The High Five Podcast Episode 35 – A Neil Gaiman Sampler

Get into the Halloween spirit with this sampler of Neil Gaiman goodies that I think will give you a nice launchpad into his fantastic work! The best part? It’ll only take a few hours!

Link time! You can find the Neil’s Works section of his website here and read the Colleen Doran interview I did here.

I also tackled five more films in It’s All Connected 2021 to keep that moving along. I finished my Jill Schoelen mini-marathon, indulged a bit on my favorite slasher franchise, watched another John Carpenter film and then got to one wacky killer animal flick!

As always, you can email me at high5tj at gmail.com or follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Also feel free to subscribe to my YouTube Channel!

Trailer Time: I, Frankenstein, 47 Ronin & Out Of The Furnace

After showing off that new image of Aaron Eckhart as Adam, the I, Frankenstein gang unveiled the first trailer which comes packed with winged monsters, fire, Bill Nighy and Yvonne Strahovski, all of which are very good things. The film opens on January 24, 2014.

The latest 47 Ronin trailer features a good deal of footage we’ve already seen, but a bit more of Keanu taking on the dragon. Still looks like a lot of rad stuff in this film which debuts on December 25th.

Out Of The Furnace finds Christian Bale delving into the world of underground fight clubs run by Woody Harrelson in Out Of The Furnace. The December 6th debuting dramatic thriller looks pretty intense if we do say so ourselves.

Halloween Scene: Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

shaun of the dead poster

It’s funny. With a lot of movies, especially big-deal horror movies from the past decade like Shaun Of The Dead, I usually have a solid memory of the first time I saw it. In this case, I’ve got nothing. I was in college in 2004 when the film came out and was probably hearing things about it. I remember watching it at some point and loving the ending and then checking it out on DVD later on with my wife who was into it aside from the ultra gore (which I’d forgotten about for the most part). I do remember that my pal Rickey Purdin passed me the DVD copy I watched last week because he had an extra, but that’s about it.

With Edgar Wright’s latest film The World’s End hitting theaters, I figured it’d be fun to go back and watch Wright’s other movies Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, all of which happen to reside in my DVD collection. You guys, this is such a good movie, I can hardly stand it. It’s so good, I actively disliked myself for about half of it for not watching it more often. Yes, you’ve got the high quality gore effects that tend to get left behind in horror comedies and you’ve got the fantastic comedic elements, but there’s a huge, gigantic beating heart to Shaun that really drew me in this time around.

First off, you’ve got the friendship between Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost). On the surface it seems like any other dude friendship in movies, just two adult children hanging out, drinking and playing video games. But you also get that element of two friends who have been friends for ages that might be growing apart, where the friendship might actually be inhibiting one or both of the parties from evolving as individuals.

Then you’ve also got Shaun’s relationship with his mom Barbara (Penelope Winton). He loves her, but doesn’t love all of the decisions she’s made, specifically when choosing a mate. That’s a deep connection that really tugs at the heart strings when Shaun has that last moment with his stepdad Philip (Bill Nighy). I know I’m a much bigger softie these days now that I’m a parent, but that was a really amazing emotional beat in the middle of zombie movie. So good.

Finally, you’ve got Shaun’s relationship with Liz (Kate Ashfield) which is kind of a synthesis of the ones he has with Ed and his mom. They’ve been together so long that she’s starting to think he might be holding her back while at the same time, there’s a deep, emotional almost assume connection between them. Watching the movie this time around, I got a bit of a Madame Bovary vibe from Shaun. Because he’s seen so many movies and TV shows, he thinks things are going to turn out a certain way, but the real world isn’t fictional (even this one packed with undead monsters). Shaun winds up stepping up and proving that he’s the hero he always imagined himself to be, which winds up solidifying his relationship with Liz.

The beauty of this film is that it balances all of those relationships — plus more, I didn’t even get into all the stuff with Ed and Diane — with all that great humor and gore. It really is just a wonderful movie and I didn’t even talk about how well constructed the movie is. The way Wright shot Shaun’s daily routine at three different stages in the story was so great to watch, I remembered it was coming and got really excited as it unfolded. I’m sure there’s a lot more in that department that I’m missing, but I’m still kind of in a euphoric state after enjoying the film so much.

Quick Movie Review: Pirate Radio a.k.a. The Boat That Rocked (2009)

Pirate Radio, or The Boat That Rocked as it was known in its native UK, is a pretty fantastic movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not surprised I liked it, I’m just really glad it didn’t disappoint me. It’s one of those movies that seems genetically engineered with me in mind. It’s directed by Richard Curtis who did my beloved Love Actually. It’s got an amazing cast, including favorites of mine like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy and Nick Frost. With it’s late 60s mod setting, it’s firmly set in one of the top five all time sexiest times for women’s fashion. Oh, and it’s about rock and roll. But not just rock and roll, British rock and roll. In the 60s. On a BOAT!

