Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter"

Benjamin Walker as Lincoln

I loved Seth Grahame-Smith's novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter when I read it last year while on vacation in Florida (the only time I get to do any real reading, it seems). I found it smart, funny and very clever, so I was excited to learn that Tim Burton was producing the movie version.

Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) with a script by Grahame-Smith, the film version is surprisingly different from the novel, but no less enjoyable. It goes without saying that the whole premise is absurd: as a young boy, Lincoln witnesses the death of his mother at the fangs of his father's former employer and vows to get revenge. After the death of his father, Abe (Benjamin Walker) sets out to just that, but encounters a mysterious stranger named Henry (Dominic Cooper) who takes him under his wing, teaches him to fight and gives him a silver-plated axe/rifle with which to destroy vampires. The vampires, led by Adam (Rufus Sewell) and his sister Vadoma (Erin Wasson) are importing slaves for use as food in a plot to make America a vampire nation, thus setting into motion Lincoln's determination to end slavery.

Loaded with lots of flying blood and some excellent action sequences, AL:VH is a terrific-looking movie, shot in gorgeous tones of sepia that help set both the mood and the period. The performances are fine and Walker (best known for his performance in the Broadway musical Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson) plays Lincoln with just the right amount of gravitas, though Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger) seems to be having the most fun. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Thing) as Mary Todd Lincoln and Anthony Mackie (The Adjustment Bureau) as Abe's childhood friend round out the cast but hardly stand out. And it was good to see vampires portrayed as real monsters, rather than sparkly, angst-ridden teenagers. 

Unfortunately, the movie's biggest problem is its often terrible special effects. The CGI horses in an otherwise exciting stampede sequence look nothing at all like real horses and the truly atrocious age makeup in the film's  latter third is so distracting it took me right out of the movie. My companions (D, Chino and Nikki) all enjoyed it well enough, though they all agreed that the makeup was amateurish, at best. We saw the 2D version, which didn't suffer from the lack of a third dimension at all. **1/2 (Two and a Half out of Four Stars).

More, anon.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Gayest Riot You'll See This Week

June 28th, 1969. That's when things began to change for the LGBT community (of course we were just all called 'queers' or 'fags' back then). A gathering at the Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village (some say to mourn the death of Judy Garland) was raided by the NYPD's Morals Squad. Usually such raids ended in people going to jail, being publicly outed and generally having their lives destroyed. But that night, the crowd fought back. They fought back for 6 nights. Others joined them and a revolution was born. A year later, the first Gay Pride parade was held to commemorate that night and it's been going strong ever since.

Of course, I was just a kid when Stonewall happened. I didn't even hear about, it living in suburban PA. Or if I did, I didn't have a clue as to it's significance. Of course, many young LGBT kids today don't have a clue as to it's significance, either. Without Stonewall, we'd still be hiding and living in shame (though there are plenty of people who wish we were - just as there are people who wish Lincoln had never signed the Emancipation Proclamation or that women weren't allowed to vote). The community has a come a long way in those 43 years. And while we still have a long way to go, we owe a great debt of thanks to the people who fought back that night. So take a minute today to think of them and thank them.

More, anon.

PS - looks like I'm buying a new PC this weekend, so I should get back to regular posting soon!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Another Opening; Another Show

Tonight is the final dress rehearsal for Jeffrey and the last chance I'll get to talk about it here until after it's all but a memory.

Last night's tech run was all kinds of weird. There were new props, new costumes, and new set pieces and all eight of us were just a little thrown. I actually got lost at one point early on in Act I (in a spot I've never had a problem with before) and forgot an often-mentioned but never-seen character's name in Act II.

And the extreme heat and humidity that descended on the east coast yesterday surely didn't help. Thank goodness the theatre is well air-conditioned. I had friends opening in an outdoor production of My Fair Lady last night and I can't imagine what those costumes did to them in that kind of heat.  I remember playing Sir Toby in a modern dress, outdoor production of Twelfth Night in weather like this and we were absolutely drenched by curtain. Imagine those heavy Victorian gowns and tweed jackets... Ugh! It's making me sweat just thinking about it.

Anyway, as I've said before (and will undoubtedly say again - just not about this particular production), if you are in the central NJ/Southeastern PA area and looking for something to do this weekend, I can't think of anything better on which to spend your money. Your $25 ticket gets you the show; the catered reception; some wine and access to our silent auction, all benefiting four amazing charities. You can buy tickets at the box-office (directions & map here) one hour before curtain or online here. For more information about the James Tolin Memorial Fund and our beneficiaries (or to make a donation via PayPal), please visit our website:  

Okay, okay. Enough shameless self-promotion (for now, anyway). And enough Kiss Me, Kate! I never need to do that show again, either. I'll be back next week with more of my usual nonsense.

