Friday, December 26, 2014

Uncle P and the Mystery of the Creepy Peeps

Among my friends there are two distinct camps when it comes to this story: those who, like myself, find it hilarious and fun and those, like my BIL, who think Uncle P is being stalked by a serial killer. I'll let you decide.

Last November, just about a month after my mother passed away, I came home to find an Apple box stuffed in my mailbox. When I pulled out the tissue paper and ribbons, I found the nightlight you see to your right. And yes, the bulb inside is red. There was no card or note. Nothing on the box but the Apple logo. When I posted it to Facebook, the two camps immediately made themselves apparent. Of course, my friends and regular readers know my taste for the odd (indeed, the macabre) and unusual. And they also know I tend to have a rather dark sense of humor. I thought it was hilarious and plugged it into a kitchen outlet (it gets too hot for practical use, but is fun to switch on when I have guests). In the months that followed, people would occasionally ask me if I ever found out who sent it, but I almost forgot about. Until...

Just around my birthday this year, I came home and opened my screen door and a box tumbled out onto the mat.  Inside was not only the green planter below, but a note!

"Dear Brian,

"The psychic creepy doll network has determined you and your red eyed nightlight needed a friend.

"Therefore please welcome this new addition to your home. We trust you will admire and enjoy it.

"With much love, a shared sense of humor and best wishes,

"Your mystery/anonymous creepy peeps."

The box was a sturdy gift box from the Frenchtown Metalworks, an art jeweler in New Jersey. 

How exciting! Contact had been made! But how much was to be believed? Is this the work of more than one person? Do they live in or near Frenchtown? He, she or they obviously know where I live and when they can deliver packages when I'm not home. More friends freak out. I laugh and hope that all will be revealed, eventually. Speculation continues.  

Next - right before Halloween, I came home to find a bag on my kitchen table. My boarder had brought it in (whew!) after finding it hanging on the doorknob, outside. In the bag was a square box, also from Frenchtown Metalworks. It had a black ribbon and written on it in orange and black markers was "Happy Halloween!" And in the box was the delightfully odd electric tealight holder you see below.

Cozy, isn't she? The yellow flickering eyes in the very pink head are far more effective than the red bulb in the nightlight, don;t you think? No note this time but I didn't need one.

Most recently, I came home from picking up my Christmas Eve dinner from Wing Wah, to find a USPS Priority Mail package sitting in my carport. My sister's package had already arrived, as well as a package from friends who couldn't wait to see me to give me my gift. I looked for the sender only to see "Santa" with no return address. I knew immediately who it was from.

I ate my dinner, opened the rest of my mail and then set to the package. Inside was a letter and the most elaborate dolly of all. Wrapped in a blankie and painted yellow all over; her hair cut off and phrases, slogans and bits of poetry written all over her, she is quite magnificent! 

The letter reads: 

"ho ho ho Brian!

   "I fear you've not been naughty enough this year so was tempted to not deliver this wee child to you for the holidays.

   "Alas your creepy peeps network has informed me that exists (sic) in you a certain scorn for the Christmas merriment... the stories behind the story as it were.

"That has set you in my good graces and so I bestow upon you your very own baby - one of poetry for your reading pleasure as you sit by the fire.

   "So master yourself an icy cold martini, sit back and enjoy the season.

"All my best,

" Santa, the creepy one

"PS... my supply of treats for you has run low... but I have my sources and so perhaps we shall continue this adventure into yet another year"

The font colors are theirs. So they also know that I am an atheist and enjoy an icy cold Sapphire martini now and again. The plot thickens. Or does it? Loads of folks know that. The doll itself, is fascinating. She reminds me of something out of a Clive Barker movie.


So, Uncle P's question for you... Would you be freaked out, or just as amazed and amused as I am? That a friend or friends would go this far and long without cracking is just awesome. I know there will be a grand reveal, eventually and I will be face-palming myself for not figuring it out. Until them, I very much love this game!

More, anon.
Uncle P

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Review: "Into the Woods"

Adapting stage musicals into films is very tricky in the 21st Century. If one thing doesn't work, the whole thing falls apart. For every Chicago there's a Nine or Rock of Ages. Even Les Miserables, the biggest stage musical in the world, didn't really work on film; it's theatricality lost in closeup after closeup. And don't get me started about the last time someone adapted Sondheim for the screen. The less said about Tim Burton's grim and humorless version of Sweeney Todd, the better. So I went to see Into the Woods with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. Yes, director Rob Marshall made the amazing Chicago but he also made the very-less-than-amazing Nine. I was encouraged by the trailers and knew I had to see it (I adore the show). So tonight, I met a Facebook friend for first time IRL (Hey, Michele!) and went to the 7:15 at an AMC I usually avoid, because it was central to both of us.

Let me start by saying that if nothing else (and there is plenty else), Into the Woods is a truly gorgeous movie to look at. It's almost like the first time you're old enough to realize that The Wizard of Oz goes from sepia to full color. Even though the majority of the action takes place at night, it's just stunning to look at. Director Rob Marshall assembled an amazing artistic team which includes his go-to cinematographer Dion Beebe who works wonders and costumer Coleen Atwood whose gorgeous pieces are truly magical. James Lapine's screenplay (based on his original libretto) does a nice job paring the show down to just over 2 hours without losing any of its emotional impact though the very amusing character of the Narrator is reduced to a few minutes of voice-over. If you aren't familiar, Into the Woods is about what happens after 'Happily Ever After' and combines the stories Jack & the Beanstalk; Cinderella; Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood by introducing us to a childless Baker and his Wife. When a witch bursts in and offers them a way to lift the curse that has kept them childless, everyone is off and running.

