July 31, 2015

THE ISLAND (2005): Michael Bay vs. My Cat

Starring Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Sean Bean, Djimon Hounsou, Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan. Directed by Michael Bay. (2005, 136 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
It's common - perhaps fashionable - in certain circles to poke fun at director Michael Bay. He's an obvious target for everything supposedly wrong with Hollywood today, and I’ve done my fair share Bay-bashing as well.

However, we once had the opportunity to steer Bay's career toward something resembling respectability, but chose to ignore it. If we truly want to place blame for Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys or the entire Transformers franchise on someone, perhaps we should try looking in the mirror. Bay will never be worthy of mention in the same breath as Spielberg or Scorsese, but as moviegoers whose voices speak loudest through the almighty dollar, we must accept some of the responsibility for his reputation as a cinematic chest-thumper (Okay...maybe some of it is his fault, since his lone “small” film, Pain and Gain, was still big, loud and loaded with enough steroids to kill the New York Yankees’ entire starting line-up).

Each day, I commute to work on a busy four-lane urban street with lots of intersections and traffic lights. While fairly smooth in the mornings, traffic is pretty stop & go on the way home. There are simply more self-absorbed shitheads behind the wheel when my work day is over, which I've grudgingly learned to accept over the years.

However, what I still can't handle are some of the myriad non-motorists who share the street...like belligerent bicyclists whose pretentious peddle-to-work ethic impresses no one but themselves, yet fills them with a sense of “look-out-for-me” entitlement over those of us who pay a hell of a lot more for the privilege of using these same roads. I don’t know how it is where you live, but bikers have the complete right-of-way at all times in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. But such a law shouldn’t give them carte blanche to be dickheads. What amazes me is the sheer number of them who don’t appear to realize (or care) they’re squaring off against vehicles which could squash their stupid Spandexed asses like a hammer on a grape.

Worse yet are those presumptuous pedestrians who can’t be bothered to use a crosswalk 50 feet away, preferring to traverse the road wherever it suits them due to an asinine assumption that the rest of us are mere guests in their world. Some of them are so self-absorbed that they don’t even pause to make sure we’re even slowing down. It’s suddenly our job to look out for them because God-help-us if they’re forced to embark on that epic journey to the nearest crosswalk.

Technically, we aren’t required to stop for these fuckers, but there’s always that one driver with a misguided sense of courtesy who will come to a complete halt, actually increasing the odds of a multi-car crash, just to let a lone loser be-bop across the road, making the rest of us morally obligated to stop as well. In a sense, that’s understandable, because who the hell wants to be dragged into court after running over someone who incorrectly assumed he was the center of the known universe? In the long run, it’s simply easier to let him have his way and hope karma eventually kicks his ass.

But the problem with that line of thinking is the same as giving-in to spoiled children whenever they scream loud enough. They learn the wrong lesson...

...just like my cat, Josey, who was trying to get my attention one evening, but I was in the middle of something important and couldn’t drop everything to address her kitty concerns (okay, I was playing poker online). Apparently frustrated, she decided on a new tactic...scratching the shit out of the arm of our sofa. In an effort to preserve our furniture, I picked her up and threw her out. So guess who learned what’ll get Dave to drop everything and tend to her needs? The result is we now have a sofa that looks like it was attacked by Freddy Krueger. I’m also now seriously considering changing Josey’s name to Veruca Salt.

Josey...one bad kitty.

What Josey, butthole bikers and pud-knocking pedestrians have in common is we’re ones who encourage them to continue engaging in supremely shitty behavior because, so far, it has worked for them.

Which brings us to Michael Bay, that hyperactive, heavy-handed hero of the most brainless, bloated, big-budget blockbusters of the past two decades. Even if you don’t know him by name, you know him by style...his are the films edited by caffeine junkies with plots that can be summarized on a cocktail napkin. Most are supremely stupid cinema suppositories that bombard you with decibel levels equivalent to a Slipknot concert and so much over-the-top CGI that the action ceases to be logistically convincing.

But I digress, since I’m starting to sound like I’m jumping back on the Bay Bashing Bandwagon. Sure, most of his filmography is dumb, but Bay himself is not. I know for a fact he’s at least as smart as my cat, and here’s why...

Michael Bay cut his teeth directing music videos featuring the biggest artists of the 80s and 90s. He parlayed that quick-cut MTV style to the big screen with his first film, Bad Boys, which connected with audiences more for its star power and technical audacity than anything resembling story logic or well-developed characters. Similarly-brash epics followed...The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, the inevitable Bad Boys II. All of them were hyperkinetic eye candy with nary a whiff of substance, but at-least managed to keep legions of stuntmen gainfully employed. We showed up in droves, joyously overwhelmed by the sound and fury, even though none of these movies stood up to any real scrutiny upon second viewings.

Bay was suddenly the hottest director in Hollywood, though some of the credit for his success should go to longtime producer/collaborator Jerry Bruckheimer, whose entire career also consists of movies that can be summarized on a cocktail napkin. But unlike, say Uwe Boll or Brett Ratner, Bay himself actually has a lot of inherent filmmaking talent. He simply has no creative ambition, most likely because of his 2005 film, The Island.

The Island is the lone decent film Michael Bay ever made. It's a dystopian tale of a massive facility which houses thousands of idiots led to believe the outside world is a plague-ridden wasteland, save for a single tropical paradise known simply as The Island. Every aspect of their lives is carefully monitored under the supervision of Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean). It isn't a great existence, but hope is continuously provided in the form of a lottery, in which names are 'randomly' selected to leave the facility and spend the rest of their lives on The Island.

In reality, however, the outside world is doing just fine and these people are all clones of wealthy individuals able to afford the privilege of having healthy organs at-the-ready when their own parts start to peter out. Whenever someone's name is called in the lottery, it's because their real-life counterpart needs something vital from them. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) discovers this and manages to escape the facility with Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), whom he‘s smitten by (and who can blame him?). Then the hunt is on, with Merrick hiring a well-equipped batch of mercenaries (led by a totally badass Djimon Hounsou) to find and kill them before word gets out about his illegal cloning activities.

