Sunday, June 24

Alice Cooper - It's the Little Things

Thought I'd post a quick music video from Alice Cooper expressing some similar sentiments to yesterday's post on critics... IT"S THE LITTLE THINGS - Give em hell, Alice!

Friday, June 22

Blogs and Loathing: Movie Critics




I have to admit a bit of a struggle I go through here on the blog from time to time. It is a struggle within my own brain when it comes to reviewing movies. You see, I have real mixed emotions when it comes to critics. For years I thought that most critics are jerks – and with good reason. A lot of them are pretty obnoxious, for a number of reasons. Granted this isn't true of all critics, and there are many out there who are thoughtful, considerate and fair with their criticism. However, many others aren't, and I’ve identified a few of the frequent offenders here…



The Loudmouth

The most prevalent type of negative critic nowadays is the over bearing blow hard loudmouths who like to hear themselves talk and espouse personal opinions that are, of course, 100% correct and anyone who disagrees with them are idiots. I’ve known people like this and read and heard reviews from critics of this mindset. Try to bring up a contrary position and you’re not only wrong you’re a moron, because any opinion outside their own narrow way of thinking is obviously ridiculous. They know it all and feel it's their job to let the world know it as well.

The Narcissist

Then there are the critics who are determined to prove how much smarter they are than the rest of the public. They go out of their way to reference extremely obscure films to prove how intellectually superior they are. Their reviews must be hell to write, because they have to run every one through a personal filter before writing it, balancing how it reflects on them personally and whether it paints them in the proper light, intellectually speaking. They are the narcissists of the field, and their arrogance is amazing and instantly off-putting.

The Coward

And worst of all are the smart ass “I’m cooler than everyone else” types who praise to high heaven the things they love but jump right to insult mode with anything they don’t like. These are the ones who make it personal and are downright mean-spirited, hurling personal cut downs and insults because, if truth be told, they are distanced by the great wall of the internet. They’re cowards, saying nasty things online they’d never say to a person’s face.

When I started my website back in 1999 (when I started my TV show) I didn’t do reviews at all for the first couple of years. I didn’t want to be one of “those guys,” so I just avoided it altogether. Eventually I started doing little capsule reviews, basically just writing the bare facts and rating it on a scale of 1 to 5 skulls, mostly consisting of films I had talked about on Chiller Cinema. Later on I enlisted a couple of folks to write reviews for me, including my director Cameron McCasland, who at that time was just a friend of mine. But I still wasn’t doing much reviewing myself.

When I started my Youtube channel I started a series called the Recommended Movie of the Week. Again, I was avoiding reviewing, instead sticking to recommending movies I liked. The idea was simply to say, hey, this is a movie I like and I think you will too, so give it a try if it sounds interesting.

BUT all that said, once I started my blog reviews did naturally creep into it, and that is where my inner struggle comes into play. Balancing an honest opinion without coming off like the types mentioned above is sometimes difficult, and I’m not sure I’ve always succeeded. I am naturally going to like some movies and not like others, and if I’m going to talk about them I have to present both sides of the film canister, both pro and con.

Bottom line here, I watch a lot of movies, and if I had to approach every one as a reviewer I’d probably learn to hate the whole experience - it would take all the fun out of it. I try to watch movies and simply enjoy them for what they are, good or bad, and if I feel moved to review it later on then I do. I won’t like every one but I’ll at least try to be fair with my praise and condemnation. And I promise to try not to be an arrogant, loudmouthed, narcissist coward.

Sincerely,

Dr. Gangrene



PS – One more thing. For any reviewers who happen to read this – or anyone reading this, actually - if you ruin the ending of a movie or TV show then you’re an asshole, plain and simple. I don’t care if it is 3 days old or 30 years old, it isn’t difficult to say SPOILER ALERT before discussing endings or critical plot points. Yeah, I’m talking from personal experience here, and it’s a real pet peeve of mine. It’s a dick move, plain and simple. You’re not cool and everyone who has a show or movie spoiled hates you. You’re the equivalent of the guy who talks loudly throughout the movie, or gets his cell phone out during the picture. In fact you’re probably that same guy. But then you probably won’t “get” what I’m saying so I’m wasting my breath anyway. After all, your opinion is 100% correct, so I’m an idiot for disagreeing with you.

And yes, I'd say this to your face.

