Between March 30th and April 7th, 2015 the world saw three major character actors of pop-culture and also cult fame leave their mortal coil. As a child of the 80’s and 90’s these men left an impression of my mind.
Robert Z’dar, he of the huge chin because of his birth defect aka cherubism was part of some of my favorite films, and played a cop, gangster, and more over the years. Z’dar actually had a pivotal role in my second favorite film TANGO & CASH in which his appearance was very important to the character and made him even more menacing. Tom Towles, a man who also played killers, cops and more, got his name out to the world in HENRY: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but made the most impact on me in the sci-fi horror THE BORROWER. Towles also became known better in later years as the cop in Rob Zombie’s horror films. Finally, James Best who became best known as Roscoe P. Coltrane, one of two antagonists on THE DUKES OF HAZZARD. Throughout the 50’s and 60s, Best was a regular guest star on many a western and crime drama ranging from The Lone Ranger to Perry Mason.
After Towles passing I envisioned he and Z’Dar meeting up in whatever afterlife may or may not exist for a comedy horror about two bungling cops who shoot first and never ask questions. I couldn’t get myself to draw it though. Then Best died and I felt he’d easily work in the fictional film/show and I knew I had to do something as a tribute. PCS does LOTS of art (most of it wrestling inspired) but rarely posts it here. I feel in honor of these three men I must share this tribute which is incomplete, but says everything I want it to say.
Many big sites have looked at the 2015 Amazon Pilot season, but they will either focus on one set of genres, or review ONE particular program OR if they did an article on all the offering they were written from different voices instead of a singular eye so that you get a real judge of the series because you can tell what the writer liked or didn’t like instead of individuals snippets from varying viewpoints. Which can be good in some cases, but in something where Amazon is asking or at sort of asking what people think, I’d like to hear the opinion of each person on EACH show.
So here is that exactly. I sat through every offering (including the stuff for the toddler set, but I have nothing to say on those) from the Amazon pilots of 2015 (even the ones for the kiddies, not that I lasted long) and came up with a concise overview of each program, even delving a little further if the show I felt had merit for that
Mad Dogs: Definitely a keeper . Although it seems that it’s actually a remake of a UK series, I have to assume Shawn Ryan has some intriguing twists for it to make its own thing. Also Steve Zahn, Michael Imperiloli and Romany Malco bounding off each other with Ben Chapin in the more straightman role could be awesome stuff. The last 15 minutes set up what could be a really amped up show and very different that the original UK version from what I can recall.
COCKED: Another Brilliant production. It’s got that HBO/Showtime Dramedy feel to it and Jason Lee delivers but Sam Trammel really shines here. This is definitely without even seeing the other pilots a top contender. Co-created by Sam Shaw (creator of Manhattan) and Samuel Baum (creator of Lie To Me), with direction by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer). I hope these Amazon pilots have a first look pass thing cause if this one doesn’t get picked up for a run I think HBO, Showtime or Netflix would want it.
NIKO and the Sword of Light: OMG! This is amazing. Based off an app available for iPad, Android Tablets, etc (I always wanted it but I only have an iPhone). It was adapted by the original team and some major animation players as well as Titmouse, Stellar, Legendary well known voice cast too with Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh), Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad’s Klaus), Steve Blum, Kevin Michael Richardson, Corey Burton and Tom Kenny.
Table 58: This one is definitely for the younger set, but it’s premise seems like it’d fit great on Nick or DisneyXD, but on Amazon maybe they can go special places with it. The adult actors really help as there’s a Groundling, a former cast member of MadTV and two character actors who you’ve seen in something in J.P. Manoux and Sean O’Ryan. It’s over the top humor and the six outcasts kids are great. It was also directed by Gil Under, best known for 10 Things I hate About You and written by May Chan, a staff writer on Phineas & Ferb.
