One of the interesting things I like about the boom of interest in Exploitation film after Grindhouse, along with the rise of DVDs as a media format is the rise of the Trailer DVD – a DVD chock full of trailers for various exploitation films from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. They make for a great snapshot of a moment in time, showcasing both how films were sold (and what you could get away with in trailers), along with the movies being sold. (more…)

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Get Area 88 from Amazon.com

In the anime portions of Gainax‘s OVA series Otaku No Video, there’s a sequence where the main character is being shown the various types of Otaku that the members of his friend’s club are part of. There’s the vehicle and mecha otaku, who is a geek about engines and how things work, and so on. One of the members of the club is an animation otaku, and he demonstrates his affinity for animation by pointing out the detail in an animated sequence (taken from the DaiCon IV video). I, personally, haven’t had many moments in animation where I felt compelled to freeze frame a video and stop to appreciate it – until I saw the OVA Area 88.

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Movie Poster for Iron Maiden: Flight 666
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“World Tours” are, anymore, a given for most rock concert tours, at least with any performer big enough to get Platinum records. However, I really don’t think that most people “get” what goes into a concert tour that goes around the world – both in terms of the toll on the performers and the toll on the crew. This leads us to Flight 666, a concert film that follows Iron Maiden’s “Somewhere Back in Time” Concert Tour. What makes this tour different from other tours, aside from the Documentary aspect, is that for the purposes of this tour, the band purchased a Boeing 757 to transport the band, the crew, and all necessary equipment from venue to venue, rather than chartering the plane. Why buy instead of charter? Because the lead singer of the band, Bruce Dickinson, is rated to pilot Boeing 757s. (more…)

Movie Poster for No Country for Old Men
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I came in to this movie knowing nothing about Cormac McCarthy. I hadn’t read the book this movie was based on. I hadn’t read The Road, nor had I seen the movie that was adapted from the book. What I did have, however, is knowledge of the Coen Brothers from seeing Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou. I can justifiably say that after seeing this movie, I couldn’t see anyone else doing this film. I don’t have this reaction with all films. Sometimes, when watching an film, I can sort of get ideas about how the film might look with another director – how John Carpenter might do the original Friday the 13th instead of Sean S. Cunningham for example. This, though, is a film only the Coen Brothers could do.

The film follows three characters, hunter Llewellyn Moss, sheriff Ed Tom Bell, and hitman Anton Chigurh (rhymes with “Sugar”). While hunting in west Texas, Moss comes across a drug deal that turned into a bloodbath. Among the carnage he finds a satchel carrying 2 Million dollars. Chigurh has been hired by the owner of the money to get it back. Finally, Sheriff Bell finds himself following in the wake of blood left by Chigurh’s passage in search of the money. (more…)

Movie Poster for The Electric Mist
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As a quick note – I’m reviewing the US release of the film. The European Union cut of the film is several minutes longer and is the director’s vision for how the film would turn out.

The way that crime thrillers and mysteries have been adapted to the big screen has kind of changed over the years, more or less. While TV series like Peter Gunn and Bones try (and succeed) to provide a “knowledge chain” sort of like a chain of custody, where the audience has access to the same pieces of evidence that the people investigating the crime(s) has, and they see how the conclusions are drawn, and they usually figure out who solved the crime around the same time the detective does. Films, and in particular In the Electric Mist, don’t do it that way. (more…)

Punisher: War Zone movie poster.
Get The Punisher: War Zone from Amazon.com

I have a love-hate relationship with Frank Castle. As someone who got into the pulps, especially characters like The Shadow, before he really got into comics, I never really had a problem with a comic book character who killed criminals. Thus, the Punisher appealed to me a little, as the character had a lot in common with characters like The Shadow, in terms of being a grim or mostly silent vigilante who gunned down gangsters. While I recognized that he had to coexist with various Marvel Super Heroes, I’d kind of figured out the sort of “rule of tiers” that the Marvel U operated on, and I figured that Spidey was generally more occupied with the more dangerous super-villains that Frank couldn’t go up against.

