Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"We Need You To Hope Again." - The Star-Studded X-Men Days of Future Past Trailer

If I remember correctly, the trailer seen below for Bryan Singer's X-Men epic is the exact same one we saw at this year's San Diego Comic Con.  I certainly have the same feelings now that I did back then - Wow!  How great it is to see all those actors in one film.....and how on Earth is one film going to do all that talent justice.  The answer is probably that most of those folks are going to get the shaft.  Halle Berry's Storm will have one thunderous moment, Ellen Page & Anna Paquin will get their chance to look weepy, and Shawn Ashmore will stand behind the real stars of the film.  It certainly looks like Hugh Jackman's movie, but I'm hoping for some solid screentime from the headmasters both old & young - give me plenty of Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Ian McKellen, & Michael Fassbender.  Deliver some kickass sequences with those folks and I'll be happy.  Of course, Bryan Singer hasn't made a good movie since The Usual Suspects and my expectation for this film is dim.  All these actors are going to be tripping over themselves and the fanboys in the crowd will be left with a muddled mess.  Please prove me wrong.

If the film never delivers at least I got to be a part of the Hall H extravaganza.  The pictures seen below were taken by me from the second row of that beautiful 7,000 seated ballroom.  Nerd Meca for sure.


Rick Baker's Frankenstein

io9 has a short writeup on Rick Baker's M.A.C. Cosmetics unveiling of his Steampunk Frankenstein.  It's a gorgeous piece from the master of makeup applications, but it also fills me with a gloomy sadness that such art is relegated to Cosplay these days.  When was the last time you saw such a beautiful horror on screen instead of some uncanny CG creation?  You don't need me to blather on about the unreality of the digital concoction - I'm not even sure that's true anymore as the next generation of film fanatics is bred on such sights they're Suspension of Disbelief has adjusted.  Us old folks are left dreaming of the practical delights of yesteryear.  Oh well.  This Steampunk Frankenstein is badass.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Matt’s Week in Dork! (10/20/13-10/26/13)

    I’ve been trying to get a lot of reading done, and I have.  But I’m not finishing a lot.  Too many things going at once.  Still, when it comes to geeky stuff, this was a pretty good week for this Dork.  And as I've given it more of a listen, I've been really digging that new Devo CD I picked up.  Which is handy, as it plays right into some of the reading I'm doing about AI and robotics.

In the Mouth of Madness:  “God’s not supposed to be a hack horror writer.”  The last great John Carpenter movie, this Lovecraft inspired journey into madness is fantastic.  It’s just the right mix of creepy, weird, and pulpy, with a great Lovecraftian hero in insurance investigator John Trent.  Nobody pulls his strings.  And he’s on the trail of Stephen King type bestselling horror writer Sutter Cane.  Cane’s writing seems to be having an effect on his readers, and that effect is becoming more pronounced and more violent.  Can Trent find him, find his last manuscript, and get back to civilization?  Or is the Door about to open, letting the Old Ones spill back into our world?

Niagara:  Joseph Cotton and Marilyn Monroe play a horribly dysfunctional couple who seem to be falling apart in their hotel room by the famous titular falls.  When a happy young couple shows up, their worlds collide.  I can see why this movie isn’t necessarily talked about a lot, but it’s pretty good.  It’s got a kind of second rate (and I don’t mean that in a bad way) Hitchcock vibe to it.  Not up to snuff with Hitch’s best, but in that spirit.

The Wall (Die Wand):  Oh, my gosh.  This is a danged sad, danged depressing, and danged fine film.  There are elements of those ‘man alone’ films like Jeremiah Johnson or Omega Man.  But it goes so, so much further.  A grim meditation on profound loneliness, it’s also a sort of love letter to the natural setting of rural Europe.  A woman wakes up to find herself the only living human, locked within a mysterious invisible bubble.  Her only companion is a skittish dog.  It’s a heck of a fascinating movie, and worth seeking out.  Beautifully shot, well acted, and fascinating to see.  And brutally, emotionally devastating.

Gun Crazy:  Two young people go on a bullet flinging crime spree.  A guy with a love of guns and a dame with a taste for money are a match made in Noir heaven.  I really like the way this film is shot.  The sequences where the camera sits in the back seat and just lets them talk as they head into or flee a crime scene are quite good.

    Read volume 1 of the New 52 series Shazam!  I definitely did not find myself as into it as co-Dork Brad.  I think something in the air or water has simply soured me to DC and Marvel.  Could it be the high frequency of terrible stuff they seem to put out?  I’m not sure.  But I’m feeling less forgiving toward them.  If I’d read it a year ago, I’d probably have enjoyed it.  Right now, however, they’d have to be writing some mighty fine stuff for me to give two shakes, and this isn’t it.  I also read (or skimmed, anyway) volume 2 of Aquaman, which saw a drastic drop in quality from The Trench.  It became scattered, confusing, and ultimately, boring.  Sad, as volume 1 was one of the big surprises from the New 52.

