 Minutes
French with English subtitles (English dubbing available)

Wow...Duck Tape really does fix anything!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Movie Review: Mr. Brooks (2007)

Mr. Brooks
Serial killer flick MR. BROOKS starring Kevin Costner and Dane CookWritten by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon
Directed by Bruce A. Evans

Kevin Costner...Mr. Earl Brooks
Demi Moore...Det. Tracy Atwood
Dane Cook...Mr. Smith
William Hurt...Marshall
Marg Helgenberger...Emma Brooks
Danielle Panabaker...Jane Brooks

Mr. Brooks is a good old-fashioned American. He wears a bow tie, he's the president of a cardboard box company, and he's just been voted Man of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce. But underneath this kind, family-oriented exterior, lurks something much darker: the man known as the Thumbprint Killer.

Thumbprint has been out of the murdering biz for two years now, attempting to stave off his hunger through 12-step programs and lots of prayer. But egged on by his imaginary friend/alter ego, he breaks his bloodless stint and does in a couple in his trademark meticulous way.

With thumbprint out of retirement, Detective Tracy Atwood renews her vow to capture him. As if this weren't enough for him to worry about, some voyeuristic young punk identifying himself as Mr. Smith has figured out who he is, and is blackmailing Mr. Brooks to take him along on his next job. Throw in Detective Atwood's ex-husband, who is suing her for the family fortune, another serial killer who is on the lam, and Mr. Brooks' daughter who pops into town with a few surprises of her own, and you've got yourself an excellent, multi-layered thriller that didn't receive the box office audience that it deserved.

The whole alter ego gimmick works much better here than in other films (Raising Cain), perhaps because the director isn't trying to trick us into thinking that he is a real and distinct person. And, believe it or not, Dane Cook does a pretty decent (and thankfully restrained) portrayal of Mr. Smith. He's still Dane Cook...just dialed way, way down. There's so many characters and subplots flying around here that it easily could have been bogged down by its own weight, but the filmmakers did an admirable job of making it a cohesive whole. Anything I found to really dislike about this film would just be nitpicking. It deserves a home in your collection, sandwiched between Silence of the Lambs and Se7en...which means it is a huge step up from Evan's former output, which includes Jungle 2 Jungle and Christian Slater's Kuffs.

Rated R
120 Minutes


Saturday, February 21, 2009

[Cryptopopology] It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman

Musicals are the new thing, right? I mean, we've already got "Evil Dead: The Musical," "Repo: The Genetic Opera", and "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long." So why not a Superman musical?

"It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman" is a Broadway play with instrumentation by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, revolving around Superman's attempts to defeat Dr. Abner Sedgwick, a bitter scientist who is out for revenge against the world by destroying its primary symbol of good: Superman himself. Just so that Clark Kent has something to do, there's also a Daily Planet columnist named Max Mencken who is competing for Lois Lane's affection.

Many of you are probably wondering why you haven't heard of this yet. Surely it would have been all over the internet by now, right?

It would, if the information superhighway existed back in the late sixties.

That's right. "It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman" opened on Broadway way back on March 29, 1966, and despite its generally favorable reviews, it didn't catch on with the theater crowd and closed on July 17th of the same year after only 129 performances.

Here's a glimpse at the Playbill:
Superman/Clark Kent...Bob Holiday
Lois Lane...Patricia Marand
Max Mencken...Jack Cassidy
Perry White...Eric Mason
Dr. Abner Sedgwick...Michael O'Sullivan
And, finally, Suspect #2 was played by Dick Miller!
There's absolutely no hope of us ever seeing this play, unless Superman flies backwards around the world and turns back time (which we all know he can't really do). What I'm more concerned with is a medium that does have a potential to be re-viewed.

You see, despite the lackluster shelf-life of the play, ABC released a TV special of "It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's Superman" under its Wide World of Entertainment banner that aired on February 1, 1975, but it was panned by the vast majority of its viewers.

IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE, IT'S SUPERMAN - The Lost Superman MusicalIt was adapted for television by Romeo Muller, who was best known for writing licensed seasonal TV specials, such as "The Little Rascal's Christmas Special", "Thanksgiving in the Land of Oz", and "Nestor the Christmas Donkey"--not to mention the classic "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". The director was Jack Regas, who had contributed to such stinkers as TV's "Out of This World" and "The Brady Bunch Hour".

This time around, the Man of Steel was played by David Wilson who hasn't really done much of anything beyond one-shot appearances on programs like "Magnum P.I." and "CHiPs". His parents were portrayed by Elvia Allman and George Chandler, two more perennial one-shoters. Daily Planet editor Perry White was played by Allen Ludden, host of gameshows "Password", "Password Plus", "Matchgame" and "Matchgame PM". Lois Lane was played by Lesley Ann Warren, who had played Dana Lambert in 23 episodes of "Mission: Impossible" and later went on to recurring roles in "Desperate Housewives" and "In Plain Sight." The weaselly columnist Max Mencken was played by Kenneth Mars, popular voice over artist who later went on to play rancher Otto in many episodes of "Malcolm in the Middle." And finally the evil Dr. Segwick was portrayed by David Wayne who had appeared in four episodes of the "Batman" TV series, and later went on to play Inspector Richard Queen on the "Ellery Queen" series.

Oh, and the narrator? Gary Owens, of course!

Unfortunately, DC doesn't seem too keen on replaying the much-maligned special, which only places it higher on the often-sought-but-seldom-found bootleg market. I suppose that it may be some consolation that the original Broadway soundtrack is still available for purchase. So feel free to snag it, close your eyes, and let your imagination do the rest.

