Saturday, January 31, 2009

I Been Zombie-fied!

Here is a link to a story that made me laugh, a whole lot:

It also made me ask myself, why are zombies so damned popular? George Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead basically started an entire sub-genre of horror films. Since then, there have been countless imitators and extrapolators. There are zombie clubs, zombie crawls, zombie flash mobs and even zombie weddings. Danny Boyle invented the "fast-zombie" in 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder followed suit in his 2005 update of Dawn of the Dead. Mel Brooks' son, Max, wrote the hilarious "The Zombie Survival Guide" and the overrated "World War Z" (currently in pre-production) and even Romero is at work on his sixth film in the series, currently titled ...of the Dead.

So what is so fascinating about the Living Dead? For me, it's the humor (both intentional and non) that permeates the genre. Dark and grim? Certainly. Hilarious? Without a doubt. Zombie movies allow us to view ourselves in a different light; stripping away the civility and moral decency we afford ourselves and reducing human beings into little more than mindless consumers, bringing about our own destruction through the depletion of our resources. When everyone is dead and there is no living flesh left on which to feed, won't the zombies eventually starve and rot away, giving rise to the Giant Cockroach Society which will eventually rule the planet? But I digress.

I think that it's a case of "We have seen the enemy and they are us." The modern flesh-eating zombie is our worst nightmare - a mindless eating machine intent on one thing and one thing only: eating you. Our souls in question; our violence increased and our hunger insatiable, the zombie represents all that is Id and none that is Super-Ego. In other words, us without self-control, the only thing that truly separates us from the lower species.

Or, maybe we just love seeing some blow-hard know-it-all get torn in half, screaming "Choke on 'em!" as he watches his legs get dragged away.

So, thank you, George Romero, for inspiring a genre and many a nightmare.

More, anon.


Friday, January 30, 2009

I Want One

Wow! I thought these would be outrageously expensive, but they're surprisingly affordable! I want one of these "Captured Lightning" sculptures:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

On Those With Too Much Time on Their Hands

Michael Jackson is being sued again, this time by director John Landis, who claims that Jackson has withheld royalties for the landmark music video "Thriller." MTV and Jackson were at their heyday. Everyone wanted to (and did) see that video. Landis, who directed Animal House and An American Werewolf in London, was the perfect choice for the humorous horror spoof featuring a werewolf Jackson, a Living Dead Jackson and a bevy of zombie back-up dancers in perfect, stiff-jointed time. It was a sensation (and still holds up as loads of fun today). I always laugh when Michael says "I'm not like other boys," and adore hearing my dear, underrated Vincent Price saying "ya'll's neighborhood" in the narration.
So, while reading about the suit, I came across this gem (forgive me, but I forget where, it was early this morning and I didn't write it down):
"Thriller -- In Lego"
Now, if you have the 13 and 1/2 minutes, this short is fascinating, on many counts.
The first thing that occurs to me is that someone (two people, in this case) thought to do this in the first place. There are plenty of Lego animations on YouTube. Some of them are silly, some are quite clever. Most are purile and stupid. There are many recreations of movie and TV scenes and even more original material based on existing characters (an aspect of so-called "fan fiction" -- which can get pretty damned weird). So what drives people to make these things?
The second thing that occured to me is that stop-motion is an arduous task, taking many hours to shoot mere seconds of images. This video is over 13 minutes long! Who the hell has that kind of time?
Then I watched the video and it blew my mind. The really good stuff takes a while to get going, but if your computer is fast enough, you can FF through the first few minutes. It's worth it. The clay and paint zombie effects are just brilliant, and the hyper colors and hard geometrics of Lego make a crazy contrast to the more organic clay and cardboard scenery.
And then there is the choreography, which is a stunning feat. It must have taken hundreds of hours to get those stupid Lego people to move in unison. The lighting could be better and some of the "scenery" is beyond crude, but you can't help but admire the filmmakers' earnestness and attention to detail. I think I like this version even better than the Indonesian Prisoners'.
More, anon.
P.S. I almost titled this post "The Gayest Toys You'll See this Week."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Love for "Coraline"

I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's novels (I know about the 'Sandman' graphic novels, but that's just not my thing). I adored his novel "Stardust" (and it's very underrated film adaptation) and his novels "American Gods" and "Anansi Boys" rank in my top-twenty. When I heard that his children's novel "Coraline" was being adapted as a 3D stop-motion film directed by Henry Selig (The Nightmare Before Christmas; James and the Giant Peach), I was excited. The first trailers were fun, and they gave the briefest glimpse into just how dark Gaimon's story is. Then I saw this trailer, from AICN (via):

My hopes are high for this one, folks.
More, anon.

