July 31, 2014

Book Review: SHAKEN

By D.M. Anderson. (2011, 260 pp).
Echelon Press/Quake Books

(I love a good disaster story (on the big screen or otherwise), so I wrote one of my own, inspired by the genre I grew up with. It's gotten some good reviews, too.)
Natalie, a self-centered girl, is dragged away by her family at the worst possible time. Damien, a juvenile delinquent condemned as an accessory to murder. Connor, an angry young man unable to get over the death of his father.
Three teenagers from different backgrounds, each suffering pain and loss, must now find strength, responsibility, and heroism they didn’t know they possessed when the worst disaster in American history, a 9.7 earthquake devastates the Pacific Northwest. Their struggle for survival will not only test their resolve; it will affect the lives of everyone around them. Can they let go of their own personal issues and look beyond themselves before a massive tsunami destroys them all?
A review of Shaken by Colleen McKie from Lavender Lines:
I LOVE disasters movies. Which really makes no sense, because I’m a pretty stressed person and if a disaster ever hit I’d probably curl up in bed with my stuffed frog and a shit-ton of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. But I’ll watch disaster movies until the cows come home. I love watching how people deal with horrific situations and how they come out on the other end, changed. For me Shaken was like a disaster movie in a book. It had all the elements that I love and then some.
I read Shaken in two sittings. It probably would have been devoured in one, except that I read it a few days before Christmas so I was a bit distracted with wrapping gifts and such. It was an intense read, what with the earthquake and all. But I just couldn’t put it down. I needed to know what happened to these three teens and others that were in the book.
The way Anderson described the earthquake, and what happens after, made me feel like I was watching it happen. I could feel the tension, the hope, the desperation as characters struggled to deal with the aftermath and trying to survive. My heart was pounding during certain scenes, breaking during others.
Now, I don’t want you to think that this was just an action book, because that’s so not the case. There was some nice character development in Shaken. I enjoyed watching the teens grow and realize who they really are. I felt for these characters and I cared what happened to them.
Shaken was just a great all around read. For fans of disaster movies, disaster books and just great YA books, I recommend Shaken.
Shaken is now available in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

July 30, 2014

The Statler & Waldorf Cut of MUPPETS MOST WANTED!

In anticipation of the August 12th release of Muppets Most Wanted on Blu-ray Combo Pack we're thrilled to share a bonus clip from The Statler & Waldorf Cut of Muppets Most Wanted!

July 29, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: SWELTER

Starring Lennie James, Grant Bowler, Josh Henderson, Catalina Sandino, Alfred Molina, Jean-Claude Van Damme. Directed by Keith Palmer. (2014, 110 min).
Well Go USA Entertainment

Swelter is a bewildering mess.

A shame, really, because it features good performances by a game cast (yes, even Jean-Claude Van Damme), and it’s easy to see the vibe writer/director Keith Palmer is trying for…sort-of a moody mash-up of spaghetti westerns and Reservoir Dogs. Unfortunately, with a disjointed script loaded with inexplicable scenes, massive plot holes, boring dialogue, misplaced symbolism and out-of-the-blue story turns, Palmer ends up being his own worst enemy.

In a nutshell, Lennie James plays Bishop, the sheriff of Baker, a tiny bump-on-the-map in Nevada. He’s also the only guy who seems content living there, and we soon learn why... Bishop was once part of a $10 million Vegas casino robbery a decade prior and shot in the head during the escape. He manages to avoid getting captured (it isn’t explained how) while the rest of the crew goes to prison. He ends up in Baker (again, it isn’t explained how) with no memory of the incident or the location of the money. Meanwhile, his old crew, led by Cole (Grant Bowler), manage to find where he’s hiding and proceed to basically terrorize the entire town for a few days in an effort to get their lost cash.

Reservoir Dorks
Despite lapses in logic, this has the makings of a pretty decent story, but Palmer repeatedly shoots himself in the foot by including too many secondary characters we’re led to believe are important but end up serving no real purpose, not to mention out-of-the-blue scenes where people suddenly betray each other with no prior transition whatsoever. Most confusing of all are these characters’ relationships with each other. For example, Bishop’s girlfriend, Carmen (Catalina Sandino), was once with Cole prior to the robbery. Palmer doesn’t even try to explain how this is even possible. If you want to us to dive into a complicated, labyrinthine and unpredictable plot, that’s fine…just make damn sure we’re able to swim back to the surface by logically tying the pieces together.

A note to Van Damme fans…despite being prominently featured on the cover, he’s just a secondary character. He’s good, but does more brooding than the customary ass-kicking. The movie belongs to Lennie James, always a fine character actor who’s given the opportunity to shine in a rare leading role. He makes the most of it, being the only character we can remotely identify with. Too bad his efforts are wasted on a movie like this.

Finally, for a supposed action film, such scenes are few and far between, almost as if Palmer decided mid-shoot that Swelter should be more moody and existential. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, the movie really has nothing to say during those moments, and could’ve really benefited from an occasional injection of humor.