Oh, fine. Here's a little less-than-legal snippet to give you a taste of what you're missing.

Up, up and Awaaaaay!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Movie Review: Red (2008)

Jack Ketchum's RED featuring Tom Sizemore
Written by Stephen Susco
Based on a Book by Jack Ketchum
Directed by Trygve Allister Diesen and Lucky McKee

Avery Ludlow...Brian Cox
Carrie Donnel...Kim Dickens
Danny...Noel Fisher
Harold...Kyle Gallner
Pete...Shiloh Fernandez

It's a fresh take on an old theme: THE MAN WHO WAS PUSHED TOO FAR!

Avery Ludlow, the owner of the local general store, is enjoying a lazy fishing trip with his old canine pal Red. A trio of teenagers arrive on the scene, initially making innocent enough small talk that carries a menacing glow beneath it. It quickly spirals out of control, however, with their ringleader Danny waving his shotgun around and demanding payment. Avery offers them his fish...he offers them his money...he even offers them his truck. But, without provocation, they shoot old Red. And that's something that Avery isn't about to take sitting down.

He first tries the responsible route, locating the boys parents and informing them of what their sons have done. Next he tries the long arm of the law, but it doesn't extend as far as he needs. Then he moves on to the media with his reporter friend Carrie, broadcasting his story on the evening news. When all of this comes to naught, and it becomes evident that these boys will not be held accountable for what they have done, he takes matters into his own hands.

He takes to following the boys, trying to frighten them into admitting what they've done. But they're not going to break easily--probably because they're already broken. Things get out of hand in a hurry, and we're swept into a whirlwind of violence and vengeance.

At first, Avery may have been out only for justice. But in time, it became vengeance he was seeking. It's also clear that he's not just gunning for Danny. Danny is also acting as a surrogate for his own son, Billy, who was even more dangerous and unstable than Danny ever was. It wasn't just his dog that was killed--it was a symbol of everything that was taken from him and the only thing that he had left.

It takes quite a bit of talent to make a horror/revenge story emotionally moving, but this movie truly manages to do just that. The tragedy of this man's history tugs at your heart, even more impressive when you consider that none of it was ever shown, only recounted through dialogue. Because of all this, you become deeply emotionally invested in this character, and you want all of the dirty bastards to pay. But, just like real life, when they do, it changes nothing. Dead is still dead, and our souls are just a little darker because of it. I guess that's the difference between justice and vengeance. When you get justice, your hands are clean but you just may be wishing you had done something more. When you get vengeance, your hands are dirty, and you wish you hadn't taken it quite so far. Kudos for playing it real, and allowing Avery to see this, too, upon reflection of his actions.

All the stars did a marvelous job--Tom Sizemore and Robert England included, both playing less-than-concerned fathers--and the writing and directing was top notch (and impressively seamless, considering the filmmakers switched directors part way through shooting). My only complaint is that the wrap up of the story was a bit too...Turner and Hooch, shall we say? But it did little if anything to diminish my enjoyment of this extraordinary film.

A must see.

Rated R
93 Minutes
United States


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Movie Review: The Quick and the Undead (2006)

The Quick and the Undead
Western Horror Hybrid THE QUICK AND THE UNDEAD by Gerald Nott

Written & Directed by Gerald Nott

Clint Glenn...Ryn Baskin
Nicola Giacobbe...Hans Tubman
Parrish Randall...Blythe Remington
85 years ago, a viral outbreak turned three-quarters of the population into the walking dead. Those of us who survived had to take up a new trade. That's how the hunt began.
...or so goes our alternative history lesson. It's the Wild, Wild West all over again, only instead of the White Hats versus the Black Hats, it's the living versus the undead, as professional bounty hunters form posses to collect the government-issued reward for each re-killing.

Our hero is one such bounty hunter, a loner named Ryn Baskin doing his best Clint Eastwood impression (if Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name shopped at Hot Topic, that is). He is sold out by his simpering 'Chummer' Hans, shot and then left for dead by the members of his former gang. But in a world where no man stays dead for long, Ryn is a man who won't even die to start with, and so he heads for the distant Union City, utilizing Hans as a guide-on-a-leash, in order to dish out some good ol' fashioned Old Testament justice.

The interesting thing is that the zombies aren't really the bad guys here. They're merely set dressing, obstacles that Ryn has to overcome in order to get to the true villain--Blythe Remington, the leader of the bounty hunters that tried to kill him. Think a less-talented Dennis Hopper circa Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and you're on the right track. Not only is Blythe a murderous little bastard, but also a bastard so greedy that he's willfully spreading the zombie infection in order to have more undead to cash in on!

For a low-budget picture, it actually comes across pretty well on a technical level. It has good camera work, eschewing the hand-held shaky-cam that has become all the rage, although it does suffer a few periodic pointless camera tricks that low budget filmmakers use to make their movies appear more visually interesting. It was also competently scored by Brian Beardsley and Pieter A. Schlosser, although I would have appreciated a bit more of a spaghetti western influence on the soundtrack. The zombie effects were passable but not spectacular, somewhere between Halloween masks and the old oatmeal-on-the-face trick.

The pacing was a bit slow at times, and it definitely could have used a few extra action scenes peppered throughout the running time, but all in all, it was a fun little flick. The filmmakers are obviously fans of both the horror and the western genres, and they get kudos for combining the two pretty successfully. Zombie films are ideal for low-budget movies, but writer-director Gerald Nott went the extra mile and made it a zombie period piece...sort of. It takes place in the future, but it looks like the past.