Neither the Sea Nor the Sand:  There’s some lovely footage of the UK coast.  Otherwise, it’s a bunch of unlikable, unrelatable characters in weird relationships.  It feels like a student film that got a big budget for reasons I don’t understand.  While well made, it’s quite grating.

    On Thursday night, Robert hosted Triple Horror Movie Night, an annual celebration of October.  Each year, he, Brad and I choose a movie each; one fabulous (Robert), one classic (me), and one scary (Brad).  This year, we changed it up a bit, and I brought the scary (or sleazy) movie, while Brad brought the classic.  A few others joined us, and while I think everyone enjoyed the social aspect, I don’t know if everyone was prepared for just what it is that we were going to be watching.

Brad’s Pick

Macabre:  The plot for this film is just too danged complicated, with too many characters, too many previously dead people, and too many cooks in the kitchen.  It’s also not very scary, even looking at it from the 50s horror movie perspective.  There are flashbacks where you’re not quite sure it’s a flashback, cuts to other scenes where it seems like it might be a flashback…but isn’t.  It’s weird.  Not great.  But worth a watch if you like William Castle movies.

Robert’s Pick

Vampire Boys 2:  If you thought Vampire Boys was poorly made and featured lots of bad acting, you haven’t seen anything yet.  This crappy sequel looks like it was 'filmed' in someone’s basement.  And that’s probably the best thing about it.  Everyone is shot in close-up and nobody has the face for it.  When anyone tries to act, it’s hammy.  And the story is dumb, dumb, dumb.

Matt’s Pick

Cat People:  I absolutely love this movie.  The longer I live with it, the more I enjoy it.  I love the cast and all the characters they play.  I love the kinky love story and the even kinkier obsession story.  New Orleans has never looked better or more like somewhere I’d actually think about visiting.  The slow build takes it to some powerfully strange places.  And the ending is so crazy.

    Then Friday night was the latest meeting of the graphic novel club.  We read the New 52 Aquaman (first two volumes) this month.  The reactions were mixed.  I liked the first volume, but not the second.  Lisa didn’t like the 4th wall break in the first volume (blogger talking about how much Aquaman sucks).  Many found the second volume needlessly complicated and scattered.  But many also came away with a new appreciation of the character.

    After an extremely stressful week (and last couple months), I decided to do a sort of Horror movie day.  I sat on my couch, ate Boo Barry cereal (thanks to Robert), had some snacks, grabbed a Firehouse sub while I was out for a walk in the middle of the day, and enjoyed a day of watching various horror films.  A nice way to spend a Saturday.

Taste the Blood of Dracula:  Three bored rich guys looking for kicks get way more than they bargained for in this Hammer Dracula film.  Overall, it’s not bad, though not especially interesting.  I like that the tale has an unusual plot progression, though the atmosphere is still mainline Hammer.  Fans of the studio’s Gothic thrillers should certainly watch it, but it’s not one of those ‘rush right out and get it’ titles.

Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang:  Victorian London is the scene of some sinister goings-on involving a shadowy Chinese cult and a horrible little thing.  It’s a cool story, rooted in Sherlock Holmes tales and that sort of thing, but with plenty of the usual Doctor Who madness.  You would not be wrong to say that there is some outright racism on display.  In part this is reflective of the time the story is set within, but of course, Li H’sen Chang being portrayed by a guy in ‘yellow face’ makes things pretty awkward.  Still, this is the kind of ‘historic’ story that worked best on Doctor Who.  I usually prefer the more out-there science fictiony tales, but the horror themed histories work fairly well.

The Fly:  A reclusive scientist falls for a plucky reporter, then has dirty, unsafe sex with his own genes, getting pumped through of inhuman DNA.  Jeff Goldblum is do danged awkward, and things get really nasty pretty quick.  Watching it, I was struck by how danged weird it was, and how a lot of pretty out-there stuff was made for mainstream audiences in the 80s that would likely not fly today.

Godzilla VS Destroyah:  “What radioactivity!”  Every time I watch one of these later films in the series, I can’t help but pine for the older ones.  There’s some really cool stuff, but the production feels shoddy, the ‘science’ is so extremely stupid, and the human stories are totally uninteresting.  I feel like a lot of the creature sequences would never have flown in the original run.  I like the introduction of a hoard of little creatures, more human sized problems in this one.  Of course, by the end, it’s a giant monster that has to go up against Godzilla.  But it makes me want to see a better Godzilla film that features little things for people to deal with, too.  There have been hints of that before, with radiated parasites left behind my the big guy, but it hasn’t been very well explored.  The Godfather-like assassination of Godzilla is weird, too.