Tuesday, June 19

Dark Shadows Not Too Bright for Me


I went to see the remake of Dark Shadows in the theater opening weekend and then caught it a second time as part of a double feature at a drive-in last weekend. I held off on writing a review initially, and sort of thought seeing it a second time might change my opinion of it - but it really didn’t. This film is a remake of the gothic soap opera (created by Dan Curtis) that ran on television from 1966 – 1971. It centers around a vampire named Barnabas Collins who is released from a coffin where he has been trapped for centuries by a witch named Angelique. He is reawakened in the year 1972 and must deal with Angelique, who is still making life miserable for the Collins family, and attempt to restore the family name in the town of Collinsport.

Tim Burton directed this film and it stars Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia Hoffman, Michelle Pheiffer as Elizabeth Collins and Eva Green as Angelique. It was written by Seth Grahame-Smith.

My biggest complaint with Dark Shadows is the tone of the film, turning a gothic drama into a light hearted black comedy. In this version Barnabas Collins is reduced to a two-dimensional character that too often serves only as a punch line to lame jokes. There is a trend in cartoons and films nowadays to make father figures idiots, and Dark Shadows follows suit, with Barnabas at one point stalking a lava lamp, slowly sneaking up on this inanimate object like a cat stalking prey. At another point (that was shown in the trailer) he sees someone singing on a television screen and rips the back off the set, shouting, “Tiny songstress reveal yourself!” Barnabas is a dimwit, much like Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin. He solves every problem with brute force, and is easily manipulated. The devious mastermind of Curtis’ series is reduced to a dumb brute - It is embarrassing, especially for anyone who has watched the original series. There are moments where Barnabas is truly scary, attacking and feeding on various townsfolk. But these scenes are offset with ridiculous moments of light hearted humor, and I’m not sure whether to blame Burton or screenwriter Grahame-Smith.

The film is obsessed with the fact that it is set in 1972, and repeatedly beats viewers over the head with this fact. It is so heavy handed here that it becomes tiresome very quickly. Ok, Knights in White Satin is playing, it is the seventies. Got it. Oh, hippies in a VW bus, ok, got it, seventies. Season of the Witch, right, seventies. The Carpenters – sigh, seventies. Lava lamp. Check. Bell bottoms. Check. Paisley. Check. No 70’s cliché is missed. The film is much more interested in presenting a parade of 70’s pop culture rather than telling a gothic horror story, which should be the focus.


Depp’s makeup matches the script of this film in its heavy handed approach. He wears an effeminate white face makeup with obviously-airbrushed shadows spray painted on his cheekbones and dark circles painted around his eyes. A little subtlety would have gone a long way here – it looks like amateurish halloween makeup, more suited for a stage play than a film. Just comparing the two above tells it all - one serious, scary approach and one campy cartoonish one. Depp does a decent job as Barnabas Collins but resembles, in this makeup especially, a boy, whereas Jonathan Frid looks like a man. It just doesn’t work, and I blame Burton’s design.

SPOILER ALERT


The best thing going for Dark Shadows is the house itself, Collinwood Mansion. It is a giant, gothic, atmospheric house, full of secrets of its own. The set designers did a fantastic job with this mansion. But once again this version of DS shows no respect to the original, and flips a giant middle finger to the fans of the original by destroying Collinwood, burning it to the ground in a ridiculous finale which features a laughable CGI werewolf. We are talking BAD here, a laugh out loud werewolf design and cliché dialogue. “I’m a werewolf mother. Get over it.”



END SPOILER ALERT


Overall Dark Shadows is an uneven film, with some good things going for it, especially the opening sequence (set 200 years in the past), where Barnabas is originally cursed to become a vampire by Angelique. Honestly, this would have been a much more interesting film had it focused on THAT story. Michelle Pheiffer is terrific as the matriarch of the family, Elizabeth Collins, and Helena Bonham Carter is great as Dr. Julia Hoffman, too. In fact she was one of my favorite characters in this film. There is a cameo by Christopher Lee, who is terrific as always, and a brief appearance (very brief walk by, blink and you’ll miss it) of several original cast members including Jonathan Frid in a party scene.

Alice Cooper also appears in the party scene, performing live. This was, honestly, distracting to me. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big Alice Cooper fan, and it’s always great to see him in a movie - but as soon as he came onscreen I thought “He’s too old.” Cooper is 64 years old, and this was set in 1972 (as we are reminded CONSTANTLY). He would have been 24 at that time. I was immediately taken out of the picture at this point. It would have been much truer to the storyline if they had had an actor play a young Alice here, but Burton chose to ignore his own rules here and it just doesn’t work.