Ultimately, Swelter is a film of missed opportunities…a great cast wasted on a rambling film that doesn’t know if it wants to be enjoyable exploitation, modern day western, noirish crime drama or a dramatic tale of redemption. Dust off your old copy of Reservoir Dogs instead.


  • Individual interviews with writer/director Keith Palmer and most of the primary cast
  • Trailer
(OUT OF 5)

July 28, 2014

ARMAGEDDON: A Review in Verse

Starring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Billy Bob Thornton, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, William Fichtner, Peter Stormare. Directed by Michael Bay. (1998, 151 min).

There’s a director by the name Michael Bay,
A man who just loves to blow things away,
Like cars & buildings & people and such -
He has no use for the term, ‘too much.’

Turned loose with loads of pyrotechnic toys,
He assaulted our senses with The Rock and Bad Boys.
Though he filled plot holes with bombs, guns & stuff,
Citywide destruction just wasn’t enough.

“Small potatoes!” he declared while thumping his chest
Because big loud destruction is what he does best.
“The only type of movie to represent my worth
Is one where I can threaten the entire planet Earth!”

Armageddon, it was called, a pretty great title
For a movie so extreme it makes Die Hard look idle.
There’s a massive asteroid, the size of a state,
Which is speeding toward Earth to seal all our fates.

Bruce Willis, as Harry, is launched into space
Because movies this epic need a big famous face.
Liv Tyler is his daughter, who’s looking for nookie
From a slumming Ben Affleck and his animal cookies.

"My toys....mine."
Harry’s motley misfits must land on the rock
And blow it to bits while racing the clock.
His crew are all actors with talent to spare,
But their skills are all wasted because Bay didn’t care…

With a screenplay written by a staff of monkeys,
And a team of editors who are caffeine junkies,
Bay showed up and blowed up whole cities at will,
Which helped mask his lack of narrative skill.

Despite the fact Armageddon was the same
As Deep Impact, but more like a video game,
Moviegoers flocked and were pummeled to submission
By explosions, death and epic attrition.

As if Armageddon alone wasn’t stupid enough,
Michael Bay went on to make more insulting stuff
Because even though nearly all his films stink,
They appeal to those who don’t like to think…

Which is why such movies as Transformers exist,
Despite the fact it’s just a cinematic cyst.
We were privy to where Hollywood was headin’
When they allowed Michael Bay to make Armageddon.

July 26, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: NEED FOR SPEED

Starring Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott Mescudi, Ramon Rodriguez, Michael Keaton. Directed by Scott Waugh. (2014, 130 min).
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Need for Speed should have sucked…

First, it’s based on a popular video game, and most such films are little more than cynically-marketed products aimed at undemanding teenage boys.

Second, this film obviously wouldn’t exist if not for the inexplicable popularity of the Fast and the Furious franchise. Every promotional trailer and poster, from the car-porn action down to the ‘speedy‘ font of the title, were blatant attempts to appeal to the F&F crowd. And if you’re gonna rip-off another franchise, why not boost your chances for success by using a brand name everyone under the age of twenty is already familiar with?

Third, the story, involving a young hot-shot mechanic speeding cross-country in a rare Shelby Mustang - with cops on his tail - to participate in an illegal road race while avenging the death of a buddy at the hands of a racing rival, is ridiculous to the extreme. An epic suspension of disbelief - from the anti-gravity auto-stunts to the near-absence of police during the cross-country run - is required from even the most forgiving viewer. In addition, there isn’t a single plot turn you won’t see coming from a mile away.

Fourth, the characters are as shallow as a puddle, mostly conceived to look cool or sexy and speak in eye-rolling clichés.

Lars Ulrich takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque.
But ironically, despite everything working against it, Need for Speed doesn’t suck. It ain't The Godfather, but it is a lot of disreputable fun, the kind of movie you'll feel silly admitting you enjoyed.

Aaron Paul - he of Breaking Bad fame (who ominously resembles the drummer for Metallica) - may not be traditional leading man material, but despite his one-dimensional character (and some chuckleworthy attempts at intensity) we kinda like him. Dominic Cooper brings more chutzpah to his villainous role as Dino than he probably needed to. Sure, he’s essentially a cartoon, but a lot of fun to root against.

This is also a true cargasm movie. The vehicles are all sexy as hell (you might even find yourself saddened by one car's demise). The chases and stunts may border on fantasy at times, but none of it is CGI (which you can’t say about the Fast & Furious franchise). What you see was accomplished with real cars driven by real stunt people (and sometimes the actors themselves). Most importantly, despite a surprising 130 minute running time, Need for Speed is tightly-paced enough to justify its length. Sure, there are a few scenes of obligatory exposition or lame attempts at characterization, but for the most part, Need for Speed lives up to its title to deliver a fast ride.

And in one shamelessly amusing scene, even though it has almost nothing to do with the plot, the movie features the ultimate way to quit a job.

