Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween: A Critically Loving Look at a Cult Classic

Although both The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Canadian film Black Christmas precede it by four years, much claim can be staked on the proposition that John Carpenter's 1978 now-classic horror film, Halloween, was the starting point of the slasher genre that would erupt in the 1980's. Of course Carpenter himself admits to being greatly influenced by Hitchcock's Psycho, the true sui generis of the genre, when making Halloween, so who the hell knows from whence the genre truly came. What one does know for sure is that Carpenter's seminal slasher flick was a great, if not the greatest, influence on horror moviemaking lo these past thirty some years. For better and for worse, Halloween gave the genre, from the giddy, gory slasher films of the eighties to the torture porn obscenities of today, its tricks and tropes and foibles and flaws. It gave the Scream series its rule book and Rob Zombie a career resurgence. And then there is that creepy ass music - but more on that later. Carpenter has a knack of making us wait in heart-pounding anticipation not just to the veritable breaking point, but beyond, until we think we are safe at least for the moment, and then - BANG!! I won't make you wait, so let's discuss the most appropriate film we can on this day of All Hallows Eve.

Much like contemporaries Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma and Steven Spielberg, as well as more recent examples such as Richard Linklater, P.T. Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, Carpenter has always been a filmmaker greatly influenced by those who came before him. So much so that Pauline Kael even (unfairly) criticized him for such in her scathing review of Halloween, saying "Carpenter doesn't seem to have had any life outside the movies: one can trace almost every idea on the screen to directors such as Hitchcock and Brian De Palma and to the Val Lewton productions".  Hey Pauline, I love ya and all, but what the Hell's wrong with that!? It is in this homage making style that Carpenter has created his interesting, if not a bit uneven in later years, oeuvre.  This film is smack dab in the center of the great auteur's brilliant genre-induced triumvirate of his so-called early years. After Assault on Precinct 13, his urban-decay take on Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo but before his graphic, paranoiac retooling of the Howard Hawks produced The Thing, came Halloween, his most Hitchcockian film, and therefore his film with the biggest, and most classically inspired BANG.  

Not only does Carpenter name the master's Psycho as his biggest influence on Halloween (along with Night of the Living Dead, which incidentally was also an influence on the aforementioned Assault on Precinct 13) but he paid homage to that film in several other ways as well. One of these ways was the naming of Dr. Sam Loomis, the obsessed psychiatrist played by Donald Pleasence. Sam Loomis, as any fan of Psycho can tell you, is the name of Marian Crane's lover in the film. The most obvious homage though is the casting of Jamie Lee Curtis as the movie's final girl, Laurie Strode. Originally Carpenter had wanted to cast Anne Lockhart, daughter of June Lockhart, but due to scheduling conflicts she could not take the part. This particular scheduling conflict was particularly fortuitous, for when Carpenter found out that another actress interested in the part was the daughter of Janet Leigh, Marion Crane herself, he had to have her for the part. Starring in the short-lived TV version of Operation Petticoat at the time (the original film version coincidentally starred the actress's father Tony Curtis), the nineteen year old Curtis was the perfect pick for the film. What better homage than casting the daughter of the master's Scream Queen as his own Scream Queen?

Playing the chaste babysitter who lives, while her promiscuous friends are slaughtered (a final girl trope that would become a cliche of the genre, as well the joke behind Wes Craven's Scream) Curtis is the terrorized victim who in turn must be saved by Pleasence's Dr. Loomis (and yes, feminists have taken note) from the man in the mask. Of course we all know that the man in the mask is actually Michael Myers, who at the age of six brutally murdered his teenage sister, and who has, fifteen years later, escaped from the mental hospital to come home and terrorize those oh so slutty teens of Haddonfield Illinois. On the subject of the virgin surviving while death comes to all those who have sex, Carpenter explains, "The one girl who is the most sexually uptight just keeps stabbing this guy with a long knife. She's the most sexually frustrated. She's the one that's killed him. Not because she's a virgin but because all that sexually repressed energy starts coming out. She uses all those phallic symbols on the guy." Yup, simple as that.

To make the terror all the more terrifying, Carpenter used P.O.V. shots when showing Michael stalking his prey. The opening scene, where the six year old Michael is watching his sister and her boyfriend before stabbing his sister to death post-coitus (the guy of course gets up and leaves after sex, and is thus spared the violent end), is done completely in the point of view of the psychopathic child. The ultimate stabbing is shown through the eyes of Michael's clown costume. These P.O.V. shots continue upon Michael's return home. We are put into the eyes of the killer and see what he sees (again, many are critical of this, stupidly claiming it breeds violence in children) and this makes it seem all that more terrifying.  Of course the thing that makes it the scariest, in my not-so-humble opinion, is that damn music. Second in scariness only to The Exorcist's Tubular Bells, the film's music, composed by Carpenter himself, in rare 5/4 meter, is a simple yet haunting score. It is enough to bring chills up and down the spine of, not just this critic, but pretty much everyone out there.

In the end it is Carpenter's prowess as a filmmaker that makes Halloween work as well as it does. Beginning with his love of cinematic origins and history, and his ability to transform that love into his own work (this obvious Hitchcocko-Hawksian even sneaks in the original Thing From Another World as he has his characters watching said film on television) and continuing with the director's bravura stance on cinema (he brashly blows away a little pig-tailed girl in Assault on Precinct 13, so what is to stop him from doing pretty much anything to anyone in any movie), Carpenter created a genre masterpiece in his original Halloween. The film would go on to spawn seven sequels, as well as a remake and even a sequel to the remake, none of which were directed by Carpenter, and become, for better and for worse again, one of the most influential films ever made. Carpenter himself would continue with a later career that has yet to match his output of the seventies and early eighties but no matter what the future brings, his legacy will surely live on and on and on.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. And Happy Halloween!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Heavenly Body of the Week: The Planet Mok

Ah, poor hapless Spaceman Spiff. Why does he need his hair washed anyway? Calvin and Hobbes, as created by Bill Watterson in 1985, may very well be one of, if not the greatest comic strip to ever appear in print. Running for just a decade (Watterson went out on top) this great strip has seen not only the adventures of Calvin and his not-so-make-believe stuffed tiger, Hobbes, but also the space-faring heroics of Spaceman Spiff. Huzzah!!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Weird Weird World of Nobuhiko Obayashi's Gleefully Mad & Demented, and Brilliantly Batshitcrazy Hausu !!!!!?!

Hey Kids! If you have ever taken the time to wonder (and who hasn't!?) if there were a film out there somewhere, that is equal parts Dario Argento, the crazy psychedelic world of Sid & Marty Krofft, a 1980's pop music video, the works of Guy Maddin, and soft core Japanese schoolgirl porn, well look no further because your search has finally ended, and what strange strange fruit it has borne. This film cannot, or make that should not, be explained. It may very well be the film for which the term batshitcrazy was invented to describe.

Being the story of seven schoolgirls with names such as Gorgeous, Fantasy, Sweet, Kung-Fu (my personal fave), Prof, Melody and Mac (all of course possessing a quality to match their monikers) visiting what of course ends up being a haunted house (story idea by Obayashi's preteen daughter) where the most gleefully enjoyable blood bath ensues and girls are eaten by killer pianos and light fixtures, or are beheaded and come back to try to eat the others (not to mention the evil killer cat, the noodle-eating bear and the fat demented watermelon man!?) the film is not what the average filmgoer would typically call great cinema. But damned if it isn't great cinema anyway.