Michael Bay inadvertently provides a metaphor for what we're all forced to endure when watching his films.

The second half of the film descends into the usual sensory overload we normally associate with Michael Bay...hyper-edited action, ear-bleeding volume and massive scenes of disaster porn. But peppered among the mindless mayhem is a genuinely compelling premise which is explored more thoroughly than one might expect, along with characters who are actually interesting.

No one would ever mistake The Island for a great film, but compared to everything else Bay’s directed, it’s a fucking masterpiece. If you had a kid whose entire educational career has been D’s and F’s, but suddenly managed a C+ in History during his senior year, wouldn’t you be just as proud as the parent of an honor student?

Though it raises intriguing questions concerning the moral implications of human cloning, The Island still owes considerable debt to concepts first-presented in 1976’s Logan’s Run and 1979’s Parts: The Clonus Horror (producers of the latter actually filed a copyright infringement lawsuit which was settled out of court). Then again, if I discovered my slacker kid earned that lone C+ by cheating, part of me might still be proud he was ambitious enough to manipulate that grade in the first place.

But despite being the lone film where Michael Bay appears to care as much about the story as he does with pyrotechnics, The Island ironically remains his only box office bomb. As moviegoers, we shot him down by staying away in droves, sending a strong message that, aside from visual fireworks, we don’t care what else he has to offer.

This has effectively encouraged Bay to revert back to dumb, effects-driven epics which play more like video games than actual movies. Like my cat, Bay learned what it takes to get our attention, and it ain’t from thought-provoking epics like The Island. It's from scratching-up the furniture and leaving the thinking to the Spielbergs and Tarantinos of the world. Simply put, we allow Bay to wallow in the same level of stupidity that jaywalkers display when blindly stepping into traffic. With the exception of The Island, it's worked so far.

July 27, 2015

All-New Special Edition JAMES BOND Blu-ray/DVD Releases Arrive This September


LOS ANGELES, Calif. (July 15, 2015) – Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are releasing special edition Blu-rays, DVDs and collectible box-sets on September 15, ahead of the November 6 global release of SPECTRE, the 24th James Bond adventure.
Two new featurettes are included based on interviews with renowned Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. “The Shadow of SPECTRE” concentrates on the history of SPECTRE, the fictional global criminal syndicate and terrorist organization. The second featurette, “The Story So Far”, recaps and relives the significant moments from the previous three Daniel Craig Bond films.
Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbooks headline the new home entertainment offering for Bond fans. The collectible set includes six films featuring the SPECTRE organization (From Russia With Love,ThunderballYou Only Live TwiceOn Her Majesty’s Secret ServiceDiamonds Are Forever, For Your Eyes Only) and the three recent Daniel Craig titles (Casino RoyaleQuantum of SolaceSkyfall) each featuring packaging inspired by the films’ iconic opening title sequences.

The Ultimate James Bond Collection features all 23 iconic Bond films together in one Blu-ray box-set, which includes a 24th space for SPECTRE and, for the first time, digital copies of the collection.  Also included is a new bonus disc exclusive featuring “Everything or Nothing”, a 90-minute documentary on the untold story of 007 and a pocket-sized James Bond 50 Years of Movie Posters book including the best posters from Dr No through to SPECTRE.  This collection will be exclusively available at Amazon.com.

Dedicated Actor Packs with new packaging will also be released on Blu-ray & DVD.


Starring Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Alan Alda, Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston, Melissa Benoist, Lolita Davidovich. Directed by George Tillman, Jr. (2015, 128 min).

There are moments in The Longest Ride when Scott Eastwood eerily resembles his dad from the Rawhide days...brawny & generically handsome. The same could be said for his performance...serviceable, but nothing special. But it was years before ol' Clint stood out from the crowd, so maybe Scott just needs more time. Similarly, Britt Robertson isn't particularly memorable, tasked to do little but look cute and emote as best she can when required.

Together, they are as appealing as a vanilla cone topped with vanilla sprinkles, which isn't necessarily meant as criticism. Movies based on Nicholas Sparks novels aren't intended to be the rich, decadent chocolate delights you still gush about months later. They're slight, easily-digestible desserts meant to be enjoyed in the moment by its intended audience. In that respect, The Longest Ride is no better or worse than The Notebook or A Walk to Remember or Safe Haven...loved by Sparks fans, tolerated by those dating a Sparks fan.

Eastwood and friend try to out-emote each other.

Robertson plays Sophia, an ambitious grad student gunning for an internship at a prestigious New York art gallery. Then she meets Luke (Eastwood), a professional bull rider trying to make a comeback after a career-threatening injury. Of course, they're polar opposites in nearly every respect (otherwise, no movie). During their first date, they rescue an old widower, Ira Levinson (Alan Alda) from a car accident. Sophia befriends Ira, whose heartfelt love letters to his late wife, Ruth, soon has the young couple questioning whether or not their own personal ambitions are worth sacrificing true happiness with each other.

Even though you probably already know the answer to that, The Longest Ride switches back and forth between Luke & Sophia's relationship issues (which are relatively slight) and flashbacks of the peaks and valleys of the Levinsons' life together. There are no real surprises, except maybe the fact Jack Huston as young Ira and Oona Chaplin as Ruth are so much more charming and complex that we find ourselves wishing the whole movie was about them. When the focus returns to Luke and Sophia, it's almost an unwelcome intrusion.

Still, fans of this stuff shouldn't be too disappointed. There are the usual steamy love scenes (at least as much as a PG-13 rating permits), the usual brief moments of conflict, the usual gift-wrapped resolution, the usual love-conquers-all affirmation. In other words, The Longest Ride may not be phenomenally memorable, but like choosing a vanilla cone at Baskin-Robbins because taking a chance on a new flavor is too risky, at least you know what to expect.