Is Need for Speed a great film? Not by a longshot. But maybe because my expectations were low to begin with, I found this a lot more fun than any movie in the Fast and Furious franchise. As someone who has never played a single game in the long-running video game series, I can’t tell you if it’s faithful or not to its source material. What I can say is, despite having to apologize to my brain afterwards, Need for Speed gave me a good time.


  • Capturing Speed: The Making of an Authentic Car Movie: A behind-the-scenes documentary featuring the stunts and practical effects of the numerous chase scenes (at the very least, you’ll develop enough of an appreciation for the enormous effort involved to watch the film again).
  • Ties That Bind: Featurette focusing on a family of stunt drivers hired to drive.
  • The Circus is in Town: Featurette of the various cross-country locations.
  • Monarch & Maverick Outtakes: Improvised bits by Michael Keaton & Scott Mescudi which didn’t make it into the movie.
  • The Sound of Need for Speed: Featurette focusing on the sound effects.
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Audio Commentary 
  • Need for Speed Rivals video game trailer
(OUT OF 5)

July 23, 2014


Starring the voices of Luci Christian, David Matranga, Wendel Calvert, Brina Palencia. Directed by Shinji Aramaki. (2014, 95 min).

Review by Michelle MaBelle

Appleseed Alpha is set in post-apocalyptic New York, where mercenaries Deunan, and cyborg Briareos set out to find the supposedly utopian city of Olympus, which may be humanity’s last hope.

For fans of the previous Appleseed movies, I’m sure that Appleseed Alpha is an absolute delight. If you’re new to the series, however, I wouldn’t even bother. Despite the fact that it is a prequel, the plot is hard to follow. There are few explanations for anything, and I spent the majority of the movie wondering what was going on.

"Hey...my eyes are up here."
The movie’s CG animation is a little lackluster as well. While the environments, cyborgs, and anybody else covered in armor look stunning, anything that even remotely resembles a human seems a bit off. While the graphics would have been okay for say, a video game, they aren’t exactly pleasant to look at for a movie. Deunan, the main heroine of the film, seems expressionless more often than not, and her movements seem strange and choppy.

The music of the film is good…separately. While it is pleasant enough to listen to, there are moments where it just doesn’t fit. Was this supposed to be background music? Is a character listening to the radio somewhere? What is this, and who thought putting it in right now was a good idea?

The voice acting is good, and admittedly better than I was expecting. Luci Christian was great as Deunan, and it’s a shame that the character’s expressions are so stiff, and just don’t seem to fit well with the voice over work.

However, this movie was obviously made for the returning fans. If you enjoyed any of the other movies, Appleseed Alpha is probably great. It’s action scenes are destructive and entertaining, and seeing the origins of Deunan and Briareos is likely loads of fun. But from an outsider's point of view, the movie really isn’t anything special or worth sitting through again.

Filmmaker Commentary
11 Part Making-of Documentary

(OUT OF 5)

July 16, 2014

KITTEN KIBBLES: More Pet Peeves of a Movie Snob

"Stop, Jaws, stop!"
Jaws is NOT the name of the goddamn shark! It doesn’t have a name (though the crew referred to the mechanical shark as Bruce). Not a single character ever screamed, "Oh No! Here comes Jaws!" You don’t call Kevin Spacey’s serial killer character Seven, do you?

Studios sometimes abuse the term ‘beyond imagination’ as part of a movie’s ad campaign, as in “An Adventure Beyond Imagination!” (Disney used to do this a lot). It’s a meaningless oxymoron which sounds ominous, but makes no sense. No movie in history has ever been beyond imagination, because some screenwriter obviously imagined it.

Similarly, it’s almost insulting when studios tout their film is currently “The Number #1 Comedy in America!” after box-office numbers come in, conveniently leaving out the fact it was the only comedy released that week.

Speaking of which, why does the media continue to present weekend box office reports like movies are some kind of sporting event? Furthermore, why do so many people actually care? Once you've seen a movie and loved it (or hated it), does rooting for or against it's profitability affect your personal life in any way whatsoever?

If you have a bladder the size of a walnut, do everyone a big solid and pick an aisle seat next time you go to the movies.

I once bumped into an individual who hated Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, indignantly declaring the entire film was racist, simply because its main character starts off that way. I know, in this day and age, we’re required to look for reasons to be offended, but if you’re blindly confusing racism-as-a-topic with racism-as-an-agenda, you should probably speak your mind a bit less.

"Is it ganja? Yah, yah, yaaaaah, yah!"
(Kitten Kudos if you know this reference)
On a related note, contrary to what conservative news groups, organizations and internet trolls have to say on the subject, Hollywood’s only ‘agenda’ is making as much money as possible. Does anyone really think George Lucas had some racist ideal when making Star Wars Episode I, simply because of the voices used for Jar Jar Binks and the Trade Federation? What exactly would he gain by instilling his so-called racism into a $100 million film (most of which was his own money)? Anyone who identifies Jar Jar and the Trade Federation as Jamaican or Asian stereotypes are actually displaying their own inherent racism. They're the ones who attached an accent to a particular culture, since none of these characters resembled any particular human race whatsoever. The only thing Lucas was ever guilty of was directing a shitty movie.

