Hot Dogs in the Dark

Specializing in the worst that cinema has to offer.
Die Hard
Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Steven E. de Souza & Jeb Stuart
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia & Paul Gleason
Does the fact that John McTiernan’s 1988 action film Die Hard takes place on Christmas Eve make it a Christmas movie? No. But, that doesn’t mean that the Christmas season isn’t a perfect time to revisit with the classic action film that certified Bruce Willis as an action star. It’s been some time since I last saw Die Hard, but little has changed in the subsequent years since my previous encounter with the film. Even after twenty-five years, Die Hard is still a solid action flick.Willis plays John McClane, a New York police officer who has just arrived in Los Angeles in an attempt to salvage his marriage with his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). The company Holly works for, Nakatomi, is throwing a Christmas party when a small group of heavily armed terrorist, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), break into the building, holds everyone hostage and attempts to steal $640 million in bearer bonds located in the building’s vault.At the time of this film’s production, Bruce Willis was best known for comedic roles and many had doubts that he would be able to work as an action star. Luckily, 20th Century Fox took a gamble and produced the film. It’s more than obvious from watching Willis on screen that he was born to play a role like John McClane (which is probably why he would go on to reprise the role 4 more times). He’s charismatic as McClane, and handles himself perfectly during the movie’s spectacular stunt and fight sequences.But, what good is a hero if he doesn’t have an equally good villain to go up against? Of course, Alan Rickman plays an important part in making Die Hard the memorable movie that it is. The character works wonders because he’s the perfect counter to John McClane. McClane is someone who thinks on his toes and improvises, where as Gruber has everything methodically planned out before he makes his first move. And, I do say there is something charming and likable about this evil bastard, which is mostly due to Rickman’s natural charm seeping into the role.The action in the Die Hard is more than serviceable, though certain moments do tread into the absurd. My only real complaint with the movie is its poor treatment of the Los Angeles police force and the FBI who respond to the terrorist attack on the Nakatomi building. Aside from Deputy Chief Robinson (Paul Gleason), the LAPD are presented as a dimwitted bunch who can’t quite seem to respond logically to this dilemma. Even worse are two FBI agents, both named Johnson (Robert Davi and Grand L. Bush), who are more interested in making a name for themselves. Even if that means putting the lives of the hostages at risk with their actions.But, those shortcomings aside Die Hard is a thoroughly entertaining flick. The two central leads, Willis and Rickman, are strong enough in their roles, both of which are marvelously developed, to make up for the movie’s flaws. That, and all the bone-crushing, gun-shooting, explosive happy action that’s jam-packed into this picture.

Die Hard

Directed by: John McTiernan

Written by: Steven E. de Souza & Jeb Stuart

Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia & Paul Gleason

Does the fact that John McTiernan’s 1988 action film Die Hard takes place on Christmas Eve make it a Christmas movie? No. But, that doesn’t mean that the Christmas season isn’t a perfect time to revisit with the classic action film that certified Bruce Willis as an action star. It’s been some time since I last saw Die Hard, but little has changed in the subsequent years since my previous encounter with the film. Even after twenty-five years, Die Hard is still a solid action flick.

Willis plays John McClane, a New York police officer who has just arrived in Los Angeles in an attempt to salvage his marriage with his wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). The company Holly works for, Nakatomi, is throwing a Christmas party when a small group of heavily armed terrorist, led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), break into the building, holds everyone hostage and attempts to steal $640 million in bearer bonds located in the building’s vault.

At the time of this film’s production, Bruce Willis was best known for comedic roles and many had doubts that he would be able to work as an action star. Luckily, 20th Century Fox took a gamble and produced the film. It’s more than obvious from watching Willis on screen that he was born to play a role like John McClane (which is probably why he would go on to reprise the role 4 more times). He’s charismatic as McClane, and handles himself perfectly during the movie’s spectacular stunt and fight sequences.

But, what good is a hero if he doesn’t have an equally good villain to go up against? Of course, Alan Rickman plays an important part in making Die Hard the memorable movie that it is. The character works wonders because he’s the perfect counter to John McClane. McClane is someone who thinks on his toes and improvises, where as Gruber has everything methodically planned out before he makes his first move. And, I do say there is something charming and likable about this evil bastard, which is mostly due to Rickman’s natural charm seeping into the role.

The action in the Die Hard is more than serviceable, though certain moments do tread into the absurd. My only real complaint with the movie is its poor treatment of the Los Angeles police force and the FBI who respond to the terrorist attack on the Nakatomi building. Aside from Deputy Chief Robinson (Paul Gleason), the LAPD are presented as a dimwitted bunch who can’t quite seem to respond logically to this dilemma. Even worse are two FBI agents, both named Johnson (Robert Davi and Grand L. Bush), who are more interested in making a name for themselves. Even if that means putting the lives of the hostages at risk with their actions.

But, those shortcomings aside Die Hard is a thoroughly entertaining flick. The two central leads, Willis and Rickman, are strong enough in their roles, both of which are marvelously developed, to make up for the movie’s flaws. That, and all the bone-crushing, gun-shooting, explosive happy action that’s jam-packed into this picture.

