My Favorite Newer Horror Discoveries Of 2017

I watch a lot of horror movies, as you probably know. I stumble upon some of them on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, while others I’m given by friends or hear about on the fantastic Shock Waves podcast. In 2017, I also had the pleasure of writing for Blumhouse.com which lead to plenty of great viewings for fun and profit.

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Geek Doc: The Death Of Superman Lives (2015)

the-death-of-superman-lives-posterDirector and documentarian Jon Schnepp asked the question many of us have been wondering since the 90s: What happened to Tim Burton’s Superman Lives? Back then, word got out that the Batman Returns helmer would put his stamp on the Man of Steel with star Nicolas Cage. Most of us didn’t hear much else aside from the film’s eventual demise, Kevin Smith’s recollection of writing the film’s first draft and later design images that would find their way online. Enter The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened?

As the film got rolling producer Jon Peters hired a slew of people to work on the project. Smith and two other screenwriters worked on the script, Burton invested himself in the story and a variety of costume designers and artists started working on the ever-changing visual elements.

But, even with so many people working hard on the film, it ultimately fell apart. The doc doesn’t necessarily place the blame on any one individual person involved, though its hard not to put Peters’ name up there with some of the chicanery he pulled. Ultimately, though, the answer to the question posed in the title comes down to some simple facts: Burton’s weird vision made the studio nervous. That same vision also would have cost a bunch of money to bring to life and the studio eventually decided to go another direction that lead to Superman Returns.

Even so, this doc isn’t really about why Superman Lives didn’t get made, it’s about all the work that went into it while the creative people involved thought they were making it. Everyone from Peters and Smith to Burton and costume designer Colleen Atwood. It’s fascinating to see how they all attempted to bring each others’ visions to life and maybe a little tragic that it was all for nothing. Except, it’s not really for nothing because this public record of their work now exists. I think that might be the great thing about this era of “why didn’t it get made” documentaries. They take something that a lot of people put a lot of effort into and bring it to your attention, even if it’s not in the originally intended way. With that in mind, I’m even more excited about eventually seeing Doomed and the one about George Miller’s Justice League movie.

For all the effort he put into the film, I give Schnepp huge buckets of kudos. Cage is the only major player who did get interviewed for this thing, but he still shows up thanks to some filmed segments of him trying on the costumes with Atwood and Burton. Those clips really bring the whole thing together because the represent the in-the-moment as opposed to the looking-back. I’m not personally a fan of the animated sequences in the film and think it’s super awkward for the interviewer to be on camera nodding when the subject is answering questions, but altogether I can’t recommend this movie enough for anyone who’s ever been even remotely interested in Superman Lives or the process that goes into making these big, blockbuster superhero films.

Sunday Nights: An Embarrassment Of TV Riches

Man, you guys, when did Sundays become such great TV nights? I remember back in the day the dearth of weekend program would result in me watching syndicated shows like Renegade, MANTIS or that futuristic Knight Rider thing. Now it’s one of the nights most packed with shows my wife and I want to watch, especially right now with Discovery coming out hot and heavy with news shows. I’ll put this out there right now: we don’t have DVR because the wiring in our building is too old, so we have to watch what’s on. I started thinking about all this a few weeks back when AMC’s Comic Book Men premiered. I’m a fan of Kevin Smith and his friends featured on the show, plus I covered some of the PR events for CBR. But, something else was on at 10PM, Sunday nights. I can’t remember what it was when the show first premiered, but a couple weeks back it wound up being A&E’s Breakout Kings, which is also on at 10PM. CBM wrapped up last week, so I’m hoping I can catch a marathon at some point, but we do enjoy Breakout Kings quite a bit, especially thanks to the fact that this season has more of an overarching story with the remaining Kings trying to track down the guy that killed SPOILER Charlie. I also like what they’re doing with Erica and the dude who works downstairs. Can we get an updated title sequence, too, by the way? It just looks silly with one character edited out. But, Mad Men‘s back tonight, which really throws a wrench in our schedule, especially because the premiere is two hours long. It’s really no question between whether we watch Mad Men or Breakout Kings, even though we both like the latter, it’s nowhere near as good as the former. Mad Men feels more like an event anyway, one that I like keeping up on. I think I’ll be able to watch BK at 11PM, but my wife goes to bed by then, so she’ll probably miss out. The 10PM slot also now has the brand new Rube Goldberg-inspired show by the Mythbusters called Unchained Reaction. The concept behind the series it that two teams are tasked with making a Chained Reaction machine with a particular theme. As longtime readers will remember, I love me some Goldbergian machines, so this show could not be more interesting to me. I thought this show was premiering tonight, but I am watching the Heavy vs. Light episode as I type, so it either already debuted or this is kind of a sneaky way to show it off early. I’m already digging this show and would love to watch it on a regular basis. Thankfully, Discovery has a good track record of showing reruns, so I’m sure I’ll catch up.

Discovery also has a show in the 9:00PM spot that we love watching, Mythbusters. Again, I know these shows get rerun on a pretty regular basis, but the premiere–which is tonight for sure–features Jamie and Adam stranded on a desert island with nothing but duct tape to survive on. That’s pretty awesome and I’d like to watch, but the extended Mad Men premiere will be keeping us away, but after that, I think we’ll be all set. We’re also a bit conflicted in the 8:00PM slot. Usually we just watch Amazing Race, which can sometimes be pushed back thanks to sports, which is a bit of a bummer. But, right now Discovery also has Frozen Planet on at the same time which looks gorgeous in HD (yes, our HD channels started working again).