And now, with Halloween coming up in just a few days, I thought it an apt time to tell ya'll about this mad mad mad movie. I remember buying the Criterion blu-ray, sight unseen. The poster image of a psychotically-drawn cat (seen above) was more then enough to make me plunk down whatever amount it was and buy the damned thing. All I really knew about the film going in, was the funky orange cat on the cover, and that it was some sort of cult Japanese horror film. What the Hell else did I need to know? Upon watching it (projected onto the big screen, after hours at Midtown Cinema, the arthouse my wife and I once ran) I knew right away that the right spur-of-the-moment decision had been made. Purposely cheap looking and full of some of the most splendidly maniacal cheap thrills this cinephile has ever seen, Hausu (aka, House) is easily one of my newly minted favourite films. Damn it, it even won a place of honour in my personal 100 greatest films canon.

Stealing from an old recurring feature, here briefly, are my 10 Favourite Things About Hausu.

1) The Music - Most would probably say this is an annoying quality but for me it means something powerful, musically speaking, has happened. Just like that whistle in Kill Bill, the recurring theme song of the movie - In the Evening Mist I believe it is called - stays in my head for weeks each and every time I watch the film. In fact it is in there right now (he says as happily humming said tune as he types).

2) The Names - Several have been changed when translated, but let us go with the ones from the US release (since that is the only one I have seen). Gorgeous (called Angel in the original Japanese version) is always dressing herself up. Fantasy is a dreamer. Sweet will do anything to help. Melody is the musician. Prof is the smart one. You can tell because she wears glasses. Kung-Fu kicks ass. Mac eats a lot. I am guessing this is some take on stomach and not the ubiquitous McDonald's reference. But yeah, the names are as great as everything else in this fun fun fun movie.

3) The Style - Obayashi's use of such garishly cheesy sets and designs and special effects are a huge part of what makes me loooove this film so so soooomuch. If this film had been done in any sort of traditional way it would not be nearly as enjoyable as it ends up being. It is blatantly, and quite arrogantly, cheap and that is just the way it needs to be - and just the way we all love it so so soooo.

4) The Cheese - One character, Gorgeous's wouldbe step mother, goes nowhere without her off camera wind machine. Constantly wind swept in every scene, even when no one else is, may be a not-so-subtle rag on the melodramatic ways of classical cinema.

5) The Ass Kicker - Kung-Fu. I told you she was my favourite. Randomly kicking ass (stuck cabinet doors, mice, a telephone, that crazy-ass cat, ghosts & skeletons) and stripping down to her underwear (for no apparent reason other than to titillate the male audience members) she is the sexy go-to girl in this bunch. This kitten is fast as lightning indeed, and boy does she ever have claws.

6) The Art - It's all about that rerelease poster image (again, see above) that made me buy the disc sight unseen. It now adorns t-shirts, hats, and mouse pads, as well. What a great maniacal cat. The image actually nicely combines two of my wife and mine's own cats. It has the orange colour of our late great first cat Alex, but the demented killer-on-the-loose look of our youngest, Fanny.

7) The Fruit - Somewhat late in the film, there is an exchange between the wouldbe hero and a fruit seller. It goes something like this: "Do you like melons?" "I hate them!" "What do you like?" "Bananas!" Once you see the movie this will suddenly become freakin' hilarious. Trust me.

8) The Music, Pt. II - The seemingly out-of-place, but just as appropriately perfectly in place, presence of English language pop songs by Godiego. I suppose if the movie is going to be batshitcrazy, the soundtrack might as well be as well.

9) The Snacks, or the Music, Pt. III - Not to give anything away, but a piano eats a girl. To put it as bluntly as I can, it fucking devours the bitch. All the while, that damned haunting melody is playing - ironically by the actual character Melody.

10) Everything Else That Did Not Fit in the First Nine Spots - From the Partridge Family-esque bus ride to Fantasy's fantasies about her "manly" teacher to Gorgeous's aunt eating eyeballs to Obayashi's criticism of the atomic bomb (the director is from Hiroshima) to the closing credits that appear to be part of some seventies Japanese variety show to Mac's severed head taking a bite out of Fantasy's ass to pretty much everything else.

Anyhoo, that is what I have to say on the subject of the Weird Weird World of Nobuhiko Obayashi's Gleefully Mad & Demented, and Brilliantly Batshitcrazy Hausu. My only other request is that you go out and watch Hausu. If you have any sense of cinematic love, you will not regret your decision. If you do, well it's only 88 minutes, and you probably don't have any friends anyway. But before I go, please allow me one more shamelessly decadent image from this shamelessly batshitcrazy movie, the aforementioned Mac's severed head taking a bite out of Fantasy's ass. This movie that will bore into you freakin' soul and lay eggs that will later hatch and become a billion batshitcrazy babies ready to devour your mind with insane catchy pictures and tunes that will never leave your head. A demented infinity for us all!!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. Now here's that ass-biting image I promised ya'll.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Alphabet Game: Spooktakular Edition

Hello, and welcome to The Alphabet Game, where I take a look at 26 different things in one common category. This edition is a very special haunted edition. The Spooktakular edition, if you will. Have fun..

A is for Adventure Into Fear - Adventure Into Fear was an anthology series put out by Marvel Comics back in the early 1970's. The series ran for 31 issues, and started life as a sci-fi monster anthology, reprinting several stories from Marvel's pre-superhero Silver Age horror and fantasy comics. With issue #10, the series began to feature Man-Thing (a character who appeared just one month before DC debuted Swamp Thing - so neither one is really a rip-off of the other!!) and then with issue #20, switched over to Morbius, The Living Vampire (who had already appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man) as the main star. The big news though, at least in my mind, comes with issue #19. In this issue we are given the debut of Howard the Duck. And despite that rather lame 1986 movie, or maybe in spite of that damn movie, Howard is one of the best comic book characters out there. Don't let that damn movie make you think otherwise.

B is for the Bates Motel - As a teenager, my mother went to the drive-in to see Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. She would have been about thirteen or fourteen at the time. Ever since then, the woman will not take a shower if she is alone in the house. Nowadays, TV viewers know The Bates Motel as a creepy Twin Peaks-esque show on A&E, but back in the day, it was the home of Norman Bates (and his mother) in the film that is firmly ensconced in my personal top five films of all-time. Yeah, the show is actually quite good, but the film is a true masterpiece. After all, fifty some years later, and my mother is still afraid of the damn movie. See, it must be good.

C is for Cat People - It is quite a rare thing when a remake can live up to its original source, and even though I do personally prefer the 1942 Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur version to the 1982 Paul Schrader edition, I believe both films to be what one would call near masterpieces. From the original's shadowy brilliance to the latter's slick hubris, oh and both Simone Simon and Nastassja Kinski in the lead roles (how can that not be a great thing!?), the two versions of the moody horror classic are both worth watching. Maybe as a double bill some night. Sounds fun.

D is for Dark Shadows - This supernatural soap opera ran from 1966 to 1971, a rather short run by soap opera standards, but I remember it from its syndicated run during the mid-1970's. But more than the soap opera storylines involving vampires, or even head bloodsucker, Barnabas Collins, it is the board game that I most fondly remember. Seriously, that game was awesomesauce!

E is for Edward Gorey - Fitting in quite suitably with the Alphabet Game, Mr. Gorey, writer/artist and purveyor of the cutely macabre (he and Chas. Addams are the unwitting godfathers of the Goth movement), has written and drawn a lot of books, but his most famous, the one with the biggest cult following, has got to be "The Gashlycrumb Tinies," wherein the author tells the tale of 26 unlucky children, and the 26 different ways, each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet (see, quite suitably indeed), whereupon they meet their untimely deaths. Yup. A is for Amy who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil assaulted by bears. My favourite though is poor little Neville, who died of ennui. Yup.