  • Commentary with Director George Tillman and co-star Oona Chaplin
  • Featurettes: "A Writer's Journey: A Day in the Life of Nicholas Sparks"; "Beyond the Ride"; "Bringing It to Life"; "Meet the Bull Riders"; "Luke's Bull Riding School"
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes
  • Gallery
  • Digital Copy

(You know who you are)

July 25, 2015

The ACTUAL Biggest Movies of All Time

In terms of all time domestic box office revenue, James Cameron's Avatar is the biggest movie of all time, grossing over $700 million. However, one must take two other things in consideration. First, much of that film's profit came from inflated 3-D ticket prices (generally $3.00 more than a regular 2D film). Second, the average price of a movie ticket in 2009 was $7.50.

In terms of the actual number of tickets sold, the all-time champ is Gone with the Wind, followed closely by the original Star Wars. GWTW was first released back in 1939 when the average price of admission was a quarter and a lot more people went to the movies on a regular basis. It was also re-released in theaters several times, which happened often in the years before television.

Star Wars fans initially paid an average of $2.23 to see it in 1977 (many of them returning to theaters more than once). Subsequent re-releases boosted its numbers, especially the 'Special Edition' in 1997, adding another $100 million+ to its total (pretty amazing when you consider the film was already widely available on home video for over a decade).

But if the admission price was the same for every movie ever made, Avatar is only 14th. To put this in perspective, using today's current average ticket prices, Gone with the Wind has out-grossed Avatar by nearly a billion dollars.

So what's the point? Aside from weekend box-office tallies and subsequent ads touting how much cash these films are raking in, we tend to forget there was once a time you could go to the movies just by sifting through your living room couch for loose change. Today, the average ticket price for a film is $8.12 (from first-run megaplexes down to cheaper second-run theaters). Ignoring viewers waiting until movies are available on-demand, on disc or through streaming services (or flat-out illegally downloading), if adjusted for inflation, the results are much different.

NOTE: The following lists are based on totals compiled by BoxOfficeMojo.com, generally considered the most accurate and definitive box office reporting source. Also, since worldwide numbers adjusted for inflation are unavailable, these are all domestic (U.S.) scores.

THE 10 BIGGEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME (Straight Box Office Earnings, as of this writing):

1. Avatar

2. Titanic

3. Marvel's The Avengers

4. Jurassic World*

5. The Dark Knight

6. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

7. Star Wars

8. Avengers: Age of Ultron*

9. The Dark Knight Rises

10. Shrek 2

*currently still in wide release

THE 10 BIGGEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME (Adjusted for Inflation, and a more accurate account of how many people actually paid to see them):

1. Gone with the Wind

2. Star Wars

3. The Sound of Music

4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

5. Titanic

6. The Ten Commandments

7. Jaws

8. Doctor Zhivago

9. The Exorcist

10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Just for fun, here are the biggest films in specific genres, both straight box office and adjusted for inflation. Obviously, some films listed here could arguably fall within multiple genres. For example, Star Wars could be considered science fiction, fantasy or action, but for the sake of this list, I've chosen to designate it strictly as science fiction, the genre it's most-associated with.

Total Domestic Box Office: FURIOUS 7
Adjusted for Inflation: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

Total Domestic Box Office: SHREK 2

Total Domestic Box Office: THE LION KING

Total Domestic Box Office: STAR WARS
Adjusted for Inflation: STAR WARS

Total Domestic Box Office: THE SIXTH SENSE
Adjusted for Inflation: THE EXORCIST

Total Domestic Box Office: WORLD WAR Z
Adjusted for Inflation: DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) (Note: Box Office Mojo does not have official numbers for zombie films prior to 1980, so this author took the liberty of taking the film's original box office earnings and adjusted them for inflation using current ticket prices)

Total Domestic Box Office: MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS
Adjusted for Inflation: MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS

Total Domestic Box Office: THE DARK KNIGHT
Adjusted for Inflation: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Total Domestic Box Office: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Adjusted for Inflation: RETURN OF THE JEDI

Total Domestic Box Office: TRUE GRIT (2010)

Total Domestic Box Office: HOME ALONE
Adjusted for Inflation: THE STING

Total Domestic Box Office: SKYFALL
Adjusted for Inflation: THUNDERBALL

Total Domestic Box Office: CHICAGO
Adjusted for Inflation: THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Total Domestic Box Office: ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010)
Adjusted for Inflation: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956)

Total Domestic Box Office: THE FUGITIVE
Adjusted for Inflation: THE GODFATHER

Total Domestic Box Office: TITANIC
Adjusted for Inflation: GONE WITH THE WIND

Total Domestic Box Office: AMERICAN SNIPER
Adjusted for Inflation: THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI


Total Domestic Box Office: THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
Adjusted for Inflation: THE EXORCIST

Obviously, these statistics have nothing to do with a film's quality . Furthermore, the actual box office numbers for films released prior to 1939 are mostly unavailable, meaning it's entirely possible the total box office take of Disney's first full-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, could actually be even bigger than the numbers available through re-releases. This also means films as iconic as 1933's King Kong and 1931's Dracula may have very-well been the Jaws and Twilight of their day, financially speaking.

July 24, 2015

MARVEL'S AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON on Blu-ray Combo Pack 10/2

Avengers Assemble!! 

Marvel Studios unleashes the next global phenomenon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: MARVEL’S AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON,  arriving  on Digital 3D, Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere  September 8th  and on 3D Blu-ray™ Combo Pack, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital SD and On-Demand  October 2nd!  The ic onic heroes are forced to reassemble and face their most intimidating enemy yet- Ultron. The home entertainment release includes Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scenes, Making-of Featurettes, Gag Reel and more!

July 23, 2015

INDIANA PACERS to Wear 'Hickory' Uniforms from HOOSIERS During the 2015-16 Season

Pacers will wear ‘Hickory’ uniforms in select games starting in the 2015-16 season to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary.