Jack Frost
Directed by: Troy MillerWritten by: Mark Steven Johnson, Steve Bloom, Jonathan Roberts & Jeff CesarioStarring: Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Joseph Cross & Mark Addy
I must admit that I have a soft spot for Troy Miller’s 1998 family film, Jack Frost, which is one of the best examples of good intentions gone laughably wrong ever put to the silver screen. I don’t care for the film, but I find it oddly fascinating. For those who don’t know already, the movie’s plot is about a father who dies in a car accident and comes back a year later as a snowman. Now, I’m no stranger to bizarrely themed Christmas films (both Rene Cardona’s 1959 film Santa Claus and Nicolas Webster’s 1964 film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians top my favorite movies to watch for the holidays), but none have had me as puzzled as much as Jack Frost. And that’s coming from someone who saw the identically titled comedy/horror film from Michael Cooney that came out a short while before this film’s release… and liked it.Michael Keaton plays Jack Frost, a struggling musician whose band might just make their dream of landing a much desired record contract come true. The downside to this is that Jack will miss out on his family’s planned Christmas vacation in the mountains. Jack’s already on bad terms with his wife (Kelly Preston), but even more so with his son Charlie (Joseph Cross). Coming to the realization that his family is more important, Jack decides to back out on this chance of a lifetime (to his band-mates’ approval). On his way to his family’s cabin in the mountains a terrible snowstorm comes through, and because of a faulty windshield wiper, Jack crashes and dies.So, that’s some pretty heavy stuff to pack into a children’s film. And, by all accounts this film could have went into many possible inspiring directions at this point in the story. But, it chose to have Jack’s spirit inhabit a snowman that Charlie made in his front yard. I suppose on some level this sounds like it could be whimsical and entertaining. Kind of like Frosty the Snowman. The fact that Jack is a living, talking snowman is something too phenomenal to overlook. But, overlook this film does. And instead of trying to develop the strained relationship between a son and his now snowman father, the film wants to be more about the whacky scenarios these two can get into.At one point Jack Frost (the snowman version) is rapidly firing snowballs down at a bunch of children picking on a little girl. Shortly there after he nearly kills a boy by running him off a ski trail. Kind of hard to feel sympathetic towards a man (or snow creature) who nearly caused the death of a young boy. Even if that boy is an incredible douche.It’s even more difficult to sympathize with a creature such as Jack Frost when he looks as terrifying as he does. I don’t know if it’s the slightly human looking face, or those boney twig arms, but there is something extremely unsettling about Jack Frost. He’s more frightening to look at than the killer snowman in the horror themed Jack Frost could ever hope to be. Admittedly, the creation, which was made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, is an impressive bit of puppetry. It’s disturbing to look at most of the time, but is brought to life by some fantastic work (well, when CG isn‘t being used). Never have so many great minds come together to make such a fantastic monstrosity.As ridiculous as the premise is in Jack Frost, it could have gone to better use than a handful of comedic scenes slapped with a schmaltzy and overly sentimental finale. It’s a movie about a dead man returning to life as a snowman! Sit back and let that notion sink in. As outlandish as that sounds, why is the best anyone could have thought of to utilize this is a premise better suited for a television special? Oh well. Jack Frost makes for one of the most enjoyable pieces of cinematic garbage you can visit with during the holiday season. If for all the wrong reasons that is.

Jack Frost

Directed by: Troy Miller
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson, Steve Bloom, Jonathan Roberts & Jeff Cesario
Starring: Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Joseph Cross & Mark Addy

I must admit that I have a soft spot for Troy Miller’s 1998 family film, Jack Frost, which is one of the best examples of good intentions gone laughably wrong ever put to the silver screen. I don’t care for the film, but I find it oddly fascinating. For those who don’t know already, the movie’s plot is about a father who dies in a car accident and comes back a year later as a snowman. Now, I’m no stranger to bizarrely themed Christmas films (both Rene Cardona’s 1959 film Santa Claus and Nicolas Webster’s 1964 film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians top my favorite movies to watch for the holidays), but none have had me as puzzled as much as Jack Frost. And that’s coming from someone who saw the identically titled comedy/horror film from Michael Cooney that came out a short while before this film’s release… and liked it.

Michael Keaton plays Jack Frost, a struggling musician whose band might just make their dream of landing a much desired record contract come true. The downside to this is that Jack will miss out on his family’s planned Christmas vacation in the mountains. Jack’s already on bad terms with his wife (Kelly Preston), but even more so with his son Charlie (Joseph Cross). Coming to the realization that his family is more important, Jack decides to back out on this chance of a lifetime (to his band-mates’ approval). On his way to his family’s cabin in the mountains a terrible snowstorm comes through, and because of a faulty windshield wiper, Jack crashes and dies.

So, that’s some pretty heavy stuff to pack into a children’s film. And, by all accounts this film could have went into many possible inspiring directions at this point in the story. But, it chose to have Jack’s spirit inhabit a snowman that Charlie made in his front yard. I suppose on some level this sounds like it could be whimsical and entertaining. Kind of like Frosty the Snowman. The fact that Jack is a living, talking snowman is something too phenomenal to overlook. But, overlook this film does. And instead of trying to develop the strained relationship between a son and his now snowman father, the film wants to be more about the whacky scenarios these two can get into.

At one point Jack Frost (the snowman version) is rapidly firing snowballs down at a bunch of children picking on a little girl. Shortly there after he nearly kills a boy by running him off a ski trail. Kind of hard to feel sympathetic towards a man (or snow creature) who nearly caused the death of a young boy. Even if that boy is an incredible douche.

It’s even more difficult to sympathize with a creature such as Jack Frost when he looks as terrifying as he does. I don’t know if it’s the slightly human looking face, or those boney twig arms, but there is something extremely unsettling about Jack Frost. He’s more frightening to look at than the killer snowman in the horror themed Jack Frost could ever hope to be. Admittedly, the creation, which was made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, is an impressive bit of puppetry. It’s disturbing to look at most of the time, but is brought to life by some fantastic work (well, when CG isn‘t being used). Never have so many great minds come together to make such a fantastic monstrosity.