F is for Final Girl - Any self-respecting horror fan knows perfectly well what a Final Girl is, but just in case you don't happen to be one of these aforementioned self-respecting horror fan, let me 'splain this to ya. The Final Girl is just what it sounds like, or just what she sounds like. At the end of many a horror film, only one character is left standing, and more oft than not, this is a female character. This survivor is, of course, known as the Final Girl. End of story. Huzzah for the Final Girl!!

G is for Giallo Horror - Much like both Universal and Hammer Horror (both coming up later in the game) the Italian based Giallo Horror cycle is considered some of the best of the genre from horror aficionados. Some of these films, involving ones directed by Mario Bava and Dario Argento (among others), are the scariest things you will ever dare watch. So much so that I don't even think I want to go on with this entry. Let's move on, shall we.

H is for Hammer Horror - Back in the early 1930's, Universal Horror was the first big studio horror line to get off the ground (more on them over at the letter U) and it was great...and classic. Then in the 1950's came Hammer Horror. Spewing forth from the UK, and featuring regulars like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Veronica Carlson, these newer films, thanks a lot were more visceral than the Universal lot. Bloodthirsty as Hell...and fun as Hell too!

I is for It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - Debuting in 1966, just one year after the Charlie Brown Christmas Special had its own debut, this is the annual Fall TV tradition that tells of Linus' obsession with the mysterious deity known as the Great Pumpkin. Pagan at its very core, the story of the Great Pumpkin is one of devotion and standing by your beliefs no matter the consequences. After the somewhat Christian-themed X-Mas special from the year before, it's nice to see good ole Chuck Schulz embrace his Pagan roots.

J is for J-Horror - Okay, so far we have discussed Italian horror and the UK's Hammer Horror series. Now it's about time we talk a bit about those highly stylized horror films from the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan. Many of these J-Horror films have been remade, most often poorly, by Hollywood, so even if you have never seen a Japanese horror film, you probably know most of the stories from the mostly inferior US remakes. But just like the Italian horror films above, these are extra scary (I hate when little girls become possessed and do that damn crabwalk thing across the ceiling - hate it!!) so before I creep myself out, I'm gjust going to move on to the letter K...and no, it is not going to be for the K-Horror of Korea.

K is for Kevin - No, not me. My name is spelled better than that. The Kevin I'm talking about is from the film, Cabin in the Woods. For those who've seen the film, please read on. For those who have not, none of the following will make much sense, so sorry 'bout that. Oh yeah, and there might be spoilers ahead, so maybe ya wanna skip ahead to the letter L. Anyhoo, when the behind the scene guys are taking best on the upcoming monsters, we see a wipe board behind them with a list of potential monsters. One of these simply reads...Kevin. Later on in the batshitcrazy finale, we see a murderous unicorn. I like to believe that this unicorn is the aforementioned Kevin. Yup.

L is for Lon Chaney - The Man of A Thousand Faces was the king of the silent horror film. The guy played The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, making over a hundred films in a career that spanned just 18 years, before the actor's death in 1930. And he did all of this as the most independent of artists, donning his own make-up and pretty much putting his face and body through hell with his crazy make-up and costumes. My favourite film of Chaney's is the 1927 film, The Unknown, where Chaney plays Alonzo the Armless, a circus freak who falls in love with the beautiful Nanon, played by the beautiful Joan Crawford, and she with him. There is an O Henry-esque second act, but we won't get into all that. So yeah, that's Lon Chaney, and hey, his son would eventually become the Wolfman.

M is for the Monster Mash - Halloween has never had the kind of musical legacy that Christmas has. I don't think there's any doubt about that. Still though, All Hallows Eve does have one carol we can all sing together. Performed by Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers, it was, and still is, a graveyard smash.

N is for Night of the Living Dead - Thanks to The Walking Dead, zombies are definitely the it monster these days, even if the Z-word is never ever uttered on the show. But there would be no Walking Dead, nor any 28 Days Later, nor any Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake (duh!) without George A. Romero and his 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead. Sure, there were zombie movies before this, and some of them quite enjoyable (I Walked With A Zombie, White Zombie), but it was Romero's super low budget indie flick that started the zombie we all know and love today. Filmed in the countryside around Romero's home base of Pittsburgh, Pa, this little film that could is, in my not-so-humble opinion, one of the best horror films ever made. Hell, it's one of the best films, period.

O is for Oona Goosepimple -  In the 1920's, cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller created a comic called Fritzi Ritz. Eventually this strip would morph into Nancy (Fritzi's precocious niece) and would become one of the most Zen comic strips ever put out there. Eventually, in the 1950's, Nancy would be made into a comic book to go along with Bushmiller's genius strip. Many of these comic books were written by John Stanley of Little Lulu fame. During Stanley's tenure, the character of Oona Goosepimple popped into existence. Oona was a creepy little girl who lived in a haunted house and who would force Nancy to be her friend through magic spells and her monster buddies. Granted, Oona's kind of a rip-off of Wednesday Addams, who predates Oona by a couple of decades, but we like her around here.

P is for Pennywise the Clown - There are many out there who are deathly afraid of clowns. The evil-version of the circus performer has been a stalwart in horror cinema for many many years. I personally have no fear of clowns, finding them more annoying than frightening, but if one must pick and choose their favourite horror movie clown, I suppose one could do no better than Pennywise, from Stephen King's It, as played wonderfully by Tim Curry. Of course, Mr. Curry is better known for his lead role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but more on that a couple letters down.

Q is for Q - The Winged Serpent - This 1982 fantasy/horror film is about the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl taking up residence on the top of the Chrysler Building. The film is not really all that great, but Michael Moriarty's lead performance stands out. One story goes that when Rex Reed met the film's producer, Samuel Z. Arkoff, he said of the film, "What a surprise! All that dreck, and right in the middle of it, a great method performance by Michael Moriarty!" Arkoff replied, "The dreck was my idea."

R is for The Rocky Horror Picture Show - When asked which movie I have seen more than any other, my answer must invariably be The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sure, there are other films that I have seen dozens of times (Star Wars, Breakfast Club, Pulp Fiction, The Princess Bride, Goodfellas), but none of those can compete with a film I have seen more than a thousand times. Yeah, that's right, more than a thousand times. As I am sure most of you know, Rocky Horror, or RHPS if you will, is a bit of a cult film. Perhaps not as much these days as back in the 1980's, but still a cult classic it most definitely be. As one of those who acted out the film in front of a live audience every Friday and Saturday night, first as part of a 1986 cast then later as part of a wholly different 1991-92 cast, the film has played behind me hundreds of times. Not to mention all the times I watched the film so I could practice my moves. And speaking of those moves, at one time or another, I have played every character, but more often than not, I was Riff-Raff. I loved playing Riff, but I also quite enjoyed playing Frank and especially Columbia. I loved her dance number. Oh, and yes, every performance was in full costume.

S is for Steele, Barbara Steele - Yeah, Jamie Lee Curtis may be called the Scream Queen, but long before the actress began her screaming in 1978's Halloween, there was Barbara Steele, the Queen of Horror. In such classic horror films as Mario Bava's Black Sunday and Roger Corman's The Pit and the Pendulum, the beautiful and enigmatic Miss Steele was the epitome of classy (and sexy) horror.