INDIANAPOLIS -- In a first-of-its-kind partnership, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM) and the Indiana Pacers will bring one of the all-time great underdog stories, Hoosiers, to the NBA hardwood, celebrating the film’s 30th Anniversary.
For the 2015-16 season, the Pacers will introduce the Hickory uniform to be worn in select regular season games as part of the NBA Pride Collection. The Hickory uniform is a tribute to the rich tradition of basketball in the State of Indiana and will serve as inspiration to fans everywhere that no matter how improbable the challenge may be, amazing things can be accomplished through teamwork, determination, heart and hustle.

“Our team will be honored to wear the Hickory uniforms because of the attention it will bring to the storied history of Indiana basketball and the success of that movie,” said Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird. “Hoosiers takes us all back to a special place and time.”
MGM’s Hoosiers, which premiered in 1986, was inspired by the 1954 Indiana High School state champion team from tiny Milan. It was written by Angelo Pizzo and directed by David Anspaugh, both Indiana natives, and starred Gene Hackman as Coach Norman Dale. The movie received two Academy Award™ nominations, including Dennis Hopper for Best Supporting Actor, and is widely regarded as one of the best sports movies of all time.
Todd Taylor, Pacers Sports & Entertainment’s Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing, championed the idea of wearing the Hickory uniforms and worked with MGM on the partnership.

“Obviously, we revere the film, but more importantly we believe our organization, especially our players, embody the core message of the story – by coming together as a team, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished,” said Taylor.
In addition to the upcoming season, the Pacers will wear the Hickory uniform during select games over the next several seasons.
Taylor added, “While the uniform being worn in front of a worldwide audience is thrilling, we are equally excited about the additional opportunities the partnership provides both on and off the court. The Miracle Men of Milan are just one of the legendary basketball stories in the state. We look forward to drawing attention to the contributions and accomplishments of those that have made Indiana synonymous with the game of basketball.”
“With the 30th anniversary of Hoosiers approaching, MGM is excited to partner with the Pacers organization for this perfect tie-in,” said Michael Brown, Executive Vice President Marketing, MGM. “We look forward to seeing the players wear the Hickory jerseys with pride.”
While the central and most visible component is the Hoosiers inspired uniform, the partnership also will allow for a variety of unique community outreach and awareness opportunities throughout the State of Indiana.
Details on which games the players will wear the Hickory uniforms will be announced at a later date.


Starring Yancy Butler, Corin Nemec, Robert Englund, Stephen Billington, Skye Lourie. Directed by A.B. Stone. (2015, 92 min).

If you're taking the time to read this, I would imagine your mind is already made up whether or not Lake Placid vs. Anaconda is worth 90 minutes of your life. You've traveled this path many times, perhaps every Saturday night when Syfy belches-forth yet-another low budget, bloody, self-aware creature feature with a knowingly ridiculous title and slapdash CGI.

Speaking of titles, you've probably noticed this one makes no actual sense, serving only to lure viewers through brand name recognition. Indeed, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda is a mash-up of two rampaging reptiles who first made a splash on the big screen, but like Steven Seagall, have since become straight-to-video fodder. So technically, this is the fourth sequel in both franchises. By now, any semblance of effort & creativity on the filmmakers’ part are gone...mostly what's left is blood, boobs and Robert Englund.

Reptile porn...that's gotta be a thing by now.

While we’re on the subject, Robert Englund is back from the last Lake Placid movie (no longer the once-promised final chapter), as is Yancy Butler, veteran of two sequels, now looking like her meals consist entirely of unfiltered Camels (sad really...she used to be smoking hot). Corin Nemec is new to the series, as are another batch of nubile nymphs who can’t act (which is okay, since they only exist to jiggle in bikinis before being eaten). But what I personally found most-amusing is, storywise, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda greatly depends more on viewers’ familiarity with all the terrible sequels than the original theatrical films.

If you’re still reading, you are probably one of those viewers, and this is the movie mash-up you’ve been waiting for. If so, have at it, since there’s likely nothing I can say that’ll talk you out of your decision.



July 21, 2015

CREEPSHOW and the Losing Battle

Starring Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, Ed Harris, Stephen King, E.G. Marshall, Ted Danson, Viveca Lindfors. Directed by George A. Romero. (1982, 120 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON

If you're a home owner, maybe you can relate to this...

My wife and I initially bought our house because we'd grown fed-up with apartment living...the lack of real privacy, idiots taking our single designated parking spot, sharing the laundry room, the pool being closed during the hottest days of the year because someone's kid decided to release a floater.

Then there's the variety of neighbors which, if you've ever enjoyed apartment life, you probably know all-too-well...sparring spouses, couples who copulate at maximum volume, guys who know cops on a first name basis and those who assume the rest of the world shares their personal taste in music. And of course, these assholes almost always occupy the apartment right above you.

During our first decade as apartment dwellers, Francie and I have experienced some doozies...briefly living next to a woman with Tourette Syndrome, another who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend while I watched SportsCenter, and a couple of dudes above us who frequently made their love of R. Kelly known to the adjoining county. To this day, whenever I hear "I Believe I Can Fly," I believe I can kill again.

So yeah, we were more than ready for a place to call our own, where we could paint the walls any color we wanted, get a dog, have our own driveway and no longer had to hear dysfunctional neighbors engaging in make-up sex after their latest bout of verbal combat.

Then there’s the part of home ownership, having lived in apartments my entire adult life, which obviously never crossed my mind while signing the 800 dotted lines of our mortgage. No longer could I simply call a manager whenever the toilet broke, the roof leaked or the water heater went tits-up. All this shit was now the responsibility of a guy whose tool kit consists of duct tape.

That’s not the worst part. After all, sometimes we’re able to afford throwing money at a repair issue by hiring someone who actually knows the difference between a claw hammer and a plunger. Several hundred bucks later, problem solved, and we don’t have to think about it again for another ten years.

But nothing can prepare one for the inevitable scourge which ultimately casts a dark shadow over anybody’s dream of eternal, white picket paradise...



