Thursday, June 30, 2011

Late Thursday link-o-rama

Craig Ferguson 6/28/11D Late Late Show Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Late Wednesday link-o-rama

Friday, June 24, 2011

Peter Falk, RIP

Not Christopher Walken reads 'Go the F**k to Sleep' [NSFW]

You know who really needs to read this book? Arnold Schwarzenegger. Meanwhile, here's a Christopher Walken impersonator:

Friday link-o-rama

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Culture Shock 06.23.11: 'Green Lantern' is 3 good movies but 1 lousy one

Give "Green Lantern" some credit. Most superhero franchises wait until the third installment to become so bogged down in too many characters and too many plot threads to bother telling a compelling story.

"Green Lantern" accomplished that feat its first time out.

There's enough going on in "Green Lantern" for three movies, but instead it's all crammed into just under two half-baked hours. Nothing gets the attention it needs. It's the same filmmaking by committee that gave us "Spider-Man 3" and "X-Men: The Last Stand."

While Martin Campbell is a more-than-capable action director, having resurrected the James Bond franchise twice ("GoldenEye" and "Casino Royale"), he can't breathe life into this bloated corpse.

To be fair, Hal Jordan, the test pilot who becomes the title hero, isn't the easiest character to work with. He's given a "power ring," which allows him to turn his willpower into anything he can imagine, and joins the Green Lantern Corps — an intergalactic police force of sorts — because he's already the perfect person for the job. Unlike Batman, Spider-Man and Iron Man, he has no real character arc, not even his origin story.

In the comic books, Hal is a total square.

To compensate, the movie saddles him with a character arc straight out of Screenwriting 101 — Hal has token daddy issues. And the writers apparently liked that idea so much they gave his love interest and one of the villains token daddy issues, too. It's token daddy issues for all!

We should just be glad the other villain, a CGI-smoke monster that feeds on fear, doesn't also have daddy issues. A smoke monster with family hangups would have been too much like "Lost."

That leaves the normally likable Ryan Reynolds, miscast as Hal Jordan, to spend a lot of time whining and fretting and being generally annoying as he tries to overcome his secret fear — the result of his dead-father problem — and harness the power of his ring in time to save the Earth from the fear-eating smoke monster, Parallax.

When he's not doing that, he's off at Green Lantern training camp on the planet Oa, ruled by the Guardians of the Universe, who are the most incompetent old wise men since the Jedi Council. Right after telling a story about how you should never, ever fool around with the "yellow energy of fear," they agree to forge a yellow power ring to "fight fear with fear." As it turns out, this bit of stupidity serves, ultimately, just to set up a sequel that may never happen.

Back home, Hal has a family. We know this because we meet them once before they disappear from the film entirely. It's as if the screenwriters forgot about them while they got busy half-telling all of the movie's other not-all-there stories.

There's the token love story, the token romantic rivalry, the token training sequence and the all-too-easy resolution to the gravest threat the universe has ever faced. We get two villains and, in the middle of the end credits, foreshadowing for a third.

You could probably get two or three good movies out of everything in "Green Lantern."

What you can't get is one halfway decent one.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Brief History of Slasher Films [NSFW]

Contains gore and a few NSFW flashes of nudity. This featurette is included on two upcoming DVD releases, Bloody Birthday and Nightmares.

Brief History Of Slasher Films from Severin Films on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Late Late Link-O-Rama


Because I also do politics, I'm currently reading The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America by's Nick Gillespie and Reason magazine's Matt Welch. Just to let you know how atypically well-written and culturally aware this is for a political book, there's a reference to Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS on page 23 of my advance copy.

Midnight link-o-rama

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday afternoon link-o-rama

Friday Night Videos

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Werner Herzog reads 'Go the F**k to Sleep' [NSFW]

Culture Shock 06.16.11: Let us now praise George Lazenby

Let us now praise a sort of famous man.

Of all the actors who have played James Bond on the big screen, one always gets short shrift.

No, I'm not including the various "James Bonds" of the farcical 1966 version of "Casino Royale." That would force me into a completely unnecessary digression about Woody Allen's turn as Jimmy Bond.

I'm talking about George Lazenby.

His tenure as 007 was brief, and his performance in that one Bond film is generally regarded as wooden, but of all the actors who every slid behind the wheel of 007's tricked-out Aston Martin, Lazenby is the toughest.

