Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Hate Waiting! (or: The Best Shows on TV)

Regular readers know that I think "Fringe" is currently the best show on television. That's not to say there aren't some really great shows on network TV: "Modern Family;" "Community;" "30 Rock;" "Parenthood;" "No Ordinary Family" (which gets better with each passing episode) and of course, AMC's groundbreaking "The Walking Dead" (which was just named "Best New Show on TV" by Entertainment Weekly).

"The Walking Dead," is indeed the Best New Show on TV. Fearless in its production and performances, "The Walking Dead" could have been a shambling, cliched mess. But in the hands of Frank Darabont and  his super-talented cast and crew, it's a compelling story of survival and humanity. Of course, the genre being near and dear to your crazy Uncle P's heart, doesn't hurt it chances. I would probably love it in a different way, if was bad.

So why I think "Fringe" is The Best Show on TV? Let's start with the amazing cast, shall we. This season saw the ensemble, with the exception of Joshua Jackson, giving extraordinary performances as two different versions of the same character. And amazingly, both versions remain victims of the Human Condition, though with different frames of reference in the hands of the astonishing John Noble; Lance Reddick; the criminally under-used Jassica Nicole (who, along with Noble, is the most noticeably different between the two characters) and Anna Torv in a true tour-de-force performance that would be criminal if it was ignored come Emmy nomination time. Then there's writing and the cryptic mythology developed over two and a half seasons (better than the mythology-heavy "The X-Files" and not quite as indecipherable as "Lost"). "Fringe" still has plenty of questions to answer in the future, not the least of which is addressing the little-seen-this-season Observers.

And here's the trailer for this week's Fall Finale episode:

Now, not that I don't love every moment I spend working a show because I most certainly do. There's nowhere I'd rather be, ever. But I usually don't have anything going on this time of year and it means I have to wait to get my weekly fixes. And that just sounds sad and pathetic, doesn't it? Or maybe I'm just tired. Ask me next week, when I'm finally caught up. I'm just a selfish, effing baby!

More, anon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Search for Appropriate Period Music

That's the cast of the upcoming JTMF production of It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, December 3rd through the 5th. Part of the proceeds from the four performances will be donated to our newest beneficiary, The Trevor Project, a charity near and dear to Uncle P's heart. In the photo, from left to right: Sean McGrath; Glen Calhoun; Damian Gaeta; Judi Parrish; Sarah Stryker; Jennifer Barron and John Maurer.

Part of the fun of doing a staged radio play is having a live Foley team, creating sound effects with physical props (tiny doors; cornflakes on a cookie sheet; a hand-cranked wind-machine). Joe Landry's script has plenty of opportunities for that kind of thing, but also calls for incidental music, underscoring and scene transition music. There are 20-odd scripted music cues, some of which I managed to judiciously cut, leaving me with exactly 20. The company that holds the rights to the show offers the show's original score on CD, but charges an outrageous royalty fee to use it. So, I am now scouring my (thankfully large) CD collection for public domain music that is appropriate for our needs (I'm listening as I type this, actually), a time-consuming task, to say the least. But one which I have done for plenty of shows I've directed and is usually quite effective when the right piece of music is found.

Luckily, rehearsals for the show (which only runs about an hour) are shorter than most, and I get home relatively early at night, so I should be able to finish by tomorrow night, giving our sound technician (not our Foley team) Tuesday night to burn the disc and Wednesday and Thursday to rehearse with it (I hope). 

And since the show opens Friday, my posts here will drop off a bit towards the end of the week, but I will be posting every night over at the JTMF blog, if you really need a fix. I'm off to listen a bit more prudently (nothing on this particular CD is hitting me, so far).

If you are in the greater Trenton, NJ area, we'd love to see you at the show. Tickets are available by calling the Kelsey Theatre Box Office at 609-570-3333, online at www.kelseyatmccc.org or at the Kelsey Box Office one hour before curtain. If you're unable to attend but would still like to help, you can make a safe, secure donation via Paypal at our website, www.jtmf.org. And don't forget to search for "James Tolin Memorial Fund" on Facebook and become a member. Okay, today's Shameless Self-Promotion is over and out.

More, anon.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Bloat (or: Adventures in Holiday Shopping)

So yesterday, Uncle P cooked the entire Thanksgiving meal. It wasn't nearly as large a meal as in some households. It was just me and my mother for dinner. But it was certainly more food than I usually prepare for a single meal. I roasted a small turkey breast, made two kinds of dressing (my grandmother's Hungarian-style liver stuffing for me and more traditional stuffing for Mom); mashed potatoes; mashed turnips and carrots; candied sweet potatoes (which I actually tried and liked for the first time in my life); gravy and crescent rolls. Yes, there was canned cranberry sauce (my kitchen is small and I didn't have the time for anything fancier). For dessert, we had carrot cake (purchased from a day-job friend as part of a fund-raiser for her son's school) instead of the traditional pumpkin pie. Carrot cake is my personal favorite cake and this one, while a bit expensive, was exceptional. Everything turned out wonderfully, despite painfully bending back my thumbnail while attempting to open the tube of crescent rolls (which resulted in blood spoiling about half of them, but then there were only two of us, anyway). I worked off most of the calories in the clean-up, though I still have plenty of left-overs.

Of course, today was Black Friday. Unlike my sister, who left her house at 4AM in an attempt to catch some bargains, I slept in and didn't go out shopping until noon. No camping out, no stampedes, no lunatics. Well, some lunatics, but not many. My first stop was actually the grocery store to take advantage of a two-day sale on paper towels and toilet paper - practical, if nothing else. I then made stops at three other stores in search of specific items, most of which I found at reasonable prices. I came home, had a meal of reheated leftovers (which barely made a dent) and caught up on this week's DVR'd programs. Of course, most of the rest of this weekend will be spent working out the final details of my upcoming show, though I do have a lunch scheduled with some very dear friends on Sunday.