The idea is that in the 60s with all this amazing music coming out from bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Who, The Kinks and so on and so forth, there was actually very little played on the radio. Except from pirate radio stations like this one, which was set up on a freighter. Now, the movie isn’t based on one specific occurance of pirate radio, though, this did in fact happen and I want to read a book about it. Does anyone have any suggestions?

The plot follows the new guy who says he’s there to get straightened out but is really SPOILER looking for his father who is on the boat. There’s a lot of growing up in the movie, usually the hard kind, as the kid experiences heart break (and blue balls) and nearly every turn. The performances are fantastic all around and the movie really made me want to not only listen to the awesome music the DJs spun, but also be a DJ. It’s a great, fun rock and roll movie that makes you feel like you can still be a kid even when you’re an adult, which definitely hits home for this 27 year old freelance writer who makes his living by spouting off about toys, comics, movies and TV. Yeah, the end kind of comes out of nowhere, but not in a bad way and it turns out to be a good one probably thanks to all the intensity. Definitely check this one out!

Christmas Stories: Miracle On 34th Street (1947) & Love Actually (2003)

While decorating our tree and cleaning up, Em and I watched a few classic Christmas movies, one an old classic in the form of the original Miracle On 34th Street and a new classic Love Actually.

Did you know that Warner Bros. actually had so little faith in Miracle On 34th Street that they released it in the spring and tried to avoid advertising the fact that the movie takes places at Christmas (hence this poster instead of one of the more Santa-themed ones you might be familiar with). That’s crazy, right? They apparently thought it would be too schmaltzy. And actually so did I. My folks gave me this movie on DVD back when I first moved to NY and I’ll be honest, I never watched it until this weekend, though I had seen it when I was younger. But, considering we’d already watched White Christmas, Holiday Inn and a few other favorites, we landed on Miracle because Em had never seen it. In the end we were both pleasantly surprised. See, the idea is that a man claiming to be Santa replaces a drunk “Santa” in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ends up working in the main store as Santa. Maureen O’Hara hires him and her daughter (Natalie Wood) comes to form a friendship with the man even though she doesn’t believe he’s Santa (or in anything non-logical, she’s like mini Vulcan thanks to her mom’s programming). Of course, as you might expect, the man claiming to be Santa has his sanity called into question and visits with a crappy jerk who’s not even really a psychiatrist, who, eventually drives Santa crazy enough that he knocks the jerk in the head with his cane. Somehow, this gets him institutionalized, so O’Hara’s neighbor/love interest (played by John Payne) represents him as a lawyer and eventually SPOILER WARNING proves that he’s Santa thanks to some delivered mail.

Like I said, I thought it would be too ooey gooey, but the film is really well done. I think it’s balanced with Christmas spirit and real world doubt, kind of like The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (it’s not as weird of a comparison as you might think). I also really enjoyed Wood’s performance and was shocked to read the she died in 1981 after falling off a boat that her husband Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken were in. It’s really too bad. So, give Miracle a shot, have a good time and enjoy some fantastic performances.

Though if you’re looking for a real rollercoaster of a Christmas movie, I can’t recommend Love Actually more as it is one of my favorites of the last 10 years (along with Elf). Love Actually is one of those movies that has a ton of big time British actors (Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, and plenty of others) with several stories interacting with each other in all kinds of ways you don’t necessarily notice on the first viewing. I’m not going to get into all the stories, but Grant plays the Prime Minister who falls in love with one of his assistants and Neeson tries to help his son get the girl of his dreams even after his wife (and the kid’s mom) dies prematurely. What I love about Love Actually, is not only does it cover the gamut of emotions you might feel around the holidays, but it’s intricately put together. I’ve seen this movie probably around 5 or 6 times and I’m always recognizing new things and connections between characters that I didn’t catch the last time around. I also like it because it reminds me of a really good Nick Hornby book (and not just because it’s British), but because there isn’t a single character that feels like a one-trick pony.

I did have a little trouble this time around with Laura Linney’s character. See, she’s American and plays as such. Her character arc involves her finally going out with this guy she’s been crushing on forever, but she’s also taking care of her mentally handicapped brother who continually takes precedence over everything else. And by “taking care of” I mean, he’s in an institution that lets him call her at all hours of the day. Aside from not believing that she’d kick the super-hot dude out of bed, I also don’t get why her mentally handicapped American brother is with her in England? There are plenty of plausible explanations, but I do wish it would have been addressed because it nags at me (or at least it did this time around). But, that’s a pretty minor nitpick and I still really have a good time watching this one every year.

Another thing about this movie that I enjoy is the fact that every year it seems like I recognize someone in it that I didn’t the year before. The last time it was Martin Freeman (a.k.a. Tim from the British Office), this time it was  January Jones playing one of the American girls that a British dude meets in a bar. See, he figured that he’d score like crazy in the States so he just bought a ticket and flew out. He went to the first bar the cab found and lucked out finding not one but four hot chicks who all sleep together and invite him to stay over. Good job, man!

So, as you can probably tell from this brief description, this movie has a lot going on. Everyone I’ve handed it to has loved it and I think you will too. Just give it a shot tough guy!