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Archive for October, 2016

The Case Against The Big Bang Theory

case againstthe-big-bang-theory_SatanismoYou would think that I would like the big bang theory. I mean it on the surface it bigbangtheory__120612235742seems like it’s marketed toward me, or people like me. The problem is, even while they’re trying to court us into watching, even while they promise that this is OUR show (“Smart is the new sexy!” one ad declares), they are spending most of thier time on the show making fun of us.

That’s my real dilemma, I never quite feel comfortable watching the it – I feel like I straddle the line between being in on the joke, and being the butt of the joke, and far too often, they cross over on to the side of me feeling like I’m being made fun of. It’s an exaggerated parody of course, but nevertheless it still feels insulting.

Where this really shows, is in the “control” character. Perhaps we should refer to her as the “normal “character. Penny is supposed to be the Every-man that people can big-bang-theory-penny-2relate to, the one who helps the average viewer enter into this world. The thing is, Penny is a horrible person. I’m going to come right out and unapologeticly slut shame here, because quite frankly Penny deserves it. She’s been ridden more times than a second-hand Harley and this is portrayed as normal and acceptable behavior. Please don’t give me any nonsense about her being an empowered free spirit who takes control of her own sexuality and can make whatever choices she wishes. Her behavior is unhealthy from an emotional standpoint and she’s outright admitted it. And this is an issue for me because she actually IS the one being held up as the positive role model – and if not that, then at least she’s portrayed as the ideal the rest of the characters wish to strive for.

There’s more to Penny that bothers me though. We don’t really ever come out and say it, but watch the show – Penny is an alcoholic. What we see isn’t just social big-bang-theory-girls-in-comic-shopdrinking, it’s compulsive. It’s rooted in a deep self loathing, and part of that can probably be traced back to not being made to feel worthwhile by her father. I get that, but this is supposed to be the sympathetic character that everybody relates to. This is supposed to be the “normal character” Occasionally she’s called out for her bad behavior, but it’s defended or shrugged off. It’s never consequential. If there’s any humor to be found in it, it may be in her lack of intellect especially in comparison to The other girls in their show that are smarter than her, but even then it’s portrayed as the preferred state. Better to be pretty and popular than an egghead. Bernadette and Amy are portrayed as outcasts and abnormal. 7

I don’t like this I still feel like I’m being made fun of, and that the stereotypes presented are not being betrayed in a positive light that and you know what, that’s the heart of the problem. Back in the day, the “revenge of the nerds” movies may have made you root for the nerds, but they never made you feel like it was okay to be one of them. I have no problems with stereotypes on screen, the stereotypes exist for a reason – because people like this exist in great numbers. But if the stereotypes you are displaying are the nucleus of both your program and its audience, you owe it to yourself to make sure they come off well, and that’s just not the case here. Big Bang Theory could be a fun show, often it is. But I can’t recommend it, because to often I feel like I’m being made fun off in it, and that’s not who I want to be or what I want out of my entertainment.

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Thank You Jamie Oliver

Autographs

I admit, this thing I have for celebrity chefs is just the weirdest thing. I don’t know. I kind of miss the lunch breaks at Tecnifab where I would discuss food with Lou Applby. Anyhow, Thanks Jamie for responding to my email!

Jamie Oliver


Lets do the Time Warp Again

Movie banneralbum-cover-2It’s been a few days now, and I’ve had time to sit and think about it.

See, when Friday arrived I was inundated by hordes of people declaring the new production of Rocky sucked, was a pretender, an  imposter, flat and unbearable.

Here’s the thing, I’m not really a fan. I’ve seen it three times in the theater with a live shadow cast. I’ve also seen a production of the stage show (the Rocky Horror Show – minus the “Picture” element) that the film was based on. I’m okay with it, but Rocky isn’t the sacred cow to me that it is to some people, and my milage may vary. But it also means I come at it with a very different perspective, and perhaps a different set of expectations.

First and foremost, it bears noting that this was NOT a remake. That was marketing not really knowing what to call it. I’m not sure myself. It’s not a remake or a reimagining, it’s more akin to a broadway revival with a new cast. It’s a companion. It would be a marvelous special feature on a  Rocky Blu Ray, but whatever it is – this version of Rocky is not the thing itself. It’s a reaction, a homage pointing towards the original. This is important to understand. This production was never meant to replace or usurp the original, but rather to honor it.

The broadway revival metaphor is significant as well because this really isn’t a film. It’s theater. I’ve caught some flack for this statement because it wasn’t shot live with a three camera set up. It’s got film cutting techniques in it. Yeah, that’s true, but I’d say the same is true of that Jesus Christ Superstar revival about ten years ago, as well as the Joseph on with Donny Osmand. Both had film production qualities for their releases, but were still obviously theater productions. So is this. Watching the performances, the staging of the dances and the costuming…these people are playing the roles broad. Big. They’re trying to reach the back rows of the theater. It’s more of an homage to the stage show than the film really…but it’s going to be recorded so why not take advantage of that and use different angles and special effects? Still the lights on the sets, and the generally two dimensional nature of them (you can absolutely tell where that stage would end in most cases) convinces me this is a theater production, not a film one. It’s also relevant because Rocky has always been meant to be viewed with others. Most people were watching (or half-watching by a lot of accounts) this at home. I headed out to the Cedar Lee Theater to see it on the big screen with a hundred other people. The group dynamic at a venue that has hosted Rocky for over 20 years makes a difference.

So does that make things bulletproof? Not at all. There’s still flaws here, but I think a lot of the disdain comes from people expecting a very different kind of show…either a straightforward remake or a very film centric version…that’s always going to lead to disappointment. When I go to see Briagadoon at Huron Playhouse, I’m not expecting ti to be the same as the production I saw a few years ago at Stocker Center. Different cast, rockyhorror0040different director, but the same music. The same story. That’s a lot of what this is.