My holiday shopping is about 50% done, which is late for me. Back in the day, when I worked in retail and went to Florida every October, I was 90% finished by this time of year. And while I buy gifts for less people now than I used to, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find the "perfect" gift for some folks, especially those I've known the longest.  Oh well. I still have 27 days to finish and plenty of stores and websites left to visit. 

I hope all my American friends and readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I want to wish everyone a fabulous Holiday season, no matter what holiday it is you may be celebrating in the upcoming month or so. This time of year always seems to turn Uncle P into more of a sentimental old fool than he usually is. Maybe a trip to a spa is order. At least I wasn't part of something like this (via):

More, anon.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Turkey Month Turkey of the Month: "Blood Freak"

Yes, that is a turkey-headed monster on the poster for Blood Freak, a 1972 anti-drug picture made by religious nutjobs to warn against the dangers of marijuana.

Blood Freak is the story of Herschel (Steve Hawkes), a Vietnam vet who picks up a hitchhiker named Angel (Heather Hughes) on his hog and takes her home. Angel is a religious good girl, who invites Herschel to crash at her pad for a while. Angel's sister Ann (Dana Cullivan) is a bad girl and she turns Herschel onto pot, to which he immediately becomes maniacally addicted. To support his habit, Herschel gets a job at a local turkey processing plant, testing turkey meat. Of course, the turkey place is run by a mad scientist who is trying to create a turkey that's as addictive as pot. When Herschel eats some contaminated turkey - his head turns into a papier mache turkey head!

And if having a papier mache turkey head isn't bad enough, Herschel is now a turkey-vampire who can only survive by drinking the blood of other pot addicts. Naturally, he goes on a killing spree, draining blood from his victims and slurping it up through his papier mache beak from his hands (I guess he couldn't find a straw). Finally, Jesus shows up to teach Herschel the error of his ways and he is saved, upon which he wakes up to discover the whole thing was just a drug-fueled nightmare. 
I wish I was making this one up, but I'm not. Here:

Wow. Poppers, wine and pot. Yep, these are some bad people. Not only does Blood Freak make absolutely no sense, it features some of the worst acting ever committed to celluloid; special effects that would make H.G. Lewis laugh at their amateurishness and several brief appearances by director Brad F. Grintner as the Narrator/Herschel's conscience, who occasionally breaks out into a coughing fit so bad, you wish he'd swallow some codeine-laced cough syrup already:

And mind you, the trailer below was intended to make you want to see this movie:


Why do I think the maker's of V8 are indebted to the makers of this film?

Thus endeth the Turkey Month Turkeys. I hope you and yours had a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving. As always, I have loads to be thankful for, not the least of which are you, my readers. I don't have nearly as many followers as some bloggers, but I am very thankful for the ones I do have. 

Tomorrow is known as Black Friday in the U.S. (presumably because it's the day when retailers' books go into the black ink, rather than the red) and Uncle P will be out looking for holiday bargains (though not at 3 or 4 AM, as many will be). I've already done some Christmas shopping online and have just a few more things to pick up. If they're good enough to share, I'll recount my shopping adventures tomorrow. If not, expect more of the usual nonsense.

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Weird, Wild, Adorable and Gay, All in One Post

I was having issues with Blogger last night, so this is going to a big ole combo post.

That's the teaser poster for Apollo 18, the latest "found footage" movie. It's a fictional account of a real event, the 1970 aborted Apollo 18 mission to the moon. It's listed on IMDb as being in "pre-production," but with a release date of March, I must assume shooting is about to begin any day now. Written by first-timer Brian Miller and directed by Gonzalo Lopez (the 2008 Spanish thriller Enbrion), Apollo 18 apparently posits an alien encounter on the moon. I just love that tagline: "There's a reason we've never gone back to the moon."

Of course, it's certainly not the only 'found-footage' movie scheduled for next year. We've already seen the teaser for J.J. Abrams' next film, Super 8 (what the hell is in that train car?) and now comes this super-weird bit of whackness from District 9 director Neil Blomkamp:

It sort of reminds me of the whole Montauk Monster thing from a few years ago.

Now that I've covered the Weird and the Wild, let's move on to the Adorable. I've already gone on about how adorable I find "Glee"'s newest cast member, Darren Criss. His cover of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" has become the fastest selling "Glee" single ever. And while last week's episode of "Glee" served to remind me of exactly why I love the show in the first place, this week's episode was actually even better. Not only did it finally address the gay-bullying issue, it had the wedding between Finn's mother and Kurt's father, which featured a tribute to the famous JK Wedding Dance viral video. And as an added bonus, the amazing Carol Burnett (who so generously donated to the JTMF 5th Anniversary Silent Auction) as Sue Sylvester's Nazi-hunting mother. Could it get any better? Maybe...

Here's a sneak peak of Criss and Chris Colfer (Kurt) performing Train's over-used "Hey, Soul Sister" (though in this case, I'm willing to listen to it again):

If I were 20 years younger...
Which weirdly brings us to the gay portion of tonight's post. Via Towleroad come these next two videos. First up, NYC drag performer Sherry Vine in a parody of Katy Perry's (why is she so parody-able?) "Firework." Here's "Firecrotch!":

And from the same boys who gave us the gay versions of Katy Perry's "Peacock" and "California Gurls," (see what I mean?) comes this version of Ke$ha's "We R Who We R:"

Did I miss anything? I don't think so...
Tomorrow will be the last Turkey of the Month posts and I think I've found something really special to celebrate the turkiest of holidays. 

I wish you and yours the very best, this Thanksgiving. Uncle P gets a bit sentimental this time of year, so be forewarned that there may be some uncharacteristic sentimentality in forthcoming posts. If you are reading this from outside the U.S. (as I know a few of my few followers are), you won't really get the turkey jokes, but trust me, here they are hilarious.

