NYCC: Joe Kelly Interview

Posted by Jose On October - 23 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Jose Rivera and Joe Kelly

Off the Beaten Path by Joe Kelly

You know, it seems everyone who interviews creators likes to stick to the formula of asking what they’re currently doing now, and what lies ahead in the future. Maybe one day I’ll reach that point. However, I’m new to the whole interview scene. And, I’d like to try something a little different. Writers and artists are people, too; they have thoughts, opinions and ideas that we never get to hear about when they’re plugging the latest work. So, why not ask them things they might not normally be asked? I decided my trial by fire would be to attend the New York Comic Con and find someone to interview not with a video camera or a digital recorder; I wanted to do it the good ol’ fashioned way. I had a notebook and pen in hand, and four brief, casual questions to ask. While few people had the time to do an interview, one man was kind enough to give me his time. He is the writer on such comics as Deadpool, Action Comics and the critically acclaimed I Kill Giants. He and his group Man of Action are the creators behind such hit animated shows like Ben 10 and Generator Rex. And best of all, he’s a dear friend, Mr. Joe Kelly.

1. Given the chance, if you could write any character or team, which would you choose?
JK: That’s tough! I’ve already written Spider-Man and Superman, Spidey was my absolute favorite of all time. And, I don’t wanna get in trouble, so I’m gonna have to say the Micronauts! Yeah, definitely Micronauts.

2. With the success of I Kill Giants, do you think we’ll ever see a follow up?
JK: There will definitely be another project I’ll be doing with Niimura, but it won’t take place in the same universe as I Kill Giants. It’ll be a new story, but its own separate thing, but with similar elements of drama and comedy.

3. Okay, now let’s get into something more on your tastes. On Facebook, you’ve been talking about what you’ve been reading in your spare time. Can you share the last few books you’ve read?
JK: I’ve been reading Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk. I’ve also read Role Models by John Waters, which is an interesting memoir and Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.

4. Okay, this is one I like to ask of everyone. In your opinion, gun to your head, you HAD to pick, what would you say is the greatest action movie of all time?
JK: Hmm… that’s a tough one. You know, I’m gonna have to go with Aliens.

Micronauts? Interesting! Another project with Niimura on art? Hell yes! A novel, a memoir and a book on science? How eclectic! And Aliens as the greatest action movie of all time? Certainly ranks in the top three most common answers. A little off the beaten path, you say? I should certainly hope so! Let’s see some other interviewers get answers like this! For those who are interested in Joe Kelly and his work, please check out the Man of Action website at:

Until then, hope you too are walking off the beaten path…cause if you aren’t, then I’ve got a serious problem on my hands.

NYCC: Venture Bros Panel

Posted by Jose On October - 23 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

It should come to no surprise that Friday night’s biggest, most anticipated panel was for The Venture Bros. Given that fans were literally lining up as early as the DC Universe Animated panel, and the announcement that the IGN theatre would not clear out after each panel, the anticipation was clearly building. What was shocking was how big this panel was with so little material compared to the evening’s predecessors.

With no moderator, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer entered the stage to a thunderous ovation. Both casual fans and the die-hards who came dressed as their favorite characters stood for the duo who jokingly decided to sit away from each other at opposite ends of the table.

Both men thanked everyone for attending and mentioned they had no moderator. They also mentioned that, sadly, they had no clips to show, as most of the season is already finished. With weeks to go before the season finale, oddly enough the fans were okay with this. It speaks volumes of how much love they have for this show when a lack of a moderator or clips is something to be applauded rather than booed furiously. It also says something about the humor of the gentlemen when they say instead of clips and announcements, they were just going to re-enact your favorite episodes.

Because there was no moderator, and because he was in the area, Doc Hammer called Michael Sinterniklass, voice of Dean Venture to come from elsewhere in the con and moderate. Sure enough, he showed up! And with that, fans were invited to ask questions, and boy, were there some doozies!