T is for The Tomb of Dracula - Even though the so-called House of Ideas was known for its wide array of superhero comic books, one of the best books Marvel Comics ever put out wasn't even a superhero comic at all. In 1971, the Comics Code Authority relaxed some of its rules regarding horror comics, and Marvel Comics leapt at the opportunity, releasing Tomb of Dracula #1 in 1972. Written (mostly) by Marv Wolfman and drawn by the late great Gene Colan, the series ran for 70 issues, ending in 1979, making it the longest running comic book series to be headlined by a villain. The series was groundbreaking with great storylines and some of the best art to ever be seen in a comic book. And there was even a black and white magazine format too.

U is for Universal Horror - I toldjya we would be getting to Universal Horror eventually. Although these classic 1930's and 1940's horror films involved many an actor and/or character, the most remembered gang included Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Wolfman, Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein's Monster and his Bride, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon. These films were more than mere horror though. Many of these films involved production staff (directors, writers, cinematographers) that came out of the German Expressionist movement, and it showed in the look and feel of many of these films. Classic and moody. Yeah. And hey, there were lots of cool toys to go along with these guys as well.

V is for Vampires, When They Were Cool - Remember when vampires were cool? Back before they twinkled and sparkled in the evening sun, vampires were the kings of the horror scene. From Dracula to Nosferatu to the goddamn Lost Boys, vampires used to be cool dammit!! Now we get these Twilight mamby-pambies with their sensitive souls and all that crap. Thanks a lot Stephenie Meyer. Thanks a lot for ruining the coolness of vampires. Fucking bitch!!

W is for Wednesday Addams - She is creepy and kooky. In fact she is altogether ooky. But this is why Wednesday Addams was the coolest thing this side of Cousin Itt. But little Miss Addams is more than a mere little girl who decapitated her dolls. She would eventually become a sex symbol. Well, kinda. It's not as creepy as it sounds...or maybe it is. Granted, it is kind of a strange thing that the image of a creepy preteen girl from a comic strip and later TV show, would become one of the hottest (and I do mean hottest in every aspect of the word) Halloween costume ideas of modern times. I suppose the dark long pigtails, knee highs and severed dolls head on a string, is the goth/nerd's version of the Catholic school girl outfit. And yes, I have pics of my lovely wife all Wednesday'd out for Halloween, but I'm not showing them to any of you!

X is for The X-Files - So, I was trying, somewhat desperately, to come up with the final few entries for this here Spooktakular Edition of the good ole Alphabet Game, and I decided to ask the lovely little missus if she had any bright ideas. When I asked about the letter X, she looked at me like I was an idiot, and said, "Um...The X-Files!?" So yeah, then I felt like the idiot she was looking at. Anyhoo, so here is my entry on The X-Files. But back to the lovely little missus. One time, my wife, and let's call her Amy (that is her name, after all), fell asleep while watching TV. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, long after the sitcom to which she had fallen asleep, she woke up to the sounds of The X-Files, and Scully saying that the severed head just blinked at her. Groggy, and without her glasses, poor Amy was a bit freaked out. But enough about The X-Files. Oh yeah, we didn't really talk about the show anyway, did we?

Y is for Yorick - Alas poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio. Yeah yeah, I know, this Shakespearean character may not be your typical horror staple, but Hamlet does talk to poor Yorick's skull, so there's that. Now let's get on with our final entry...

Z is for Zombie Apocalypse - It's coming. We all know it, even if most of us won't admit it. Then again, maybe it's just me. Sometimes, as I'm walking down my dark street, toward the corner store, or walking through the mall or the supermarket, I find myself going through scenarios in my head. Scenarios involving life after the Zombie Apocalypse happens. And yes, it is when the Zombie Apocalypse happens, not if it does. When...not if. Are you ready?

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. Now run, run from the Zombie Apocalypse!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Heavenly Body of the Week: Zenn-La

"Herald, prepare yourself!!  Prepare to be...REBORN!!" - Galactus to Zenn-Lavian Norrin Radd

Ah, poor Norrin Radd, sacrificing his own well-being and happiness in order to save his planet of Zenn-La from the world devouring hunger beast known as Galactus. Transformed into the Silver Surfer and made to do the world devourerer's bidding, only to be trapped on the alien planet of Earth when he disobeyed. Alas poor Norrin Radd, when shall you soar free once more? Well, any good comic book geek knows how this ends, so there.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The 11 Question Interview Presents Rachel Bloom

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of The 11 Question Interview, wherein I pose eleven esoteric questions to various equally esoteric personalities. Here we go...

So here we are doing our second edition of The11 Question Interview, and this time around we are pleased to have Rachel Bloom with us. Rachel who, you ask? You have not heard of Ms. Rachel Bloom? Well, shame on you. Ms. Bloom is a talented comedy writer and a woman on the verge of big things. She has written for Robot Chicken as well as voice work for both Robot Chicken and Bojack Horseman. Heck, she's even made an appearance on an episode of How I Met Your Mother. But what Rachel Bloom is truly famous for these days are her music videos. The toast of YouTube, Rachel has created some rather hilarious videos, the most notable one being "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury." Yeah, that's right, and it's a Hugo Award nominated video at that. If you want to check out Ms. Bloom's videos (and you really should want to), they can all be viewed oh so conveniently at her own YouTube channel. I must say that "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" is the best video about wanting to have sex with a famous author, that I have ever seen. Seriously, it is. Anyhoo, as I was saying earlier, Rachel Bloom is a woman on the verge. As we speak, the writer/singer/actor is doing a pilot for Showtime, called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. But for now, let's just get to those 11 questions.

Update: Ms. Bloom is currently the Emmy Nominated & Golden Globe winning star of the CW show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Pretty kool, huh?


If you woke up tomorrow as an animal, which animal would you want to be, and why?
  • My dog, because I would want to be scratched on my belly by myself.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • I wanted to be pretty much what I am doing right now except married to Macaulay Culkin and living in a world in which animated characters were sentient.

Who was your first celebrity crush?
  • Alan Rickman in the movie, Dogma.  For many years, my ultimate fantasy was to be with an older British man who didn't give a fuck about me.

If you could choose one person from throughout history, real or fictional, to have a beer with, who would that one person be, and why?
  • Benjamin Franklin, because I think he would really appreciate all the dead baby jokes I learned in high school.

If you were on that proverbial desert island, and could bring just three things, what would those three things be?
  • The Harry Potter series, my laptop, and Chapstick (because it's a desert island).  If each book in Harry Potter counts as one thing, then I would bring The Prisoner of Azkaban, Half Blood Prince, and Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them.

If they made a movie of your life, who would play you?
  • Eddie Murphy - he's so versatile!!

With which cartoon character would you most like to trade places?
  • Jessica Rabbit, because I've always wanted to have sex with an animated rabbit (for more info, please see my answer to what I wanted to be when I grew up).

If you could choose your own nickname, what would it be, and why?
  • When I was in elementary school, I tried to get everyone to call me Ray-J. It didn't stick. I would choose that.

What would you expect to see written on your gravestone?
  • Rachel Bloom - SAG Eligible

If you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you have, and why?
  • I would have thousand island dressing because my ultimate goal is to travel to all 1,000 islands on planet Earth. That's where that name comes from, right?

If you could choose any two celebrities, from any time period, to be your parents, whom would you choose?
  • Stephen Sondheim and Leonardo da Vinci. Two gay genius dads?! Yes, please!!!