In his prime, he could probably take on Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig simultaneously. (I'm not sure about Timothy Dalton, though. Dalton has gotten really good at going full psycho in his most recent performances. I wouldn't put anything past him.)

You see, Lazenby actually has black belts in multiple martial arts and was friends with Bruce Lee. In a fight, he could probably hurt you.

When Connery, the man regarded by most 007 aficionados as the best Bond, retired from the super-spy franchise — temporarily, as it turned out — Lazenby became his unlikely successor. Not easy shoes to fill, especially if you are a model-turned-actor in his first movie role, which the Australian-born Lazenby was.

Despite Lazenby's bad rep, most of those same Bond aficionados will admit Lazenby's sole outing as 007, "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," is one of the strongest entries in the series. It features arguably the best Bond girl in Diana Rigg ("The Avengers") and Telly Savalas as arguably the best Blofeld.

If he'd stuck around, Lazenby could have grown into the role and become one of the best Bonds ever. Instead, he took probably the worst career advice ever and hung up his Walther PPK after just the one film.

After that, acting jobs became hard to find, and Lazenby returned to the Far East to make movies in Hong Kong and Australia, but not before a detour to Italy to make the 1972 thriller "Who Saw Her Die?" in which he plays a father searching for his daughter's killer and displays some acting chops absent from his Bond performance.

Back in Australia, Lanzenby appeared as the villain in 1975's "The Man from Hong Kong," the first feature film by Anglo-Australian director — and Quentin Tarantino favorite — Brian Trenchard-Smith ("BMX Bandits").

This is the movie that most sets Lazenby apart from other Bonds.

Not only does Lazenby do his own fight scenes, which include letting the hero, played by Yu Wang of "Master of the Flying Guillotine," beat him up, he also does his own stunts.

That includes being set on fire.

Unfortunately, "The Man from Hong Kong" isn't currently available in the U.S., but the Lazenby/ Yu Wang fight scene and the story behind it is one of the highlights of the recent documentary "Not Quite Hollywood," which chronicles the wild and dangerous world of 1970s and '80s Australia cinema.

How dangerous? Well, Lazenby ended up burning his arm doing that stunt. And, according to some accounts, he might have punched Trenchard-Smith afterward. (For the record, Lazenby says he doesn't remember punching his director, but if he did, he's sorry.) Actually, anyone who survived to talk about making movies in Australia in the '70s is probably a pretty tough guy. Trenchard-Smith had to set himself on fire before Lazenby would do it.

So, I'm not saying George Lazenby is the best James Bond. But I am saying he's definitely the 007 I'd want with me in a fight. And that deserves respect.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Random video of the day

Midnight link-o-rama

Sunday, June 12, 2011

30 years ago today...

On June 12, 1981, two filmmakers who had not yet ruined their reputations, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, teamed up to deliver an action-packed love letter to the 1940s movie serials they grew up with. The result was a film that remains in my personal top 5 to this day, which just goes to show there are some things you can possess that not even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull can take away. Happy 30th to the ultimate adventure movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The best of my playlist

Book to go behind the scenes of 'The Room'

Greg Sestero, the guy who played Mark in the infamously bad movie The Room — "Hi, Mark!" — is writing a book about making "the Citizen Kane of Bad movies." Entertainment Weekly reports:
... [A]ctor Greg Sestero has just signed a deal with Simon & Schuster to detail his involvement in the notorious 2003 film-fiasco, The Room. Entitled Locked Inside 'The Room,' the tome will be co-penned by journalist Tom Bissell and is set for publication in 2013.
Also, if anyone reading this was in a bad movie, I'm entertaining offers to co-write a book about your experiences.

[EW link via MST3K's own Bill Corbett.]

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Someone is remaking 'The Devil's Nightmare' reports on an open casting call for a remake of the 1971 Eurohorror classic The Devil's Nightmare.

I consider the chances of this remake, now reportedly in pre-production, ever happening still very much in the air. The producers have a Kickstarter page set up to solicit funding, and they also have a Facebook page.

The original Devil's Nightmare is another one of the first Eurohorror films I ever saw. Like The Ghost Galleon, which I mentioned, coincidentally, in a post last night, I first encountered it on USA's late, lamented Saturday Nightmares show.

Remakes almost never turn out well, but I think I'd get a kick out of someone remaking a relatively obscure old favorite of mine like this.

