Halloween Scene: Stranger Things & The Like

stranger-things-posterHey, look, it’s nearly October and I’ve already watched a bunch of great stuff! Like the rest of the world, I fell in love with Stranger Things and even wrote a list for CBR about a dozen other movies and shows you should check out if you liked it as much as me. Regular readers won’t be surprised by how much I responded to the idea of a bunch of kids trying to stop something far beyond their natural abilities. Plus, it gave me a great reason to re-watch the likes of The Gate and Cloak & Dagger. Continue reading Halloween Scene: Stranger Things & The Like

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Boglins!

I find myself continually fascinated by the 1980s trend of selling scary things to children. I missed a lot of that, but even as a kid I loved Gremlins which begat movies like Ghoulies, Critters and the Troll films. The Mattel-distributed Boglins toys are also part of that mini-monster lineage. The toys themselves were creepy puppets that allowed you to manipulated their mouths and eyes. From the looks of this amazing commercial, they were ready for the big screen and probably looked better than some of the Gremlins clones out in the world around this time.

I don’t specifically remember Boglins from my childhood, but do remember walking into the research office when I worked at Wizard and seeing one of them lying on a makeshift end table created from piles of longboxes next to my boss’s desk. The ToyFare guys were doing a retro toy feature on the line and this was the one being shot for art purposes. I bet I have that issue sitting around somewhere in my garage. If I ever find it, I’ll scan it and post it here on the blog!

Buffy Season 8 Trade Post: Volumes 1 Through 8 & Fray

buffy season 8 volume 1 the long way home

It’s vampire week here on UnitedMonkee! Let’s kick things off with one of their all-time biggest enemies, Buffy The Vampire Slayer! Like most of the internet, I loved the series (yes, even the first season). Even so, when Dark Horse first announced they were continuing the show’s adventures with Season 8, I was a bit skeptical, even though series creator Joss Whedon was acting as executive producer of the whole thing. See, back in the day, I bought a ton of Buffy comics from Dark Horse until I realized that they were just kind of filling in holes and playing with the mostly un-chronicled summers. Later on I picked up the Buffy Omnibus volumes and read in the intro that that was part of the whole deal because they didn’t want the comics to step on the toes of the show. As a reader, though, I got a bit bored reading about Season Three characters when Season Four was in full swing, but that’s old water under an old, far more crankier bridge.

The timing thing was obviously no longer an issue with the show being off the air. And, adding to the “good” column, Whedon would have an unlimited budget to work with and some of the best names in comics, TV and film like Brian K. Vaughan, Brad Meltzer, Georges Jeanty, Drew Goddard, Jane Espenson and Karl Moline.

Really, there was no chance I wasn’t going to start reading this book because I was working at Wizard at the time and free comics were everywhere. Like my fellow Buffy fans in the office, we got to reading and really enjoyed it. I might have been a little taken aback by the whole idea of this army of Slayers working around the world S.H.I.E.L.D.-style, but once I got used to it, I was all in. Continue reading Buffy Season 8 Trade Post: Volumes 1 Through 8 & Fray

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)

Halloween Scene: Critters 2 (1988)

Most of my experience with the Critters franchise comes from seeing the boxes of the four films at the video store as a kid and thinking they looked pretty damn creepy. All fur, red eyes and teeth, how could they not be? Well, the films I’ve seen so far — the first one a few years back and now the sequel — do a pretty good job of making the Krites seem not so creepy.

The Critters movies are odd. They’re obviously Gremlins rip-offs, but instead of just borrowing the basic premise and getting on with it, these mini monsters are aliens who are hunted down by intergalactic, shape shifting bounty hunters. Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, it is and as I said when I reviewed the first film, the sci-fi stuff is actually pretty well done. What keeps these movies from being great and unique is the goofy tone that undercuts the horror and doesn’t seem to achieve the right balance. It works in something like Shaun of the Dead where you go from jokey moments to full on gore, but the structure and direction isn’t here. I’m guessing, though, that it wasn’t intended to be a great film or rival the amazing Gremlins in story, so they just kind of went with it.

The story revolves around the kid from the first one returning to his home town of Grover’s Bend a few years after the events of the first one. He gets there just in time for a batch of Krite eggs to start hatching. The bounty hunters from the first one also return to destroy the eggs — which the townspeople have painted for Easter — and shenanigans ensue.

At the end of the day, the results aren’t bad, they just don’t match up with the story I created in my head after seeing the box. That said, there are still some pretty solid gore scenes and a good deal of the little buggers get smashed, blown up, set on fire and stepped on, so that’s fun. I should also note, while the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, the creature effects actually do look pretty great. This isn’t just little people in funny robes like Troll 2, but actual puppets doing all kinds of things.