I want to thank Rachel Bloom for being here today. Again, her videos can be found on YouTube. You might also want to check out Ms. Bloom's official website, Rachel Does Stuff, or maybe even follow her on Twitter. I'll be back sometime soonish, with a brand new, I mean interviewee for the next installment of The 11 Question Interview. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Film Review: David Fincher's Gone Girl

The basic idea behind David Fincher's Gone Girl, is not whether Ben Affleck's character really did kill his missing wife, or even why, if he did, but rather how such a person is perceived by the public in today's modern world of all-encompassing 24/7 (and then some) media. Now such an idea may have been rather novel a decade ago, or even relatively intriguing a mere five years ago, but today it just seems a bit tired - a bit obvious. Yes, we know that social media is everywhere. Yes, we know that people are found guilty in the media all the time. Yes yes yes. None of this is new news. None of this shocks us anymore, which brings us to the other problem this film has going for it - or against it, as it were. Nothing here shocks us at all - even the things that are meant to shock us. And these are the flaws that turn what should be a tense thriller, the kind of film we have come to expect, even in the unexpected, from a director like Fincher, into just another suspense drama - but one bereft of any real suspense.

Now perhaps that opening salvo was a bit too harsh a criticism on Fincher's film. I am sure under less capable hands, the film would have fallen hard into exploitative typical Hollywood melodrama. Under Fincher's thumb, the film does have the director's cold and calculating style in spades, and is told in the most precise yet seemingly effortless manner we have come to expect from the auteur, but even with such a feel (a feel added to by Oscar winners Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross' score) it is hard for one to get past the rather heavy handed philosophies set forth in the film. Cheap theatrics and silly, obvious cliches abound. Granted, Ben Affleck does a fine job, and Rosamund Pike is pretty much pitch perfect, even in a role that leans toward the over-dramatic. Hell, even Tyler Perry is good in the film. Now there's something you don't hear every day. Seriously though, this is probably Fincher's weakest film (we are conveniently leaving Alien 3 out of the equation), but even Fincher's weakest is better than most of what we are handed these days in mainstream filmmaking. But it is not so much a dislike for the film so much as a disappointment at it not being what I was hoping it would be.

As I stated earlier, there is no suspense here. None whatsoever. I don't want to give out any of those dreaded spoilers, but I do not believe this film has any spoilers, as every single twist and turn can be seen the proverbial mile away. And this is something David Fincher is always good at doing. Even in a film like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, in which we knew exactly what was going to happen (it was a remake, duh), the auteur manages to shock and even surprise. In the director's brilliantly batshitcrazy Se7en, there are scenes where I knew what was going to happen, but even when that exact thing happened, I leapt out of my seat, figuratively, but almost literally as well. In film after film, from Fight Club to The Social Network to Zodiac (my personal favourite), even The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (the one other hole in the director's otherwise peerless oeuvre), Fincher has given us shock and awe in spades, clubs, hearts, and diamonds, but here, in Gone Girl, it just all seems to be missing. Even though this film is better than most of the Hollywood schlock coming from the studios these days (they really don't make 'em like they used to!) Fincher can, and most certainly has done better. The film does have something going for it though, and this is something I never believed I would ever type into a film review: Tyler Perry is great in the film. Yeah, I said it. Now go home and watch Fight Club.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Heavenly Body of the Week: The Brick Moon

In 1869, a short story began to be published serially, in The Atlantic Monthly. The story was written by Edward Everett hale, and even though Jules Verne was writing about space travel at the time, this story is considered the first work of fiction to depict an actual space station. This space station was made entirely of bricks, hence the name, and is the true precursor of the science fiction genre. Huzzah!!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Happy Boss' Day: The 10 Most Heinous Fictional Bosses

Down with all bosses!! Viva la revolution!! Seriously though, there are some bad bosses out there. Some spectacularly bad bosses. And we are here today, on National Bosses Day, to um,, celebrate these bosses. These spectacularly bad bosses. These most heinous of bosses. I have had a few bad bosses in my day. Most recently it was my boss at a little arthouse cinema my wife and I used to run. A conniving little man who cared only about the bottom line, looking good in the press, and handing jobs to his friends and family. But I digress. This list is about those most heinous of bosses. My boss at the cinema was a jackass (so much so, that months after letting us go, to replace us with his friends, he was still trying to stop us from getting new jobs) but he is real, all too real, and this list is for the fictional. So again, I digress. Some bad bosses that just weren't heinous enough to make the list include Cosmo Spacely of Spacely Sprockets, Mr. Slate (whatever his first name may be) of the Slate Rock & Gravel Company, Hazzard County's very own Boss Hogg, Dr. Gregory House, Seinfeld's Mr. Pitt (and possibly Seinfeld's version of George Steinbrenner as well), Jeff Sheldrake from The Apartment, Franklin Hart, Jr. from 9 to 5, any and all the bosses from the movie Horrible Bosses (obviously), and my old boss at the cinema (had to throw him in again). Yup. So, without further ado, let's get on with it. Oh, and by the by, is it Boss' Day or Bosses Day? I know it is definitely not Boss's Day. But anyhoo, I digress.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

Special Mention: Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross

Technically, Blake (played by Alec Baldwin in the film version) isn't the boss of the sales team in Glengarry Glen Ross, but he is the guy who is sent by the bosses, in order to so-called motivate the salesmen. And by motivate, we of course, mean scare the fucking shit out of them. But alas, even though he is as big a prick as any old boss, he is not the boss, so Blake only gets a special mention here. The fucking fuck!

Special Mention: Tony Soprano & Michael Corleone

Ya know what? You are working for a mob boss. It should not come as any kind of surprise when they turn out to be bosses from freakin' Hell. They are mob bosses! Bosses in the mob! Yeah, they might be a little on the hellish side to work for. Granted, the benefits are great, but the retirement package...not so much. Aaaaaand, since these are obvious heinous bosses, they go on the special mention board instead of the list proper. This was also a not-so-clever way of getting more bad bosses on the list. Now let's move onto the list itself.

10. Michael Scott/David Brent/Bill Lumbergh

Basicaly these are all the same guy. True, two of them kind of are versions of each other (duh!), but all three are terrible bosses. Whether it be Steve Carrell from The Office or Ricky Gervais from the original UK version or even Gary Cole as the office manager in Office Space, you get nothing but a gaggle of middle management douchebags, all believing they have more power than they actually do. Someday they will find themselves in some sort of cubicle'd middle management Hell, just like they put there hapless employees through.

9. Mr. Dithers

Poor hapless Dagwood Bumstead. Poor mailman-knocking-over Dagwood Bumstead. He is always running late, and then has to put up with Mr. Dithers when he does finally rush and bumble into work.I mean, the guy has repeatedly physically abused Dagwood - with no repercussions. Really? Shouldn't Dagwood go to the police or the better business bureau, or some such place? But then again, Dithers can be a softee sometimes...sometimes! Overall, the man is an abusive lout, and a definite boss from Hell!!

8. Dr. Evil

Yeah, in the end he was a big ole softee, but as a boss, he was kind of a big old douche. Trap doors to send undesirable employees to their fiery deaths. Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their frickin' heads! Yeah, not the best boss material. Hell, look what he did to his own son, when he was working for him. Yeah sure, in the end, Dr. Evil sides with Austin, and helps to save the world, but before that...sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their frickin' heads!

7. Ari Gold

A total fuckin' prick, this one. A racist, sexist, homophobic, loud-mouthed total fuckin' prick! Now this is a field I would not want to be part of, being one of the most cut throat businesses out there, and therefore, perhaps his employees know what they are getting into. But still, have I mentioned what a total fuckin' prick this guy is? I have? Good. Granted, Jeremy Piven plays his Entourage character to the very tip top of perfection, which is why we hate him so. But a love/hate thing, right? Hey, I don't have to work for the prick.

