Sunday, December 23, 2012



Ok, so this wasn’t so “soon”…but never fear true believers I’m not bailing on the topic yet.  After all, anyone with not 1 but 8 framed superhero posters in his dwelling is so engrossed in the genre that it’ll take more than sloth and writer’s blog to derail him.

So let’s keep it going by continuing my personal picks for the best superhero movies of all time.


I love this movie!  I remember seeing it at a sneak preview back in 1991 and loving every moment of it.  A great moment was during the movie after Cliff dons the rocket for the first time to save Malcolm and then flies off into a montage of goofy moments, a patron in the theatre shouted, “Rewind that!  It was awesome!”  This brought out a loud cheer and immense clapping from the audience.  Seriously, there’s not enough clapping in movies anymore.  Still when my first viewing ended, I knew that the movie would fail to cross over into mass appeal.  Not sure why, because it’s essentially Raiders of the Lost Ark meets WWII Superhero.  Joe Johnston is a solid director and managed to mix the genres even more successfully years later with Captain America: The First Avenger (coming soon to my list).

The Rocketeer is probably overlooked by most superhero fans because of the era it takes place in, and that Cliff Secord is more of an adventurer than a superhero.  However, the character was created first in the comic books (thank you Dave Stevens for your stellar ode to Commando Cody and Rocketman!).

Watching The Rocketeer (and I just stumbled upon it on cable which is why I was inspired to return to the countdown) makes me smile.  There’s a simple purity to the action and the era.  Good guys were good.  Bad guys were Nazis and mobsters.  The only minor quibble with the movie is that it was 1-2 years before CGI really took off, so some of the FX is dated…but it still manages to add charm since the entire concept harkens back to the serials of the 1940’s.

Twenty five years later and the movie still is a gem.  If you have never seen it (or at the least in a decade) give it another viewing.  It’s exciting time well spent.


Let me make it clear that I did NOT enjoy 2012’s offering The Amazing Spider-Man (at all).  In my view it was a completely unnecessary origin story that fell so close to the first (superior) movie that they had to make changes and thus eliminate all the good parts and fill those gaps in with dreck.  Plus, I think Andrew Garfield (and his freakish head and hair) doesn’t look like Peter Parker…he just looks like Andrew Garfield…with poufy hair.

However, back in 2002 the first Spider-Man movie hit!  And it was amazing, spectacular, sensational, and ultimate!  Spider-Man looked like Spider-Man, Peter Parker looked like Peter Parker, and the entire cast looked like they came right out of the comic book…and the origin SPOT ON PERFECT!  Sam Raimi’s love for the character and the world he inhabits shows in every scene and montage.

So why doesn’t Spidey rank higher on the list?  Two reasons weigh this one down a few slots.  First, the Green Goblin’s studio enforced look…horrendous!  He looks like he fell out of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Sad that such an iconic Spidey villain was made completely unrecognizable.  Thankfully everyone seems to have learned from their mistakes as all future villains are easily a match from comic-to-screen.  Second, the movie has one or two stumbling points of severely stilted dialogue -  Spider-Man’s conversation with the Green Goblin on the rooftop being a prime example.  It’s cringe worthy!
That aside, the rest of the movie is a hoot that culminates in one of the best superhero vs. supervillain battles in movies (Doc Ock’s future arrival will signal the best).  I still feel so sorry for the pounding that Peter Parker takes at the hands of the Green Goblin, especially that painful pumpkin bomb blast to the mask!  OUCH!

But, when all is said and done the movie delivers popcorn thrills and left audiences happy having learned that “With great power comes great responsibility” and “Who am I?  I’m Spider-Man!”

#7 and #6…before 2013…I promise.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


BAM!                  POW!

Top 10 lists are pretty much the ultimate cliché when it comes to ranking items.  No matter if it is movies, TV shows, books, comics, music, or hot chicks the instant a list is compiled it is ripe for debate and just as quickly labeled out-of-date.

I wanted to put out a list of my TOP 10 SUPERHERO MOVIES in the spring.  Three things prevented me from doing it: THE AVENGERS, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.  At the time, none had been released and based on previews I expected a few to possibly muscle their way into my work-in-progress list.  So I waited…then the movies came out…then I pondered.

Starting below and continuing over the next several posts I will countdown my personal TOP 10 FAVORITE SUPERHERO MOVIES.  Each entry will come with the various reasons why it made my list.  My primary focus were comic book superheroes that were successfully transferred onto the big screen.  In determining my 10 rankings (and I made sure there would be no cheating “ties”) the following criteria was used: my personal entertainment, repeat viewings, the need to own the movie on DVD, and what I deemed a successful move from comic-book to screen.   Critical ratings and box office were not items I cared about, since when I watch (and rewatch) a movie at home I never worry about what other people thought of the movie or how well it did at the box office.

A fairly thorough list of every superhero movie ever made can be found by CLICKING HERE.   Keep in mind I only counted films that had their origins as a comic book/pulp magazine first (sorry Meteor you had a chance).

As I wrote down and eventually crossed off all the entries that didn’t quite merit a Top 10 ranking, I found things becoming more difficult as my list was soon narrowed to 20 titles.  All of these offerings were excellent choices and this is where my quest for my personal Top 10 begins.  I am listing them in alphabetical order and then the countdown fun (and debate) begins.

BATMAN (1989)

Ok, already I’m sure someone is bellyaching that Superman IV: The Quest for Peace or X-Men 2 aren’t on my list.  At the conclusion of my countdown I’ll address those films that didn’t make my list as well as those that made the Top 20 but were axed as things start being sorted out.