The hate part of the relationship comes from the writer whose currently in charge of writing the Punisher in the Marvel Max books-which is when they’re keeping the character at his street-level feel (sort of). I’m referring to Garth Ennis. Garth Ennis writing style feels like he goes for the shock value too often, and he goes for the low brow too often. His writing style also gives me the impression that he hates super heroes. No work shows this better than his run on The Punisher before he went to the Marvel Max version. After the first arc of the Punisher (Welcome Back Frank, which I almost liked), he proceeded to take a dump on every Marvel character he could get away with. He had Frank use Spider-Man as a human shield for The Resurrected Russian when Spidey could have pretty easily taken him. Frank blew Wolverine’s face off and ran him over with a bulldozer. (more…)

The DVD Cover for Season 3
Get Season 3 of Bones from Amazon.com

Crime Dramas tend to be serialized, unless they’re not. Yes, that sounds incredibly silly, but it’s generally true. The majority of crime dramas, whether of the soap opera variety or the serialized drama take the Dragnet/Law & Order tack of one case per episode, and it’s wrapped up at the end. Starting in the late 90s we finally started seeing much more serialized procedurals which would stretch a case out over several episodes, to a whole season, to even multiple seasons – with the most notable example of this being Homicide: Life on the Street.

Why am I bringing thus up with a Forensic Detective series that I’ve already reviewed the first two seasons of? Well, that’s because the first two seasons stayed in the standard episodic vein. This season, however, shifts gear to our first serial storyline. Specifically, the case of the cannibal, secret-society hating serial killer the Gormogon. This review will contain some spoilers. This is your warning. (more…)

The movie poster for HPLHS's adaptation of "Call of Cthulhu"
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When I entered Middle School, I started reading the works of HP Lovecraft. If you’re a fan of Horror, especially horror in the vein of the fantastic, you probably know some of Lovecraft’s works, without actually reading them. Lovecraft has inspired many a horror writer and director, from John Carpenter (“In the Mouth of Madness”) to Steven King (“The Mist”). However, while homages to his work have been made off and on over time, direct adaptations of his work have generally sucked, and sucked hard.

I’ll be frank – Lovecraft’s work doesn’t lend itself to adaptation very well. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Lovecraft’s horror was derived from the idea that the human brain was incapable of realizing how insignificant humanity is in the vastness of space, and if we ever realized it, our minds would shatter – and they’d be even further destroyed if there were older, more powerful races than us, that thought in ways that we couldn’t possibly imagine. Now, putting aside the fact that humanity has recognized just how small we are in the universe, and not only has survived without mass hysteria, but had a response that could best be described as “apathy”, this type of horror just doesn’t film well. Far more often, Lovecraft had to try to convey this by having the cosmic terrors be something that words couldn’t describe, which is a bit of a cheat – though one that ages better. Still, this is something that doesn’t necessarily film as well either – and it’s something that, frankly, most directors haven’t tried to do.

Instead most directors have tried to go to the personal horror route. Perhaps the most adapted of all of Lovecraft’s stories is The Shadow Over Innsmouth, in which a reporter goes to the city of Innsmouth in New England to investigate, and discovers a great horror within the city. The barely escapes from the inhabitants, who have become less human and more something else. In his investigations from outside the city, he discovers a terrible shock to his identity, that he too carries some of the inhuman heritage of the residents of Innsmouth and returns. The idea with this adaptation is that the audience would be able to emphasize with this struggle over identity. This is not, however, Lovecraft’s most famous story, and the one which named his mythos. (more…)

Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn
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If you’re reading this, and live in the United States, you know what the Peter Gunn theme is. You’ve heard it played by your High School Band (or played it yourself), you’ve heard it while playing Spy Hunter, or in a few movies. If say you haven’t heard the Peter Gunn theme before, then you’re probably lying. However, if you said you hadn’t watched Peter Gunn, I’d probably believe you. For a TV series with one of the memorable themes in the history of television, it’s surprisingly not well known outside of the Baby Boomer generation.

