HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What's new Rambu? A Look at Peter O'Brian and his time in the Indonesian film industry.

This is a small look at Peter O'Brian's time in the Indonesian film industry and his humble entry into film (reprinted with his permission). This a small preview of some of the stories we hope to hear in our upcoming interview with Peter (who is one of the nicest guys on the planet)!

I've been out here in the wilderness(Indonesia) for twenty years man. When I first came here on a teaching English throughout Asia mission, I had a ticket to travel the world and Indonesia was my second port of call. I was scheduled to stay five days in Jakarta, but after two days here I couldn't stand it, and took a walk down to UTA ( the French Airline I had my ticket with) when I was spotted walking the streets by film scouts. At the time they were looking for a Rambo look a like and there I was. They actually thought I was Sly, poor bastards. Anyway, the next thing you know, I'm down at Ram Punjabi's film studio ( Parkit Film) doing a fight scene with this Chinese fighter.

They stopped the fight scene after several minutes, and asked me into Ram's office to sign a contract as a leading man. I never did use that world trip ticket, in fact it ended up in the bin as I forgot about it and it just expired. That is destiny Ian.

Getting back to my story, so there you go Ian, from an English teacher to a Film star at the toss of a coin. Well, I wasn't going to let anybody step on my dreams; consequently, I signed the contract but not before scamming a role for my best friend as the Gangster boss, Craig Gavin ( real name Craig Smith). At first Ram, Gobin and Damu( the Punjabi Brothers) said, 'no we do not need a gangster boss especially one who looks like a gangster', and I said well, "either you take the two of us or forget it". They told me that they'd think about and let me know the next day.

We were best buddies on a world trip at that time, so we really didn't give a rat's arse about films or anything else for that matter. The next thing, I get the call saying, " OK, we'll keep him here as your manager and who knows, maybe we might find a role for him". On balance, the good old business, Indian minded producers put him to good use as a gangster boss where he shone.

We did two films together with the Punjabi Bros, and then Craig decided to stay back in New Zealand where we come from, not The USA as is wrongly stated here and there.

After getting a taste of Indonesia and its rich culture, gorgeous women, and exotic places, I decided to stay on and do another film with The Bros. I ended up playing the bad guy in my next film, called 'Forceful Impact', which stared an American Italian guy. It was fun raping and killing and not going to jail, so all in all it was a grand experience. Besides that, I'm not naturally an evil, or should I say bad guy; consequently, it was a real challenge to take on this role as a mafia boss.

After acting in seven movies I got married to the girl of my dreams.

We lived very humble lives there for three years before coming back to Indonesia. A year after being back, I ran into Gope Samtani, who is the main Producer from Rapi films. In our discussions, he asked me to make a come back in a film called "Time Game", which is basically a copy of Die hard one, but done in an apartment building through a terrorist genre. I was the hero, and did all my own stunts which is what I always do, and always enjoy doing.

Since a young boy, I've always loved danger and constantly found myself in hospital wards with broken arms, a back injury and some pretty serious cuts. Still, my principal is, you only live once, and after all, dying is easy; it's living that is hard. I've always believed that God will give me a good day to die, and when he's fit and ready to do so. I don't like living in fear and be robbed of some exhilarating moments.

By the way, that is not my voice in any of those films. They were all dubbed unfortunately.

I know readers can't wait to hear more about Peter's career and thankfully he seems blessed with not only great kindness and charm, but a great memory!


From actor/filmmaker Mark Redfield's MySpace blog:

The Commission for Historic and Architectural Preservation, The Baltimore City Department of Planning, and The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum announce the world-famous Edgar Allan Poe Special Bicentenial--a two-weekend birthday celebration and Baltimore tradition since 1982--on Saturday, January 17 and Sunday, January 18, 2009, plus a second weekend of performances on Saturday, January 31 and Sunday, February 1, 2009.

Celebrated at the Westminster Hall, Burial Place of Edgar Allan Poe (519 West Fayette Street, Baltimore Maryland). Start making plans to kick off the Poe Bicentennial and part of Poe history by attending the Poe Bicentennial Birthday Celebration!

SPECIAL GUEST JOHN ASTIN: Back by popular demand, actor John Astin will present his special and unique Poe Tribute as only he can. You've waited years for Mr. Astin to return to the celebration and now he's back! You will not see this performance at any other venue.For more info. about John Astin visit

In addition to Mr. Astin's Tribute to Poe, we are pleased to present three of Poe's most unusual stories for your enjoyment:
On Saturday, January 17th, Mark Redfield (creator of the film The Death of Poe) will present a theatrical performance of "Hop Frog" using live actors, masks and life size puppets. "Hop Frog" is a horrifying tale of revenge upon a cruel king and his seven ministers.For more information about Mark Redfield visit
Performed by Tony Tsendeas (The Wire, The Death of Poe).
On Sunday, January 18th John Spitzer of Fraudulent Productions returns to the Westminster stage with "Some Words With a Mummy". This comedy revolves around an Egyptian mummy that is brought back to life through electricity (shades of Frankenstiein!) and proceeds to spar with the doctors and scientists that resurrected him. In "Some Words With A Mummy," first published in 1845, Poe created the history's first reanimated Mummy. Poe was always keen to capitalize on the popular imagination, and the Egyptian craze had been steadily building in Europe and America for two decades.

In addition, it gave Poe a perfect vehicle for his acerbic social satire. Surprisingly, comedy comprises fully one-third of Poe's tales, and he was possessed of an exquisite and robust sense of humor. "Some Words With A Mummy" is a compelling mix of thrills and comedy, and is believed by many to be Poe's finest satire. In his living Mummy, Poe devised not only another literary first, but also a brilliant device to satirize our culture, and human nature itself.

Other surprises will be announced as they are finalized! Baltimore will be celebrating the Bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poethroughout 2009 with many events!

visit: for more information!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 4.0 -- DVD review by porfle

When the original CATTLECAR--excuse me, "BATTLESTAR" GALACTICA came out back in the 70s, I was among those who regarded it as nothing more than a candy-coated piece of sci-fi dreck. So when the Sci-Fi Channel came out with this jazzed-up remake a few years ago, I stayed away, recalling that old line about a silk purse and a sow's ear. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. After watching this BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 4.0 four-disc DVD set, which covers the first half of the show's fourth and supposedly final season, I could frakkin' kick myself for not being glued to the TV set from the very first episode.