More, anon.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Warning to fans of "The Walking Dead"  - Major Spoilers Ahead!

So, the fourth episode of "The Walking Dead" has aired and the inevitable finally happened; the death of humans at the hands of the walkers. But more on that in a moment.

When we last saw Rick, he; Glenn; TDog and Daryl had gone back to Atlanta to rescue Merle and retrieve the bag of guns Rick lost at the end of episode one, only to find that Merle had escaped his handcuffs by sawing his hand off and Shane had beaten the crap out of Ed the wife beater.

"Vatos" opened with sisters Andrea and Amy (Frozen's Emma Bell) fishing in the quarry, reminiscing about their father and the different fishing techniques he had taught them. The scene served to emphasize that despite their age difference, the sisters were still close. It also brought up feelings about loved ones lost to whatever it was that caused the dead to walk, as Amy expressed hope that whatever had happened might not have been as bad in Florida, where their parents presumably lived. In Alanta, Glenn hatches a plan wherein he and Daryl attempt to rescue the guns, only to be foiled when Daryl is set upon by a young punk., who calls out for hlep in Spanish. A car quickly pulls up and a gang of Latinos nab Glenn and take off, but not before Daryl gets to shoot an arrow in one of their asses.

Back at camp, Dale becomes worried when he finds Jim (Andrew Rothenberg) furiously digging holes in the 100 degree heat. Shane eventually overpowers Jim, who admits he may have suffered heatstroke, but is digging the holes because of a half-remembered dream. Andrea and Amy return with loads of fish and the group plans an old-fashioned fish-fry for dinner. In the city, Rick and company have forced the punk to take them to the gang's headquarters, where they soon discover the gang is simply a group of people caring for folks who were left trapped in a nursing home, afraid that Rick and his band were there to take food and medicine away from them. Rick leaves them weapons and ammo, and as the four return to camp, they discover that Merle has stolen their van.

At dinner, Andrea is concerned because she can't find wrapping paper for the necklace she took from the department store for Amy's birthday, while a bruised and pained Ed refuses to join in for dinner, choosing instead to wallow in his own misery in his tent. As dinner is ending, Amy gets up to pee. Ed finds himself annoyed that someone is still bothering him, only to discover that the figure lurking outside his tent is one of about two dozen walkers who have made their way to the camp. The walker attacks, taking Ed down without time for him to scream in warning. As Amy exits the camper, complaining about the lack of toilet paper, she is grabbed and bitten, much to Andrea's horror. Rick and the others arrive on foot, just in time to take out the walkers, rescuing everyone who hasn't already been bitten (which, by my count was three).

As Amy dies in her sobbing sister's arms, we slowly come to realize that Amy will soon rise, and we are left to wonder how the group will deal with her and the other victims, just as Jim remembers why he was digging the holes.

"Vatos" was the series' most intense episode since the pilot, and served as a stark reminder of just what is at stake in a world where the dead eat the living. The tragedy of Amy's death and the sad nursing home survivors only made it more excruciating for the the survivors (though I can't say I was exactly sad to see Ed go). As gang leader Guillermo (Neil Brown, Jr.) says, nothing has really changed... "The weak get taken."

So what is next for the survivors? They know now that they are no longer safe in the mountains as the food supply in the city dwindles and the walkers set out in search of sustenance. Do they go back into town to the relative safety of the fortified nursing home, or head out in search of even more isolated areas where they are less likely to encounter the walkers? Uncle P, for one, is frustrated that only 2 episodes remain and I will chomping at the bit by the time the new season rolls around next fall. AMC has done what every other network has been looking to do - they've found the next "Lost," damn them!

Oh, and the lovely young lady pictured at the top of this post? She's a walker found wandering the department store upon whose roof Merle had been chained. I laughed, because she isn't really all that dangerous, considering she has no lower jaw... but I still would have taken her out. I'm guessing you would have, as well.

More, anon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mini-Review: "Due Date"

Matty and I finally managed to get together to see a movie tonight. We had a list of about 6 movies we both wanted to see and finally narrowed it down to Due Date, mostly because we were in the mood to laugh.

Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man) stars as uptight architect Peter Highman, who is on his way home to L.A. from Atalanta to attend the birth of his first child. A chance encounter at the airport with wannabe actor Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) leads to both of them ending up on the No-Fly list and forcing them to travel across the country together, much like Steve Martin and John Candy in John Hughes' superior 1987 film Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Ethan is obsessed with "Two and a Half Men," carries his father's ashes in a coffee can and is addicted to pot. He thinks the Grand Canyon was man made, the Pilgrims built Hoover Dam and that Shakespeare was a pirate who was actually named 'Shakes Beard.' He's the type of eccentric moron that would have been played by John Candy 30 years ago or Chris Farley 20 years ago. Peter is obsessed with logical thinking and maintaining propriety. He's the kind of priggish, rich asshole that would have been played by Chevy Chase 30 years ago or Steve Martin 20 years ago (when they were both still funny).

Due Date is a raunchier version of the kind of mismatched buddy picture we've seen a hundred times before, but filled with masturbation and pot jokes. Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers) is on hand as a "pharmacist" and Jamie Fox (Ray) is Peter's pro football buddy. Sadly none of them can save this cliche-ridden picture from its own mediocrity. Happily, Galifianakis' performance is just sweet and vulnerable enough to make it tolerable. Downey is fine, though his character is so despicably nasty, one wonders why a wide-eyed optimist like Ethan would want to spend time with him. Director Todd Phillips (The Hangover) keeps things moving along at a brisk pace, though the script (by Phillips and three other writers) barely stops long enough to explain why the two choose to stay together all the way to Los Angeles. Amusing at best, Due Date is the kind of movie where you park your brain at the ticket booth and just go along for the ridiculous ride and appreciate the most ridiculous moments for what they are. ** (Two Out of  Four Stars).

