Trade Pile Part 1: Lumberjanes, Gotham Academy, Mockingbird, Batman & The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Well, I guess I’ve been at it again. Even though I spent a good deal of my last vacation burning through the first few books of Alan Moore’s amazing Swamp Thing run, I’ve also taken time out to plow through another pile of trades, most of which come from my local library.. I thought about separating them out into various themes and writing a bunch of different posts, but don’t want to forget too much and have decided to do a good, old fashioned quick-shot pair of pile posts! You know you want to hear what I thought about these books, so hit the jump! Continue reading Trade Pile Part 1: Lumberjanes, Gotham Academy, Mockingbird, Batman & The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Dastardly Double Feature Episode 1 – The Burning & Terror Train!

ddf-logoI’m starting a new horror-themed podcast with a guy who lives in a big spooky house all by himself! It’s called Dastardly Double Feature and you can listen to it here or check iTunes. On this very first episode Mr. Dastardly and I talk about two killer 80s slashers: The Burning and Terror Train, both of which have amazing Scream Factory Blu-rays that are must-own.

 

Halloween Scene: New Movie Roundup

p9523329_p_v8_aaAs I mentioned in my first post in what felt like forever, I was awful busy looking at Halloween related material for work throughout September and October, which resulted in a lack of posts here on the site, a first if I’m not mistaken. Sure, Halloween season is technically over, but I wanted to write a bit more about a few of the newer movies I saw on Netflix in preparation for two Spinoff lists: 5 Recent Indie Supernatural Horror Movies Worth Watching and 5 Recent Slasher Flicks to Take a Stab at For Halloween.

First off a little background that I mentioned in those posts, but didn’t get fully into. While looking around for horror movies on Netflix Instant back in September, I realized that a lot of movies I’d heard good things about on Killer POV (my favorite horror podcast) were on there. I tend to avoid new horror movies out of a kind of fear, not necessarily a fear of being frightened by them, but a fear of being subjected to awful depravity. Let’s face it, that was the subgenre du jour for a while there. It seemed like every new movie I watched was just filled with torture. Not my bag.

john dies at the endBut after hearing about so many quality movies that had come out — many of which don’t work for everyone, which is fine my me — I decided to focus my viewing efforts this season on new movies from this decade. With only four years to choose from, I was a little worried about slim pickings, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and happy with the results. In fact, I think I enjoyed everything I watched (at least on some level).

Alright, let’s start with the Supernatural list. I covered them pretty well, but to take things a few steps further Don Coscarelli’s John Diest At The End and Resolution are two of my favorite scary movies in a long time. I loved The Innkeepers. Like I said in the review, between the on-screen scares and my anticipation of scares based on lesser films, I was pretty wiped by the end of that viewing experience. I thought about watching Ti West’s Sacrament, but wussed out.

rites of springI’d seen Odd Thomas on Netflix several times, wasn’t sure about it, but finally watched it and really enjoyed it. It kind of reminded me of Brick, but with less melodrama and more death-monsters. I liked it so much, I’m actually reading Dean Koontz’s Odd Hours from the library. It has the same feel as the movie. I’d like to see Anton Yelchin star in a series of films or, better yet, a TV show based on the character. I still can’t tell if All Cheerleader’s Die is a super clever film or I’m just reading too far into it, but it was definitely worth the watch.

Over to the slashers, this was another pleasantly surprising batch of films. I was especially surprised by how much I enjoyed Curse Of Chucky as that’s not exactly a series I’m in love with. I also wasn’t sure if Maniac would be my bag because I’ve never seen the original or its fellow real-killer-in-NYC ilk, but I found it chilling and Elijah Wood captivating in the lead role. I actually felt super creepy walking anywhere near a woman when I was going from the hotel to the bar during NYCC because of that viewing experience. Stage Fright was so much fun, but that might be solely because of my experience in high school musical theater. It’s goofy and weird, but I’m okay with that.

The-Innkeepers-PosterI’ll be honest, I didn’t actually watch Hatchet II again, but those films are still some of the best slasher flicks I’ve ever laid eyes on from any decade. I didn’t really think about it until I wrote that list, but it’s difficult to think of any other series with that much consecutive quality. Finally, I really liked the look and mash-up feel of Rites Of Spring. It’s on the shortlist of movies I watched this year that had a distinct color pallet and style. I found myself wondering if the Stranger was actually satiating a kind of crop god or just a crazy person throwing blood down on a man in a weird mask for decades. It would have been nice to get some of those answers, but I didn’t think they were necessary.