A Day Late

I believe that yesterday was actually "Rabbit Down the Hole Day," when bloggers were supposed to post differently than they usually do. I missed it, so sue me. I will post my RDHD (sounds like an acronym for some cognitive disorder) now.
Since almost every freakin' one of my FaceBook friends has been tagging me with this stupid task, here for all the world to see are:

25 Random Things About Me
1. I am the only actor to ever perform on the main stage of the NYC Ballet.
2. I had no imaginary friends as a child, though a monster named "Mr. Umph" lived in the walls.
3. I don't like sushi.
4. I broke my collarbone in 8th-grade gym class, vaulting a horse
5. I cry at cheesy tear-jerkers
6. As a high school junior, I was playing the Lion in "The Wizard of Oz," wearing a giant headpiece made out of about 50 skeins of wool. It was like wearing three afghans wrapped around my head, but I was glad to be rehearsing in it when a piece of Emerald City fell into me. That flat just bounced right off.
7. All of my best and longest friends were met in college or through theatre, or both.
8. Peter Jackson and I have something very important in common: The original 1933 version of "King Kong" is the movie that made me fall in love with movies when I was a kid, too.
9. The first "adult" album I ever bought for myself was Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." Sir Elton and Mr. Taupin at the height of their powers.
10. My sister and I can say one word and immediately have the other in pain with laughter. The list of words is surprisingly long and can be trigged by any thousands of different stimuli, and only she and I know all the words and what they mean - inside jokes almost boiled down to numbers. Family and friends are often perturbed by how bizarre our inside jokes seem to be (and they probably are), but I love that we have that.
11. The ONLY gin is Bombay Sapphire (and the only REAL Martini is Sapphire; in & out; up; no fruit).
12. For a week, I had a job cutting belts in a dress factory.
13. My first paying acting job was in a godawful original musical for an entire summer at a dinner theatre in -- are you ready? -- a FIREHALL. If the sirens went off, we had to freeze and hold until they stopped. Hand to God!
14. I once bleached my hair in order to convince an actor I was directing to bleach his. He agreed to do it only if i did it with him. One night after reheasal we went into the dressing room and the girls bleached our hair while we all got very drunk. I found out later that after I left, they all went on a 2 AM costume parade through Princeton.
15. I had a massive crush on my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Manzo. She was awesome.
16. My paternal grandfather played clarinet in a popular local swing band in the 40's.
17. My paternal grandmother worked in a cigar factory.
18. My great-grandfather was a guard to the Crown of St. Stephen.
19. My grandmother was actually born in Transylvania, before it was absorbed into Romania.
20. I've been in three productions of "The Tempest" and never need to do so, again.
21. I have honestly lost track of how many productions I've worked on.
22. I really want another dog, but just can't right now.
23. I want to write a novel.
24. I prefer ground bison to ground beef.
25. I passed the written test to be on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." I didn't pass the interview =(
More, soon.
The Italian Magician

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Gayest Thing(s) You'll See This Week

Two super fun, super-gay items today. First, in a hilarious animated Sesame Street-ish spoof, from OMG (via) here is a lesson on The Gay Alphabet:

I love the not-so-sublte hypnotic suggestion at the end. "See? they do have an agenda!" But what the hell is a dragon doing in Oz?


Then there is this clip (also via) from "Wheel of Fortune" and a big money-winning contestant who introduces his Fiance on national television and no one bats an eye. We're getting there, folks. Patience and perseverance.
I have more to say, but the day job was long and weird today (though not particularly stressful) and I am tired and want to go work on a new project, tonight. But I promise, more, anon.

The Creepiest Thing You'll See Today

This animatronic "demon woman" was on display at the 1970 World Expo in Osaka, Japan.
Watch it all the way through. It's short, fun and really kind of creepy. I love it now, just as much as I would have at 9. (via)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Finally, a Picture

Yes, that is actually Yours Truly behind the mask in the photo to your right. The folks who read my blog because they know me, personally, already know what I look like. As for the rest of my readers (all 3 of you - yes Sean, I'm talking about you); I have to admit to liking the whole anonymity afforded by the Net.
The photograph is from the Eden Services Foundation's annual winter fundraiser, Eden Dreams. The event raises funds for an organization which provides education, support and services to persons with Autism. The event takes place in Princeton, NJ and each year, a themed "Dream Search" is the center of the evening's events, and area actors donate their time to provide atmosphere by portraying the characters that are part of the Dream Search's story. This particular pic is from teh 2008 Dream Search, which had a Venetian theme. As you can see, I'm a big guy, and I usually play the Alpha character. I believe I was a Duke in this picture, though they all seem to run together. I am also always the "father," which cracks me up to no end.
It can be a long evening - an actor can be improving in character for five to six hours, often only having met the rest of the cast, just the night before. I've lost count, but I've been involved with many incarnations of this black-tie event, and while I may bitch and moan about some ridiculous costume or other, or how bad the food they serve "the help" is, or how long I am on my feet, I get to wear stuff way more interesting than the geeks at ComiCon. Plus, it's just a good thing to do.
As always, more, anon.

Awards, awards, awards. Enough, already!

Last night was the someteenth annual SAG Awards. My dear friend Janet is a member of SAG and she gets to vote every so-many years (though she never tells anyone who she's voted for). As an actor, myself, I know how much more peer accolades can mean than those of family, friends and strangers. Make no mistake, acting is a blood-thirsty profession and every member of it has thought at least once, "I could've played it better!" -- By the way, if you are one of my actor friends who is reading this, don't even try and deny that statement, because you know it is true -- but I digress. In any event, to be told by another actor that you were the best this year, is probably the compliment you will remember above all others. There was a surprise, or two. I hadn't expected Meryl Streep to win (and neither had she, apparently). Sean Penn's win was good, though his speech was a little all over the place. The evening's funniest moment was the hilarious mock-argument between presenters Amy Pohler and John Krasinski:

When I was a kid, there were four Awards shows: The Tonys; The Emmy's; The Grammies and the only one that really mattered, The Oscars. That was it. Then, in the 80's, MTV created a new medium and eventually, their own awards, The Golden Astronaut. And suddenly, awards shows were everywhere and for everything (hell, even MTV created another one - The Golden Popcorn Box). There are even the "Anti-Oscars" -- The Golden Raspberries, given for the worst of films and performances. It is human nature to crave acknowledgement and praise, but the idea of awards for art seem to me to be comparing apples and oranges. I understand that prizes and awards increase the value of actors, directors, writers and myriad other folks. Wouldn't you want to hire some one who is perceived as "Best" in his or her field? Unfortunately, today's awards aren't always about who or what was truly "Best," but often more about who or what garnered more attention among an elite few.
In the end, it really doesn't matter who won what, but how much the audience responded to the product. making movies is a business, after all. The success of a business is based on how much it makes in profit. It seems to me, the "Best" movie is the movie that made the most money. It certainly performed the best, which means that more people saw it, than any other movie. If I were in the business of making movies, I'd be much happier with a billion dollars than a clump of gold-plated lead. You made the most? You win! Capitalism at it's finest.
More, anon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

DVD Reviews: "Igor" and "Saw V"

I was busy catching up this weekend. Besides Repo! I saw two other movies on DVD.
The first was Igor, the animated comedy from MGM. Ostensibly made for family audiences, Igor takes place in the mythical country of Malaria (get it? yawn...), once a thriving and sunny place, now a land covered by storm clouds and home to evil geniuses. In Malaria, one is either an evil scientist or an evil scientist's assistant (an Igor). The King makes money for the country by extorting it from the rest of world, threatening to unleash an evil invention each year at the evil science fair. The Igor of the title (voiced by Jon Cusack) is an inventor in his own right and he dreams of evil glory. His previous inventions include an immortal rabbit, Scamper (Steve Buscemi) and an idiot's brain in a robotic jar, Brain (Sean Hayes). He works for Dr. Glickenstein (John Cleese) a perennial failure at the annual fair. When Dr. G dies, Igor decides to enter his own invention in the competition, a decidedly not evil monster named Eva (Molly Shannon). The reigning champ, Dr. Schadenfreude (Eddie Izzard) wants to steal Eva (as he has every invention) for himself and employs his girlfriend, Jaclyn (Jennifer Coolidge) to help him. Jay Leno voices King Malbert, who has apparently deceived all of Malaria about their condition. The result is a boring mess; too dark for young children, not funny for adults and featuring animated visuals ripped off from The Nightmare Before Christmas, a far superior film. Only Cleese was smart enough to have his character die early on, saving him from the wretchedly unfunny script by Chris McKenna (the equally unfunny Grumpier Old Men). Director Anthony Leondis previously made The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado as well as two Disney Direct-to-Video sequels, which leaves one to question his skills as a director of animated fair in the first place. The movie has one or two funny moments, but the excellent voice cast is wasted here on a lame script and inferior CG animation. * (One out of Four Stars)

Next I watched Saw V. I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed Saw, an original and intense thriller which started the so-called "Torture Porn" movement in horror, and had an ending which surprised even me (not an easy feat - I figured out The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense, well before their reveals). It started the careers of writer/star Leigh Whannel and director James Wan, and caused a bidding war at Sundance. Saw II was nearly as good as the original, but the sequels have been increasingly bad and Saw V is no exception. Kostas Mandylor ("Picket Fences") and Scott Patterson ("The Gilmore Girls") reprise their roles from Saw IV and Tobin Bell returns as Jigsaw in flashback sequences. Wisely, few of the other actors in the series make appearances, other than in photos or occasional clips from the first film. The plot stretches credulity to the limit and the death-inducing puzzles are increasingly sillier and sillier. If blood and guts turn on you on (and if they do, I suspect you need help), then Saw V may be your cup of tea. But if genuine scares and good story-telling are your thing, then I suggest you skip this lame sequel. No stars.
More, anon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

DVD Review: "Repo! The Genetic Opera"

Darren Lynn Bousman, director of Saw II, III & IV, made this oddity, based on the stage show by Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich. Repo! The Genetic Opera is a difficult film to describe. It takes place 50 years from now, after an epidemic of organ failures has wiped out much of the population. Geneco, a biomedical corporation, steps in to save humanity, providing organ replacements with easy finance terms. The catch is, if you fall behind on your payments, they send the Repoman to take back their organs. The easy terms have also led to surgical addictions and as well as addiction to a pain killer developed by Geneco and made cheaply on the streets by dealers who extract the drug from the bodies of the dead. Part Steampunk fantasy, part Neo-Goth Sci-Fi and part rock-opera, Repo! is all bizarre and features an equally bizarre cast.
Film veteran Paul Sorvino plays Rotti Largo, founder of Geneco. When he finds out that he is dying, Rotti must decide which of his insane children should inherit the company. There is Luigi (Bill Mosely of The Devil's Rejects), a psychotic; Pavi (Ogre from the bands Skinny Puppy and Ministry), who keeps replacing his face and Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton), a surgery-addicted spoiled brat. Meanwhile, Shilo (Alexa Vega of the Spy Kids movies) is a sickly young thing, basically held prisoner by her father, a doctor who is trying to keep her safe from the evils of the world. Unbeknownst to Shilo, her father Nathan (Buffy's Anthony Head) is indebted to Largo and acts as the company's Repoman, killing deadbeats and removing the organs that belong to Geneco. 'Popera' star (and former wife of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber) Sarah Brightman, is on hand as Blind Mag, Geneco's spokeswoman and star of the Genetic Opera, who was once best friends with Shilo's late mother, Marni. Zdunich reprises his stage role as the Grave Robber, drawing pain killer residue from the brains of the dead.
The film looks like no other you've seen, and Bousman combines CGI, physical FX and a slew of period styles to create what looks like a movie that should have been made in the '80's - I can imagine Billy Idol and Adam Ant in more than one role, here. The music and lyrics are (sadly) boring and generic, though two numbers at the finale actually made me perk up a bit. Sorvino should never sing, and thankfully he speak-sings most of his songs (though he wears a rather silly pony-tailed wig). Head has a terrific voice (as displayed in Buffy's excellent musical episode) and does his best to keep from laughing at how silly the whole thing is. Hilton has the film's funniest moment, when her face literally falls off on stage at the opera: a telling comment on the futility of vanity. Zdunich seems like he's a rather handsome fellow underneath his white-faced Goth makeup, though he sings his role with an extreme earnestness that makes you want to say "Dude. Really? Get over yourself." Brightman's fantastic voice is wasted here, though is best on display towards the end of the film ,where she actually gets to sing some opera.
While highly anticipated by genre fans, the movie had a limited theatrical release, though I'm sure that distributor Lion's Gate had high hopes for a cult hit (as did I).
I'm still not sure what to think of Repo! The Genetic Opera. I suppose I wanted to like it more than I did and I'm usually a fan of experimental and outre cult movies, but it all seemed so silly and derivative, I just couldn't work up the kind of enthusiasm I had expected to have for it. ** 1/2 (Two and a Half Stars out of Four).
More, anon.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"The Skin of Our Teeth" #10