More, anon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Another Hell Week

Despite what you may have heard, that's NOT Uncle P
So, maybe not having Internet access at home isn't such a bad thing this week. Not being able to get online at home has also let me work some of my own long-neglected writing. I actually completed an entire new draft of Army of the Dead and completely re-assess another I've been trying to finish for some time. Of course, it's 'Hell Week' for Jeffrey and I wouldn't be doing much blogging, anyway.

For those unfamiliar with the term, 'Hell Week' is the last week of rehearsals and production prep before a show opens. The actors finally move into the performance space; the set and lighting goes up; the costumes get their final fittings... it can seem a bit overwhelming, at times. But it always seems to come together somehow. And honestly, after 10 years of putting these benefits together, I should that we know what we're doing.

People at the Day Job keep asking, "So, are you all ready for Friday night?" And I keep answering, "No. We'll be ready on Friday." I'm glad I took Friday off so I won't have to hear them ask "So, are you ready for tonight?" I'm going to sleep in, meet my buddy Sean for lunch in New Hope and then get my hair trimmed in what I hope will be a relaxing day off before the show.

Don't expect to hear too much more from me this week (though I may pop in if I see something particularly weird, funny or very gay and just have to talk about). Hopefully, I'll have my home Internet issues resolved by the time the show is over so I can post lots of pictures. If you are in the Central NJ area this weekend and are looking for something to do while helping out some terrific charities, please consider coming to see Jeffrey. More information about the JTMF and what we do is available at our website: If you can't come, but would like to make a donation, you do so via PayPal, right on our site.

More (hopefully), anon.

Friday, June 15, 2012


What I'd Like to Do to My PC
So, last night, I came home from rehearsal for Jeffrey, all ready to blog about what a great rehearsal we'd had. I turned on my computer and then went and poured my self a drink. When I got back, I had a start-up error. Okay. Not the end of the world. I clicked to re-start. The machine whirred and clicked until I got a message that said "Windows could not start. Press Enter to run start-up diagnostic." After an hour... "No errors found. Please re-start."  You can already  see where this is going, can't you? So, long story very short - I don't know when I'll be blogging from home or with any regularity for a while. If my computer is un-fixable, it may be quite a while because I simply can't afford a new one right now. In the meantime, I'll do my best to post from the day-job.

More (hopefully), anon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon on AMC's "The Walking Dead"
Okay - enough with The Theatre (for now, anyway). Let's talk about Zombies (one of Uncle P's favorite topics), shall we?

First off, AMC has released the first photos which confirm the return of Michael Rooker as Merle in Season 3 of "The Walking Dead." Merle was last actually seen in Season 1, handcuffed to a rail on the roof of an Atlanta department store (he made a minor appearance as his brother Daryl's hallucination in Season 2). Merle's amputated hand was later found by Rick and company, but they had no idea if he had actually survived. From the looks of the photo on the left, he did. I can't wait to find out where he's been and what he had to do to survive. I'm also interested in seeing how he and his brother Daryl will reconcile their relationship with the people who essentially left Merle to die on that rooftop.

In other Zombie news, my friends know (and mostly approve of) my obsession with the cannibalistic resurrected dead, and share some hilarious things with me on Facebook. Fellow Secular Humanist Diana M shared this image with Uncle P, today:

It combines Zombie imagery with one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, and I love it. Though I can't decide if it should be called 'Soup Zombie' or 'Brains Nazi.' What do you think?

Finally, appearing on CNN's satellite network HLN today, was a story about ammunition manufacturer Hornady who has introduced a new line of ammo intended for use against Zombies only. What? Ridiculous, you say? Well, I must agree with you. As I blogged just a few days ago, there are no (and never will be) real Zombies, despite recent and exploitative news which may seem to the contrary. Hornady is simply taking advantage of recent tragedies and many folks' overly obsessive fascination with Zombies to sell ammunition to people who don't actually need it. Is any rational person really anticipating the Zombie Apocalypse? Yes, AMC may be offering a Zombie obstacle course as part of their San Diego Comic-Con experience, but come on.

Okay - I may love Hornady's hilarious disclaimer at the end of that clip, but seriously... If you are purchasing ammunition in anticipation of the Zombie Apocalypse, I recommend that you seek out a the services of a competent psychotherapist or psychologist immediately, if not sooner. As I've said before, ZOMBIES ARE NOT REAL! Nor will they ever be, despite the actions of a few depraved individuals who may or may not be under the influence of one or more of any number of chemical intoxicants. As for cannibals... well, that's another topic for another post.

More, anon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

From Screen to Stage and Back Again

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in The Producers
Over at The Film Experience today, Michael did a post about turning Broadway shows into movies and vice-versa. He was decidedly against the latter, though I had to point out at least one (among several) exception - The Producers. But more on that particular show in a bit.