My decision to watch this series comes from my appreciation of hard-boiled detective stories. I got hooked on the genre when I was a kid, through the “Tracer Bullet” persona that Calvin would occasionally take on in Calvin and Hobbes strips. Those strips would later lead me to the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and other works of the hard-boiled detective genre (along with works which were a pastiche of the genre, like the Max Payne video games, and like Frank Miller’s Sin City). However, while the hard boiled detective often could be found on the printed page, I couldn’t find him often, necessarily, on the screen, big or otherwise. The film adaptations and homages were there – Blade Runner, Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Chinatown, not to mention TV series like the anime Cowboy Bebop, but considering the prolific amount of work in writing in this genre, the dearth seemed surprising. (more…)

The Movie Poster for US Marshals
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A while back I watched The Fugitive… and apparently it slipped my mind to review it. Either that, or I reviewed it somewhere else and can’t find it anymore. So, in short, I enjoyed the movie, and decided that (eventually), I would watch the film’s spiritual sequel – US Marshals. This review is going to get into some spoilers, but I’m keeping them below the cut. However, you are warned.

The film follows Deputy US Marshal Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) and his team of officers, who previously hunted Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. In this film, Gerard is on a convict transfer plane carrying (among others) a recently apprehended fugitive by the name of Mark Roberts (Wesley Snipes). The plane crashes when another inmate on the plane attempts to kill Roberts with a “Zip Gun” (a single shot short-barreled pistol disguised as a ballpoint pen) that was planted on the plane. The assassination attempt not only fails, but leads to the explosive decompression of the plane, and the assassin’s ejection from the plane due to the decompression. After the crash, Roberts escapes, in the hopes of getting the information he needs to clear his name.

After the crash (and after Gerard has called his team to help him catch Roberts), Gerard and company learn that Roberts is believed to be the killer of two DSS (Diplomatic Security Service) agents, and gets DSS Agent John Royce (Robert Downey Jr.) attached to his team. Thus the manhunt begins. (more…)

The Cover art for the DVD of Season 2 of Bones
Get Season 2 from Bones from Amazon.com

As you may have gathered from my review of the first season, I liked the start of this. I liked the Forensic Anthropologist take on the Science Detective show.  I liked the characters, and I liked the stories in the show. Now I’ve watched Season 2, and the show has slightly changed it’s focus, to a certain extent. Specifically, in this season the focus has changed from being heavily based around the murders, with the character focused side plots orbiting around it. Instead, with this season, the show has balanced itself out, like a binary star system (which is thus far the geekiest reference I’ve ever made), between the mysteries themselves and the portion of the plot based around the lives of the people working with Bones.

This is not a bad thing.

To get into the details, this season of Bones has two little side arcs to it. The first relates to the mystery surrounding Bones’ ex-bank robber father, who is still alive but missing, why he and Bones’ mother ran away from their children all those years ago. The other focuses around the blooming romance between Hodgins and Angela, which gets progressively serious over the course of the season. Both of these side plots are pretty well executed. I was a little worried about how they’d handle the arc around Bones’ father, but it worked out well. (more…)

Bones Season 1 Cover Art
Get Bones: Season 1 from Amazon.com

I enjoy mysteries. I read Sherlock Holmes novels as a kid. I read pulp detective novels and Agatha Christie novels as a teen. As a grown up I’ve found myself drawn to the current trend of forensic detective TV series, like CSI on CBS. After missing the boat early on, I’ve picked up the first season of Bones, and have given it a watch.