I must, however, once again object to parents who bring their children to age-inappropriate films. Seated in front of us were a mother and four kids, none of whom were more than 12. Due Date is rated "R" for sexual situations, language and drug use. What on Earth possessed this woman to think it was okay to bring these kids to this movie? I know there were moments when she had to feel uncomfortable (I wouldn't have wanted to be part of the conversation on that ride home). And needless to say, the kids talked loudly, got up often and laughed only at the most obvious of jokes. Even I was uncomfortable knowing they were seeing this movie.

Parents, leave your children at home when seeing a movie obviously aimed at adults.

More, anon.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Turkey Month Turkey of the Week: "Catwoman"

Poor Halle Berry. Unarguably one of the most beautiful and talented women in Hollywood, she somehow got suckered into starring in this glistening turd of movie.

In the DC Comics' universe, Catwoman is Selina Kyle, a Gotham City jewel thief with a reciprocal crush on the Dark Knight himself, Batman. In this 2004 stinker she's Patience Phillips, a graphic artist working for a cosmetics company run by the evil Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone). When Patience stumbles upon a shameful secret regarding Hedare's latest youth serum, she finds herself in danger. And somehow also finds herself the recipient of mystical powers passed on from Catwomen of the past. What?

Filled with 'ancient Egyptian' hokum; 'girrrrlpower' nonsense and one of the worst costumes in Superhero movie history, Catwoman is undoubtedly the nadir of the Warner Brothers' Batman-related films. Featuring over-the-top performances by Stone as the villain and Benjamin Bratt as the cop/love-interest, Catwoman makes about as much sense as a gorilla wearing a tutu. And what the hell the magnificent Frances Conroy is doing in this movie (other than collecting a paycheck), is beyond me.

Previously, Catwoman has also been portrayed by Julie Newmar; Eartha Kitt; Lee Meriwether and most notably, Michelle Pfieffer (Batman Returns). None of those actresses were nominated for a Razzy, though Berry was. And she showed much grace and humor by actually showing up to accept her award for 'Worst Actress.'

Of course, Catwoman is one of the many villains being bandied about for inclusion in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. Given the 'realistic' version of Gotham City Nolan has thus-far presented, Catwoman in her original incarnation seems as likely as any other female character in the series. Time will tell...

More, anon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's a Wonderful Flashmob?

I know, I know... The Turkey of the Week will just have to be on Friday this week. So sue me. I have more important things on my mind right now.

That's the poster for the JTMF's first Winter production, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play. The graphic artist who does our posters is just terrific and always seems to manage to distill our shows into a single perfect image. I only wish I could remember his name (It's Brian Something-- not to hard for me to forget that much, at least) so I could give him proper credit. I can't wait to see what he comes up with for next summer's production of Die Mommie, Die!

It's been interesting directing such a bare-bones kind of show. We're recreating the experience of seeing a live radio broadcast, just as a studio audience would have seen in the 1940's, complete with a live Foley (sound effects) crew and actors reading from scripts into microphones. The six actors in the show are playing several dozen characters, which means they must create a different voice for each character, not an easy task, even with a script in hand. Four of them are JTMF returnees (with my Dear D setting a JTMF performance record at 6 shows) and two are JTMF virgins, though I know both of them well and most recently directed one of them in Top Girls. Of course, it's the Foley team that will garner all the attention this time around, especially given the myriad props and devices they'll be using, including a miniature door; a massive wind machine; ribbon candy; tubs of water; cornflakes and high-heels. Our first truly family-oriented production is going to be quite a nostalgic treat for those who remember radio broadcasts from the period, and a fascinating look back on the past for those who have grown up with MTV, X-Box and the Internet.  If only I had the time to organize a flashmob to promote the event. 

And (what a segue) speaking of flashmobs, Joyce Maynge (Australia's slightly less glamorous Rupaul) is back with another one of her amazing flashmob events, this time featuring a medley of Kylie Minogue songs on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

Can you say "fabulous?" Sigh... maybe next summer.I've got 7 months to plan... Anyway, if you are in the Central NJ area and want tickets to see It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, please visit www.kelseyatmccc.org. For more information about the James Tolin Memorial Fund, please visit www.jtmf.org or search "James Tolin Memorial Fund" on YouTube.

More, anon.

The Gayest Things You'll See This Week

Have no fear, a Turkey Thursday post will follow. Rehearsals for It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play have put me off schedule a bit. And while it is officially Thursday, I haven't been to bed yet, so it's still Wednesday for me.

Anyway, yes that is a casket. And yes, it is covered in homoerotic art. Via Towleroad comes this bizarre final resting place from German designers Mike Konigsfeld and Tom Brandl. Says Konigsfeld, "People are cutting back in the recession but the one group of consumers who still have high spending power are gay couples and very few people are designing for them in this market." And I should imagine for good reason. Personally, every gay and/or straight man I know would be horrified by this tasteless thing, regardless of the images depicted. Sex and death may share a bizarre affinity for one another, but I don't know any sane person who would literally be caught dead in this box, or anything like it. Tacky, tacky, tacky.

And speaking of tacky, have you seen the latest "reality" series on Logo, "The A List?" A disgusting display of everything that middle America finds objectionable about gay people, "The A List" features wealthy, spoiled gay versions of every loathsome, stereotypical rich asshole depicted in shows like "The Hills." I hate them as straight people and hate them even more when they're gay.

If you watch "The A List," you should be ashamed of yourself (though only slightly more than if you watch any other so-called 'reality' show). Recently, Logo announced auditions for "The A List: L.A." and Current TV's hilarious LGBT commentator Bryan Safi took the show to task with his "audition" footage (also via):

Of course, no one should fault Bryan for spelling his name incorrectly... His parents are to blame for that.