And how does that different cast fare?

I actually like Reeve Carney as RiffRaff. It’s a logical update with a slightly more modern look while not losing any of Richard O’Brian’s creepiness. His sister Magenta is actually a very different character here – perhaps that has to do with the original being a little underdeveloped. Christina Milian is trying to do some thing new with the role, but she quickly slides into Disney channel mode, giving a perky, co3rtfqvuam2i2rsqueaky Raven Simone type of performance. It distinguishes her from the original, and it’s an interesting contrast to the stage version I saw, where Magenta was played VERY sensual. I think it’s an interesting take and fun to see how varied the character can be.

Columbia. This has always been my favorite character in the story – she’s always been fun and hyper while still managing to give a maniacal and spooky edge at moments. Annaleigh Ashford‘s update has gone less glam and more punk (but broadyway punk so it’s still pretty glam). She feels like a reaction to 83366-0the popularity of characters like Harley Quinn. Still, I recognize Columbia there and she’s absolutely delightfull in the role. I love the added sight gag of her constantly having a sucker in her hand or mouth (a gag they play with several times) giving her a perpetually blue tongue.  It’s a charming touch. It’s a shame her boyfriend Eddie dosen’t fare as well. Adam Lambert tries his best to do Meatloaf, but it’s never enough. He’s a diffrent kind of voice and he never quite manages to infuse the song with the soul that Meatloaf did. It would have been better off if he had played the role in a different manner rather than trying to merely imitate Meatloaf. Imitation works for Brad and Janet – those are meant to be one note characters, but Eddie needed to be more.

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So what of the main character? What of Frank-N-Furter?

I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s a revival after all, and Tim Curry will never play the role again. I was interested in seeing the new take. the stage Frank I saw years ago was even more over the top that Curry and it really worked. I was interested in seeing how the gender swap would play as well (yes, I know – and it’s irrelevant to this discussion, really.), because Frank was always androgynous (But not rocky-horror-picture-show-2016truly – it was always leaning one way or the other) I didn’t expect it to change the dynamic that much, and I don’t think it did.

The real issue here is Laverne Cox’s voice. It’s not so much about strength as it is inflection. Curry had an impish quality about him. Flirting with femininity to contrast his obvious masculinity. He’d lower his voice to a throaty feminine timber for certain verses – a parody of the seductress that came off as comical. Cox is already at a lower range and while masculine playing up feminine works as comedy, it doesn’t really work the other way around. Cox knows this so she dosen’t go there, but insted comes off as exaggerated and a bit hollow. The only time I really recognized Frank-N-Furter in her was during the screen with Adam Lambert where she stares angrily at Eddie.

I’m not sure what would have fixed this. I like the costumes, but I think I needed wilder hair like Curry’s. If someone had slapped a Phyllis Diller wig on her, maybe a black one, it would have worked better for me visually. If she’d tried to go a different direction with the character…committed to those differences instead of vacillating between her own take and a Tim Curry imitation, I might had accepted it better. I don’t know. I only know that I  had a very hard time accepting her as the character, despite being interested in seeing what she would do with the part.

I like some of the songs. I like some of the changes – it’s expected for a revival with different voices and different takes. But there are some bits – like Science Fiction Double Feature, where the pauses are held out too long and it throws me off (I must say, I loved the ticket taker though). rhps-day30_scn21_jm-012607_hires11

Finally, there’s Tim Curry. I’m of two minds about his appearance which is more than a cameo, but less than a full fledged role. I love how this honer’s his involvement- he deserves that. I’m happy he’s gotten back on the horse so to speak, and put forth the obviously massive effort it took to be a part of this. that makes me happy.

But his condition makes me sad.

You can see how ravaged he has been by his stroke, and how he struggles with his line tim-curry-rocky-horror-remake-castreadings. It’s a bit disheartening to see him in this state….but then again, look in his eyes. It’s there, particularly when his assistant does  a pratfall or something equally ludicrous.. there’s a light and a rascally sarcasm there. Tim Curry is still there, no matter how his body may hinder him.

In the end, this feels like something you’d put on in the background to listen to as you get ready to go out and see the original movie at a midnight showing. It gets you in the mood and the soundtrack works as well as any of those studio cover band Halloween CDs you see littering the shelves every October. It doesn’t deserve the hate it’s gotten, but it’s certifiably not the main feature it was billed as.


Cannot start Microsoft Office Outlook. Cannot open the Outlook window

techtipsWhen I’m not writing comics or watching terrible films I also work as an IT consultant. Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the last 17 years.Outlook will not load

Problem:

When trying to start Outlook, you recieve the error :

This error shows up because something has redirected or courrupted your user profile.