As ridiculous as the premise is in Jack Frost, it could have gone to better use than a handful of comedic scenes slapped with a schmaltzy and overly sentimental finale. It’s a movie about a dead man returning to life as a snowman! Sit back and let that notion sink in. As outlandish as that sounds, why is the best anyone could have thought of to utilize this is a premise better suited for a television special? Oh well. Jack Frost makes for one of the most enjoyable pieces of cinematic garbage you can visit with during the holiday season. If for all the wrong reasons that is.

The Christmas Season Massacre
Directed by: Jeremy WallaceWritten by: Jeremy Wallace & Eric StanzeStarring: Jason Christ, Chris Belt, D.J. Vivona & Michael Hill
I love it when a bad horror movie knows just how awful it is, and never strives to take itself seriously. Which is what Jeremy Wallace’s “shot-on-video” comedy/horror flick The Christmas Season Massacre never attempts to do. It’s merely a series of gory deaths, cheaply done, strung together with a story about a bullied child who grew up to become a serial killer who’s particularity fond of murdering during the Christmas season.Little Tommy McGroo was an object of torment by other kids all through his school years. He came from a poor family, he apparently smelled bad and had an odd fascination with pirates. He earned the nickname “One Shoe” after some bullies stole one of his shoes. Because his parents were unable to afford a new pair, Tommy looked forward to Christmas, in hopes that Santa Claus would bring him a replacement pair. All he got was an eye patch (albeit, a Christmas inspired eye patch). As an adult, Tommy “One Shoe” McGroo (Michael Hall) goes on a killing spree each Christmas season, targeting the former classmates of his who put him through hell in his younger years.There certainly is some fun to be had with The Christmas Season Massacre. The movie is overly gory, to the point that certain scenes get a little too excessive, and contains a gratuitous amount of nudity (mostly from people who have no business being naked in movies). And aside from the lengthy opening sequence, where Tommy’s backstory is explained, the film never expands on Tommy much. He’s just an insatiable killer, and the film relies on his enjoyment of coming up with gruesome ways to dispatch those who wronged him in the past to keep things flowing.But, there in lies the problem with The Christmas Season Massacre. I can overlook the film’s low production values and poor acting (a movie like Five Across the Eyes suffers from both of these, but manages to achieve something both unsettling and memorable). Jeremy Wallace’s film, which he co-wrote with Eric Stanze, ends up being a tedious and monotonous experience. Sure, some of the murders are unusual (the one involving the couple having kinky sex by their Christmas tree (see above image) is one that I won’t soon forget), but the constant barrage of death scenes begins to wear on your nerves, and many of the later scenes just sort of blur together.There is something to admire with Wallace’s efforts in this film, whose absurdity certainly earns some commendation. Bits and pieces of The Christmas Season Massacre will stick with you. But, to truly make a remarkable slasher film with a strong, comedic edge, you need more than an excessive amount of ridiculous death scenes. The slasher spoof Student Bodies proved that. I know that The Christmas Season Massacre wasn’t striving to be Student Bodies, but it could have taken some pointers.

The Christmas Season Massacre

Directed by: Jeremy Wallace
Written by: Jeremy Wallace & Eric Stanze
Starring: Jason Christ, Chris Belt, D.J. Vivona & Michael Hill

I love it when a bad horror movie knows just how awful it is, and never strives to take itself seriously. Which is what Jeremy Wallace’s “shot-on-video” comedy/horror flick The Christmas Season Massacre never attempts to do. It’s merely a series of gory deaths, cheaply done, strung together with a story about a bullied child who grew up to become a serial killer who’s particularity fond of murdering during the Christmas season.

Little Tommy McGroo was an object of torment by other kids all through his school years. He came from a poor family, he apparently smelled bad and had an odd fascination with pirates. He earned the nickname “One Shoe” after some bullies stole one of his shoes. Because his parents were unable to afford a new pair, Tommy looked forward to Christmas, in hopes that Santa Claus would bring him a replacement pair. All he got was an eye patch (albeit, a Christmas inspired eye patch). As an adult, Tommy “One Shoe” McGroo (Michael Hall) goes on a killing spree each Christmas season, targeting the former classmates of his who put him through hell in his younger years.

There certainly is some fun to be had with The Christmas Season Massacre. The movie is overly gory, to the point that certain scenes get a little too excessive, and contains a gratuitous amount of nudity (mostly from people who have no business being naked in movies). And aside from the lengthy opening sequence, where Tommy’s backstory is explained, the film never expands on Tommy much. He’s just an insatiable killer, and the film relies on his enjoyment of coming up with gruesome ways to dispatch those who wronged him in the past to keep things flowing.

But, there in lies the problem with The Christmas Season Massacre. I can overlook the film’s low production values and poor acting (a movie like Five Across the Eyes suffers from both of these, but manages to achieve something both unsettling and memorable). Jeremy Wallace’s film, which he co-wrote with Eric Stanze, ends up being a tedious and monotonous experience. Sure, some of the murders are unusual (the one involving the couple having kinky sex by their Christmas tree (see above image) is one that I won’t soon forget), but the constant barrage of death scenes begins to wear on your nerves, and many of the later scenes just sort of blur together.

There is something to admire with Wallace’s efforts in this film, whose absurdity certainly earns some commendation. Bits and pieces of The Christmas Season Massacre will stick with you. But, to truly make a remarkable slasher film with a strong, comedic edge, you need more than an excessive amount of ridiculous death scenes. The slasher spoof Student Bodies proved that. I know that The Christmas Season Massacre wasn’t striving to be Student Bodies, but it could have taken some pointers.