For the most part, the casting is perfect. Anna Kendrick uses her fine voice at its best as Cinderella and though new to American audiences, adorable Brit James Cordon is terrific as The Baker.* Daniel Huttlestone's Jack sounds exactly like his Gavroche and Lilla Crawford, making her feature debut, is perfect for this version of Red. The most surprising voice belongs to Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince, whose sweet tenor in the duet "Agony" with Billy Magnussen as Rapunzel's Prince is lovely in a brilliantly staged scene amidst a rocky waterfall. There are also some really terrific supporting performances by Tracey Ullman as Jack's Mother; Christine Baranski as Stepmother; Lucy Punch and Tammy Blanchard as the step-sisters and screen legend Frances de la Tour as The Giant. Happily, Johnny Depp has only one number and few minutes of screen time as the Wolf. The man should never be allowed to sing on screen again. The truly overt sexual overtones of "Hello, Little Girl" were watered down, I imagine because of Crawford's age - Red is usually played by an adult and the Wolf's choreography, makeup and costuming are more suggestive on stage - though the lyrics weren't changed.

But I quibble, because all of them are simply outshone by Emily Blunt as The Baker's Wife and Meryl Streep as the Witch. In the original Broadway production, these roles were played by Theatre Legends Joanna Gleason and Bernadette Peters. They were iconic, indeed signature, performances. Happily, Blunt is more than up to the task as the story's most sympathetic character, with a sweet singing voice and total commitment to the role. Streep, of course, is always amazing and she takes the part and makes it her own. Her rendition of "Stay with Me" actually made me cry.

If you don't know the show, Rob Marshall's excellent adaptation is a good place to start. If you know and love the show as I do, then I think you'll be very pleased by it. Finally, film justice for Stephen Sondheim! A perfect Holiday Movie for Families and Musical Theatre Geeks alike! **** (Four Out Four Stars). Into the Woods is rated PG for "thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material."

*Corden will soon be taking over for the departing Craig Ferguson on the "The Late, Late Show." 

More, anon.

Silent Night

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Traditions, Both New and Old

Days Gone By (Not Our Real House)
It is still Christmas Eve in the U.S. as I write this and while Uncle P celebrates Christmas as a secular holiday in which we acknowledge, spend time and share gifts with those we love, for many it remains a deeply religious holiday celebrating the birth of their 'savior.' And since this isn't a post about religion, I'll leave that alone and get to the point.

While venturing out late in the afternoon to get a bottle of wine for tomorrow's dinner, I was struck by how the Holidays (like most of life) has changed over the years. Early Christmas memories evoke the many toys and gifts my mother's mother gave us each year, much to our father's consternation. The schadenfreude she derived from his jealously must have been some powerful juju! After she'd had a particularly good year in tips (she was a barmaid), our house was literally filled with presents and I'm surprised Dad didn't have a apoplectic stroke on the spot! At some point "Grandmom Cookie" (so-called because of her always full cookie jar) started spending Christmas Eve with us and we would open her presents then and Santa's and Mom and Dad's presents on Christmas morning. After she passed, we started opening all of our gifts on Christmas Eve. By then I was in college and working part time and Christmas Eve soon evolved into an open-house event where friends and co-workers came and went all night long, I still wonder how we fit so many people into that tiny house. I moved in and out of the house over the years following, but always managed to spend Christmas Eve there. New traditions for the evening continued to evolve after my parents divorced and other folks came into and/or left our lives. For a solid 10 years, Christmas Eve meant broasted* chicken from Chicken Holiday; Southern Comfort Manhattans; two embarrassing piles of presents; shrimp cocktail  and my rock, K. 

That changed again when Mom passed away last October and I spent Christmas Eve with my sister and BIL in Florida. The night before, K and M came over for chicken and such. And while we had a good time, the food wasn't up to their usual standards (I blame a different staff). So this year, even though I'm staying in PA, I decided to cook. On Sunday I made a lasagna and a Caramel Pumpkin Cream Cheese cake. Monday night I steamed and peeled a pound of shrimp and Tuesday night reheated the lasagna; glazed the cake and made cocktail sauce while frying up some battered green beans. Thank goodness M got here early, as I quickly dispatched him on a candle lighting mission. K arrived soon after and then lots of food and drink were consumed, presents were opened and much laughter was shared. 

While it was the first of several similar holiday experiences to come over the next few weeks, last night's Christmas Eve Eve has become what I hope will continue to be a new holiday tradition. For a while, at least. Until things change again, which is inevitable. Cultural traditions may seem steadfast and unchanging, but they are simply slower and less fluid than personal traditions.

I continue to be in awe of the family who have chosen me to a part of theirs, as much as I have chosen them.  K, Q, Dale, M, D and so many others never let me forget that I am not alone and never will be. And there's my astonishing sister. Strong, smart and always supportive, I can only hope you have a sibling who is half as amazing as she is (and yes, it's Christmas! I'm allowed to get gushy!). If you have even half the love in your life as I am blessed to, you know what I mean.

I have received (and will continue to do so) some very cool gifts (Mia's incredible "Zombie Batman" figurine got some stiff competition from Mary & Phil's Nightmare Before Christmas fleece and my sister's standing plush Mickey Skellington - all three of which are rendered in B&W).

None of that stuff, as cool as it may be, really matters.  Like all of us, these things will be dust in a thousand years. What matters is the love we share here and now. I guess what I'm saying is I am grateful for everyone who cares about me and bothers to read my nonsense. Be kind to one another. Know the difference between what does and doesn't matter. Give money or time to a charity that speaks to you, when and if you can. Smile at strangers. Say "Please" and "Thank You." Hold the door for the person behind you. Open the door for the person coming out ahead of you. Acknowledge those who do the same. Share the belief that most people are as good, but no better than, you. Never assume anyone is evil. Help people. Tell those you love that you love them as often as you can. Enjoy the things you have, but take nothing for granted. Enjoy your life. It's the only one you have!

Merry Christmas, my friends and readers! 

More, anon.
Uncle P.

*Pressure fried with no coating

Zombie Batman from Mia
Mickey Skellington from Barbara 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sony's Own Sally Starr's Dilemma?