For me, the number one thing to remember with a remake is to stay true to the source material. It is okay to bring your own flair or sense of storytelling style to the film, that is natural and to be expected. In fact the best remakes often bring in new elements and ideas. But you must still stay true to the heart of the original source material, and Dark Shadows fails in this regard. The comedic elements are not only unfaithful but downright insulting to the original series, and for that reason I can only give it mixed marks. It is, honestly, more of a parody than a remake, which is disappointing. I have read repeatedly that Burton and Depp are big fans of the original series and this is their homage to it. But I find that Burton is more about Burton than anything else, and can't get over himself long enough to do this story justice. There is a good movie in here somewhere, but Burton and Grahame-Smith got so sidetracked with silly clichés and pop-culture references that they missed the mark.

Tuesday, June 12

Creatures of the Night We Loved So Well

This is a promo I did for a new book on southern California horror hosts called CREATURES OF THE NIGHT WE LOVED SO WELL, by author Jim Fetters. It is an in-depth look at the hosts that haunted the scarewaves of Southern CA through the years, from Vampira to Elvira and everything in-between. It's a really great book chock full of great info and pictures. Available here

Friday, June 8

Beast Wishes, the Bob and Kathy Burns Documentary


I got a chance to catch the screening of the BEAST WISHES documentary at Wonderfest this year. This documentary was made by Frank Dietz and Trish Geiger and is a loving tribute to fandom's favorite monster kids, Bob and Kathy Burns. It played to a packed house and received a standing ovation afterwards.


Beast Wishes tells the story of Bob and Kathy Burns and all the amazing adventures they've had through the years while weaving in personal remembrances from friends of theirs along the way, many of whom are well know professionals in the Hollywood Sci-fi/Horror community such as Rick Baker, Joe Dante, John Landis, and many, many more.


The DVD will be out soon - currently it is playing the festival and convention circuit. This is a really top notch documentary and a DVD that all classic science fiction and horror fans will enjoy and want to own, and it was my privilege to take part in this documentary.  Frank told me that the title of the blooper reel, BEAST WITCHES, was inspired from one of my outtakes, where I messed up the title while shooting my bits - "This is Dr. Gangrene and you're watching the Beast Witches documentary. Wait a minute, that's not right. What the name of this thing?" LOL. Glad I could help, Frank!



Wednesday, June 6

Goodbye Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury passed away Tuesday, June 5th at the age of 91 years young. I have been reading through the tributes and memories of people on Facebook, and it's really heartening to see the outpouring of love and affection for this man. It is truly awe inspiring to think how many thousands of lives he has touched. Ray is a real inspiration, both in his work and his life. One of my favorite Bradbury quotes is, "Do what you love and love what you do. Love is the Key to everything."

Kind of reminds me of my favorite quote from Philosopher Joseph Campbell - "Follow your Bliss." Do what makes you happy. Love what you do.These are all words to live by. Ray certainly did what he loved for many decades. Luckily he shared it with the rest of the world.


Tuesday, June 5

Morgus Hall of Fame Acceptance Speech


  As I mentioned yesterday, New Orleans based Dr. Morgus a.k.a. Morgus the Magnificent (actor Sid Noel) was inducted into the Rondo Award Hall of Fame this year. Rondo founder David Colton asked me to accept on Morgus' behalf, and it was my honor to do so. Here is the video of this event, courtesy of Donna Lucas (Video Watchdog magazine). Thanks Donna!



Monday, June 4

Wonderfest 2012 report

 Hello all, sorry I've been a little negligent with my postings here. Been a very crazy month or so, both personally and with the show here. I am happy to report that Wonderfest was a smashing success. Lots of fun, saw many good friends again and hosted the 80's schlocktastic film MEGAFORCE Sat night. It was especially great having Bob Burns at the show again this year.After a couple of years off he felt up to traveling and I know the crowd was thrilled to see him.


  At the Rondo Award ceremony it was my honor to induct the one and only Morgus the Magnificent into the Rondo Award Hall of Fame. Thanks, David Colton, for asking me to be a part of the ceremony. Donna Lucas shot video of the entire ceremony, so I hope she got my induction speech and posts it online so I can share it here.

The weekend seemed to come and go quicker than usual, despite my arriving on Friday this year. I had a table this time around, the first time I've fooled with merchandise in years. Was good to have some fresh merch for folks, and thanks to everyone who stopped by to see me. Here's to many more years of Wonderfest fun!!

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