ThanksKillingDirected by: Jordan DowneyWritten by: Jordan Downey & Kevin StewartStarring: Lance Predmore, Ryan E. Francis, Lindsey Anderson, Aaron Ringhiser-Carlson, Natasha Cordova & Chuck Lamb
When compared to the amount of movies made about Christmas, there really aren’t many options out there for cinephiles when it comes to Thanksgiving. While there are a couple, more well made movies available that center around this holiday, there is one film in particular I’ve found myself returning to on Thanksgiving in recent years. Of course I’m talking about Jordan Downey’s 2009, modestly budgeted comedy/horror flick, ThanksKilling. If you can’t be the film-maker behind one of the greatest movies of all time, the next best thing is to be responsible for one of the worst. Take for instance Ed Wood. In no way could the films he’s been at the helm of be considered quality film-making. Yet, look at how wildly popular films of his like Plan 9 from Outer Space have become. There have been many attempts by film-makers to deliberately produce a film that’s “so bad it’s good” that never manage reach the low-bar set by the films that inspired it. Take Larry Blamire’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001) for example.Jordan Downey’s ThanksKilling is a rare exception. Here is a movie that’s intended to be a bad film that is immensely enjoyable because of its crude and unrefined production values. None of it feels forced. It’s just a genuinely bad movie that’s a lot of fun. The movie, which centers around a homicidal talking turkey who slaughters its way through a group of college friends during Thanksgiving break, throws caution to the wind and never takes itself seriously. The end result is one memorable cheesefest.Everything contained in the 60+ minute runtime serves only to aid the film’s murderous poultry star, Turkie (voiced by Jordan Downey). The college kids are your standard horror movie fare; the jock, the nerd, the obnoxious friend, the slut and the good girl. None are particularly captivating, but you’ll probably find enjoyment out of the various absurd ways that the film finds to kill each of them, as well as the many other random characters Turkie encounters. The film’s goofy nature is what helps this one succeed where so many other films have failed.How serious can one take a film that boasts that there are “boobs in the first second” on its DVD cover? It’s best to go into the film thinking that, and in doing so you should have some fun with this picture. It’s a perfect companion piece to Michael Cooney’s 1997 Christmas themed comedy/horror film, Jack Frost, about a mutant killer snowman wreaking havoc in a small mountain town. Neither title takes itself seriously, and neither should you.

ThanksKilling
Directed by: Jordan Downey
Written by: Jordan Downey & Kevin Stewart
Starring: Lance Predmore, Ryan E. Francis, Lindsey Anderson, Aaron Ringhiser-Carlson, Natasha Cordova & Chuck Lamb

When compared to the amount of movies made about Christmas, there really aren’t many options out there for cinephiles when it comes to Thanksgiving. While there are a couple, more well made movies available that center around this holiday, there is one film in particular I’ve found myself returning to on Thanksgiving in recent years. Of course I’m talking about Jordan Downey’s 2009, modestly budgeted comedy/horror flick, ThanksKilling.

If you can’t be the film-maker behind one of the greatest movies of all time, the next best thing is to be responsible for one of the worst. Take for instance Ed Wood. In no way could the films he’s been at the helm of be considered quality film-making. Yet, look at how wildly popular films of his like Plan 9 from Outer Space have become. There have been many attempts by film-makers to deliberately produce a film that’s “so bad it’s good” that never manage reach the low-bar set by the films that inspired it. Take Larry Blamire’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001) for example.

Jordan Downey’s ThanksKilling is a rare exception. Here is a movie that’s intended to be a bad film that is immensely enjoyable because of its crude and unrefined production values. None of it feels forced. It’s just a genuinely bad movie that’s a lot of fun. The movie, which centers around a homicidal talking turkey who slaughters its way through a group of college friends during Thanksgiving break, throws caution to the wind and never takes itself seriously. The end result is one memorable cheesefest.

Everything contained in the 60+ minute runtime serves only to aid the film’s murderous poultry star, Turkie (voiced by Jordan Downey). The college kids are your standard horror movie fare; the jock, the nerd, the obnoxious friend, the slut and the good girl. None are particularly captivating, but you’ll probably find enjoyment out of the various absurd ways that the film finds to kill each of them, as well as the many other random characters Turkie encounters. The film’s goofy nature is what helps this one succeed where so many other films have failed.

How serious can one take a film that boasts that there are “boobs in the first second” on its DVD cover? It’s best to go into the film thinking that, and in doing so you should have some fun with this picture. It’s a perfect companion piece to Michael Cooney’s 1997 Christmas themed comedy/horror film, Jack Frost, about a mutant killer snowman wreaking havoc in a small mountain town. Neither title takes itself seriously, and neither should you.

Cinema mysteries

How come even the worst of Italian horror films have some of the greatest soundtracks?