Speaking of which, we need to stop retro-condemning old movies made during a time when attitudes and values were far different than they are today, like self-righteous trolls bent on reassessing the actual worth of a movie like Gone with the Wind (a 75 year old film) from a 21st Century perspective. If you are unable to view a movie in the context of when it was made, you sure as hell have no business judging it.

It bothers me when people poo-poo a movie’s quality just because it depressed them. Not all stories are sunshine and lollipops. Any film which touches you emotionally - positively or negatively - has done its job and should be considered a good one, even if you don’t always like what you see. The only bad movies are those where you walk away feeling nothing.

A man on an iPod, watching a man on an iPod,
watching a man on an iPod, watching...

(even MORE Kitten Kudos if you know this reference)
I don’t care how awesome your phone or tablet is…a hand-held screen is no way to watch a movie. If you first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey on your iPad (the film ironically predicted the iPad), you still haven’t seen 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Unless you are a film critic paid for your opinion, or forced to accompany your children, paying to see a sequel to a movie you hated in the first place makes you a troll. Why else would spend good money for something like Transformers: Edge of Extinction unless your goal all along is to jump on the internet and rip it to shreds?

Unless your name is Mike, Joel, Tom Servo or Crow, your snide remarks during a movie aren’t funny, clever or even remotely welcome.

The cost of a single movie ticket is now more than I once paid for good seat to see Kiss at the height of their popularity. On a related note, the cost to take my wife and daughter to see Kiss in 2009 cost more than I paid for my first car.

The ridiculous price of concessions is not the theater’s fault. Place the blame on studios, who charge enormous sums for cinema chains to ‘rent’ a film. Studios take a majority of the box office profits during a movie's initial run. 90% of a theater’s income is from concessions, which is why they frown on people bringing their own snacks. The reason your ‘medium’ popcorn and ‘small’ soda are big enough to feed a small village is their way of compensating you for shelling out twelve dollars.

July 13, 2014

THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974): All My Friends Are Dead

Starring Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Earl Hindman, James Broderick, Tony Roberts. Directed by Joseph Sargent. (1974, 104 min).

I’ve been feeling a bit melancholy about life lately. Not that life isn’t good. It’s great, in fact. I have a decent career, a loving wife who loves me for who I am (quirks & all) and two daughters I’m very proud of. I’ve traveled a bit here & there and accomplished most of the goals I’ve had since childhood (though opening for Ozzy at Madison Square Garden probably ain't gonna happen). I’ve been able to parlay my love of movies into writing articles for various websites, as well as an entertaining side-job of reviewing Blu-Ray discs which studios send me for free. Not an extravagant life, but a satisfying one.

But as The Yardbirds once said, still I’m sad, because time has whizzed by faster than Jeff Gordon at Daytona. While I sometimes feel the physical impact of age (munching a lot more Tums than I used to after a spicy meal), in my head, it feels like the 70s and 80s were only a few years ago. Those decades are still modern times from my perspective, even though a significant percentage of the population was born afterwards and view that era like I once did of the 50s…ancient history, the dark ages, somewhat chuckle-worthy.

To put the relentless velocity of time in perspective, I fell in love with movies in the early 70s and one of the first films to have a big impact on me was 1974’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, which I still consider one of the greatest action movies ever made. It’s a superbly-suspenseful story of four heavily-armed, nearly-anonymous men who hijack a New York subway train at the height of rush hour. Unless the city pays them a million dollars within an hour, one hostage will die for each minute past the deadline. Walter Matthau plays a world-weary transit cop forced to negotiate with the hijackers, while Robert Shaw steals the entire movie as a cold-blooded mercenary, Mr. Blue, one of the great unsung villains in modern movie history (I defy you to watch this and tell me Shaw didn’t influence Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Hans Gruber in Die Hard).

Mr. Blue manages to find a way around
paying the usual subway fare.
This film is so well-directed, acted, scored and edited that, even today, I can pop it into my Blu-Ray player and it still feels as fresh and new as it did in ‘74. I’ve probably watched it at least once a year since home video first reared its head, never noticing the passage of time.

Alas, time does pass, and when I last-watched The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, it was a grim reminder of how fast…

One thing I enjoy doing while rewatching my favorite films is to have iMDB open on my iPad so I can read trivia and look up bios & filmographies of the cast & crew. It ended up being a rather sobering experience this time, because I noticed that most of the primary cast are now dead. Of course, I already knew about some of them, like Robert Shaw in 1980 (at the age of 50) and Walter Matthau in 2000. But so are most of the supporting players. Martin Balsam…dead; Kenneth McMillan…dead; Earl Hindman…dead. James Broderick…dead. Julius Harris...dead. The list goes on. With the exception of Shaw (whose lifestyle had him prematurely visiting that great subway in the sky), time quietly sneaked up and snatched them away.