There are currently 7 Broadway musicals based on films: Bring It On; Newsies; Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; Ghost; Sister Act; Once and The Lion King. And this has been a trend for a while. Of course, I blame Andrew Lloyd Weber, whose adaptation of Sunset Boulevard seems to have started the trend. Oh, there have been several before that: 42nd Street; Promises, Promises (based on The Apartment); Applause! (based on All About Eve); A Little Night Music (based on Smiles of a Summer Night), but these were relatively few and far between. Lately though, shows like Beauty and the Beast; The Little Mermaid; Tarzan; Mary Poppins (all Disney productions); Little Shop of Horrors; The Wedding Singer; Legally Blonde; Shrek; Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang; Spamalot (based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail); Singin' in the Rain; Billy Elliot and Xanadu have graced the Great White Way. 

The cast of Spamalot
 Some (Little Shop...; Spamalot; Xanadu) were actually quite good. Others, not so much. And there is at least one more Disney show on deck; Aladdin is scheduled to hit Broadway next season. Of course, the aforementioned The Producers is probably the best example of when this works. For many years I told anyone who would listen that Mel Brooks should adapt his 1968 movie (one of the funniest films ever made) into a Broadway show. The fact that it went on to win a record-setting 12 Tony Awards proved me right.

Some people have griped to me about shows like Kander and Ebb's brilliant Kiss of the Spiderwoman and Ehrens and Flaherty's Ragtime. "They were movies first, Uncle P!" But like the upcoming Rebecca  and Matilda, these shows are based on the novels which inspired the films, rather than the films themselves. Still I have to wonder about the state of the original Broadway musical. Is Broadway becoming like Hollywood, regurgitating and/or adapting old ideas because they've run out of new ones? I doubt that. But people seem to like the familiar. "I loved that movie! Let's see the musical!"

Of course, many musicals from the 40's through the '80's have been made into movies. Some, brilliantly: Funny Girl; West Side Story; Cabaret; Chicago; Hair. Others, not so much: Jesus Christ Superstar; Evita; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; Phantom of the Opera; Nine. Currently, the film version of Rock of Ages is receiving scathing reviews. 

One of my favorite musicals (which deserves much more love than ever received) Bill Russell and Henry Krieger's heart-wrenching show about conjoined twins The Hilton Sisters - Sideshow, would make one hell of a movie. I can also imagine Avenue Q; Urinetown; The Boy from Oz; Wicked; The Drowsy Chaperone and Zombie Prom (among a few others) would all probably do quite well on celluloid (though these days movies have gone digital). 

Musicals will (hopefully) always be a part of American Theatre and as long as they are, they will be adapted into films. I just hope that the best of them get the film adaptations they deserve.

What original musicals would you like to see made into movies? Let me know in the comments.

More, anon.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ride 'Em, Cowboy!

Yippee Kiyay, Motherf*cker!
Okay - this post isn't really about hot cowboys. Sorry to disappoint. This post is really about acting. The 'cowboy' on your left is my sweet and talented friend David, striking a pose last week during a rehearsal for Jeffrey. I've known David for a while, though this is the first time he's acting with me instead of for me. 

David is Dear D's best friend. D is godfather to David's son, Little D. David and D have played lovers in both The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and Die Mommie Die! for JTMF. They are playing wannabe lovers in Jeffrey (if you know the show, you'll know what that means - if not, then you'll just have to come see it for yourself).

I took this photo with my phone and while the image isn't all that great, I think it conveys an unmistakeable air of 'Marlboro Man' masculinity. And before you ask, yes, David is straight. But that doesn't mean he's afraid to get in touch with his feminine side on stage.

Here's a picture of him in last year's JTMF show, as Angela Arden in Die Mommie Die!:

David as 'Angela Arden'
Quite a difference, no? As I said, David is a very talented actor. And like any good actor, he is capable of losing himself in a role and becoming someone else altogether. The best actors I know are completely fearless, and David is just that. In Jeffrey, he is playing Steve, a gay man who happens to be HIV+. I've watched him dive into the part with enthusiasm and humor, drawing on both his own and others' life experiences to create a character that is both real and accessible. Watching him work, both as a director and a fellow cast member, is simply inspirational. 

As is the case with just about every JTMF cast member in just about every show we've done. Directors love actors who are able to do what the JTMF actors do. And actors love working with other actors who can give them as much to play off as possible. The kind of trust, commitment and fearlessness they display towards each other makes working with them a truly joyous thing.

If you want to see some fine acting, share a few laughs, help raise money for good causes and just have a great evening at the theatre, tickets to the James Tolin Memorial Fund's 10th Anniversary AIDS Fundraiser featuring Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey are still available, but going fast. You can get yours, here.