I happened upon this almost by accident, literally just a few minutes ago, but was so thrilled to have done so. This video was made by a very talented young lady, Michelle Dunlap, to open Act III of my production of Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth" for Shakespeare '70, last October.
I gave her the music and told her I wanted a "history of the horrors of war." After a few tries and some back and forth communications, she came up with this beautiful, haunting and chilling video. Shown on a big screen, the piece had the exact effect I hoped it would and our audiences couldn't miss the message. This is the last time I will blog about the show, I promise.
Warning: Some of the images contained in this video are intense and upsetting, but that's what I wanted them to be. Those of a sensitive nature may want to skip this one.
More of this, anon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rube Goldberg Would Have Been Impressed

The gang at BoingBoing posted this. I couldn't resist sharing.

More, anon.

Too Much to Discuss

So, what should I talk about first? Maybe the Oscar nominations? Yawn. The Reader was the only real surprise, here, though I suspect the film was nominated more to honor the late Anthony Minghela, more than anything else. Seriously, did anyone out there really think the Academy voters were going to nominate The Dark Knight? Don't get me wrong, it's a great movie. It's just not the kind of movie Oscar loves. Perhaps as films in the superhero genre get better and better, we'll see more and more noms in the important categories, though it's probably unlikely. As we get closer to the big night, I'll give you my picks.

Well then, how about some other movie news? I already talked briefly about Dead Snow, the Norwegian Nazi Zombie flick. The big news is that it sold at Sundance, which means we may actually get to see it here in the states sometime in 2010. has some great clips and two trailers here. As I am sure you can surmise, the image above is from the movie.
I discovered a great site the other day and these next bits of weirdness are from them. Weird Universe has all kinds of fun stories about all kinds of weird and wonderful things from all over.


First, here's a clip of probably the weirdest music video you'll see this week (and yes, this is a John Lennon song):

The fun in the following clip really starts at about 1:03, though the VJ introducing the clip is pretty awesomely weird, himself. My question; Is that your Dad singing? Dude, he needs to realize he's old, unsexy and totally lame.
Finally, here's the Hillbilliest (yes, I just made up a word) story you'll read today. In Kentucky, a guy named Cletus Mullins apparently killed another guy named Catfish Jones. I wish I could make this stuff up. Read it here:
As always, more, anon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lost in "Lost"

Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you did not see tonight's "Lost" premiere yet, do not read further.

Television's most intriguing, exciting and maddening program returned tonight with a two-hour season premiere which, despite the producers' assurances to the opposite in the hour before, asked far more questions than it answered (as if any of us die-hard fans really expected anything else, anyway).