The show focuses on Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan (played by Emily Deschanel), a woman with a doctorate in Forensic Anthropology who works at the Jeffersonian Institution (not-the-Smithsonian). She’s also a novelist, and probably on-spectrum (and it doesn’t help her mental state that she was knocked around the foster kid system for a while). She’s partnered with FBI Special Agent Seely Booth, an ex-marine sniper (played by David Boreanaz), a more intuitive kind of guy. Togeather–wait for it–they fight crime! (more…)

Shawn Michels: From The Vault cover art
Get "Shawn Michaels: From the Vault" from Amazon.com

Now, once again I have another wrestling DVD review this week, though this one takes a different tack from my other reviews, because I’m not doing a match-by-match recap this time. Why? Well, the review will explain.

The Premise:

The DVDs recap some of Shawn Michaels’ wrestling career, from his tag career, to the beginnings of his solo run, to his return to the WWE. (more…)

Get Season 2 of Burn Notice on Blu-Ray
Get Season 2 of Burn Notice on Blu-Ray

This week we finish up the Burn Notice reviews (for now), with a review of the show’s second season. I haven’t watched Season 3 yet, but once I do, you can expect a review.

The Premise:

Following the conclusion of Season 1, Michael finds a few answers about who burned him – sort of. To be more accurate, he’s lost the FBI surveillance and instead has found himself in the care of Carla, his new handler. So, while now trying to make ends meet by helping the helpless, he now must also try to find out who Carla is working for, and what they want to do with him. (more…)

Buy Season 1 of Burn Notice at Amazon.com
Buy Season 1 of Burn Notice at Amazon.com

Yes, I am aware that I didn’t finish my recap of Season 1 of Burn Notice. To make up for it, I’m going to review the entire season (and season 2 besides, on a later week). However, we need to begin at the beginning. There will be spoilers, but they’ll be below the cut. I’ll try doing some spoiler-guarding stuff this time.

The Premise:

I’ll let the star of the show take this one (courtesy of IMDB):

Michael Westen: [voice-over] My name is Michael Westen. I used to be a spy. Until…
voice on phone: [phone rings] We got a burn notice on you. You’re blacklisted.
Michael Westen: [voice-over] When you’re burned, you’ve got nothing: no cash, no credit, no job history. You’re stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in.
Michael Westen: Where am I?
Fiona Glenanne: Miami.
Michael Westen: [voice-over] You do whatever work comes your way. You rely on anyone who’s still talking to you. A trigger-happy ex-girlfriend…
Fiona Glenanne: Shall we shoot them?
Michael Westen: [voice-over] An old friend who used to inform on you to the FBI…
Sam Axe: You know spies… bunch of bitchy little girls.
Michael Westen: [voice-over] Family too…
Sam Axe: [phone rings] Hey, is that your Mom again?
Michael Westen: [voice-over] … if you’re desperate.
Madeline Westen: Someone needs your help, Michael!
Michael Westen: [voice-over] Bottom line? Until you figure out who burned you… you’re not going anywhere. (more…)

Buy Smiley's People from Amazon.com (cover art will vary).
Buy Smiley's People from Amazon.com (cover art will vary).

As you can probably tell by some of the subject matter of my reviews, I like spy fiction. In particular, I enjoy John LeCarre’s work, especially the character of George Smiley. Previously I’ve watched the adaptation of his novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, though I didn’t review it here. What I will be reviewing today, though, is the adaptation of the 3rd novel of the “Quest for Karla” trilogy, Smiley’s People, which once again puts George Smiley (played by Alec Guinness) of the British Secret Service (aka the Circus) up against Karla of the KGB, played by Patrick Stewart. There are some spoilers below the cut. (more…)

Get Koyaanisqatsi from Amazon.com
Get Koyaanisqatsi from Amazon.com

I’ve never watched an “art” film before. I’ve watched films with artistic intent. I’ve watch films that used artistic imagery, and I’ve watched films which made me think (which is one of the things I consider important with films that are “artistic”). However, I’ve never really seen a film that I’d call an out-and-out “art film.”