Solution:

Go to the Start menu. Hit run..then type the following;  Outlook.exe /resetnavpane
This clears and regenerates the Navigation Pane for the current profile


Enterprise

remakesstar_trek_enterprise-showEnterprise almost seems like one of the series that should be in the the case against category. It’s well-known that I’m not a fan. But it does have its admirers and rightly so. Enterprise came at a time when Star Trek was on it’s last legs. The horse was almost dead by the time Enterprise arrived and there was no way it was going to breathe life back into it. But it might have stopped the bleeding if it had been handled differently. I was there the beginning, for the Premier. We made a party out of it, and when everything was said and done it was an adequate. What it really was however, was a good two hour television movie. This is something that might have worked fine, but this is where it was hamstrung by the television model of the day, and the formula that the producers of Star Trek refused to deviate from. Everything interesting about Star Trek enterprise was pretty much wrapped up in the first month or two, leaving them with at least 10-16 episodes to pad out the rest of the season. Today it would be done a bit differently perhaps the way agent Carter was, in a eight episode miniseries. But back in 2001 it was demanded that it be a full 26 episode season period and quite frankly even watching that pilot I knew it couldn’t sustain that much time. By the time we had finished the first month or two, all the interesting part of the premises had been hammered out period the crew was getting along we mastered the tech and we had settled into the groove and exploring new world every week. It had evolved into just another Star Trek series that sounded the same as every other Star Trek series because the same writers were involved. It looked like every other Star Trek series because the same production people were involved and it felt like every other Star Trek series because the same producers were still at the helm. Back in 2001 my opinion was still the same as it is today; Enterprise could’ve worked, but it should’ve been done as a series of two hour television movies. Two, maybe three year. It could have keep Star Trek going while not being on every week, makeing it an event. In this way we could still hit key events, important stories and keep the fire burning. Just as importantly, it was time for a change. Doctor Who seems to understand this, that you need to change the producers once in awhile every several years to keep things fresh, to keep things going. Rick Berman had been at the helm of Star Trek for over a decade at this point and his style and sensibilities permeated every version of Star Trek at this juncture . Enterprise desperately needed an infusion of fresh eyes and didn’t get it. If I were doing this again I would have radically change production team and tried to hit some truly important stories that would set up the events we would see in the original series without being a slave to them. Indeed it might have saved us from the lens flare heavy reboot that we would get in 2009.


Curse of the Blair witch

14590432_1295032847207802_5943825983260043799_nWhat’s interesting about the Blair Witch Project is that it’s didn’t have any proper sequels until the recent Adam Wingard film. Sidequels swarmed around it though, sidesteps and sister films that didn’t directly descended from the original but were inextricably connected to the source material.

In a very real way, Curse of the Blair witch is a truer sequel to the film then Book of Shadows (I know, I said this on Tuesday, and it’ll probably come up again before this article is done….). then again, you might consider it a prequel, considering that it premiered before the film… but it can’t be a prequel can it? The events in the documentary happen after the Blair Witch Project, it’s an analysis… an addendum.

See where that gets confusing?

Curse of the Blair Witch premiered on the SyFy channel in the upcoming months that preceded the release of the Blair Witch Project in July 1999. Like the Blair Witch Project, it’s also presented in a documentary style – but it’s a different kind of documentary. Not the feature length art house kind of film that the Project is presented as, this is done more as a television news documentary – a Hard Copy kind of show rather than a high mystic_occurrencesproduction Michael Moore film. What is striking about Curse of the Blair Witch is that it’s so convincing.They’ve taken their time and studied the documentary form. It goes beyond having a couple of interviews or people dressed up in suits. We get talking heads intercut with news bulletins and clips from faux old television shows – frequent bits from an supposed Mystic Occurrences show allegedly broadcast in 1971… complete with lo-res, bright colors, and rainy film.They’ve included the experts who believe, and the experts who are skeptics. We have friends and family speaking, we have documents that are slowly and over while people speak about The subject matter.it’s perfect.if you wern’t already aware that The Blair Witch Project was fiction (Fiction, not a hoax… Too many people have got angry at this over the years, but no one ever stated that these events or anything less than fiction), if you weren’t sure or were on the fence… I could see how this documentary might have pushed you over the edge; it’s that well done. On the other hand, it did there on the Syfy channel and not on CNN – that should’ve been a clue.

14484992_1295032927207794_670354707381042166_nI stand by my earlier statement that this is, in many ways, a superior sequel to Book of Shadows. However, if one were to attempt to stretch this out to the feature length… you’d have to effectively double it’s running time, and I think it would have lost a lot of its credibility. You’d have to drop too much filler into the movie and it would have started to drag. Indeed, that’s why this was created, so the Blair Witch Project didn’t get too bogged down with all this extra exposition.45 minutes running time works perfectly and conveys the back story effectively. It’s an important piece of support as well, I don’t think we necessarily hear enough about the Witch and the legend in the Blair Witch Project. When I first watched the movie, I felt a way greater connection to Ruskin Parr… And was convinced that it was his ghost hunting in the woods – that the which was nearly a red herring. Watching curse of the Blair witch later, I felt like I understood more of what was going on and build a better connection with the witch yourself – it changed my perspective 14522935_1295032867207800_8533293054281066752_non the movie.

Back in the days of the VHS, this was available to rent at blockbuster video. I eventually bought a copy, probably on sale either there or at a used movie store. When the Blair Witch Project was released on DVD, this was included on the desk.it is one of the best special features I could imagine for this film. It’s a necessary bit of supplemental material, and it works even if you’re not a fan of the Blair Witch…and for those who are, it’s a perfect way to just dip your toe in that world for a short while.

Indeed, when the new Adam Wingard Blair witch film is released on DVD and Blu-ray, I hope that this documentary will still be included on that desk as a special feature as well – it’s still relevant to the story and would provide a marvelous new perspective on the legend that film perpetuates.

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Blair Witch 2 : Book of Shadows

defense14484992_1295032927207794_670354707381042166_nI’ve long contended that Book of Shadows really suffers from its connection to the Blair Witch series. It’s not nearly as much of a sequel as it is a sidequel… But then again you could say the same thing about The Curse Of The Blair Witch special that premiered on sci-fi, and yet that one fit the franchise better.