More, anon.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On the Merits of Community Theatre

A rehearsal still from my 2008 production of The Skin of Our Teeth
The Antoinette Perry (or 'Tony') Awards are wrapping up as I write this post. I did not watch them, nor have I for a long time. I don't watch them because Broadway is completely irrelevant to the vast majority of Americans, especially those who love the theatre. Excuse me, The Theatre. 

Yes, Broadway can be wonderful. I've seen some amazing shows on Broadway. I was in the audience for the final performance of the full original cast of Kiss of the Spiderwoman (amazing, by the way). I first saw one of my favorite comedies about theatre, Noises Off, on Broadway. I sat in the second row, in the seat next to where the character Sally Simpson would eventually join the audience in The Who's Tommy. I've seen the original casts of Pippin; Timbuktu; The Wiz; The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Hurly Burly; Victor/Victoria; Wicked; Xanadu; Rent; Aida; The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? and dozens more plays and musicals. I've seen Broadway revivals of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; West Side Story; Candide; A Midsummer Night's Dream; Richard III;  and many more. But how many of us have access to Broadway, especially at today's ticket prices? A top-tier musical can cost $150 or more. That's not including transportation to New York, parking and a meal. Add taxes and tips, and an evening on Broadway can easily cost several hundred bucks. These days, I can barely afford a movie ticket, let alone a ticket to a major Broadway show.

What's the alternative? Well, you might be lucky enough to live in a city where the traveling company of a show might play (still exorbitant). But most likely, if you love the theatre, you're going to see your local community theatres' shows. And that's a good thing. For every professional regional company (whose prices can be almost as out of reach as Broadway), there are probably 10 community theatre companies who charge less than $20 a ticket. And many of them do truly terrific work. Case in point: This past Friday I saw an absolutely delightful and expertly-executed community theatre production of The Drowsy Chaperone. The cast was excellent across the board, the direction was dead-on and the production values were rather spectacular. Yes, of course there are plenty of truly awful community theatre companies out there. But there are also plenty of truly awful professional theatre companies, as well. Trust me, I've seen (and even been party to) some truly wretched 'professional' shows.

Having done my share of both professional and community theatre, I have to say, I much prefer the latter. People who perform, direct and otherwise create for community theatre do what they do because they truly love the theatre. That's not to say that professionals don't love what they do but professional theatre is a profit-driven business. The cast and crew may love what they do, but their primary goal is to make money. Community theatre companies are mostly non-profit organizations whose sole intent is to provide entertainment for the community at large and allow creative outlets for local actors, designers, technicians and craftspeople. Whether they do it well or not, doesn't really matter (though a job well-done is always better than the alternative). The fact that they do it at all, makes it worth doing.

I started this blog almost four years ago in an attempt to document the process of putting on a community theatre production of The Skin of Our Teeth for Shakespeare '70 and the Thornton Wilder Society's first annual conference at The College of New Jersey in 2008. My 'Steampunk' inspired concept for the show was embraced by both the company and the conference attendees, which only served to validate not only my own artistic sensibilities, but led credence to the existence and artistic value of community theatre in general. 

Here's the thing: If you live in or near New York and can afford to see Broadway shows, by all means, do so. Many shows have lotteries for folks who can't afford the regular ticket price and discounted tickets are always available at the TKTS booths at Duffy Square and Battery Park (which is how I could afford many of the shows I've seen on Broadway). If you don't live near or in Manhattan, I urge you to please support your local theatre companies. They have just as much passion, drive and artistic integrity as the companies who have millions to spend and you can see original and differing interpretations of so many plays and musicals.

Remember - Art Can't Hurt You.

More, anon.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review: "Prometheus"

Charlize Theron and Idris Elba in Prometheus
In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a Titan who stole fire from the gods to give to mankind and was punished by being bound to a rock, where his liver was eaten every day by an eagle, only to have it regrow every night. In Ridley Scott's film Prometheus, it's the name of a scientific vessel whose crew is in search of the origin of the human race (or so we think). Prometheus may not be a direct prequel to Scott's 1979 Sci-Fi Spook-house classic Alien (as Scott has insisted  since production began), though it certainly takes place in the same universe and Scott fills the movie with all sorts of visual and character references to it (including, though hardly limited to, the film's final moments).

It is 2089 and Dr. Elizabeth "Ellie" Shaw (Noomi Rapace) is an archeologist in search of the origins of man. When she and her lover, Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Greene) discover several nearly identical cave paintings from unrelated cultures all around the world, they soon find themselves headed for the distant planet the cave paintings depict. They travel there on the Prometheus, a ship built and paid for by the Weyland Corporation (the same company that sends the crew of the Nostromo to discover the acid-blooded xenomorphs in Alien). Also aboard are the ship's Captain (Idris Elba); Weyland executive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron in her second major release in two weeks); a crew of a dozen or so scientists and David (Michael Fassbender), a robot of Peter Weyland's creation. From at least one previous encounter, we know Weyland's robots don't exactly follow Asimov's Laws of Robotics, and David is certainly no exception. 