When asked whether or not we’ll be seeing more of Col. Hunter Gatherers, both Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick enthusiastically said yes. They mentioned that he’ll feature in many of the season’s remaining episodes and by the time of the season finale, we’ll all be sick of him. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen. In that same vein, another question was raised whether or not we’ll see the return of fan favorite Molotov Cock tease. Shortly and simply…yes.

In the realm of strange questions, one fan asked them whether or not they’re bothered by the female attention they’ve received thanks to the show. Doc Hammer put it best:

“I used to get shoved into lockers as a kid and called (derogatory homosexual term), now I have women throwing themselves at me…of course I love it!”

When asked what other inspirations for the show besides Johnny Quest were, Jackson Publick remarked that the work of Steve Ditko on Spider-Man played an important part in both the design and tone.

Not surprisingly, more was asked about Publick, Hammer and Sinterniklaas than about the actual show. Questions ranging from best Christmas present ever received, to Doc Hammer’s band Wheat and the recording of their album on Garage Band, to Sinterniklaas geeking out over getting to record with Kevin Conroy for the episode featuring Captain Sunshine permeated the IGN theatre.

But, an even nicer moment came from when a woman cosplayed as Nikki, the character who had been introduced in the previous episode asked a question and all three men were both flabbergasted and thrilled to see that costume. The reaction could be equated to a child walking down the street on Halloween and pointing out to their parents in excitement all the costumes they saw and could name. The fans went all out on those costumes and the reactions the panelists gave showed the entire audience they too are fans on someone level and get a kick out of seeing people dressed as Henchmen 21 & 24, The Monarch, Nikki, Molotov Cock tease and a rather well done Sgt. Hatred.

The excitement over the idea that after four seasons, they finally have toys was genuine. They let us know that at the Adult Swim store at the con, the bobble heads, the action figures and the shirts were selling well; so well in fact that both the Brock Sampson and Monarch figures were already sold out before the day’s end. Merchandise may have taken a long time, but it was clearly appreciated by all.

But the icing on the cake was a true story the three shared about a strange incident in their Astrobase studio when Hammer had knocked on the bathroom door, waiting desperately to use the bathroom, only grow impatient and pick the lock. When he entered the door, he saw something he couldn’t believe. A fan had entered the stall and was taking an overhead photograph of himself on the toilet as if to prove to his friends he had been in the bathroom of the place where the ever-popular cartoon was created.

And with that, they ended the panel.

It was astounding to see how a panel with such a loose format, no moderator (at first), no clips and such candid answers could be so entertaining. Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer knew how to work the crowd, and it seemed more like talking to old friends than it did the creators of such a beloved show. Sinterniklaas, a fan favorite threw in as many random jokes as he could, and got a huge laugh every time. For any other show, this would have screamed of desperation and disaster. For the creators of the Venture Bros. it seemed right. When you come in with nothing and leave with a standing ovation, you’ve certainly done your job.

The Venture Bros. can be seen Sunday nights at 11:30pm on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.


Posted by sean On October - 22 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Matt Damon has a lot on his mind in Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter

What happens to us when we die?  That may not be something we all think about, but it’s apparently on Clint Eastwood’s mind.  Hereafter follows three characters affected by death in a Crash-like narrative, but it fails to pull at any emotional strings with arcs that were too lifeless even for a movie about death.

Eastwood’s direction provides some interesting cinematography with the world filtered through a gloomy window for much of the film, but beyond that, his skill as a director falters.  Each of the three storylines never progress smoothly as they intercut with each other like puzzle pieces that don’t fit, but this is also at the fault of Peter Morgan, writer of The Queen, Frost/Nixon.  He didn’t write characters that the audience could invest in for two hours, and Eastwood didn’t do anything to fix this.

The film spends so much time trying to explain the afterlife and ground it in reality that the emotional connection it strived for is completely lost.  Instead of debating the existence of an afterlife, the film beats the audience over the head with the certainty of heaven.  One scene even has a doctor saying her medical records “prove” there’s an afterlife.  How, the film never goes into, but it repeatedly tries to argue this when there’s no argument to make.