6. J. Jonah Jameson

Over at DC's Daily Planet, Clark and Lois have a tough, but quite fair, and often a big softee, of a boss, but his Marvel counterpart, J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle, is not so fair or even a softee. Bellowing out orders to everyone around him, as if he were a rabid dog, JJJ is truly the comic's biggest and baddest boss from H..E..double hockey sticks. Poor Pater Parker. He comes in with then best photogs, and gets nothing but aggression from his cigar chompin' boss. And really, what is with all the Spidey hate?

5. C. Montgomery Burns

Sure, Mr. Smithers quite enjoys the abuse spewed upon him by his boss, but he's a masochist, so what does he know. As for Mr. Burns' other Springfield employees, it's not such a pleasant place to work. Hell, it is a nuclear power plant to begin with, and then throw in one of the worst bosses in television history, and ya got one Hell of a bad time at work. Perhaps Homer would have been happier if he had gone the Smithers route, and became a love-starved masochist. Then maybe Mr. Burns would not have seemed so bad.

4. Miranda Priestly

I know, calling Miranda Priestly, as played by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, a bitch, might be construed as sexist by some over sensitive mamby-pamby.types, but bitch is the word I'm sticking with? Not so thinly based on real life boss from Hell, Anna Wintour, Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Miranda Priestly is truly a bitch from Hell, as well as a boss from Hell. Hell, I hear that one needs to gird their loins, when she enters the office. I wonder if Ms. Wintour was ever actually this bad. Let's hope not.

3. Gordon Gekko

Sure, Miranda Priestly may be a wicked ass boss, but even at her worst, she was never the reason you went to prison, like Gordon Gekko's protege played by Charlie "I'm not winning here" Sheen. Yeah, that's the kind of boss that Gordon Gekko is. Michael Douglas' iconic 1980's movie character is easily one of the worst bosses anyone could ever dream of having. Then again, it was all about greed (which apparently, for lack of a better word, is good) and that can never lead to anything good. And he is a bitch from Hell too.

2. Ebenezer Scrooge

Yeah, yeah, I know. After Scrooge's Christmas Eve visitors got done with him, he was a new man, and a new boss, but it is his pre-Christmas antics that put him in the number two spot her. Yeah, you may have been a good guy in the end, but before that, you were a true boss from Hell. No bonuses, little pay to begin with, no charity, long working hours, greed and deception, and you even were going to let a little crippled boy die. Seriously dude, what the fuck was wrong with you. And don't give us any of that last minute Hail Mary crap. So ya went and bought Tiny Tim and his family a Christmas goose. If it hadn't been for those ghosts, you would have let him die, all because you had no respect for his father as an employee. you piece of shit you. But I digress.

1. Darth Vader

Granted, Vader could have easily gone the way of the aforementioned mob boss special mentions. I mean, come on, you take a job working for Darth Vader, you kind of have it coming. He is Darth Freakin' Vader after all. Sure, in the end, the very end, good ole Anakin pops out and Vader does the right thing, but before that, he is certainly one of those bosses from Hell, we have heard speak of. I guess in all reality, Darth Vader is merely middle management, and one could easily make a case for Vader's boss, Emperor Palpatine, as the ultimate boss from Hell. Palpatine never did the right thing in the end, but then, Vader was doing most of his dirty work, so Vader is still the worst, the most heinous of bosses. I've had some bad bosses in my day (see the introduction) but none of them have ever force choked me when I spoke out of turn. Yup.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The 11 Question Interview Presents Bill Griffith

Hello and welcome to the inaugural edition of The 11 Question Interview, wherein I pose eleven esoteric questions to various equally esoteric personalities. Here we go...

I admit that I was a bit of a latecomer when it came to discovering the wonders that are Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead. Even though Griffith began writing and drawing his enigmatic pinhead back in 1971, I did not come across his creation until 1988, already old enough to drink even. I had just gotten a job at a local bookstore (back when the world had such things as local bookstores) and I was goofing off one day, as I am prone to do, and found myself browsing through the comic strip section. It was a goddamn revelation. A goddamn one, indeed. Quite esoteric (Griffith included himself in the strip, as the character of Griffy), and quite confusing to anyone who is on what one would call a normal mindset (damn Plebeians!), Zippy made his first appearance in Real Pulp Comix #1, back in 1971, before becoming a regular in The Berkeley Barb, a seminal underground rag of the so-called counter-culture era, before becoming what one might call a cultural phenomenon. Yeah, I said cultural phenomenon. Whatchya gonna do about it!? But yes, a phenom he was. So much so that Hollywood even wanted to make a movie version once upon a time. Of course that would have ruined the essence of Zippy, so Griffy gave an emphatic hell no - eventually.

Anyhoo, Mr. Bill Griffith, the creator of all the dementia that is Zippy and his fellow Dingburg denizens, is sort of a legend in the underground comix and cartoonist world, so it is with great pride, and great pleasure that I have him be part of the brand new regular feature, The 11 Question Interview. And to have him as the inaugural questionee at that! Mr. Griffith has had work published in a myriad of publications, from The New Yorker to High Times, from National Lampoon to The Village Voice. All things Zippy can be seen at this here website. He really is quite famous ya know. To be honest (full disclosure and all that) this is not actually my first personal experience with the great Bill Griffith. Not my first time at the Zippy rodeo, so to speak. Back during the Summer of 2013, I was trying my hand at being a cartoonist. I had created a strip called La-La & Lu-Lu. One of the biggest influences on said strip, was Bill Griffith and his Zippy the Pinhead. So, that being the case, I drew up a strip that is directly Zippy inspired. I dedicated it to Bill and Zippy, and sent it off for a possible endorsement from the legend himself. I figured nothing would come of it, but lo and behold, Griffy said he liked it. Imagine that? So, with all this in mind, I sent my 11 questions off to Mr. Bill Griffith, and here be his replies. Have at 'em! Are we having fun yet?


If you were told you had to have a spirit animal, even if you didn't want one, which animal would that be, and why?
  • As long as we're in the fantasy realm, I'd like to be a woolly mammoth. Because I would be at the top of the food chain.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • First a scientist, then an inventor, then a writer. I never wanted to be a cartoonist as a kid. I thought comics were created by printing presses, with no human input. (See "Nancy" by Ernie Bushmiller)

If you could choose one person from throughout history, real or fictional, to have a beer with, who would that one person be, and why?
  • Ernie Bushmiller, the creator of the "Nancy" comic strip. I recognize him as a comics genius today, but I'd like to know if he understood the depth and importance of his creation or if he was some kind of naive folk artist. I suspect I would be surprised at a third possibility I'd never imagined.

What is the most bizarre experience of your life?
  • In 1975, after drawing my Zippy character for 4 years, a friend showed me a book on circus history. My Zippy was partly inspired by the Barnum &  Bailey Sideshow pinhead, "Zip the What-is-it?", but I knew nothing of his past (he died in 1926). I opened the book to a section on sideshow freaks, and there was a short bio of Zip---I saw that his birth name was William Henry Jackson. My full name is William Henry Jackson Griffith. A small explosion went off inside my brain. I guess I was meant to do Zippy.

If you had to live the rest of your life inside a comic strip (other than the obvious one), which comic strip would it be?
  • "Nancy". We live in a messy, chaotic world. But life is reduced to its never-changing, basic essentials in Bushmiller Country. Three rocks. Plopped perfectly on a manicured lawn. A fence. A tree. A sidewalk. A curb. What more do we need?