The crew awakens from a two-year cryo-sleep early on, in much the same way as the crew of the Nostromo did at the beginning of Alien. Weyland (an almost unrecognizable Guy Pearce under a ton prosthetic age makeup) appears in a holographic message, claiming to be long-dead and introducing Shaw and Holloway to the rest of the crew. The ship lands and the crew discovers a pyramid-like building which houses... well, I won't get too much into it to avoid spoilers. Suffice it to say, what they discover isn't quite what they thought they were looking for.

Scott and writers John Spaihts (last year's The Darkest Hour) and Damon Lindelof ("Lost") explore lots of ideas in the film's nearly 2 and 1/2 hours and while most of it works, a few of their loftier ideas end up not being  fully explored and some members of the audience with whom Dale, Q and I saw it were left unsatisfied. Like "Lost," Prometheus asks far more questions than it answers, but my companions and I didn't mind that at all. Some questions (as the film suggests) aren't meant to be answered.

The visuals and effects in Prometheus are simply outstanding. The alabaster-skinned aliens Shaw calls "The Engineers" are actually quite beautiful (we learn that it is one of these "Engineers" that is found dead in a navigation chair early on in Alien) while the monstrous beasties, once unleashed, are slimy and creepy and a little more than disturbing. Poor Q spent several moments peeping between her fingers and thankfully missed one particularly distressing sequence involving a tiny worm in an eyeball. Alien fans will take much delight in Arthur Max's H.R. Geiger-inspired production design. Marc Streitenfled's score is often amazing, though occasionally over-the-top and Janty Yates' sleek costume designs feel right for 80-some years from now.
The performances in Prometheus are uniformly good, with Theron (as yet another ice-hearted bitch) and Fassbender (always amazing) as the stand outs. Rapace (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) gives a workman-like performance as the eventual Ripley-esque Shaw (they even share similar first names - Ellie and Ellen) and Marshall-Greene (who some casting director must use as Tom Hardy's younger brother in something) is fine. Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) has what amounts to a cameo in a dream sequence/flashback as Shaw's father. The rest of the cast is okay, though I found myself trying to figure who was going to die next, rather caring about the actual characters. My biggest quibble with Prometheus is its completely unnecessary use of 3D, which added little-to-nothing to the film experience, unlike Martin Scorsese's brilliant Hugo, from last year.

While not quite as intensely scary as Alien or dishearteningly dystopian as Blade Runner, Scott's latest film is certainly worth seeing and just as much fun as you would hope a summer Sci-Fi/Horror tent-pole movie should be. And of course, it is exactly the kind of movie a 75 year-old genre director should make when facing his own mortality. Is it a classic, like Alien or Blade Runner (or even Thelma and Louise)? Hardly. But it's a great ride with gorgeous visuals (Theron and Fassbender among them) and a scare or three along the way. Only those looking for a true Alien prequel will be disappointed. I'm glad I was not one of them. ***1/2 (Three and a Half out of Four Stars). 

And just to add to the fun, here's a great fake TED Talk video made to promote the film:

More, anon.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The (Possibly) Gayest Boy Band You'll See This Week

One Direction

I don't get Boy Bands. Never did. Oh, I certainly get Marky Mark and (to a certain extant) Justin Timberlake (gotta love a cutie with a sense of humor). I guess I was already too old when 'NSYNC, Backstreet Boys and NKOTB came into popularity. Of course, I never got any of the teen idols of my own generation, either. David Cassidy? Really? Davy Jones? No, thanks. Though in full disclosure, I once had a very dirty dream about Donny Osmond. Of course, I had a very similar dream about '68 Comeback-Era Elvis (Damn, he looked fine in that black leather!)... But give me a big, furry bear over a skinny twink, any day. 

Still, the Boy Band phenomena still persists, especially with the latest British import, One Direction. Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis were signed by Papa Bear Simon Cowell's Syco Records after placing third in the British version of "X-Factor." That's all I know (and really care to know) about them. They draw hordes of screaming tween and teen girls to their concerts and are apparently quite popular. I've never heard (nor do I care to) a single one of their songs. In fact, they were barely a minor blip on my pop-culture radar.

That is, of course, until the video below appeared today on Boy Culture. A collection of photo stills, the Vimeo clip begs the question: Are they gay or just European? I'll let you decide.

One Direction - Gay or European from Tiffany Vicente on Vimeo.

Honestly, I don't care. The songs they produce are simply more musical pablum for children who wouldn't know good music if it bit them on their bums.