Until now.

The Premise: The film is a non-verbal one. The film depicts a series of images, in their original speed, sped up, or slowed down, depicting the world, and the flow of modern life, set to a score by Phillip Glass. I’m really understating this, as there’s more to it than that, but I can’t quite explain without getting into the stuff that I’d normally do in the Good, Bad, and Ugly segments

My Thoughts: This film is stunning. It is visually amazing. It is audibly amazing. I hadn’t seen a movie that was deliberately without a story (I’d seen ones that were unintentionally without a story, but that’s another matter), but this was the first I’d seen where the film itself was intentionally without a narrative as we normally think of it. However, it still works. (more…)

Get Hoodlum at Amazon.com
Get Hoodlum at Amazon.com

I’ve been a fan of gangster films (with gangsters of most types), ever since I discovered Shadowrun when I was in middle school. So, I’ve become kind of familiar with the genre (though I’m not even going to pretend I’ve seen seen everything the genre has to offer). So when my Netflix recommendations popped up Hoodlums, I added it to my queue – as I had not seen a gangster film set in the classic gangster period featuring African Americans, and I was kind of hoping it would be a good take on the genre, and that it would portray it’s subjects appropriately.

The Premise: Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson has just gotten out of prison in 1936 (in the midst of the Great Depression) and has returned to Harlem where, he intends to get back into helping “Madame Queen” Stephanie St. Clair in running the numbers business (an underground lottery). However, Dutch Shultz has been muscling in on her turf, and has been getting the attention of district attorney Thomas Dewey, with Lucky Luciano (representing the Commission of New York’s mafia families) attempting to maintain order. Being that this is the kind of film that it is, things go out of control, and a gang war is waged across the streets of New York. (more…)

Get The Worlds Greatest Wrestling Managers from Amazon.com
Get "The World's Greatest Wrestling Managers" from Amazon.com

So, I’m trying to watch some more wrestling stuff, and I’ve gotten a few wrestling DVDs in, which I’ll be reviewing over the next couple weeks. First up is more of a documentary focused DVD, based around various managers in the WWE’s history… as if you couldn’t tell in the title.

The Premise: Hosted by Todd Grisham, we take a walk back memory lane and discuss some of the greatest managers in the WWE’s history, and what made them great, as heels, or as faces. We have interviews with the managers in question, as well as with various WWE Superstars talking about those particular managers, and what makes a good manager in general. The individual mangers who get profiled include Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Captain Lou Albano, Paul Bearer, Jim Cornette, Paul Heyman, Sunny, “Classy” Freddie Blassie, “The Sensational” Sherrie Martel, and “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, The Grand Wizard Of Wrestling, and The Lovely Miss Elizabeth, as well as a general profile of female managers/valets in wrestling (with particular mention given to Debra, Chyna, Trish Stratus and Rena Mero). (more…)

Get The Best of IWA Wrestling Vol. 2 from Amazon.com
Get The Best of IWA Wrestling Vol. 2 from Amazon.com

Well, after  much delay, I’ve decided to continue with my wrestling recaps and reviews. This won’t be as in depth as my Wrestlemania reviews, and won’t be done as regularly. Nonetheless, I’m gonna give this a try. First up is The Best of IWA Wrestling Vol. 2. As a slight note, this promotion is not the IWA promotion that’s currently active in Puerto Rico and Japan, nor IWA Mid-South. This is a separate promotion that was active in the Ohio area from the 1970s to some undetermined point.

Dates for the matches are not provided, though they’re all from TV tapings. Our commentary team is Lee Marshall and Diamond Dallas Page (from some point in his career between going from managing to actively wrestling).

Match 1: “Hitman” Tommy Stetson vs. “Lil’ Cricket” David Isley.