More, very anon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Late (Or Is it Early?) Ramble About My Sister

By now, regular readers know that Uncle P's sister is a baker. She has a side business making custom cakes, cookies and cupcakes for weddings, birthdays and various celebrations that require baked sweets as part of their rituals. She's gotten quite good, though even she will admit she's no Buddy Valastro. Still, she makes some delightful desserts for special occasions and her clients and co-workers love what she does.

Cakes and cookies non-withstanding, Uncle P's sister is also his best friend and one of the very few (if not the only) people who actually 'gets' him. Growing up, even though we were six years apart, we actually shared a "language" which to this day, no one else understands. It's no secret that one of us can utter a word, phrase or a series of nonsense syllables that will have the other writhing in hysterics to the dismay and utter consternation of those around us. Her husband and our mother still roll their eyes at one another when we get going.

Many years ago, my sister and her husband moved to western Florida. Since then, I've tried to visit at least once a year. We take day trips to Disney or Universal (my personal favorite theme park); loll about in the Gulf Coast sun; hit the outlet malls or dine at unusual places and generally act like the kids we never grew out of being when together. Occasionally, my sister will venture north, though she loathes the weather here and would rather our mother and I come South. Last year, due to any number if circumstances (including the extensive renovations required on Uncle P's house), I didn't make my annual visit.

This week, my sister is making a rare northern excursion to attend her 25th High School Reunion, While I am thrilled that she and I will get to spend some time together, I am also secretly hoping that she will get to experience the surreal kind of event that Uncle P had last year at his 30th.

Needless to say, I doubt her experience will be anything like this:

My sister is actually a successful executive at a major corporation, so there! Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah! While I don't personally care what happens at the reunion, I'm just happy to be able to spend some time with my baby sister (and perhaps confound some folks with our unique relationship).

More, anon.

P.S. Tonight, I actually realized how weird it is to refer to myself in the third person. I feel like a "Seinfeld" character... Is that a bad thing? Oh, and if you're wondering if she'll take offense at the pictures I've linked to my sister's references, I can assure you she'll say they just weren't weird enough....


Monday, November 15, 2010

Tell It To the Frogs

Warning: Here There Be Spoilers.

After 2 episodes of "The Walking Dead," Rick was finally reunited with his wife and son, both of whom had assumed he was dead.

When we last left our intrepid band of survivors, Rick and a group of scavengers from the camp outside of town had barely managed to escape Atlanta, leaving racist hothead Merle handcuffed atop the roof of the department store where they'd nearly met their demise. As episode 3, "Tell It To the Frogs" opens, Merle, severely sunburned and on the verge of insanity, vainly struggles to escape as the walkers (or 'geeks') try to force their way onto the roof and have their way with his delicious flesh.

Rick and company finally arrive at the camp, to the astonished joy of his wife Lori and son Carl (Chandler Riggs). Torn by Rick's return, his former partner Shane now finds himself bereft of the comfort he found in Lori's arms when they all assumed Rick was dead. Lori takes no time in ending things with Shane and when he takes Carl frog-hunting in the quarry, she tells him in no-uncertain terms to stay away from her family. We do find out that it was Shane who told Lori that Rick was dead in the first place, which leads me to believe there was nothing going on between them before the zombie uprising and that Shane simply took advantage of a woman whose marriage was shaky to begin with. Shane immediately lost points in my eyes, despite his taking down of wife-abusing Ed (Adam Minarovich) with a well-deserved if a bit over-zealous beating. Shane was obviously taking out a bit of his own frustrations on the neanderthal Ed. Poor Rick, of course, has no idea of what's gone on while he made his perilous way back to his wife and son.

Meanwhile, the appearance of a 'walker' devouring a deer close to camp means that the food supply in the city is dwindling and the zombies have begun to make their way into the woods in search of sustenance. It also means the deer that Merle's brother Daryl (Norman Reedus of The Boondock Saints) was stalking is no longer of any value as food. Of course, Daryl is none-too-pleased to learn that his racist cracker brother has been left behind and insists they attempt a rescue. Rick, Glenn, TDog and Daryl return to Atlanta, despite the others' protests, only to find that Merle has found a rather grisly solution to his captivity. Of course, Rick has an additional impetus to return to the city: the bag of weapons and ammo he was forced to leave behind when surrounded by zombies at the end of Episode 1.

As of yet, there have been no human fatalities in the series, though I am betting as we get closer to the series' first season finale, that will change. And that will also be a game changer. This comparatively less gory episode delved more into the personalities of the survivors; a rag-tag group of relative strangers who have been thrust together by circumstances in an effort to survive the unthinkable. The women reminisce ("I miss my Maytag;" "I miss my coffeemaker;" "I miss my vibrator.") and the men grow increasingly unhappy and resentful. Personally, I think it will be a living person who makes the first kill, rather than a zombie. And then all hell will truly break loose among these stressed-out and desperate survivors.

In other Zombie news that won't wait until Saturday's edition of The Zombie Zone, Deadline is reporting that writer/director and Zombieland restroom victim Mike White has officially signed to direct to the film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (via). The Chuck and Buck writer has just the right kind of twisted sensibility to make a perfect adaptation of the mashup novel, wherein Jane Austin's heroines must cope with both the ideals of Victorian romance and the Living Dead. Yum!

More, anon.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bill Clinton, Actor?

Yikes! People magazine is reporting that former President Bill Clinton (he of the scandalous cigar) will be making a cameo as himself in The Hangover 2. This comes after the announcement that Mel  "Sugartits" Gibson would -- and then wouldn't -- be doing the same.