Why is the island so unstable? Why are only some people moving back and forth through time? Who shot the flaming arrows? What the hell is Ana-Lucia doing in Hurley's head? Who ordered the blood tests on Kate and Aaron? Who attacked Sayid and Hurley? And why? What was Daniel doing back in the Dharma Initiative? Who were those military-type guys who captured Sawyer and Juliet before they were rescued by Locke?
My one theory about tonight's episode, is that the jeweler, Ms. Hawking (an obvious nod to Stephen Hawking -- the writers are obsessed with naming characters after physicists, philosophers and authors) is actually Daniel's mother, and it is she that Desmond must seek out to help save those left behind. We got a brief glimpse of her at the end of the episode, though it looked to me like her eyes were solid black, like some alien (?) or demonic being.
I love the way the show plays with time, and it sure did a lot of that tonight, too. Of course, the best time-travel episode ever was "The Constant," in which Desmond had to travel back in time to convince Penny to call him on Christmas Eve. I am starting to think that Desmond may be the key to the whole thing after all. Daniel told him tonight (in the past) that he was "unique." Does this mean that Desmond is a natural time-traveller? Or that he is unaffected by time travel in the same way that Daniel's rat was (and Charlotte now appears to be)? Locke may be (as his name obviously suggests) the lock, but I'm pretty sure Desmond is the key.
Of course, there are still a million questions unanswered from previous episodes. What the hell is Christian doing on the island, alive? And why was he last seen with the supposedly dead Claire? Is Christian the mysterious 'Jacob?' How did Ben manage to get Locke's father on the island? Who built the giant four-toed statue? Who buried the mule-wheel beneath the island's surface and why is it so cold down there? Why did Dharma choose the island in the first place? Why is Widmore so desperate to have the island for himself? We do know that all of the characters are connected in ways we can't begin to imagine, but what is their connection to the island? Will we ever find out everything? There is only one season left after this one. That's an awful lot of wrapping up to do.
Needless to say, I am hooked and will watch to the bitter end. Commercial television doesn't get much better than this.
Oh - one last thing. Did anyone else notice the connection between "Lost" and J.J. Abrams' newest show, "Fringe?" In the last episode of "Fringe" before the holiday break, a series of bank deposit boxes were being robbed in order to build a time machine. The boxes' numbers seemed random at first, until Bishop realized they were his boxes, and he had hidden those components years ago. But the numbers on those boxes? Yup. The same numbers that figure so prominantly in "Lost;" the infamous Fibonocci (forgive my spelling) Sequence. The shows may air on two different networks, but I love that Abrams is willing to play these kinds of games.
More, anon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Fringe" - This Season's Best New Show

I just saw tonight's newest episode of J.J. Abrams' latest television show, "Fringe." Man, what a great show! I know there were nay-sayers at the beginning: "It's too much like 'X-files.'" "It's too confusing." "It's too weird." "I hate Anna Torv." "I hate Joshua Jackson." All of them, of course, were wrong. As the show has progressed and the mystery of "The Pattern" has deepened, I have gotten more and more hooked.
Of course, a lot of that has to do with John Noble's magnificent performance as Walter Bishop, a literally mad scientist who developed all kinds of insane projects for the government in the 60's and 70's. Noble is hilarious, compelling, charismatic and bat-shiat insane, all at the same time. You can tell he's having the time of his life in the role of a lifetime. Probably best known as Denethor in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Noble plays the most likable lunatic on the tube.

Bishop was rescued from an asylum by FBI Agent Olivia Dunham (Torv) in the first episode, when evidence in her first assignment for the FBI's "Fringe Squad" led to experiments Bishop had performed in the 70's. Torv is an unlikely star. Attractive, but not beautiful in the classic sense, she plays Olivia with a combination of quiet strength and emotional vulnerability that few other actresses her age could pull off. And as her character has progressed, so has my liking of her. I'm looking forward to seeing where the character goes.

Dunham's polar opposite, Peter Bishop (equally brilliant, though criminally bent son of Walter) is played by Joshua Jackson, best known as Pacey from the teen soap, "Dawson's Creek." Jackson plays Peter as a wise-cracking sceptic, constantly annoyed and amazed by his father, and probably falling in love with Olivia. It's good to see him stretch his acting chops here, and his character's shady back story has only just been hinted at. I can't wait to learn more about Peter's unsavory past and see where his relationship with Olivia is headed.

Then there is the ghost of Olivia's fiance, John, played by the ruggedly handsome Mark Valley ("Boston Legal"). Killed in the first episode, John's memories were accidentally implanted in Olivia's brain (a long story) during one of Bishop's mad experiments. John shows up, enigmatically supplying clues and information when Olivia needs it most, though no one can see him but her. And apparently, John was part of the "The Pattern" (I'll get to that in a minute). What she doesn't know is that John is being kept alive artificially, by the possibly evil corporation Massive Dynamics ("What do we do? What don't we do?"), which was founded by Walter's old partner, an as yet unseen scientific genius. MD is represented by Nina Sharp (the incomparable Blair Brown), who is apparently bionic and possibly even more evil than MD itself. Nina has secrets galore and info on just about anyone she wants to have info on. Massive Dynamics wants to retrieve John's memories for themselves, though to what end, we don't know.

You should know that everything that happens on the show is connected to a vast conspiracy known as "The Pattern," though no one is sure who (or what) is at the center of it all, or what it all may lead to.

Confused? You wouldn't be, if you watched. Well... maybe a little. But then, that's half the fun of a conspiracy show. And all the fun of a JJ Abrams show (any "Lost" fans out there?). Unlike "The X-Files," which often delved into the supernatural, "Fringe" is pure sci-fi, through and through. And like "The X-Files," it has a grand conspiracy plot at its center (albeit one slightly less confusing). And like every great sci-fi show, "Fringe" is just plain fun. And my favorite new show of the '08-'09 season. "Fringe" airs on FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00 PM. **** (Four out four stars)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Good Riddance

On this, the (thank Heaven) final night of Dubya's Presidency, I had to share these two video clips with you (via):
And from Letterman:
In my lifetime, I've seen heroes, liars, dullards and philanderers in the White House. But I am saddest to say that I also saw an idiot there. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dead Snow

The folks over at io9 have a terrific preview of the latest Norwegian horror movie, Dead Snow, which has something to do with zombie Nazis. It's also a comedy, which makes me so happy. Read about it, here. Considering how much I loved Let the Right One In, it may well be that the best horror is coming from our neighbors in the frozen northeast.
More, anon.

Star Wars?

Here's a hilarious little video of the Star Wars trilogy by someone who's never seen the entire thing. I love the editing and animation. And she almost gets so many things right. Almost. (via)

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

More, anon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Feature!

