Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jaws: The Revenge Production Analysis, Part 1: When The Shark Jumps The Shark




When you become a devoted fan of monster movies, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself watching many average, below average, and WAY below average movies (including sequels, spin-offs, rip-offs and remakes) in between the classics and above average movies. It’s just par for the course, an inherent part of any fan’s search for obscure cult classics and under-appreciated cinematic diamonds in the rough. For that reason, I’ve developed a pretty high tolerance for—and even sort of an appreciation of—monster movie schlock. A very high tolerance, to be sure ... but not limitless.

So, in honor of the 35th anniversary of one of my favorite movies, Jaws, I’ve decided to devote this three-part post to one of the films that I find to be completely insufferable: Jaws: The Revenge, the last and least of the Jaws movies. There is no shortage of negative reviews for this turkey (including a priceless comedy monologue by the late Richard Jeni which deftly describes everything that’s wrong with Revenge), so I’ll be taking a different approach by attempting to pin down the behind-the-scenes details which led to the production of the sequel in the first place. Consider this post to be an example of Titans, Terrors & Toys CSI: Cinematic Schlockiness Investigation. (Cue intro music by The Who.) Read on ...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Video Games I’d Like to See, Part 2: Computerized Cartoons




As last week’s E3 demonstrated, the video game industry’s aim for photorealism in its products continues with no end in sight. But for a long-time animation buff like me, I can’t help but to be somewhat disappointed by this single-minded, overriding goal. If anything, games like de Blob, Boom Blox, World of Goo, and the recent reboot of A Boy and His Blob show that, now more than ever, video games are the perfect medium where gamers can use the latest computer technology to unleash a hyperkinetic visual slapstick and violence that was once the sole domain of madcap animation for their own twisted amusement. Along those lines, here are a few games I’d love to see based on cartoons that never got their proper day in the digital sun. Read on . . .

Monday, June 21, 2010

Video Games I’d Like to See, Part 1: High-Scoring Horror




Last week, video gamers got a preview of things to come from the big players in interactive digital entertainment at this year’s E3 convention in Los Angeles, CA. (For comprehensive coverage of this event, my personal choice is IGN.) I consider myself to be a casual gamer and an avid fan of the Nintendo Wii; thus, the Wii games which were previewed at E3 that I think have great promise are Conduit 2, Lego Star Wars: Clone Wars, and Epic Mickey.

Still, for as much as E3 presented for the near-term future of video gaming, I couldn’t help but to be disappointed at what was missing—namely, more stuff for horror and animation. Sure, they’ve got sequels to F.E.A.R., Dead Rising and Dead Space and a reboot of Splatterhouse coming out for horror, and then there’s Batman: Brave and the Bold and the aforementioned Epic Mickey for those hankering for more traditional ‘toons in their video games. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of room for both in the realm of video game entertainment, and I’ll be using this two-part post (starting with horror, and then animation) to toss out ideas of what I think would be great game ideas to fill in the void. Read on . . .

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Re-Return of Futurama




If you've ever been a fan of a science fiction TV show that aired on a major broadcast network, you know the drill by now. More often than not, the show will premiere in a cushy slot with average to above-average fanfare, and then one of the following things happen:
  • Its ratings will falter and it disappears before the end of the season;
  • Its ratings falter and it's moved to a crappy, obscure time slot and then it permanently disappears;
  • Its ratings don't falter but it's moved to a crappy, obscure time slot anyway and then it permanently disappears;
  • It does OK in the ratings but the show's budget is too big for the ratings it scores so it gets cancelled.
Yes, there are exceptions to this pattern (Lost, X-Files, etc.) but these are basically the rules for sci-fi TV on non-cable networks (although with the exception of a handful of shows on the SyFy channel--Stargate, Battlestar Galactica, Eureka, and Warehouse 13--I'm not seeing too many new rules being written for sci-fi TV on cable either). So, it is with great enthusiasm yet reserved expectations that I await the return of Futurama to TV on Comedy Central on June 24. I think that Futurama is one of the best animated shows to air on prime time and one of the few U.S.-produced sci-fi comedy series worthy of note, but its production history is an odd duck (even by sci-fi TV standards) that it's so hard to determine what the return of Futurama actually indicates. Read on . . .

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Day I Met Spider-Man (Sort Of)



While it's not a written rule (at least anywhere that I know of), it's a rite of passage of sorts for an up-and-coming horror/fantasy/sci-fi nerd to don a costume of his/her favorite character, particularly when going to a horror/fantasy/sci-fi-themed event. In my case, I got to see Spider-Man, live and in person, doing some kind promotional appearance at a local Boscov's in the spring of 1977. Sure, it was actually just a guy wearing a spandex suit to entertain the kiddies, but for me at the time it was the most awesome thing I had ever seen in my young, impressionable life (at least until Star Wars showed up at the box office later that year).