Hey - if Nixon could do "Laugh-In" (remember kiddies, your Uncle P is old...), then why shouldn't Clinton appear in a raunchy sex-comedy? I can't think of a better genre for the man, can you? Of course, Nixon wasn't yet President when he appeared on the subversive NBC sketch comedy and Clinton is a former President. I mean, it's pretty unlikely that Mr. Obama is going to make a cameo in Porky's 3 anytime soon. 

I must admit, I am Clinton fan. Sure, he created the woefully inept DADT policy, but the US economy under his administration was the strongest it had been in a long time. "But, he had an affair!" I can hear some of you thinking (yes, Uncle P can indeed hear some of you thinking, so be careful what you think). So did many POTUSes. He was impeached because he lied about sex. Hell, most people in this country should be impeached, then. He didn't lie about WMDs, start an unnecessary war or authorize torture and other war-crimes. He didn't drive our economy into a tailspin by spending trillions killing thousands US soldiers and innocent Iraqis. He didn't steal an election by having a brother who was governor of the deciding state. He didn't authorize millions of illegal wiretaps or suspend habeus corpus. And I imagine that if 9/11 had happened on his watch, he wouldn't have sat dumbly staring out into space for almost a minute while trying to figure out what to do. And I never once heard Bill say anything like this:

So why shouldn't private citizen Clinton make an appearance in The Hangover 2? He has a right to do whatever he wants (within reason, of course), just as you and I do. Who knows, maybe he'll inhale this time. Personally, I don't care, just as long as Bradley Cooper spends most of the movie like this.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Turkey Month Turkey of the Week: "Howard the Duck"

In 1986, George Star Wars Lucas was sure that his next hit would be the big-screen adaptation of the Marvel Comics undergound hit Howard the Duck. Casting Lea Thompson (hot off of Red Dawn and Space Camp); Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Beuller's Day Off) and Tim Robbins (Top Gun) in a story about an extraterrestrial avian brought to Earth via a mad scientist's laser beam, Lucas and company were sure they had a massive hit with this craptatstic adaptation.

While Steve Gerber's randy adult comic book was subversive and original, the adaptation directed by William Huyck (best known for directing the 1979 comedy French Postcards and writing Lucas' first hit American Graffiti) is quite simply a mess of excess. Everything about this movie is so over-the-top (including Thompson's ridiculously huge 80's "big hair"), there's no where to go. While Howard may have worked as a subversive pen-and-ink anti-hero,  but he flopped massively as a a celluloid action hero. And deservedly so, given the excessive effects budget and poorly written screenplay.

Featuring ridiculous performances; really bad special effects; icky inter-species sex and one of the most expensive puppets in film history, Howard the Duck is the one the 1980's worst big-budget movies and (until the later Star Wars films) the nadir of George Lucas' career.

Uncle P knows he saw this movie on VHS in the 80's, but his memories of it are buried deep in the vault of things he'd rather forget. Stupid, vapid and painfully unwatchable, Howard the Duck is perhaps the epitome of everything that was wrong about the 1980's (and that includes rat-tails; parachute pants and jellies).

I'd like to think that even though I was a "New Wave" kid in the 80's, I was still above this kind of lameness, though I'll bet if you ask any of my contemporaries, they'd be just as embarrassed by this crap as I am...
More, anon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Bat-Sh*t Craziest Thing You'll See This Week

Did you know that our World Leaders are really part of a Reptilian and Draconian conspiracy to enslave the Human Race and take over Earth for their own nefarious purposes?  Neither did I. I mean, I thought that ABC's "V" was Science Fiction. Turns out, it's all true. How do I know? Because of people like Colleen Thomas, who in the first video below, has a perfectly rational explanation for the "mysterious" rocket plume seen in southern California, yesterday. 

I came across the video this morning on BoingBoing, and at first found it hilarious. Then I watched it twice more and suddenly found it sad and disturbing. Watch for yourself, and we'll discuss, afterward:

Colleen seems perfectly calm and rational at first (despite the leopard-print jacket and over-processed hair  color). And while she remains calm, all rationally flies out the window as she talks about the Plieadeans stopping the UN from trying to bomb Iran from Los Angeles. How the reporter on the other end of the phone kept from laughing hysterically, is beyond me. Perhaps he or she was just as fascinated/appalled as I am.

Sadly, Colleen is not alone in her delusions. There are plenty of people who believe this kind of nonsense. David Icke is one of the more popular proponents of these wacko conspiracy theories. Here's one his videos:

Icke has written best-selling books and speaks all over the world, spouting his bizarre message to anyone who will listen. What's scary to me is that people like Icke and Thomas are now on the Internet, spreading their mental disease to those fragile people out there who are more than willing to believe them. 

A few years ago, the CBS procedural "C.S.I." had a storyline that dealt with this very subject, and I honestly thought they'd made the whole thing up:

Art imitates life? Maybe. But when the life being imitated is so scarily effed up, it must make one take pause. Believers say these reptilian invaders are all around us, and have assumed positions of political power world-wide. Really? I mean, really? (OK - maybe that last link is right on the money). Still, when "hundreds of thousands of people" think that space geckos are plotting to annihilate the human race in 2012, it may well be time to prepare hundreds of thousands of padded cells. Or call in the space mongooses.

Until such a time, stay vigilant and keep your small pets away from your local council members:


More, anon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No Rules

My friend and fellow blogger Sean at Just a Jeep Guy recently posted his comparison between the British miniseries "Dead Set" and AMC's "The Walking Dead." To be fair, I have not seen "Dead Set," so I can't comment on it objectively. I know its premise - Participants in the BBC version of the so-called 'reality' show "Big Brother" find themselves the only survivors of the Zombie Holocaust. It starred the BBC version's real host and was a massive hit across the pond. It was run on IFC in it's entirety on Halloween, but my provider doesn't carry IFC, so I have to wait for the DVD version.