If you pop this one in your DVD player, and you see where it says "NOTT ENTERTAINMENT", don't immediately hit 'eject'. This is only the name of the production company; It is not a critical evaluation.

78 Minutes
United States

Personally, I'd kill the rotting ones first. They have more experience.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Movie Review: Caligula (1979)

Gore Vidal, Tinto Brass, and Penthouse Magazine present CALIGULA

Written by Gore Vidal
Directed by Tinto Brass & Bob Guccione

Caligula....Malcolm McDowell
Tiberius....Peter O'Toole
Drusilla....Teresa Ann Savoy
Macro....Guido Mannari
Longinus....John Steiner

When is a porno not really a porno? When it is this fantastical epic period piece brought to us by an unlikely union between the fine folks at Penthouse Magazine and Gore Vidal. The setting is Pagan Rome, circa 37 A.D., and the nation is run by the aged Emperor Tiberius, who hasn’t long to live. Caligula, a ladies man who lives his life by logic, is the adopted heir to the throne, and as Tiberius lies on his death bed, Caligula encourages his friend (and Tiberius’s traitorous confidante) Macro to speed up the process. When the deed is done, Caligula takes his place as emperor and we follow him through his violent and depraved rule, right through to the bitter end.

He appoints his dim-witted and effeminate uncle Claudius as his consul, adopts his younger brother as his own son and heir (only to have him arrested on trumped up charges later), has Macro arrested for his part in the death of Tiberius, and chooses a priestess of the goddess Isis to be his wife (he opts for “the most promiscuous woman in all of Rome”, naturally), all under the guidance of his sister/lover Drusilla. Things get even wilder when Drusilla dies from “The Fever,” and Caligula loses his mind a bit. He escapes into town (the only scene that takes place outside of the Emporer’s Castle) and travels incognito, until he’s beaten by a mob and taken to prison, believed to be a drunk.

He returns to court with a new barbarian friend, declares himself a god, and proposes a rather bizarre idea on how to balance the budget: pimp out the Senator’s wives to anybody with five gold pieces. This results in what has to be the largest (real) orgy ever caught on film, all taking place on a fake boat built within the castle walls, looking like a leftover set from Studio 54. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he later arrests and confiscates the estates of every senator he feels has “failed Rome.” The Senators are important (and powerful) men, and the degradation of their character leads directly to Caligula’s downfall in a closing scene that can not be forgotten.

Yes, the rumors are true. There are hardcore sex scenes in this film. However, it escapes the porn stigma for a number of reasons: the high budget, the name stars, and the fact that the camera only actually shows the hardcore scenes for very brief periods of times—a drawn out lesbian scene and the Senator Boat Orgy are the exceptions—among them.

The acting is typically rather good, and the musical scoring is magnificent. The sets—while surely as historically inaccurate as the story itself—are sometimes surreal and always amazing. There may not always be a lot going on story-wise, but that’s okay. The real stars of the show are the titillating and/or shocking elements that crop up every few minutes or so. Keep your eyes open for physical deformities, stilt walking, juggling, plate spinning, sleight of hand magic tricks, genital torture, lots of masturbation, ancient sex machines, man-on-man action, public urination, a circle-jerk into a bowl, fisting, a dwarf receiving a blow job, a cut-off penis, a woman giving birth on stage before a live studio audience, and a decapitation machine that defies words.

With all of this included in the “Unrated Version” (which clocks in at a lengthy 156 minutes), it really makes me wonder what else is shown in the 210 minute “Original Cut” that is supposedly floating around out there somewhere.

Love it or hate it, one thing is for sure. This one has to be seen to be believed.

156 minutes

Hump Day. Not as bad as we make it out to be, not as fun as it sounds.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Comic Review: Thing (Vol.2) #7: Dis Man, Dis Monster, Disarmed

The Thing #7
The Thing Vol. 2 #7: Dis Man, Dis Monster, Disarmed from Marvel Comics
Dis Man, Dis Monster, Disarmed

Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Kieron Dwyer
Published by Marvel Comics

To celebrate Alicia’s birthday, Ben takes her back in time to Ancient Greece via the time machine that the Fantastic Four procured from Dr. Doom all those many years ago. The plan was to “show” her the Venus de Milo immediately upon completion, but when Hercules—who hadn’t yet met Ben at this point in the timeline—mistakes him for a monster sent by the gods above as a means to alleviate his boredom, a vicious fight breaks out between them. Amidst the rubble left in the wake of their melee, we find the Venus that we know today, her arms broken and laying in pieces next to her body.

So, not only was Ben responsible for the legend of Blackbeard, but he also gave the Venus de Milo her signature amputee status, and who knows what else. What a different world this would be if old Ben stayed out of the timestream.

This done-in-one story was one of the fastest reading comics in memory—and I’m not saying that as a good thing. It was absolutely brainless, all flash and no substance, a pointless little tale that could have been interesting if drawn out beyond the traditional “meet-and-misunderstand” battle between Hercules and the Thing, spanning the course of a few issues: Ben and Hercules embark on some great mythical quest together, for instance, while Alicia stays behind and is treated to the benefits granted to both oracles and gifted artists alike. Instead, it closes with saccharine, leaving that sweet and yet vaguely bitter taste in your mouth.

And its too bad that Dwyer is still the artist on board here—his figures are too stiff and uninspired for my tastes. I know he has his fans, but I get the sense that he was just phoning it in.

Required reading for Fantastic fanatics only.