Simply put, this series kicks major ass on every conceivable level. Surely one of the finest series ever produced for television, it might even be the best weekly sci-fi series of all time. Every aspect of the show--acting, writing, production values, special effects, music--is consistently excellent. The show's producers, Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, have somehow managed to combine riveting adult drama with the best elements of pure space opera.

As in the '78 version, the story begins in a distant part of the galaxy where a human civilization known as The Twelve Colonies is decimated by an attack from the Cylons. Less than 35,000 humans survive, escaping into deep space in a ragtag fleet of ships protected by the battlestar Galactica under the leadership of Admiral William Adama. Their goal is to reach the fabled planet of their race's origin known as "Earth" before the pursuing Cylons can destroy them.

The Cylons consist of both robotic warriors and several series of humanoid clones which are essentially immortal, since they can download their shared consciousness into new bodies whenever necessary via an immense spacecraft known as the Resurrection Hub. Much of the fourth season's drama revolves around a civil war between the more warlike Cylons and the ones who wish to end hostilities with the humans, while a small group of these humanoid Cylons, known as The Final Five, actually live and work aboard the Galactica and until recently were unaware that they weren't human.

Meanwhile, Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Laura Roslin (DANCES WITH WOLVES' Mary McDonnell) struggle to maintain military control over the fleet rather than hand it over to a group of civilian politicians headed by Vice President Zarek (original '78 castmember Richard Hatch). Religion plays a major role in the stories as well, with one-God proponent Gaius Baltar (James Callis) and his worshipful followers clashing with polytheists who maintain belief in Zeus and other gods. ("Gods damn it!" is a commonly-heard expletive on the show, second only to the ubiquitous "Frak!")

A major event which really sets the fourth-season storyline into motion is the disappearance of fighter pilot Kara "Starbuck" Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) during a battle with the Cylons. After being declared dead, she and her "raptor" ship suddenly turn up several weeks later, both without a scratch. Starbuck insists that somehow she's been to Earth and now knows the way back, but no one believes her at first--in fact, she's suspected to be a Cylon replicant. Eventually, however, the ultimate fate of the entire fleet will depend upon the knowledge that has been mysteriously implanted in her mind.

Having missed out on all the previous episodes, I had to piece together much of what goes on during this season on the fly. But it was definitely worth it. There's a wealth of intense human drama, not to mention political and religious intrigue, all interlaced within a rock-solid story arc featuring a fascinating cast of characters. The plight of the Final Five is especially compelling as they deal with the shock of discovering that they're not human and the constant fear of being revealed as "alien." The growing romantic relationship between battle-weary leaders Adama and Roslin is explored, and made more poignant by her terminal cancer. And the conflict between the warring Cylon factions is full of surprises.

As space opera, the series often reaches epic proportions. The battles between human and Cylon forces are depicted with some mouth-wateringly good CGI--not as sharp and weighty as model work, but with a sweep and grandeur comparable to STARSHIP TROOPERS and the opening sequence of STAR WARS III: REVENGE OF THE SITH--while the potentially distracting use of Shaky-Cam is handled well, giving the battle scenes a somewhat documentary feel. The show also boasts top-notch production design and excellent sets that create a believably realistic atmosphere.

Old pros Olmos and McDonnell head a fine cast that also includes BAND OF BROTHERS' Jamie Bamber as soldier-turned-politician Lee "Apollo" Adama, Tricia Helfer as the beautiful and mysterious Cylon known as Number Six, Michael Hogan as Colonel Tigh (who is not only Adama's most trusted officer but also a member of the Final Five), and the great Dean Stockwell as Cylon leader Brother Cavil. Another welcome presence is Lucy Lawless in an awesomely cool turn as D'Anna Biers, a Cylon who becomes the focal point of an intense standoff between the opposing forces which will determine the outcome of the entire saga.

In addition to the ten episodes in this set, the first disc contains a stand-alone movie called RAZOR which stars Michelle Forbes as Admiral Helena Cain of the battlestar Pegasus. Forbes, who played Ensign Ro on "Star Trek: The Next Generation", is outstanding in this gripping tale of a ruthless commander who resorts to terror and the execution of civilians to ensure the survival of her ship and crew. Both the broadcast version and the unrated extended version are included.

Each disc also contains numerous bonus features--commentary tracks, behind-the-scenes docs, deleted scenes, trailers, minisodes, podcast commentaries, video blogs, and more--offering hours of added material. The visual and sound quality are fine, with 1.78:01 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are in English and Spanish.

As a longtime sci-fi fan, and especially as a diehard Trekker, I enjoyed the hell out of this set and will definitely start seeking out more of them. Although BATTLESTAR GALACTICA 4.0 ends halfway through the fourth season--to be continued in 2009--it does come to a satisfying conclusion. I can't wait to see the rest!

Available at

Friday, December 19, 2008

PULSE 3 -- DVD review by porfle

I missed the first installment in what is now the PULSE trilogy, but I did catch the second one and found it entertaining enough to look forward to part three. And here it is--PULSE 3 (2008), the final segment in the saga of a global apocalypse that occurs when a freak technological discovery opens up a portal between the world of the living and the dark, terrifying dimension of the dead.

The last movie ended with a newly-orphaned little girl named Justine (Karley Scott Collins) boarding a bus which would take her to an isolated refugee colony in West Texas, far from any visual communications devices or internet connections through which the soul-sucking ghosts enter our world. Now seventeen and chafing from the confines of her near-primitive lifestyle, Justine (the winsome Brittany Renee Finamore) runs away from her foster parents and heads for Houston after discovering a working laptop computer and making friends with an unseen IM buddy named Adam.

After barely surviving a harrowing encounter with a lonsesome cotton farmer along the way, Justine reaches the ruined city to find it inhabited only by baleful ghosts. Her search for Adam leads her right into the clutches of an old acquaintance from the previous film, The Man With A Plan (Todd Giebenhain). Holed up in his red-lined loft (the color red repels the ghosts), this psychotic yet highly-intelligent wacko has been developing a plan to foil the spirit invasion in conjunction with the military. The main drawback is that his plan involves lots of nuclear weapons. Locked in a red room with a captive ghost, Justine must find a way to escape and make contact with Adam--if he's even still alive.