So that’s where we’re at. Like I said in the title, it’s an embarrassment of riches. I’d always rather have too many shows I want to watch than not enough. Well, actually, if there were fewer shows on that I wanted to watch, I’d probably get more reading done…

What I’m Thankful For: Kevin Smith

2008-11-06
4:22:18 am

So I’m starting a new recurring element for November. It’s called What I’m Thankful For and it’s pretty self explanatory. First up, I decided to do Kevin Smith. I’ve been a fan of his since my freshman year in high school and just saw Zack and Miri so it seemed like a natural place to start.

It’s kind of funny because I almost wrote Kevin Smith off early on in my high school career. I remember going over to a girl named Erin Sullivan’s house and she tried putting on Clerks, but everyone was pretty grossed out by the snowball conversation and we turned it off (oh how young and prudish we were). Later, I was at someone else’s house (Chad Yates, I believe) and he put on Chasing Amy which got turned off pretty quickly for whatever reason (it’s not really a good party movie).

Now, I’m not sure when I actually started watching his movies, but whenever that was, I was hooked. I do remember seeing the Mallrats Magic Eye ads in the back of comics, but I’m sure that had nothing to do with it. There was something about the way he had his characters talk that seemed to echo how I thought (though not necessarily how I talked). And the themes were completely original too me. Clerks showed me what the world can be like. Mallrats gave me a comedy that seemed to speak to my generation (or at least the one slightly above mine) and Chasing Amy broke my heart with it’s unorthodox love story and less than happy ending.

I want to say that I saw Dogma in the theater, but I really can’t remember. I do remember that I was freaking in love with it. I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic grade school and high school, but it wasn’t the ultra-strict kind of thing that tend to spring to mind for a lot of people. I actually learned a great deal in those schools about everything from history to sex ed, which kind of blows my mind after talking to other people who went to Catholic schools. Anyway, Dogma basically started pointing out a lot of the kind of crazy things about organized religion around the same time the thoughts started kicking around in my own head so it was great timing.

Somewhere around here I discovered Kevin Smith’s Viewaskew site. I wasn’t really down with the whole message board thing but I really appreciated how open he was with his fans. Smith was one of the first director’s I discovered and really followed in my younger years (Tarantino was another) and I really appreciated how he interacted with people. He seemed like a new kind of director.

I do remember when I saw Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back though. It was the day before I went off to college and my buddy Eric Toth got screener tickets for Randy Lemle and myself, which was great because I had to go down on a Wednesday I believe and would have missed the normal Friday release. It was pretty great timing really as I was leaving my own weird cast of characters for a completely new one (just like Smith was supposedly leaving the View Askewniverse behind. Yes it’s a love letter to the fans, but being such a big fan I gladly accepted it.

Somewhere along the line I saw Jersey Girl on DVD and while it’s definitely not your average Smith flick, I thought it had a lot of heart and he got great performances out of Ben Affleck, George Carlin, Liv Tyler and everyone else. And, if nothing else it lead directly to the 10-years-later sequel to Clerks which I freaking loved in the theaters and watched again with Em back when we didn’t have cable and laughed like crazy. Again, the timing was right as I was feeling older, I’d moved away from home and I wasn’t really around my good close friends from either home or college. So, while my life didn’t reflect the events on screen (no donkey shows for me), I could definitely relate to the scariness of the next steps of life along with questioning what the heck I’m supposed to do with my life. And, of course, I like seeing these characters over and over, it’s the comic book fan in me.

When I started getting into podcasts a few years back Smith and Scott Mosier’s Smodcast was one of the first ones I subscribed to and it’s still one of my favorites. It’s just two dudes talking and it’s great. I, of course, also have the Clerks cartoon on DVD even though I didn’t watch it when it was on. I do have all the DVDs (except Jersey Girl) and have actually watched Mallrats with commentary more times than without. I bought the first round of Clerks Inaction figures and the Jay and Bob figures. Oh, and I got super jealous when Rickey, my roommate at the time, got to go to Smith’s house to take notes during a big poker game with comic talent like Jim Lee and Geoff Johns for a feature in Wizard. I was able to contribute the headline of that feature though, “The Royal Flush Gang.” Hey, it’s something, I guess. The closest I ever personally got was interviewing Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson about their rad monster horror comic War of the Undead via E-mail.

So last Saturday I found myself in the theater with Em watching Zack and Miri Make a Porno. I dug the movie. I do have some problems with the plot (they SPOILER never finish the porno or go back and explain what’s up with the other characters), but I laughed hard and got to see some familiar faces (maybe a few too many Apatow familiars for my personal preference). Mostly I liked how Seth Rogen’s character so closely paralleled Smith himself when he was making Clerks. It’s not a necessary piece of information to fully enjoy the movie, but it was kind of cool knowing he was using his own experiences. I’ve got no problem with the porno thing, I guess it would be kind of hard to be a Smith fan by now and actually have a problem with it, but whatever.

I fully recognize that my relationship with Smith’s movies has been very “right place, right time.” I’ve got no idea if I’d be such a big fan if I was a few years older or younger, but hey, that’s how it works. I’m excited to see where he goes from here, especially with Red State, his in-progress horror movie (two great tastes that will hopefully taste great together). Until then, I’ll keep my ear to the Smodcast to see what historical and factual inaccuracies the boys can come up with next.