Here's the spoileriffic trailer for the original:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Random video of the day

No time for a real post, so here's another random video. This time it's the trailer for The Ghost Galleon, the third film in the Blind Dead series. It's a lesser film in the series, and it has nothing on the original, Tombs of the Blind Dead, but it's a favorite of mine because it's one of the first Eurohorror films I ever saw, back when USA Network still aired Saturday Nightmares.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Random video of the day

From the early years of what used to be called the Sci-Fi Channel, when it was new and didn't mostly suck:

'Uncanny X-Men' canceled with issue No. 544

Thanks to the events of the upcoming Civil War 2 X-Men: Schism, Marvel is canceling Uncanny X-Men. Issue No. 544 is the end... at least until a bunch of new X-Men titles with new No. 1s come out.

As Comics Alliance notes, this, combined with DC's renumbering of its superhero titles, means the longest, continuously running comic published by either Marvel or DC is DC/Vertigo's Hellblazer, currently up to a heady issue No. 280.

Culture Shock 06.09.11: Sexting mishaps not just for teens

Not since the late Sen. Ted Stevens described the Internet as "a series of tubes," has a sitting congressman's misunderstanding of how the Internet works provided comedians — and lowly columnists like me — with so much material.

Oh, Anthony Weiner, where have you been all my life?

It's one thing for a politician to get caught up in an embarrassing sex scandal. It can even be a good career move. Exhibit A: former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. As attorney general, he crusaded against prostitution. Four years later, he resigned the governorship after he was unmasked as Client 9 in a high-profile prostitution sting.

Did that keep Spitzer down? No way. You can watch him weeknights on CNN, which has got to be a better gig than dealing with the New York State Assembly day in, day out, especially now that he no longer has to share his time slot with former co-host Kathleen Parker.

But it's another thing to get caught in a sex scandal usually associated with teenagers.

That's just what Rep. Weiner has done.

He denied it to the bitter end. He now says it was a misguided joke.

But the fact is, Rep. Weiner's accidental public tweeting of a crotch shot of his own crotch, now public for all to see, is just the sort of thing adults have been warning kids about ever since cellphone cameras made it easy for teens to take their own — how to put it? — "self-portraits" and share them with friends.

You never know, for example, when a girlfriend might turn on you. But it'll probably happen after you cheat on her with her best friend. And then the ex will send that compromising picture of you not wearing pants to all of her friends, who now also hate you because you're a two-timing jerk. And the next thing you know, pictures of your junk are all over campus.

(No, this is not a personal story. We didn't have cellphones when I was in school. And the only embarrassing pictures of me in the public domain are the ones my "friends" have posted on Facebook, in which I always seem to be holding a bottle of PBR. People could easily get the wrong idea. They might think I'm an alcoholic or, worse still, a hipster.)

So, basically, Rep. Weiner didn't quite know how Twitter worked, and now what has been seen can't be unseen.

As it turns out, a couple of years ago, when psychologists and other people with too much time on their hands were fretting about teenagers ruining their college and job prospects by "sexting" naked pictures of themselves to each other, they should have been worried about the nation's lawmakers doing the same thing.

A hypocrisy-laden prostitution scandal is an adult scandal. That's what we expect of the alleged adults we elect to office. But a sexting scandal is a juvenile scandal.

How do you explain that to the wife?

UPDATE: Last week, I complained that DC Comics' forthcoming revamp of all of its superhero titles would probably mean the end of one of the company's few consistently good books, Grant Morrison's "Batman, Inc."

This week, DC announced that "Batman, Inc." will return next year. How this fits with DC's stated plans I can't guess, but I'll take all the good news I can.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

DC 2011 = Image 1992

The previews of DC Comics' upcoming new titles posted this morning at are really hammering home an unmistakable impression:

The future of DC Comics sure looks a lot like the 1.0 version of Image Comics from way back in 1992.

This shouldn't be surprising since Image co-founder Jim Lee has been given the keys to DC's kingdom, but it's still startling how '90s retro some of these books look. And I'm not talking just about original Image/Wildstorm characters Grifter and Voodoo of WILDCats getting their own solo titles set in the mainstream nuDCU.

No, I mean Rob Liefeld is back, and he's illustrating a new Hawk & Dove series, which will allow him to showcase his primary artistic talents: drawing angry, misshapen, bulging men with huge chests and drawing anorexic, misshapen women with huge chests.

Marvel Civil War redux

Marvel Comics isn't hiding the fact that next month's big X-Men event, Schism, is the X-Men's version of Civil War. It's right there on the promotional art.