PULSE 3 never builds up much of a head of steam and isn't quite the finale I'd expected, but it's still an entertaining and well-made grade B horror flick. Like the previous film, much of it is done with green-screen, both in exterior and interior shots, which might prove distracting or even off-putting for some viewers. Still, the photography is good and the film is technically superior to a lot of equally low-budget efforts I've seen. Director Joel Soisson's script offers an intriguing mystery concerning Adam's character, along with several imaginative vignettes along the way.

First off is the cool opening sequence which shows college student Adam (Rider Strong) carrying on a long-distance romance with an Egyptian girl named Salwa (Noureen DeWulf) via several monitor screens situated in the various rooms of their respective apartments. They chat, watch movies, have dinner together--everything short of actual physical contact. When the spirit invasion begins, Adam must witness Salwa's demise through her cell phone camera as she wanders onto a fire escape in a trancelike daze and jumps off.

My favorite sequence is when Justine, tired from her long journey toward Houston, spends a night with the lonesome cotton farmer, Wilkie (Thomas Merdis in a very good performance). At first she fears that the outwardly-nice but sorta creepy Wilkie may try to make sexual advances toward her, but his true intentions are even more terrifying and result in the film's goriest and most disturbing segment. Also quite entertaining is Justine's encounter with The Man With A Plan in his gadget-filled loft, which was filmed in an abandoned YMCA's indoor running track. Todd Giebenhain's performance is a hoot as he paces around the track, manically spouting reams of dialogue about his plan for wiping out the ghosts using the EMP from several airborn nuclear blasts.

The ghosts themselves aren't employed as effectively here as in the previous film, but there are some unnerving scenes and a few good shock cuts here and there. The filmmakers do a good job of depicting Houston as a ruined, empty city, and the scenes of Justine's shantytown home in the middle of nowhere are equally well designed and atmospheric.

The DVD is in matted widescreen format with good image and sound quality. Special features include a nice, low-key commentary with writer/director Soisson, Producer Mike Leahy, editor Kirk Morri, and star Brittany Finamore, plus a brief making-of featurette and some trailers.

How much you like or dislike PULSE 3 will have a lot to do with your expectations. As the conclusion to a trilogy, it falls far short of its potential and doesn't satisfy the anticipation the second chapter left me with. It's episodic, underpopulated, and sparsely plotted. But as a minor horror flick done by imaginative filmmakers on a low budget, I found it fairly entertaining and fun.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"King of the Hill" -- Nightmarish Psychological Thriller Debuts 1/20

Are you ready to think twice about your next long drive?

Set in the treacherous mountains of Spain, where it’s every man for himself, KING OF THE HILL has been hailed by critics as a “sly, deceptive gut punch of a picture” ( that is “gripping from beginning to end” ( Directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego (Nomadas) with a cast that includes Goya Award winners Leonardo Sbaraglia (Intacto) and Maria Valverde (The Anarchist’s Wife), KING OF THE HILL also picked up laurels for Best Cinematography at the 2008 Screamfest Awards.

After a steamy gas-station liaison with pickpocket Bea (Valverde), thirty-something Quim (Sbaraglia) continues his drive through the Spanish mountainside. Before long, a gunshot rings out and they are each forced to abandon their vehicles and run for their lives in order to escape the wrath of an unknown killer.

Price: $19.97
Street Date: January 20, 2009
Rating: R


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

THE DARK KNIGHT -- DVD review by porfle

How dark should a "Batman" movie be? Some fans despise the Frank Miller-influenced take on the character that's become popular in recent years, especially after Tim Burton exorcised all of that jolly Adam West campiness once and for all back in '89. Others, like me, loved the Michael Keaton version of the caped crusader and were even happier to see director Christopher Nolan's BATMAN BEGINS take the subject to still greater heights of realism. Now, with Nolan's 2008 sequel THE DARK KNIGHT, Batman gets his darkest and most adult screen adventure yet, and--unless you prefer your Batman scurrying around on giant pennies with Robin and Bat-Mite--it's a complex and magnificent achievement.

The story opens with a Gotham City beseiged by a hornet's nest of gangland criminals stirred up by the Batman's tireless efforts to thwart their underworld enterprises. Desperate to stop him, they turn to the only person who seems crazy enough to take him on--The Joker, a mysterious, seemingly fearless psycho in clown makeup who lives to create as much chaos as possible. He also aims to prove that anyone is corruptible by taking on Gotham's dauntless new D.A., Harvey Dent, who rivals Batman as a crusader against crime. To do this, Joker plans to murder Dent's one true love, assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes, and place the blame on Batman and newly-appointed police commissioner James Gordon, thus twisting Dent himself into a vengeful agent of terror.

There's a lot of story packed into this film's 152-minute running time, perhaps even too much--it took me two or three viewings to get everything straight and fully appreciate all the twists and turns--but it's riveting. More than just a superhero flick, THE DARK KNIGHT is a top-notch crime drama that takes itself seriously in every respect, while also fully exploring the dimensions of each character. Mix all that with a series of breathtaking action sequences featuring Batman in some of his most dazzlingly audacious exploits ever, and the effect is nothing less than exhilarating.

The best thing about the action scenes in this movie is how much of it is done without CGI, using good old-fashioned stuntwork and practical effects instead of digital cartoon figures slugging it out. This is especially true of the film's central setpiece, in which Harvey Dent is being transferred to the county lock-up after publicly confessing that he is Batman. It's all a ruse, of course, to draw the Joker into the open, and it results in a no-holds-barred chase scene involving police and SWAT vans, a tractor-trailer rig, a garbage truck, and the Batmobile. At one point, Batman emerges from the wreckage of the Batmobile riding his new Batcycle (officially it's called the "Batpod", but I like Batcycle better), which you gotta see to believe. The Joker takes one look at this contraption careening out of an alleyway and remarks appreciatively, "Now THERE'S a Batman."

It's this admiration and respect for Batman that helps make the Joker character interesting. Heath Ledger doesn't act stereotypically evil as much as gleefully, insanely prankish, almost childlike at times, as though the Joker simply gets a thrill from messing things up and causing trouble, and rather than try to kill Batman, he finds him a delightfully fun playmate with whom to engage in deadly games. With little regard for self-preservation and a pronounced suicidal streak ("HIT ME!" he shrieks as the Batpod bears down upon him), he hurls himself into each harrowing situation with utter abandon. But he's incredibly dangerous, too, as evidenced by his explosive escape from police custody and his lethal dealings with Gotham's mob underworld.