The NEW YORKER Presents: Worth seeing for intriguing segments. Most especially Jonathan Demme bring this article to life and the sketch with Alan Cumming written by Simon Rich (Humorist, former SNL writer, Screenwriter) . It basically really is like the magazine come to life. So if a series, probably hit or miss. I always thought like this is cool though. VICE has a series like it. McSweeney’s curated WHOLPIN was much like it. Worth a view.
Salem Rogers, Model of the Yeat 1998: This show is no good, but at the 25 minute mark you get a bare assed Leslie Bibb in color and in motion and for that? YAY. Rachel Dratch is fun too, but not enough to make this a keeper.
Just Add Magic: I’m not familiar with the book this was based on but after looking the book up they basically only used the premise to come up with what sounds like an “Eastwick” for the tween set. The highlight for the adult viewer is Amy Hill ( a face and voice almost anyone would recognize if not her name) as what appears would be the series “villain”. If it’s between this and Table 58, Table 58 is the front runner though.
The Man in the High Castle: I’m on the fence on my feelings about this. It’s quite a Loose adaptation of the novel indeed, basically using the characters, concept and some of the plotlines but then throwing away pretty much everything else to create its own series which would now be unpredictable as it adds elements never in the original book. Development hell on this too since Scott has been trying to get it made through first BBC, then SyFy before this. Against COCKED and MAD DOGS I’d choose either of them over this, but as long as Amazon (and people) doesn’t approve that horrendous Point of Honor, that was utter drek.
Niko vs. Mugwump
I had the opportunity to go to an early Sag Awards/Weinstein Company sponsored screening of Lee Daniel’s The Butler earlier this week. As the film doesn’t open for a few weeks and I rarely put movie reviews here I didn’t think I’d end up doing on, but as I started writing on Facebook I realized I had more to say than planned so I decided to try and stretch it a bit and say even more than that. So here’s a review.
Lee Daniel’s The Butler has some really interesting and quality performances, especially from Cuba Gooding Jr. and David Oyelowo, Vanessa Redgrave was her always fabulous self in a small role that didn’t need her but suited her and Liev Schreiber IMHO stole the show; Didn’t recognize him at all. Yet if you go for the story about a Butler who served over 30 years in The White House, you’re better off reading the original article from Washington Post about Eugene Allen, the actual white house staff butler of 30 years that inspired the film. That article has NOTHING about a son who marched with MLK, the Black Panthers, Free Mandela and later became a Congressman that Hollyweird forced into the film to give an excuse to follow another path of history. While this first paragraph actually just caused OMGSPOILERS for the film, they are not he kind that anyone should truly get angry about.
Unlike Lee Daniel’s sophomore effort The Paperboy, an adaption of the same named Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Lee Dexter which the author adapted himself or even Lee’s Oscar award winning first effort Precious, The Butler is very by the numbers. There are what could be thought the occasional “shocking” moments, but I’m not robbing you of those if you truly want to see the film. There’s also plenty reasons to. Even with the complete stunt castings of Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan or Robin Williams as Eisenhowser, there’s something very special about John Cusack’s Nixon. I don’t think his dialogue would’ve been as funny or clever in just a capable actor who did an awesome Nixon. They needed the candor of Cusack. Folks like Mariah Carey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, and even Lenny Kravitz was much less stunt casting more about Lee Daniels I believe trying to develop his own troupe to work with for any future productions. That includes David Oyelowo who was amazing and was just as equally amazing in Paperboy.
One of the more interesting/intriguing parts of the screenwriter Danny Strong and I assume producers The Weinstein Company to make what seem like arbitrary changes to Eugene Allen’s life is the amount of facts from the article they chose to keep in the film as well. From dealing with LBJ’s harsh racial epithets to Nancy Reagan’s invite to dinner, all parts of his life that were fascinating, that adding or changing facts like where he used to work or how he got the job just seem like pointless changes that didn’t add or take away from the story being told.
Although that story is just that, a story about a Butler in the White House while TRYING to say something about the Civil Rights movement in America over the last 70 and even more so years, without saying anything new or making a particular stance or than the kind of stance a film with a black director and a black cast could make. That is not a slight to the Civil rights movement, it’s to the film itself. It’s just a film that is kind of just there. Not bad, not grand, but a movie that stands on its own strengths and that is a definite early contender for Oscar nomination simply on what it tries to accomplish even if it is a forgettable movie as well.