If you were to choose one movie, song, or book title that best describes your life, what would that movie, song, or book title be?
  • "Being and Nothingness" by Jean-Paul Sartre

What is the best present you have ever received?
  • A Jerry Mahoney ventriloquist's dummy when I was seven.

You are a new addition to the crayon box, what colour would you be, and why?
  • Plaid. Because it clashes with everything.

If you were on that proverbial desert island, and could bring just three things, what would those three things be?
  • Joan Rivers, Donald Trump and a jar of Vaseline.

What would you expect to see written on your gravestone?
  • Am I dead yet?

I know that Zippy once ran for President, but if you had to vote for any other cartoon or comic book/strip character to be Commander-in-Chief (maybe as a follow-up to Zippy's 8 year run in the White House) for whom would you cast your vote, and why?
  • Woody Woodpecker, because he'd drive the Tea Party insane with his incessant yammering and then it would be revealed that Woody was just a puppet President, controlled by Judge Judy.

So there ya have it. I would like to thank Mr. Bill Griffith for taking part in this, the inaugural edition of The 11 Question Interview. It has been an honour to have him around. I will return soon with a brand new interview and a brand new interviewee. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Walking Dead: The Zombie at its Apocalyptic Apex

In Robert Kirkman's seminal zombie apocalypse comic book, published by the fine folks over at Image Comics, the character of Rick Grimes explains to us that it isn't the undead walkers who are the walking dead, but that it is them, the survivors, those trudging through this post-apocalyptic wasteland, wondering if life will ever be normal again, who are the actual walking dead. This metaphor is never explicitly discussed in AMC's hit adaptation of the comic, but the feeling is still the same. Yes, the walkers may be a seemingly unending, undefeatable horde of monsters from Hell, but those who have survived, and fight on to see another day, are indeed the true walking dead. Their lives destroyed, their loved ones dead and gone (or sometimes not quite gone), everything they knew in the world turned on its proverbial head, morality changing by the minute, these walking dead go on and on, in a most likely vain attempt at restoring balance to the universe - a universe that has seemingly gone crazy, gone to literal Hell on Earth. And it is in this vein, this desperate, nightmarish vein, that causes The Walking Dead to be the best damn show on television these days. At least that's my opinion. Take it for what it's worth.

Granted, The Walking Dead TV show has had more than its share of haters, detractors, and nay-sayers (some overly-analytic Monday morning psychiatrists have even called the show racist, ridiculously claiming the dead are metaphors for the African-American) and has never gotten the kind of respect from Emmy voters that shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and even Game of Thrones have, but that hasn't stopped the show from gaining the most rabid of fan bases, as well as setting ratings records for cable television shows. Now I understand many being put off due to the genre (my wife can't watch the show because of the gore factor getting to her) and such a show just not being everyone's thing, but it really is a quality show. Not just a cult show, but a legitimately well-done show. I understand the Emmy snubs (at least in part) due to the show's genre, but then fantasy shows like Game of Thrones or other horror shows such as American Horror Story, have been rewarded in the past. I think any Emmy voter who did not include Melissa McBride on their Best Supporting Actress ballot this past season, needs to look at the flowers. Those who have not seen the show, will not get that last reference, but trust me, if you were a regular Walking Dead viewer, hat would be freaking hilarious. But hey, I didn't come here to lambaste Emmy voters or cry about how some people hate the show (though certain critics of the show do sound like totally clueless morons). No sir, I came here, on the eve of the show's season 5 opener, to talk about The Walking Dead. So let's get to that, shall we?

When the show debuted in October of 2010, its rather short six episode first season, quickly became a cultural phenomenon. With characters such as the born leader Rick (Andrew Lincoln), his rather annoying wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), their troublesome kid Carl (Chandler Riggs), the hotheaded Shane (Jon Berthnal), the voice of reason Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), the voice of anti-reason Andrea (Laurie Holden), and the ex-pizza delivery guy with a heart of gold Glenn (Steven Yeun), the show became a hit. This wasn't just another zombie story, full of gore and guts and lots of flesh-eating (though it did have these things in spades), but instead was a story of society and survival, loyalty and morality. Kirkman, along with series developer Frank Darabont (the latter of whom is no longer attached to the show), took a cue from George Romero's zombie series, especially Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, and gave the series a sense of dread and doom, but layered with a still breathing humanity. As the series moved along, and other characters were thrown in (Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon quickly went from bit player to the most popular survivor in the show's four year history), we saw the original humanity erode further and further away. As other living humans became just as dangerous as the walking dead, and as society tumbled further and further away from memory, the show has gotten darker and darker, and even though my favourite season so far, has been the second one, the one spent on the farm (I think that season had the perfect blend of humanism and moral questioning) I do believe the show has, in turn, become a thing of Grand Guignol resplendence.

The show has had some great moments (turn away now, before any spoilers come your way) such as Carl's evolution from bratty kid with an attitude to stone cold killer of the undead (and sometimes the still living when necessarily), the time Shane had to take down Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) in order to save himself, and in turn help save Carl (sorry Otis, but I would have done the exact same thing!), the emergence of The Governor (David Morrissey) as a major threat, the addition of the katana wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira), the rise of Carol (the aforementioned Emmy snubee, Melissa McBride) from battered wife to assassin, the return of the Captain Hook-esque Meryl Dixon (the great Michael Rooker!!) as my favourite character, and his going-out-a-hero ending, that scene back in season 2 when they opened the barn, and what all came out (the best damn fifteen minutes the show has ever known), poor little misunderstood Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) and those damn flowers she loved so much, that porn movie moment between Glenn and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in the drug store, the tragic losses of T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Hershel (Scott Wilson), and  slew of others. Even the smaller moments (Carl eating all that pudding or Spaghetti Tuesdays) are fun. Sure, there have been some somewhat stupid moments as well, like when Andrea's life was at stake, and she kept taking time out from her attempted escape to talk to Milton. Seriously Andrea? It's called multi-tasking. Give it a try, you might still be alive if you had!! But I digress.

Now we enter the fifth season, and we find our intrepid heroes trapped inside the confines of a cannibalistic hideaway. Whatever will happen? Well, I'm sure it will be quite intense. In fact, from all I have read on the season 5 opener, they are going to be hard pressed to follow up this episode. The show differs from the comic enough that we never know what's coming next, which is part of what keeps the show, and its viewers, on all of our proverbial toes. The fact that any character (and to all you Daryl lovers out there, I do mean ANY character) can at any time, bite the dust, keeps it all rather intense as well. And even though, as I stated above, I personally consider season 2 to be the best, this show, right here and right now, is the Zombie at its apocalyptic apex. Not that the term zombie has ever been used in the show. Anyhoo, I plan on watching until the undead cows come home (already, several days before season 5 begins, AMC has renewed the show for a sixth season) even if it does seem like forever during the extra long wait time between seasons. But now, it's finally here. Almost time to watch. Yeah, baby!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Heavenly Body of the Week: Zombie Planet

In honour of The Walking Dead finally returning for its fifth season this Sunday (seriously, it has felt like forever since season 4 ended), we here at All Things Kevyn, as well as all those dedicated folks over at the Heavenly Body of the Week Space Database, give you (drumroll please) Zombie Planet!!