Man of SteelDirected by: Zack SnyderWritten by: David S. GoyerStarring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane & Laurence FishburneSuperman has been my favorite superhero ever since my first introduction to the character when I was still a little lad, with the 1940s animated shorts from Max and Dave Fleischer. While I feel the character works best in comic book form the best adaptation I’ve seen for Superman was the mid-90s television show, Superman: The Animated Series. When it comes to the live action movies, I haven’t been much of a fan of them. Superman I and II are the best of the bunch, with Superman III and IV: The Quest for Peace not living up to the standard set by their two processors. There was an attempt to jumpstart the series again in 2006, with Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, but this effort only went to prove that the franchise, as is, was dead in the water.To start the series all over again was probably the best move that could have been made with the character of Superman. Zack Snyder’s 2013 film Man of Steel is the first Superman movie not to be a part of the series of films started in 1978, with Richard Donner’s big screen adaptation (so don’t expect things like the great score from John Williams in the film). It certainly differentiates itself from all of the Superman movies that came before it, and with today’s advancements in special effects, it’s a much better looking movie. But, is it a good movie?Man of Steel is better than most Superman movies, but not by much. While Superman I and II both have their flaws, both have a better way of handling the sort of fun and sense of adventure that comes with the character. Man of Steel is a more serious approach to the character, which in some instances works wonders. But, in many other ways it causes the film to be rather dull and lifeless through most of its run-time.I’ve always had an issue with origin stories of superheroes when they are brought to the big screen. Some films get it right, like Iron Man and Batman Begins. But, most of them muck things up. I still feel Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Bryan Singer’s X-Men are horrible origin story flicks, though both did have stellar sequels. Man of Steel isn’t as bad as either of those, but it’s basically in the same league. Man of Steel spends far too much time exploring the history of Superman, and his alter-ego Clark Kent. I’m usually someone who appreciates a slower paced film that spends time establishing and developing its characters, but not like how Man of Steel does it. Perhaps because I’ve spent the better part of the past 25 years with the character I’ve become bored with his origin story. The same can be said about Batman, but Nolan’s Batman Begins found an interesting new light to shine on Bruce Wayne/Batman’s origin that made for a very entertaining movie. Man of Steel’s exploration into Superman’s history is the same old thing, just with a few minor touch ups here and there.The acting in Man of Steel isn’t bad by any means. I felt Henry Cavill was a good choice to play Superman. He’s got the look, the build and size, as well as the proper sort of voice for the role. Plus, he’s a charming screen presence, something the character has to have. The character of Lois Lane is handled a lot better than she has been in the past, and Amy Adams shines in the role. At first I was disappointed that General Zod would once again be the central villain in a Superman movie, but I enjoyed the character in Man of Steel more than I did when Terence Stamp played the part in Superman II. Michael Shannon, who has a knack for playing horrible people, is simply fantastic in the role.Things pick up a lot in the film once General Zod shows up on Earth, and Superman must do battle with both Zod and his followers. Things do get a little over the top, and Metropolis is left in a state that resembles a post-apocalyptic world, but it was loads of fun watching Superman and Zod’s soldiers smashing their way through the streets (and more often than not, buildings) of Metropolis. Though, I did have a problem with how willingly Superman seemed to allow hundreds of Metropolis citizens die during Zod’s attempt at destroying the world. It’s unlike Superman to fly to the other side of the world, where no one is being killed, while the people he knows and cares about are being obliterated.I had fun watching Man of Steel, but not as much as I would have wanted. It’s a much better adaptation than some of its predecessors, but in the end is still not a perfect big screen adaptation of the character. I’m happy to see this movie doing well at the theater, and even more delighted to see that a sequel has already been commissioned. Maybe Man of Steel will be like Spider-Man and X-Men and have a sequel that finally does something right with a great character like this.

Man of Steel
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Written by: David S. Goyer
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane & Laurence Fishburne

Superman has been my favorite superhero ever since my first introduction to the character when I was still a little lad, with the 1940s animated shorts from Max and Dave Fleischer. While I feel the character works best in comic book form the best adaptation I’ve seen for Superman was the mid-90s television show, Superman: The Animated Series. When it comes to the live action movies, I haven’t been much of a fan of them. Superman I and II are the best of the bunch, with Superman III and IV: The Quest for Peace not living up to the standard set by their two processors. There was an attempt to jumpstart the series again in 2006, with Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, but this effort only went to prove that the franchise, as is, was dead in the water.

To start the series all over again was probably the best move that could have been made with the character of Superman. Zack Snyder’s 2013 film Man of Steel is the first Superman movie not to be a part of the series of films started in 1978, with Richard Donner’s big screen adaptation (so don’t expect things like the great score from John Williams in the film). It certainly differentiates itself from all of the Superman movies that came before it, and with today’s advancements in special effects, it’s a much better looking movie. But, is it a good movie?

Man of Steel is better than most Superman movies, but not by much. While Superman I and II both have their flaws, both have a better way of handling the sort of fun and sense of adventure that comes with the character. Man of Steel is a more serious approach to the character, which in some instances works wonders. But, in many other ways it causes the film to be rather dull and lifeless through most of its run-time.

I’ve always had an issue with origin stories of superheroes when they are brought to the big screen. Some films get it right, like Iron Man and Batman Begins. But, most of them muck things up. I still feel Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Bryan Singer’s X-Men are horrible origin story flicks, though both did have stellar sequels. Man of Steel isn’t as bad as either of those, but it’s basically in the same league.

Man of Steel spends far too much time exploring the history of Superman, and his alter-ego Clark Kent. I’m usually someone who appreciates a slower paced film that spends time establishing and developing its characters, but not like how Man of Steel does it. Perhaps because I’ve spent the better part of the past 25 years with the character I’ve become bored with his origin story. The same can be said about Batman, but Nolan’s Batman Begins found an interesting new light to shine on Bruce Wayne/Batman’s origin that made for a very entertaining movie. Man of Steel’s exploration into Superman’s history is the same old thing, just with a few minor touch ups here and there.