Surrounding this is a look into the tainted lives of people after their brief encounters with death and filling these roles are some of the stalest performances in a drama.  Cécile De France wanders around France like a hollow stick figure as Marie LeLay, a woman who has a near-death experience during a tsunami.  As a tough political journalist, she’s quick to abandon her job in search of answers to her experience and does so in the most passive manner possible.   Matt Damon, in a monotone role, plays George Lonegan, a psychic who refuses to speak to the dead for others.  He repeatedly insists his ability is a curse and wants a normal life away from it, but he never shows any fear and anger when he does do it.  Damon never feels present in his scenes, and every time he says “it’s not a gift, it’s a curse,” you want to call “bullshit.”  Frankie and George McLaren play twin brothers with one getting hit by a car and the other ending up in foster care.  The surviving twin tries to cope, and he does so by stalking the streets of London like a zombie searching for psychics to feed his need for closure.  McLaren sheds the occasionally tear or two, but he rarely shows any capacity of human emotion even when he’s standing over his brother’s body.  Makes you wonder if Eastwood casted him and his brother just because they’re twins.

Eastwood’s take on the afterlife leaves you neither convinced, intrigued, nor caring.  You can suspend disbelief in the supernatural, but you still have to live with the flat acting from the leads.  The film leaves such a bland aftertaste and crushes your heart only because Eastwood, Morgan, and some of the actors are capable of so much more, and it’s a damn shame to see them sell themselves short.

In our three liquor rating of One Bourbon, one liquor, and one beer the Hereafter rated a flat Beer.


NYCC DC Animated Panel

Posted by Jose On October - 19 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

DC Animated: Moving Forward or Going Back?

By: Jose A. Rivera

New York Comic Con held many panels this year. One I was looking forward to in particular was the DC Universe Animated panel. Moderating was Warner Bros Animation’s Greg Miereneau. His guests on the panel? Writer of the animated feature Wonder Woman, Michael Jelenic and DC animation legend Bruce Timm!

They started the panel talking about what gave birth to the next DC Animated feature under the DC Showcase banner, Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam. Timm said the project came about when those at DC Animated wanted to do something new, but were also realistic in getting an established character like Superman or Batman to sell it for marquee value. With that in mind, Captain Marvel was chosen as he’s been shown here in there in animation, but hasn’t been given the chance to shine.

With that, we were shown three clips of the 22-minute animated feature. The first clip showed Superman battling Black Adam in what has to be an impressive battle across the city for animation. The second clip involved what many Captain Marvel fans have been waiting to see in animation for years, a young Billy Batson meeting the Wizard Shazam and having his ancient power bestowed to the young man. The final clip showed Billy first transformation into Captain Marvel while battling Black Adam. All three very impressive.

Reprising their roles on Justice League Unlimited are George Newbern as Superman and Jerry O’Connell as Captain Marvel. Michael Vosloo of The Mummy fame voices Black Adam, while screen legend James Garner plays the wizard Shazam. Amongst the highlights of this panel were Timm and Jelenic’s reverence and excitement for having Garner in the cast.

The theme of this Showcase short is all about what you do when you have power. Timm and Jelenic chose Superman and Black Adam to be opposite ends of the spectrum for Billy; Superman represents what power does when used correctly, while Black Adam represents what power does when used irresponsibly. There was a fun debate as to whether or not Captain Marvel was Billy in an adult body or if Captain Marvel was another person all together. Jelenic tried to keep it vague but said it was Billy. And on the topic of Showcase shorts, both men assured us this is the longest of the Showcase shorts. Sadly, it may be the last.

If that wasn’t enough, we were treated to the opening five minutes of the 10th DC Animated Direct-To-DVD Feature, All-Star Superman. On the whole, I was impressed. Based on the story by Grant Morrison, this feature seems to be one both Timm and DC Animated seems to be the most proud of. Coming this spring, the cast features James Denton as Superman, Anthony Lapalgia as Lex Luthor and Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane. And best of all? Dwayne McDuffie of Justice League Unlimited fame is penning the adaptation.