Time to get things rolling…(drum roll)


I was a huge fan of the X-Men comic back in the 80’s when Chris Claremont and John Byrne produced some epic storylines.  Then the “X” became more of a franchise label and everyone on the planet jumped on the bandwagon.  That’s pretty much when I jumped off.

            I didn’t enjoy X-Men or X2, and I never even bothered to see X-Men United.  But, when this new take on the franchise came out, I sucked up my displeasure of the previous entries and gave it a shot.  To my surprise…I loved it.

            The casting of this movie was spot on and the pace was perfect.  James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (outstanding in his scenes in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS) own this movie as Professor Xavier and Magneto.  In fact, if the entire movie had simply revolved around Magneto hunting down and killing war criminals, that would have been fine with me.  X-Men:FC made Magento what he should be…a powerhouse bad ass!  In the first movies, he’s too old and too fragile to really command fear.  But here, his actions (and they are brutal) set the tone of who exactly the other characters are dealing with.  The partnership of Professor X and Magneto is a great deal of fun to watch, between their chess, verbal spats, and training of the younger mutants.

            The time period of the 1960’s is also fully realized in this movie.  Everything builds to a nice climactic battle between the good and evil mutants during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  That’s very important!  In any superhero movie, if the final battle isn’t worth the ride, then too much is missed as viewer expectations dwindle (a major stumbling point of movies like Fantastic Four and Iron Man 2).

            X-Men: First Class holds up well on repeat viewings and has me excited for the sequel X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Maybe the movie should have been a bit higher on the list, but the sheer disappointment I had for the other entries in this franchise (and the fact that the box office of this superior movie, wasn’t as strong as the other three) weighed it down a bit.

#9 and #8…soon…

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Flash Fiction Web Site Sampling!

Been a decent month for writing.  Two projects are moving along nicely and I have hopes that both will see availability before 2012 is over.

Where the character from Adjusted begins his bad journey.
First up, I am 80% finished with another 100+-page collection of horror short stories and flash fiction.  Straying away from merely locking myself in to 666-words...but I found a new number that works well.  Currently 30 flash fiction stories finished and I am working on the final two full length shorts that are part of a fun little vampire-werewolf-mummy trilogy that I've always wanted to nod my head in appreciation to.  The cover design for this collection of scary yarns is already finished, so if I can knock out these last twenty pages or so before August is done, I'll be able to move things along to the editing and formatting stages (both of which thankfully take the book out of my hands).

Give Teddy a hug!

At the same time I needed to branch away from sole horror stories for a bit.  It's hard to focus on death and grim tidings when it's 90 degrees and sunny outside.  So, I have managed 200-pages and counting on a unique novel (in presentation) in a genre that is much beloved to me - Superheroes.  This book is a real labor of love for me and based on my initial outlines and notes, and based on the percentage of the story that has been told so far, I'm projecting it to come in around 500 pages when complete.  The "bible" alone was 40-pages.  Something I really needed in order to keep all the various masked crimefighters, and their stories, sorted as I wrote.  No cover yet for this project, but I'm pricing out offers and will hopefully have a visual idea handed to me in a month or two.

In the meantime, a few of my stories have been published on a couple of great horror fiction websites.  If you enjoy reading some short tales while browsing the web, both sites are well worth your time.

First up, THRILLERS, KILLERS, N' CHILLERS just placed my story ADJUSTED up at their site.  It's one of my favorites from my first collection IN 666 WORDS.

You can read my story ADJUSTED by clicking here, and stick around on their site and check out some other great spooky contributions from a wide assortment of authors.

The great flash-fiction website MICROHORROR has also accepted a number of my stories.  TEDDY is one from my future project that I think gets the job done in a short amount of space.  It was obviously inspired by the movie TED...although there probably won't be any laughing Thunder Buddies for the characters in my Teddy's world.  Go check out Teddy and some of my other short offerings by clicking here.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Godzilla Pentagonal Feature! (Yep 5 of them!)

As a child I relied on the Saturday afternoon Creature Feature on Channel 20 or Monster Week on the 4 O'Clock movie to get my Godzilla-Fix.  I used to love the weekly marathons that inevitably ended with Friday's showing of Destroy All Monsters.  But as I grew I seemed to drift apart from Japan's truest fixture of cinematic entertainment.

Thanks to the technology of 2012 (namely Netflix Instant or the DVR), I've been able to reconnect with the lovable atomic fueled giant lizard.  Over the past few days I engulfed myself in GHIDORAH THE THREE HEADED MONSTER (1964), GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO (1965), GODZILLA'S REVENGE (1969), THE TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA (1976), and GODZILLA, MOTHRA, GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK! (2001)

Ghidorah looks tough. 
Thank goodness Godzilla has
that larvae as his tag-team
I won't bore you with long winded reviews that delve too deeply into plots.  The Godzilla franchise never really seems to pay homage to their own movies.  Characters, plots, storylines, timelines, history, origins, who is good and who is's all just window-dressing.  Godzilla seems to stumble from picture to picture not sure if he's a friend to children or whether it's time for the people of Tokyo to get their annual wake up call so insurance adjusters can all declare bankruptcy.  And, suffice to say, when you plant a grade on a Godzilla have to understand the category of movie we're talking about.  An A+ for a Godzilla movie is probably akin to a 'C' for standard fare so please...don't breathe atomic fire onto this genre enthusiast of Japanese cinema blogger.

1) GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER seems to have an awful lot of confusing plot for a standard monster movie.  All I remember is that it all eventually boils down to Godzilla, Mothra (the larvae version), and Rodan battling things out with the title character.  In the midst of this we get a princess with amnesia, a supposed history of Mars, a meteor monster egg, and some running, chasing, and shooting from a variety of human characters that I couldn't keep straight.  Whenever the monsters weren't on screen...I was underenthused.  And I guess I should note that if that damn larvae wasn't around, Ghidorah would have won because apparently Godzilla and Rodan don't live up to the hype when they're a tag team!  Grrr....  Godzilla Rating - 4 smashed buildings out of 10.