Bugs are little middle fingers from Mother Nature. They serve no real purpose other than to make us run to our screaming kid’s bedroom with a fistful of tissue. Worse yet, their prolific presence in the home makes you feel like the filthiest being to ever walk the Earth. And while you may win the occasional battle against these little bastards, total victory is an impossible objective. Unless you have a personal Orkin Man living on your property in a state of permanent stand-by, they always come back.

Until I became a home owner, I thought spiders were the most hellish creature to scurry the planet. Then a few months after moving into our home, I ventured to the kitchen one morning to make some coffee, only to find the countertop teaming with ants. Hundreds of them, puttering here and there, none appearing to have any particular destination in-mind. While my family and I may not be poster children for cleanliness, we don't wallow in our own filth either. Still, I suddenly felt dirty. Worse yet, I felt violated.

I retaliated, of course, with an arsenal of traps, poisons and the good old fashioned fist. I've even considered leaving the carcasses of the dead on the counter as an example to the others. While I manage to win these little skirmishes, victory is fleeting. They inevitably return every year, no matter how clean we keep our kitchen. Ants quickly took the #1 spot on my list of the worst creatures on Earth. Scary as they are, at least spiders have the decency to come at you one-at-a-time, like henchmen in a martial arts movie.

Since then, Battle Ant has become an annual spring routine, when we square off yet-again for domestic supremacy. But I soon found out there are worse things than ants...Box Elder Bugs.

If you are unfamiliar with them, these guys hang out in trees during the warmer months, then venture into brightly-painted houses once the weather turns chilly. Because of the color of our home and the proximity of box elder trees, there are literally thousands sunning themselves just outside my daughter's window every autumn. Worse yet, there's nothing available at the local Home Depot that can totally eradicate them. The only effective method I've discovered to keep them outside is to seal the windows every winter. Some still manage to find their way in, so I need our vacuum cleaner handy to suck their legions from the ceiling. Needless to say, Box Elders soon usurped ants as my most hated brand of bug, but at least I knew how to fight them.

Then just recently, I was rudely awakened from a pleasant tryst with Angelina Jolie by a blood-curdling scream from my wife. Leaping from bed, I ran into the kitchen to find her gawking in bug-eyed horror at an open cupboard. Among the boxes of Cheerios and instant oatmeal was a bug. But unlike ants and Box Elders, this one was fast-as-fuck and required several attempts at blunt force trauma with a rolled-up copy of People magazine in order to kill it.

Which brings us to Creepshow, the 1982 collaboration between two of my favorite horror icons, Stephen King and George A. Romero. An amusing homage to E.C. horror comics of the 1950s (such as Tales from the Crypt), Creepshow consists of five ironic horror stories presented in true comic book fashion, complete with transitional panels and colorful backlighting during key scenes. The film is seldom particularly scary, more concerned with maintaining the black-humored themes of karma and revenge so prevalent in those old magazines. Nevertheless, it’s a supremely fun fright film, perhaps even family-friendly by modern standards.

"I told you not to call me Shirley."

Before becoming a homeowner, my personal favorite Creepshow segment was “Something to Tide You Over,” featuring a highly-amusing, post-Airplane Leslie Nielsen as a despicable millionaire who buries his cheating wife and her lover (pre-Cheers Ted Danson) up to their necks on the beach and records their agonizing deaths as the tide rolls in. Later, they return to terrorize him as waterlogged zombies.

Since buying a home, however, the true horror of this picture can be found in the final segment, “They’re Creeping Up on You,” mainly because I can now personally relate to what Upson Pratt (E.G. Marshall) is going through. Pratt is an evil, wealthy, self-centered germophobe whose environmentally-sterile penthouse apartment is ironically invaded by legions of cockroaches. While he deserves his comeuppance, the climactic scene, in which thousands of them burst from his mouth and chest, has me living in fear of a similar infestation in my own home.

The lone bug which so-terrified Francie in our cupboard was indeed a German cockroach, which isn’t indigenous to our region and is typically brought here in boxes or crates containing food products. Until then, I’d only seen cockroaches in Texas, where they're as big as Volkswagens.

Though we’ve long-since learned to seal all food products and keep the counters clean, spotting this critter in our cupboard was worse than previous ant or Box-Elder battles. Not only was the damned thing lightning-fast and tough to kill with a single blow, its presence made me feel filthy all over again. Sure, it was just one bug, but any homeowner will attest that, where there’s one, others are likely waiting in the walls. What if tomorrow, throwing open the cupboard where I keep my coffee, legions of them suddenly spilled out, squirming into all of my bodily orifices like they did to Upson Pratt?

Never in my life did I imagine spiders would drop as low as number four on my list of awful animals. But since cockroaches have usurped Box Elders as the worst creatures ever, Creepshow has taken on a new level of domestic grotesquery. While I don’t live in fear of thousands of them literally erupting from my chest, now that they have a tentative foothold in my home, I can’t help but think like Upson Pratt, terrified that these wayward little bastards have metaphorically arrived to make me account for past sins. I suppose I have a lot to answer for, such as my annual attempts to commit genocide on their creepy crawly cousins.

July 18, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: KUNG FU KILLER

Starring Donnie Yen, Wang Baoqiang, Charlie Young, Michelle Bai, Alex Fong, Louis Fan. Directed by Teddy Chan. (2014, 101 min).

There's a vicious, sadistic serial killer on the loose in Hong Kong. His targets are seven different martial arts masters, and he's killing each one-by-one by beating them at their own particular skill. Hahou (Donnie Yen) is a former martial arts self-defense instructor incarcerated for accidentally killing an opponent. Since he knows all the potential targets, he offers to help police track down the killer in exchange for his freedom. That's the gist of Kung Fu Killer (aka Kung Fu Jungle), a hyperkinetic thriller that seldom stops to take a breath.

The action and plentiful fight scenes are well-choreographed, exciting and suitably violent. As usual, Yen is amazing, his considerable fighting skills on full display. Since he's also a consistently better actor than most other stars of the genre, he's still interesting to watch during the few moments he isn't snapping limps and kicking faces. Wang Baoqiang, as the title character, makes a formidably physical foe, though the motivation for his murder spree is murky at best. He appears to be driven by revenge after his wife dies of cancer, but since none of his victims had anything to do with that, we aren't sure why he has obsessively trained so hard to kill them. While the movie spends a considerable amount of time trying to instill some audience empathy for him, in the end, he simply comes across as batshit crazy.