That having been said, Sean then goes on to list to the things he finds 'wrong' in Frank Darabont's groundbreaking "The Walking Dead." Needless to say, Uncle P had to take his friend to task for being just a bit closed-minded when it comes to the "Rules" of zombie fiction.

Among his objections (in red) and my responses to them:

"Zombies don't eat animals so the horse and rat should still be alive and well." - In George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead, zombies are shown eating insects, which means they are not limited to dining on human flesh. And in my 2004 screenplay Army of the Dead, a character says he saw "a bunch of 'em take down a horse in Central Park."

"Zombies have heightened senses and so are attracted to noise and human smells which cannot be covered up by covering yourself in zombie blood and body parts." - Zombie's senses have never been really explored, except in 1985's Return of the Living Dead, written by Dan O'Bannon (Alien) and original Romero collaborator, John Russo. The only sense they express in that movie is pain, and they say (Romero's zombies had never spoken before) that eating brains eases the pain of being dead. This is also the movie that introduced the idea that zombies are primarily interested in brains. Before that, they were only interested in living flesh.

"Zombies, like these in TWD, do not have the ability to think and therefore would not use rocks to break windows. Also, they shouldn't have the ability to climb ladders or fences." - Romero first introduced the idea of a thinking zombie in 1985's Day of the Dead, in which the zombie Bub expresses rudimentary memory such as shaving, using a phone and saluting. And in Romero's 2005 movie Land of the Dead, the zombies figure out that the lights across lake mean people are present, so there is no reason they shouldn't be able to use tools or climb ladders.

"In the second episode, we are at least 5-6 weeks into the apocalypse - most cars would have dead batteries by now and that scene of Glen flying down the road leaving Atlanta? Not a single broken down/abandoned car, dead body on one side of the road while the other is jam packed?" - Car batteries don't die after a few weeks or a month. My mother uses her car once a month and the battery is just fine. As for the highway being jammed in only one direction? Of course people would be trying to leave a city overrun by ravenous zombies, rather than trying to get into it. See Stephen King's "The Stand," in which cars jam the outbound lanes of the Lincoln Tunnel as people desperately try to escape the 'Captain Trips' virus. This makes total sense to me.

"Who has sex in the woods with zombies lurking about just weeks after her/his husband/best friends dies? Even if they where having an affair before the zombies came? I think the guild (sic) in addition to fear, would kill my sex drive." - Who doesn't get the thrill of dangerous sex in the outdoors? Fear and lust are two very closely related emotions, and if (as I have intimated and suspected) Shane and Laurie had been carrying on an affair before the whole zombie thing went down, they would certainly continue it, especially if they both thought Rick was dead. Of course, Laurie's guilt does prompt her to remove the wedding band she wears on a chain. And their fevered, animalistic rutting is certainly consistent with people who have something they want to hide from others.

The point is, when it comes to fiction -- and especially genre fiction -- there are no hard and fast rules. Writers create their worlds according their own visions and specifications.  Is anyone about to tell Anne Rice that vampires can't be religious or Stephanie Meyer that they don't sparkle ?(OK - bad example - vampires do NOT sparkle). 

In Uncle P's 'zombie-verse,' zombies don't actually have senses, but are directed by chemical responses emitted by the bio-engineered virus that controls them. In every version of a fictional story, the actions of the characters are dictated by the parameters of the author's own reality, and there simply are no rules.

Sean, I know you're reading - and that you have read the mini-version of this I posted in your comments - but please know that I'm not faulting your logic, but rather trying to expand your thinking on what genre fiction should be. In the end, all good fiction (regardless of genre) should comment on the unchanging Human Condition, and I'd say "The Walking Dead" is doing a bang-up job of it, whether you agree with it's particular set of 'rules' or not.

And speaking of genre rules, here's an example of some extremely silly ones that work because the plot adheres to the parameters of the story's own reality. I give you the latest trailer for Tron: Legacy:

More, anon.

Monday, November 8, 2010


The true test of a successful TV series isn't the splashy 90 minute premiere, but the regular 60 minute episodes that follow, and AMC's adaptation of Robert Kirkwood's The Walking Dead followed it's splashy premier with an episode that was just as intense and well-done. (SPOILERS ahead).

Last seen trapped in a tank surrounded by 'walkers,' our hero Rick Grimes is sort-of rescued by Glenn (Steven Yeun) who leads him through an alley to the department store where a group of survivors have been hiding. Of course, the commotion made by Rick's escape simply draws the zombies to the store, where they begin to smash their way through the glass doors. Meanwhile, Rick's wife continues her affair with her husband's former partner Shane in the woods outside Atlanta, where they have been encamped.

Among the Atlanta group is Andrea (Laurie Holden of The Mist and Silent Hill); racist redneck Merle (Slither's Michael Rooker); TDog (IronE Singleton) and Jacqui (The Skeleton Key's Jeryl Prescott). As Rick and Glenn plot their escape from the increasingly dangerous store, it soon becomes clear that the only way to escape the walkers is to become a walker and Rick hatches a plan in which he and Glenn must disguise themselves (at least scent-wise) as walkers. The episode's title becomes eminently clear as they prepare for their (admittedly disgusting) venture among the zombie horde, though a rainstorm brings a disturbingly dangerous end to their plan. Needless to say, the plan works but not without complications, the least of which involves Merle handcuffed on the department store's roof.

Based on the ratings of episode 2, AMC has already ordered a second season for "The Walking Dead," which is no surprise to the millions of zombie fans watching this exceptionally well-plotted and extremely well-acted tale of survival in a world gone mad.