Before closing out I do want to commend one very important factor of the film and one that is pulled off amazingly. The make up and prosthetic work is amazing. They made Forrest Whitaker pass for 30 years old as well as his actual age and a man in his late 80’s. This awesome makeup work follows through on what they did with the actor’s portraying president’s (it’s pretty impossible to hide such recognizable faces, but they did add aspects that conveyed the role through features such as Nixon’s nose) as well as with every other actor from Oprah to Lenny Kravitz, it deserves the Oscar more than anything else even.
It’s no secret that I am a Canadaphile, it’s been a major part of who I am going back to childhood. We’re not just talking shows most people know or like, I’ve gotten into the shows we never got here at least as they aired in Canada or without a DVD. Shows like Murdoch Mysteries, Blue Murder, Grand Star, and even Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town. Although the one I plan to speak of for this article did air in America on the lesser known FearNet, but that is an extra premium channel at least on my cable service, so the only way I ever saw the show was through the luck of eOne Entertainment’s DVDs.
I got the first season of TODD and THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL when the cover first caught my eye, mostly the title and a very healthy dose of young Canadian talent who’d starred in some awesome Canadian shows including the stars show Alex House from Dark Oracle, it had longtime Canadian TV talent Chris Leavins dressed as what appeared a nerdy teacher, and top of that Jason Mewes was on the cover as a janitor. I grabbed it off the shelf right away, took it home, spun those episodes and loved it and then it was over. I searched the internet for where it would air if there was more to see. That was when I discovered it was either move to Canada (I want to, but that’s another story) or pay more on my cable bill to watch it on FearNet and I was like “Nooooooooooo!” and I just let the show go to the back of my mind and be happy I had that first season DVD full of funny, supernatural, gory, musical, awesome, weird action.
Then I heard word that Season two would be coming to DVD so I got excited and started looking into it. That was when I also discovered that the show would not be returning for a third season and not all plot lines got completed. Unfortunately I did NOT hear or discover the successful campaign for the animated film, but that didn’t stop my desire to see the second season, especially since I didn’t get FearNet.
In this second season they amped (sic) up everything. That’s usually the case of course with a show like this, the characters get older, so everything can get more mature. The evil is out there so it can only do what evil does and get more powerful, ambition gets more desperate, sexiness gets sexier and blood and gore well that has to get even crazier.
As in the the first season DVD, eOne made sure to stock this thing with enough extras that you’d have reason own this physical item more than just getting the episodes alone. Commentary tracks, deleted sequences, making of footage, the full versions of the music sequences. Oh, did I forget to mention the musical part of the show? Yeah, it’s a balls to walls heavy metal rock musical on top of everything else. Now you might be thinking that sounds weird, but if you’re anything like me, and I KNOW there are amazingly people with my pop-culture sensibilities, they’ll be your favorite segments.
TODD and THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL – The Complete Season 2 dropped on June 25th at a SRP of $19.98 and is available from your regular outlets (Best Buy, Target, Amazon, that local place) and I suggest you go and grab it and also season one if you haven’t. You’ll be getting many half hours of music, comedy, blood, sex, gore, silly, fun and awesome extras as well, what could be wrong about that? Nothing… absolutely nothing.
(disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of Season 2, but only at request and was already a huge fan of the program)
In my mind and to others I describe The Aquabats Super Show as Power Rangers on Acid, while Jason DeVilers and Ian Fowles would probably disagree I stand by that description. I’m not sure if they would also agree with my assessment of sister show Yo Gabba Gabba being for stoners and toddlers alike, but I think its more with how they want the show to be viewed as well as how the network sees it. In the fact of the Aqubats that network is the soon to be renamed The Hub Network. The same channel that gives us My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Transformers Prime, G.I. Joe Renegades, Dan Vs. and more cartoons that have a definite large demographic (at least from my viewpoint and from whom I know watches the programs).
