Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New DVD Late Show Column Posted

Getting back on track, finally, with an all-new edition of my DVD Late Show column, now posted at Kevin Smith's Quick Stop Entertainment website.

This week's column covers Behind The Mask, Hot Fuzz, Search & Destroy, The Glove, Woody Woodpecker & Friends, The Monster Squad, Flash Gordon: Saviour of the Universe Edition, Renaissance and more.

Check it out!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Heavy Breathing & Hot Lead

Well, for those following the continuing saga of Chris and his health horrors, I'm finally on the Bi-PAP machine for my apnea.

They came and instructed me on how to use it on Friday, and so far... well, I think I'm doing okay. It does take some serious getting used to, and while I've yet to sleep a whole night straight through, I have managed some nice, long stretches with the air mask on. I also have noticed that when I do awaken, I seem somewhat less groggy, although I suspect, from the way my jaw ached yesterday morning, that I've started grinding my teeth. I may need to get a mouth guard thingy (and yes, that is the technical term).

Anyway, I'm told the first couple of weeks are the hardest, so hopefully I'll get through them okay and it will be smooth sailing thereafter.

In unrelated news, author Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition, etc.), whom I know from my years editing at Tekno•Comics – specifically, editing Mickey Spillane's Mike Danger – kindly sent me an advance reading copy of his forthcoming novel for Hard Case Crime, Deadly Beloved.

The novel is the first extended prose piece featuring Collins' long-running comic book P.I. character Ms. Tree (there have been a handful of short stories), and I'm really eager to read it. In fact, it's next on my pile, right after I finish re-reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan At The Earth's Core.

I've been a fan of both Collins and the character for God knows how long, and the comics series is one of my all time favorites – certainly in the top five. Ms. Tree's also been a big influence on Femme Noir (Joe Staton being one of the only artists other than co-creator Terry Beatty to draw the more famous lady dick), so I can't wait to see what Collins has her up to now.

Finally, I've actually got a new DVD Late Show column written – on schedule for the first time in months – and it should be up at Quick Stop on Tuesday. If you've been reading this blog for the last week, you've read a couple of the reviews already, but you won't want to miss my reactions to the new, long-awaited Flash Gordon – Saviour of the Universe Edition.

...Speaking of Flash, has the new SciFi Channel show started airing yet?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

DVD Review: The Monster Squad

"Wolfman’s got nards!"

After two decades of grotesquely panned and scanned, grainy VHS dupes and late night/early morning pay cable airings, Fred Dekker’s heartfelt valentine to the Universal monster films of Hollywood’s Golden Age, THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987), finally makes its way to the digital format with a beautiful, 2-disc 20th Anniversay Edition from Lions Gate.

Best described as "The Little Rascals meet The Monsters," THE MONSTER SQUAD tells of a group of 80’s kids who must save the world when Count Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster, a werewolf, a mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s clone show up in their small Southern bayou town in search of a magic amulet. The amulet is the key to keeping Good & Evil in cosmic balance, and Drac wants to tip the scales.

A charming, Spielbergian family film, SQUAD features a top-notch cast of talented young and veteran actors, fantastic monster make-ups by Stan Winston (PREDATOR) and his crew, a superior musical score by the underrated Bruce Broughton (SILVERADO), and a funny, yet suspenseful script by director Dekker and a young Shane Black (LETHAL WEAPON, LAST BOY SCOUT), filled with quotable dialogue and memorable moments.

For fans of classic horror, the movie is a treasure trove of references and homage – armadillos inexplicably haunt Dracula’s castle, just as they did in the 1931 Tod Browning DRACULA, the Monster first encounters little Phoebe (Ashley Bank) at the side of a pond, evoking strong memories of Boris Karloff and his doomed playmate in the original FRANKENSTEIN – but more than that, the film treats the classic creatures with respect and allows them to be scary. Most notable, perhaps, is Duncan Regehr’s Dracula, who combines Christopher Lee’s imperiousness with Lugosi’s reptilian menace, in a portrayal that ranks among the undead Count’s finest.

Lions Gate new 20th Anniversary Edition DVD is a 2-disc package. Disc 1 contains a gorgeous, 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from pristine source material, and a new, 5.1 Dolby Surround mix. This disc also includes two commentary tracks. On the first, Dekker sits with cast members Andre Gower ("Sean"), Ryan Lambert ("Rudy") and Ashley Bank ("Phoebe") for an anecdote-filled, trip down memory lane. On the second, Dekker is joined by Director of Photography Bradford May for a more technically informative audio commentary.