When 'Rock-Paper-Scissors' turns deadly...

But that's okay, since all most of us ultimately care about is the action. Kung Fu Killer is fast-paced and provides plenty of hand-to-hand combat in various interesting settings (atop a dinosaur skeleton, on rooftops, in the middle of a freeway, etc). Once again,Yen demonstrates why he's currently the best martial arts actor in the world (no wonder they want him for Star Wars Episode VIII).


  • Making of Featurette
  • Trailer


July 17, 2015


Starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tina Desai, Dev Patel, Lillete Dubey, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Richard Gere. Directed by John Madden. (2015, 123 min).

These kinds of movies aren't usually my thing. They're my wife's thing...low-key, unassuming dramedies filmed in exotic locations that are pretty to look at. I’m generally a die-hard Die Hard guy, so whenever she beats me to the remote so she can watch Under the Tuscan Sun for the umpteenth time, that's my queue to retreat to another room and engage more manly endeavors (like playing Mario Kart with my daughters).

Still, this might actually make me the perfect guy to review films like The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, because the best movies of any genre manage to appeal to those who normally don‘t seek out such entertainment. After all, when I truck-out all three Godfather films every summer, my wife gets helplessly sucked into them if she happens to be in the room, even though she still professes to hate gangster movies.

That being said, I suppose the best praise I can give The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is it made me want to watch the first one (which I haven't seen and features most of the same cast). Still, one doesn’t necessarily need to have seen the original to get into the story and its vibrant characters. The basic plot centers around Sonny Kapoor’s struggle to get a second Marigold hotel off the ground in India. However, what truly dominates the movie are the numerous ongoing side stories involving the interpersonal relationships of characters whose lives are influenced by, not only others, but the environment where they’ve chosen to spend their sunset years.

"Back off, lady...my bike."

Despite this rudimentary synopsis, this is a consistently entertaining film...well-written, unpredictable, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and occasionally heartwarming without ever lapsing into heavy-handed sentimentality. The cast is amazing, especially Judi Dench and Bill Nighy as two lonely people cynically unsure if they can take that last step to committing to each other.

Even though I haven’t yet seen the first film, it’s safe to say those who have will find more to love here (with a Richard Gere bonus). For everyone else, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of those sequels which will likely make you want to check out what you’ve been missing.


  • SEVERAL SHORT FEATURETTES: "Story"; "Cast"; "Returning to the Marigold Hotel"; "Filming in India"; "Blossoming Relationships"; "The Marigold Wedding" (all of which are entertaining, but no more than a few minutes long each and not particularly comprehensive) 
  • Gallery

July 16, 2015


Universal City, California, July 16, 2015 – Great Scott! In 1985 Director Robert Zemeckis, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg and Producer/Screenwriter Bob Gale embarked on a three-part journey through time that broke box-office records worldwide and catapulted Back to the Future into one of the most beloved trilogies in motion picture history.  In 1989, the filmmakers gave us a glimpse of the future in Back to the Future Part II as Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled to 2015…or, if our calculations are correct, October 21, 2015, to be exact. “The Future” has finally arrived.

Now, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment celebrates this once-in-a-lifetime date, as well as the 30th Anniversary of the groundbreaking first film, with three new releases debuting on October 20, 2015.  Available on Blu-ray™ & DVD, the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy will include all three movies plus a new bonus disc with more two hours of content. Back to the Future: The Complete Animated Series will be released for the first time ever on DVD featuring all 26 episodes from the award-winning series and Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures will include all three movies, the complete animated series, a new bonus disc, a 64-page book and collectible light-up “Flux Capacitor” packaging.  Featuring more than two hours of content, the bonus disc will include all-new original shorts, documentaries, two episodes from the animated series and more.

In addition to the home entertainment release, the Back to the Future celebration continues in theaters when the films go back to the big screen on October 21, 2015.  Check local listings for show times. Additionally, Universal Music Enterprises is reissuing an all-new 30th Anniversary picture disc vinyl soundtrack, available October 16th in stores and through all digital partners.

Check out the new trailer:

July 14, 2015

DIE HARD and the Lasting Impression

Starring Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, Alexander Godunov, Reginald VelJohnson, Paul Gleason, William Atherton, De'voreaux White, Hart Bochner. Directed by John McTiernan. (1988, 132 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON
Bruce Willis is one badass mofo. Sure, he still appears in the occasional comedy or hip independent drama. And yeah, Bruce sometimes whores himself for movies needing a marquee name above the title. But mostly, when we think of Bruce Willis, we think of fights, guns, explosions and other varieties of manly mayhem. If he were ever required to fill out a job application, where its asks for previous work experience, all he'd need to write is Badass Mofo.

This all started with Die Hard, of course, the Holy Grail, Shakespeare and Star Wars of action movies, rightfully the standard by which all others are still judged. It transcended the genre to the point you'd be hard-pressed to find a single right-thinking individual who doesn't love this film. If you do have the misfortune of meeting someone like this, walk away and don't look back. They're bad people who probably also hate everything The Beatles ever recorded.

Die Hard has yet to be equaled, though many have tried. The list of movies obviously inspired by Die Hard is longer than the Magna Carta, including Under Siege, Under Siege 2, Daylight, The Taking of Beverly Hills, Speed, Speed 2, Sudden Death, Air Force One, Passenger 57, The Rock, Turbulence, Firestorm, Broken Arrow, Con-Air, Blown Away, The Negotiator, The Transporter, Skyscraper, Cliffhanger, Executive Decision, The Raid, Dredd, The Peacemaker, City Hunter, Lockout, Non-Stop, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Olympus Has Fallen, White House Down and of course, four more Die Hard sequels (so far). And I haven’t even mentioned the plethora of low-budget, direct-to-video rip-offs like Derailed, Critical Mass, Windfall etc.