I also watched American Mary. I’ve got a blog post written that I’ll throw up this week. Here’s a preview, I thought it was pretty damn unique, but I’ll probably never watch it again. I still really dig the You’re Next viewing experience and do think I’ll return to that one at some point. Speaking of repeated viewings, that was the focus of my late-October horror movie schedule which will make up another post!

Halloween Scene: Ten Notable Movies That Scared This Jaded Horror Fan

I’ve seen a lot of horror movies since I started getting into the genre around the age of 16. Like a lot of horror fans, I feel like I’ve become somewhat jaded over the years. Once you see enough of these things, you can see the Matrix a little bit and know when a scare is coming — if you can tell the difference between an impending jump scare and a legit one, you’ve got the super scardar. And yet, there are still the scenes that scared us when we started out and even though they’re fewer and farther between these days, the new films that still give us the willies or come out of nowhere to spook us. I figured with Halloween still in the air — and inspired by awesome horror blogger Stacie Ponder doing something similar over on her excellent Final Girl blog — I’d run down the ten movies that scared me over the years. I’m sure there’s more out there in the world, but these are the ones that came to mind, either because they entered my life at just the right time, scared me for a moment or created an atmosphere that still ooks me out to this day. So, in no particular order, here’s the ten movies the still spook me in no particular order. Consider yourself warned, spoilers abound after the jump!

Continue reading Halloween Scene: Ten Notable Movies That Scared This Jaded Horror Fan

Halloween Scene: The Burning (1981), The Mist (2007) & From Beyond (1986)

The Burning Scream Factory Halloween’s the best you guys! I’ve been able to watch more horror flicks than I expected considering our toddler staked her claim on the TV long ago. Still, I’ve been able to go back and watch some old favorites and also check out a few new films like the amazing Sinister.

A few weeks back, after earning a few extra bucks at NYCC, I decided to splurge on some Scream Factory Blu-rays. I snagged The Burning and From Beyond on sale. A subdivision of Shout Factory, Scream is a horror centric imprint that goes all out when it comes to special features, extras and great looking transfers. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Burning (1981), The Mist (2007) & From Beyond (1986)

Casting Internets

Awkward Jayden Smith “freestyle” aside, this video of his dad reuniting with DJ Jazzy Jeff and Alfonso Ribeiro is a wonderful thing to behold. I bust out the Fresh Prince theme song, no kidding, at least once a week much to the chagrin of my wife.

Brian Cronin attacked one of the weirder arcs of comics I’ve ever read in his Abandoned Love column on CBR about the Justice League Task Force character Mystek who was apparently in the process of being sold by writer Christopher Priest to DC. when the deal went south and he killed the character. That’s all news to me!

 

I am very much looking forward to the July 10th premiere of Camp on NBC.

 

Chris Columbus directing a big screen version of Patrick Jean’s short film Pixels sounds like a fantastic idea. Plus, writing that last sentence lead to me rewatching Pixels which is, in and of itself, a fantastic idea. (via Collider)

THR reports that Paramount and Warner Bros. made an interesting deal recently. To get Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Interstellar fully under their roof, WB gave Paramount their share of a potential South Park movie and the Friday the 13th franchise. Hopefully this means a new chapter in the Jason Voorhees series.

escape-plan

It was fun seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone together in Expendables 2, but that movie’s a little goofy. I’m hoping Escape Plan is a bit more serious. The poster I saw on Collider is pretty rad.

Whoa, Amazon created something called Stroyteller, a program that allows you to upload your screenplay and create storyboards. I wonder how my slash script would turn out?

 

Stephen Merchant has a new show coming out on HBO called Hello Ladies. This is a good thing for humanity.

batman 1972

Francesco Francavilla‘s Batman 1972 – -dubbed Batploitation, though I personally think it should be Batsploitation — is amazing. This should be the next series of DC Nation shorts!