The acting in Man of Steel isn’t bad by any means. I felt Henry Cavill was a good choice to play Superman. He’s got the look, the build and size, as well as the proper sort of voice for the role. Plus, he’s a charming screen presence, something the character has to have. The character of Lois Lane is handled a lot better than she has been in the past, and Amy Adams shines in the role. At first I was disappointed that General Zod would once again be the central villain in a Superman movie, but I enjoyed the character in Man of Steel more than I did when Terence Stamp played the part in Superman II. Michael Shannon, who has a knack for playing horrible people, is simply fantastic in the role.

Things pick up a lot in the film once General Zod shows up on Earth, and Superman must do battle with both Zod and his followers. Things do get a little over the top, and Metropolis is left in a state that resembles a post-apocalyptic world, but it was loads of fun watching Superman and Zod’s soldiers smashing their way through the streets (and more often than not, buildings) of Metropolis. Though, I did have a problem with how willingly Superman seemed to allow hundreds of Metropolis citizens die during Zod’s attempt at destroying the world. It’s unlike Superman to fly to the other side of the world, where no one is being killed, while the people he knows and cares about are being obliterated.

I had fun watching Man of Steel, but not as much as I would have wanted. It’s a much better adaptation than some of its predecessors, but in the end is still not a perfect big screen adaptation of the character. I’m happy to see this movie doing well at the theater, and even more delighted to see that a sequel has already been commissioned. Maybe Man of Steel will be like Spider-Man and X-Men and have a sequel that finally does something right with a great character like this.

Blood DinerDirected by: Jackie KongWritten by: Michael SonyeStarring: Rick Burks, Carl Crew & LaNette LaFranceWhile reminiscing about video rental stores in my post about my local Blockbuster Video closing down, I was reminded of one of the biggest reasons why I loved visiting video stores when I was younger. While it was great to rent a couple of movies, sometimes it was just fun walking up and down the aisles looking at all of the great artwork on each movie box. Horror in particular had some rather eye-catching artwork, resulting in me renting numerous titles that helped shape my love of the genre. One title I came across early on was Jackie Kong’s horror-comedy Blood Diner, a somewhat remake to splatter legend Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast.The film is about two brothers, Michael (Rick Burks) and George Tutman (Carl Crew), who were brainwashed at a very young age by their serial killer uncle, Anwar (Drew Godderis), in setting out to resurrect an ancient Lumerian goddess, Sheetar (Tanya Papanicolas). Anwar’s plans were thwarted, and he was gunned down by the police. Several years later, the now adult Michael and George perform a ritual that brings Anwar back from the dead, though he is merely a brain and a set of eyes in a jar, who guides them in completing their task. The duo must collect body parts of women, sew them together and use it as an offering for Sheetar to return. The parts of the bodies from women that Michael and George don’t need get used as food for their vegetarian restaurant. Hot on their trail is Sheba Jackson (LaNette LaFrance) and Mark Sheppard (Roger Dauer), two inequitable detectives.I was five years old when I started to get into horror films, and since most of them scared the living daylights out of me, Blood Diner was quite an odd experience. Sure, there were some pretty horrific things happening in the film; women getting butchered, a man getting his head crushed under the wheel of a car and a man being gunned down in front of children. But, Blood Diner isn’t a horror film as much as it’s a black comedy. Sure, many of the things happening in the film are gruesome, but they are done in a tongue-in-cheek manner that I hadn’t seen before when I first saw the movie.Blood Diner quickly became one of my favorite horror films growing up, one that I enjoyed watching over and over again. It wasn’t until recently that I felt the need to watch the movie again, after losing touch with it for about twenty years. At the time that I was seeking a copy of the movie it wasn’t available on DVD here in America (though it is now, but only in a collection with a handful of other b-grade horror and sci-fi movies), so I had to settle on getting an old VHS copy.Revisiting with a favorite film of your youth is always risky business. I used to be in love with Howard the Duck (I know… I know) as a child, but find it impossible to get through the damn thing in one sitting as an adult. So, I was a bit worried when I popped the clunky cassette copy of Blood Diner into my player a few years ago and hit play. Luckily, everything I thought I loved about the film remained the same. Its dark humor, over the top gore and eccentric characters still amount to a fantastic hidden gem of 80s horror.Aside from the outlandish death scenes scattered throughout the film, Blood Diner succeeds because of its two central actors, Rick Burks and Carl Crew. Despite all of their murderous deeds, the Tutman brothers are a pair of charismatic individuals, which shines through due to the charming nature of Burks and Crew. There is something enjoyable about the over the top way the two murder people, especially with how much fun the two are having while doing so.Perhaps it’s because I grew up during the 80s, but I find that many of my favorite oddball horror films come from that era. Blood Diner is one of the most unusual, but highly enjoyable horror films you could ever experience. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and knows how to have fun with its bizarre premise, all while offering a bloody good (and hilarious) time.

Blood Diner
Directed by: Jackie Kong
Written by: Michael Sonye
Starring: Rick Burks, Carl Crew & LaNette LaFrance

While reminiscing about video rental stores in my post about my local Blockbuster Video closing down, I was reminded of one of the biggest reasons why I loved visiting video stores when I was younger. While it was great to rent a couple of movies, sometimes it was just fun walking up and down the aisles looking at all of the great artwork on each movie box. Horror in particular had some rather eye-catching artwork, resulting in me renting numerous titles that helped shape my love of the genre. One title I came across early on was Jackie Kong’s horror-comedy Blood Diner, a somewhat remake to splatter legend Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast.