Book of Shadows  is such a difference kind of movie though, that it finds it difficult to really fit in with the rest of the series. In some ways this was intentional, the director, Joe Berlinger has himself said he had no interest in going over the same formula again… I understand where he’s coming from, but I’m not totally certain I agree with his choice. Because Blair witch project was such a divisive film, you weren’t making a sequel to try and attract new fans or convert the haters… It was to polarizing for that. Instead, what you needed to be doing was making a sequel for the fans.  I find it interesting, listening to the Berlinger’s mv5bmti0ote5mtm2mf5bml5banbnxkftztcwntu1nde1mg-_v1_ux214_cr00214317_al_commentary about just how out of touch he is with the demographic he is supposedly trying to reach. This is a director who had been chosen because of his experience creating documentaries… And yet he chose to run screaming in the other direction. If you listen to him talk about film, you’ll see that there was definitely a much heavier studio hand in this. That’s to be expected, and it’s always a problem but it’s a problem that was exacerbated but the fact that instead of a franchise entry, he seemed hellbent on creating an art film… He kept trying to characterize the movie as a satire rather than a horror film, and repeats this theme several times throughout the director’s commentary.  He wished to explore the phenomenon that arose around the film and it’s effects on society.

Okay, but that’s not what anybody wanted from a sequel

It would have been a far better subject for a documentary then a feature – and it’s no surprise that since then Berlinger seems to have stuck with the documentary format where he can indulge in social commentary rather than just attempt to entertain. He’s not a bad director, he’s just a poor choice for this project -a director that had absolutely no interest in making the film at the studio wanted, or making the film the fans wanted, or even making a true sequel to this franchise…and it shows.

What’s really interesting, is that this should’ve worked. Wes Craven’s Scream had brought the concept of the meta film firmly in to the public eye. It was something that we understood and even liked at the time. The head trippy mind bending films were coming into fashion again and Book of Shadows is a little bit of all of that combined with a household name that had high recognition.  This movie looks like a great idea on paper… but all comes back to this not being what the fans really wanted to see. remember how I mentioned in the 2016 movie that there is this delicate balance… You have to take the familiar and balance that with some new ideas pushing foreward. The Wingard film may skew a bit too much towards familiar… But book of shadows doesn’t mv5by2yznzg1ytatmju4mc00owu5lwfinjatzmi0zjc5mmm4yzcxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_give us enough of the familiar – it skews in the completely opposite direction, and that betrays the brand.

Can I point out a couple of incidental quibbles with the movie as well? Actually, it’s more with the production design. We’ll start with that poster. That poster actually would be marvelous image for Blair Witch 2016. We’re back in the woods there, and the woods does indeed seem to be a character in of itself. The idea of being absorbed by the woods make sense there. In Book of Shadows however, this poster and has no real representation. There is no place for it, it doesn’t happen – not even symbolically. In fact, it serves more to make me expect a movie that’s set largely in the woods, and not so much at an old decaying home.

Then there is the name itself that I want to know who came up with this name, because it’s got nothing to do with the film. I know when a book of shadows is… although I’ll wager that the better part of the film going public (even this films audience) did not. However when you have a film with the phrase “Book of Shadows”, paired with the word “Witch” in the title, a film where an ethereal witch is supposedly the antagonist, where there is even a Wiccan ingenue included in the cast….perhaps it’s just me, but I expect that at some point we will see a witch’s spellbook (that is to say, a book of shadows) come into play, likely driving the story (much the way the necronomicon does in Evil Dead). Nowhere in this film are any books to be found, much less a “book of shadows”. Apparently someone thought this would just be a cool name.

These are minor sticking points, but put together with the source material, the sequel nature of the film and the franchise….it leads you to expect a VERY different kind of movie, and that’s a problem guaranteed to put off a large chunk of your audience.

I’d really like to have seen this done diffrently. Perhaps as an unauthorized parody, a DTV sidequel instead of the “official” sequel. It’s a movie that has no interest in being part of the franchise that birthed it and I think it should be treated as such.


Phantasm Ravager

Movie banner14470398_1286341708076916_8484064258982743829_nI came in to Ravager with high expectations. It’s been a very long time since I anticipated a film with quite as much excitement as this one. It is the promised final installment of the phantasm series, it is the last on screen performance of dear Angus Scrimm. This film had dropped a trailer two years ago and had been generating buzz since then… It had a lot to live up to. I should’ve been worried, but I wasn’t – and I had no reason to be.

Phantasm Ravager is the sequel fans deserve. It is the sequel that we have been waiting decades for. Now mind you, I am a phantasm apologist, and I will happily explain there is at least half a good film in Phantasm three, and if you get rid of the Pink Cadillac Crew, maybe scruff up the orphan, you’d actually have a good solid entry into the series. I genuinely like Phantasm 4, despite the fact people complain that it looks and feels cheap. I think the phantasmsintercutting of all the new footage with the old unused shots is surprisingly effective and Phantasm 4 does more to world build and push the story then most sequels do, particularly late series ones.

Still, I’ll admit that these are weaker films then the first two, though I’ll enthusiastically defend them to the death. No such defense is needed with Ravager. It comes out of the gate strong and does everything that Phantasm is supposed to do. It fufills all the promise and potential that I saw in the last two movies.

Ravager is the first Phantasm film not to be filmed by Don Coscerelli. While Coscarelli was still around, very much a hands on type a producer looking over the shoulder of director David Hartman, the very different directorial style shows. It makes me wonder if Don shouldn’t have handed over the rains awhile back. The fresh perspective of a 21st century director like Hartman and a fan of the series goes a great way towards reviving and refreshing this franchise. Watching Ravager, I felt very similar to the emotions I had during Star Trek 6 – the original crew’s final outing. It was a feeling of “this is finally great again… why does it have to end now img_0825that they’ve finally got it right?”.