2) GODZILLA VS. MONSTER ZERO...OK now things get moving.  We're back to Mars only this time humans are traveling there and back...and there again.  Apparently Ghidorah is back on Mars and causing some real estate issues (Tokyo breathes a sigh of relief).  Earth (or really Japan and one token American) decide to send Godzilla and Rodan to help the martians out.  But it's all just a ploy so the monsters can be turned against us.  Luckily that one American figures it out...and along with the nerdy Japanese lab guy they set things right so Godzilla and Rodan can pummel Ghidorah, who is called Monster Zero even though he has three heads?  Shouldn't it be Monster Three?
Mars stops by to pick up Godzilla and Rodan.
    I enjoyed this offering more than the previous entry.  I found it amusing that the American actor was actually speaking his lines in English (even though he was dubbed you can clearly see that he's saying the same words...and that all the Japanese actors are merely waiting for a pause so they can deliver their lines...since they have no clue what the hell he's really saying).  It was nice that the martians decided they didn't really need Mothra.  Seriously, what drugged out screenwriter decided that a giant moth larvae would be a good monster? 
     There's also two classic moments for laughter in this entry.  First, upon defeating Ghidorah the first time Godzilla decides to dance The Jig, lots of foot work required for the big green guy...and some joyous jumping.  While watching him on a monitor the martian leader can't help but say, "Ah yes, a truly happy moment!"  Second, when the American hero (how did that ever fly in Japan) and his fiance return home, the martians are waiting for them.  In what amounts to the world's longest disintigration blast the hero watches his true love dissolve before his eyes.  His response, "YOU RATS!  YOU DIRTY STINKING RATS!"  Godzilla Rating - 6.5 smashed skyscrapers out of 10.

This picture will probably be on my Christmas
cards this year.
3) GODZILLA'S REVENGE!!!!!  This thing must have been an after-school special or something.  The movie focuses on this little fat kid who is bullied, lonely, and has far too strong of an imagination.  His no-show parents enjoy letting him spend too much time with an elderly chain-smoking neighbor, and over rice (naturally) they talk about monsters.  When Short Round goes home he appranently has a bad trip from the mushrooms Smokey mixed in with the rice and dreams of visiting Monster Island where he watches Godzilla fight The Sea Monster and a giant spider (both simply stock footage from other movies.  Then in what has to be the single funniest moment in the history of this franchise, the fat bellied lad ends up striking up a conversation with Minya (Godzilla's son) who, of course is also bullied by a big monster named Gabbra.
     Wimpy watches Minya solve his problems with a lot of biting and growling.  Then when his "trip" ends he finds out he's being kidnapped by some local thieves.  Folks, I am not making this up.  He fights the crooks off by biting and growling like a monster.  Then at the end he uses these same techniques on the local bullies...and the movies ends a few minutes before this Little Monster is obviously committed.  Godzilla Rating - 2 smashed outhouses out of 10 (solely because I laughed for two hours when this travesty finally ended).  In retrospect, I'm not really sure about that title either.  What exactly was Godzilla's Revenge?  Was it his revenge to train this annoying kid and turn him loose on the children of Tokyo?  Or is his revenge going to take place on the film-makers who greenlit this movie and practically turned the big green guy into a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother just to keep his name in the spotlight...?

A cool retro art poster.

4) THE TERROR OF MECHA-GODZILLA is the movie that my friend considers the pinnacle of the Godzilla franchise.  It's pretty good.  In a rare ode to the series, this movie actually plays as a sequel to the previous entry Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla.  It involves more creepy bad guys controlling monsters and rebuilding the tituar character.  The music in this entry is solid.  Godzilla has a dynamite introduction about 45 minutes into the movie when he has to deliver a serious ass-kicking to some D-rate monster named Titanosaurous.  Then the two Godzilla duke it out.  Godzilla swims away, presumably to Monster Island to check on that fat kid, victorious at the end...of course one year later Star Wars showed up in movie theatres so immediately this entire series seemed dated and Godzilla pretty much stayed on that island for quite a while.  Godzilla Rating - 7 smashed bridges out of 10.

I like this poster.
The Japanese symbols really add
to the atmosphere of it.
Overall, a good movie too!
5) GODZILLA, MOTHRA, GHIDORAH: GIANT MONSTERS ALL-OUT ATTACK!  This movie caught me by surprise.  It started out pretty much throwing away the entire history of the Godzilla franchise except for the original movie (and a sligh joke about the god awful US version).  Godzilla shows up and he's 100% evil.  Luckily Earth has the three-guardian monsters...Baragon, Mothra (again!?), and Ghidorah (fighting on the side of angels this time).  Now the three guardians are here to protect us...but that doesn't mean that humans and property aren't going to get a whole lot of flat before this opus is done.
     The effects in this movie walk a fine line between looking cool...and real hokey.  Literally it depends on the camera angle.  The characters are ridiculous, but the joy comes because the film makers realize this...and pretty much wipe out the entire cast.  There are some awesome deaths in this movie that had me gut busting because I just couldn't believe they were delivering them.  When you see a wounded girl in a hospital...nope...can't spoil it...suffice to say, the entire hospital goes down hard.  The battles with Godzilla and each of the monsters are well filmed, although for such a big deal I thought Ghidorah came off like a bit of a wimp, and even Mothra has a couple of grand moments which made me smile.  And frankly, that's what happened when I was watching this movie.  I started smiling and for that the Godzilla Rating - 8 smashed hospitals out of 10.  The title don't lie.  Once the monsters start showing up and the all-out attacking gets going, there's some great entertainment to be had.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Revisiting Batman (1989) & Batman Returns (1992)!