It puts me in a weird place regarding my age and a growing awareness of my own mortality.

The first time I ever saw Gone with the Wind was with my grandmother when I was 15. It was her favorite movie and happened to air on TV during my annual week-long summer visit. Knowing I was a blooming film fan (though my tastes leaned more towards Jaws and Star Wars), Grandma insisted we watch it together so I could see a 'real' movie.

She excitedly informed me she first saw GWTW in 1939 as a teenager, rambling about how handsome and debonair Clark Cable was at the time, as well as Vivian Leigh’s star-making role which rendered her a sex symbol. During the broadcast, Grandma was able to vividly recall every aspect of GWTW which made it a cultural phenomenon. Yet part of her seemed a bit sad as she mused about the past, perhaps because 1939 didn’t seem like all that long ago to her. While I enjoyed GWTW, I couldn’t relate to how she felt.

But I do now.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is now 40 years old, the same age as Gone with the Wind when I first saw that film and declared it an enjoyable piece of history. Like my grandma, it doesn’t really feel like that much time has passed since Pelham first knocked my socks off. Upon learning just how many of those involved in making the film are now dead, I’m forced to accept the cruel relentlessness of time, which ultimately saddens me more than the visual elements which date it.

Yet despite the fact it’s been badly remade twice, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three still seems new to me. When rewatching the film late at night (almost always by myself), I still manage to find a small place left in my head where it's still 1974; Robert Shaw is still a steely killer, Matthau is still making weary wisecracks, Balsam is still trying to clear his sinuses. For that brief two hours, these guys are all alive and well.

Maybe that’s what Grandma did while we watched Gone with the Wind together, and what some of you youngsters might do when revisiting Happy Gilmore or X-Men after Adam Sandler and Hugh Jackman have kicked the bucket.

July 12, 2014

Jamie Lee Curtis' recording session for the HALLOWEEN COMPLETE COLLECTION

Work continues on the HALLOWEEN COMPLETE COLLECTION Blu-ray set. Bonus features continue to be added on a daily basis, and an announcement is forthcoming outlining all the great newly produced interviews, featurettes, behind-the-scenes footage and more that will be included in the 15-disc Deluxe Edition. This photo features Jamie Lee Curtis, as she sat down with HALLOWEEN H20  director Steve Miner (r) and moderator Sean Clark (c) for a new commentary track and interview that you'll hear and see starting September 23rd!

July 10, 2014

Book Review: WORLD GONE WILD - A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies

By David J. Moore. (2014, 431pp).
Schiffer Publishing

World Gone Wild (subtitled “A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies”) is nothing if not thorough.

We here at FKMG love doomsday films in all shapes & sizes, and author David J. Moore covers just about all of them…classics, blockbusters, rip-offs, porn parodies, anime, TV series, miniseries and hundreds of obscure titles we’ve never even heard of. I found myself challenged to come up with a single film not included which would fall under this category (managing only one, the 1981 miniseries, World War III).

The fact Moore is the sole author means he has personally dedicated an unholy amount of time sitting in the dark in order to put this together. Usually, books like this are the result of several similarly-minded writers.

The book itself is an exhaustingly-detailed critical guide containing plot synopses and reviews of just about every film in which global catastrophe is essential to the story, whether it’s happening onscreen, has already happened or is about to happen. Moore’s critiques reflect an extensive knowledge of the subgenre, and he often manages to find something positive in many films generally regarded as crap (such as the numerous Italian Mad Max rip-offs pumped out during the 80s). His generosity of a movie’s merits is important when you consider the number of shitty end-of-the-world epics far outweighs the great ones.

Sure, these are Moore’s personal assessments, and he makes the mistake of providing extensive spoilers when writing each synopsis (often rendering it pointless to seek-out some of these films), but he never comes across as pretentious, defensive or retaliatory, even when praising movies the rest of the free world truly hated. This must be the first book in publishing history in which an author favors The Postman over Dr. Strangelove.

His tendency to go against popular assessment may be this book’s greatest virtue. After all, how often do you really need to read yet-another confirmation that The Road Warrior is the greatest post-apocalypse film of all time? The fact Moore cites the sequel, Max Mad Beyond Thunderdome, as a better film makes for compelling reading.

Moore occasionally gets his facts wrong, as when he mistakes the advanced mechas at the end of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence for actual aliens, or cites Waterworld as one of the biggest box-office disasters of all time (which, despite its reputation, is not). But that’s just nitpicking.

In addition to the reviews, dozens of interviews with various directors, writers and actors are included, from those involved with groundbreaking classics to those whose contributions to the genre are dubious-at-best. Also interspersed among these glossy pages are original one-sheets (often from various countries), promotional stills and screen shots, all handsomely bound in hardcover.

If the post-apocalypse film genre is your thing, World Gone Wild is definitely worth picking up, a book you’ll enjoy revisiting again and again. There will likely be several critical entries where you think the author is out of his mind, but that’s part of the fun of reference books like this.