Holy crap! Have I become my parents? (Shudder...)

More, anon.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Something Wicked This Way Passed

When Uncle P was in the 8th grade (When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth), I had an amazing and inspiring English teacher named Jack Fogarty, whom I have mentioned more than once here on Caliban's Revenge. Jack encouraged me to write and to act and to express myself and to be myself. He also taught me how to analyze a novel and the novel he used to do so was Ray Bradbury's dark fantasy "Something Wicked This Way Comes." A semi-autobiographical tale of an evil carnival populated by people who live off fear and steal souls. I was riveted and couldn't wait to see how it ended. And of course, I devoured everything I could find by Bradbury, afterwards. "The Martian Chronicle;" "The Illustrated Man;" "Dandelion Wine;" "Fahrenheit 451:" "The October Country;" "The Halloween Tree;" "I Sing the Body Electric;" the list goes on and on. Bradbury was a major influence on me and countless other writers. Even Steven Spielberg recently talked about how much Bradbury influenced his early films.

The prolific Mr. Bradbury wrote for TV and film and his works have been adapted into loads of movies and TV shows, including the Canadian anthology series "The Ray Bradbury Theater," which ran from 1985 to 1992 and was syndicated here in the U.S. He was good friends with movie effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen and presented Harryhausen with the Gordon E. Sawyer award at the 1992 Academy Awards. 

A life-long conservative, Bradbury was less than happy when documentarian Michael Moore named his 9/11 conspiracy film Fahrenheit 911, though he allowed the title to be used. When "Fahrenheit 451" was released as an eBook in 2011, Bradbury said  "We have too many cellphones. We've got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now." Interestingly, Bradbury also said "Fahrenheit..." was the only Science Fiction he ever wrote. He claimed the rest of works were fantasies, because they "...could never happen." 

His short story "All Summer in a Day" is probably my favorite. It's about a group of schoolchildren living on Venus where it constantly rains and the sun is only visible for two hours every seven years. Margot, who once lived on Earth and remembers the sun, is locked in a closet by her cruel classmates, who don't believe her accounts of what the sun looks like. She misses the two hour event and her classmates later feel remorse for what they've done. It's everything I felt as a gay kid, without the remorseful classmates (though I doubt Bradbury intended any gay undertones when he wrote the story in 1954). "Something Wicked..." remains my favorite Bradbury novel and I revisit it often. As I've mentioned several times, the 1983 Disney film adaptation starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce is less than satisfactory.

Other screen adaptations of his works include:

 Fahrenheit 451

It Came from Outer Space

The Illustrated Man

The Electric Grandmother

The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit

and the lamentable A Sound of Thunder

Bradbury passed away on Monday at the age of 91. Like many of his fans and admirerers, I am mourning the loss of one of our smartest and most prolific fantasy authors. The world is better for having had him in it, and a little worse for having lost him.

More, anon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

They Were Hee-ere!

How on Earth did I miss the 30th Anniversary of one of the best horror movies of 1980's? I have to thank JA at My New Plaid Pants for reminding me.

Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist turned 30 yesterday. Produced by Steven Spielberg (whose fingerprints are all over it), Poltergeist  was released on the heels of the rather disappointing film adaptation of Peter Straub's terrifying novel Ghost Story with the tagline "A real Ghost Story."

The 80's were very much a decade of movies that were shared with my sister and we both have many fond memories of sitting in awe of some rather amazing films. The Empire Strikes Back; Superman II; E.T.; Gremlins; Raiders of the Lost Ark; The Color Purple; Goonies... Still, Poltergeist remains probably the only movie from the era that we have both seen enough times that we can tell you exactly what's happening on screen, just by listening to the score. 

The Freeling family lives in a very ordinary suburban development called Cuesta Verde. Steven Freeling is a successful realtor for the company that built Cuesta Verde and his wife Diane is a happy, stay-at-home mom. Their three kids (Dana, Robbie and Carol Anne) have the usual sibling relationships. The Freelings are having an in-ground pool installed, further proof that their happy lives will only get happier. One night, young Carol Anne awakens and comes into her parents' room to watch TV. Of course, this was back when many regular stations signed off at midnight, so we are left to wonder just exactly what Carol Anne is watching and who she is talking to after the broadcast ends. After a strange light pours from the TV and leaves a black mark on the bedroom wall, Carol Anne announces "They're here!" to her startled parents. Thus begins a supernatural nightmare that will eventually drive the family from their home.