Reggie is in rare form – even though the third film also focused primarily on him, the performance he turns out in five is far superior. The balance of humor and four, the more serious tone works perfectly.I’ve long said that the Phantasm films are more about Reggie than anyone else and he’s always been my favorite character in the series. Despite his advancing age, Reg is still very much an action star.

1001495_598534383524322_1155353986_nWe’re in the 21st-century, and CGI abounds. Still, I really can’t complain about the CG balls. As much as I love the practical spheres (like the one Coscarelli is plunging into my skull here) The computer graphics allow them to do things with the balls they were quite able to do before – and we see a great deal more of the sentinal spheres than we have in any other sequel. Honestly, this is whata sequel is meant to be… to take what’s gone before and double it. More importantly, they’ve managed to make the Tall Man scary again. I’ve always said that the reason you go to Phantasm films is because it’s a reunion – it’s time spent with Reggie and Mike and Angus and Bill… Even Don, whose presence is still felt though he’s never seen on screen. But in the last couple of films, while the Tall Man has been made mysterious, he hasn’t seemed as scary as he once did – his obsessive focus on Mike, and vlcsnap-2016-10-10-09h59m23s58whatever special talent it was that he needed to extract from him… It made him intimidating and etherial, but he never did anything to anybody else. He wasn’t the terrifying spectre of the first two films. With Ravager, that has all changed. The Tall Man is once again a malevolent monster. There is an iconic moment where the tall man is surrounded by the hooded dwarf lurkers, and the masked gravers. It’s terrifying and intimidating and everything that the Tall Man is supposed to be. It’s a sharp contrast from seeing him collaborate with the goofy pink Cadillac zombies of Phantasm 3. there is a moment of the tall man lurking outside a vlcsnap-2016-10-10-10h07m20s209victims house. His eyes are all that are lit and silver sphere hovers at his shoulder before taking off to do it’s diabolical work. He’s not just a threat to Mike in this film. It’s an expanded cast, there’s more characters here  and anyone can die. We don’t ceede any of the mystery, we don’t give up the familiarity, but man… Angus Scrimm is terrifying again! And that is as it should be.

If I have one complaint, it is the over reliance on CGI. I realize I just praised it for their use in the silver sentinels, but this film uses an awful lot of green screen. This is understandable, the original plan was to make a series of shorts, and release them as web episodes. You don’t vlcsnap-2016-10-10-10h38m35s121-copynecessarily require the same high levels of resolution for internet content as you do for a film. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the delay in getting this film out was having to re-composite some of those backgrounds with higher quality images. Still, sometimes it gets to be a bit much.

On the other hand, it provides us with a scope that Phantasm has never quite been able to achieve. If anybody out there is familiar with the Phantasm’s End concept, you’ll recognize some of those elements here. Back shortly after Phantasm 3, Roger Avery, the co-writer of Pulp Fiction presented Don Coscerelli with a script for a final Phantasm movie. It would be an expensive film… Far greater in scope and storytelling then anything that had come before. In many ways Phantasm 4 was designed to try and kickstart this – to generate interest and serve as a sort of prequel. You can see it in some moments, particularly when you see vlcsnap-2016-10-10-10h39m47s80the scene of the tall man walking down abandoned streets on Wilshire Boulevard – remember Jody mentioning that there was a risk of infection? I had always personally assumed he meant infecting the timeline, corrupting the space gate… But now we know he meant infection from a disease that ravaged mankind… and we get to see the effects of it first hand, not to mention the world that it leads to. Mind you, Ravager is not Phantasms End, in all fairness it is an amalgam of Phantasms End and several other stories. But it works – it works better than it has any right to.

Don Coscerelli  always aspired to make the Phantasm films a sort of dreamlike fantasy. He always insisted that there was an off-kilter quality and a surrealist philosophy. I’m not sure if I ever saw that – everything seemed reasonably straightforward to me, but then again I was vlcsnap-2016-10-10-10h32m15s192-copyintroduced to the series by Phantasm 2 and perhaps I have the wrong perspective. In any event, if you want a very surrealist, dreamlike, fantastic feel to the phantasm story, this is where that really comes into play, jumping between timelines and realities with Reggie lost in the world of Phantasm’s end, wandering in what appears to be our world, and then the next moment, frail and delusional in a nursing home (not unlike the one we saw in Coscrelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep).

The end  – it’s hard to describe. I think we see Reggie finally back where he belongs. It’s hopeful, in the way a Phantasm film never has been before. It’s a good place for comics and books to take over now – and they should. Even as it ends, Phantasm has given us a world ripe for exploration.

Goodbye and hello, as always.

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The Blair Witch Project

Movie bannerAll of this talk on Tuesday about Adam Winguard’s Blair Witch sequel got me wanting to pull out the original. I mean, let’s be honest – even for those of you who like the movie, when was the last time you actually sent down and watched it? I have a copy because it’s one of those things that I thought was important to have in my collection. The thing is, after that ending,  there is not a lot of rewatch value 14522935_1295032867207800_8533293054281066752_nthere for me. We get the hook, but it’s all far less effective the second or third time round. And in the end, I don’t think it was meant to be.  This is very much a first time viewer film – somewhat like the Sixth Sense.