Signing off,
--The Ever Lovin' Blue Eyed J/Metro

Monday, February 16, 2009

Comic Review: Thing (Vol.2) #5-6: Give Till It Hurts/There Goes The Neighborhood

Thing (Vol.2) #5-#6
THE THING (Vol.2) #5: Give Till It HurtsTHE THING (Vol.2) #6: There Goes The Neighborhood
Give Till It Hurts/There Goes The Neighborhood

Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Kieron Dwyer
Published by Marvel Comics

With a newfound sense of responsibility, Ben keeps an old promise to Hiram “Shecky” Sheckersberg and goes to work at the old man’s Yancy Street pawnshop as payment for all the merchandise Ben stole from him while he was a youth. Inspired by Shecky’s dedication to the old neighborhood, Ben uses his vast fortune to hire avant garde architect Arlo North (who is, unbeknownst to Ben, Alica’s new lover) to build the Grimm Youth Center as some sort of alternative to street violence.

A good thought, but unfortunately Ben has to deal not only with the Yancy Street Gang, but also the Maggia (the Marvel Universe’s version of the Mafia), and their hired henchmen Sandman and the Trapster (although, he’ll always be Paste Pot Pete to me). It’s two against one, so your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swings by to help out.

Finally, five issues into the series, and we’ve returned to the true spirit and tone of a Thing story. With the Fantastic Four, the Thing is the muscle, the brute, the all-action man, and the stories have to be fast and furious and full of mayhem. But when the Thing is solo, it’s no longer all about the action, and it shouldn’t be overtly saccharine or overly silly—there are plenty of other titles for that. It should be about the character: not the Thing, but the man beneath the Thing—Ben Grimm. And this two-issue arc, while not hitting it out of the park, at least connects with the ball. I enjoyed the brief flashback to Ben’s childhood with his brother Dan, which reflected scenes shown previously in the first issue of the first series.

My only qualm is with the switch to Dwyer as artist on #6. Switching artists in the middle of a story arc is bad business, and more than that, disorienting. Dwyer’s art looks too rough and unfinished, not impressive here at all. His work here definitely could have used improvements in the details.

But, hell…at least we got to see Sandman vomit in Ben’s face. Instant classic.

Where's my Great Aunt Petunia?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Comic Review: Thing (Vol.2) #4: Paws and Fast Forward

Thing (Vol.2) #4
The Thing (Vol.2) #4: Paws and Fast Forward from Marvel Comics
Paws and Fast Forward
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Andrea Divito
Published my Marvel Comics

This done-in-one issue is a bit sappy, but it has its fun moments. We open on the city of Attilan on the Blue Area of the moon, where the Inhuman Karnak is practicing his very Zen Ninja-like ability to destroy any item with a single blow. A fragment from the shattered block of “lunar marble” embeds itself in Lockjaw’s neck. Like the lion with a thorn in his paw, Lockjaw teleports from place to place (okay, maybe not exactly like the lion) in search of assistance, but everyone he encounters is too busy to pay any attention to him—except for Uatu the Watcher, who understands that he needs help, but is forbidden to interfere (like that ever stopped him before).

Meanwhile, Reed Richards launches some cockamamie scheme using his son Franklin as a guinea pig to teach Ben a thing or two about finances—primarily, how to manage them, and how to prevent them from changing you.

Along the way, Ben and Lockjaw are reunited—they spent a bit of time together in the Thing’s first series—and Ben removes the marble fragment from Lockjaw’s neck. Lockjaw is so grateful that he informs Blackbolt, the leader of the Inhumans, that he is leaving Attilan to live on Earth with Ben.

There is no real villain here, just a real brief battle with a Z-lister named Shockjock that seemed tacked on in order to appease action fans. The greatest scene here is actually a bit of a throwaway joke: the Human Torch gets so excited about his latest additions to his Little Black Book that he flames on, accidentally burning all of the girls’ digits.

Serves the precocious bastard right. What a chump.

What a revoltin' development!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Comic Review: The Thing (Vol.2) #1-3: Fun 'n' Games

The Thing (Vol.2) #1-3
The Thing Vol.2 #1: Fun 'n' GamesThe Thing Vol.2 #2: Fun 'n' GamesThe Thing Vol.2 #3: Fun 'n' Games
Fun ‘n’ Games
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Andrea Divito
Published by Marvel Comics

Issue #1: Money Changes Everything
Issue #2: Abusement Park
Issue #3: Playing For Keeps

Having recently taken control of his portion of the Fantastic Four empire, Ben Grimm AKA the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing has become one of the wealthiest men in America, and he’s living it up Big Willie style with a lawyer on retainer, a chauffeured limousine on call, and Carlotta LaRosa, a scantily clad Hollywood starlet in his bed. The Thing and his new play thing attend the social even of the year, held at the homestead of the very rich white collar criminal Irma Roberts, but the party is sabotaged by a Rock’em Sock’em Robo-Thing. Ben is rendered unconscious, only to awaken the next morning on a desert island, along with fellow guests Tony Stark (out of costume), the Constrictor, and Nighthawk, plus a number of non-heroic socialites. Really, it’s just an invitation to yet another elite social event: the grand opening of Arcade’s Murderland, the Deadliest Place on Earth!

Yes, Arcade is back in all his ginger-haired, white polyester leisure suit, disco-dancing glory. This time he has been hired by Paris Hilton (I mean, Milan Ramada…you figure it out) to kill the party goers in revenge for…not being invited!

The rules are simple: You can not leave the island until the game is completed; The game is completed only when you are dead, or when you have reached home base on the other side of the island; and once one person enters home base, the others only have ten seconds to follow suit before they are terminated with extreme prejudice.