Hellraiser III:  I stalled on my attempted re-watch of the Hellraiser series a while back, in part because I knew this was the next on the list, and I remember really disliking it.  Well, things haven’t changed.  The script for this one, as well as the acting and production design all feel very made for Canadian TV.  The creepy, mysterious, and weird are replaced with awkward cheese.  Totally lacking in any kind of passion or imagination, everything feels so bland and by the numbers that at no point do I care what happens to anyone.  Lifeless.  That’s the word for this movie.  And as a side note, why the hell did Doc get turned into a Cenobite?  There was no indication that this was a path he was on.  It doesn’t just happen to random victims of Pinhead.  It happens to those who seek it out.  F’ing stupid.

Rodan:  Rodan has what I’m looking for in a Kaiju film.  It takes its time, develops a bunch of human characters and follows them through their investigation of strange events.  Then, quite a way into the film, it brings out the big guns and starts the mass destruction.  But the ‘ground level’ story is still a major part.  Rodan is a giant bird, and some kind of master of the wind.  So this movie features lots and lots of stuff getting blown to pieces, which is strange, but kind of cool.  It’s also steeped in the post-Hiroshima fears of fallout and poisoned earth.  Giant mutant grubs are the first thing that tips people off to the problem, and they’re disgusting and creepy.

     I read the first issue of The Star Wars, which is right up my ally.  It's an attempt to adapt George Lucas's original Star Wars script into comic form.  You can see a lot of similarities, but there are also some pretty big differences.  I don't know if it would have worked as well, and maybe some of those changes were needed.  But I like some of the characters more, especially Luke, who isn't a child.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Comic Review: Fatale 1, 2, & 3

    Ed Brubaker, the guy who made me give a crap about Captain America with his Winter Soldier story arc, tells a crime story with deep roots in writers like Chandler and Hammett, as well as the horrors of Lovecraft.  This is the sort of thing I want to read, that comics can excel at, and that is often overshadowed by capes and spandex.

Death Chases Me

    The first volume starts out with a crazy, over the top action sequence involving a mysterious woman and a kamikaze prop-plane that may be a bit too much, frankly.  However, once that’s over and Nicolas Lash begins his quest to understand things left by a dead relative, the story starts getting interesting.  The cast of characters and the depth of history expands quickly, jumping back to the 50s to follow reporter Hank Raines, who has also met the mysterious woman from the opening, looking no different.  It doesn’t take long to find some ghoulish deviltry afoot.  Dangerous cults, weird things in the shadows, and all the time, the mysterious, beautiful woman, the Fatale.  I don’t love Sean Phillips art, but I think it’s appropriate for the comic, giving enough of a classic, 50s look to help authenticity.  And Brubaker’s writing captures the tone of the hard boiled detective stories as well as the existential dread of Mythos dangers.

The Devil’s Business

    Moving forward to the decadent and disenchanted 70s, the second volume finds the Fatale living as a recluse, while cults, collectors, and…other things search for her.  I enjoy this story of broken and sad people dealing with religious nuts in the ugly aftermath of the 60s.  The jaded tastes of people with too much money and no direction.  Gross.  And while the past unfolds, in the present, Nicolas Lash’s life spirals out of control.  Nobody seems to be having a good time of it.  The building story is fascinating.  Each reveal increases tension, while making me more and more curious about what will happen and what has happened, and who everyone really is.  And of course, at the heart of it all, who is the femme fatale?  Who is Josephine?  What is she?

West of Hell

    The third volume looks into the history of Josephine, going back a long, long way.  Each chapter (each issue) finds her in a different time, expanding our understanding of who and what she really is, and of the many strange and painful events of her long history.  And as her history unfolds, hints and innuendos about the truth behind it all come to light.  I find myself enjoying this series quite a lot.  It feels like a comicbook version of the classic roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu.  In fact, reading it got me very much in the mood for that game, and in the mood to read more mythos tales of various sorts.  I’m very curious to see where this all goes and how it works out.  One of the best comics on the market today, it is a must read.

Fatale Book One: Death Chases Me
Author: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Philips
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 978-1-60706-563-0

Fatale Book Two: The Devil’s Business
Author: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Philips
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 978-1-60706-618-7

Fatale Book Three: West of Hell
Author: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Philips
Publisher: Image Comics
ISBN: 978-1-60706-743-6


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dork Art: Mondo's Vinyl Halloween

In the last year or so, Mondo has been trickling out a rather varied array of vinyl releases.  Stuff like The Deadly Spawn, Oblivion, the recent Maniac, and Drive have all seen their soundtracks blessed with the Mondo exclusivity treatment.  I haven't bothered in the past, but I may make an exception for their upcoming release of John Carpenter's Halloween.  Apparently this is the first time the entire score has been provided on vinyl, and considering it's a masterpiece of simplicity akin to John Williams' JAWS, I'm shocked by that very notion.  Naturally, the record will hit the internet on October 31st.  The art is supplied by Phantom City Creative, We Buy Your Kids, and Jeff Proctor.  It's doubtful you'll be able to score one from Mondo, but I'm sure ebay will have them for a few hundred dollars seconds after Twitter announces the random sale time.  If you want a more detailed rundown, check out GQ.  Yes, Mondo is so popular now that GQ writes about their releases.  So bizarre.