Ledger's Oscar-worthy performance is amazing from start to finish, consistently fascinating and endlessly surprising. Some have said that the script gives him too many speeches explaining his behavior, as in his "I'm an agent of chaos" scene with a bedridden Harvey Dent, but I could listen to him all day. He's just plain fun to watch. People have mentioned detecting elements of Richard Dreyfuss or Jack Lemmon in his portrayal, while I thought I heard a little of Al Franken's "Stuart Smalley" in there as well. He's got that insane laugh down pat, too, but it isn't an affectation--he really comes off as a total loon.

The rest of the cast is awesome as well. There's Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman from the first film (that's a kickass lineup right there), with the addition of Aaron Eckhart (THE CORE) as Harvey Dent, who later morphs into the hideous Two-Face. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role of Rachel Dawes and is effective in a non-glamorous, down-to-earth way. Cillian Murphy makes a brief return as the Scarecrow early on, and Anthony Michael Hall appears as Gotham's leading television newsman. A really pleasant surprise for me was the appearance of one of my all-time favorite actors, Eric Roberts, as the head of Gotham's criminal element, and it's great to see him in a high-profile role such as this. Likewise, I enjoyed seeing Tommy "Tiny" Lister, who appeared with Roberts in the classic RUNAWAY TRAIN, in a brief but pivotal role, as well as Melinda McGraw as Gordon's wife Barbara and William Fictner as a shotgun-wielding bank manager during the film's exciting opening sequence.

As you might expect, the movie looks and sounds great on DVD. The standard two-disc edition is a little light on extras, though. There are two brief featurettes, one covering the creation of the new Batsuit and Batpod, the other describing Hans Zimmer's musical themes for the Joker. Six sequences from the movie are presented in their IMAX aspect ratios. My favorite is the six-episode series of segments from a fictional news show, "Gotham Tonight", with Anthony Michael Hall's character interviewing various Gotham notables. Rounding out the selection are production stills, poster art, trailers, and a digital copy of the film.

In addition to these, the Blu-Ray edition includes the following:
Movie with Focus Points (picture in picture)
Batman Tech: The incredible gadgets and tools (in HD)
Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight--Delve into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and the world of Batman through real-world psychotherapy (in HD)
Galleries: The Joker cards, concept art, poster art, production stills, trailers and TV spots.

THE DARK KNIGHT ends on a suitably dark note with the Batman on the run from the law, now a suspect in several murders and a pariah in Gotham City. Is this the traditionally downbeat middle chapter of a trilogy? In any case, the untimely death of Heath Ledger makes it a memorably unique cinematic experience that, regrettably, can never be reprised. But with just about everyone else on board for the following sequel--and not a trace of giant pennies or Robin in sight--I can't wait to see what Christopher Nolan has in store for us next.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SURFER, DUDE -- DVD review by porfle

SURFER, DUDE (2008) is one of those films that isn't exactly "good" as much as it is "good-natured." Not particulary well-made, but somewhat pleasant, easygoing, stupid--in other words, a painless way to waste and hour and a half.

Matthew McConaughey plays famous surfer Steve Addington, who lives only to surf. He supports this lifestyle via celebrity endorsements, with the help of his perpetually-stoned manager Jack (Woody Harrelson). When a business deal puts his contract in the hands of ex-surfer Eddie Zarno (Jeffrey Nordling), who has sold out and become a money-grubbing TV and videogame executive, Steve (or rather, "Add" as he's known to his friends and fans) is expected to participate in the development of a virtual-reality videogame while also joining the cast of a sleazy reality TV show in which celebrity surfers live in a beach house filled with half-naked babes.

Add balks at such soulless activities and spurns Zarno's offer, preferring to stay in his tiny beach hut and spend his days getting high and surfing with his bros. Unfortunately, a wave drought of epic proportions has just hit the California coast, turning the entire oceanfront into a giant placid lake for weeks on end. While fasting and praying to the surf gods for some waves, he falls in love with former Zarno employee Danni (Alexie Gilmore) and fights to regain his good name after Zarno releases a doctored video which falsely depicts him badmouthing surfers as "lame."

It took McConaughey and his associates seven years to get this story in front of the cameras, but it's so slight and so casually put together that you might wonder what took them so long. Storywise, it never really builds up to much. The dialogue isn't particularly funny, and Add's running buddies are a rather uninteresting bunch of ne'er-do-wells. Some of the shots are pretty nice, and the scenes in Zarno's decadent reality-show funhouse are well designed, but much of SURFER, DUDE looks as artlessly zoned-out as most of its characters--I suspect the filmmakers were smoking just as much weed as the actors.

McConaughey himself can't decide whether he wants to play Add as a lovable doofus or Mr. Cool--he often comes off as a Marlboro Man-type with a joint hanging out of his mouth instead of a cigarette. What the character really needed was a touch of Sean Penn's "Jeff Spicoli" from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, only older and a tad more wizened. Or maybe he should've been played by Harrelson, who seems better suited for it. As Add's manager, Woody does provide the film with its brighter moments.

Alexie Gilmore is likable as Danni, while Sarah Wright, as her bubbly blonde girlfriend Stacey, is cute as a button. Gorgeous K.D. Aubert lends plenty of sex appeal as April May, whom Zarno uses to try and lure Add over to the dark side. If I were the editor, I'm sure I could've managed to shoehorn her rather stimulating shower scene in there somewhere, but you'll have to check out the deleted scenes if you want to see it. Zarno himself is portrayed with sufficient sleaze by Jeffrey Nordling. In cameo roles, Willie Nelson grins his way through the part of Farmer Bob (I'll give you one guess what his main crop is), while Scott Glenn, looking particularly scary here, appears briefly as Add's surfing mentor.

Speaking of surfing, there's surprisingly little of it in SURFER, DUDE. The wave drought begins early on, and only in the last couple of minutes do we see some halfhearted surfing footage which is hardly more impressive than Greg Brady's watery exploits in the Hawaii episodes of "The Brady Bunch." Some dialogue is inserted here and there to convey Add's reverence for the sport and the lifestyle, but it's rather perfunctory.