The excellent cast includes Craig T. Nelson; Jobeth Williams; Beatrice Straight; Zelda Rubinstein and James Karen. The special effects were state-of-the-art at the time and still manage to hold up 30 years later. While neither of us were ever actually scared by the film, there were plenty of things that managed to creep my sister and I out. The backwards music and menacing compass in the bedroom; the slithering steak and Ryan's face peeling; the evil tree and even more evil clown doll; Diane being thrust to the ceiling; the lengthening hall and skeletal demon; the rotting corpses in the muddy swimming pool... And of course, the loads of little touches that lent an air of foreboding, like the foreshadowing disinterment of the late Tweety, the canary.

Of course, there is the rumored 'Poltergeist curse,' thanks to the untimely deaths of young Dominique Dunne ('Dana'); murdered not long after the film's release by an insanely jealous boyfriend and Heather O'Rourke (Carol Anne); who died during surgery to repair an intestinal blockage just before the second (and far inferior) sequel was released. The so-called 'curse' is also often blamed for the deaths of several actors in the film's sequels, including Will Sampson, Julian Beck and even Rubinstein, herself. Nonsense and coincidences, of course. Both Williams and Nelson went on to successful careers in TV and films; most notably Nelson on "Coach;" "The District" and "Parenthood" (as well the voice of Mr. Incredible in Pixar's brilliant superhero/spy parody The Incredibles).

Plans for an inevitable and unnecessary remake have been announced, despite the movie still being able to surprise and scare those who've never seen it before. Truth be told, all the 3D CGI in the world won't make up for the excitement and awe of seeing the original Poltergeist for the first time. They just don't make 'em like that, anymore.

If you are a housing developer, please promise me that you'll move the bodies and not just the headstones. There'll be hell to pay, otherwise.

More, anon.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Gayest Comics You'll See This Week

A lot has been made lately about gay comic book characters. Marvel Comics recently portrayed a gay wedding between the Canadian X-Man Northstar and his human partner Kyle, while DC Comics announced that the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott came out as gay in the 'Earth Two' series, in which all previous incarnations of the DC Universe are apparently moot.

Being practically ancient, Uncle P really doesn't get the Superhero comics of the modern world. There have been so many reboots and re-writes, I am actually confused by who is whom. And truth be told (and as I've mentioned before), I'm a DC guy. I just love Superman; Batman; Aquaman; Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. They are the superheroes I grew up with (Spider-Man notwithstanding) and the superheroes I still love (yes, even Bryan Singer's Superman Returns).

And of course, it doesn't matter to me which comic characters are gay or straight. I'm just glad that the industry has embraced its LGBTQ readers and included characters with whom we can relate. And while Marvel may have revealed Northstar's sexuality over 20 years ago (with little opposition at the time), it's nice to see them giving his marriage to Kyle some serious coverage. The X-Men series has always had gay undertones anyway, especially in the movies based on them.

70's Gay Clone Superman
 The hate group known as "One Million Moms" (which should probably be called 'Forty-Thousand Uptight, Teabagger Morons') has come out in opposition to the inclusion of LGBT characters in comics. Meanwhile, not one of them has come out against the extreme violence in comics like The Punisher, where brutal decapitations are commonplace. Heaven forfend that the writers should portray honest and heartfelt love between two men, but it's OK to have a straight hero rip the beating heart out of his enemy. Am I the only one to sense a serious disconnect here? I must think not.

Anyway, comic artist Dale Lazarov just published his own (very NSFW) tome, "Comics Made Me Gay," in which he explains how comic book Superheroes helped to shape his personal ideals of what and who is sexy in the pen-and-ink world of pulp fiction. Trust me, I totally identify with everything he has to say, Comic book heroes embody everything gay men have taught one another about what is hot. Muscles; strength; empathy; attractive young wards and ideals about justice and fairness are the cornerstones of every Superhero comic since Superman made his first appearance in Detective Action Comics in 1938. These heroes, often closeted to protect their true identities from an non-understanding public, have provided inspiration for generations of LGBTQ youth for more than seven decades. It seems so empowering that they are finally coming out of their closets to inspire a new generation of young people to be proud of who they are.

lately, I find myself so amazed at how far the LGBTQ community continues to make ourselves known among mainstream media and I can finally envision a day when that inclusion is no longer an exception.

Keep on fighting the good fight, folks.And know that it's okay to drool over Brendan Routh:

More, anon.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why It's NOT the Zombie Apocalypse

The Zombie Apocalypse?

There has been lots of disturbing news (mostly out of Florida) lately about 'zombies' and cannibalism in real life. Most horrific and sensational, is the story of the young man in Miami who attacked and ate 75% of the face of a homeless man. Rudy Eugene, 31, was most likely under the influence of a drug commonly called "bath salts" on the streets when he attacked Ronald Poppo, a homeless man last week, resulting in sensationalist headlines about a "Zombie Attack." As of now, Poppo remains in critical condition in a Miami hospital. It took six rounds to take Eugene down, after he growled at the officer who ordered him to stop the attack. The attack coincides with recent reports of chemical or other-wise toxic vapors in various Florida schools.