Cap Jumps Into Battle!

We've got two days till the Teaser Trailer hits the web, but I'm already jazzed thanks to this killer comic book poster.  Sure, it should be illustration, but that's a bitch-rant I'm tired of spewing.  I just love the image of Cap preparing to jump into battle in our Nation's Capital.  Anthony Russo & Joe Russo are still questionable commodities, but I loved what little I saw at this year's Comic Con.  Hopefully the teaser footage will feature the Elevator brawl we got to see there - Chris Evans kicking Frank Grillo's ass.  I like the first film quite a bit despite it's rushjob climax, but hopefully we can get some satisfying World War II closure in the sequel.


Brad's Two Weeks In Dork! (10/6/13-10/19/13)

Two Sundays back I spent all day aboard a plane flying across the Atlantic.  A quick whirlwind trip to Germany to see my cousin wed in the Black Forest.  A joyous time was had by all.  The flight back on the other hand?  A tight bus filled with rambunctious tourists jittery with anticipation of New York City tourism.  I decided to loose myself in United Airlines' movie selection.  An 8 hour flight quickly transformed into a 5 film marathon...5 films I carefully selected.  I only want to watch movies on a plane that I would never in a million years watch in a theater or my own television set.  I think I chose wisely.  They certainly distracted me from all the pent up energy erupting from my fellow travelers.

When I landed back in the States it was time to finally finish the Breaking Bad saga, the latest Stephen King, and crack into some appropriate October movie watching.  Earlier this year I was obsessing over They Live, and it's finally sparked me to blitz through John Carpenter's entire career.  Unlike my Scorsese-A-Thon (which I will get back to soon enough), I'm already well-versed in the horror-meister's career.  These are the films that shaped little Brad into the genre freak he is today.  That being said, I wanted to tackle his film canon in reverse order due to the simple fact that I would much rather end on Dark Star than the painfully boring cliche that is The Ward.

John Carpenter's later career is not all garbage, it's simply a pale shadow of his younger glory.  The Ward, Ghosts of Mars, Vampires, Escape From LA, Village of the Damned...I certainly enjoyed watching them this time around, you you can find plenty of good bits, but they only underscore the disappointment of their overall rubbish screenplays.  Then there is In The Mouth Of Madness.  Obviously, we here at ITMOD, hold this film in rather high regard.  It's Carpenter's final masterpiece and an essential entry in Sam Neil's career.  Jurassic Park, Sirens, Dead Calm - naw man, it's all about In The Mouth Of Madness.

Now You See Me:  The general premise of a gang of street magicians pilfering from the rich to give to the poor sounds like a lot of fun, especially when the Robin Hoods are played by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco with Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman hot on their trail.  Dang. That really is a hell of a cast. But Transporter director Louis Leterrier doesn't seem to care or even understand the appeal of the slight of hand; he would rather bombard us with cheap pop-up CGI. The film is certainly missing some razzle dazzle. Not the worst thing in the world, but I'm curious as to what exactly drew these actors to this project in the first place. Just a paycheck? I'm betting the original screenplay by Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt, Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec, Ed Solomon...hmmmmm...I think I see the problem here. Who knows what the original intent of Now You See Me was, or what attracted the players, but this looks like a case of too many bored cooks in the kitchen.

The Heat:  This movie is not funny. The jokes are stupid, obvious, and as fresh as Nick Nolte's drawers. Sandra Bullock plays Miss Congeniality, a stiff, know-it-all fed who can't make it in a man's world because she's too busy being a smug bitch. Melissa McCarthy is fat. Isn't that hilarious? She can't get out of car doors!!! Hardy Har Har! These Loose Cannons might as well have 48 Hours to get all Lethal Weapon on some Red Heat or they'll be stuck Running Scared from Turner, Hooch, Tango, & Cash. If you're looking for some actual laughs mining the same nostalgia than may I suggest The Other Guys or Hot Fuzz.

Monsters University:  Cute. Clever. Slight. This Pixar prequel is a good enough way to kill 90 minutes, but when compared with the studios shining stars (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up) or even its solid gold (Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Wall E) than "meh" can be your only critique. The Monsters Inc characters are fun enough, and the voice talent is strong, but I feel very little heart in their relationships. As with Cars, I see more opportunity in merchandising.