As I am sure you are all aware by now, Sony Pictures has decided not to release The Interview after threats from punk-ass hackers in North Korea. While I happen to whole-heartedly agree with our POTUS that Sony made the wrong choice, they were also faced with their own version of Sally Starr's Dilemma.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past month or so, let me quickly recap. The Interview is a movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, involving a talk-show host and his producer who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un while interviewing him for his first Western TV interview. And while North Korea apparently had no problem with a puppet version of Kim's father being killed in Trey Parker's and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police, a live-action satire about his son was just too much. Beloved Leader's crack team of cyber-bullies hacked Sony's internal files, revealing awkward emails from execs; personal information and SSI numbers of employees and threatening to bring about 9/11 style retribution against theaters that would dare show the film. After several theater chains decided not to exhibit the movie, Sony capitulated to the hackers' demands and pulled it's release, completely.

Personally, I am appalled that Sony gave in to these ridiculous demands, letting a tinpot dictator  quash Free Speech and Artistic Expression in a country whose First Constitutional Amendment expressly allows both. And it makes no difference whether the movie is good or bad (personally, I find most of the comedies Rogen and Franco have made together to be pretty hilarious - with the exception of Your Highness - even though they can hardly be considered "High Art"). 

At the same time, I understand Sony Picture's reluctance to be held accountable for any deaths and/or destruction which might have occurred during any screenings of the movie. It is literally a 'Damned If You Do/Damned If You Don't' situation.


Sony has paved the way for fear-mongering asshats to stop the release of any film that might be considered offensive or politically incorrect. If the Westboro Baptist Church had threatened violence against theaters showing Brokeback Mountain or Milk, would those films' studios have backed down? Unlikely. In fact, if detractors and haters had been given their way, AMC's list of the 100 Most Controversial Movies of All Time would undoubtedly not exist and we would never have seen classics like The Exorcist; A Clockwork Orange; Citizen Kane or Lolita, to name a very few.

So, where do we draw the line? Do we give into the fear of retaliation from a despotic regime of a very Third World country or do we continue to be the leaders of Free Speech and Artistic Expression? Do we let the Catholic League tell us something is obscene or do we decide for ourselves what we will or won't watch? As far as Uncle P is concerned, by giving in to these asshats, Sony has added another chip in the wall of Democracy that our forefathers fought so hard to secure. And that makes me very sad.

F*ck you, Kim Jong Un! F*ck you and anyone who tries to take away the freedoms so many Americans have fought for and died to protect. And F*ck you Sony Pictures for letting them do it!

More, anon.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Time to Say "Goodbye?"

Is it time to pack it in, kids? It's been almost an entire month since I've posted anything. I've gotten so poor, I don't go to the movies even half as much as I used to. The last show I did seems like forever ago, already and I'm battling an early-onset bout of S.A.D. Vegas, while interesting and another city off my Bucket List, wasn't nearly as exciting as I'd hoped (being poor is no fun in Sin City). And Thanksgiving dinner alone in an Italian restaurant -- even if it is one of the best Italian restaurants in town -- is hardly a Holiday meal. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed my trip but I have no need to go back any time soon and I certainly wouldn't go alone, again. Still, it was better than my last Thanksgiving (shh... don't tell Auntie).

Uncle P's life has changed so drastically over the last 14 months... And while the promise of a fulfilling creative venture looms, nothing is set is stone. Everyday seems like a struggle... Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not going anywhere. There's depressed and then there's depressed. I've been depressed and have no intention of going back there. This is most definitely NOT a suicide post. 

It is, however, about the possibility of ending Caliban's Revenge. That doesn't mean I'll stop using social media. Hardly. I seem to reach way more people on Facebook and Twitter (even though I hardly use Twitter) than I do here. And who's to say I wouldn't start a new blog about something different. Food, maybe. Cooking is one of my other great passions. "Prospero Cooks" That could work. 

Anyway, this is just an end-of-year ramble which may or may not signal the end of The Revenge. We'll see how well I survive the holidays before making any rash decisions. Just know that I am thrilled if you still read me. I'd be more thrilled if you let me know you still read me.

More, anon (at least once more),

PS - The trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the many things that makes me want to live:



Monday, November 17, 2014

Betty White on AHS

From an offhand comment by a Facebook friend (Hi, Michelle!), came my latest 'thing.' Now hear me out on this one.

The incomparable Jessica Lange has already announced her departure from "American Horror Story," the anthology/repertory genre series that won her two Emmy Awards, after this season. 

America's Favorite Dirty Old Lady/Sweetheart has just learned that TVLand has cancelled her often quite hilarious sitcom "Hot In Cleveland." Yes, Lange has been the show's 'star,' but other company members (Sarah Paulson; Frances Conroy; Evan Peters; Lily Rabe) have been the backbones of many episodes and seasons. Who better to be the next Grand Dame of whatever nastiness Ryan Murphy and company have cooking for Season Five. It certainly wouldn't be her first foray into genre work. Remember her hilarious turn as a foul-mouthed farm widow in Lake Placid?

She'd fit right in with newer company members Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett. I can see them as some sort malevolent troika of evil... deliciously camp and sickly twisted! 

And don't forget, a similar campaign got her a particularly hilarious gig hosting "Saturday Night Live:"

She's even hosted her own (rather lame) hidden camera show, "Off Their Rockers." Think 'Punk'd" meets Cocoon.

Surely Ryan Murphy knows the value of good publicity and ratings. So I am asking you to take to Twitter and Facebook and make the hashtag #BettyWhiteOnAHS trend hard! Let's get Betty another outrageous gig!

More, anon.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mini Reviews - "X-Men: Days of Future Past;" "Horns;" "Magic in the Moonlight."

One of the many benefits of traveling for my day job is the opportunity to catch up on films I missed in theaters at no additional expense to me. This past weekend's jaunt to San Francisco was no exception and I was able to see two newish movies while flying and a current release in my hotel room. 