Which should prove to be a simple enough task for old Rocky Grimm, but not only does he have a crew of spoiled richies to protect, romantic problems rearing their ugly heads, and the inability to trust the criminal Constrictor, but he’s also got a whole lot of robots to fight…a whole lot of robots.

It’s a simple, fun little arc, and one that could have been much more enjoyable if not for Arcade’s diminutive robotic henchman Brynocki, whose annoying pop culture references and continuous shape shifting was something akin to a manga version of the Impossible Man. Every scene with him took this all-ages story and turned it into a kids-only story. (Brynocki, by the way, debuted way back in 1975’s Master of Kung Fu #34, and was probably as wretched then as he is today) The writing was decent, although perhaps relying a bit too much on character narration, and the art was passable as well—it seemed at times unable to find the balance between cartoony and realistic, which is probably a difficult feat considering the characters involved. There are no long-lasting implications to this storyline, save perhaps the fact that it turns out ex-girlfriend Alicia Masters still has feelings for Ben.

There were cameos aplenty, however, with Ms. Marvel, Peter Parker and Mary Jane, Jarvis, Human Torch, Mister Fantastic, and Daredevil all showing up at least briefly, not to mention the robotic duplicates of Wolverine, Captain America and Nova. The best scene in the entire storyline is when the Thing, backed by a legion of Thing robots representing different periods of his career (Blackbeard Thing, Mask-Wearing Thing, Spiky-Shoulder Thing), doing battle against an army of Hulk robots of the same ilk (Puny Banner Hulk, Joe Fixit Hulk, Professor Hulk, Hulk-Smash Hulk, etc.)

Definitely aimed for a younger audience, but if you’re a fan of the Thing (as I am), you will still find something to enjoy here.

It's Clobberin' Time!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Get Down With The Cut-Up

The cut-up technique of writing utilizes one-part creativity, one part skill and two-parts luck. It is used primarily as an experimental method of breaking free from linear storytelling and opening new doors of perception, sometimes creating innovative new phrases. The method is simple:

You take a finished piece of text written on paper. You cut the paper into pieces so that only a small number of words exist on each piece--the most popular formula has you slicing the page into four rectangles, but there is nothing set in stone. The pieces are then rearranged to create a new text, and retyped--using a little creativity and editing prowess to compensate for broken word structures and the like along the way.

More than likely, it will make very little sense, but given time, one can learn how to properly edit the cut-up text to transform it into surrealistic poetry, or incorporate it into another of their more linear works.

This method was popularized by Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs, who created many of his most famous novels in this fashion. Burroughs didn't merely enjoy the cut-up, however. He went stark raving mad for it, and hypothesized that using the cut-up method could uncover the "hidden meaning" of any given text, predict the future ("When you cut word lines the future leaks out."), and perhaps even alter reality.

At the very least, it's an interesting way to kill a little time.

(the above text was cut-up using an online cut-up machine, and then edited into the following "poem")

There they learn
the future number method.
Structures will turn the generation mad.
The method transforms storytelling,
cut-up by pieces hypothesized
as the number four works.
His doors are new and little,
his given skill is the opening of another
and is created into text
and into a story you didn't create.
Telling a sometimes word
cut from another author--
this is the fashion.
Hypothesize it and uncover the word,
creating it.
More than interesting it
incorporate interesting pieces.
Burroughs merely predicts the formula,
but it's the editing of technique.
YOU are Burroughs.
Cut-up the perception
and utilize Burroughs properly.
Text lines are one-part reality,
like pieces of cut text.
The linear future transforms skill and linear creativity.
Use the famous pieces
or edit your method more.
He is it's author then--
very hidden and perhaps creating perception.
Burroughs popularized one-part, at least.
But using it is interesting.
Cut the most broken future words
of linear famous storytelling
by rearranging raving into a set Beat fashion.
Alter the skill and their storytelling structure:
cut page number, text, meaning, nothing.
Cut-up broken lines, editing.
Edit it using stone,
breaking it in editing,
and the new text page can predict
and popularize the lines learned along the way.

Hey...I never said I was any good at it.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Movie Review: The Killer Next Door (2002)

The Killer Next Door
2002's THE KILLER NEXT DOOR starring Adam Scott

Written by Matt Casado and Clayton Gardner
Directed by Christopher Haifley

Adam Scott...Ronnie Schwann
Mark Pellegrino...Keith Schwann
Fini Goodman...Sara
Aimee Graham...Kelly
Jennifer Darling...Mamma

"In the summer of 1988 mayhem, murder and rape came calling..."

Ronnie Schwann is an empathetic, but troubled, young man with an unhealthy family life. His father was abusive, his older convict brother isn't much better, and his mother is addicted to meds, cigarettes and booze. Looking to give a little back to the community, he works as a caregiver at a halfway house. Upon accidentally walking in on a nude patient named Sarah, he develops improper feelings for her. When Sarah escapes from the hospital, Ronnie stumbles upon her on the street and takes him back to his house to seduce her. But then his brother shows up, fresh out of prison, and his plan for romance goes directly to hell, does not pass go, and he most certainly does not collect 200 dollars. What he does get it is a very frightened, and very sick girl tied to his bed.

Meanwhile, his freshly paroled brother gets right back into his old habits of expensive drugs, cheap whores, and thugged-up compadres--Brian Austin Green included! The last thing they want is police sniffing around the property, but they're on the trail of a missing girl--how far away can they be?

All of this unravels over the course of 24 hours, and it reeks of being "based on a true story"--although it isn't, and doesn't claim to be.