If a movie can be described as "Die Hard on a (insert noun here)", you know the formula:
  • An elite team of mercenaries/criminals/terrorists take control of a skyscraper/boat/train/airplane/stadium/landmark. 
  • Unless their demands are met, everyone will die. 
  • But they didn't count of !ONE MAN! to screw up their plans, usually a disgraced or troubled cop/soldier/agent/ex-Navy Seal who takes on this army in to save his wife/kids/buddy/country/beloved housepet. 
  • He’s usually operating by the seat-of-his-pants, yet still manages to thwart the elaborate plans of an overconfident mastermind and his crew of international thugs, most of whom are simply cannon fodder. 
  • There's often some jackass authority figure on the sidelines who exists solely to berate the actions our hero, even though his own solutions are essentially worthless. 
  • Lots of fights, gunplay and exploding bullet wounds, along with the occasional wisecrack by the hero after dispatching another bad guy.
  • Enough fire and explosions to stir the masturbatory urges of even the most seasoned pyromaniac.

Bruce Willis tries to defend what's left of his hair.
Die Hard’s hero is John McClane (Bruce Willis), a New York cop who visits his estranged wife in Los Angeles over Christmas. They arrange to meet at her company party, held on the 30th floor of Nakatomi Plaza (a skyscraper which, in real life, is owned by 20th Century Fox). Unfortunately, a group previously-mentioned elite terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman, in his very first film role) seize the building and threaten to kill everyone inside unless their demands are met.

So good is Die Hard that everyone is cheerfully willing to overlook how stupid it really is, which is what separates the film from most of its imitators. Die Hard is to real life hostage situations what Star Wars is to actual space travel. And with all due respect to Scorsese, Tarantino and Spielberg, perhaps another true trait of a great director is their skill at making the ridiculous seem plausible, which John McTiernan masterfully pulls off. On the other hand, McTiernan did go on to helm Last Action Hero, The 13th Warrior & Rollerball (the worst remake of all time), which pretty much blows that argument out of the water. So never mind.

Anyway, Die Hard made Willis a bonafide movie star, and aside from those pesky self-indulgent moments when he still considers himself a versatile actor, he essentially plays the same guy in all his action movies. It doesn't really matter whether or not the character's name is McClane, as long as he's a badass mofo. Even in some of his more ambitious films (like Pulp Fiction, 12 Monkeys, Unbreakable & Looper), Willis is still a badass mofo. But best of all, with Die Hard, Willis made the rest of us pot-bellied, SUV-driving family guys think, "Hey...I'd do that to save my wife!"

It's been almost three decades since Willis made "Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker" part of our modern vernacular and forever-endeared himself as a badass mofo when he pitched poor Hans Gruber from the window of Nakatomi Plaza. Hell, I can barely recall the time he wasn't a badass mofo, back when he was simply the smarmy love interest on Moonlighting and appearing in shitty comedies no one remembers. My oldest daughter, who loves Die Hard (watching the original is an annual holiday tradition in our dysfunctional home), didn't initially believe me when I informed her of his humble origins. In her world, Willis has always been a badass mofo.

Even harder to believe is the fact Willis was not initially high on Fox's list of choices for the lead role. They wanted someone like Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood or Burt Reynolds. I do remember thinking at the time, before finally seeing Die Hard, Bruce Willis looked too much like my high school English teacher to be a truly convincing action guy. Of course, he proved me and the rest of the world wrong. I guess that's what we get for judging a book by its cover. But in our defense, we were simply conditioned by Hollywood's definition at the time...when badass mofos were big dudes with bitchin' mullets and biceps the size of tree trunks, who let their guns do the talking and shrugged off bullet wounds like they were mosquito bites.

Actually, Bruce and I are sort-of kindred spirits in that respect. While I'm sad to say I'm decidedly not a badass mofo (I'd still rather be more feared than admired), I've been similarly prejudged by my appearance and demeanor on more than one occasion, by members of my own family, no less...

In the real world, I've been a middle school English teacher for almost twenty years (nearly as long as Bruce has been a badass mofo). I started my profession squeaky-clean (suits, tie, clean-shaven, conservative haircut) and eager to change the world one child at a time. That me is long gone. In his place is a bearded, long-haired old dude who throws on shorts and a tee-shirt for work, even during the winter. He's also since-accepted the sad fact he has relatively little impact on his students' lives. If you've ever seen The Big Lebowski, that more-or-less sums up my attitude and appearance.

While I enjoy my job, the last thing any stranger would mistake me for is a teacher...just like one of my nephews who wasn't around during my days as a clean-cut educator. To him, I've always been the hairy uncle who scared the shit out of him as a toddler. All I had to do was look at him and he'd start bawling. It wasn't until he was 11 years old that he was stunned to learn I was an actual teacher.

"What did you think I did for a living?" I remember asking.
"I thought you were unemployed," he said.
"Really? Why?"
"You look unemployed. You know...like hippies."

I didn't fit his image of a teacher (or even a fast food employee), much like Bruce Willis didn't initially fit anyone's image of an action hero in the late 80s. But Willis redefined the action hero as someone who may not have granite pecs or perfect hair, yet still manages to be one badass mofo. I still like to think, aside from my nephew's similarly narrow idea of an educator, I've been able to accomplish the same thing in my classroom without a sharp suit and close shave. I sure hope so, because over the years my wardrobe has evolved into nothing but comfy shorts and tee shirts. All that's left in the closet for weddings or funerals are Hawaiian shirts and a few dusty pairs of Wranglers. Hell, I barely remember how to make a Windsor knot with the few ties I still own.

Blu-Ray Review: PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2

Starring Kevin James, Neal McDonough, Raini Rodriguez, Daniella Alonso, D.B. Woodside, David Henrie, Shirley Knight. Directed by Andy Fickman. (2015, 94 min).