First up, Alexandre Aja's take on Joe Hill's second novel, Horns. I read 'Horns' over a few nights while staying at my sister's a few years ago, and while I liked it a lot, I thought his first novel, 'Heart-Shaped Box' was better. (Hill, if you don't know, is the son of prolific genre novelist Stephen King, writing under his mother's maiden name). Ig Parrtish (Daniel Radcliffe) is accused of murdering his long-time love Merrin (Juno Temple). When he suddenly sprouts what appear to be demonic horns on his forehead, Ig finds those he encounters incapable of telling him anything but the worst secrets about themselves. Determined to find Merrin's true killer, Ig tears through his Pacific Northwest hometown, exposing the worst among it's residents, including his own family. Aja (High Tension; The Hills Have Eyes) displays his distinctive look in full, giving Horns a very in-your-face style. Radcliffe is impressive in the role, though some may find Harry Potter swearing and having sex a little off-putting. Supporting performances from James Remar; Kathleen Quinlan; Heather Grahame and David Morse are excellent, across the board, though Temple seemed a little flat in a role which consisted entirely of flashbacks. While some critics truly disliked Horns, I thought it a fairly faithful adaptation with some interesting FX and an hilarious comment on the secrets we all try to keep from one another. *** (Three Out of Four Stars). Horns is rated 'R' for "sexual content, some graphic nudity, disturbing violence including a sexual assault, language and drug use." 

Next was director Bryan Singer's newest entry in the franchise he created, X-Men: Days of Future Past. While I've always had issues with time-travel story lines, Singer manages to almost seamlessly combine the casts of both timelines in the series in a story revolving around a group of genetically-altered robots used to root out and destroy mutants. With a plot too convoluted to go into in a mini-review and Hugh Jackman's obviously aging Wolverine as a character who doesn't age, Days of Future Past somehow works, despite minimal appearances from the franchise's most famous members. "American Horror Story" cutie Evan Peters and "Game of  Thrones" alum Peter Dinklage join the growing number of terrific actors to appear in the franchise. Great FX and some complex performances from James McAvoy; Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence help make Days... one of the better entries in the franchise. *** 1/2 (Three and a Half Stars Out of Four). Rated 'PG-13' for "sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language."

Finally, comes prolific director Woody Allen's latest period piece, Magic in the Moonlight. Set mostly in the south of France in 1928, Magic... is the story of a magician and psychic debunker (Colin Firth) who is pressed by a friend and fellow magician (Simon McBurney) to reveal the fakery of an American medium (Emma Stone). What follows is a rather dull and predictable story in which Firth's character is fooled by and eventually falls in love with Stone's. Allen's oft-studied themes of religion and atheism are at the core, but it's nothing we haven't seen from him before. Supporting performances from Hamish Linklater; Marcia Gay Harden and Jackie Weaver and some lovely period costumes and set-pieces make the movie a bit more palatable, but I haven't seen an Allen film I've loved in a long time. There is really nothing new or interesting about Magic in the Moonlight and I think it may finally signal the call for the once-hilariously brilliant filmmaker to retire.  ** (Two Out of Four Stars) Magic in the Moonlight is rated PG-13 for " a brief suggestive comment, and smoking throughout."

More, anon.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Retro Review: "The World's End"

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg round out their "Cornetto* Trilogy" (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are the first two) with their take on Apocalyptic Sci-Fi, The World's End.

Desperate to reconnect to his youthful adventures, Gary (Pegg) talks four old mates into recreating and actually finishing the "Golden Mile" pub-crawl they attempted 23 years ago. 12 pubs in one night, ending at The World's End. But when they return to the town they grew up in, something is... off. None of the regular pub owners seem to recognize them and it looks as if they keep passing the same people on the street over and over again. Joined by pals Peter (Eddie Marsan); Steven (Paddy Considine); Oliver (Martin Freeman); Andy (Nick Frost) and eventually Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), Gary is determined to relive the best night of his life, despite the decidedly weird goings on in their home town. And as difficult as dredging up the past may be for all of them, what's happening in their small village is much worse.

Pegg's and Wright's script spends the first act on somewhat slow but amusing (and important) exposition before it's gets to the meat of the story, (SPOILER ALERT) which ultimately involves an alien plot to pacify the citizens of Earth so they might join an inter-galactic coalition of some kind. The performances across the board are excellent (who knew Frost could move like that?) and the FX are terrific. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and even more moments of quiet humor. Pierce Brosnan (Goldeneye) and "The Strain" alum David Bradley both lend their talents in supporting roles and the ubiquitous Bill Nighy is on hand for some very funny voice-over work at the end.

While certainly better than Hot Fuzz, The World's End still can't hold a candle to the brilliantly funny first film, Shaun of the Dead, though it echoes many of the same themes and locales while completing the triumvirate of Horror, Action and Sci-Fi in a mostly satisfying way (and including a rather hilarious fence joke which appears in all three films).

*** (Three Out of Four Stars). The World's End is rated 'R' for "for pervasive language including sexual references." 

*BTW - Cornetto is a British Ice Cream cone brand, featured in all three movies.

And here are the trailers for the first two films in the trilogy:

I hope to watch all three in a row, some day...

More, anon.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Disgustings, or The Gayest D-Bags You'll See This Week

Drew Droege and Jordan Firstman
Writer/Director/Star Jordan Firstman's short The Disgustings spends time with the kind of gay men we all know... and hopefully avoid: Elitist haters who pretend to be above everyone else and who can take no real joy in life. 

Co-starring and co-written by Drew Droege (best known for his hilarious YouTube videos where he parodies Indie actress Chloe Sevigny), The Disgustings is a dead-on look at the kind of narcissistic, self-hating gay men we've all encountered (and wanted to smash in their faces with a trendy cocktail). Judgmental, crass and completely unaware, Jordan and Drew hit every note about what is wrong with modern gay culture in this biting satire.