With all the hype about The Dark Knight Rises this summer, and the fact that I have been toiling away determing my Top 10 superhero movies of all time, it seemed like an appropriate time to revisit the first two entries into the Batman franchise.  Aside from brief glimpses on TV, I haven't seen Batman or Batman Returns in at least 10-15 years.  To help put this in perspective, when I went looking for both movies I didn't even have them on DVD.  Down in the basement in a dusty old VHS cabinet is where both movies were residing.  I promptly placed Batman into my VCR and was instantly greeted with a Diet Coke commerical.  Talk about a flashback to the 90's!  Mind you this was NOT a bootleg copy.  I purchased my VHS tape from Suncoast for $19.95 or so when it was released and part of that low cost at the time was helped by Coke putting a commercial at the start of the movie.  Grrrr!  I hate commercials which is why (unlike Mrs. Jumper) I never watch movies on commercial TV.  Thankfully Batman Returns didn't repeat this blunder although the movie was a blunder unto itself.  In watching both movies I was thankful for technology and the advent of DVD and HDTV because VHS images stink!  I had to stop Batman 15 minutes into the movie and move my TV to run a new cord hooking up my VCR in a better manner to try and milk just a slightly better picture quality.

I have no intentions of providing any form of story synopsis for either movie.  If you haven't seen them, stop reading and earn your "genre-enthusiast credentials" and go watch them...and then return.

During the summer of 1989 I worked at a movie theatre and had the pleasure of seeing Batman some thirty or more times.  In fact the joys of being a theatre employee meant I saw the movie a day before the masses.  The added bonus was my good friend was the projectionist so he hooked the movie up so that both he and I had an entire theatre to watch it alone (kind of like a giant living room) while the rest of the employees were all drunk and rowdy somewhere else.  Batman did it's job.  It returned respect and greatness to the superhero franchise, something that had been utterly destroyed because of Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.  Audiences and expecatations were sky high for Batman and the movie solidly delivered.  Even today watching it on my lousy VHS copy, I was entertained.

Batman gets alot right.  The look of Gotham City is solid.  Keaton's Batman is great (one of the best to date...and to think how the fanboys were up-in-arms about his casting).  Nicholson's Joker is stellar (and although I prefer the creep factor of Ledger's) and it feels like he's come directly from the comic books.  The Joker is spooky and yet funny.  I had forgotten some of his solid lines so even in 2012 they managed to coax and smile or guffaw out of me.  The joy-buzzer scorching of rival mobster Torreli has always been a treat.  The origin stories for both Batman and Joker are well delivered.  Batman is allowed to do action, use detective skills, show off technology, and basically be a cool hero in a cool movie.  My grade for Batman back in 1989 was a solid "A+".  Today I'd rank it a solid "A-" (but it's still not cracking my Top 10 Hero Flicks of all time).

The only real issues I have with 1989's Batman are the characters of Alexander Knox and Vicki Vale.  Knox (or more appropriately Robery Wuhl) is just annoying.  Nothing made me happier than when he was written out of any sequels.  Vicki Vale is shallow, goes immediately for millionaire Bruce Wayne and spend far too much time screaming or "oohing"...I lost count around twenty times!  My other main issue with the movie is the sets.  Clearly Gotham City is on a soundstage.  No matter how scenes are feels tight.  The Batmobile drives by the same locales too often and there are times where I felt clautrophobia.  There's something to be said about taking the time to film scenes adds dimension.  Finally, even though Batman looks cool...watching it today you can see how heavy and clunky that costume is.  No way is anyone fighting crime wearing that cumbersome outfit.

In 1992 Batman Returns hit theatres.  The posters hyping the movie were awful but the previews helped build up excitement.  By this time I was a paying customer so no more free rides or multiple viewings.  I hated the movie!  Even after numerous rewatches the film should really be called BATMAN: FIGHTS FOR SCREEN TIME.  The movie is a mess with far too many villains and none with any form of coherent plans.  The Penguin looks decent but his storyline is a muddled mess.  The character of Max Schreck takes up far too much of the story and truly only exists to combine the plotlines of Penguin and Catwoman.  As much as people still swoon over Michelle Pffeifer's portrayal as Selina Kyle and Catwoman...I don't get it.  The costume is silly, her lines are atrocious...OK she can swing a mean whip...but that's about it.

The only real plus with Batman Returns is that Tim Burton progressed as a director.  The camera is more fluid which makes all of the action sequences more interesting.  Batman is allowed to do more in his fights/chases as well...and the suit seems a bit more mobile (sorta).

Of course with the one plus out of the way, the rest is all negative.  The sets issues are still present as Gotham City feels more confined than ever and we don't even get one or two landscape shots to show us what the place looks like as a whole.  The lines that the characters delivers are horrible!  Everyone is fighting to have a funny quip, even Batman - "Eat floor!  High fiber!"  It gets exhausting to listen to, much like reading a Dan Slott comic book where the only motivation for every character is to be funnier than the previous character.  When this happens there is no gravity to the plot or world that the characters engage in.  An hour into watching Batman Returns I felt my patience dying the end I was thankful when the credits rolled.  And before I'm labeled a "hater" let me say that I wanted to like this movie!  Every time I see it and Keaton first stands up in front of the Bat-Signal, I'm ready to be taken on a thrill ride...unfortunately much like the Penguin's self-built Batmobile Ride, this ride only makes me sick to my stomach.  My grade for Batman Returns back in 1992 was a "C-".  Today I would rank this movie an "F"...but since I know Batman & Robin is still around the corner I'll push it up to a "D".