The Host:  Certainly one of the worst films of the year, but should any of us be surprised when this manipulative teen dreck comes from the dustbin brainpan of Stephanie Meyer? No. But I do expect more from director Andrew Niccol, the man who brought us underrated gems like Gattaca and Lord of War. I'm sure he was initially attracted to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers premise in which alien Souls (ick, really?) are transplanted into hapless human hosts, but this puppet master conceit is dumped in an attempt to force passionless polygamy romance down our throats. Saoirse Ronan is an actress I generally like (Atonement, Hana, even The Lovely Bones), but her alien Wanderer (ick, really? REALLY?) is an abysmal attempt at split personality and often results in cringing internal bickering. Love interests Max Irons & Jake Abel are a couple of lunkheads not worth the time it takes to finish this sentence. I will say that adult actors William Hurt & Diane Kruger are solid even when the screenplay their trapped within attempts to strangle out their quality. That's a win.

Harry Dean Stanton - Partly Fiction:  If you love movies than you love Harry Dean Stanton. The man has mastered the bit part excelling in films as diverse as Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, Hud, Alien, Repo Man, Wild At Heart, The Last Temptation of Christ, and The Avengers. Wim Wenders & Sam Shepherd produced his ultimate performance as the wandering heartsick Travis Henderson in Paris, Texas and it ranks as one of my very favorite movies. The actor is a notorious lover of women and sampler of narcotics. His days & nights with Jack Nicholson are legendary in Hollywood Babylon. Does this documentary explore any of that? Not really. Stanton philosophizes, smokes, and takes the praise given him by other iconic filmmakers. It's a fascinating watch that scratches the surface of the man, but never quite breaks through. It's probably for the best, but I could have watched at least three more hours of Stanton zen out on nothingness.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Remake):  With the exception of the latest entry (not all the 3D in the world could have saved that mess), I really do enjoy every segment of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. The original film is a flawless masterpiece in terror cinema, and its sequels, remakes, and prequels all offer enough gruesome gore or oddball horror to keep my sickie heart satisfied. Marcus Nispel's sequel wins a lot of points for nabbing original DP Daniel Perl for this modern day makeover, and the result is a stylishly thick entertainment that revels in the filth of the American West. In an about-face from the original film, Nispel is gleeful in his depictions of bloody, sweaty meat as well as the grotesquery of the chainsaw wielding perpetrators. Jessica Biel is little more than a jiggly tank-top, but she gets miles out of the mud, muck, and rain she jostles through. R Lee Ermy makes as much use of his sheriff's hat as Biel does with her wet tee, furrowing his brow, popping out those Dumbo ears, and twitching a stare from the shadows. He's as much a beast as Leatherface. Nothing will ever touch the original, but if you can get off your "Blasphemous Remakes!" high horse than you might enjoy some of this style over substance.

The Ward:  Amber Heard runs through the forest wearing nothing but a nightie. She reaches a house, lights a match, and waits for the cops to drag her crazy ass to the nuthouse. Of course, she has no memory of anything before the fire. It's up to her psychiatrist, Jared Harris, to open her mind and free her from the nightmarish visions of a worm riddled specter. John Carpenter's latest and possibly final film (he ain't getting any younger folks) is disappointingly dull, but there are strong performances from the loony bin players. Unfortunately, nearly all of the spooky stuff falls flat. When the film isn't bothered with creaking doors and jump-scares it's engaging enough. Heck, Heard is a stronger Final Girl than Jaime Lee Curtis in Halloween - the chick can swing an axe with the best of them - but she's saddled with a dead-end script & a groaning twist of a climax.

Masters of Horror - Pro Life:  Given a real budget and a cast upgrade (of course, you gotta keep Ron Perlman), John Carpenter's Masters of Horror episode could have been a hellishly painful bit of social horror. As is, it's a solid entry in the anthology series hindered by some flat cinematography and even flatter performances from the doctors on staff. Still, it's a beast of an idea. A woman flees into an abortion clinic seeking asylum from her religious zealot father, and a fix for the demon growing in her belly. Not easy material, and I give credit to the screenplay for not mocking either viewpoints. Pro-Life is certainly not the kind of social horror movie we're seeing on the big screen these days.

Masters of Horror - Cigarette Burns:  "Some films are meant to be seen." Norman Reedus is hired by Udo Kier to hunt down the last remaining print of a supposedly haunted film that played once and resulted in a movie house massacre. I'm a sucker for this kinda stuff. A mini mixture of The Ninth Gate & 8MM with a strong emphasis on KNB gore. Reedus & Kier are great together, and the bit in which Kier introduces Reedus to the props & extras of La Fin Absolue du Monde is certainly shiver inducing. Ice cubes, white faces, and a quivering voice = creeeepy. I was a struggling witness to Showtime's Masters of Horror, but I think John Carpenter was one of the more successful helmsmen to squeeze blood from the stone. Again, I think there is an even stronger cinematic experience in this screenplay, but I doubt we will ever be gifted that experience.