(OUT OF 5)

July 7, 2014

EDGE OF TOMORROW: A Question of Age

Starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor. Directed by Doug Liman. (2014, 113 min).

I remember my first-ever concert…Rush in 1980 at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland. They were one of the most popular bands in the world at that time, and tickets cost a whopping nine bucks (and that was for pretty decent seats). I ended up shelling out even more for a commemorative concert tee-shirt ($20). The entire night ended up costing me a month’s worth of allowance.

To put that into perspective, the last concert I attended was Kiss back in 2009. I took my wife and oldest daughter (who was far more enamored with the opening act, Buckcherry). Three tickets ended up costing over $200. Tee-shirts were $40 each. Hell, a single beer was eight fucking dollars. It actually cost more to park our car than my ticket for that first Rush concert, all to see what was essentially a nostalgia act. In between Buckcherry’s opening set and Kiss, I went on a pretty lengthy tangent about how inexpensive everything was back in the day. My daughter, Natalie, didn’t care (why would she?), and my wife, a few years younger and never much of a concert-goer, didn’t really have a frame-of reference to appreciate my tirade.

As a guy whose middle age is nearly always in-mind when considering attending any concert, I thought I’d throw-in that comparison (old folks love doing that). As much as I’d still love seeing my favorite bands live, more often than not, I choose not to attend. Aside from the tremendous expense, I’d feel like the oldest guy in the room because my music of choice is heavy metal, and not just the fat, geriatric 80s groups regulated to playing state fairs. One of my current favorite bands is Tool, but I’d feel self-conscious and stupid going to one of their shows, certain I was at least a decade older than anyone else.

Why? Because going back to that Rush concert in 1980, waiting for the show to start, there was a guy near our seats who was obviously high as hell, yet older than my own dad…Foghat tee-shirt, pot belly, receding gray hair. He continually stood up and high-fived everyone around him as his beer sloshed from his cup, looking rather pathetic. Even though my friends and I were just as high, we laughed at him, simply because he was older and had no business hanging out with us younger kids. Why the hell was this old bastard still trying to be the life of the party?

Not once did it occur to me he was actually a Rush fan. He was too old.

Then I suddenly got old, yet still had the same love for ear-blasting heavy metal. Later in life, I attended a Slayer concert (by myself) at a small theater in Portland. I always loved the band, but because of the nature of their music - which encouraged kids to mosh and bang each other bloody on the concert floor - I felt intimidated enough to stay in the balcony (safely near the beer garden). Fortunately, I was seated next to an equally-old dude, and after a four beer courting period, we high-fived each other whenever Slayer played one of our favorite songs. Kids who happened to glance up and see me headbanging in the balcony were likely having a good laugh while wondering what that fuck I was doing there.

Suddenly, I was the same old fart as that guy I once ridiculed at the Rush concert.

But why is that? Why was I expected to outgrow my love of Metallica, Slayer and Pantera once I turned 30? Why, at 50, do I feel compelled to try coaxing my daughter into accompanying me to an Opeth concert, just so I can rock out under the guise of being a chaperone? Why do we tend to assign an age limit to certain forms of entertainment?

This ageism doesn’t just apply to music. I love playing Grand Theft Auto, but there’s this perpetual mentality that video gaming is not-only a young person’s pursuit (though age has zero to do with one’s ability, since you’re just sitting on a couch), but a young man’s endeavor (like being equipped with a penis automatically renders your thumbs more agile). I’m a middle school teacher, and many of my students are shocked upon learning I enjoy GTA, not just because of my age, but being a teacher apparently makes me a puritan.

Then there is ageism related to moviegoing, where I’m sad to say I’m recently-guilty of being a hypocrite.

There was once a time I couldn’t wait for the summer movie season, when Hollywood typically trucks out their biggest, flashiest blockbusters. I was first in line to see the likes of Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Batman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Independence Day and Jurassic Park. Most of them spawned sequels which further obligated me to spend future summers inside a theater…like everyone else in the free world.

But eventually, the appeal of being bombarded by eye-candy began to wane. Part of the reason is because I’ve seen so many movies over the years that fewer and fewer mega-budget epics thrill me quite like they used to; I’ve seen it all before. But also, I began noticing the increasing number of blockbusters exclusively-geared toward the audience with the most disposable income…teenagers.

For me, that nadir was reached with Michael Bay’s inexplicably-popular Transformers franchise, in which all narrative and characterization is stripped-away in favor of pure sensory overload. My wife dragged me to the first one, and it was a depressing experience. Not to bash Michael Bay (he’s just giving people what they obviously want), but the movie was mind-numbing, seizure-inducing and, despite the bombardment of non-stop hyperkinetic action, ultimately boring. My attention drifted to the packed theater around us…everyone (most of whom were much younger) seemed to be loving every minute of it, totally content watching what was essentially a video game on a big screen. I wanted to stand up and scream, "What the fuck is wrong with you people? Haven't you never seen a real action movie?"