And that’s really the key to this movie, fun. It doesn’t take itself so serious and it comes across. Critters isn’t what I would call required watching for a horror fan by any means, but they’re with checking out with some friends and some beers (man, a lot of my reviews end like that, don’t they?).

Halloween Scene: Best Worst Movie (2009)

Wow, you guys. I’ve been hearing about Best Worst Movie for a while now. It’s a documentary that catches up with the cast and crew behind Troll 2, which I have seen and, while it is bad and nonsensical, is not the worst movie I have ever seen. Anyway, I’ve heard things here and there about this doc, about how it catches up with everyone and shows them the huge fan following this movie has accrued over the years. With that little bit of knowledge, I kind of assumed it would be a kind of uplifting thing, along the lines of “Hey, we made this thing that seems bad but people have really embraced.” And that’s part of it, but there’s even more. Very honestly, this movie is an emotional roller coaster in the same vein as the amazing King Of Kong.

So, the description I had in mind is pretty correct for maybe half of the movie. Then it gets into the realness of the situation. As a fan of bad movies, I understand that mentality. We like laughing earnestly made things that turned out pretty crappy. It’s the same thing as my current favorite podcast How Did This Get Made? But, there’s a dark side to that, of course. Most directors, actors and crew members don’t go into a movie saying “Let’s make something laughably silly.” They go in wanting to make something good or to create something that will be a stepping stone to something bigger and better. Being in a movie like Troll 2 might get you a line at a Horror Hound convention in Cincinnati, but it’s the kiss of death if you’re looking to move on to something bigger and better (unless of course you’re George Clooney or Jennifer Aniston).

That other side of the coin gets its own spotlight in the doc and it honestly made my stomach hurt. And I’m not even referring to the people who still hang on to the possibility of acting (the mom) or the ones looking back at their careers thinking they could have done more (Grandpa Seth), though their scenes made me sad for another reason I’ll get to in a minute. The director of Troll 2, Claudio Fragasso has zero sense of humor when it comes to his work. This man talks very deeply about the sharing of human emotion and, at the end of the movie, very awkwardly interrupts a screening where the actors are joking around about not being able to understand him and not understanding the script. This man was clearly passionate about the project and (maybe) liked the finished project. He does not have a sense of humor about any of this. I feel bad for him.

Back to the mom and Grandpa Seth, oh man, I felt so bad for them too. Grandpa Seth sits on his easy chair surrounded by Hoarders-level stacks of books or magazines or something and explains that he would have liked to act more, but didn’t want to move to LA. He then goes on about how he wished his career had been different, but it’s all topped by the very end of the movie where they’re catching everyone up on these folks and all it says is that he’s retired and likes Family Guy. What? Really?! That’s a life? Ugh. Meanwhile the mom from the movie has one scene where she talks about getting back into acting, presumably after her elderly mother passes away (it’s not directly said, but that’s how I took it) and saying that she just wants to run away to a completely different places with different neighbors who don’t make the kind of high pitches sounds that would make Lloyd and Harry would get annoyed at. These two got to me because they either are still holding on to or held on too long to the dream of being an actor. These are the kinds of things that get to me, being a wannabe writer of fiction. How long do you hold on to lofty dreams? When is it time to just say “Nope, not gonna happen, I don’t have it in me” or “The cards are not being dealt in my favor”? Oh man, too close to home as I’m nearing my 29th birthday.

But, thankfully, there are less sad parts and people in this movie. The young boy from the movie is the one spearheading the documentary. He embraces the whole thing in the same way fans of bad movies do, but it’s because he has already processed the feelings of embarrassment and career-dread unlike some of the others. He makes a great touchstone, but the real star of the film is the dad, George Hardy. George is a dentist and one of the nicest guys around. He’s cool with the film’s legacy, for the most part. But, even he has a a few dark moments in the film, both of which revolve around conventions. The first has almost no people coming to a screening of Troll 2 and the second is a big horror show that leaves him with the impression that the attendees are weird, some of his fellow attendees are desperate losers and director Neil Marshall is kind of a jerk. Now, all of those things may be true (I have no idea, I’ve never been to a horror convention), but seeing the main “I’m okay with my life” person in the movie go down that path is a bummer. That’s life though, we all have our bad moments. I got the impression that George was very excited to embrace this underground fandom at first, but got bored with it very quickly. He saw the movie 20 times and doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would like movies ironically and he even says he doesn’t like horror flicks, so what’s the appeal for him? I’m guessing that “I want to be famous” spark that still lies inside him from his days of wanting to be an actor.