Ghosts of Mars:  John Carpenter is no stranger to the remake. He successfully updated The Thing From Another World, and did his darndest with Village of the Damned (see below). In the late 90s he even remade his own films: Escape From New York into Escape From LA, and Assault on Precinct 13 into Ghosts of Mars. Curious. Neither are as strong as their source material, but if your brain isn't immediately closed to the notion, both films offer moments of B-Movie jalopy enthusiasm. Carpenter desperately wants to be Howard Hawks, finding his Duke this time in the emotionless Natasha Henstridge. Yeah, she's the worst. Watching her match tough with Ice Cube's uber macho Desolation Williams is embarrassing, and I had to turn awkwardly away from the screen during a couple of her D.O.A. line delivers. Still, I dig Ice Cube. He's a goof, and certainly not as badass or cool as Darwin Joston's Napolean Wilson, but the man can stick his landing with a terrible catchphrase - "COME ON, YOU MINDLESS MOTHERFUCKERS!" Ghosts of Mars has a paper-thin plot involving an evil Martian ghost cloud infecting colonists, and transforming them into screaming Hot Topic metal heads, but it's all just an excuse to dismember, disembowel, and decapitate. Not the pinnacle of John Carpenter's career, but certainly not the nadir (tune in next week!).

Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home:  The genius of the fourth film in the franchise is its nearly plotless screenplay. There's this probe from someplace, it's looking for whales for some reason, and if the USS Enterprise doesn't travel back in time to steal a couple of beasties then the world will be destroyed by some crazy amount of probe energy. Whatever. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that our favorite characters are dropped into the past (the 1980s), and give us a good ribbing for all the stupidity we produce. Everyone gets something to do - Chekov & Uhura hunt for nuclear wessels, Scotty & Bones build a fish tank, Sulu snags a helicopter, and Kirk & Spock contemplate colorful metaphors. The Voyage Home is simply a good time at the movies for both Trekkies & the ignorant. On this millionth viewing, Deforest Kelley seems to step away as the MVP. His friendly harassment of Spock, the snarky glares towards Scotty, and the climactic hospital assault highlight the good doctor as the ultimate lovable bastard. The Voyage Home is just a series of gags. Sure, they're saving the Earth, but it's all just an excuse for Kirk & Co to baffle their way through our pop culture. Science Fiction as Belittlement.

Vampires:  "Don't make me come over there and beat the shit out of you, padre." James Woods saves this movie. He's a monstrous bastard of a human being tasked by the Catholic Church to hunt down and destroy vampires, but that just seems to be an excuse for him to beat women and cut on mewling priests. He enjoys his job, and it's uncomfortable to watch. He reminds me very much of a Sam Peckinpah hero. He's the good guy because the camera follows him, but his actions (and words) are utterly deplorable. After a poisonous bite on the thigh, Sheryl Lee is brutalized by our God fearing warriors. Slapped, beaten, berated, and humiliated. Totally un-PC and often painful to witness. James Woods is not the white hat hero, he's a scumbag who enjoys his job a little too much, and he just happens to be saving the world in the process. John Carpenter's Vampires is not a great movie, or even a particularly good one. But it is certainly an oddity, with characters lifted outta time, and jammed down our good taste. Who cares if this Dirty Dozen slays Thomas Ian Griffith's continuously snarling Master or not?  It's all about their wave of destruction.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King:  A sequel to The Shining.  Does that sound like a good idea?  Not to me it didn't.  A couple years back, when I saw King at the George Mason Fall For The Books, he read a passage from this book that dealt with a caravan of psychic vampires, but never once mentioned young Danny Torrence of the original terrifying novel.  I scratched my head and waited.  Well, the day is finally here.  Danny Torrence is now Dan Torrence, also known as Doctor Sleep, a recovering alcoholic helping the residents of the Helen Rivington House pass peacefully to the other side.  He soon becomes aware of a little girl gifted with The Shining who has fallen into the crosshairs of those aforementioned psychic vampires.  Doctor Sleep is one of those classic page turners we've come to expect from King, and there are hints of that original ick that made the first book so damn compelling. But at the end of the day, I have to ask, why revisit Danny?  The Overlook turned him into a pathetic mess of a human being (no surprise there) and I guess Doctor Sleep gives a little closure to that character doomed by his father's haunted madness.  It's fun enough for the fanboy, but it's certainly not revelatory.