The opening five minutes, which details Superman rescuing Dr. Quintum’s ship after it’s sabotage by Lex Luthor not only mirrored the story, but Frank Quitely’s art style; something Timm noted took a long time to accomplish as Quitely’s style isn’t easy to mimic in animation. We were then treated to a clip of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor visiting The Parasite, who escapes once he feeds on the power given off by Superman. It’s clear they are pushing the boundary of their PG-13 rating with the amount of violence detailed in that scene alone.

As with all panels, a Q&A session was held. While most of it was ass-kissing towards Bruce Timm, there were three questions I’d like to mention above all else. The first was a question on what happened to the promised third movie in the DC Animated line that didn’t make it: New Titans: The Judas Contract. Bruce Timm had mentioned that the script needed a lot of work and most of the big decision makers felt it wasn’t a bankable idea. Timm also noted that since the Teen Titans animated series had done the story in their style, it wouldn’t make sense to tell almost the exact same story all over again.

The second question posited the idea that since we got All-Star Superman and The New Frontier adapted, would we see other big DC Universe stories like Crisis on Infinite Earths and Kingdom Come get animated adaptations as well. The sad answer is no. Timm explained that Crisis is too big a story to tell, even in a mini-series; there are too many characters and too many stories going on. As for Kingdom Come, he said it couldn’t be seen in traditional 2D animation, because that story relies so much on the art work of Alex Ross that traditional animation couldn’t do it justice. He said maybe someday in a motion capture CGI venture, but not to hold our breaths.

The final question is one I’ve often thought about myself when the announcement that future DC Animated features would stop focusing on other DCU characters like Wonder Woman or Green Lantern, and stick with recognizable names like Superman, Batman and the Justice League. The question was whether or not we’d see some more risks taken with future features. What we got was something of a mixed answer. From a business point of view, having Superman, Batman or the Justice League increases the chance for profit because everyone knows them; sadly both the Wonder Woman and Green Lantern features did not sell well. Wonder Woman sold so poorly that an announcement stated they probably wouldn’t take the chance on another female lead in a DC Animated feature. On a personal level, I’d like to see them break out of their safety zone. I’d like to see more risks taken. But, as it stands, expect to see in the span of a year the following formula: Superman-themed feature, Batman-themed feature and Justice League-themed feature. That’s not to say we won’t get other heroes in these films, but the focus stays on the safe marquee those names represent.

So, it begs the question: with a line that depends on strong sales, is the decision to stay safe with Superman and Batman features keeping the line back from it’s true potential, or is that safety zone just enough to keep it moving forward? Only time will tell.

Look for Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam November 9th, 2010, All-Star Superman in Spring 2010, and after that…Batman: Year One?

NYCC Robot Chicken Panel

Posted by Jose On October - 19 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Robot Chicken: Firing on All Cylinders
By: Jose A. Rivera

At this year’s New York Comic Con, Adult Swim held a few panels. Among them was for fan-favorite show Robot Chicken. Now, I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know Robot Chicken was still on the air. I loved the show but with my schedule, it slowly fell by the way side for me on my list of shows to watch. After seeing this panel, I think they got me back in!

Moderating the panel was Keith Crawford, Vice President of Adult Swim. Strangely, Crawford, complete in suit and tie came out wearing a funny skull-cap hat. He introduced the panelists. One would assume he’d start with Seth Green, but his first panelist? Macaulay Culkin! The entire crowd (me included) were both stunned by the announcement but gave Culkin a thunderous ovation, despite his funny hat. Next on the panel was Robot Chicken co-creator Matt Seinreich who was also wearing a funny hat. Next was actress and wife of Seth Green, Clare Grant in, you guessed it, a funny hat! Finally, the man we’d all been waiting for, Seth Green who not only wore a funny hate but took it a step further with finger cut gloves and a tail! You got to give it to these guys; they sure know how to make an impression.

They wasted no time in showing us an assortment of clips, but given that it was such a scattered panel in terms of information, I thought I’d organize it all.