The Disgustings from jordan firstman on Vimeo.

Hilarious and sad at the same time, yes? Uncle P (as have many of you, I'm sure) has met his fair share of guys like this. It's no wonder they're taking selfies alone. I hope I never wind up as one of these sad queens who hate everyone and everything, just because I hate myself (which I don't). Thankfully, some exceptionally good friends, my amazing sister and some very affirming recent experiences (does Uncle P have a new Beau? Stay tuned to find out...) have convinced me that no matter how cynical and jaded I may become, I will never be as awful as these two. If you see yourself in this movie, don't bother to look me up. And get some help, bitch.You need it.

More, anon.
Uncle P

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Retro Review: "John Carpenter's 'The Ward'"

Genre great John Carpenter made his mark with the original Halloween and has since made some of the most memorable genre films of all time, including Christine; They Live; his amazing remake of The Thing and the very campy Big Trouble in Little China, among others. This 2010 effort from the now 68 year old director, unfortunately can't hold a candle his previous work.

Amber Heard plays Kristin, a teen girl found standing outside a farmhouse to which she set fire, and with no memory of anything before that. She is taken to a special ward of the local mental hospital where Dr. Stringer ("Fringe" and "Sherlock Holmes" villain Jared Harris) is testing a new kind of therapy on a group of similarly-aged teen girls, each with their own disassociative disorders.  Kristin moves into the room formerly occupied by Tammy, who in a prologue appears to have been murdered by some malevolent entity.

What follows is probably the most un-Carpenter-like Carpenter film ever made. Filled with cliches and genre tropes, this 1966-set 'ghost' movie ends up being little more than a pseudo-psychological thriller ala Identity and Shutter Island, though both of those movies are superior in almost every way. There are some terrific performances by the young cast, which includes Mamie Gummer; Danielle Panabaker; Laura-Leigh and Lyndsey Fonseca, all of whom have appeared on plenty of prime-time dramas and assorted smaller films, and all of whom manage to create interesting - if not exactly original - characters. The script by Michael & Shawn Rasmussen is both clunky and derivative, and I am surprised Carpenter agreed to do it. Proof that even if you've got it, you don't get to keep it.

Want to have a John Carpenter Halloween movie festival? Watch the 5 films mentioned in the first paragraph of this review and avoid this stinker like Vampires. *(One Out of Four Stars). The Ward  is rated 'R' for "violence and disturbing images." It is currently playing on Cinemax and Cinemax OnDemand, should you wish to waste 89 minutes.

More, anon.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Mitzi Ruhlman in Yardbird
I love finding new works from new filmmakers. While Australian director Michael Spiccia's 2012 short Yardbird may not exactly be new, it's relatively new to the States, having played at last year's Tribecca Film Festival. I had never heard of it, but thanks to the good folks over at Neatorama, I discovered it today.

Written by Julius Avery, Yardbird is about a young girl named Ruby, who lives with her father on a remote Australian junkyard. After saving a cat from being tortured by a trio of young thugs, Ruby and her father find themselves under attack. Unfortunately for the chief instigator, Ruby is... special. Taking cues from Stephen King's "Carrie" and employing some extraordinary SFX, Yardbird should be a lesson to all those who would be bullies. You never know who you're screwing with, so don't screw with anyone. 

Ruhlman, in a silent role, gives an extraordinary performance for such a young actor. Without saying a single word, she manages to convey every thought and emotion she's experiencing simply by letting us read her exceptionally expressive face. A remarkable short film by a team from which I hope to see more. Take 11 minutes to watch Yardbird. You won't regret it (a few NSFW F-bombs):

Yardbird from Bridle Path Films on Vimeo.

Not exactly a horror film (though certainly containing elements of the genre), Yardbird is a perfect example of the power of 'quiet' film making. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I and hope you'll share it. It certainly deserves to be seen.

More, anon.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

National Coming Out Day

So today was National Coming Out Day.  I hope lots of folks did and are the happier for it, as am I. And while it's all well and good that we have an official "Coming Out Day," for many of us, coming out isn't or wasn't a one day deal. 

For Uncle P, the process started with a few High School Theatre girl friends, claiming then (and through much of college) that I was Bisexual, knowing full well that wasn't true in the least. Of course, Uncle P came of age at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, adding additional stigma to being a young gay man. And while all through my 20's and early 30's I had my fun, it wasn't until I went into therapy that I was able to not just come out to myself, but to to my immediate family. I was going to tell my mother on "Come Out with Ellen" day, but chose to do so a week before, steeling myself with a drink or three, first. She cried, not because I was gay, but because I had been afraid to tell her. Eventually, I started expressing to her which men I found attractive on the TV shows we both watched and we would have small conversations about why and whether or not we found the same guys attractive. She loved my long ago ex, Ric and encouraged me to find someone right up until she went into the hospital for the last time. 

I told my sister that same year, on the last night of my once-annual October trip to Florida. She was neither shocked nor upset, though embarrassed at having used the "F" word, earlier in the day (something that almost stopped me from telling her). To this day, she continues to not only be my BFF (I love you K & Q, but you know...) and a staunch supporter of LGBT rights, including Marriage Equality. I feel so lucky to have her on my side, especially given the stories we all know about families abandoning their LGBT members. And while there are still a few elderly family members (my Aunt and Mom's Aunt and Uncle, among them) who don't know - and as far as I am concerned, don't need to know - most of my cousins and few aunts and uncles know. And that's fine. They are all mostly liberal and accepting. And if not, the hell with them. I have reached the age where I truly don't give a rat's ass what you think about me.

For me, coming out was a long, drawn-out process which took many years. As I am sure it was and will continue to be for many gay people. But as more and more of us make ourselves visible, it will be easier and easier for those who come after us. Eventually (hopefully), 'coming out' won't be something anyone needs to worry about. Am I too optimistic about a Roddenberryesque Utopia where the whole word gets it? How  I would love a peek into the future a hundred or so years from now. I can only hope the smart folks win.