Shack Out On 101:  "You are my heart, but I'd cut you out if you were a traitor!" An exceptional, forgotten gem of Cold War cinema. Terry Moore is a proud American waitress fending herself from the affection of Lee Marvin's slobby mean bastard as well as Keenan Wynn's desperate sadsack proprietor. When she catches wind that her scientist boyfriend (the painfully dull Frank Lovejoy - come on Terry, get with the Wynn!) might be trading secrets with the reds, the tiny food shack on the side of the road becomes the final battleground for American Liberty. Never has a short order cook been as creepy or as demented as Lee Marvin; this bear in human form ranks right up there with his Big Heat heavy. Edward & Mildred Dein deliver a crackerjack screenplay with witty, biting repartee between all the film's combatants. I'm honestly shocked that I had never heard of this film before, but I'm thankful that Olive Films had the brains to finally bring Shack Out on 101 to blu ray. Certainly one of the best films I've discovered this year.

Escape From LA:  "This town loves a winner." A sequel as remake, or a remake as sequel? Whatever the case, John Carpenter & Kurt Russell try to recapture that Snake Plissken magic in this beat-for-beat retelling of one of the 80s most enjoyable dystopian adventures. Russell certainly still knows how to Eastwood his voice, and I even dig some of the rare additions (Bruce Campbell's Surgeon General of Beverly Hills), but Pam Grier is no Harry Dean Stanton, Stacey Keach is no Lee Van Cleef, and Georges Corraface is certainly no Isaac Hayes. I would really love to know why Carpenter & crew went for the remake approach instead of breaking out into an original narrative - If it ain't broke, don't fix it? I guess. I don't hate on this film like some, and it's certainly interesting from an experiment perspective (think of an even less successful Psycho retread), but the world certainly deserved a better Snake Escape.

The Benson Interruption of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre:  "We're the smell it & touch it kids!"  This was a fascinating experience.  I'm not sure what I was expecting from Mr. Doug Loves Movies.  Something akin to Mystery Science Theater but with more pot jokes.  When we got to The Alamo Draft House, The Wife & I discovered that our seats were directly next to Benson.  He had his coat over The Wife's seat and said it was his - that "they" were supposed to reserve it for him.  Oh, no problem, we just scooched over.  A little awkward, but no big deal.  Eavesdropping, we could tell that Benson & Graham Elwood were none too pleased with the One Loudon crew.  There was a drink mixup apparently and they bitched about the seat reservations for a little bit.  When the show finally started, neither of the comedians seemed that into the experience.  Mostly they sat back and watched the film, piping in here & there with a few cracks.  A couple of times Benson turned to me and asked a questions about the Texas Chainsaw franchise as I had quickly established myself as the Horror Geek in the front row.  Hopefully that makes it into the mini episode as he was recoding the show with his iphone.  I guess that was cool.

Village of the Damned (Remake):  This movie is not bad. It's just frustratingly dull. The town of Midwich experiences a mass fainting spell, and when they awake their women have been seeded with white haired, emotionless, telekinetic assholes. Christopher Reeve is the small town doctor burdened with a child he does not hate nearly enough. Kirstie Alley is the tight lipped government drone who spouts monosyllabic exposition. Mark Hamill is the bible thumper gone rifleman nutjob at the very notion of alien life. Maybe if just one of these actors expressed just an ounce of disturbance at the cataclysm destroying their town then we as an audience could muster up the energy to give a damn. Sadly, it's a snooze.

Drive Angry:  "Why does everyone keep hurting me?" Just an absolutely greasy gross bit of exploitation trash cinema that so many nostalgia-fests these days seem to fall short of, Patrick Lussier's blood, bullets, & octane adventure makes no apologies for its absurdity, violence, and all around dark attitude. In tiptop mega-acting form, Nicholas Cage escapes from the prison gates of hell to hunt down and butcher the cult leader responsible for his daughter's gory demise. Billy Burke is that evil sick bastard, and he relishes his femur blade wielding baddie with almost as much sick pleasure as Cage's demon dog. Amber Heard proves she's more than just a pretty face, having as much fun as the boys with her too tough obscenities, and god-killer decimations. But the real standout here is William Fichtner's Accountant. I'm all giggles when Ficthner sniffs waitresses, messes with stoners, & Sunshine Bands his way through a police barricade. It's easy to see the 70s filth inspiration (Race With The Devil & The Devil's Rain immediately spring to mind), but Drive Angry manages to be its own thing thanks to its bottom feeder morality and self-acknowledged silliness. Too bad the rest of America wasn't hip to its Meatloaf charm.

Breaking Bad - The Final Season:  For the last month, I've been scrambling to catch up with Walter White and his decent into pure evil.  I've enjoyed this show, but by no means, did I consider it the best television program in the history of the medium.  That's still Deadwood & The Wire.  However, I have to admit that this final season was certainly the most tense experience I've witnessed on the small screen.  The build up to Hank & Walt's disastrous confrontation was both heart-thumping and heart-breaking.  It really doesn't get much better than the "Ozymandias" episode...or more painful.  And that's the appeal of Breaking Bad.  Has there ever been a storyarc this unflinching as it depicted the birth of a super criminal?  Not on TV.  Rarely in the movies.  This is the stuff of Richard Stark.  Elmore Leonard.  Mario Puzo.  There is very little sugar coating, certainly no happy endings.  Walt's pride glimpsed from the very first episode eventually transformed his story into an epic bit of Shakespearean tragedy.  Those rooting for this meth cook asshole should be ashamed; for me Breaking Bad is all about Hank's ascension to Hero Cop and the torture of Jesse Pinkman.  Put those guys in your Facebook banners.