What makes this movie so interesting, aside from the various perspectives that one film can create in its audience and crew, is how it showcases so many different aspects of humanity and the desire for fame. Some people in Troll 2 went on to make their own movies while others gave up and went into other fields. There really is a lot to unpack in this film, far more than the “It’s so bad it’s good” fans might want, actually. This isn’t an obsessed fan’s love letter to the film, more like a document of how one film has changed the lives of many. I liked it a lot, but I’m not sure if I’ll watch it again. Sometimes things just get too real.

Casting Internets

For once, I’m close to up to date on my Read It Later reading, so I figured I’d do a CI before Christmas comes and I ignore the internet fort a while!

In addition to my daily Spinoff posts, I also wrote a bunch of stories for CBR including an interview with Jim Valentino about Shadowline, Tim Seeley relaunching Bloodstrike as well as Seeley and Ron Marz on Witchblade.

James Kochalka once again captured one of the thoughts that runs through my head every day back on December 20th. So much coffee…Um, I almost can’t write how much I like this Gremlins poster from Mondo.

How freaking awesome is it that the Foo Fighters and their audience in New Zealand emitted volcanic tremors? (via Rolling Stone)From the world of sketchblogs, I’ve been really enjoying Scott C’s Christmas themed Showdowns and Glen Brogan’s 25 Days of Christmas entries.

I’m fascinated by places writers write, so I dig seeing Peter Straub’s entry on Write Place, Write Time.

Ron Marz did his most recent Shelf Life post on a similar subject: writing location. Makes me want a desk and and miss my old coffee shop hangout at the same time.

I’m very curious how the Beach Boys will sound on their 50th anniversary tour. (via Rolling Stone)

Jeffrey Tambor has learned quite a lot of interesting things and passed them along to us through Esquire. My personal favorite bit: “The secret of life is to be surrounded by people who get you — just the people who get you.”
I haven’t seen any of the Peter Davidson Doctor Who stuff, but I very much like the Springfield Punx version of him. Fabio Moon drawing a Serenity story for Dark Horse’s Free Comic Book Day offering? Yes please.

Mini Monsters: Gremlins 2 The New Batch (1990)

I love Gremlins 2. I probably shouldn’t but I do. It’s nowhere near as good as the original movie with it’s amazing mix of comedy, humor and horror, but it holds a special place in my heart. I can’t remember if I saw it in the theaters when I was 7 and it hit theaters. I have a feeling I did, but can’t say for sure. Anyway, the sequel is much more over the top and sillier, but it’s also filled with lots of slapsticky site gags and all kinds of mutated Gremlins running around causing all kinds of havoc which makes it perfect for kids. They even had trading cards, an NES game and I would assume toys, though not a full roll out like you might expect. But I can see where that kid focus would put older viewers off. Had I watched this movie for the first time as an adult without any of the nostalgia or love, like I did with, say, Lost Boys, I’m fairly certain I would have scoffed my way through the movie instead of smiling like a damn fool the whole time like I did when I watched it the other day.

Even having said that, I’d say that there are elements to the movie that might be fun for viewers of all kinds. Like the first flick, there’s humor here, but this time around it feels more in the same vein as Naked Gun than something more understated. I also appreciate that the movie has a sense of humor about itself. Not only do you have some control room guys making fun of the three rules from the first movie, but there’s even an appearance by Leonard Maltin as a critic where he slags the movie only to get attacked by Gremlins. You also can’t discount how good the special effects are. Gizmo and the Gremlins look so rad, especially the Bat and Spider ones. Man, they’re creepy.

One of the benefits of watching the movie on DVD–which I bought a while back, but can’t remember if I’ve actually watched all the way through–was seeing the original “film break” scene in the movie complete with woman complaining about the movie being too scary for kids and Hulk Hogan threatening the Gremlins to let the movie start back up. See, on the VHS version and, I believe, the one they showed on TV, there was a “tape break” instead. I couldn’t tell you what the differences all are, but I like that they went back to the original on the DVD version (I wonder if the VHS scene is on the DVD, I should check).

Anyway, I’m not really sure what else to say about the flick. There were some pretty lame parts like the very roundabout way they took to get Gizmo wet (malfunctioning drinking fountain) and the fact that Phoebe Cates had something bad happen to her on Lincoln’s Birthday too. But with the humor, going in with affection and the ass kicking special effects, I think Gremlins 2 has a lot to offer the right kind of viewer.