On June 1st, the show returns with the episode “The Return of the Aquabats” at 1 P.M. In the first episode we get privy to aliens, an amazing fight, a press conference featuring a performance from Tony Hawk, a cartoon designed by Thom Nicolette and animated by Too Many Legs, a new Parker Jacobs little bats toon and more insanity.
One of the intriguing differences in the new season is the direction the cartoons will be taking, confirmed to me in my interview with Jason and Ian. In the first season the cartoons were a serilized adventure done in a anime/mangaesque style created by Eriko “PEY” Uruma and usually animated by Cartoon Saloon. This time around each episode will have cartoon done in a different style, conveying each member of The Aquabats view on the origin of the Aquabats and how they joined the team. In the first episode we Eaglebones’ sci-fi western tale which is so wacky and funny I really am excited to see what they came up with for the other four.
One of the more exciting developments for the show as a whole is their daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Children’s Series. Yet, I must once again state that this show might be developed, produced and sold as a children’s show it is so many ways for adults and yet kids can watch it. Everything in it is just so over the top, and some references just like “Woah”, yet it was delivered to e that kids watching now can return 20 years later to the show and be “OH, so THAT’S what I didn’t get” and so it’s more Kid’s in mind and adults can watch it from that stand point. I’m not sold on that, especially with things like the VANS “Yo Gabba Gabba” or that Aquabats fans are definitely not generally children, but hey, let them have their fun.
As long as they keep bringing that fun. One of the things I really hope to see in the future is an Aquabats Super Show soundtrack album, but from my interview it sounded like they’d rather rewrite/re-record the songs done on the show as more full length productions before doing that.
Before closing I should point out that the first season of Aquabats Super Show is also now available on DVD from the awesome as usual SHOUT! FACTORY.
Oh also, The Aquabats Super Show! is now an AWESOME FORCES! production. I mention that because their company graphic is is an AWESOME FORCE!
When I first heard about THE SWEENEY the only thing I knew was that it starred Ray Winstone and he’d be a tough as nails, grizzled, rough & tumble cop. That sold me on wanting to see it. I knew nothing about the fact that it was an extremely popular television series in the 1970s. Nor that it was based upon an actual elite police squad that was taken down for truly working on the gray side of the law, using corruption and illegal tactics to take down bigger bad guys, but in the end being thrown in jail themselves.
In 2012’s THE SWEENEY, the elite police squad is just as gray. They’re the law, but they work outside the law and this isn’t sitting pretty with IID or Internal Affairs as we know them here. In many ways because of the fact that the story itself in over 30 years old and is just adapted for modern audiences with current technology, film style and such it can at times come off as cliché. I personally have NO issues with this, the best crime stories are not about the plot points, but the way they are delivered. THE SWEENEY delivers with bombastic, exhilarating action and intense, very natural acting.
The film as a whole had only one flaw. For the American audience or at least my own ears, I had to actually put the subtitles on. These are some of the thickest, most roughest United Kingdom accents I have ever heard in my life. Ray being the harshest of all, pulling in all his cockney to be a right bastard. That’s isn’t a detriment though, since I’m reviewing a Blu-Ray so subtitles? Just put them up there. Sure for someone who’s blind or can’t read this will be a problem, but do blind people watch action films? And do people without enough education to know how to read bother with films that have complicated plots with twists and turns and tons of character development? Maybe they do… but they can still enjoy this film, because well, if they can do that, then this film will have something for them.
The gun fights are crazy, the car chases are awesome, the cinematography is brilliant. Hell, just for the robbery, shooting and foot chase through Trafalgar Square which is covered extensively on the extras makes this film a must see.