Star Wars Special III ­– Coming at us again with another Star Wars Special, Robot Chicken has decided to do something different this time. Where as the previous two specials just spotlighted sketches from whatever Star Wars material they thought was funny, this special will start from the moment Vader throws Emperor Palpatine down the shaft in Return of the Jedi. In true sitcom fashion, the camera stops on the falling Emperor narrating the line “Did you ever just stop and take a look at your life and wonder how you got there?” And that, in a nutshell is how this special will work. It will cover all six Star Wars films running through the life and times of Emperor Palpatine. And, unlike the previous specials, the run time will be an hour. They also announced that Billy Dee Williams and Zac Effron will be providing voices. The special debuts December 12th, 2010.

Robot Chicken Christmas Special – If you were wondering just why Macaulay Culkin was there (besides him being buddy-buddy with Seth Green), it turns out we’ll get a Home Alone parody dealing just how dangerous young Kevin’s traps could be to someone in real life. Expect a Christmas race between Santa Claus and Superman! Ever wonder what it would be like if G.I. Joe went Christmas caroling? Well, too bad! You’re getting it anyway! All this and yet another Composite Santa sketch! I have to admit, it really looks worth watching.

Season 5 trailer ­– There was so much to look forward to in the next season. You thought the two shuck-and-jive robots from Transformers two were bad? Try two Indian Transformers who transform into cabs! Thrill at Oompa-Loompa’s learning their dance routine to a strict Willy Wonka. And if you’ve ever wondered just how bad Batman pummeling the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill…naturally!)  Could get…boy, you don’t want to see this!

We then opened up the floor to questions. Amongst those rose were why the seasons take so long to produce. Seth Green and Matt Seinreich said that it’s all done by hand and that takes time. When asked what was one of the most obscure references that will be brought up in the show’s fifth season, they said one word: Silverhawks! We were told that the God of War parody will make you believe Brian Austen Green is a bad ass as he voices Kratos. And, the strangest of all, they boys at Robot Chicken have some apparently gut busting Gandalf sketches coming up.

When asked about their other show, Titan Maximum, we were assured there was another season planned; episode one, picking up where the cliffhanging season finale has already been written. But, with Robot Chicken and their slew of other projects, they said they hope to get the chance to do it sometime soon, but not to hold our breaths as these things take time. Still, as TM fan, I’m excited.

Lastly, a question about the Robot Chicken, the character that is forced to watch these shows in the opening, was raised. The panelists said that the chicken might finally emerge from that castle and will be an integral part of the shows upcoming 100th episode.

The best part of this panel was how much fun everyone was having. Both the panelists and the audience fed off each other’s energy. The clips were hilarious, the news was exciting, and even when someone asked Macaulay Culkin when will we get a chance to see The Good Son 2, he took it with a grain of salt and laughed. I was out of the loop on Robot Chicken for a long while, but with all this news, I think I’m going to come back to a show that hasn’t lost any momentum.

NY Comic Con part 1

Posted by Jose On October - 19 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

James Robinson (left) comic book writer of Starman and Jose Antonio Rivera (right), contributor for Thoughts on Cinema.


By: Jose Rivera

Often it’s said that you shouldn’t meet your idols—that more times than not, you’ll end up disappointed. In my time going to comic conventions, I’ve seen the face of fans who’ve met the men and women who have inspired them over the years. Sometimes, it’s the look of satisfaction, sometimes it’s the look of “oh…well, then,” as if a grand moment they imagined in their heads had been deflated. On a personal level, I’ve had some experiences with creators that have turned into lasting friendships, and there were those meetings where I left feeling like I had gotten the bum’s rush so the artist or writer could get me out of the way and knock their ever-growing line out of the way so that person could go to lunch. Either way, meeting people you look up to is always a mixed bag, but in the case of this year’s New York Comic Con, I think I got away with the exception to the rule.

Walking along the con floor with my sister, I noticed someone talking to Joe Casey at the Man of Action Booth. He was tall, had short hair, a black and white checkered shirt, and there was something about him all too familiar. It took me a moment to place the face, but when I did, I could feel a star-struck paralysis over take me. Standing just mere feet away from me was James Robinson!