Sarah is mentally disabled. Ronnie is obviously slightly unstable. His mother isn't quite right. His brother suffers from criminal impulses. Really, this is a minor examination of mental illness and sociopathic behavior that could have fared better if it ventured further into the extreme. The pacing is a little slow at times, and the sleaze factor isn't nearly as high as you would initially think, but it's still an enjoyable film. The actors all did a great job with the material, and it was well edited--although they could have left the man dancing in his thong on the cutting room floor! It's also pretty well-scored, and doesn't come across at all as the low budget movie I was expecting. If the problems with pacing had been corrected, and perhaps a little more excitement thrown in, this could have been one hell of a movie.

This movie was originally named Ronnie, after it's primary character, but changed to the more marketable Killer Next Door when it was released on DVD. The new title may be more likely to lure people in, but it's extremely misleading--as is the cover art. Surely they could have found a middle ground in there somewhere.

For added fun, take a shot of booze every time someone says the word "Oregon." You'll be piss-drunk in no time.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009



Hump Day. Not as bad as we make it out to be. Not as fun as it sounds.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

[Cryptopopology] Aquaman: Unaired TV Pilot

Aquaman: The Unaired TV Pilot

Logo for unaired TV pilot AQUAMAN
Arthur “A.C.” Curry...Justin Hartley
McCaffery...Ving Rhames
Tom Curry...Lou Diamond Phillips
Eva...Amber McDonald
Brigman...Rick Peters
Nadia...Adrianne Palicki

Inspired by the success of Smallville, based on the life of a not-yet-Superman Clark Kent, DC Comics decided to produce another similarly-themed show based on one of their characters: Aquaman. Originally to be titled Mercy Reef, they opted for the eponymous title sometime during production, but it mattered not either way. The show was not picked up by a network, and the pilot was never aired on TV.

Ten years ago, young Arthur “A.C.” Curry and his marine biologist mother Atlanna, are flying over the Bermuda Triangle, when the seahorse necklace that she is wearing lights up, apparently sending a signal to something lurking deep beneath the ocean. The waters erupt in a burst of light, and their plane is taken down. Atlanna tells her son to “Lead a good life”, and then she is gone. A.C., on the other hand, is carried to safety on the back of a whale.

Flash forward to “This Morning,” Tempest Key, Florida, where an older A.C. (sporting his mother’s necklace) is part-owner of a diving shop/restaurant/charter boat company, along with his friend Eva. He finds himself in a spot of trouble when the sheriff (Lemonhead from The Shield) comes around questioning him about some dolphins that were illegally released from captivity. A.C. later tells Eva that he did it because they were calling to him, in some sort of “weird empathy.”

A.C.’s adopted father Tom Curry (of the Coast Guard) rescues a young man from the ocean with “no boat, no I.D., and no idea where he came from.” Strange thing is, he’s wearing a seahorse necklace just like A.C.’s. Stranger still, his dental records seem to suggest that he is Vincent Thompson, a passenger of Flight 19 that went down in the Bermuda Triangle way back in 1945. And he’s not the first missing person to show up all these years later, still as young as the day they disappeared. How can that be? That’s what the mysterious Brigman and his Project Novus is trying to figure out.

A.C. is still completely in the dark about everything until he meets Nadia, an attractive young vixen who turns out to be a Siren—sort of a killer cross between a mermaid and a zombie. She attacks him and A.C. is saved by the big bald bad-ass McCaffery (Ving Rhames, who is playing pretty much his usual character here.) McCaffery tells A.C. that he is heir to the throne of Atlantis, but a group of underwater rebels want him dead, just like his father the emperor, whom they killed. McCaffery, an Atlantean refugee himself, helped Atlanna and her young son escape from the undersea kingdom many years ago. But now that the rebels have found him, A.C. must embrace his True Destiny: “To defend this world which you have embraced as your own, and protect the ocean from which you were born.”

After another minor skirmish with Nadia, A.C. is ready to accept his destiny and McCaffery is signed on to be his mentor.

Cue credits.

The showrunners were trying to squeeze an awful lot into the pilot episode, and it shows. This just means, however, that had the show been picked up, there would have been a myriad of story lines to run with. The similarities to Smallville are obvious: both shows start with a disaster scene that solidifies the origins of the main characters; both feature young superheroes slowly discovering who they are and what they are capable of; both raise the same questions—if Smallville is overrun with poisonous meteor rock (Kryptonite), why do the Kent’s insist on staying there? And if the Bermuda Triangle is such a dangerous place for A.C., why did Atlanna and McCaffery keep him so close? There are plenty of other oceans they could have swam in.

Regardless, fans of Smallville probably would have become fans of this show as well, as it maintains the same sort of vibe (although perhaps just a hair less saccharine sweet.) It’s a shame that the show wasn’t picked up for at least a season to give it a shot. Even though Aquaman is a bit of a second-tier character, and an odd choice for his own TV series, it could have been great had it been given a chance to breathe (even though the Ving Rhames character probably wasn’t the best idea.)

42 minutes
United States

I viewed it on AOL some time back, but it no longer seems available there. However, a quick internet search turned up a number of hits where it can be viewed by probably-less-than-legal means.

Do with it what you will.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Movie Review: Alone in a Haunted House (2004)

Alone In A Haunted House
2004 documentary ALONE IN A HAUNTED HOUSE
This 25-minute short documentary feature follows paranormal investigator Joshua P. Warren as he spends a night alone in the Drayton House, a supposedly haunted mansion. He goes in with an open mind, of course, hoping to either prove or disprove the existence of the paranormal, using a number of techno-gadgets you and I have never even heard of--which also means that their results don't impress us much, either. Luckily for us the ghost hunter knows what these gadgets do. Unluckily for us, he's not afraid to tell us about long winded detail that makes you wonder if you're watching an old episode of "Mr. Wizard".