In celebration of Coming Out, here's the trailer for my favorite gay rom-com and sweet coming out story, Big Eden:

And here's a very affirming music video about Coming Out:

Own yourself. Love yourself. Be yourself!

Sending you love and support! Come out, come out, whoever you are! Know that there are many people who love and support you! I'm here if you need an ear.

More, anon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"The Walking Dead" Season Five Special Event

I am hardly surprised by the general excitement surrounding this coming Sunday night's Season 5 premiere episode of AMC's massive genre hit, "The Walking Dead." Nor am I in the least surprised by my personal excitement. The consistently excellent writing (yes, even Season 2), acting and production values on the cable original all combine for a show that (love it or hate it) will certainly go down in the annals of Television History (as long as such things exist, anyway) for so many reasons.

If you were with me back then, I would re-cap and comment on each episode during Season One and some of Two. I sort of miss doing that, but don't have the time to do so, anymore. But I still love the show and realize that Season Five is a milestone and I want to commemorate that for a couple of reasons.*

Sunday, October 12th from 9:30 PM Eastern to 11:05 PM Eastern, Uncle P will be Live Tweeting leading up to the premiere and during commercials! It will be the only episode I'll watch in real time this season (or maybe the season finale if this goes well - we'll see...). I hope I have enough to talk about! 

Don't already follow me on Twitter? You should. @Caliban761

*All of this, I think, is part of a new enthusiasm inspired by several recent events in Uncle P's life that are pretty much the exact opposite of the events around the same time last year (more on that in my next post). My 'New Normal' continues to become a more level and increasingly positive place that makes me want to get back to writing and expressing myself more. When I thought of doing the Live Tweet thing, I got excited about writing again and I can't wait to see what happens! Hope to see you on Twitter on Sunday night. I'll try not to be too spoilery!

More, anon.
Uncle P

Saturday, October 4, 2014

New 80's Music; Lip Dubs & Other Gayest Things You'll See This Week

Uncle P Was Here
So far, this weekend has been really excellent and this year's fourth quarter seems to be (finally) starting out to be better than last year's. After a terrifically fun & funny dinner and drinks with five other close co-workers (the official closed Facebook invite was called "Drink and Bitch") I came home on Friday, not quite ready to call it a night. So I hopped in the shower, changed and headed toward Southeastern PA's gay Mecca, New Hope and had a very fun evening which included getting to see my favorite comedian/bartender Adrian Colon (among other things; wink-wink, nudge-nudge). 

Today, Uncle P got to spend time with some dear young theatre friends at the Philadelphia Fall Festival (photo above), held in Center City's 'Gayborhood.' Tons of amazing food, cocktails and craft beers (I had a particularly delicious raspberry ale that was amazingly subtle and not sweet at all) as well as vendors and artists and tons of live entertainment from all over the region. We left around 3:30 (taking an hilariously unnecessary route back to the garage where we'd parked, but encountering a very cool, functional R2D2 because of it) and the increasing crowd was already becoming increasingly inebriated. I think we got out while the gettin' was good. Oddly, for what was promoted as an LGBT event, there very few LGBT-related booths or activities. After coming home, I ran some errands, defrosted the meats for tomorrow's Meatloaf Florentine and caught up on "Gray's Anatomy" (shut it!). After checking Facebook, I went to visit a few of my usual cyber-haunts, where I found a few music videos which I just had to share, because I loved them (and you should too).

First up (via) is The Department, with their decidedly 80's sounding and looking "As If Transformed." Electronica Lives!

Wow! That takes me back! 

Next (also via) is proof that artists and art everywhere. This weird, wonderful and super-fun single-take lip dub of Kiesza's "Hideaway" is just amazing and deserves to go viral.

Of course, Kiesza's original single-take video is pretty amazing, too.

Last, though hardly least (and to keep 'The Gayest Thing' tag relevant), the very adorable Berkshire Boys are back with their lip-dub of Demi Lovato's over-played "Really Don't Care." They're so cute, you can forgive one more listen!

All this and I still have a Sunday evening first date to look forward to. Whee! Yes, I still have my moments, but after Bluebird and these past few weekends, I'm finally starting to really feel like myself, again. And while I am always loathe to quote a criminal One Percenter, "That's a good thing." 

More, anon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Retro Review: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"

So this last weekend of September (and the first of Autumn) was a very mixed bag, though most of it good. I had intended on writing this review last night while the movie was still fresh in my mind, but the randomness of the Universe stepped in and made my Saturday night into something other than I had planned (I fell asleep and missed a party, but went out later and met a hot, funny and sweet man I hope to see again - yes, we exchanged numbers; I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid).  I worked one of my two mandatory Saturday mornings (7:00 - 12:30) and then went grocery shopping. I knew I had a party to attend, but after the groceries were put away, I had time to kill so I rented Captain America: The Winter Soldier OnDemand. Warning: This movie came out in the spring. There will be lots of SPOILERS!

Captain America: The First Avenger was one of my favorite movies the summer it was released, and I was very happy to find... well, soon. This time out, Cap is once again up against Hydra, who have wormed their unctuous tentacles into the very heart of S.H.I.E.L.D., led by the duplicitous Alexander Pierce (screen legend Robert Redford playing against type and obviously having the time of his life). When S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is 'killed' by a legendary assassin known as 'The Winter Soldier' (Sebastian Stan), it's up to Steve Rogers to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. Despite being told by Fury to "Trust no one.," Rogers does trust Agent Natasha 'Black Widow' Romanov (Scarlett Johansson, finally getting a chance to do some character development, especially with her relationship with Cap) and new Avenger Sam 'Falcon' Wilson (The Hurt Locker's Anthony Mackie) who is introduced in an hilarious opening sequence where Steve keeps passing him in a jog around the Washington Memorial Reflecting Pool ("On your left!")