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Maxing Out for MAD MAX!

The most iconic image of Mad Max!
I've been burned by pre-movie hype and excitement so many times that the neurons responsible for those feelings have melted away. Movies that should have been stellar (especially based on my pre-excitement levels) like: Robocop 2, Batman Returns, Alien 3, and The Lost World: Jurassic Park thoroughly did so much damage that a "wait and see" attitude was firmly locked into place in my psyche. And now, one movie is furiously working to chip away at my emotional movie void...MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

The poster that I had wanted for close to
25 years and finally received in 2010.

To understand my connection to this franchise you have to go back to cable TV circa 1983-1987 when The Road Warrior was pretty much on a continual late night loop on HBO and Cinemax...not to mention the VHS copy that inevitably was ruined from slo-moing the final wreckage scene just to watch the dummy of the Humungus slide over the semi's hood. Safe to say that I watched Road Warrior LOTS! It has a special fondness as well since my father and I were sitting around the living room at 9pm on a Sunday when Road Warrior premiered on HBO. Neither of us knew anything about it and there we sat totally entertained for two hours. Watching bullets and arrows flying, bodies being ripped apart and run over, cars being crushed and burned, and a 20-minute semi chase that was a marvel (and still is) to behold!  It wasn't long before I sought out the original Mad Max and then the sequel Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Then when my best friend introduced me to a role-playing game called Car Wars, I had a new avenue to channel my love for the Mad Max movies.

The most mindless RPG ever!
Nothing better than successfully performing
The Bootleg Reverse!
Even people who are not fans of the Mad Max franchise should realize how engrained these three movies are in the public conscious. Any time a movie depicts automobiles that have been decorated with various spike and weapons...people go..."Oh, that's like Mad Max." When you watch any post-apocalyptic movie and people use football and hockey pads for personal armor...Mad Max is where it started. The term "Thunderdome" gets used all the time in TV, sports announcing, and various movies and most people will immediately make the connection as to what is being implied whether they realize the origin...Mad Max.

When Internet searching "Thunderdome" here was my favorite result...

That bad-ass cage where Mel Gibson faught Master Blaster with the chainsaw and bungee cords and there where all kinds of drunken Aussies yelling, "Two men enter, One man leaves."

The "Last of the V-8 Interceptors"...?

So, as I write this creator-director George Miller as finally begun filming is oft-delayed next Mad Max movie: FURY ROAD. The movie will star Tom Hardy (fresh from his role as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises) taking over the Max Rockatansky character from Mel Gibson. The movie will co-star a shit-ton of tripped out cars in spectacular chases and monstrous wrecks! As photos have begun leaking of the various vehicles, my excitement builds. As rumors circulate that there may indeed be a new restored "Last V-8 Interceptor", I find a smile creeping across my face. As I see interviews where George Miller stresses the need for practical effects instead of CGI, all I can think is "YES!" It'll be a long haul for me to wait out the release of this movie, and mixed with the excitement will also be a heavy dose of trepidation since there were probably a thousand ways this movie can go bad and only one way it can be done correctly. The three pictures below (from AICN) help keep my confidence levels high that this movie is progressing in the right direction.

I'd have to guess that this is the car of the main bad guy...
equipped with his theme music of course.
Another suped up semi!  Nothing wrong with that.
Shots like this harken back to The Road Warrior in a great way!

There's a reason I'm a true fan of the franchise. I love the character, the settings, the cars, and the high octane action that George Miller has been able to deliver. The movies don't try to deliver any social commentary or appeal to a wide demographic.  They're essentially Man with No Name Westerns but instead of horses there's healthy amounts of nitrous and turbo-chargers.  If you like action and carnage (and what American male doesn't?) then the Mad Max films are the perfect avenue for escape.  My man-cave has a framed Road Warrior poster adorning it because it's one of the most bad ass movies ever made! And MAD MAX: FURY ROAD could be one hell of a movie!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Road House and YOU! Life Lessons for Every Generation!

Recently my cable box has been aflame with showings of Road House.  The movie is like a rash on every channel akin to The Beastmaster in the 1980's.  Naturally I've watched the movie pretty much everytime it's flashed in front of my eyes.  In those hundreds of viewings it's dawned on me that there's some pretty serious life lessons that the movie is furiously working to impart upon the viewer.

One can say that Road House is a perfect primer for all father’s to show their sons (BE A MAN 101 if you will).  The movie flawlessly explores thousands of teachable moments while maintaining an outwardly appearance that it is nothing more than a simple modern day western about a “not so big” philosopher cleaning up a local watering hole.

What can your child expect to garner from sitting down and watching Road House?  Here’s just a sampling of the educational opportunities contained in this cinematic powerhouse:

1) Entrepreneurship – not everyone was made to be a CEO, some of us have to use the knuckle-busting philosophical skills that God gave us.  $5,000 down, $500 a night, and all medical expenses covered is an excellent start!

2)  Real Estate – never build your quaint farmhouse on the opposite side of the river from the town’s helicopter owning psychotic.  You and your horses are just asking for trouble.

3)  Fashion – what do you do with that old picnic tablecloth if you’re a high paid doctor?  Well turn it into a dress and then go down for some swill at the town’s worst bar…of course. (OK, not every father has a this one's for the daughter's out there)

4)  Automobiles – all bouncers own BMW’s – FACT!

5)  Auto-Finance – the best day to get a loan for your new BMW is the same day the local tuffs drive a monster-truck through the auto dealership.  Commission and paperwork tend to be reduced in importance for a few hours so you should be driving off the lot with your new car and a low rate in no time.