So what, exactly, can be seen in these 25 minutes? Not much of anything, really. A few dust particles that he calls "orbs" and "anomalies", a few squeaks and squawks from his electronic gizmos, and a lot of goofy looks from our host. Never have I seen a ghost hunting show that used the phrase, "Well, everything seems to be quite normal" so often. Sure, it all looks a little creepy...but I could make a film about me walking around a brand spanking new Toys 'R' Us in night vision and strobe light, and it would look creepy too.

Don't get me wrong. I respect the guy for not fabricating a haunting, but if this is his profession, surely he's had experiences far more compelling than this one. Why not make a documentary about those experiences, and chalk this one up to bad luck?

As it stands, with all its discussions of each gadget, this comes off more like an infomercial for Ghost Busters Inc. than anything else. If I'm going to be bored for a half hour, I'm at least going to be bored by something entertaining.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Movie Review: Control (2004)

2004's CONTROL with Ray Liotta
Written by Todd Slavkin & Darren Swimmer
Directed by Tim Hunter

Lee Ray Oliver...Ray Liotta
Dr. Michael Copeland...Willem Dafoe
Eden Ross...Kathleen Robertson
Barbara...Polly Walker
Teresa...Michelle Rodriguez

What would happen if a remorseless killer suddenly developed a conscience? Dr. Michael Copeland hopes to find out through his new behavior modification drug Anagress, which he believes can change the world for the better by leveling out the brain and allowing sociopaths to discern the difference between right and wrong.

Lee Ray Oliver is chosen as the test subject, a murderer who was supposedly put to death by the state through lethal injection. Coerced into trying the drug in exchange for the legendary “second lease on life,” Lee initially shows no change in behavior until the dosage is upped drastically. Suddenly he’s a lot more relaxed, less tightly wound, and overcome with grief for his past evil deeds. At the discretion of Dr. Copeland, the project proceeds into phase two, in which Lee is allowed back into the real world, given a new apartment and a new identity as Joe Monroe.

Ray Liotta from 2004's CONTROL
Although Joe wants to return to normal life, and in fact hopes to make amends, not everyone is willing to let that happen. The brother of one of his victims is out for vengeance, and the Russian mob wants a piece of him as well. But for the sake of everyone involved, you better hope they don’t cause him to miss his meds.

It raises some very real questions that have no genuine answers, dealing with morality and forgiveness and second chances, but mostly it’s just a fun little flick. The rules of the genre aren’t being rewritten here, but hell, at least there was some imagination involved in the storyline. Dafoe was great and so was Liotta, especially in psycho-mode, which he was born to play. It’s just too bad that the ending was such a sugary surprise...literally.

Rated R
101 minutes


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Movie Review: Ichi the Killer (2001)

Ichi The Killer
Ichi the Killer
And what, exactly, does Ichi kill? Anything and everything that's he's told to, in excessively bloody and gruesome manga-style ways.

Kakihara is the flamboyant bottle-blond masochistic enforcer of the Anjo family of the Japanese Yakuza. When the boss goes missing, along with a young prostitute and the entire Anjo family fortune, Kakihara makes it his mission to find out what really happened. Some believe he simply took the money and ran, but Kakihara is sure that a rival gang is behind the disappearance. When news trickles down from the grapevine that Suzuki, the head of another family, is involved, Kakihara leads an assault and torture session. He finds out only that the information given to him was false, planted by those actually responsible. He also learns that the boss is dead, killed by the mysterious Ichi, none the less.

As punishment for their transgressions against another made man, Kakihara and the surviving members of the Anjo family are thrown out of the crime syndicate. With no rules left to break, there's no rules left to follow and they use this to their advantage, spilling gallons upon gallons of blood and guts to get their vengeance.

On the flipside of this exceptionally twisted coin lies Ichi The Killer, the utter sadist to Kakihara's masochist, an extremely disturbed mind-controlled assassin with seemingly superhuman powers, deadly boots and a leather BMX safety suit who dishes out punishment in ways never before seen.

Their paths are destined to cross sooner or later—the man who loves pain and the man who was born to dispense it—and when it finally does, we're given a genuinely fitting finale, although perhaps not the bloodbath we had been expecting.

Oh Ichi The Killer, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: sex, drugs, music, blood, violence, torture, mutilation, hypnosis, mind-control, psychic twins, crooked cops, carnage, gore and so much more.

With the extreme—and I do mean extreme—depictions of violence and bizarre characters, the rocking soundtrack, fast cuts and music video camera shots, Ichi is by far one of the hippest imports to ever swim its way to America. Takashi Miike, you've done it again.

ALSO KNOWN AS: Koroshiya ichi

129 Minutes
Japan/Hong Kong/South Korea
Japanese (English dubbed and/or English subtitles)


Friday, February 6, 2009

Comic Review: Punisher Max, Vol. 1: In The Beginning

The Punisher MAX
The Punisher MAX Vol. 1: In The BeginningVolume One: In the Beginning
Back in his hey-day, Frank Castle AKA The Punisher, was a young man in black spandex waging a war on organized crime for wiping out his family years prior. And although there was much talk about his brutal and bloody methods, the really good stuff was done off-page, thanks to the Comic Code Authority, leaving it all up to the reader's imagination. His only friend and ally in this venture was Microchip, a chunky and geeky fellow whose mechanical and electronic expertise came in quite handy. After all, you never know when you're going to have to hack into the Roxxon Corporation's mainframe, or customize a weapon to do much more damage that God ever intended it to do.