It is here that I have to take a moment to explain just why I felt that awesome and scary feeling I got when seeing him. Back in High School, I got into his run on Starman through accessible single issues and trade paperbacks. I’ve loved comics all my life, but Starman was the first comic to make me stand up and take notice of the writing, as opposed to the art or the big important event tied to a certain issue. I looked at devices like foreshadowing, story-arcs and long term characterization for the first time and how intricately they were woven into the narrative, all while telling an outstanding story of a guy who slowly over time evolves into a man. I had been toying with the notion into getting into writing, but after reading Starman, it was a done deal. This entire run is something I cite as a big inspiration for me to get into writing.

So there was Robinson, walking down Artist’s Alley. Normally, I’m not one to go up to a stranger and strike a conversation. And, for a second I was debating whether or not I should go up and say something. But, I went for it—I can’t say if that was due to some surge of courage, or for the fact that he wasn’t on the list for the convention, so it was a now or never moment…but I went for it!

I remember asking him, “Excuse me? Are you James Robinson?” Startled, he said “Yes, I am.” I’ll admit, not the best way to start off a conversation, when I already knew who he was, but I was running on adrenaline and luck. I introduced myself and shook his hand. I can’t remember the exact words, but I told him I was a big fan of his work and told him how much of an inspiration he was for me to the point where his work made me want to go to school for writing. Humbly, he nodded, smiled and thanked me. Seeing so many people at conventions talking to people they idolized just ramble on and on when the person couldn’t care less, I decided to make the convo short and sweet. I thanked him for his time and I shook his hand again as I left.

Of course, this is me and in the short time I walked away from him, it hit me… “Oh shit! I didn’t have anything for him to sign to me!” I’m big on personalized signatures because A) It shows I actually enjoy the work as opposed to being someone who grabs autographs to sell on Ebay and B) It’s a keepsake from a moment where I got to go up to someone who’s work I enjoy and thank them. Sadly, because I wanted to wait until the last day of the convention (which was the next day) to buy it, I didn’t have the latest Starman Omnibus on me. Granted, this was a great story to tell people, but I wanted something that showed I got to meet one of my idols. As my sister was with me and she had her camera with her, I asked her for a favor.

I remember Robinson being only a few feet behind me when I turned around to him. “Mr. Robinson, I hate to bother you, but I was wondering if I could get a photo with you?” I said nervously. He said “Of course,” in a way that made me energetic and not feel like a fool for asking. My sister raised her camera and took the photo. It took about two tries but I can safely say I got it! And when I thanked him again and left, I was literally jumping up and down the aisles with the biggest smile on my face.

It may have seemed strange just coming up to him and blathering on about how much I was a fan and how he did something special in my life, but he was so gracious about it. And while it was a case of it being another day for him and a big moment for me, he never once gave me the impression I was bothering him or wasting his time. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but that professionalism he gave really stood out for me.

They say you shouldn’t meet your idols for fear of disappointment. But, on that day, by sheer random luck I got to meet the man who started me on the road to writing that I’m still walking to this day.


American Werewolf in London

Posted by ron On October - 18 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Perhaps nothing satisfies your craving for top shelf, lowbrow humor quite like a John Landis film. From the Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, and the Blues Brothers, one should be prepared for sleazy, raunchy satirical fun. Yet Landis’ crude but effective tactics never failed to pay tribute to the works that inspired him. If imitation is the best form of flattery, An American Werewolf in London was a fitting 80s tribute to the 1941 classic, the Wolf man starring Lon Chaney Jr. In this re-telling of a grim tale, two NYU college kids were backpacking across the English countryside on a damp cool night until a vicious man-beast would forever change their fortunes.

Unless you’ve been living on the moon, one would find it extremely difficult not to have some preconceived knowledge of the werewolf curse. Werewolves continue to be one of the oldest folklore legends, so Landis made the executive decision not to waste any time with the origin of the curse. In the London hospital, the bitten survivor played by David Naughton literally referenced Lon Chaney Jr in the Wolf Man in order to blatantly spell out a familiar fate for our sympathetic character that conveniently shared the bed of his Florence Nightingale.