Then there is 21 year-old Alexander Kinyua, a Morgan State University student who is accused of eating the brain and heart of his roommate, 37 year-old Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie in Maryland. And let's not forget our neighbors to the north. Canadian authorities are on the hunt for one Luca Rocco Magnottta, a gay porn actor who apparently brutally murdered and dismembered his lover, mailing the man's body parts to various Canadian locations. Magnotta supposedly recorded the murder and posted it on YouTube, along with videos of him killing kittens.

All of these crimes have one thing in common: They are the result of defective mentalities. They have nothing to do with reanimated corpses, Voodoo, viral infections or bad gas station hamburgers. The people who perpetrated these crimes were either insane or under the influence of some seriously bad news drugs. 

How do I know this? Simple: ZOMBIES ARE NOT REAL. They are works of fiction created by screenwriters and novelists in an attempt to make money. Look, I love a good zombie movie as much (if not more) as the next guy. "The Walking Dead" is one of my favorite TV shows ever and George A. Romero is one of my personal icons. Hell, I've written a zombie movie, myself. I even own several zombie toys. But I know that zombies, vampires, werewolves and living mummies don't actually exist. As does every rational person on the planet.

Here's the thing: Terrible things happen all the time. Lunatics, despots and dictators commit atrocities, every day. People are murdered in any number of horrific ways, every day. Death and destruction are all around us, every day. It's just a sad fact of life. It just so happened that these particularly sensational and gruesome events took place within a few days of each other and the media, always looking to make money on real-life horrors, took hold of and ran off with them. The best we can do is be glad these things haven't happened (and most likely won't happen) to us and carry on with our lives. The Ed Geins; Jeffrey Dahmers; Rudy Eugenes and Luca Magnottas of the world are in reality (and thankfully) few and far between. There is nothing supernatural about these people. They're just a very sad fact of life who have absolutely nothing to do with this:

Just keep telling yourself, "It's only a movie."

More, anon.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy Pride Month

I'm Proud to Be a Gay American

June is LGBT Pride Month here in the States. There are parades and events in every major city and many smaller ones. Pride is one of the reasons the JTMF has our gala in June. 

As someone who came of age in 1970's (I keep telling you that I'm old), I am pleased and surprised that we've finally started to reach a place in the U.S. that I honestly never thought I'd see in my lifetime. There are gay characters on television who aren't just there as jokes; support for LGBT rights are at all-time high and our President has officially voiced his support of same-sex marriage. In fact, every straight person I know supports Marriage Equality (and I know a lot of straight people). 

That's not to say we don't still have a long way to go. Right-wing, conservative Evangelicals keep using antiquated passages from the Old Testament to spout hate and discrimination; three year-olds are taught songs about hating 'homos;' so-called 'Men of God' espouse violence against gay people; the Catholic Church continues to cover-up pedophilia amongst its priests while preaching anti-gay rhetoric and 'One Million Moms' promote boycotts against gay-friendly businesses like J.C. Penny and DC Comics. Anti-gay hate groups like Focus on the Family and NOM continue to cite discredited junk science and recanted studies in an effort to deny LGBT people basic human rights and don't even get me started on the loons at Westboro Baptist Church. Repugnican politicians promote hate and the (probably gay) husband of a former Presidential candidate still practices "reparative therapy," a pseudo-science rejected by every legitimate medical and psychological organization in the country. It truly and deeply saddens me that so many people still live in fear and ignorance in the 21st Century.

But that's not what this post is really about. It's about how far we have come in making our voices heard, teaching people that we are not to be feared and letting the world know that we will not be marginalized or forced back into the closets from which we have fought so hard to break free. 43 years after the infamous Stonewall Riots of 1969, Lesbian; Gay; Bisexual; Transgendered and Questioning people are finally starting to be recognized as real human beings, rather than second-class citizens and I actually have hope that I will live to see true Equality in this country in my lifetime. And that's a very good thing.

At the risk of repeating myself, here are some of my favorite gay flash-mobs, music videos and movie trailers:

We're here! We're Queer! Get over it! Someday, we won't need to chant that anymore...

I know I have readers from all over the world (I see your hits on that spinning globe to your left). If you live in a country (like Canada) that has embraced LGBTQ people as equals, you are a step ahead of U.S. on the evolutionary scale. If you live in a country where being gay is still a criminal offense, my heart goes out to you. If you live in the U.S. I urge you to write, email and/or visit your local representatives to demand the equality promised to all Americans by our Constitution. We may not be there yet, but the louder our voices, the more we'll be heard.We will get there. And soon.

OK - I'm off my high-horse again. Now go out and celebrate Pride Month. I know I will.

More, anon.