6)  Social Etiquette – “Be nice”.  When a guy comes at you and says, “I used to &*%$ guys like you in prison!”  You have two options…one of them is obviously the throat rip.

7)  Romance – not anyone can charm a girl into removing her clothes and immediately striking a submissive position by delivering lines like, “Oh baby, you gonna be my regular Saturday night!”  But with practice and patience…it’ll happen.

8)  Ballet-Kwon-Do – a seldom practiced martial art that involves kicking and prancing with your toes straight.  Fights often explode into well choreographed encounters that both inflict damage to your opponent and keep them entertained at the same time.

9)  Home Décor – nothing spices up a riverfront property like a room filled with stuffed safari (aka poaching) kills ranging from antelopes to lions to the various body parts of people that didn’t agree with you.  The topper is always the polar bear…find yours and kill it while in your 20’s to maximize the number of years of enjoyment it will bring you.

10)  Shotguns – the best way to return a town to peace and tranquility - the pump action.

It is the civic responsibility of all people to be sure that the next generation learn these and all lessons imparted by Road House to help hone a better society.  For those interested in going the more literary route, I also recommend the books: COWARDS & BLEEDERS AND HOW TO REMOVE THEM FROM YOUR FRONT LAWN by Brad Wesley and THE TOURIST'S GUIDE TO JASPER: “OUR TOWN AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT!” by Tilghman, Stroudermire, Emmett, and Webster.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Death Sports and THE HUNGER GAMES

So, The Hunger Games is the latest book to "catch fire" amongst teen readers and then spread into the must read territory for adults.  The movie is surely going to add to the fervor as well (to which movie theatres across the country are singing praises - I've never seen so many smiling faces of theatre employees in my life).  I've read the book and I've seen the movie.  Both are quite well done...but in the end they don't add anything new to the Death Sport category of science fiction.  Ok, The Hunger Games adds a Twilight-esque love triangle...but beyond that it's simple.  There's a government demanded game in which contestants kill other contestants and only the winner will survive.

My favorite book of all time is Stephen King's (writing as Richard Bachman) THE LONG WALK. It is an incredible work that plunges the reader into a harrowing death sport of long distance pace-walking. Sounds simple and dull and yet...the journey is so powerful that you can feel the agony of every bloody step and each deadly bullet right along with the 100 contestants who are forced to endure the sport of the nation. My original review on Amazon:

I find it ironic that perhaps Stephen King's greatest story is written under his pseudonym and also one of the books few people have heard about. It's arguably my favorite novel - ever - and also holds the distinction of the book I have read the most (and the only story that has made me physically ill).

The Long Walk is a superb sci-fi story that pits 100 teen boys against each other in a seemingly never-ending marathon death sport. How exciting can the act of walking be? VERY! King masterfully unfolds a story with three-dimensional characters and an intricate duality about the nature of death between the contestants and the audience who cheers every step on their march.

Fans of the genre may also like to read the Japanese cult novel BATTLE ROYALE which takes a distinctly different (and more extreme) take on child death sports. For anyone reading this novel for the first time, I'm envious...enjoy the walk.

King also mined the death sport genre for another book THE RUNNING MAN which took a similar stance of a mind-numbed society being controlled by the government's need for brutal sport.  This lead to the 1980's Schwarzennegger movie under the same title (and that's the only thing the two stories have in common).  The movie was hailed as pretty much the death of the 80's action genre, complete with an overindulgence of one liners when a villain was dispatched ("Ah, he was a real pain in the neck!").  Japanese author Koushun Takami's book BATTLE ROYALE is a take on death sports being played out amongst teenagers by a fascist government.  The novel is outstanding and delves deeply into the lives and backgrounds of the majority of teens forced to compete on a remote island.  If you haven't read or seen the movie both are now readily available in the US.  All three of the novels I mentioned stand high on the list of the deathsport genre and should be sought out by anyone who enjoys the premise of The Hunger Games.

Back to THE HUNGER GAMES, the story doesn't add anything new to the genre all of the familiar deathsport elements are present: fascist government, contestants forced to play, rules change, one survivor, violent deaths...checks all around.  I think one of the reasons the story has taken off is because for once a female has been planted into the lead role and Katniss Everdeen is a strong protagonist.  The story doesn't pull punches either...there is death...and Katniss plays a hand in the killing.  As with any book that pulls in young readers there is a camp of whiners out there jonesing to spoil the fun by chastising the violence and saying that it is not appropriate for teens.  These are the kind of "pro-readers" who only want you to read what they enjoy.  Ignore that camp!  While you won't find anything too original in the story, you will find a solid amount of entertainment.  As with all books, the novel is stronger and allows for a better overall development of situations.  The movie though comes in a close second and only has minor stumbles of pacing in the setup and in the finale, but it'll be a well earned blockbuster and I'm sure the sequel is right around the corner.

THE HUNGER GAMES (the novel) = A
THE HUNGER GAMES (the movie) = A-

Saturday, March 10, 2012

ASSEMBLE! (May 4 will be EPIC!)

The years from 1980-1987 were the pinnacle of my comic book collecting.  I'd first been exposed to comics through the 1960's era Spider-Man cartoons (heavily replayed on Channel 20 as a child) and then my mother would buy me comic books like Marvel Team-Up, The Invaders, and The Avengers as I grew.  I was flipping through comic books before I could even read.  The colors, costumes, and unique heroes and superpowers thoroughly captivated my imagination.