The film is about two brothers, Michael (Rick Burks) and George Tutman (Carl Crew), who were brainwashed at a very young age by their serial killer uncle, Anwar (Drew Godderis), in setting out to resurrect an ancient Lumerian goddess, Sheetar (Tanya Papanicolas). Anwar’s plans were thwarted, and he was gunned down by the police. Several years later, the now adult Michael and George perform a ritual that brings Anwar back from the dead, though he is merely a brain and a set of eyes in a jar, who guides them in completing their task. The duo must collect body parts of women, sew them together and use it as an offering for Sheetar to return. The parts of the bodies from women that Michael and George don’t need get used as food for their vegetarian restaurant. Hot on their trail is Sheba Jackson (LaNette LaFrance) and Mark Sheppard (Roger Dauer), two inequitable detectives.

I was five years old when I started to get into horror films, and since most of them scared the living daylights out of me, Blood Diner was quite an odd experience. Sure, there were some pretty horrific things happening in the film; women getting butchered, a man getting his head crushed under the wheel of a car and a man being gunned down in front of children. But, Blood Diner isn’t a horror film as much as it’s a black comedy. Sure, many of the things happening in the film are gruesome, but they are done in a tongue-in-cheek manner that I hadn’t seen before when I first saw the movie.

Blood Diner quickly became one of my favorite horror films growing up, one that I enjoyed watching over and over again. It wasn’t until recently that I felt the need to watch the movie again, after losing touch with it for about twenty years. At the time that I was seeking a copy of the movie it wasn’t available on DVD here in America (though it is now, but only in a collection with a handful of other b-grade horror and sci-fi movies), so I had to settle on getting an old VHS copy.

Revisiting with a favorite film of your youth is always risky business. I used to be in love with Howard the Duck (I know… I know) as a child, but find it impossible to get through the damn thing in one sitting as an adult. So, I was a bit worried when I popped the clunky cassette copy of Blood Diner into my player a few years ago and hit play. Luckily, everything I thought I loved about the film remained the same. Its dark humor, over the top gore and eccentric characters still amount to a fantastic hidden gem of 80s horror.

Aside from the outlandish death scenes scattered throughout the film, Blood Diner succeeds because of its two central actors, Rick Burks and Carl Crew. Despite all of their murderous deeds, the Tutman brothers are a pair of charismatic individuals, which shines through due to the charming nature of Burks and Crew. There is something enjoyable about the over the top way the two murder people, especially with how much fun the two are having while doing so.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up during the 80s, but I find that many of my favorite oddball horror films come from that era. Blood Diner is one of the most unusual, but highly enjoyable horror films you could ever experience. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and knows how to have fun with its bizarre premise, all while offering a bloody good (and hilarious) time.

The Greatest Bond Theme that (Sorta) Never Was

With twenty-three films presently comprising the James Bond series, there are plenty of staples that have been established that you expect out of each film. Something I always look forward to are the opening themes that follow each film’s action-packed intro scene. “Goldfinger,” sung by Shirley Bassey, has always been my personal favorite Bond theme, with “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” “A View to a Kill” and “Skyfall” following closely behind. There is one theme that I do admire, but due to a last minute change from the studio the song was replaced with another theme and then later pushed to the end credits of the film.

I’m talking about “Surrender,”  sung by k.d. lang, which was originally titled “Tomorrow Never Dies” until the studio went with Sheryl Crow’s submission for the film. There isn’t anything particularly bad with Sheryl Crow’s song, it’s just that like most of the opening theme songs during the Pierce Brosnan run of the franchise it really doesn’t have much to do with the actual movie (listen to the opening theme to GoldenEye and tell me those lyrics fit with anything that happens in the movie). It just doesn’t succeed at setting up the story that is featured in Tomorrow Never Dies.

If you don’t know the plot to Tomorrow Never Dies, here it is in a nutshell; James Bond is up against a media mogul who is masterminding war in order to further his control over world news. Listen to the lyrics to Sheryl Crow’s song and you don’t get that impression. The k.d. lang song, however, does establish the story of Tomorrow Never Dies. Plus, the song is done in a similar fashion to the opening theme of “Goldfinger.” Brassy and operatic, it’s the sort of Bond theme that the franchise hasn’t had for a long time.

I get that Sheryl Crow was a bigger name at the time, so I understand why the studio went with her song instead. But, a little more work could have gone along with this decision. Something that’s always bugged me is that the melody to “Surrender” is still featured throughout the movie, with no trace of Sheryl Crow’s song popping up at anytime during the film. Again, since this was a last minute decision to switch songs I understand why it would have been impossible to rework the entire soundtrack to the film in time for the movie’s release.

This was a pointless rant, but it’s been something I’ve always wanted to ramble on about. To those who are curious about k.d. lang’s theme, above is a video that has the song incorporated into the actual opening credits of Tomorrow Never Dies. The song doesn’t quite sync up to the video, but it at least gives an idea of how awesome of an opening this could have been if the studio made the right choice and went with this song instead.