I actually became a little irritated with his character after awhile, baffled by his dogged refusal to easily earn heaping gobs of cash in exchange for doing a few simple things like performing motion-capture moves for Zarno's surfing videogame and spending a few weeks in a luxurious beach house filled to the gills with promiscuous bikini girls. I mean, dude--lighten up. You're killin' me here.

Like I said, though, the movie does provide a certain amount of mindless fun along with some dandy eye candy. (Not counting the obligatory McConaughey naked shots, that is.) Ramon Rodriguez is funny as Add's nemesis, Lupe La Rosa, a bad-guy surfer who gleefully wallows in Zarno's world and manages to effectively "punk" our hero in one amusing sequence. An early scene in which Add goes through customs upon his return to the States is funny as well. And the whole movie has a certain laidback charm that is somewhat enjoyable once you've passed the point of expecting much more from it.

The DVD is 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby Surround 5.1. McConaughey does a solo commentary which is enjoyable because he's having a good time doing it, although much of it consists of him watching the movie and forgetting to say things about it. Extras include about twelve minutes of deleted scenes (don't forget to catch K.D. Aubert's shower scene), a making-of featurette called "Surfer Dude: The Real Story" which is actually more fun than the movie, a theatrical trailer, and a 12-webisode promotional series that originally appeared on the film's website.

Definitely not one of the better films I've seen lately, SURFER, DUDE does manage to be mildly diverting in a goofy, aimless sort of way. And if you're sitting out some of that cold winter weather like I am, there are worse ways to spend some time than hanging out in Malibu watching some stoners smoke copious amounts of weed and cavort with beach girls, waves or no waves.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

BURN AFTER READING -- DVD review by porfle

One thing about the Coen brothers--you never know what to expect when you sit down to watch one of their films. This is especially true of their comedies, which can range from lowbrow slapstick (RAISING ARIZONA) to chilly, intellectual aloofness (THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE).

As for their latest, BURN AFTER READING (2008), I just watched it twice and I still don't know what to make of it. It's an intense political thriller filled with intrigue, except that there aren't any politics and the intrigue all stems from a complex web of misunderstanding, paranoia, and just plain stupidity. It's like a BOURNE movie in which Matt Damon has been replaced with the Three Stooges.

John Malkovich plays Osbourne Cox, a low-level CIA analyst who quits in a huff after being demoted due to a drinking problem, and then sets about writing his memoirs, which somehow end up in the hands of Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad (Brad Pitt), a couple of dingbats who work at a health club.

Certain that they've stumbled onto some vital classified information, Linda and Chad attempt to blackmail Cox so that Linda can finally afford a series of cosmetic surgeries that will improve her social life. When Cox refuses to pay, they take the floppy disc to the Russian embassy, where a bemused official named Krapotkin doesn't know what to make of it or them.

Meanwhile, Cox's ice-cold wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with their health-nut friend Harry (George Clooney), a sex addict who has also hooked up with Linda through a computer dating service. Katie's planning to divorce Osbourne and marry Harry, while Harry still loves his wife (who's planning to divorce him and is having him shadowed by a detective) and also is falling for Linda.

When Linda sends Chad to Osbourne's house to try and dig up more secret information, he runs into Harry, who thinks he's a spy. The increasingly paranoid Harry then discovers that Linda's involved in the whole thing and thinks she's a spy, too. An important element in all this is that Harry's job requires him to carry a gun, which isn't a good idea under the circumstances.

It's a hard story to put into a nutshell, and it's even harder to convey just how goofy and off-the-wall this movie is. All the trappings of the political potboiler are here--car chases, shootings, break-ins, deceptions, people being followed by shadowy figures, the whole shebang--but while one half of the cast is made up of serious people living their lives in the really real world, the other half is composed of colossal idiots blundering their way into this serious milieu and gumming up the works with catastrophic results.

The Coens direct it like a straightfaced thriller with the chameleonlike Carter Burwell supplying a pulse-pounding musical score, and their deadpan approach to this material makes it delightfully fun to watch. It's also wonderfully unpredictable--I dare anyone to try and figure out what's going to happen next at any point in the story--with one or two developments that are wild enough to give the viewer whiplash. Like Janet Leigh's fatal shower in PSYCHO or the jaw-dropping ending of TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., this story often manages to whip the rug right out from under us with prankish glee.

Frances McDormand gives us another quirky, memorable Coen character here, but unlike FARGO's Marge Gundersen, her Linda Litzke is a ditzy wacko. Brad Pitt has a great time playing the equally idiotic Chad, and together they make quite a pair. George Clooney is hilarious as the increasingly frazzled Harry, whose life is flying to pieces around him for reasons he can't even begin to understand. Malkovich, of course, is fascinating to watch as the equally paranoid Osbourne Cox, as he tries to figure out who the hell Linda and Chad are and what insidious government conspiracy is closing in around him.

As his wife Katie, Tilda Swinton is about as cold and ruthless a bitch as you could imagine. Another Coen regular, Richard Jenkins, expertly underplays his part as usual and is probably the film's most sympathetic character. In lesser roles, David Rasche and J.K. Simmons are pitch-perfect as a couple of bland, weary CIA officials struggling to make sense of the whole twisted affair--their final scene together is a subtle, deftly-played wrap-up that had me howling in giddy disbelief as the closing credits appeared, aghast that the Coen brothers had pulled off something so audaciously messed up.

The DVD is 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1, and it looks and sounds fine to me. There are three brief bonus featurettes: "Finding the Burn", a making-of short; "DC Insiders Run Amuck", a look at the film's talented cast; and "Welcome Back George", which marks George Clooney's third collaboration with the Coens.

BURN AFTER READING won't appeal to everyone, which is something Joel and Ethan Coen have never seemed overly concerned about. They appear content to make whatever kind of film strikes their fancy at the time and let it find whatever audience happens to latch onto it. I'm glad I latched onto this one, because not only did I have a grand time watching it, but the characters have been running around inside my head all day reenacting scenes from the movie, and I kinda like it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

TRAITOR -- DVD review by porfle

With two of my favorite actors in the lead roles, TRAITOR (2008) starts off with a couple of points in its favor right off the bat. And with a cracking script that sizzles like a burning fuse all the way to the exciting conclusion, this action-filled and intelligent political thriller kept me interested from beginning to end.