Casting Internets

I’ve had this Esquire story about Randy Quaid and his wife Evi saved for almost two weeks and finally got around to reading it today. Chris Jones did a great job with the piece. With lines spoken by Evi like “Everything came out of the Dairy Queen” it’s hard not to think they’ve out of their minds or doped up. But, and that’s a mighty big one there, what if it were all true? What if the deaths of David Carradine, Michael Jackson, Sean Penn, Heath Ledger and a slew of others were somehow connected? What and how would these Star Whackers gain? David Hartman Covering Casper looks so rad.

Fight For Your Right Revisited sounds like a fan film except it’s directed by a Beastie Boy and stars Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Will Ferrell, Elijah Wood, Jack Black and John C. Reilly. How did Wood get into that group? (via /Film)

When I first heard about some message board dude say that Dan Slott only writes comics for a paycheck I had to laugh. I’ve talked to Slott a few times and would be hard pressed to name a more passionate pro. I like how my buddy Sean Collins analyzes all this over on Robot 6.

This interview with Yoko Ono on Esquire.com is pretty interesting. This is my favorite quote “We thought that we were punks.”

Reading Aaron Sorkin talk about Sarah Palin’s reality show is pretty damn interesting, especially when he compares her hunting animals to Michael Vick’s crimes which he went to jail for. The missus sent me this link over at HuffPo.This Critters poster from Mondo by Rhys Cooper is about 400 times cooler than the movie itself.

I really don’t understand how you could be angry at a movie like Real Steel and feel sorry for anyone too jaded or up their own ass to enjoy a movie about robots punching each other.

Though I don’t’t share his affinity for Brenda Starr, I had a good time reading my buddy Kiel’s remembrances of her and the funnies in general over on Cool Kids Table. I was also a huge fan of the comics, but I avoided the “real” ones which meant anything dramatic, basically or, oddly enough, drawn in a more comic book style.

Seeing Paul McCartney play “Here Today” on Jimmy Fallon, a song he wrote about John Lennon, the day after the 30th anniversary of his former song writing parner’s assassination tugged at the old heartstrings.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Mini Monsters: Cat’s Eye (1985)

There were two reasons I checked out Stephen King’s anthology horror flick Cat’s Eye. First off, this horror magazine I read called HorrorHound wrote about it in their latest issue which was anthology themed. A quick note on HH before moving on. I love this mag, but the lack of editing drives me CRAZY. As an editor myself and a big fan of upstart magazines (that’s definitely not an easy mountain to climb right now), I want the writing to be as crisp and consistent as possible to it won’t turn off people like me who are driven crazy by such things. As an example, depending on what kind of style guide you use, you either italicize a movie title or put it in quotes. Sometimes they italicize, sometimes they do quotes and sometimes they do both! I don’t know if this bothers you normal folks, but it bugs me. I guess it’s not all that bad because I’m still reading it, but I’d love to create a style guide for them.

The other reason I checked Cat’s Eye out is because Rickey thought that it might be the mini monster movie I remember from my childhood, but still haven’t been able to track down. And that lack of success has continued with Cat’s Eye even though it does have a gremlin monster of some kind and the bouncing ball. But, I had a blast watching it so who cares?

So did my cat Milo. Before getting into the movie review, here’s a few pics I took of him watching the cat (the connector of the three stories) run away from a dog. He loves watching animals on TV.

So, the three stories are like this. First, James Woods joins this crazy-strict mob-run program that helps you quit smoking on the threat of harm to your loved ones. It’s over the top and has great moments of dark humor and I didn’t see the end coming. The second story focuses on a rich guy torturing the guy who plans to run away with the rich guy’s wife by making him walk around the outside of a skyscraper. And the final, my personal favorite, brings the cat into the hero role as he defends a little girl (Drew Barrymore) from a mini monster, even though her mom swears the cat is causing all the problems.

What I like best about the final segment is the practical effects they used to convey the mini monster running around Barrymore’s bedroom. I didn’t see any behind-the-scenes stuff, but it looks like the dressed a regular dude up in the costume and then put him in a room where everything was built huge to make him look tiny. Just think about how much fun that would be? I would love to do something like that. The whole idea made me smile every time they showed those scenes. Here’s a video of the scene. If you’re worried about spoilers you might want to skip it, but if you think anyone, even Stephen King would kill Drew Barrymore, you’re nuts. Just saying.

Aside from the FX, though, all three stories are really solid and fun while still feeling scary. They play out like EC horror stories, which I love in all their non-comic forms (the few I’ve read, read really slow to me, but the art is awesome). So, I may not have found my mini monster, but I checked another movie off in my copy of Creature Features book