The film attempted no plot twists but Landis upgraded the main character’s guilt with visceral visuals of David’s nightmares and hallucinations generated by his subconscious. It’s a crude but inventive way to externalize, internalized thoughts. It’s also a vehicle to utilize some of the greatest special effects artists in the history of cinema that continue to be spoken about today. In the third act when David sat in the XXX movie theatre and spoke to his deceased best friend, one wondered if this later inspired a similar scene in Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko. Horrific imagery might have undermined the actor’s ability to project a tortured soul but it fit Landis’ personality to perfection.

If you’ve seen this film before, try substituting the werewolf curse for socialized medicine and one might have some refreshing fun in a second take. An American college kid backpacked across England, jumped by hooligans, and taken to a London hospital. Now reconstitute this film with every public servant having dismissed a crazy American believing in the infectious idea of affordable healthcare but never doubting its existence before having to put him down for good.

In my trois liquor rating scale of one bourbon one Scotch and one beer, An American Werewolf in London rated a relaxing fall beer as a guilty pleasure to share with old friends during this Halloween.


The Devil’s Backbone

Posted by ron On October - 15 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

Cronos, Mimic, Blade II, Hellboy, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army highlights a healthy body of work by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. A master storyteller who mixes bizarre visual language with desperate characters caught in a maelstrom of danger. It’s this fragile emotional sense of loss conveyed by these isolated characters at their most vulnerable moments that gives Del Toro’s films meaning and transcends all language barriers.

Much like its successor Pan’s Labyrinth, the characters were swept up in the middle of the Spanish Civil War in The Devil’s Backbone. A naïve boy named Carlos was given sanctuary in an orphanage haunted by a dark secret. Like Carlos, the audience was isolated from what was going on in the orphanage. What appeared to be an institution with good intentions harbored something evil. A giant defused bomb served as an ominous metaphor that was symbolic of the infidelity, murder, and hidden treasure subplots. More than just a poltergeist, this Spanish film had a lot of rich subtext to its story. It was as much a coming of age story as it was a horror film.

As a brilliant storyteller, Del Toro slowly but surely mixed all the ingredients to a steady boil. At a very young age, Carlos was left in the care of strangers. He was forced to adjust to his new existence. As the new kid on the block, he had to earn his place amongst the other orphans. His interactions with the other characters revealed pieces to the puzzle. What happened to the previous occupant of bed #12? As Carlos delved deeper into the mystery of Santi, it became clear the threat within the Orphanage exceeded the dangers that it was supposed to shelter him from.

The Devil’s Backbone didn’t rely on jump scares but the uncomfortable feeling of being alone and vulnerable. The film was a play on what we don’t understand and what we would rather believe. It didn’t have to rely on the look of the apparition itself because the suspense was generated with care. The horror was in knowing something awful was going to happen but not knowing exactly when. It’s this off balance feeling of terror where the film’s effectiveness was instrumental.

When the story concluded, every character paid the consequences for their involvement as the overlapping storylines drew to a close. No evil was left unpunished and some things cannot be left behind.

In my three liquor grading scale of One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, the Devil’s Backbone rated as a very rich dark beer during the fall as the October nights grow closer towards Halloween.



Posted by ron On October - 2 - 20102 COMMENTS

Monster chasing is definitely not recommended in the Lonely Planet guide.

If modern journalism has taught us anything, reckless professionals will foolishly do anything for a buck to get a story that will piss people off. Like an episode of storm chasers, Monsters followed a photojournalist and his employer’s daughter across a quarantined part of Mexico. What they discovered was something to behold in awe for 10 minutes but it was not enough to maintain an interest in nearly two hours of insubstantial dialogue. In a film entitled, Monsters the audience would be led to believe there are creatures to see in this movie. Instead, this film resembled a zoo ride that passed by an empty cage covered with beautiful shrubbery.

The film began by teasing the audience with severely damaged skyscrapers within a Central American city. Contrary to the residents in District 9, the citizens seem comfortable with enormous ten-story squid like creatures roaming around killing citizens, damaging property, and redirecting traffic on a daily basis. That might seem far fetched even for a extraterrestrial force of nature but even more ridiculous was a journalist paid $50,000 to take a photograph of children victimized by the beasts. Considering the exchange rate, wouldn’t a billionaire news mogul pay 5,000 Mexicans $5 each to get snap shots of such a giant monster? Never mind, any global satellite using google maps might get you a photograph for free. Well this misallocation of finances might be one reason why the newspaper business is in such financial distress.