The second disc is dominated by "Monster Squad Forever," a five-part documentary that recounts the making of the film and it’s slow rise to cult status, with extensive interviews with crew and cast. A lot is covered here, including the studio’s concerns over the kids’ occasional use of expletives, the difficulty in marketing the film back in ’87, and the disappointing downward arc of writer/director Fred Dekker’s filmmaking career. It’s a great, nostalgic documentary, filed with fascinating anecdotes. Disc 2 also includes a few deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer and TV Spots, a still gallery, and a "Conversation with Frankenstein" – an amusing interview with actor Tom Noonan in the Frankenstein Monster make-up, conducted during the original filming. It’s cute, but runs a little too long.

I’ve been a dedicated fan of this flick for years, and I’m grateful to Lions Gate for finally bringing it to DVD in a well-produced, thoughtful special edition. They’ve really treated the film well, and I cannot recommend this set – and this movie – more highly.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Godzilla films still M.I.A.

I was exchanging some e-mails with my pal Tony Isabella, and was giving him the rundown on the current state of Godzilla on DVD. With the forthcoming special editions of ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (a/k/a GODZILLA'S REVENGE) and THE TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA by Classic Media, all but three of the Toho Godzilla series will be legally available on Region 1 DVD.

The exceptions? GODZILLA 1985, GODZILLA VS. BIOLLANTE, and everybody's favorite:


Hey, I'd been looking for an excuse to run another Godzilla vid for a while, and how can you not love this trailer, with its seemingly-endless shots of Big G's head cutting through the surf, multiple re-uses of Megalon firing ray blasts from his mega-cockroach forehead, and Jet Jaguar being called "Robotman?"

You know though, as goofy as Megalon is, in the Godzilla videogames, he's a real badass....

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

DVD Review: Behind The Mask

"It is going to get wet in here tonight. Lace your boots up, kiddies..."

I recently watched the Starz Media DVD of BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (2006). This unique take on the slasher subgenre had been garnering a lot of positive reviews in recent months, and although I haven't really been in a horror movie mood of late, I was curious.

I persuaded my wife – who grew up on 80's slasher franchises like FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – to join me, and we gave the disc a spin.

The premise and plot of the film is that a small group of college journalists are offered the opportunity to accompany and interview an 80's-styled psycho killer as he goes about his preparations for a full-blooded killing spree. From selecting the right female victim to terrorize – a virgin, of course – to planting the seeds of an appropriately spooky "legend," to setting the scene for the final slaughter, the "mockumentary" portion of the film is both amusing and occasionally chilling, with plenty of dark humor and thought-provoking insights into the conventions of the genre. Now, if that was the entire film, it would probably be fine and fun, but in the final reels, BEHIND THE MASK metamorphoses into a genuine slasher film, complete with last minute twists and – despite the fact that the whole formula has just been deconstructed in front of you – a suspenseful and frightening edge-of-your-seat climax.

Virtually everything about this film works. Lead Nathan Baesel is excellent, sliding startlingly from charming and amusing to terrifying with no apparent effort. Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund, is well-cast in his small role, as is POLTERGEIST's Zelda Rubinstein, who delivers a long expository speech in one perfect take. Especially good is veteran character actor Scott Wilson, from 1967's IN COLD BLOOD, as Leslie's "mentor" and confidante.

The screenplay by Scott Glosserman and David J. Stieve shows not only a deep understanding for the genre, but a genuine affection for it as well. Glosserman's direction is brisk and breezy during the mockumentary sequences yet taut, atmospheric and chilling once things get bloody. It's great stuff.

Starz Media gives BEHIND THE MASK a sterling, 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Stereo audio. There's a fun and informative commentary by the main cast members, two "making of" featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, and some nicely-edited trailers. As usual, Starz has included the screenplay as a DVD-ROM downloadable bonus.

For fans of the slasher film subgenre, BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON is highly and enthusiastically recommended. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's one of the best horror films I've seen in the last two years.

Check it out.

Monday, July 23, 2007

An Illustration

This is what happens when Chris gets an unexpected freelance check:

This is also why Chris should never be allowed access to the credit cards.

(What this does not illustrate is how Chris will be whining every day for the next three weeks that his "stuff" hasn't arrived yet...)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New DVD Column Posted

My latest DVD review column has just been posted at Quick Stop Entertainment.

Titles covered include; Devil's Den, Eureka - Season 1, The Incredible Hulk Season 2, The Secrets of Isis – The Complete Series, Invasion of Astro Monster (aka Godzilla vs. Monster Zero), The Sexual Story of O, Stan Lee Presents: The Condor, Masters of Horror: Stuart Gordon's The Black Cat, Cool McCool - The Complete Series, Wanted Dead or Alive Season 2...