Of course, when I went to go see my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in person, I had to go in style. I dressed up in my Spider-Man costume that my mom made from the previous Halloween just for this occasion (complete with the official Marvel Comics licensed Spider-Man utility belt) and, as you can see from the picture above, I even got Spidey's autograph as a reward for my geeky devotion!

Click the link below to see pictures of this cherished event, from me striking a partially-decapitated action pose in my Spider-Man suit (yes, that is a plush stuffed spider toy I'm holding in my left hand which was also made by my mom) to me almost gouging out Spider-Man's left spider-eye. Good times!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mark Your Calendar: Monster Bash 2010, June 25-27 in Butler, PA



If you live in or near the Pittsburgh area and love classic movie monsters, you're in luck--Monster Bash 2010 is coming your way for the last weekend in June. The admission prices are reasonable (kids under 12 get in free), the guest list is amazing (featuring Julie Adams, Jimmy Hunt, Ann Robinson, and Tom Savini), and the schedule is full of fun must-see events.

Of particular note is the late-night showing of The Day Mars Invaded Earth (1963), a low-budget sci-fi creeper that never got its due on DVD. While it was clearly influenced by Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this single-location narrative nevertheless gets under your skin--the final scene alone is a memorable shocker, proof once again that you don't need a big budget to make a great movie. (For a similarly effective use of eerie doppelgangers, see Nacho Cerdà's 2007 movie The Abandoned.)


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Death of the Spider Woman



Last week, I heard that sculptor Louise Bourgeois passed away at the age of 98. While I am not familiar with the full range of her work, I do know that she did something that even Bert I. Gordon, "Mr. B.I.G." himself, could never accomplish: she sent giant spiders to cities all over the world. While her bronze spider sculptures were various depictions of the abstract concept of spider-ness (instead of being anatomically accurate re-creations of actual spiders), they neverthess captured the spindly, nimble, multi-limbed spirit of spiders, scorpions, and all other things of the creepy-crawly variety.

Click the link below for a picture gallery of Bourgeois' spiders at their various locations. Earth versus the spiders, indeed.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Scary Monsters and Super Creeps on Exhibit



Even though I am mostly an electronic media kind of guy, I do try to keep my eyes open for examples of the horrific in other visual mediums. Thus, I feel a bit red in the face over almost missing an art exhibit of this very kind right in my own backyard. Ending June 12, the Irvine Contemporary art museum in Washington, DC has been hosting "Don't Be Scared, You're Supposed to Be", an exhibit featuring the works of Aaron Johnson and Barnaby Whitfield. While Whitfield's work is disturbing enough in its own right, Johnson is clearly the master of the grotesque. As you can see from the example above, his skill with color, shape and form create images that--while far from photo-realistic--depict gory, malformed nightmares that are normally the sole domain of the subconscious mind. For visual horror fans, Johnson is definitely the artist to watch.

However, if you don't get a chance to make it to DC, never fear--there's plenty of madness happening in Brooklyn, New York this summer. Starting on June 11th and ending on July 23rd, the Observatory is hosting "A Love Craft: Art Inspired by Monsters, Madness and Mythos", an art exhibit in honor of the American horror master himself, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. It sounds like a beastly blast, so be sure to get your tentacled appendages over there before Cthulhu stops calling.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Justice League: The (Almost) Lost Story



Among other things, Memorial Day weekend allowed me to catch up on a few videos that have been lingering on my must-see list. Among the titles I could scratch off my list was Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, one of DC's straight-to-DVD titles that was released earlier this year. It's a great superhero romp, with a compelling script, above-average animation, DC universe cameos galore, and a top-notch voice cast which includes Mark Harmon (NCIS) and the always awesome Firefly vet Gina Torres.

However, what I didn't know before I watched this movie was that it was originally written in 2004 as a narrative bridge for the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series, which aired a few years ago on Cartoon Network. You can read more about it on this IMDB page. While the script was revamped to be more of a stand-alone story and the character designs and voice talent are different, it still features so many references to the two Justice League TV series that I know I wouldn't have enjoyed this movie nearly as much if I didn't understand what the references meant.

So, if you're a completist for Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's multi-series love letter to the DC universe (which also includes Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Batman Beyond), be sure to pick up this one up for your own DVD collection.