Without the finances to center the movie around the monsters, the movie quickly became a travel ad for the beautiful Mexican countryside. Our brave photojournalist has an ex-wife and kid. His boss’s single daughter was a winner from the genetic lottery of super models. Every encounter with the Mexican people who are stuck within this quarantined area was a positive experience. Even hired armed mercenaries seemed nonchalant protecting a couple of gringos from a threat that could easily wipe them all off the planet.

Naturally, our main characters reached the US-Mexico border alive. Apparently, the US government can’t seem to erect walls big enough to keep gigantic Illegal aliens outside of the country. The viewer saw the only American looters vs none in Mexico. By the time the money shot for the close encounter arrived, the film ceased to have any interest at all. It seemed even more implausible that the characters romantically bonded through this extremely dangerous experience of monster chasing throughout Mexico.

Stingy CGI, stale characters, and a wimper of an ending forced me to rate Monsters a warm flat beer in my never ending homage to George Thorogood’s One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer.


Night of the Living Dead

Posted by ron On October - 2 - 20109 COMMENTS

Duane Jones played the last man with a brain, literally.

After more than 40 years and thousands of movie reviews later, Night of the Living Dead continues to inspire and recycle horror fans from one generation to the next. So much has been written about this 1968 classic, any movie critic would be severely challenged to say anything that hasn’t been said before. However, this isn’t a review to challenge movie critics but rather to compliment its enjoyment for fans and critics alike. 

With the brand of visceral cruelty that modern horror films seem to favor, it’s hard to believe that in 1968 teenagers were disturbed by the violence in Night of the Living Dead. Even by today’s standards of a PG-13 rating, the method by which the violence in this film was shot seemed amateurish except for the fact that any female character slapped by a man would eventually have papers served by the end credits. Yet, this film still has some revolutionary elements today. 

Some 40+ years later horror films still haven’t really warmed up to an African American lead or minority protagonists in general. Duane Jones played such a straight arrow that any man could relate to him. As Ben he finds himself in a situation that he doesn’t understand. Ben knew he had to keep his wits about him in order to survive. Audiences who rooted for him against the overwhelming odds, felt the ending was an agitating cruel twist of fate. Jones commanded the big screen when he described the gruesome sight of body parts torn apart as he drove a truck through a crowd of zombies. At that point, the film transcended racial differences because any audience can relate to the physical and psychological struggle. Never mind Jack Johnson’s coined phrase, “the great white hope.” Ben was the America’s last hope for sanity in an insane world plagued by zombies.

Night of the Living Dead never relied solely on jump scares. The slow drawn out build of suspense was its bread and butter. Any audience was aware of what was coming because a majority of the shots placed the unaware victim in the foreground with the infectious zombie horde slowly advancing into overwhelming numbers. The pacing was so drawn out that today it might require some patience and restraint not to scream out “run goddam it”. Still the film had a design where every encounter with the undead had a subtle, calculated build up that almost caught one slightly off guard. A few zombies might not seem formidable but a claustrophobic climax with a relentless horde presented a different effect. 

Romero’s ground breaking film might never have the same theatre value with ticket prices far from the 1968 prices. However, the orchestra soundtrack will always continue to delight anyone hosting friends in their home with entertainment centres and cozy couches. Night of the Living Dead will always be the perfect conversation starter for all ages of horror fans alike because its the beginning of many good things to come.

In my homage to George Thorogood’s one bourbon, one Scotch, and one beer I rate Night of the Living Dead as a cozy bourbon on a cool autumn October evening with friends. 



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Thoughts on Cinema is dedicated to film reviews. An uncompromising opinion on the intellectual, artistic, and entertainment value to the consumer. With rising ticket prices, we dedicate ourselves to present to you content regarding what you should or should not be viewing. -Ronald H. Pollock Founder and Editor in Chief



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