Check it out!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Boring Health Stuff – Feel Free to Skip!

Haven't posted much here or over at Guns In the Gutters for a while; truth be told, I haven't written much at all for the last couple of weeks. (I'm sure my collaborators are glad to hear that!)

I've been suffering another prolonged stretch of low energy, poor concentration and chronic fatigue – what I used to think of as my "funks." Now I know that it's the result of what the doctors are calling my "extremely severe" sleep apnea, a condition that I've apparently been suffering since I was eighteen or so. According to my doctor, everything from my obesity to my high blood pressure to my somewhat underwhelming career may be – in part, anyway – attributable to my being chronically sleep-deprived.

Now that I know for sure, I feel somewhat relieved: I'm not neccesarily lazy or an under-achiever – I've been sick. But I'm also rather resentful; if it wasn't for this apnea shit, I might not weigh 300 lbs and might even be writing a regular book for DC or have a couple novels under my belt. Hey, it's possible... or might have been.

As for the last couple weeks, I don't know if being aware of my condition has actually made it worse, but it seems that since my sleep studies I've been sleeping even more poorly than usual; dozing off frequently while watching TV, unable to concentrate on work or even reading, taking more naps, getting up groggy... Writing is a struggle (even something like this) as my mind keeps wandering, and I can't seem to come up with workable solutions to various story problems. A couple days ago, I thought I'd licked a particularly vexing script problem, only to find myself stuck again. It's frustrating. I know I can do it, but it's just not coming.

Right now I'm waiting for cosmic forces – and insurance companies – to come into proper alignment so I can start treating the apnea with my own Bi-PAP machine. I don't expect it to be easy, or for it to turn my life around overnight, but I'm hoping that I see some improvement in my energy levels and mental focus, if nothing else. That alone would be miraculous.

Anyway, my apologies for both the infrequent postings, and the boring, self-indulgent drivel in this entry. But then, what are personal blogs for, if not self-indulgent drivel?

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Even though I'm a huge film fan, I haven't been to the cinema lately. Last film I saw on the big(-ish) screen was Spider-Man 3. Most likely, the next one I'll see is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, as my wife refuses to miss those. There's a few flicks out now I'd like to go see: Pirates 3, Ratatouille, FF2, Live Free or Die Hard... but I'll probably end up catching them on DVD.

Most of my movie watching is on DVD these days. Among the discs I've spun lately are the Flash Gordon serial, G-Men, At The Earth's Core, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Day At the Races, Devil's Den, Stan Lee Presents The Condor, Batman Begins, Sleepers West (again) and Mr. Moto's Gamble.

Last week was my birthday, so I went out to Hollywood Video and rented a few recent discs. Saw Brick (which I thought was great), Ghost Rider Extended Cut (which – God help me – I liked), Smokin' Aces (which was a lot of fun), and Bridge to Tarabithia (which wasn't at all what I expected, and made me cry, dammit).

There's a lot of great stuff coming out on DVD now and in the near future (MGM has rebooted the "Midnight Movies" line for Halloween! Huzzah!), but the discs I'm most anticipating are: Flash Gordon: Saviour of the Universe Edition, The Monster Squad 20th Anniversary Edition, From Beyond Unrated Director's Cut and Charlie Chan Vol. 3, which includes the last of the surviving Warner Oland Chan films, including The Black Camel, co-starring Bela Lugosi. I hope Fox continues on with the Sidney Toler Chan films – I know it's borderline heresy, but I personally find Toler's acerbic take on the character to be more fun than Oland's admittedly charming, but restrained interpretation of the role.

I've already pre-ordered The Monster Squad (due out later this month), Chan and Flash (both due in August), and I'm eager to finally get my hands on a good, properly framed copy of From Beyond, which, for my money, is the best of director Stuart Gordon's Lovecraft canon. (Can't say I'm digging that cover art, though...)

But, as much as I love DVD, I do wish that we could get out to the theater more and that the experience wasn't always such a pain in the ass...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Femme Noir "Trailer"

I'm pretty proud of this, and I figured out how to post it here, so... enjoy!

Guess who's on MySpace?

Everybody's got a MySpace account now – even fictional comic book ladies of mystery... like FEMME NOIR. Check out her new MySpace Page for preview art, slideshow "trailer" and updates on the forthcoming comic book series from Ape Entertainment, written by yours truly and illustrated by Joe Staton!