Pacific Rim:  The moments when Pacific Rim is nothing more than an animated orgy of Kaiju smackdowns fills this perpetual child with ridiculous amounts of monster movie glee. The penultimate versus match between Gipsy Danger and the Leatherback/Otachi tag team gets the fist pumping - SWORD!!!!!! Totally Mecha Badass! Unfortunately, nearly every moment outside of the cartoon is dullsville. I just do not care about all the unnecessary conflict written into the Jaeger Pilot plotlines. My brother died, my daddy doesn't love me like he loves you, my Idris Alba doesn't trust me with his robots. All aboard the Boo-Hoo-Choo-Choo! Screenwriter Travis Beacham has certainly watched Top Gun a few too many times. I really wish Guillermo Del Toro had squeezed more of the Kaiju black market into the story, or further explored the alien dimension briefly glanced at the climax.  Still, robots punching monsters?  That's just fun.

Gravity:  "I hate space." It's hard to go into a movie you've been reading about for nearly five years without some level of expectation. I am a big, big, big fan of Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men & Y Tu Mama Tambien and the idea of him tackling a NASA space mission gone wrong (going OCD with his obsessively long takes) was incredibly appealing. I remember breathing a sigh of relief when the cast went from Robert Downey Jr & Scarlet Johansson to George Clooney & Sandra Bullock. Bullock may not be my favorite actress in the world, but she certainly seems more NASA than Johansson. Then I saw the trailer - Bullock floating around for 90 minutes - I lost a little interest, and I practically had to force myself into the theater. After all, I had already seen Open Water. I lot of whining and fear crying. "In space no one can make you give a crap." Ok, so obviously I was carrying some baggage into the movie. So what do I actually think of Gravity? I think Cuaron is a masterful craftsman, and this is the only film in recent years where I thought the IMAX 3D actually benefited the story.  There there are several times in this film where the 3D accentuated the infinite blackness or attributed to the weightlessness. Bullock is solid. But I did not care for her dead kid storyline or whether she could accept death or not. I also did not like Clooney's storytelling astronaut; his bravado rang false in my ears and his dialog seemed to exist just to fill up the 90 minute run time. At times I enjoyed Steven Prince's thrumming score, but at other moments I felt like it committed the very worst of John Williams's ham-fisted manipulation. Gravity is a good enough time, but it's certainly not a film I'm rushing to ever see again.

In The Mouth of Madness:  "I am not a piece of fiction!" The last great film of John Carpenter, In The Mouth of Madness also manages to be an essential experience for fans of HP Lovecraft without actually adapting the horror icon's work. Sam Neil is John Trent, an insurance investigator brought in by Bernie Casey to debunk Charlton Heston's claim of the missing million dollar literary institution, Sutter Cane. Think Stephen King, but better selling and literally infectious. Neil & editor Julie Carmen track the author's god complex to the sleepy New Hampshire town of Hobb's End where they encounter dog butchering children, tentacled motel clerks, and your basic army of unspeakable evil. The mid nineties were an abominable time for horror fans, but somehow the genre master managed to crank out one last great hurrah with Madness. Kudos to Carpenter, but I think Sam Neil must take most of the credit for his exceptional portrayal of a crumbling reality. Has there ever been a nastier, more bent explosion of laughter than the gut buster seen at the end credits? I think not.

Machete Kills:  "Machete loves everybody."  Yeah, well, I don't love Machete.  What the hell happened to Robert Rodriguez?  Desperado & From Dusk Till Dawn - those are a couple of thoroughly enjoyable blood & guts action romps.  But the director has lost himself in his one-man-show approach to filmmaking.  We get it, you can do all your crappy effects on your laptop.  The endless stream of CG blood & gunfire just makes Machete Kills look like a crappy SyFy Channel knockoff.  I'll take a dozen Piranhanacondas over this tired mess.  There might have been a little fun mined in Grindhouse & the first Machete, but this sequel plays like an MTV Movie Awards skit dragged on too long.  Charlie Sheen...Mel Gibson...I know you don't have anywhere else to go, but you should have stayed away from this dreck.  Danny Trejo - you get a pass.  You are great in everything.  But Rodriguez has no idea what makes trash cinema so damn enjoyable.  This is pretender nonsense.  And I need you to leave moviemaking alone for a while.  Sin City 2 can stay under a rock with you.