I don't get it. With The King of Queens, Kevin James proved he can be a funny guy with his likable, somewhat self-depreciating, working-class persona. So why has he settled for being a fat, dumb, punching bag in his movies? Sure, most of them have been box office successes, especially Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but hey Kevin...you're better than this.

Getting that off my chest, I have to say I wasn't exactly disappointed with Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, since I didn't expect it to be any good in the first place, for two reasons: 1) comedy sequels almost always suck; 2) the first film wasn't that great to begin with. This completely unnecessary sequel offers more of the same, this time plopping Blart and his teenage daughter, Maya, in Las Vegas for a security guard convention at the Wynn Hotel. Meanwhile, wealthy criminal mastermind Vincent Sofel (Neal McDonough, again wasted in a thankless role) is planning to rob the hotel of all its priceless paintings. After Maya catches onto the plan, she is kidnapped, forcing Blart to bumble and stumble to the rescue.

D.B. Woodside & Neal McDonough simultaneously decide to fire their agents.

Then it's business as usual. Once again, Blart spends the first two-thirds of the film embarrassing himself with pratfalls and overzealous dedication to his job. Once again, he's initially the object of ridicule to everyone he meets. Once again, a smoking-hot woman is inexplicably attracted to him (Daniella Alonso, who actually gives the best performance in the film). Once again, Blart goes from zero-to-John McClane within a single scene.

Speaking as someone still holding out for the ultimate Die Hard spoof, I found none of this to be the least bit funny, entertaining or original. Once more, Kevin James squanders his talent by trying to make the audience laugh at him, not with him (maybe he should try doing a movie without Adam Sandler's help). On the other hand, if you loved first film, there's no reason you won't enjoy this one.


  • FEATURETTES: "Action Adventure"; "Back in the Saddle"; "Le Reve"; "No Animals Were Harmed"; "Real Cops"; "Sales Tactics"; "Security Force: The Cast of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2"; "How to Make a Movie" (most of these are less than 5 minutes long and should amuse those pining for more)
  • Gag Reel
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Photo Gallery
  • DVD & Digital Copies


July 13, 2015

FURIOUS 7 to Sponsor Chicagoland Speedway NASCAR Race

Cast Member Chris “Ludacris” Bridges named Grand Marshal of the Furious 7 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 19

Joliet, Ill. – July 13, 2015 – Chicagoland Speedway today announced Furious 7, the $1.5 billion worldwide box- office blockbuster and most successful installment of the Fast & Furious franchise, as the title sponsor for its NASCAR XFINITY Series race on Saturday, Sept. 19. The Furious 7 300 will feature cast member Chris “Ludacris” Bridges in the pace car and leading the field to the green flag as NASCAR’s stars of tomorrow set the stage for the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. 

Furious 7 will be released on Digital HD on August 25 and Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand on September 15 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) as an all-new extended edition. The film has become the highest-grossing movie in the history of the franchise.

In Furious 7, the entire Fast & Furious crew reunites in purpose for an epic international adventure, hunted by a vengeful assassin from Abu Dhabi to London to Tokyo and the Dominican Republic as they try to retrieve a highly advanced piece of espionage technology and rescue the gifted hacker who created it.  Furious 7 stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey and Nathalie Emmanuel with Kurt Russell and Jason Statham. 

July 11, 2015

Blu-Ray Review: IT FOLLOWS

Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary. Directed by David Robert Mitchell. (2014, 100 min).

We've all had those dreams that start off as fairly mundane but soon turn horrific, taking us on an increasingly unpleasant, fatal and surreal journey where feelings of powerlessness and inevitability become overwhelming. These dreams don't let us stop to question what's happening or why. Our options are to run or fight back, and both efforts are futile because the only escape is to wake up.

It Follows plays a lot like those dreams. Unlike, say, A Nightmare on Elm Street or Phantasm, two films which use surrealism to superficially set-up bizarre horror sequences which few viewers could actually relate to, It Follows chooses a more subtle path. After an attention-grabbing opening sequence showing the ambiguous and disturbing death of a young woman, we meet Jay (Maika Monroe), a typical suburban college student who hangs out with lifelong friends when she isn't in class. But after having sex with Hugh, a boy she's been dating, a malevolent entity (which can take several human forms) begins stalking her...always walking, never running...but never stopping. You can outrun it temporarily, but it will inevitably find you unless you pass the curse on to someone else. Kind of like a demonic STD.

Jay is forced to watch 12 straight hours of Say Yes to the Dress.

That's the simplistic gist of It Follows, which doesn't really do it justice because it plays more like those horribly real dreams we've all had: Something awful is coming and there's nothing these characters can ultimately do about it. This feeling is exasperated when the film later appears to intentionally break its own establish rules regarding this so-called curse. While not literally presented as a nightmare, writer/director David Robert Mitchell has obviously tried to instill an ambiguous, dreamlike quality to his film. These kids' parents are often mentioned, but never actually seen, nor is the "it" of the title ever explained (a nice touch I truly appreciated). Furthermore, one would be hard-pressed to establish exactly when this film takes place. Everyone is dressed in currently-fashionable clothes, and one character is consistently using an e-reader which doesn't yet exist, while her friends are watching old horror films on picture tube televisions, using land line telephones and driving around in 40-year-old cars.

Despite all these deceptively clever touches, the main question is whether or not It Follows is actually scary. That depends on what one wants out of a horror movie. If you like everything laid out in straightforward fashion (and everything explained) with lots of jump scares, the answer is a definite no (though a few segments will illicit true terror). The final scene might easily piss you off and make you think you've wasted your time. However, this is one of those slow-burning films that sticks with you, becoming more creepy and disturbing the more you think about it, especially that final scene. One could easily view this as the part of your nightmare when you wake up seconds before something truly horrible happens. In either case, any movie which can spark such love-it-or-loathe-it debates is definitely worth checking out, making It Follows worthy or your time.


  • Audio Commentary by Various Critics
  • Featurette: "A Conversation with Film Composer Disasterpeace"
  • Trailer
  • Poster Gallery