80s Odyssey: Gorp (1980)

gorp As I mentioned in my review of Summer School, I get really jazzed for watching 80s comedies when the weather gets nicer. The first thing I wanted to do was watch a camp movie along the lines of Meatballs, but Gorp was all that I could easily find on Netflix Instant. I actually remember watching part of this movie last year — I watched a ton of 80s movies, but only got around to reviewing half of them, if that — and had a pretty negative memory of it. At the time I remembered it as a really wacky, frenetic, all over the place comedy that was kind of a mess. But, upon giving it a second change, I realized that, while it does have some of those elements, it’s nowhere near a mess. Tone-wise, it’s a lot more in line with something like Animal House, which I somehow didn’t pick up on the first time around. You can tell that the story was written based on some wild camp stories, but when you pack all those different stories into one place, it can seem a little over the top. Since this is a comedy, though, that’s not a bad thing.

I’m actually really glad I gave Gorp another shot because, while it’s not going to top my list of favorite camp movies, it’s a pretty good entry in the genre. You’ve got the super slick 80s leads who make it their mission to split time between getting girls, playing pranks and, oh, also doing their jobs as wait staff at a summer camp.

One of the problems with watching any of these movies is the treatment of sex and women. The two leads send two of their nerdy co-workers to snap pictures of the incoming ladies which then get passed out to the guys as if they’re promised cattle. That’s far from the end of it, with the men often thinking the women are simply there for their sexual gratification, but there are actually some surprisingly strong women in this film. The main object of the leads’ affection, Vicki very clearly tells them that she does not have sex. At the same time, Fran Drescher owns her sexuality and doesn’t see she shouldn’t be able to do what the guys do. Now, while there elements aren’t exactly bright spots in the film, I would also say that they’re presented within a context that makes sense within the film, especially when you realize that A) the opinions are being stated by completely immature dudes from the lates 70s/early 80s and B) that it’s a comedy that was most likely encouraged to have as much T&A as possible. I mean, this is the kind of movie you’re watching:

Because it’s a fairly broad comedy, you wind up with a broad variety of characters from the well-rounded ladies I already mentioned to nerd and fat kids stereotypes that are so old and tired they make me angry. And yet, there are some rare moments in addition to the comedy bits that I enjoyed. At one point, one of the two main guys gets fed up with how weird his surroundings are and goes on a minor rampage. On one hand it’s a kind of meta moment because some viewers had to be thinking the same thing about the people they were watching around this time, but it’s also an effectively emotional moment where a human being realizes that hanging out with goofballs and freaks, which might seem cool to a young person, does not a happy life make. It’s actually a big sign of inner growth if you think about it.

But, don’t expect a film that features a real evolution of character. For that one moment, you’re treated to a whole cast of one-note, yet often still funny, kitchen workers who get their own fair share of screen time. Hell, the end of the movie features a fireworks war that leads to the destruction of the cabin all our main characters lived in. But that’s followed by another emotionally important moment, the one where the kids tell the mean camp owner to go screw himself, it’s time for them to branch out and make their own lives. I know I’m thinking about this way too much, but it’s another important developmental moment that makes this movie more interesting than many of the ones that would come later in the decade.

By the way, as the poster points out, the title is another name for trail mix (one I’d never heard before). I wrongly assumed it was an anagram and kept trying to figure out what it could mean without coming up with anything close to an answer. The tagline “a bunch of fruits, nuts and flakes” is actually pretty clever when you take that into consideration.

Blu-ray Review: Heavyweights (1995)

heavyweights blu-rayI’m going to put this right out on front street, I watched Heavyweights because some super nice PR people sent me the Blu-ray for review. However, it’s because I was sent the actual press release that I became interested in this film. I don’t know if I would have known that Judd Apatow wrote and produced the flick otherwise. Don’t worry about a tainted review, though, because as it turns out, this is the kind of movie I would have loved if I’d seen it back when it premiered in 1995.

At that time I was around 12 years old and a big, big fan of the first two Mighty Ducks movies and a movie called Camp Nowhere which shares some similar plot points with Heavyweights. Speaking of similarities, Heavyweights shares like four cast members with the Mighty Ducks franchise and was directed by that film’s co-writer Steve Brill.