One of the things that really strikes me here, is how rough the film is. The grainy cameras and lower resolutions really work building the atmosphere. These actors, they’re not turning out amateur performances, but they are giving very raw performances. It’s not polished, It’s not pretty. We don’t have perfect faces and makeup, we don’t have meticulously drafted dialogue, indeed it makes it more impressive that this film has so many memorable lines considering how very little was actually scripted. The method acting shines through. We get real tension here that is palpable – it’s the sort of exhausted exposed nerves that come from fatigue and hunger – remember, this film was made in real time… The actors really were getting woken up in the middle of the night by the production crew and by the end of this shoot, the daily meal (singular) consisted of a power bar in an apple. The heightened emotions and stressed out attitudes that you see displayed here are real. The relationships may have been assigned, but the camaraderie is real. These actors really did relate and bond during this production and it comes through. When you contrast this with Wingard sequel which… The 2016 film may have a shaky cam,  but it’s production values are through the roof compared to bl3the original 1999 movie. In the 2016 edition these actors are… Well, acting that they’re pretty. Attractive and put together, and well fed and pretending.

The original didn’t have this budget or it’s caterers. They stretched the actors and made them physically uncomfortable. It was renegade guerilla filmmaking and it brings into sharp focus how much more sanitized Wingard’s film is compared to the original – there is something dangerous about The Blair Witch Project. Remember how I said you can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice? The problem here is I don’t think anybody has really tried. They haven’t returned to the woods with this sort of passion and extreme filmmaking that characterizes this original… The studio and the union would never allowed that remember how I said that if you have seen the remake, it may be a sufficient replacement for the original? I take it back. If you’ve never seen the original, it’s worthwhile even if you hate it, it’s necessary as a horror fan to understand where this phenomena came from – especially if you can put it in the correct context of the time. For a group of people went down to the woods with next to no money, next to no experience, just a couple of cameras and a dream… The Blair Witch is a remarkable accomplishment

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Blair witch

Movie banner14440773_1295032810541139_4067289847364542901_nThe great thing about Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch  is that it is such a huge homage to the original. It’s equal parts remake, reboot, and sequel.  However, the biggest problem with Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch is also that it is such a huge homage to the original. It’s equal parts remake, reboot, and sequel.

Before we go any further, I feel the need to clarify who exactly this review is for. The Blair Witch Project is a decisive film. People either loved it, or hated it. There was no middle ground. There are no casual Blair Witch fans. If you are one of the people who hated the original, you’re going to hate this one as well – and I’m not interested in trying to change your mind. There is something very fundamental that resonates with the people who like it and that puts off the people that don’t. I don’t know what it is, perhaps a frame of mind? I’m not sure… in fact, for years I’ve been saying I’d really like to understand that dividing line better.

But that’s neither here nor there.

If you didn’t like the original, you will not like this one and I’m not interested in hearing the inevitable chorus of haters whining “this sucks! “. On the other hand If you do like the original, or if you are sort of on the fence… perhaps you’ve heard the name but are unfamiliar with the films, you’re the one that I really want to talk to; because you’re the one is this film was made for. Superman Returns One Sheet 1

The problem is, as I said, this is equal parts remake and reboot and sequel. It’s a method they tried with the ill fated “Superman Returns”. In that film they leaned a little too heavily on nostalgia, on the retread. Unfortunately what little innovation they did push forward, was unpalatable in of itself. Blair Witch faces the same uphill battle. that there is a lot of old ground then we are retracing. We have seen a good deal of this before. Mind you, it’s now 17 years later, and that does make a difference… and it’s somewhat interesting to see how a 21st-century group deals with this same situation. Back when the Blair Witch Project came out, we are on the cusp of the Internet age and had not quite entered the cell phone era. People had them but, they weren’t quite as pervasive as they are today. The very idea of a go-pro was as absurd as the name. it wouldn’t be so hard believe that they would leave the phones and stuff  at home, (assuming these Poor college student even had image-11them). It’s interesting to see adition of the drone technology and the more ubiquitous cameras, equally interesting to contrast that with the older camera that one of the characters uses.

We head back to the woods, and slowly push into the story. The attacks in this film are more brutal than what we saw in the Blair witch project, and a lot of that has been ramped up – they have a budget and we get to see more. We do get a little bit of world building, some expansion of the mythology– but I want more. The problem is, grave-encounters2-movie-poster-vicious-brothers-itunesthe franchise has been out of circulation so long that there is an entire generation who knows it only by reputation. We have to go back and set up the premise again and that takes time. I’m reminded of Grave Encounters 2, where we spent half the movie getting back to the asylum, but once we finally make it there things took off, and we were almost immediately pushing the mythology and expanding the story. Blair Witch doesn’t quite get there as fast done we don’t really get a great deal of the action until we get the third act – and by then I think they may have lost some people….like me. I needed more, and I needed it sooner. But then again, that’s me talking as a fan of the original- it’s me looking at it as a sequel, not as a reboot… and really, that’s not fair. I’d be very interested in hearing ik5kdjtbf1g6neyuf75hfrom people who are coming into this fresh without the baggage of the original.

I sound very down on the movie. Honestly, that’s not the case. I liked it, I want to watch it again, but I want to start about half way through – much the way I do with The first installment of most superhero movies (so I can skip the origin) or the way I do with Grave Encounters 2. I find myself wondering if this movie would’ve been more successful at it come out in closer proximity to the original – perhaps this, instead of the “Book of Shadows” 14484992_1295032927207794_670354707381042166_nsequel that we ended up getting parentheses which by the way, is not a bad film… But it suffers I think because of its connection to this franchise). I think perhaps if this had been the second sequel, we could’ve done away with a lot of the filler and retread and gotten into the action sooner… It may have been maligned a little bit as more of the same, when in fact we probably would’ve got less of the same.

The real question here, is was the successful? And my answer regretfully has to be “I don’t think so”. The thing about the Blair Witch Project, it kept me tense through the movie, just like this one did, but it’s real power was not that it scared me, but rather that it stayed with me. I wasn’t necessarily frightened through the movie, but it certainly came back to me at night when I would get up from bed to get a drink – I found myself avoiding corners and not wanting to look. Wingard’s Blair bl3Witch, is an adequate sequel – I don’t have great expectations from that, I’m not expecting it to be better than the original. But if you want to reboot the series then “better than the original” is exactly what he needs to accomplish, and I’m not certain that he did that.