This Used to Be My Playground - A Personal Retrospective on Video Rental StoresThe first video rental store I went to was a locally owned one called Luciano’s Pizza & Video. It was a neat little spot that not only offered video rental, but also had a small diner you could eat in or order take out from. This was also the first place I got to experience arcade games at (Pac-Man and Tapper). This all happened around the same time that I was really getting into movies, and since the selection was so large (at least to the five year old I was) it was sometimes just fun browsing through the many titles and admiring the great cover art (particularly the horror films). A couple of other locally owned video stores popped up, my favorite of which was called Video Empire (they had two locations, both with a much larger selection of horror titles than any of the other rental stores, as well as video games!!). Things changed with the arrival of Blockbuster Video.Quickly, the locally owned shops found that they couldn’t compete with Blockbuster, whose store was three times larger than the biggest of the locally owned stores, they had more copies of movies (though their horror section sucked) and could offer better pricing. So, it wasn’t long after Blockbuster rode into town that many of the smaller video stores I enjoyed visiting on a regular basis started closing up, until about ten years ago when Blockbuster Video became the only rental store in town.As I’ve gotten older, I find that my time isn’t as open as it used to be. Whether it be spent on work, family, friends or sleeping, I just couldn’t find the time to stroll down to Blockbuster and rent a couple of movies, let alone watch them before they were due back. My love of films was still as strong as it had ever been, but actually going to a video store was becoming rather inconvenient. With the advent of video-on-demand (VOD) and services like Netflix, it was easier to obtain movie titles in a fashion that was a little more accessible and at my own pace. Pretty soon the thing I used to love doing (going to the video store) became something I just didn‘t care to do anymore.About two weeks ago the Blockbuster Video (pictured above) in my area announced that it would be closing up shop on June 6th, and was currently in the process of selling all of their DVDs, Blu-Rays and miscellaneous inventory (candy, magazines, posters, toys, key chains…) at a reduced cost. Even though I hadn’t been in that store for well over seven years I still found it heartbreaking to see that it was closing down. I’m not surprised that it’s shutting down (rather, I’m more surprised at the fact that it’s stuck around for so long), but that old nostalgic feeling I have for video rental stores stirred up inside me when I read that “Store Closing” banner and reminded me of the joy I once felt as a kid whenever I walked into one of those buildings and saw all those shelves lined with movies.I understand why places like Blockbuster Video are closing up, but it’s still a little sad to see it happen. I suppose it’s more over the fact that there won’t be the chance for kids anymore to experience the feeling of walking into a video rental store and seeing all those movies available for rental like I did (though I’m sure being able to look up a movie on Netflix and have it stream right on your television or computer right then and there is a pretty impressive site for kids). I have no idea where the distribution of movies on home formats is headed, but I suspect that even DVDs and Blu-Rays will one day become obsolete, and that VOD will become the primary source for people to see movies at home with. And maybe one day I will write a blog about how sad seeing Netflix mail service disappear has made me. Till then, I’m happy to open up my mailbox and see those red envelops with a movie waiting for me to watch. Pity this joy is one of the many reasons why Blockbuster is going the way it is.

This Used to Be My Playground - A Personal Retrospective on Video Rental Stores

The first video rental store I went to was a locally owned one called Luciano’s Pizza & Video. It was a neat little spot that not only offered video rental, but also had a small diner you could eat in or order take out from. This was also the first place I got to experience arcade games at (Pac-Man and Tapper). This all happened around the same time that I was really getting into movies, and since the selection was so large (at least to the five year old I was) it was sometimes just fun browsing through the many titles and admiring the great cover art (particularly the horror films). A couple of other locally owned video stores popped up, my favorite of which was called Video Empire (they had two locations, both with a much larger selection of horror titles than any of the other rental stores, as well as video games!!). Things changed with the arrival of Blockbuster Video.

Quickly, the locally owned shops found that they couldn’t compete with Blockbuster, whose store was three times larger than the biggest of the locally owned stores, they had more copies of movies (though their horror section sucked) and could offer better pricing. So, it wasn’t long after Blockbuster rode into town that many of the smaller video stores I enjoyed visiting on a regular basis started closing up, until about ten years ago when Blockbuster Video became the only rental store in town.

As I’ve gotten older, I find that my time isn’t as open as it used to be. Whether it be spent on work, family, friends or sleeping, I just couldn’t find the time to stroll down to Blockbuster and rent a couple of movies, let alone watch them before they were due back. My love of films was still as strong as it had ever been, but actually going to a video store was becoming rather inconvenient. With the advent of video-on-demand (VOD) and services like Netflix, it was easier to obtain movie titles in a fashion that was a little more accessible and at my own pace. Pretty soon the thing I used to love doing (going to the video store) became something I just didn‘t care to do anymore.

About two weeks ago the Blockbuster Video (pictured above) in my area announced that it would be closing up shop on June 6th, and was currently in the process of selling all of their DVDs, Blu-Rays and miscellaneous inventory (candy, magazines, posters, toys, key chains…) at a reduced cost. Even though I hadn’t been in that store for well over seven years I still found it heartbreaking to see that it was closing down. I’m not surprised that it’s shutting down (rather, I’m more surprised at the fact that it’s stuck around for so long), but that old nostalgic feeling I have for video rental stores stirred up inside me when I read that “Store Closing” banner and reminded me of the joy I once felt as a kid whenever I walked into one of those buildings and saw all those shelves lined with movies.

I understand why places like Blockbuster Video are closing up, but it’s still a little sad to see it happen. I suppose it’s more over the fact that there won’t be the chance for kids anymore to experience the feeling of walking into a video rental store and seeing all those movies available for rental like I did (though I’m sure being able to look up a movie on Netflix and have it stream right on your television or computer right then and there is a pretty impressive site for kids).

I have no idea where the distribution of movies on home formats is headed, but I suspect that even DVDs and Blu-Rays will one day become obsolete, and that VOD will become the primary source for people to see movies at home with. And maybe one day I will write a blog about how sad seeing Netflix mail service disappear has made me. Till then, I’m happy to open up my mailbox and see those red envelops with a movie waiting for me to watch. Pity this joy is one of the many reasons why Blockbuster is going the way it is.