Did the X-Men feel left out last time? Is that what this is all about?

Who wants to bet money this whole thing sets up the return of Professor X and/or Jean Grey, who has to come in and set things right? Even money?

Wednesday (3 a.m.) link-o-rama

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Midnight link-o-rama

Also, how is keeping all of the recent Batman developments in continuity going to work with all of these other DC heroes getting rebooted and, in some cases at least, de-aged? Is Batman being to become the old man of the DC universe compared to everyone else? This reboot crap makes my head hurt.

Monday, June 06, 2011

MTV: Still not killing the culture no matter how much it sucks now

Are they the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, or do they just
So, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse won, like, a third of the awards at last night's MTV Movie Awards.

(That one-third figure is an estimate. I haven't had enough coffee yet for basic math. Here, you can add it up yourself.)

Between that and the baleful influence of Jersey Shore, I have become what I once hated. I've become one of those stodgy adults who thinks MTV is killing Western Civilization as we know it.

Nearly 30 years after MTV debuted, we've come full circle. Only now, instead of sexy videos ruining the culture, it's just endless crap: Team Edward, Team Jacob, Team Guido. Granted, I am aware that my sense of MTV-induced societal collapse is entirely a figment of my imagination, just as it was illusory when parents, pundits, and professional bedwetters complained about MTV back in the 1980s and early '90s.

But at least I have an appreciation now for why all of those anti-MTV voices felt the way they did: It was an aesthetic thing.

Here's my hypothesis: MTV's critics thought the music videos MTV played back then were raunchy, and, besides that, they hated the music, anyway. So, anything that aesthetically displeasing had to be bad for you.

Similarly, I look at a network that airs Jersey Shore and celebrates Twilight, and a little voice in my head tells me this insipid crap must be dumbing down the culture.

It doesn't matter that there's no empirical evidence for that. It doesn't matter that TV, overall, is more complex and requires more viewer investment than ever before. (TV shows from TV's "golden age" are really pretty simple. Compare Gunsmoke to Lost.) It doesn't matter that all of the stats show that pathologies like teen pregnancy and teen crime have been going down over the past 30 years. That voice in the back of my head won't shut up.

It's a hard lesson to learn, but it's important: Just because it's crap doesn't mean it's actually bad for you.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

This means something ... maybe [Doctor Who speculation]

The totally stylish eye patch worn by Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) in the new episode of Doctor Who, "A Good Man Goes to War" ...

... looks a lot like the eye patch worn by Bette Davis' character in the 1968 Hammer thriller The Anniversary ...

Coincidence? Homage? Or something more meaningful.
Time will tell. It always does. Except when it doesn't.

Markets in Everything: Doctor Who Edition

Because you never know when you might need an "exterminator," now you can own your own Dalek, and it'll set you back just $5,000 U.S.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The voice of horror

Two great things about this TV commercial for The Amityville Horror: First, it ends with "Now playing at a theater or drive-in near you." When was the last time a movie ad said anything about drive-ins? Exactly. Second, the voice-over announcer is the late, great Percy Rodrigues, aka the "voice of horror."

Rodrigues also had a long career in front of the camera, including guest roles in genre programs like Star Trek, The Man from UNCLE, Mission: Impossible, Planet of the Apes (the TV series), and The Starlost.

Probably his most memorable vocal performance, however, was as the Loknar in Heavy Metal.

Saturday midday link-o-rama

Steel yourself for the ultimate Shaq attack!

Now that Shaq had retired from basketball, maybe he'll have time to give us the sequel we've all been waiting for.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Space Girl [Music Video]

This music video depicting the progression of female characters in science fiction over the past 60-odd years is too cool to pass up. (Warning: A couple of seconds of totally unexpected brief nudity pops up at 1:28, so possibly NSFW.)

[Via Geeks are Sexy.]

Random YouTube of the Day

It's the same, except longer

Someone else has probably had this realization, but it just dawned on me the other day when I was pondering all of the many, many things I hate about the yearlong, universe-spanning, company-wide crossovers Marvel and DC insist in inflicting upon would-be causal comics readers like me.

Remember how during the Silver Age and Bronze Age, it was really popular to have some superheroes meet, get into a fight because of some sort of misunderstanding/mind control/etc., and then eventually resolve their differences so that they could team up against the real villain? It happened all the time. (Especially if you were the Hulk. So many misunderstandings....)