That’s when I felt like I had no business being there. Transformers (and its even-worse sequels) is aimed squarely at slack-jawed, undemanding, X-Box addicted kids who probably couldn’t sit still through Star Wars because it moves too slow. Most summer movies no longer have people like me in mind.

I still love me some big, dumb action, but feel less-compelled to join the fray if the movie looks like yet-another exercise in CGI overkill (like Pacific Rim, Man of Steel and the Fast & Furious franchise). At my age, summer is now the worst time to go to the movies. Where I used to go to the theater every other week, now there’s usually only two to three movies each summer which look like they’re worth the expense.

"I swear to God...Rock of Ages was not my fault."
One such movie is Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi vehicle which, based on its lackluster box office performance in the U.S., provides further proof that most people don’t give a shit about story as long as they’re continually bombarded by visual & sonic fury (as the insanely-successful opening weekend of Transformers: Age of Extinction will attest). After all, Edge of Tomorrow is loaded with CGI action as well, but commits the cardinal sin of providing a unique premise, a smart script and engaging characters among the mayhem. It is essentially Groundhog Day with aliens, and Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise, who repeatedly dies and relives the same battle over and over. He's able to change events each time because he has knowledge no one else does about the future. I think it might be the best time travel movie since Terry Gilliam’s brilliant Twelve Monkeys.

It saddens me to say this, but aside from the generic title (it’s based on a Japanese novel, All You Need is Kill, which sounds far more intriguing), I’m convinced Edge of Tomorrow ultimately failed at the box office because it forced movie goers to actually pay attention in-between explosions. And I loved it for that same reason.

Still, as my wife and I settled into our seats in a nearly-empty theater, I became guilty of a bit of ageism myself…

Just before the half-dozen previews commenced, three old ladies filtered into the theater and sat together in the back row. They must have been at least 80 years old, and were total chatterboxes during the trailers.

I’ve endured clueless old folks who’ve felt the incessant need to talk throughout a movie before, but never a sci-fi film, because unless they’re babysitting grandchildren, I've never seen any. Old folks don’t watch sci-fi. They’re supposed to enjoy comedies and dramas featuring other old folks. Surely these women must have wandered into the wrong theater.

My blood began to boil. Why the hell weren't these old bats gabbing at each other at a bingo table? I cursed their age because they were out of their element. I thought for sure I’d was gonna have to roar at them to shut the fuck up. But when Edge of Tomorrow actually started, they reigned-in their chattering and watched the film in complete silence, just like any polite patron.

Edge of Tomorrow is one of those movies where you’re kinda sad it has to end, because it brilliantly plays around with the concept of time. Sure, the resolution is sort-of an anti-climactic disappointment, but the film is certainly thought-provoking and discussion-worthy.

My wife headed to the restroom afterwards, and came out to tell me these same three old ladies were debating the merits of the ending (an ongoing topic among those who’ve seen the film). Without giving anything away, how the film ended provided them a lot to discuss, the ultimate reward for all true cinemaphiles, regardless of the genre.

I suddenly felt like a hypocrite. While continually vexed at the obvious ageism of most Hollywood blockbusters which aim exclusively at the teen crowd, I still passed judgment on these three old women who looked out-of-place attending a sci-fi movie together. What right did I have to think such a thing? After all, sci-fi has been around for centuries. Perhaps these ladies have been fans of the genre their whole lives. For all I know, their level of geekdom far exceeds my own. Maybe the only difference between their youth and the present day is the cost of movie tickets.

I simply made an assumption based on their age. Who am I to pass such judgment? Unlike me, who’s skipped seeing some terrific metal bands because of my hang-up about my age, these ladies didn’t give a damn what others thought.

Good for them.

July 6, 2014

DVD Review: THE CLASS OF ‘92

Starring David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Tony Blair, Danny Boyle. Directed by Benjamin & Gabe Turner. (2013,119 min).
Universal Studios Home Entertainment

It obviously helps if you’re a true soccer fan, not one who pretends to enjoy the World Cup every four years, yet quits watching after USA is eliminated (which is usually pretty early). And no, forcing your son or daughter to play doesn’t suddenly make you a soccer fan either…it makes you a fan of your kid.

But even if you aren’t necessarily a die-hard, you still probably know who Manchester United are, the New York Yankees/LA Lakers/Dallas Cowboys of English Football, and one of the biggest sports franchises in the world. At the very least, surely you’re familiar with David Beckham (you know, the guy who married Posh Spice).

Reservoir Dogs II: The British Invasion
Like all beloved sports franchises, Manchester United had more than their fair share of glory years, eras where they were an unstoppable dynasty. The Class of ‘92 is a lovingly-filmed documentary consisting primarily of the six most notable players of the time, who tell stories and offer anecdotes about what it meant to be part of that historic team. Each member is individually profiled, their contributions to the team gushed over by teammates and coaches. We also get a look at the United’s impact on British culture during that time, when these players were not only world class athletes, but glitzy celebrities hobnobbing with rock stars, actors and political figures. I don’t know whether or not these guys got along with each other this well in real life, but they come across as being tighter than brothers.