This is how good the series is: Uncle P's mother, who normally eschews Horror as a 'silly' genre, is actually enjoying the show and and actively looking forward to upcoming episodes. As for myself, I cannot recommend this series highly enough. It is the best thing to happen to the sub-genre since George A. Romero's original Dawn of the Dead and quite possibly the best new series on TV this season (though I am already sad that NBC has decided to cancel J.J. Abrams' connubial spy series,"Undercovers" starring the exceptionally sexy Boris Kodjoe).

I dare you to watch "The Walking Dead." And I promise you won't be disappointed by it's its exceptionally human story,

More, anon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Hate My Head

Uncle P had plans for a wonderful weekend of revelry and fun with friends he loves dearly. Last night I was planning on attending a combination Halloween/Birthday party for one of my Top Girls cast members and tonight I was supposed to see a ridiculous Horror movie with Matty.

Needless to say, none of those plans met with fruition, thanks to my fickle sinuses, which decided to inflame themselves to the point of no return. Along with the nasal congestion and explosive pain, my left eye swelled almost shut and felt as though it wanted nothing less than total escape from its socket. And I tried everything from warm compresses to saline eye washes. I even improvised a neti pot using an old watering can. Nothing helped.

As I write this, the infection seems to have switched sides, inflaming the right side of my skull with its insidious horrors. And while it is far from my intention to gross you out, those of you who don't suffer from the genetic curse of bad sinuses should count yourselves among the lucky. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy (though I'm not above wishing them a bad case of diarrhea). Of course, all this is just making you ask yourselves why I am sharing such disgusting details, but I am so consumed by them I can't write about anything else right now I hope you'll both forgive and sympathize (or maybe even empathize) with me.

And since I really have nothing pithy or political or remotely related to my usual topics to say tonight, I'll leave you with the trailers to two upcoming movies I really want to see:

Skyline opens this coming Friday.

Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch opens next March.

More, when I'm feeling better.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Gayest Things You'll See This Friday

Well, thanks to many factors, there was plenty of LGBT news I missed out on reporting last month, so I suppose I'm making up for it tonight.

First, you've heard me mention 'my angel,' Matty many times. Matty is one of the most talented young actors I've ever had the privilege to direct. Matty has become a very dear friend and I  have become a mentor to him on many levels. He appeared in my production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and was the Assistant Stage Manager for last summer's production of Sordid Lives. We both love Horror movies (and are seeing one together this coming Sunday); we both love the theatre and we are both writers. He's the son (in a totally non-creepy way, I promise) I never had and I love when I get to crow about his accomplishments. And crow, I shall.

Recently, Matty made headlines when he and his friend Bobby potentially broke the Guinness World Record for Longest Continuous Kiss. A student at the school where I studied Theatre (and where I 'discovered' him in a 24-hour play contest), Matty is true Force of Nature and I have no doubt he will go on to make quite a mark on the world. And part of that mark will be a new documentary called Our Lips Are Sealed, detailing the events surrounding his and Bobby's new record.

I am so very proud to know and be a friend of this remarkable young man.

In other Gayest news, its no secret that the adorable Darren Criss (pictured above and formerly of ABC's prematurely canceled "Eastwick") has been cast as Kurt's (Chris Colfer) boyfriend on Fox's megahit musical, "Glee." Thanks to Towleroad, here's the first clip of Criss singing in an all-boys high school choir and their (almost) acappella version of "Teenage Dream:"

Gay teens all over America are sighing in delight, right now.

And this past August, in another Gayest Thing post, I embedded the video for openly gay rapper Cazwell's song "Ice Cream Truck," which featured a series of NYC hotties grinding and licking ice-pops while Caz rapped about a hot boy he met in a school yard. Well, also via Towleroad, comes Philadelphia's version (for Bear-lovers and Chubby Chasers only):

Finally, Al Gore's Current TV has this to say about Reality TV Judges:

Make sure you check out tomorrow's Zombie Zone post, where I wax poetic about AMC's newest original series "The Walking Dead," among other zombie-related news. And stop back here on Sunday, where I'll be talking about the JTMF's first ever winter production, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Turkey Month Turkey of the Week: "Battlefield Earth"

Have you ever paid money to see a movie that was just awful, but you refused to leave because you had already paid? For your Uncle P, that movie was 2000's Battlefield Earth, a stinker of epic proportions starring John Travolta in a screen adaptation of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's Sci-Fi novel.

Travolta plays Terl, Security Chief of an alien race called the Psychlos, who in the year 3000 have enslaved mankind and are stripping the Earth of its natural resources (as if we aren't doing a good enough job of that, ourselves). The Psychlos are 8 feet tall, use breathing apparatus that look like snot running out their noses and wear dreds because they are apparently big Ziggy Marley fans. Barry Pepper (The Green Mile) is Jonnie, the only human left with any balls, who leads a revolution against the stupid alien overlords. Forest Whittaker (who really should have known better) is a Psychlo named Ker, looking like a mentally challenged Klingon

The dialog is ridiculous, the acting is only slightly better than that in a sixth grade Christmas pageant and the "Special Effects" are short-bus special, if you know what I mean. Produced by Travolta to honor his Loony Toons cult's founder and directed by Corey Mandell and J.D. Shapiro (who have 8 credits between them - Mandell never directed again), Battlefield Earth is the kind of movie you watch because you just can't believe it's as bad as your friends tell you it is. Even other Scientologists will tell you that Battlefield Earth stinks -- but only in private, lest their evil alien overlords drag them away for three years of "reconditioning." Check it out:

Travolta's peculiarly high-pitched voiced sounds particularly silly when coming out of that over-sized head.  This movie is so bad, I have literally blocked it's details from my memory. Happily, some one found a way to make it better (or at least tolerable):

Oh, dear. That was just as horrible, wasn't it? Sorry.

If you've never seen Battlefield Earth (and I honestly cannot recommend that you do so), but find yourself compelled to, make sure its the Rifftrax version (and you might want to watch it 4:20...):

More Turkeys, anon.