The movie is about a kid named Gerry who gets sent to fat camp by his parents. The original, easygoing owners of the place — played by Jerry Stiller and Anne Maera — lose ownership very early on to Ben Stiller as the super-into-fitness new owner. Much like his character in Dodgeball, Stiller’s super intense which winds up driving the campers crazy. After one too many injustices, the kids capture Stiller, have a crazy food orgy (that’s actually the title of the chapter on the Blu-ray menu) and then decide to take over their own weight loss, the idea being that you’re not a bad person because you’re heavy, but it’s also not healthy to be heavy. Or something along those lines.

Familiar faces from the camp include Kenan Thompson (Mighty Ducks 2, SNL), Shaun Weiss (Goldberg from Mighty Ducks), Paul Feig (co-creator of a little show called Freaks & Geeks), Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) and even Allen Covert (star of personal favorite Grandma’s Boy). That’s a lot of people from things I already love. There’s a lot of other people in the movie too, many of which I was reminded of and updated on by the Where Are They Now feature on the Blu-ray. That was but one of the many special features I checked out. I was also a fan of the Skype conversation between Apatow and Thompson where the former interviewed the latter on his experience during filming. I also really liked the shot-when-the-film-was-shot Making Of featurette. I assume it was shot for Disney Channel or something along those lines because it features interviews with guys like Stiller, Apatow and director Brill. I haven’t had a chance to check out the Super 8 footage, the deleted/extended scenes or the audio commentary, but I’m excited to get to them.

At the end of the day, I had a pretty great time watching this movie. It’s hard to watch a movie for kids and place it within your already existing pantheon of childhood favorites, but I think I would have liked this movie a lot. So, if you already dug this movie, definitely pick up the Blu-ray and dive into the special features after watching the pristine-looking film. If you’re not already fan, but like 90s kid comedies along the lines of Mighty Ducks, I’d recommend giving this one a rent.

Quick Camp Movie Review: Dishdogz (2006)

There are three types of movies I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of: coming of age stories featuring nervous young men, anything set in a camp and movies featuring any of the “extreme” sports. So, when I came across Dishdogz on Netflix Instant and saw that it included all of those themes and included Marshall Allman (AJ from my beloved Prison Break), Luke Perry and Haylie Duff who wound up being pretty charismatic, much like she was in Backwoods, I was sold.

The story is that Allman finds his way out west and winds up working at a camp for extreme sports kids (skateboarding, BMX bike riding and even rollerblading which I didn’t think was cool anymore back in 2006, but what do I know?). Allman works in the kitchen where he has to earn the respect of his new co-workers and also discovers that Perry SPOILER used to be a skater in the Lords of Dogtown era. He also falls for Duff who also works there and also skates, making her essentially perfect except for the fact that she has a dickish ex who goes to the camp and gives Allman trouble. So, as you can tell, it really hits all the notes for this kind of thing.

I’m no expert on skating in the 70s and 80s when it was the most popular thing around, but Perry’s dialog seemed to reflect it accurately to the best of my knowledge. The film also boasts a guest spot by Tony Alva who was part of that whole Dogtown & Z-Boys movement. Speaking of cameos, Ryan Sheckler popped up too and looked so young. I remember him looking young when he had that MTV show, but he’s 14 here and looks like a fetus.

At the end of the day, the movie gets a little melodramatic at times and might feel like a rehash if you’ve seen pretty much any camp, coming of age or extreme sports movie, but I enjoyed seeing them all together and performed by these actors. Perry comes off a little too “zen master” at times, but he pulls off the “I used to be somebody” schtick well, while Allman does the same for his “good guy just wants to get the girl and be good” character. All in all, fun stuff.

Halloween Scene: Camp Fear (1991) & The Fly (1958)

Today’s movies have the thinnest of connections: two of the lead actors are named Vincent. Aside from that and the fact that they might both be listed under the horror section is about it, but I wanted to watch the original Fly and then the newer ones within a limited time frame and this seemed like the best way to do it.