The Zombie Planet, called that for its seeming rise from the grave of academic observation (ie, astronomers thought it was no longer a planet, but just a big dust cloud in space, until they found it it truly is a planet after all), more than for eating the fleshy worlds of other planets, is actually named Fomalhaut b. This is not near as great a name as Zombie Planet. The planet, which orbits around its sun once every 2000 Earth years, is about three times the size of Jupiter, and it will eat your brai....oh, sorry. Anyway, I included a comic strip called Brewster Rockit, created by Tim Rickard, which I thought might fit in with the theme. 

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Who Dat?: The 10 Best Unseen, or Mostly Unseen, TV Characters

Seriously, who is that? That disembodied voice over the phone or intercom system? Those quick glimpses of the back of someone's head? That bellowing from the other room? Or sometimes nothing at all, just someone being spoken of or to? Well these are those (mostly) unseen characters of TV legend and lore. Sometimes these characters are an annoying neighbor, like the fence peaking Wilson on Home Improvement. Sometimes they are that weird girl from school, like Angela Valentine on Leave it to Beaver. Sometimes they are an aloof husband like Phyllis's always absent , and sometimes philandering hubby, Lars Lindstrom, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Sometimes it's a waitress upon whom to pine, such as Barney Fife's crush, Juanita, on The Andy Griffith Show. There's nothing half so sweet as Juanita, Juanita, Juanit. Sometimes it's a school bully like The Gooch on Diff'rent Strokes. Sometimes it's a shady go-to guy like Bob Sacamano on Seinfeld. Sometimes it's the wouldbe heartthrob of a high school band, like the never present, but always mentioned Tino, in My So-Called Life. Hell, sometimes it's the actual president of the United States, like the unnamed, unaffiliated, and quite unseen POTUS on Veep. But none of these (mostly) unseen characters made our actual list. Perhaps we should get on with that list.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

Special Mention: George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld

We probably see more of this character than any other on this list. Well, at least we spend a lot of time looking at the back of his head, while he yells at George or rambles on about whatever the hell it is he rambles on about. This character also holds something special that none of the others on this list do. He's actually a real person (which is why he's listed as a special mention, instead of being on the list proper). Well, it's not actually the real George Steinbrenner, the man who made the modern New York Yankees, but instead it is series co-creator Larry David, doing his rambling, often screaming voice. And we love him.

10. Mrs. Columbo

Never seen and never heard, this character was only ever mentioned by her husband, Lt. Columbo, aka Peter Falk, in the 1970's cop show, Columbo. At first, some assumed that there was no such person as Mrs. Columbo, and perhaps she was merely a figment of the detective's imagination. Eventually other characters spoke of knowing her though, so that theory went out the window. Eventually though, there was a spin-off called, appropriately enough, Mrs. Columbo. This show starred Kate Mulgrew as the titular character, and in this series, Mr. Columbo is never mentioned, only alluded to. Hmmm? Eventually, the writers distanced Mulgrew's character from the original series. Hmmm??

9. Ugly Naked Guy

Granted, we do get to see most of him (sans the obvious parts) in a later episode, when Ross attempts to woo him in order to get his apartment when he moves out, but mostly, Ugly Naked Guy is just talked about by the six friends of Friends. Sure, they poke him with a stick in an episode, fashioned from taped together chopsticks no less, and stretched across the street and into his window. Really? That sounds a bit implausible, but hey, if you question things like that, then you probably have to question why the best seats in the coffee shop are never taken by anyone other than our six not so intrepid friends. Oh well.

8. Diane

"Diane, I'm holding in my hand a small box of chocolate bunnies." This is one of many quotes spoken by Twin Peaks resident FBI Agent Dale Cooper, played by Kyle MacLachlan, into his portable tape recorder. Apparently, this sentence, as well as all the others spoken into said tape recorder, are meant to be played for the benefit of Agent Cooper's never seen assistant, Diane. The fun thing here is that Kyle MacLachlan was actually nominated for a Best Spoken Word Grammy for his recording of these aforementioned tape recordings.

7. Stan Walker

Rich, enormous, and never seen, Karen's behemoth meal ticket of a first husband on Will & Grace could surely give Ugly Naked Guy a run for his money at any buffet - not that Ugly Naked Guy would be allowed in. On Will & Grace though, all we got were Karen's snide and snarky comments about poor hapless Stan's gluttony, and the things she must do in order to keep her man happy, and the jewels and clothes coming. I think we have seen a chubby foot when they were in the bath together, but I'm not sure. Eventually the writers killed Stan off, only to have it be faked (oh, spoiler...sorry), but eventually Stan and Karen do get divorced, and she goes on to marry John Cleese, who we all get to see and hear.

6. Cousin Jeffrey

Seinfeld had several never seen characters (one of 'em is even spoken of in the intro) but none were quite as elusive, and quite as annoying to Jerry, than his cousin Jeffrey. Hello! Uncle Leo is always bringing up the wondrous exploits of his do-gooder (read: can do no wrong) son, making sure to passive-aggressively taunt Jerry with these impossible to outdo (at least in Uncle Leo's world) Jeffrey antics. Stupid Cousin Jeffrey.

5. Mrs. Debbie Wolowitz

Actually, bellowing from the other room, Howard's over-bearing, demonstrative mother on The Big Bang Theory, may be the one to give Stan Walker a run for his money at that aforementioned buffet. We've caught glimpses of Howard's mom on occasion, but mainly she's a voice only character, played by Carol Ann Susi, an actress who has been a slew of shows over the past two decades. The closest we've come to "seeing" Debbie Wolowitz, is when Howard's wife, Bernadette, does the pitch perfect, and quite scary, impression. We do get an aerial shot of the mother of the groom at Howard and Bernadette's rooftop wedding (see above). 

4. Vera Peterson
The classic, or at least semi-classic, unseen TV wife. The oft-maligned wife of Cheers stalwart, Norm Peterson, is much talked about throughout the show's eleven season run, and even glimpsed once (face obscured by a food fight pie to the kisser), during a Thanksgiving episode. Norm may have belly-ached about poor Vera, and may have stayed at the bar for way too long, but we all know that Norm loved Vera, and even fought a guy for her in one episode. Ain't love grand?

3. Carlton, the Doorman

Voiced by Lorenzo Music, the co-creator of The Bob Newhart Show and writer on Rhoda, the very show upon which his husky, drunken-seeming voice was heard for five seasons, Carlton Your Doorman was the snarky, obnoxious, and a bit on the nosy side, doorman in the NYC building which Valerie Harper's Rhoda Morgenstern lived. Carlton Your Doorman, which is how Music always opened his intercom conversations, actually received his own animated spin-off in 1980. Granted, this series lasted exactly one episode (a failed pilot), but we do get to see the character finally, even if he is a cartoon at this point.

2. Maris Crane

We've had a couple comically overweight characters on the list so far, so to be fair, here is a comically underweight one. Maris Crane, the first wife of Niles Crane on Frasier, is known for being a rich, spoiled, body-obsessed, wisp of a woman. Sure, Niles may have married her for her money, but after years of emotional heartache, the fussy psychiatrist finally ends things with his meal ticket. Eventually he will find his way to his long pined for Daphne (after a few situational hiccups), but the comically waif-like Maris will never be forgotten.

1. Charlie Townsend

How could we not end this list with such a character as this? The disembodied voice of John Forsythe, Blake Freakin' Carrington himself (though in his pre-Dynasty days) emanating from that speaker phone, telling his bevy of dangerous beauties, what they needed to do each week. And his Angels listened. Anything for Charlie. This never seen character held sway over the likes of Farrah Fawcett (Fawcett-Majors at the time), Kate Jackson, Jacklyn Smith, Ceryl Ladd, Shelly Hack, and Tanya Roberts. It's good work if you can get it.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.