Through middle school and high school I would discuss with other friends the various "goings on" in the titles we read and the large scope of both the Marvel and DC Universes.  From 1980-1987 the only real superhero movies of note that genre enthusiasts could appreciate were Superman the Movie (on VHS) and the release of Superman II (in the theatres).  Any other offerings didn't solidly connect with the world of comic books.  Sure, Superman II came close with a battle between Kryptonians...but let's face it...Richard Lester's ham-handed humor ruined that movie - "Huh, Superman didn't even do nothing!", guy on roller-skates, guy talking on phone during Metropolis fall, ad infinitum.  Two years beyond my key bubble in collecting Tim Burton's Batman would be released (1989) and change things forever between comic books and the cinema.

During those eight years I remember debating if and when an Avengers movie would ever be made?  Frankly, it seemed more likely that I would stumble upon Thor's Uru Hammer than actually see the comic book versions of Marvel's top tier heroes on the big screen.  And yet, in 2012 that is exactly what will happen.  As a fan three books really have always cried out to be turned into movies.

1. X-Men...I've never been a fan (although First Class was a solid apology for the first three lackluster efforts)
2. Watchmen...the greatets superhero work ever created and a perfect movie!  I know it has haters, but for me, this is always going to be #1 from comic-to-film
3.  Avengers...dare to dream...

I'm an adult and I will admit that I have watched, rewatched, and analysed the preview for Avengers far too much (at times frame-by-frame).  It seems clear that the majority of the movie will borrow much of the material from Mark Millar's Ultimates Volume II (which is an awesome read).  That storyline focused on Loki and the Skrulls (both of whom seem to appear in the new movie).  From my dissection of the preview I see the envitable Iron-Man, Captain America, Thor doubt perpetrated by Loki.  I see a city battle which will most likely be the first half of the movies climax (I believe the actual climax is being hidden).  There's some sort of battle between Black Widow and Hawkeye (look for the shot of her's clearly the archer on the receiving end) which means one of them will be a Skrull for a time.  Plenty of drama with Loki and a nice verbal retort from Nick Fury "You have made me VERY desperate." And the Hulk gets to kick ass and save the team...more than once.  At the end we see some enormous spaceship (or as some fans have speculated the Midgard Dragon)...whatever it looks cool.  Then there's the money shot of arguably the 7 greatest heroes to ever work as Avengers encircled and preparing to do what they do the Earth!  Somewhere my childhood self is jumping for joy at the true "marvel" that is happening.  The Avengers will be on the big screen!

So basically 25 years after the peak of my collecting life, what may be viewed as the ultimate comic book movie is on the horizon.  I'm excited!  Most likely I'll be sharing some of my favorite Avengers moments in coming blogs to build up to this event.  But until then go read Ultimates Vol 1 and 2, watch the preview on my blog, and be prepared for an explosion of coolness. 

And then I'll see you at the theatres on May 4th!  AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

JOHN CARTER - An "I saw that" Review

This week I had the opportunity to see an advance screening of John Carter (formerly “of Mars” until Mars Needs Mom ruined the title).  It’s been ages since I managed to score attendance to any sort of early showing of a new movie.  The last two I can remember were Dawn of the Dead and Open Water.  One is one of my all time favorite horror movies and the other was a novel idea that resulted in a somewhat decent if overall bland movie.

As for John Carter…and I’ll keep this spoiler free…

I went into the movie knowing nothing of the character or the concept beyond the fact that the original stories were written by Edgar Rice Burroughs (of Tarzan fame) and centered around an Earth man who winds up on Mars.  The movie clocked in a tad over two hours and I can confidently report that I had a fun time and was treated to an original sci-fi outing.  There’s far more set-up than I was expecting as in the first fifteen minutes we planet-jump and time jump several times until we firmly begin on Earth in 1866.  Through an interesting (and not fully explained) concept a former Union soldier finds himself teleported to Mars, where thanks to the lesser gravity he is gifted with powerful limbs that allow him superior strength and the ability to leap vast distances in single bounds.  Quite quickly he finds himself mired in the war between various factions on Mars, some that look human and others that look…Martian.

The movie plays so loose with actual science that I doubt the Myth Busters will ever be called into question to disprove anything that is portrayed on screen.  While some may scoff, I find myself having a fun time and embracing the “pulpy” vibe that was unfolding in front of me.  The CGI and visuals do harken to the Star Wars prequel movies…but since the source material was written 80-100 years before Star Wars…who was paying homage to whom?  Still, John Carter has time on Mars to learn the language and customs, to attempt a return to Earth (or Vasoom), to save a princess (and she is an incredible hottie), to form alliances with an alien species, to acquire a pet, to battle giant monsters in an arena, and to play a role in some large scale sci-fi battles.

I had a fun time at the movie.  In fact, I enjoyed John Carter enough to immediately come home and purchase a collection of the stories on my Kindle.  There’s an appreciation I have for unique science fiction that isn’t grounded in reality.  Of course, not everyone shares that love.  The audience I saw the movie with seemed split.  Some were along for the ride and others had the look of, “Is this movie over yet?” and “Why am I here?”  So I can easily see John Carter failing at the box office.  Luckily, in my age, I know longer feel the need to have box office success or love of the masses to determine a good movie from a bad.  Disney certainly hasn’t helped matters with their atrocious marketing campaign so it’s easy to see John Carter eventually holding ranks on my DVD shelves next to Flash Gordon, fun under-appreciated neighbors that would make an excellent double feature!

If my blog were more heavily trafficked by the movie studios looking for quotes then mine would be...