It’s still a recommend. It’s worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan. It may be a good entry point to the series, indeed, it may even be a good replacement for the original if you’re a millennial. It’s not the lightning in a bottle that the Blair Witch Project was…

But then again, how many things really are?


Cinema wasteland fall 2016

Conmancw_show_logoDid someone get the number of that truck that hit me? Oh wait, it was just another wasteland weekend. I always say it, but the bears repeating that wasteland is like no other show that I go to. Ken Kish, the promoter, suggests that it’s just because wasteland is like the shows were 20 years ago – there may be something to that, but I was going to shows 20 years ago, and there is still something special here that I never ran to any of those. Maybe its the sense of community. After all, as soon as I walked through the door as I was greeted by the Waltz family, along with Jason Segiel and his bride. Stew and 14568161_1294088327302254_8398387260792167402_nHallie made their way up while we were chatting… I hadn’t even got my badge yet!  I’ve always said that wasteland is the perfect party – it’s hanging with friends watching bad movies and actually talking to the people who made those movies…

It’s the October show so they’ve  got to go little bit more commercial, and did so by bringing us an evil dead reunion. I’ve met most of these people (some more than once) but they did manage to dig up Bart Peirce, one of the FX people who was on-site for a few days and ultimately helped Tom Sullivan create the  meltdown sequence at the end of the movie. Bart is unassuming and pleasant and loves to talk about films, not just his own but film in general. When it comes to Wasteland, he’s the perfect guest, and I could have chatted with him for another h14519927_10154473826083162_5102603456790165300_nour if a line hadn’t started to form behind me. He was also sitting next to Jack Ketchum, a legendary horror author – I remember hearing the guys up on Horror et cetera talk about him a few times. I’ve only read one of his novels and I’ve merely seen one of his films. the thing is, Ketchum is all about the monsters next door – human beings are doing horrible things to other human beings. I want to hear about monsters and the supernatural, so I haven’t read a great deal of his work. I did however, take away from his talk a newfound desire to explore two of his books, red and the girl in the mirror. Hopefully after reading these, I’ll come away with a new appreciation for the author. After all, Ketchum is one of those people whose work I feel like I SHOULD like, and that perhaps I just haven’t found 14484610_1294088653968888_8566494340843070040_nthe right hook yet. I was absolutely excited to hear him speak.

Another big draw for me this year was Elizabeth Shepherd, one of the stars from the Tomb of Ligeia– a Poe film featuring Vincent Price and produced by Roger Corman. She’s done tons of work over the years, but this is the one that I really remember her from and was thrilled to reminisce about Vincent Price with the lady… How often do you get to do that with someone actually worked with the man? Elizabeth is charming and bright and that British accent drives me wild!

Before she began her Q&A  panel, Elizabeth stood and did a reading of the Poe story that the Tomb of Ligeia is based on. It was magnificent and moving, and it’s the sort of thing that you only see here at the wasteland!

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We haven’t seen a short film block in a couple of shows now, I kind of miss it. However they did manage to cobble together to shorts and a shortish film. Innsmouth was not exactly what I had expected, it’s Lovecraftian  but takes a weird turn at the end.  Perhaps that’s really the point of Lovecraftcraft. It’s shockingly good looking slickly produced with good locations and good actors, but about halfway through things start to break a little bit and you can start see the cracks show in the performance. Student film? I’m really not sure. It was followed by “good morning Carlos”. I have no idea how to describe this.it’s like somebody watched a Troma film, and thought “No, this doesn’t go far enough…”. It’s about 12 minutes of a man running around and vomiting in various technicolor tones. We occasionally cut to his Doctor, who seems quite 14448804_1294090603968693_1628184974704819239_nperturbed… And possibly wishes to do Carlos harm, but I’m not sure… The entire thing was in Spanish (with subtitles) which only made it weirder.  We capped off this session with Lucifers Cosmonauts. This is a another bizarre film that defines any real description or explanation. There is some sort of gory fiendish thingy with tentacles that’s going around killing people. I think you summon by using a vaguely necronomiconish book with upside down crosses and a picture of a flying saucer (or a green hamburger – I’m not certain) on the cover. I think that’s how it works, I’m not sure.

But I digress.

This unemployed schlub who dreams of murdering his girlfriend and then boning the corpse,14485094_1294090757302011_1720453212047866881_n discovers the book and the evil blob seems to be following him. Said schlub seems completely nonplussed by all of the viciously dismembered corpses that he keeps coming upon. There are some good kills here, and some interesting effects. Indeed, I get the distinct impression that this movie was made specifically to show off how good these guys could create some interesting gore. If somebody can hook these people up with a good editor and screenwriter we might have something here… It could still happen, The film closed with the words “to be continued “. This prompted groans  from the drunken audience who had spent the entire movie yelling back at the screen, trying in vain to get the lead character to open the book and stop playing with his hair!

After staying late on Friday night, I ran home to grab a couple hours sleep and was 14519882_1294091233968630_796327257228990479_nback the next morning in my bathrobe and PJ’s. I started off Saturday at a breakfast party in Angelique and Nicole’s room with about a dozen other people. Wasteland is actually kind of legendary for a lot of the after hours parties that go on there, but breakfast Saturday was the best party I’ve been to there! After Boo berry and Reeses puffs, It was back downstairs to catch the tail end of the cartoons and to get the old Mexican movie “the Brainiac “. I’ve got a copy of this, but I’m never seen it on film, nor have I ever seen it with a crown done it makes a difference… I kind of want to make a Brainiac costume now done it’s really genuinely creepy for 1960 something.