I have added the "Follow This Blog" feature, just above my archive. If you are a regular reader, I'd love to know. Even if you've never posted a comment. I'm dying to know who's poking around in my brain...

More, anon.

Apocalypse Soon: The End Of the World According to Hollywood

The upcoming release of Roland Emmerich’s 2012 got me thinking about the many ways in which Hollywood has imagined the End of the World. Said apocalypse could take place in any number of ways, including asteroids; nuclear disasters; climatic devastation; plague; alien invasion and even flesh-eating zombies. Here are some of my favorite movies about The End of Days:
Rudolph Mate directs producer George Pal's special effects Oscar-winning movie about an asteroid headed for Earth and the effort to evacuate those deemed worthy of survival to another planet. Richard Derr and Barbara Rush star.
Steve Sekely directs this version of the novel about a meteor shower which not only blinds most of the world's population, but brings ambulatory man-eating plants intent on wiping us out. Howard Keel and Janette Scott star. This movie is probably most well-known as a reference in a song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show: "And I really got hot/When I saw Janette Scott/Fight a Triffid that spits poison and kills!"
There is little love for this hilarious Tim Burton movie about gag-loving Martians who invade just because they can. Maybe because it was inspired by a series of bubblegum trading cards. I still thinks it's funny every time I see it. Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, and Annette Benning lead an all-star cast.
Most doomsday movies don't involve attacks from space, but are the result of man's hubris. In Crack in the World, scientists try to harvest geothermal power by igniting a nuclear bomb deep inside a volcano. The result is noted in the title. Dana Andrews joins Janette Scott (she saw the world end a lot) in this movie from director Andrew Marton, which has terrific score by Johnny Douglas.
Director Stanley Kramer examines what happens to the only folks left after nuclear war, the Australians, and how they deal with the fact that fallout is going to kill them all, too. Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire and Anthony Perkins star. Forget the lamentable TV remake from 2000.
Two very different films from the same year tackle the same subject - the accidental release of nuclear weapons against the USSR. Stanley Kubrick's brilliant satire features an amazing performance from Peter Sellars as both Strangelove and the President, and Slim Pickens in an iconic end shot as he rides the A-bomb down like a bronco-buster. Sidney Lumet's much darker film is just as scary, but a whole lot less fun and features Henry Fonda as a worried President. I've paired them together so you can compare these two clips of basically the same scene, but with very different tones.
The Day After (1983 - ABC TV Movie)
Parents were warned to not let their young children watch this movie, which explores what happens to America after the bombs are dropped. It was scary stuff and fuel for many people's nightmares for a long time. Nicholas Meyer directed Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, JoBeth Williams and John Lithgow.
James Cameron's sequel is really more about trying to stop the end of the world from taking place at the virtual hands of an artificially intelligent supercomputer. Then state-of-the-art CGI effects and lots of explosions made this Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner a summer juggernaut.
The world has ended already and Bruce Dern has been sent into space to care for the last of the world's vegetation in this pre-global warming warning about ecological responsibility. Aided by three little robots (Hewey, Dewy & Louie), Dern takes matters into his own hands when he's ordered to destroy the space forest because of lack of funding. Douglas Trumball, the FX pioneer from Kubrick's 2001, directs.
The Stand (1994 - ABC TV Movie)
Sometimes, it's disease that brings about the end. In Stephen King's epic The Stand, it's a superflu called 'Captain Trips' that has been accidentally released from a bioweapons facility in the desert. Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe and Molly Ringwald are among the good-guy survivors.
In Danny Boyle's 'fast zombie' flick, the virus is called "Rage" and it's spread by do-gooders who release infected test animals from their cages. Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson try to survive in an England gone mad. Creepy, creepy stuff.
No one knows what causes the zombie plague in Romero's masterpiece. Our heroes just hole up in an abandoned mall and hope for the best. Ken Foree and Gaylen Ross are among the survivors in this essay on consumerism and brainlessness.
And among the worst of the genre:
Born-Again actor Kirk Cameron stars in this insipid movie about what happens after the Rapture, when all the 'good' people are assumed into heaven. Based on a ridiculous novel, it's meant to scare people into going to church. Pure crap.
M. Night Shamalama-ding-dong's latest movie about killer trees is so bad, I couldn't bring myself to post a clip, so instead, enjoy this "South Park" parody.
As always, more, anon.


I don't understand how some movies get made. Take, for example, Paul Blart: Mall Cop . Absolutely nothing about this movie looks even mildly amusing, let alone funny. Nothing against Kevin James. His stand-up was pretty funny, back in the day and "The King of Queens" had its moments. I didn't see the movie he made with Will Smith, but it was so unmemorable that I can't even come up the title without checking IMDb.
Paul Blart looks to me to be about as funny as a rubber crutch. Of course, I suppose it has the same sort of appeal as a traffic accident - you're horrified, but can't look away. The trailer is nothing but a bunch of noisy fat jokes at James' expense. Of course, if he wants to make money exploiting the fact that he's fat, more power to him. And yes, humor is probably the most subjective thing in the world. What makes me roll my eyes and snort derisively may have you rolling on the ground, clutching your gut and screaming with laughter. Somehow, I doubt that Paul Blart will have the latter effect on anyone.
So, can anyone explain how a movie like this gets made? Who is the executive who read this script and said "Yes. We can make millions on this idiocy!" And did that person green light the film because he (or she) knows that most of the people who go to movies (boys, aged 14 to 21) wouldn't know a good one if it bit them in their proverbial behinds? Or is it because they had a few million dollars to throw away as a tax write-off? Or maybe James has some dirt on a producer somewhere (or vice-versa) and it's the result of an elaborate extortion plot. Certainly, no one involved in the making of Paul Blart actually thinks they have a good movie on their hands (and if they do, I suggest they seek therapy to rid them of their delusions). But what can we expect? It is January, after all.
More, anon.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Best Dancing You'll See This Week

It seems everyone is trying their hands at recreating dance moves from popular msuic videos these days. Some are really terrific and others truly horrific. Here are five folks in three snippets of dance moves from Britney songs. Someone give these kids contracts!