Don Cheadle brings his usual soulful quality and depth to the role of Samir Horn, a Sudanese-born Muslim selling explosives to Arab terrorists in Yemen. After FBI "advisors" help local police bust one of their deals and send the lot to prison, Samir befriends one of the terrorists, Omar (Saïd Taghmaoui), and is included in the group's daring prison escape. He then becomes a trusted member of the group, and his knowledge of explosives makes him an integral part of their plan to use sleeper agents in the US to blow up thirty passenger-filled buses simultaneously on Thanksgiving Day.

Meanwhile, FBI agents Clayton (Guy Pearce) and Archer (Neal McDonough) are hot on Samir's trail as they try to track down the terrorists and stop whatever dastardly plan they're setting into motion. Complicating things are the presence of an information-leaking double agent within their own ranks and the fact that a high-ranking agent named Carter (Jeff Daniels) has his own secret scheme for catching the terrorists, with the help of an inside man. Is it Samir?

I was surprised to find that this story was written by Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin), who apparently has a flair for political intrigue and action-suspense that I was unaware of. The fact that the terrorists aren't portrayed as snarling stereotypes gives added realism to the story--Omar seems to genuinely believe in what he's doing and his warm friendship with Samir makes him an almost sympathetic character. (Not quite, though, since he's still a terrorist whose goal is to slaughter dozens of innocent people.) Cheadle is able to keep us guessing about Samir and whether he's really one of the bad guys, or else has his own hidden agenda--even when we see him plant a bomb that kills eight people. There's a kind of DONNIE BRASCO quality to his story that makes for several scenes of gripping suspense.

The rest of the cast is excellent, especially Guy Pearce as Agent Clayton. He doesn't get a lot of screen time or character development, but Pearce is a fascinating actor to watch as usual. Neal McDonough is effective as his less-experienced partner, who provides most of what little humor there is. Jeff Daniels (PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, DUMB AND DUMBER) does a good job as the furtive Carter, whose plan to stop the terrorists may be a little too close to the vest for his own good.

Director and co-scripter Jeffrey Nachmanoff's visual style is lean and efficient, keeping the story moving along smoothly with few distractions and staging the action scenes in a hard-hitting and straightforward manner. The movie looks good and boasts several international locations including Morocco, France, London, Canada, and Chicago. Mark Kilian's musical score is a beautiful mix of electronic New Age and Middle Eastern influences.

The DVD is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby surround 5.1 sound, both of which are fine. English and Spanish subtitles are available. Bonus features include an entertaining commentary from director Nachmanoff and star Cheadle, two brief featurettes entitled "Action! The Stunts and Special Effects of TRAITOR" and "International Espionage: An In-Depth Look at TRAITOR's Exotic Locations", and a trailer.

I've given away about as much of the story as you get in the trailer--any more would be too much. But there's a lot more going on than you might originally suspect, and it's all pretty exciting. Before it's over, there are thirty terrorists on buses, all waiting to set off their explosives at a certain time, while the FBI agents race against the clock to keep it from happening. And, true to the title, Don Cheadle's Samir is definitely a TRAITOR--but to which side?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Dynamic Action Duo Joins Forces On DVD January 13th From The Weinstein Company And Genius Products’ Heralded Dragon Dynasty Label"A super-charged, bang-up action flick the likes of which most Americans still have never seen.
– Boxoffice Magazine

SANTA MONICA, CA – Martial arts titans Jackie Chan (The Forbidden Kingdom, Rush Hour) and Michelle Yeoh (The Mummy 3, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) go undercover to infiltrate the region’s most nefarious drug ring in the 2-Disc Ultimate Edition of SUPERCOP, arresting audiences on 2 Disc DVD January 13th from Genius Products and The Weinstein Company. The latest entry in the celebrated Dragon Dynasty line of adrenaline-fueled martial arts films, SUPERCOP tells the story of a Hong Kong police officer with a knack for improvisation who meets a beautiful but strait-laced Chinese agent and teams up with her in order to bring down the largest drug syndicate in the Pacific Rim. Along the way, they are regularly forced to unleash their spectacular arsenal of exciting, high-flying kung fu.

Directed by Stanley Tong (Mr. Magoo) and co-starring Maggie Cheung (Jet Li’s Hero), the historic success of SUPERCOP in theatres paved the way for a new wave of Asian action films and heroes in the United States. Regarded as one of Jackie Chan’s most beloved films, SUPERCOP has been lauded as a sharp "mix of stunts, martial arts and Chan's own brand of breathtaking slapstick comedy" ( The film also garnered Hong Kong Film Award nominations for Best Actor (Chan) and Best Action Choreography. Boasting all-new bonus features, SUPERCOP will be available on DVD for the suggested retail price of $19.97.
Kevin Chan (Chan), a Hong Kong Police officer, teams up with beautiful but dangerous Chinese agent Jessica Yang (Yeoh) who poses as his sister as they go undercover to bring down the region’s predominate drug cartel.
Special Features:
Flying High: An Exclusive Interview With Star Jackie Chan
Dancing With Death: An Interview With Leading Lady Michelle Yeoh
The Stuntmaster General: An Exclusive Interview With Director Stanley Tong
The Fall Guy: An Exclusive Interview With Co-Star And Jackie Chan Bodyguard And Training Partner Ken Lo
Commentary By Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
Price: $19.97
Street Date: January 13, 2009
Catalog Number: 81700
Rating: NR
Run Time: 91 minutes
Languages: English Dolby 5.1, English DTS, Cantonese Mono
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Closed Captioned


Monday, December 8, 2008

The Best of Dr. Katz DVD Review by Jessica Friedman

The Best of Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist

Jessica Friedman

In its early days, the budding network of Comedy Central offered little by way of original programming. Aside from Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the Daily Show with Craig Kilborn, Comedy Central’s schedule mainly consisted of a variety of old taped comedy acts and SNL reruns. Once South Park arrived, however, this clearly changed everything and Comedy Central became the force to be reckoned with in the world of cable television that it is today.

Now you might be asking yourself, why is she discussing the development of Comedy Central when this review is about an animated tv show? The reason for this introduction is that amid the many comedy shows and very few original programs available on Comedy Central during its infancy, there was one shining gem that is as funny today as it was a decade ago: Dr. Katz.