This is from the first round of the tournament to determine the first IWA Junior Heavyweight Champion. We get some chained standing switches before Stetson reaches the ropes. Isley locks Stetson in a rest hold (a standing headlock), which he chains into a hip toss to ground Stetson. Stetson gets out and tries to build momentum and gets an arm-drag and then a headlock for his trouble. Isley cradles for 2. Stetson and Isley get in the corner and exchange blows before Isley takes the worst of a turnbuckle splash. Rather, it was meant to be a turnbuckle splash but Isley started to come out of the corner before he got hit. Not sure if that’s deliberate or mis-communication. (more…)

Buy Genesis of the Daleks from Amazon.com
Buy "Genesis of the Daleks" from Amazon.com

This week we’re taking a break from reviewing movies for a review of another Doctor Who storyline. This one is one heck of a classic storyline, featuring one of everyone’s favorite Doctors – Tom Baker. Now, does this storyline hold up over time, or is it as flimsy as the walls of one of their sets. Oh, the story? Genesis of the Daleks.

The Premise

The Doctor and his companions are diverted from their Trans-mat (teleporter) trip back to the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimensions In Space – their Time Machine to you who are new to the Who), by the Time Lords, who instead send them to the planet of Skaro in the distant past. Their reason – the Time Lords have come to realize that the Daleks are far more powerful than they realized, powerful enough to destroy even them. Thus, they have broken their rule of non-interference and are tasking The Doctor (and his companions, Ian and Sarah Jane), with the task of finding a weakness in the Daleks in this early stage of their existance, or, if possible, to elimiate them. (more…)

Get Michael Palins Around the World In 80 Days from Amazon.com
Get Michael Palin's "Around the World In 80 Days" from Amazon.com

Travel documentary series, while at times they can be enoyable, aren’t necessarily my thing. Often times, like Travels in Europe, by Portland native Rick Steves, or Globe Trekker,  the people hosting the show are people who travel professionally – they write about it, and often times they take the time to get to know an area, and thus they have all the tricks and tips to pass along to you to make your stay more comfortable. I’ve also found that these end up making the documentary a little less approachable. They’re being told by an old hand. So, in the course of my travels and travails through Netflix, I found a travel documentary series by Michael Palin – Around the World in 80 days. Being a fan of Monty Python (as is any self respecting geek), I watched it. Now, what did I think about it? (more…)

Purchase The Universe: Season 1 from Amazon.com
Purchase "The Universe: Season 1" from Amazon.com

There have been many excellent documentary series about our cosmos and how it works.  Many of them, particularly Cosmos, Stephen Hawking’s Universe, and The Elegant Universe, have been hosted by noted astrophysicists, astronomers and cosmologists, such as the late Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and Brian Green (respectively). They’ve also generally been on public broadcasting, or on channels like the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel – which focus on science programming. The History Channel has now started running The Universe, a series on our universe and our solar system, how it works, and what it’s like, and how we know what we know about it. So, the question is, is the show on par with the documentaries I’ve already mentioned, or does it kind of fumble the ball like The Dark Ages did?

The Premise

Covering everythng from how our solar system formed, to the properties of the various planets, to the threat to our planet from Near Earth Objects and Gamma Ray Bursts, to The Big Bang and how we learned about it, the show covers a multitude of topics about our Solar System, using visual analogies, computer generation representations of planets, asteroids and events, and interviews with cosmologists, physicists, and astronomers to explain how the universe works. (more…)

Link to get the DVD from Amazon.com
Link to get the DVD from Amazon.com

Thanks to the wonders of “Netflix Watch It Now”, I’ve been able to catch up on some great documentaries that I missed because I don’t have cable. I’ve also caught up on some not-so-great documentaries that I missed because I don’t have cable.  This documentary fits into one of those categories, and I’m not entirely sure which.

The Premise

Covering the period from the fall of Rome to the start of the Crusades, this documentary tries to cover basically all of the basics of European History during this period, using accounts from historians who are experts in the period, as well as footage of actors re-creating life during the period known as the “Dark Ages”.

(more…)