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More, anon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Delicious, delicious... Oh, how boring.

What an uneventful Monday.
Last night's Golden Globes were a big yawn, though I have to admit I was very glad to see Heath Ledger and Colin Farrell both win. Ricky Gervais was hilarious, as always. Eva Longoria Parker was drop-dead gorgeous in that red number and Amy Adams was just stunning in that sequined black gown. Renee Zelwigger looked like teh poor white trash she is (ooh, did I say that?) in a ridiculous see-through dress and poor Jenna Fischer looked like NBC needs to raise her salary (did she make that dress herself?). And what the hell was the deal with Drew Barrymore's hair?
Okay - enough bitchy gay stuff.
The only real surprise was Slumdog Millionaire winning Best Picture. What? Seriously? Did you see that movie? I usually love Danny Boyle's films, but it was NOT the Best Picture. And there was no love for Milk - I guess the HFP is just as homophobic as AMPAS.
Oh well. On to better things, I hope. If nothing really exciting comes along, I may have to dig into my "Blog Topics" file soon. Hopefully the SAG Awards will provide for some interesting fodder. Or maybe I'll just go see a bad January movie and talk about that. Almost anything would be more interesting.
More, anon.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Late Night Blogger Blues

As someone who usually only has the chance to blog after 10 PM, I miss out on getting scoops. I have a day job, I do theatre and I write plays, musicals and screenplays of my own. On the weekends, I'm busy with real-life things like vacuuming and grocery shopping and making sure I have clean shirts underwear for the upcoming week. Occasionally, I actually get to see a show or a movie. Blogging is a distant fourth (or sometimes, fifth or sixth) priority for me.

Jason at MyNewPlaidPants (one of my favorite blogs) has beat me once again in posting this link to the British fantasy Franklyn, starring Eva Green, Ryan Phillippe, Sam Riley and Susannah York. I have read bits and pieces about this film, which tells four interwoven stories, one of which takes place in a futuristic steampunk world where a masked vigilante (who looks suspiciously like Jack Skellington) roams the streets of a society where Church and State have become inseparable. It's scheduled for release in the UK this February. You can add Franklyn as the 19th movie I'm looking forward to seeing in the coming year. Below is a still of Phillippe's well-muscled and faux-tattooed back from the movie.

More, anon.


Friday, January 9, 2009

The Best Movie Never Made

One of my all time favorite novels is "The Talisman" by Stephen King and Peter Straub. It tells the story of Jack, a young teen who must travel across the country and between two worlds to save his dying mother and a the dying queen of an alternate universe. Partially set in 'The Territories' (where King's "The Dark Tower" series takes place), "The Talisman" is an epic adventure and an almost Jungian quest story. I have read it at least four times and it never fails to thril me, inspire me and, yes, make me cry.

Filmmaker Mathieu Ratthe made this short demo, starring Cameron Bright (X-Men: The Last Stand) as Jack. Man, do I wish this movie would get made. I would be first in line.

More, anon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gay Marriage Primer

This is hilarious (via):

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Watchmen, etc.

Man, I love my fellow bloggers. They find the coolest stuff.
My friend Jason at MyNewPlaidPants found this awesome post at I09 (the coolest pop-culture/sci-fi/movie site out there). There's an awesome Japanese trailer for Watchmen that has all sorts of political innuendo in it, plus a behind-the-scenes clip about "The Minutemen" segment of the film.
Then the guys over at BoingBoing posted a link to a Fancast review of one of the worst movies ever, Food of the Gods, written by BoingBoing's own Xeni.
Me, I'm off to start a new screenplay of my own...
P.S. - Do you think there are enough links in this post?
More, anon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Quickie Tonight

I came across this beautifully edited video and had to share. Here is 2008: The Year in Movies (via):