When my family first received Comedy Central on our cable in 1999, Dr. Katz reruns were one of my favorite programs to watch. I loved almost any animated show at that age (I’ve been a Simpsons fan since the age of 7, for example), and the inclusion of comedians being animated was a bonus to me. What I disliked about the program—the whiny Ben character and the bitchy Laura character—is what makes this DVD so awesome for me personally. I always wanted to skip over the incessant and tedious Ben/Laura scenes to just get to the comedians telling jokes and Dr. Katz wittily replying to them.

Now, with the beauty of DVDs, my wishes have come true and The Best of Dr. Katz is just that—everything we all loved in the show (the comedians) and nothing we disliked. The disc includes segments from a variety of comedians who have talked to Dr. Katz on the couch over the years, and you can choose to either watch them one-by-one or watch them all at once. Some of the comedians were well known to me when I saw these episodes the first time. For example, the David Duchovny one was my introduction to Duchovny being funny and not just obsessed with aliens. Others I had never heard of before (Susie Essman) or I slightly knew of but know MUCH better now (Kathy Griffin, Louis C.K., Patton Oswalt, and many more). I found the David Cross segments to be particularly hilarious, but I am still mourning the loss of Arrested Development and this was the form my grief had taken (inside joke to AD fans). One of the most surprising discoveries for me when watching this DVD was that Ray Romano was featured in one of the episodes. I remembered his segments clearly from having seen them many years before, but it was funny to see a guy who would become such a juggernaut in the sitcom world (Ian’s mother still watches Everybody Loves Raymond all the time) in one of his earlier performances.

All in all, this is a great DVD for anyone who likes clever animated shows from the ‘90s. As long as you can get used to the signature Squigglevision style of animation (which I think is cool, but Ian dislikes), I think you will enjoy it. If you actually do miss the Ben/Laura interaction scenes, this dvd even has extras that feature Dr. Katz’s favorite moments involving those two characters. There’s something for everybody!

Final grade: A


Friday, December 5, 2008

Prince Sirki Claims Fandom's Main Man

Our beloved Uncle Forry--Forrest J. Ackerman--has passed on at the age of 92.

While some of us are at a loss for words at this time, thankfully others are not. Therefore, we will leave it to FJA's friend and caregiver Joe Moe, plus his devoted friends and fans at the Classic Horror Film Board, to put our feelings into words...

Dearest friends.

At 11:58 last night. Thursday Dec. 4th. Forrest J Ackerman passed away quickly and peacefully. I am struggling to give you this information between bouts of profound grief of the sort that you will all be experiencing at the sight of this news. I will give you more details as I'm able. For now, trust me when I tell you he left us gently, in complete lucidity and with as much dignity as any of us could have wished for our beloved Uncle. Thanks for all of your support. We'll talk again soon. Love, Joe Moe

That of course is very sad news. But 92 years is a long life, especially if one has lived his life as well as Mr Ackerman. He was able to make his passions his life work, something not many people get to do. --catmandu7

In a way we should find some comfort in that this news did not just arise out of nowhere, and we all knew that Forry was not well. So there was a lot of time for everyone to collect their thoughts, and to be able to let the Ackermonster know that he meant so much to so many, and that he had many fans who cared. That's really a very special thing, that he got to experience that sentiment. It's always sad to see someone pass on, but when someone has lived a full life of 90+ years and had a good time, this makes the situation somewhat easier to bear. --Joe Karlosi

Without Forry, a lot of us would have been different people... --Scoundrel

The best I can say is that he left knowing he was well loved. --Jelly Roll Norton

I knew this would come someday, but I never wanted it to be today. --blackbiped

So today begins the first day of my living in a world without a Forrest J. Ackerman. That is going to take a lot of getting used to. I don't like it already... --GhostofChaneysLiver

A sad day, following so many happy ones. I think we'll be alright. --Jimchig

Goodbye, dear Uncle. The impact you have had on my life is profound. --Frank Dietz

Truly an end of an era. At least we had Forry this long and he lived his life to the fullest and to the end ... and he did it (to paraphrase the song) "his way." --Don Glut
David "taraco" Colton of the CHFB conveys this message from horror historian and author David J. Skal:

Forrest J Ackerman gave me both my childhood and adulthood. In the early 1960s, there was no home video of any kind, and the only way to access the old classic monster films was to wait for them to sporadically show up on television, or, better yet, read "Famous Monsters of Filmland," where the creatures came to life and cavorted every time you turned the page. Every eight weeks I haunted the local drugstore newsstand with rapt anticipation. His playful use of language and awful puns taught me more about writing than any English class. Ackerman's impact on American popular culture through his influence on major filmmakers like Spielberg, Landis, Dante, and others is inestimable. -- David J. Skal

(Thanks to Frank Dietz and David Colton for the photos. Read and contribute your thoughts to the FJA tribute thread at the CHFB.)


"EDEN LAKE" -- Chilling And Brutal Horror Dives In Onto DVD 1/6/09


Two adults are plunged into a nightmare where children have the upper hand when the provocative and suspenseful thriller EDEN LAKE debuts on DVD January 6 from Genius Products and The Weinstein Company’s Dimension Extreme label. Starring Kelly Reilly (Mrs. Henderson Presents) and Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Bastards), EDEN LAKE is an unsettling thrill-ride and directorial debut from James Watkins (producer of the upcoming The Descent: Part 2).
Schoolteacher Jenny and her boyfriend Steve escape for a romantic weekend in a water-filled quarry surrounded by woods and hidden in the English countryside. Their peaceful stay is cut short by a gang of obnoxious teenagers, which leads to a confrontation and a shockingly violent attack. The EDEN LAKE DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.97.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"PULSE 3" -- Technological Terror Returns To Wreak Havoc On DVD December 23rd

From The Weinstein Company And Genius Products Under The Dimension Extreme Label

SANTA MONICA, CA – In a world now void of the deadly electronics that once nearly destroyed it, the horrifying nightmare is about to begin again as PULSE 3 signals its way onto DVD December 23rd under the Dimension Extreme label from Genius Products and The Weinstein Company. From director Joel Soisson (Pulse 2), the pulsating supernatural fright-fest stars Rider Strong (Cabin Fever) and Brittany Finamore (Silent Night, Deadly Night) as Justine.