"JOHN CARTER is MARSvelous!" -

Grade = A-

Saturday, February 11, 2012

eBook Goals from 2011-2012

My first ebook went on sale yesterday.  It was a process that began in February 2011.  While reading some horror stories that I had downloaded on my Kindle during a snow storm, I began to get the urge to write again.  Now, from 1988-1994 I really wanted to have a novel published.  File cabinet drawers were overflowing with ideas, notes, and drafts.  Then, life and my career (which is not in writing) interfered.
In 1995 my love for movies took over and I spent the next five or six years toiling away on several screenplays.  My proto-type script for BATMAN TRIUMPHANT (which could have been the fourth Batman movie) still reads like a blockbuster…but alas the studio went with Batman & Robin…and we know how that turned out for them.  Breaking into Hollywood as a writer is pretty damn tough when you live in the Midwest.  Eventually I felt like I was writing more for my own enjoyment, and as less spec scripts were being purchased I shelved my work and pretty much gave up on writing (unless it was checks to pay bills).

As I said, 2011 hits and thanks to the ever expanding ebook market I was exposed to writers like Michael Crane and J.A. Konrath who both showed that the days of needing a publisher were over.  Thanks to technology writers could seemingly get a good idea uploaded onto the infinite space of the Internet where it would be available forever.  Well, that sounded easy so I returned to the keyboard.  During those first three months I toiled away on numerous horror short stories that would make up a collection I planned to call SIMPLE EVIL.  I was pleased that for the most part my speed in taking ideas and putting them to word hadn’t diminished too much.  My characterization and dialogue were also strong.  Grammar and use of commas…lacking.

The plan was to write a collection of 25 horror short stories.  Then the plan changed.

While writing, I came up with a flash-fiction (or flash fright as I prefer) tale called IN 5OO WORDS which dealt with a pretty foul-tempered piece of white trash who meets the Devil.  The tale would unfold in exactly 500 words.  The first problem was that 500 words wasn’t enough so eventually it expanded to 666 words…seeming to be a natural fit.

Creativity is a tricky thing.  For me inspiration is 99% of the battle.  If I’m inspired then I work to achieve my goal.  SIMPLE EVIL eventually morphed into the much better sounding LATE NIGHT HORRORS.  And with 15 stories complete and over 200 pages written I did what any maniac would do…I set it all aside to tackle a new project.

My inspiration drew me to the story IN 500 WORDS…now titled IN 666 WORDS.  In August 2011 I decided that an entire novella could be devoted to horror short stories that each neatly fit into exactly 666 words.

One year later and my goal was complete.  IN 666 WORDS is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smash Words.  And before I return to my original project of LATE NIGHT HORRORS, there’s probably a lesson to teach regarding the important steps for anyone who wants to publish an ebook and thinks (as I did) that it will be an easy process.

That will be our next entry but until then...if you're interested in reading my first offering...links below...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Lost Boys - My viewings from 1987 to 2012

This month’s issue of Horror Hound magazine  ( ran a retrospective on The Lost Boys.  Lost Boys is the 2nd best vampire movie to come out of the 1980’s and one that held some fun memories for me.  To the best of my memory, I recall seeing the movie three times on the big screen.  The first time was in the summer of 1987 with my friend Nusbaum.  He always seemed to know more about movies than I did, kind of like the human Internet before his time, so he dragged me, his unwilling friend, to see it.  The movie blew me away!  At the time this was a fairly original take on vampires.  Gone were the traditions, and many of the myths, to be replaced by a cool look, mean attitude, and insider jokes “Holy Shit!  It’s the attack of Eddie Munster!”  Lost Boys rekindled a love of vampire lore in me that had started in 1985 when I saw Fright Night (the 80’s best vamp offering).

The second time I saw The Lost Boys was in the fall of 1987 when I decided to bring my brother and my friend Gordy, so they could share in the greatness of the film.  On the way out we got cut-off by a car of drunk rednecks which led to an exchange of curses and a seminal car chase (but that’s another story).  We did make it to the movies, and everyone had a blast!  The final time seeing Lost Boys on the big screen was the winter of 1990 while working for the Star Theatre company.  The manager scored a copy as a Christmas Party bonus and the employees enjoyed a midnight private showing.  What a fun night!

So back to 2012 when I finished the informative article, I decided that after twenty years I should probably watch the movie again in its entirety.  Thank you Comcast for providing a free HD version with your wonderful On Demand service.  Thirty seconds later I was taken back to 1987 and the wild party life of an eternal vampire.  I’m happy to report that the movie still holds up remarkably well.  The acting is solid, the pace is brisk, and there’s a good amount of violence/scares mixed with levity.

The biggest weakness of The Lost Boys is always been Corey Haim’s wardrobe (seriously even in 1987…those outfits were considered lame) and the fact that he has a poster of a scantily clad Rob Lowe hanging in his bedroom.  The other issue I have is that the vampires tend to be killed off far too easily.  This problem persists in the 2011 remake of Fright Night as well.  A vampire, a creature of eternal life and thus eternal life experiences, should not be easy to kill.  In fact, it should be such a difficult task that few people have succeeded.  The better episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer show how hard it is to kill a vampire like Spike or Angel, even for a superstrong Slayer.  Then there’s the original Fright Night where Charlie Brewster and Peter Vincent toil for almost 30 minutes of the movie battling one vampire before finding success.  That was a memorable fight.  Sadly, 3 of the 4 Lost Boys go out while awake…and far too quickly.

The strengths of The Lost Boys are many.  The action scenes work.  The knowledge of the Frog Brothers stays somewhat familiar with tradition while later accepting that some myths are just that.  Was The Lost Boys the first movie to show such an original "coffin" for the vampires to rest in?  As a teen, that reveal shocked the hell out of me.  The music also sustains being creepy and stellar, I forgot how enjoyable “Thou Shall Not Fall” is to listen to while watching.  And the overall look of the movie was original and trendsetting, before Twilight took all the bite out of what it meant to be an eternal teen vampire.  The Lost Boys gave, and continue to give, the lore of the vampire some serious bite!