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (my beloved "Community") have proven they have the chops to make a coherent action film with action sequences which a) make sense and b) can be followed without straining one's eyes. This is exactly what an Superhero action movie is supposed to be, folks! Performances across the board are up to Marvel's usual standards. Of course, while the astonishingly beautiful Chris Evans was born to play Steve 'Captain America' Rogers, he was nearly shirtless enough for countless women and gay men (though that grey jogging T is pretty amazing!). The scene with the now dying Peggy Carter (a heavily made-up Hayley Atwell) was particularly well done. There is also a very Sky Captain-ish appearance by the the fabulous Toby Jones as the computerized mind of mad scientist and Red Skull's right-hand-man, Arnim Zola.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is probably one of the best of the Marvel films and certainly one of my favorites. If I had to quibble at all, it's that it seems to follow the Marvel formula: Complicated plot followed by massive third act destruction. It may be time to mix it up a bit, guys. Still, it's a solid and beautifully made action movie with loads of all sorts of eye-candy for everyone! One last spoiler: Did you really think Cap and his team wouldn't prevail? **** (Four Out of Four Stars). Rated PG-13 "for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout."

More, anon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TV Review: "Gotham"

I don't usually review new TV series until after the 2nd episode but every once in a while a new show comes along that hits a home run on very first up at bat. And before I go there, what regular readers are left, know that I am and have been since childhood, a MASSIVE Batman fan. Closely followed by Superman, Batman doesn't need superpowers to be a Superhero. Other DC Favorites include Wonder Woman; Aquaman (don't you dare!); Flash and to a lesser extent, Green Lantern; Green Arrow and Nightwing. When FOX first announced what appeared to be a DC Muppet Babies, I was less than impressed. It looked... unnecessary, at best. As more clips and promos began to filter across the Net, my interest was piqued, though my expectations were still rather low.

Imagine my surprise when I sat down to watch last night's pilot episode and found myself immediately immersed in and engrossed by what turns out to be not only a Batman & Villains origin story, but a gritty, dark and violent crime drama filled with intriguing glimpses of the young versions of the characters we've come to know and love. The first episode begins (not a spoiler if you know anything at all about Batman's origins) with the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents and the new detective who promises Bruce he will catch their killer, Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie). Gordon's crooked partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) is in cahoots with vicious club owner Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) who in turn works for mob boss Carmine Falcone ("Rizzoli & Isles" and "The Wire" alum John Doman). As the investigation mounts, we're introduced to young versions of Selina "Catwoman" Kyle; Ivy "Poison Ivy" Pepper; Oswald "Penguin" Cobblepot and Edward "Riddler" Nigma.

First and foremost, kudos to Production Designer Doug Kraner, who has imagined a Gotham City for the 21st Century. Gotham City is gorgeously executed, seamlessly blending real-life New York City with his CGI rendered skyline, while managing (along with expert cinematography) to maintain the Noir atmosphere essential to the source material. Pilot director (and series producer) Danny Cannon has artfully set up what looks to be an exciting and intriguing show. Hottie McKenzie (probably best known for "The O.C.") has been around long enough to deserve the breakthrough role I hope Gordon will be for him.* Gordon is determined to clean up the corruption in Gotham and McKenzie plays him both tough and vulnerable, though it might be nice to see his softer side a little more. Logue is his usual self: slovenly and only looking out for himself, he brings an odd likeability to a completely unlikeable character. Smith is both seductive and vicious as Fish, a woman who won't blink an eye while cutting your throat. The stand-out villain this episode was Robin Lord Taylor's Cobblepot. Taylor's Penguin is madly sadistic and duplicitous and I loved him. 

If you are a Batman fan, a DC fan, a crime drama fan, a comics fan or just a fan of smart,entertaining TV, you should be watching "Gotham,' Monday nights on Fox (just before the excellent "Sleepy Hollow," which has a terrific season premiere!). **** (Four Out of Four Stars)

*If not, he should play Jeremy Renner's brother in something...

More, anon.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

TV Review: "Z Nation"

SyFy, in an effort to compete with AMC's blockbuster "The Walking Dead," has debuted their own zombie series, "Z Nation." Set 3 years after the Zombie Apocalypse, "Z Nation" concerns the efforts to get the only known bite-survivor to a virology lab in California to use his blood to develop a vaccine. The survivor in question is a non-willing prisoner participant in a trial study which killed everyone else it was tried on. Meanwhile, at a remote polar military installation, a lone soldier who calls himself  'Citizen Z,' tries to coordinate the effort to get that survivor where he needs to be.

Two episodes in and I can assure you that AMC has nothing to worry about from this shoddily-produced effort. Cheesy CGI, ridiculous dialog and some truly terrible acting are the culprits, despite featuring some seasoned veterans like DJ Squalls (The Abyss), cutie Keith Allen and star Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do; An American Werewolf in Paris). Allen, looking particularly scruffy and beat, is the survivor, Sqaulls is Citizen Z and Scott is the guy who has to get him to CA after the guy who was supposed to get him there ("Lost" alum Harold Perrineau) is killed in the pilot (oops - not too much of a spoiler - though to be honest, he was probably smart to collect that paycheck and move on). The rest of the cast is made up of folks you probably have seen before, but wouldn't be able to name if a gun was held to your head. 

Created by Eric Bernt (Romeo Must Die) and consequently written by a passel of writers with mostly minor credits, "Z Nation" squanders whatever potential it may have had on really bad makeup and CGI effects that look like they were made on a teenager's MacPro. Personally, I've seen better zombie makeup on my local Trick or Treaters. Most of the cast look like they know they are in a crappy show and seem almost apologetic for it. What a shame...

Unlike SyFy's better original series ("Battlestar Gallactica;" "Warehouse 13;" "Haven"), I really don't see a full five seasons out of "Z Nation." And that's probably not a bad thing. Most of these folks have better things to do with their time and talents. I certainly have better things to spend my time watching, as do you.