I decided to give Camp Fear a shot because I just did a post on Topless Robot about camps you don’t want to send your kids to, plus, it turned out that I had watched a portion of it, so it seemed like I was already ahead of the curve. Well, I didn’t remember anything from my first viewing of the movie (I’m guessing I was playing Netflix Roulette one night while a little tipsy) and restarted it. Man, this one is a stinker, though it starts off with what seems like some promise if you’re a fan of nubile young women walking around topless as we start off in a sorority house filled with unabashed young women waiting in line for the shower. From there it goes downhill. The setup for the movie is that a group of college women is going to the woods with their hot young professor and his girlfriend to look for fossils (he’s an anthropology professor). While there, they discover a monster in the woods who wants to kill them. Okay, cool, right? Nope. After the opening scene we’re forced to sit through the prof’s lecture. After that? The girls meet up with the prof and his girlfriend at a club where the band cancels and one of the girls gets up and sings a song she wrote with accompaniment from the juke box. Huh? The next day, they somehow all get into a car (one girl without her knowing) and find themselves at a gas station complete with old man owner, wino and a group of bikers who show up and take the form of the human villains in the movie.

Eventually the get to the camp site and everyone splits up, which makes the hot blonde girl an easy target for the monster running around (we’re supposed to think it’s this Native American dude we saw earlier). Turns out, the monster is actually a druid who somehow survived all these years in the woods. I think there’s also a lake monster of some kind? I’ll be honest, after 30 minutes of no horror and very little after that, I was pretty bored by this movie. I recommend completely avoiding it as it has no redeeming qualities. Everything about it looks fake and bad (except for the druid monster and the weird cavewoman clothes the blonde wears which looked surprisingly good). The supposed sorority house looks just like a regular house with way too many chicks living in it, the school a strip mall and there isn’t even a freaking camp in this thing! False advertising! I guess if you’re looking for some skin, watch the first 10 or so minutes and then move on to something that doesn’t waste all your time.

Something like the original version of The Fly. I went into this movie having seen the original on TV and remembering chunks of the plot but without being an expert. I also knew that Vincent Price was in it, which got me excited, but it turns out he doesn’t play much of a role in the film. Going in, I figured it would be about a scientist who develops some kind of technology that he tests on himself, gets mixed up with a fly and then moves on from there, but the interesting thing about this flick is that it starts at the end, with the scientist dead and his wife claiming to be the murderer. For the first 20 minutes or so it’s a bit of a mystery movie, with the audience trying to figure out 1) why this guy died under a massive press and 2) why his wife is freaking out about flies. Because I figured the plot would be linear, I assumed the transformation would be the result of Price’s actions (he plays the scientist’s brother), so I wasn’t looking for clues as to what was going on with the mystery. It took me a little longer than I’d like to admit to catch on to what was really happening: the scientist was actually part fly after the accident and the fly was part scientist flying around.

As it turns out, we’re shown exactly what went on thanks to an extended flashback with the wife explaining what happened to Price and another man. We see the scientist do his experiment and later wearing a bag over his head and accidentally revealing his creepy bug claw communicating with his wife.

Aside from trying to figure out how the elements I already knew would play out in this completely different film, I was also surprised at how good the scientist’s giant bug head looked once it was finally revealed. You always worry with these older films that the effects will look crummy, but I dug it. I also dug the psychological aspect of the movie when it comes to the wife. She explains exactly what happened, but people think she’s crazy, though Price gets convinced. See, there’s no proof because the press she used on the scientist was specifically used to crush his bug parts into non existence. Advised to find the fly, Price tries only to not hear the fly’s calls of “Help me, help meeeee.” Though Price doesn’t have a lot to do until the end of the film, he’s excellent as always. His enthusiasm for helping the wife is infectious.

I did have a few problems. Creepy as the final spiderweb scene is, it doesn’t look great nowadays, but I give them credit for trying to do what sounds like an impossible feat back then: putting a human looking head on a tiny fly body. The finish of that scene really takes away from the brief look at effects that don’t hold up so well. My bigger problem with the movie is the set-up of the story. I’m not quite sure what the point of doing things out of chronological order is aside from the ever so brief mystery element that winds up not really mattering. I’ll have a much better ability to compare the structure of this film to its latter day follow-up tomorrow, but I think I like the structure of the newer one better.

Anyway, overall, the original Fly was a lot of fun to watch. I can say without a doubt that these double feature Halloween Scenes have introduced me to some great older movies I might not have watched otherwise, so that’s always a plus. I am looking forward to taking a break come next month, though I do have a less ambitious plan for then that I’m keeping to myself for now.