Yet that isn’t the only greatness. There are two co-stars that bring a lot of notable excitement to the film on top of Winstone’s insanity. Hayley Battle, whom American audiences learned to love in Captain America is almost more dangerous and obviously way sexier than Ray (unless you’re thing is old, grizzled, beat up men) and turned in amazing performance. Between Falcon and this she’s quickly becoming a favorite of mine. This was also the first true star turn for musician Plan B also known as Ben Drew. His George Carter is just as important if not more important than Winstone’s Regan and he delivers a fantastic performance that really carries the film for at least 1/3rd.
THE SWEENEY is available on DVD ($20) and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo ($25) and dropped on April 2nd, 2013 (so you can go buy it now!)
America during the time of pre-Civil War and Civil War itself was tumultuous, violent, full of bravery, regime, and the building of a nation that has evolved technologically and lawfully if not spiritually or mentally. The prejudices of the time are still rampant. The attitudes and personalities of the time a constant. The only thing that has changed is how society as a whole looks at these attitudes. From who are president is, to the type of entertainment audiences divulge and live off of.
It is quite fascinating to me that in 2012 two of the most lauded film makers of my generation and what I predict generations to come would approach a time period around the same time although very different, and yet extremely similar.
Over the winter I had the opportunity to see Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s LINCOLN and Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNLEASHED. Clocking in at a combined 5 hours and 30 minutes they are both truly epic films filled with violence, stellar casts, amazing dialogues and what seem like lost opportunities in which even such expansive running times were not enough to deliver all the story and awesome that exists, especially in Tarantino’s DJANGO. There’s so much awesomeness in DJANGO that a comic book adapted from the original script being published by DC Comics.
I saw LINCOLN at the prestigious ZIGFIELD theater with a friend. It was a joint early Academy and SAG screening and Mr. Spielberg presented the film beforehand. A playbill/book was handed out which basically gave out some historical background that didn’t actually make it into the final film. In my opinion Tommy Lee Jones truly steals the film. His performance while still very “him” has a panache and delivery of conviction. His character a true hero of the times, at least as depicted here. History is very unclear and a bit possibly misguided in their presentation of Thaddeus Stevens and film has never been kind to him, probably because of the fact that he was actually a man who truly believed in equality, a rarity in those times and sadly even up till the 70’s. The cast was used in spectacular fashion here, everyone truly got a moment to shine, even the very short appearance by the rarely seen but always enjoyable Lukas Haas. It was an all together wonderful experience as well as an educational one and at least for me showed that Spielberg might still have it, either that or we’ll be able to say “Well at least did a couple good movies” in the future.
I saw Django Unchained at the IFC Center and got lucky enough to meet someone cool on line. The IFC room they used had really weird seats that went way too far back, making it a bit uncomfortable for a three hour film, but I think any theater has that problem, there’s no real answer. This is what I said about the film on Facebook directly after viewing it.
Django is a 3 hour spaghetti Western with some awesome Tarantino dialogue, amazing cinematography and severe waste of some of the talent used. It is not as good as Inglourious Basterds, but it is a very strong movie and for a guy who always says that a movie would be better if it had more nudity, the film delivered there for all genders.
Retrospectively it may have actually been better than Basterds, although with Basterds I never felt like any character was shortchanged, but I still really feel that Zoe Bell was completely unused. I felt her role and her inclusion in the film could’ve led to something quite amazing. We never get the one thing Spaghetti Westerns or any Western really offer. Even the Western comics that Quentin loved. He never get a real one on one battle between the hero and that one tough enemy who we don’t know if he can beat. Not a single villain is a bad ass. They’re all pushovers. Mentally strong and that is shown, but I would’ve loved just one battle where Django had to really fight one on one, mano y mano with a ne’er do well that was more than him and Django had to use HIS wits to defeat. Saying that, the film really paints an intriguing picture of pre-Civil War South, the South that Lincoln would soon have to contend with, the degenerate,m backwards thinking, bigoted racist South. I have to think Django got drafted during emancipation and died in the war or went into hiding and died an old man with not much to speak for but his freedom, yet sometimes… Freedom is all anyone asks for.
Both these films state that, freedom, equality be it by the land of the law or the societal measures, freedom is a thing one should be grateful for, always.