Monday, January 5, 2009

18 Movies I Can't Wait to See in 2009

Okay, I've already told you about the movies I loved and hated in 2008. But what am I most interested in seeing in 2009? Well, here's a list of 18 upcoming movies I really want to see, in order of scheduled release date. Please note that any or all of these release dates are subject to change by the studios without notice.
1. Coraline - Feb. 6
Henry Selig (The Nightmare Before Christmas) directs this stop-motion adaptation of Neil Gaiman's story about a little girl who discovers an alternate universe behind the walls of her own home. Featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Ian McShane, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.
2. Friday the 13th - Feb. 13
Marcus Nispel, who directed the not-terrible Texas Chainsaw remake, takes on one of the genre's most despised and loved films with this update starring "Supernatural"'s Jared Padelecki. As bad as the original movie was (despite the presence of Kevin Bacon), the trailer looks like they may have done a decent job of updating this schlock-tatstic entry from the slasher fest that served as horror in the '80's.
3. Watchmen - March 6
Zac Snyder directed 300, a visually fascinating, if ultimately empty film. But, even though I am not a rabid fanboy of the graphic novel, the trailer makes me wet (yes, I went there). Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Billy Crudup and Carla Cugino are on hand as human eye-candy.
4. Aliens vs. Monsters - March 27
The second of four fully animated films on this list, Aliens vs. Monsters is directed by Rob Letterman, whose last animated fim was the less-than-terrific Shark Tale. But I'm hoping that a smart script and voice work by Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Hugh Laurie, Keifer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Will Arnett and Stephen Colbert will make for a fun time.
5. Sunshine Cleaning - April 9
I loves me some Amy Adams! Christine Jeffs directs this indy entry about a woman (Adams) who starts a crime scene clean-up service. Alan Arkin and Emily Blunt co-star.
6. Star Trek - May 8
Wunderkind producer J.J. Abrams (Cloverfield, "Lost," "Fringe") directs this origin film, recounting how Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Bones, Sulu and Chekov became mates aboard the USS Enterprise. Paramount is hoping to reboot a franchise, without disenfranchising the many Trek fans already in existence. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana, Winona Ryder and the voice of the late Majel Barrett star.
Another beloved Sci-Fi franchise is rebooted in the first Terminator film to take place entirely in the future. Best Batman ever, Christian Bale is joined by Anton Yelchin, Bryce Dallas Howard and genre legend Michael Ironside in director McG's big-budget actioner.
8. Drag Me to Hell - May 29
Sami Raimi (Spider-Man; The Evil Dead I & II) returns to his horror roots with this story about young woman who incurs a gypsy's curse. Mac cutie Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers; Live Free or Die Hard) and Allison Lohman (Big Fish; Beowulf) star in Raimi's first horror movie since 2000's The Gift.
9. Up - May 29
The only Pixar movie I didn't care for was Cars, arguably their weakest film to date. But boy, did I love last year's Wall-E! This summer, director Peter Docter (Monsters, Inc.) takes us on a fanciful flight with an old curmudgeon who ties a million balloons to his house and heads south. Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer and Pixar touch-stone, John Ratzenberger lend their voices to this animated fantasy.
10. 2012 - July 10
Roland Emmerich has given us aliens (Stargate; Independence Day), monsters (Godzilla) and a new Ice Age (The Day After Tomorrow). So what's next? Why, nothing less than the end of the world. John Cusak, Woody Harrelson and Amanda Peet struggle to survive.
11. 9 - Sept 9
The second of three numeric titles this year, and last of the animated films on this list, 9 picks up after 2012 (not literally) and involves a group of what can best be described as "creatures" and their efforts to revive a decimated Earth. Director Shane Acker, who previously did effects work on The Lord of the Rings, has assembled Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connolly, John C. Reilly and Martin Landau to provide the voices for this futristic fantasy.
12. Jennifer's Body - Sept. 18
Screenwriter Cody Diablo (Juno) follows up her feel-good Generation Y comedy with this nasty little horror/comedy about a possessed cheerleader. Karyn Kusama (Girlfight; Aeon Flux) directs Megan Fox, Johhny Simmons, Any Sedaris (!!) and Juno's J.K. Simons.
13. Trick 'r Treat - Oct. (?)
IMDb lists this movie as having been released in October of 2007, but I'll be damned if I know anyone who has actually seen it. This long-delayed shocker from director Michael Dougherty has had horror fans chomping at the bit ever since we first got a glimpse of the trailer. Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Leslie Bibb and Anna Pacquin head the cast in what could be one of the scariest movies, ever.
14. The Box - Nov. 6
Richard Kelly directed one of the most enigmatic and fascinating films of all time, Donnie Darko. His follow-up, Southland Tales was an apparent mess, derided by crtics and ignored by audiences. The Box stars Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella in a story about a couple who find a mysterious box on their doorstep, which leads to both wealth and horror.
15. The Wolf Man - Nov. 6
Joe Johnston (Jumanji; The Rocketeer) directs this update of the Lon Chaney, Jr. classic from Universal. "Even a man who says his prayers by night..." Benicio del Toro stars as the afflicted lycanthrope and Sir Anthony Hopkins plays his father. Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving and Geraldine Chaplin are also on hand.
16. Nine - Dec. 11
Not to be confused with 9, Rob Marshall directs the film version of the msuical based on Frederico Fellini's 8 1/2, about a loutish flm director and the many women in his life. Marshall's version of Memoirs of a Geisha sucked, but his Oscar-winning musical Chicago is enough to make me want to see it. Daniel Day-Lewis, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Kate Hudson and the imcomparable Sophia Loren all lend their talents.
17. Avatar - Dec. 18
James Cameron (Aliens) returns to his Sci-Fi roots in his first non-documentary since the lamentable Titanic, a movie that should have failed as miserbaly as predicted. Shot in what may be the ultimate 3D, Avatar has had fanboys and film buffs going crazy for many years. Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi star.
18. The Road - Date Unannounced
Cormac MCCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about Post-Apocolyptic America is brought to the screen by director John Hillcoat, starring Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Guy Pierce and Robert Duvall in a rather depressing (but ultimately uplifting) story about a man and his son making their way across a devastated America in search of a place to call home.
Well, there are the 18 movies I am looking forward to seeing this year. How about you? What future releases have you chomping at the bit to be first in line for tickets? I'd love to know. Leave me a message in the Comments section - we'll talk.
More, anon.