14502686_1294091517301935_7995608483749328280_nThe evil dead panel was fun, full 14516445_1294091793968574_6765908444789311488_nof familiar faces… And equally familiar stories. It’s one of the pitfalls of being on the convention circuit, sometimes you end up hearing the same story is repeated over and over.

Still, there was enough new stuff going on here that it really held my interest. It was a nice group, with Tom and Bart there along with actors Hal, Theresa, Betsy, and Ellen. I felt like I was getting an expanded version of a lot of the things I heard during the live commentary that Theresa, Ellen, and Tom did a few years back – in fact I’d really like to transcode this panel, and drop it onto a DVD of that wasteland commentary as a special feature.

I’ve always said you go to wasteland for the movies. It’s about finding stuff you’ve never heard of or would never think to see for untitled-1-copyyourself. Digging out the strange and unusual is something they excel at. It was the first place I ever saw someone run a roll of trailers and I absolutely loved it. There’s usually a couple spots where they will run a collection of intermission reels, trailers and just plain wierd stuff. It’s something I try not to miss. This time around they found a few short adaptations of strange children’s books THE REMARKABLE, RIDERLESS, RUNAWAY TRICYCLE (1972), THE SAND CASTLE (1977)
FROG GOES TO DINNER (1985), a strange bit where a guy was picking up his date at her parents house and the audience could read the mind bending inner monologues DOUBLE TALK (1975),  as well as a fire safety video featuring a terrifying sentient firetruck named Snuffy. The 70’s seems like a ridiculous time to have lived in.

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14457470_1294442873933466_673633466084844032_nThe highlight of every Wasteland is of course, a Ghastlee Night at the Movies.  The band has started out the night with us surprisingly beautiful melody – rendered hauntingly well by their new/old guitarist who strummed away on a 12 string while Ghastlee crunched the bass in front of a streaming red screen. Then it was onto the normal lunacy of the night. We started up the evening with a game involving movie posters – just a small portion of the poster would be revealed and the goal was to guess what movie you’re a monster is featured there with the smallest 14449851_1294092130635207_742055949513709456_namount of poster showing .This was followed by a horror themed game of “name that tune”. What both of these games proved was that any competition that involves a great deal of concentration and thought is probably not the greatest idea with a tipsy wasteland audience. We moved on to Count Gore DeVol making a welcome return to the stage. He used to be there almost every other show and I’ve missed seeing him lately. He begin with some stand-up which was genuinely funny, and launched into a game of how to build a better vampire. Volunteers came on stage and he dressed them in capes (made from black garbage bags), then added plastic fangs and p14449755_1294092320635188_7861988497938873125_nproceeded to give them tasks – tell a joke, drink a Bloody Mary with the teeth in, stuff like that! It was a fun game, but I was still waiting for Sally the Zombie Cheerleader to bring her activities out. Sally always comes up with the most amusing games – this time the first one involved putting a large dental dam in a volunteers mouth and then having her saying specific phrases while the people onstage made guesses at what she was saying. The phrases were things like “we need a bigger boat “, or “don’t fall asleep “, or “groovy”. It ranged from sounding somewhat disturbing to the out right adorable. There was also of course, an eating game… This particular one was entitled “suck my balls ” and involved sponge balls, kind of like a clown nose or the sort of balls a magician would use. They were soaked 14517572_1294092273968526_4889645625368116992_nin items from the dollar store; things like ranch dressing or sardines, or Vienna sausages. The goal was to suck the ball, spit it out, then try and guess what it was that had just been in your mouth (I have learned from personal experience never to trust anything that Sally wants to put in your mouth. Especially fish) I’m pleased to have escaped this particular Wasteland without eating anything revolting! The poor souls on stage were not so lucky.

My favourite game of the evening however, was probably the zombie version of Pokémon GO. Pokémon that had been zombified were brought out Dirk Manning would wander through the room dropping them on peoples heads. Then Sally would toss out more spounge balls, these painted up to look like Poké Balls. The object of the game was to knock the plushie off the person’s head. Of course it was actually all the more fun to just throw balls at people in general, even without trying to hit the pokeZOMs.

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More movies followed Ghastlee’s show. I was particularly interested in catching CarousHell. This is a new film by the guys over at Silver Spotlight. I caught one of their movies over at Horror Relm earlier this year and was looking forward to what they had in store. This was one of the first public screenings, and they had just released this on DVD. The premise is that a carousel horse becomes sentient and finally has had enough of brats sitting on him and abusing him with kicking, wiping stuff on him and generally not appreciating him. He breaks free and goes to hunt down the latest kid to raise his ire, killing anyone he meets along the way in bizarre and often hilarious ways.

The Brony references will blow you mind. (so will that scene in the middle with the Brony girl…you’ll know it when you see it. You may have to fast forward through it…..)

There were screenings of Evil Dead and Tomb of Ligea, as well as a host of other movies that I just didn’t make it to. Wasteland packs too much into one weekend for anyone to do it all, and we love them for it. It was fun to watch Brutal Massacre: A Comedy with an audience. It’s the epitome of a convention film, and this really is the place to see it.  I caught the tail end of Marlowe with James Garner and Carroll O’Connor (I may have to track this down properly) and tried to sit through The Ailen Factor, but it was just too awful. I did finish the last half hour of the Galactic Gigolo but I suspect I would have had a hard time sitting through that start to finish as well!

I’m exhausted, groggy but completely relaxed. Wasteland is better than vacation. See you guys in six months.