Now that I think about it, I might need to amend what I said before about being a soccer fan. What really helps is if you’re a Manchester United fanatic, since the film actually has relatively little sports footage. Sure, we get snippets here and there, but The Class of ’92 is mostly about the people who made up the team, not the game itself.

As of this writing, The Class of ‘92 is only available in the U.S. at Wal-Mart stores…an odd choice, considering I was always under the misguided impression that those who regularly shop at Wal-Mart mostly enjoy sports which include ammunition. So, if the United is your team, now you know where to go, and this disc will be worth the trip.

EXTRAS: The Making of  The Class of ‘92

(Add a kitten if you love the United, take one away if you only care about soccer during the World Cup)

Blu-Ray Review: OCULUS

Starring Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, Rory Cochran, Katee Sackhoff, Miguel Sandoval. Directed by Mike Flannigan. (2013, 103 min).
Fox Home Entertainment

There’s a nasty-tempered antique mirror responsible for over 45 deaths through the years, including the parents of young Kaylie and Tim, the latter of whom was sent to the booby hatch after being blamed for their murders. 11 years later, Kaylie reacquires the mirror at an auction, obsessed with convincing everyone of its evil nature. Dragging her just-released brother back to their old house, she plans to wait there with computers, cameras and food until whatever’s inside the mirror shows up again.

It does, of course, at which time Oculus tells two concurrent stories, the present one and the events of 11 years ago, when the mirror possessed and eventually killed their parents. Later, director Mike Flannigan (expanding the story from his previous short, Oculus Chapter 3) rather cleverly has both narratives sharing the same scenes. The film benefits from decent performances and a fairly smart script. And for an R rated horror film, Oculus admirably favors atmosphere and tension over blood and gore.

Tim spots a squirrel.
However, despite a few decent jump scares, Oculus doesn’t really give us anything we haven’t seen before. While originality isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for a good scare fest (like last year’s The Conjuring), the film isn’t much fun to sit through, and actually kind of depressing at times, further done-in by a bummer of an ending. Not that horror films should be all sunshine and lollipops, but the scenes involving the torment and abuse of young Kaylie and Tim at the hands of their possessed parents, while not particularly violent, are real downers.

In that respect, Oculus can be compared to recent films like Mama, Pulse and the similarly-themed Mirrors…well-made and watchable, though not particularly enjoyable.

EXTRAS: Unavailable for review

(OUT OF 5)

July 2, 2014

MOVIES IN HAIKU, PART 7: The Wrath of Love

Revenge, best served cold.
Hair piece versus plastic chest
“KHAAAAAN!” bellows Shatner.

Edward and Bella.
True love complicated by
A shirtless werewolf.

These cowboys in love
Sure know how to rock a tent!
So sad for their wives.

Rick and Ilsa's love...
A relationship ruined
By pesky Nazis.

Bedridden and bored,
I'll peep in neighbors' windows.
What's that guy doing!?!


Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases Comic-Con panel announcement, sizzle video for
Batman: The Complete Television Series
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will officially unveil the details of its highly-anticipated November 2014 release of “Batman: The Complete Television Series” at a Comic-Con International panel – featuring special guests Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar – on Thursday, July 24 from 6:00-7:00pm in Hall H.

The actors behind Batman, Robin and Catwoman will give fans their first inside sneak peak at the most anticipated home entertainment release in fanboy history. All the details will be revealed, including an initial look at exclusive content, limited edition packaging, and dazzling HD re-mastered footage from the landmark series.

July 1, 2014

Blu-Ray Review: THE SUSPECT

Starring Gong Yoo, Park Hee-soon, Jo Sung-ha, Yoo Da-in, Kim Sung-kyun. Directed by Won Shin-yun. (2013, 137 min).
Well Go USA Entertainment

The basic premise of this 2013 South Korean action film briefly reminded me of The Fugitive, in which a wrongly-accused man is hunted down by damn near everyone, and those who were once foes end up being allies. The big difference is our main character, a former North Korean agent, Ji (Gong Yoo), doesn’t seem to give a damn about clearing his name; he’s mostly concerned with exacting revenge on those who killed his family.

That alone would be enough for a terrific action thriller, but The Suspect makes things more complicated than necessary by introducing a silly MacGuffin and too many secondary characters, all of whom aren’t quite who they seem. While I enjoyed Ji’s single-minded drive for revenge, as well as the motives of Min (Park Hee-soon), a military colonel charged with hunting Ji down, the movie kind-of slows to a crawl when these characters aren’t onscreen. Almost everyone else is a composite of villains or helpful sidekicks we’ve seen before.

However, those who stick with it will be amply rewarded with a few nifty car chases, some well-choreographed martial arts action and a truly heart-rendering resolution. At 137 minutes, The Suspect is too long by at-least 30 (mostly due to it’s overly complicated story), but the film is an entertaining enough way to kill a few hours.

(OUT OF 5)