0 Stars Out of Four.

"Z Nation" airs Friday nights at 10 on SyFy and is repeated throughout the week, should you have nothing better to do (though I have to imagine - and hope - you must).

Zombie fans should stick with "The Walking Dead," which is about to begin it's fifth season on AMC.

My sister and I (along with many others) can't wait!

More, anon.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Back In the Saddle, Again.

Yes, You Are Seeing Double. The 'Fares' of Langhorne Players' Production of "Bluebird"
Next month will mark the first anniversary of my mother's passing. Uncle P's life has changed so drastically in such a short time that it seems both much longer and hardly a minute later at the same time. Of course, this probably only proves that time is an illusion. There can only ever be now. ("Whoa! Dude, too heavy..."  "Shut up, ya bloody wanker!"*)

Most of the inside of my house looks almost nothing like it did 11 months ago. It is very much starting to finally feel like my own place with my own distinct sense of style. That's helped a lot. I've also recently taken on a boarder (something I didn't want to do - I'd grown accustomed to being alone), but not something I regret. He  is a friendly acquaintance I first met while performing as Cassius in Julius Caesar in 1997. He needed the place, I had the room and I certainly like the extra money. Our schedules are different enough that we aren't often home at the same time and even when we are, we seem to get along quite well. He likes to boast that he is sharing a house with a gay man. I like to complain that he leaves the lid (not the seat) of the toilet up (toilet seats have lids for a reason - I don't want to have to fish anything out of mine, thank you) and he claims an inefficient freezer in a former home has left him with a habit of only filling ice cube trays half-way. But I will break him. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! No, seriously. It's working out well... so far. And yes, being a 12 year-old bartender means I must have a full ice bin at all times. Thanks again. Dad!

To tie all of this in with this post's title and the sprawling publicity photo above, despite the crazy crap that's been going on since she passed, I know Mom would be very upset to know that I'd put the thing about which I am most passionate on hold for so long. I was contacted by a director I knew by name only, at the suggestion of my very own Q (who knows me well enough to know it was time, as well). I was asked to come in and read for one or possibly two small roles in a play I'd never heard of, Bluebird by British playwright Simon Stephens. I got both parts and joined a show already two weeks into rehearsals with a bit of trepidation. Yes, they weren't huge rolls, but they were obviously important to the story and both have some hefty monologs. Thank His Great Noodly Appendages for my "Line Nazi" K, who always gets the job done! (LOVE you, Honey!). We officially opened last night (Friday) and while it was good, I still had a flub that almost threw me. 

Tonight, however, I was feeling particularly 'on,' as we say. I was calm and collected; focused and and firing on all cylinders. The performers among you will totally understand the feeling. Even better, two performances in and I am still finding new things about these two characters, both of whom are as different as can be, yet have so much in common. Bluebird is mostly set in a London Bluebird Mini-Cab and revolves around it's driver and a single night of fares who both inform and reflect his own story. I play Robert (a middle-class father returning to the scene of a crime on the day the perpetrator is being released from prison) and Andy (a tough-guy bouncer with a heart of gold, on his way home to his family after a rough night). Stephens' spare dialog is delicious to work with and immediately made me decide Andy was Cockney, which really gives him some delicious linguistic energy that's so very fun to play (and his very dirty mouth doesn't hurt - I love swearing on stage - it's very liberating)! Robert is much darker and sadder (and very drunk) - still a good exercise in character and mood, which is not as 'fun' to play, but equally satisfying. *And while I don't actually say it, "Shut up, ya bloody wanker!" seemed the obvious response in a post that has somehow turned out to be about dichotomy; death; life; theatre; acting; change and growth.

"Dude! What'd I say?"  Yeah, I know, but I'm not going to stop, because if there is one thing I have had reaffirmed these past few weeks (and especially tonight), it's that theatre can and should be transformative, for both performers and audiences. I can't speak for the audiences of any work in which I am involved, but as stressful and wonderful (I've not only made many new friends, but reconnected with one I hadn't seen in 30 years) as Bluebird has been, it reminded of why I do what I do. It is my 'religion' and it feeds my 'soul,'  however you decide to define either. And I am so very glad to be feeding so satisfyingly. Of course, I used to have to add silver to my hair to age me. Now I have to spray it darker to 'youthen' me. And don't get me started about mascara in my goatee!

Depending on when you are reading this, there are still 9 performances left. Be forewarned, this will not be everyone's cup of tea, you should pardon the metaphor. It's dark and spare and doesn't have a lot of action (almost the entire show is set inside the cab - cleverly designed and executed by the director and a fellow cast-mate, so it's never static for too long) but every 'episode' - no matter how brief - informs, echoes and/or foreshadows the bigger picture that is ultimately Andy's path to a sense of closure and self-redemption. Chewy, yummy actory stuff and exactly (as Q knew) what I needed, when I needed it most. For info and tickets, visit

Well, there's a ramble for you, eh? One of Andy's admonitions is "Enjoy the sunshine!" This is my sunshine. It is warm. It is friendly. It is good. Thank you to Mr Ken Junkins, who saw something he liked and trusted me to do what needed to be done.  And forever and forever thank you to Q for knowing this was the right project to ease myself back into and K for the line drills. Small enough to not have the line-load of 'Prospero,' but still artistically challenging and rewarding, I am so happy I agreed to do it.

Things are really starting to look at least a little bit better. At least, I hope so. Change is both inevitable and good. While embracing change isn't always easy, stagnant water both looks icky and stinks!

Here's a bit more about Bluebird and the London company that developed the original production:

I'm not saying it's all roses and lollipops. Hardly. There's all sorts of nonsense still going on that you would think I was making it all up if I told you. But the newest sense of normalcy seems to be a thousand times better than the worst possible scenario. 

Shameless Self-Promotion/Nonsense/Philosophizing over.

More, anon.