But somewhere along the way, things changed. Microchip retired and went away. The spandex was traded in for a skull logo tee-shirt and black leather jacket. And what's more, Frank Castle got old. Not old like your grandfather, but old like a grizzled war veteran who got so used to the fight that he is unable to accept that the war is over. Which, in a way, is precisely what he is.

Enter the new age of the Punisher. Not only has Frank Castle grown up, but so has the comic book, finally delivering the gooey grue and red stuff that you always knew existed somewhere beyond the panels of the printed page--just look at the absolutely brutal attack at an aging mobster's birthday party. While many mainstream Marvel heroes would seem out of place in this dark corner of the universe (can you imagine Speedball in a Max title?), the Punisher has never been a true hero. He's an anti-hero, which is why he seems so at home here.

Marvel Max's Punisher Volume 1: In The Beginning collects the first six issues of the 2004 The Punisher series, covering the entire "In the Beginning" story arc.

After a text-heavy refresher course of the character's history, we're launched into the story proper, as Frank wars on, completely unaware that he's being tailed by persons unknown. Said persons are reporting back to a very familiar face from Frank's past: the Fat Boy himself...Microchip.

It seems that during his extended absence, Micro has landed himself a new job, and his first order of business is two-fold: locate and neutralize the Punisher; and then recruit him or eliminate him, whichever is more feasible. I don't want to spoil any of the fun, but suffice it to say that it all leads up to an explosive ending that will lead you speechless, even if you see it coming.

It's all written by the neigh-legendary Garth Ennis, so you know it's going to be excellent, and the art by Lewis Larosa is good, leaping into amazing when his characters are ensconced in shadows (which, fittingly, is quite often.) It's enough to make you forgive the returning-to-the-fold mobsters that look a little too much like Joe Pesci and Elvis Costello for comfort.

The Punisher's black-and-white view of the the world is very believable, as is the evolution of the character himself. The new dynamic between Frank and Micro the Prodigal Son is twisted and torturous, exactly what you would expect to see if Robin found reason to turn on Batman. If you're a Punisher fan (and are old enough to read it), this is one collection you do not want to miss.

The Punisher the way he was always meant to be? It's about time.

Oh, this is a Marvel Max title. Excuse me.

It's about fucking time.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Movie Review: Corn (2004)

2004 creepy flick CORN starring Jena Malone
Written & Directed by Dave Silver

Jena Malone....Emily Rasmussen
Pamela Gray....Rachel
Jamie Harrold....Frank

Emily, returning home from her incomplete college stint, is pregnant, broke, and perhaps repressing some traumatic childhood memories. Her father’s sheep farm shares a property line with a new corn crop, which an agricultural corporation called AgriMead has genetically altered to withstand pesticides, frost and other typical crop dangers. As a side effect, the corn produces a strange weed that the sheep grow addicted to, going so far as killing themselves to get to it. The more they eat, the more strange they behave, acting violently toward each other and humans alike. And when the tainted sheep are slaughtered and ingested by humans, it may—or may not—cause birth defects. With Emily’s own child in danger, she sets out to expose the corporation. But nobody in a town that runs on the sheep industry is willing to listen to her crazy theories.

Not horror by your usual standards, but rather a Science-Is-The-Monster suspense story that takes its cue from the Mad Cow scare. Jena Malone looks great, and her acting skills are well up to par, although I was going to scream if I heard her say “It makes the sheep violent!” one more time. The rest of the cast is rounded out by good actors with familiar faces and names that stick on the tip of your tongue. Well plotted, directed, and shot, and only on one or two occasions did the action with the sheep appear unreal.

There aren’t any genuine scares built into the film, but grotesque scenes of realistic butchering and meat processing abound, and there is a nagging, uneasy undertone throughout that may make you think twice before eating that rack of lamb you’ve got warming in the roaster.

97 minutes
United States


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Movie Review: The Erotic Mr. Rose (1964)

The Erotic Mister Rose

1964 Naughty Film The Erotic Mister Rose
Written and Directed by Nick Millard

A prim-and-proper butterfly collector named Hermie Rose has made it his life's work to censor everything that is improper with allusions to sex. How does this little teetotaler go from prude to crude over the course of this short film's running time? Would you believe the devil made him do it?

Shot in a clear black and white, this movie is essentially one big a belly dancer at a strip club. The premise would have you believe that this is going to be quite the saucy little number, but it's actually quite tame--even by the standards of its day, I'm going to guess. True, there is a small amount of nudity, but only shown in photographs. Watching a movie of an old man looking at nude photos? Not as enticing as one may think.

There is no dialogue in this's all done by voice over via a nameless, omniscient narrator--who may or may not be the devil himself. The soundtrack is a cool, jazzy mosaic of horns that gives it hipster points if nothing else. It is a pretty amusing waste of time, though, as there are comedic moments you can't help but enjoy--old Hermie acting like a drunken pervert with the devil at his side is pretty priceless.

Ever wonder what it would be like if David Friedman remade a Charlie Chaplin film with a Gene Hackman impersonator, and hired Charlie Parker to provide the score? Of course you have! Well, wonder no longer! It would look a little something like this.

Nearly all sources list this film at 52 minutes, however the version I saw clocks in at only 40. I've been unable to locate any information about a 'censored' or trimmed version...does anyone have any information they'd like to share?

52 minutes(?)
Black and White

Hump Day! Not as bad as we make it out to be, not as fun as it sounds.



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