That's basically the exact same story arc you get when you combine Marvel's Civil War and Secret Invasion. The heroes choose sides, face off against each other, and later join forces to battle the real enemy, the Skrulls, who had been manipulating events behind the scenes the whole time.

Only in the old days, it took one issue (maybe two) to tell that story. Now, it takes Marvel something like three years to tell the same damn tale.

Decompressed storytelling has definitely gone too far.

The anarchist politics of 'Watchmen'

From the archives: An article I wrote in 2009 (commissioned by Young Americans for Liberty) on the politics of Alan Moore's Watchmen, the movie version of which was just arriving in theaters around that time.

Friday afternoon link-o-rama

Markets in Everything: Episode VI: Slave Leia Bikini Car Wash

I think it was Marginal Revolution blogger/economist Tyler Cowen who first started documenting the phenomenon of "markets in everything," but ever since, I have been on the lookout for markets in everything geeky. And so, I give you the Slave Leia car wash. (Follow the link* for more and larger pics. Link via Geeks Are Sexy.)

* I have removed the link because it now goes to some sort of malware page. (FH, 19 Dec. 2015)

James Arness, RIP

Actor James Arness has died, reports Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Fink. Arness was 88.

Although best known for his long-running role as Marshal Matt Dillon on TV's Gunsmoke for 20 seasons (1955-1975), Arness is also known among sci-fi fans as the original "Thing" in 1951's The Thing from Another World, aka The Thing.

Arness' younger brother, Mission: Impossible star Peter Graves, died last year at 83.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Culture Shock 06.02.11: Batman, Superman get the reboot

The rebooted Justice League of America.
(Image courtesy of DC Comics.)
Superheroes have never been more popular, with four big-budget superhero movies hitting screens this year. But the comic books that gave birth to those heroes are in desperate shape.

Sales of monthly comics are taking such a beating you'd think they'd made the Hulk angry, and the only bright spot has been an increase in sales of trade paperbacks collecting those same monthly comics. The two major publishers, Marvel and DC, have waded into digital comics, but neither has really taken the plunge.

Until now.

DC Comics made two announcements Tuesday. The first is, starting Aug. 31, DC will release digital editions of its comics on the same day the print versions go on sale. In a world of iPads and Kindles, that was bound to happen, and you can bet DC's chief rival, Marvel Comics, won't be far behind in making the same move.

The second announcement, however, is more baffling. It's a sign of desperation.

DC is rebooting its entire superhero universe. No one is safe. Not Superman. Not Batman. Not Wonder Woman. All of the company's superhero comics are going back to square one, which includes each of them getting a brand new issue No. 1.

But that's just the window dressing. Inside, familiar characters will be younger, their costumes altered. (They're intent on making Wonder Woman wear pants.) DC is, if not going back to the beginning, at least turning back the clock.

Apparently, DC's powers that be — primarily Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio — have decided they've done such a lousy job of running DC Comics for the past several years that the only thing to do is blow up their superhero universe and start over.

They're half right about that. Virtually the only readable DC superhero comic of the past decade, apart from an occasional gem like Paul Cornell's "Knight and Squire" miniseries, has been Grant Morrison's "Batman," which actually did something remarkable: It changed the status quo.

But changing the status quo is unforgivable when it comes to corporate-owned superheroes.

Morrison had a similarly adventurous run on Marvel's "New X-Men" in the early aughts, which Marvel promptly undid the moment Morrison jumped to DC. (Joss Whedon's followup, "Astonishing X-Men," was in some ways better, but it was also decidedly old school.)

Now, it looks like Morrison's hard work on Batman, which has included making the new Robin a son Batman never knew he had, is about to get rebooted into oblivion. (Maybe not, but I don't see how it squares with DC's announced plans.)

But as bad as most of DC's non-Morrison books have become, is wiping the slate clean, or almost clean, the answer? I guess it is if all you're comfortable doing is rehashing the same old stories: A new retelling of Superman's origin, with some new but pointless wrinkle?

How nice. I haven't seen that before.

DC has been rebooting its heroes every few years for the past 25 years. The only difference this time is they say they really, really mean it this time. For a promise of something new, it sure seems familiar.

Marvel has its own storytelling troubles, but at least it's trying.

With Marvel, it's typically the execution that undermines otherwise OK ideas.

But DC's reboot is just an old idea dressed up to look new. But at least you can read DC's new comics on an iPad. That way you can reboot them yourself.