A sequel to the fan favorite film Pulse, PULSE 3 takes place seven years after the phantom invasion, and the survivors on Earth have settled into a primitive lifestyle completely void of technology. That is, until sixteen year-old Justine is lured into the city where her curiosity gets the best of her as she unwillingly unleashes the deadliest digital invasion yet. ThePULSE 3 DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.97.
In a desperate and grave world, Justine is a sixteen year-old girl rebelling against the drab, post-apocalyptic world left behind. When she finds a working laptop, she curiously turns on the forbidden machine and unleashes a deadly nightmare.

Bonus Materials:
Pulse 3 Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
Commentary By Writer/Director Joel Soisson, Producer Mike Leahy, Ac tress Brittany Finamore and Editor Kirk Morri

Price: $19.97
Street Date: December 23, 2008
Catalog Number: 81701
Rating: R
Language: English Dolby 5.1
Subtitles: English and Spanish
Closed Captioned



I enjoyed black music a lot more back in the 60s and 70s, in the era of soul, rhythm and blues, Motown--all that cool stuff that sounded so great coming out of my cheap speakers. And I miss funk. I never really bought that many funk albums but it was nice having it around. That's why I'm glad Shout! Factory has released PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC: THE MOTHERSHIP CONNECTION LIVE 1976, because it's a reminder of just how much giddy fun this kind of stuff was.

Recorded at the Summit in Houston, Texas on Halloween night, this concert lasts about eighty minutes and consists of fourteen songs, all driven by that throbbing beat like one solid, ever-changing slab of funk. "Cosmic Slop" starts things off with some exquisite acid-rock lead guitar by Michael Hampton and is my favorite part of the concert because of it. This guy is really good. So is diaper-wearing rhythm guitar player Garry Shider, whose silky vocals are nicely reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield.

"Do That Stuff" and "Gamin' On Ya!" introduce the wild man himself, George Clinton, in the first of a series of freaky costumes and characters. We also meet his beautiful back-up singers Jeannette Washington and Debbie Wright, who add much to the show's already stunning visual appeal, and a solid horn section with Maceo Parker on sax and Rick Gardner on trumpet. Clarence "Fuzzy" Haskins takes James Brown-style lead vocals while wearing a bug-eyed mask on the rousing "Standing On the Verge of Gettin' It On", and Clinton keeps the groove going with "Undisco Kidd."

After the acapella interlude of "Children of Productions", singer-guitarist Glenn Goins takes over on "Mothership Connection (Star Child)" and "Swing Down Sweet Chariot." My favorite singer of the bunch, his soulful vocals manage to bring down the Mothership itself, a light-flashing, smoke-spewing spaceship that's as elaborate as the tour's budget would allow. Out steps Clinton as super-pimp "Dr. Funkenstein" and the show kicks into high gear with "Comin' Round the Mountain", "P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)", and "Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)." The finale, "Night of the Thumpasorus Peoples", brings opening acts Bootsy Collins' Rubber Band and Sly and the Family Stone (minus Sly, who was who-knows-where at the time) back onstage for the grand send-off of the Mothership. "Funkin' For Fun" serves as an encore.
This is music made for pure fun, combining soul, Hendrix-style acid rock, a little disco, and touches of James Brown and Curtis Mayfield all mixed together into one cosmic stew with George Clinton as its spaced-out ringmaster. The musicianship is first-rate but the mood is mostly playful, with party-time lyrics that sometimes predate Andrew "Dice" Clay--

"Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet
Snortin' some THC
Along came a spider, slid in beside her
Said, 'What's in the bag, bitch?'"

--which are beautifully counterpointed at times by the soul stylings of Goins and Shider and the straight-ahead funk of Haskins.

The only drawback to this DVD, which is presented in full-screen with 5.1 sound, is the source material. The lighting is too dark, the camera meanders around looking for action instead of anticipating it (we miss a lot), and the unseen audience can barely be heard, which detracts from what should be an exhilarating communal experience. Still, it's too late to go back and re-record the event so it's nice to have this record of it despite its flaws. At any rate, this DVD is well worth checking out for anyone in need of a dose of that P-Funk.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Animal Planet and Genius Products Debut Three New DVD Titles This February

"Escape To Chimp Eden" Season One, "Whale Wars" and "Untamed and Uncut" Debut On DVD This February From Animal Planet And Genius Products

"Escape To Chimp Eden" Season OneCaptivating And Bittersweet Series About Chimpanzee Rescue And Rehabilitation Swings Onto Two-Disc DVD February 3

SANTA MONICA, CA - Journey into the depths of South Africa and experience the fascinating events at Chimp Eden when "Escape To Chimp Eden" Season One arrives as a two-disc DVD for the first time on February 3 from Genius Products and Animal Planet. Heartfelt series follows conservationist Eugene Cussons, a South African rescue director for the Jane Goodall Institute's Chimp Eden, as he travels throughout war-torn African countries to rescue neglected and abused chimps. Once brought to the sanctuary of Chimp Eden, Eugene works hands-on with these challenging chimps, sometimes putting his own safety on the line to teach them basic skills such as climbing trees and foraging for food. "Escape To Chimp Eden" Season One provides viewers with compelling stories that are both educational and adventurous. Timed with the Season Two premiere on Animal Planet in January, the two-disc DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.95.

"Whale Wars"Controversial And Powerful Seven-Part Series Sails To DVD February 10th

SANTA MONICA, CA - Prepare to surrender the booty to the eco-pirates of the high seas when WHALE WARS debuts on DVD February 10 from Genius Products and Animal Planet. Drawing attention to the global conservation issue that has caused friction between several nations over the practice of whaling in oceanic territories, viewers are invited to board ship with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The Sea Shepherd Society has used many aggressive means in its efforts to stop whale-hunting ships, without ever harming anyone in their 30-year history. Last year's Sea Shepherd campaign was particularly eventful - including a capsizing, a hostage situation, an alleged shooting, and more. Founded by Captain Paul Watson in 1977 with the belief that further efforts had to be taken to eradicate whaling, poaching, shark finning and habitat destruction, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have risked their lives to battle for what they believe in. An enlightening and electrifying nautical story, the WHALE WARS seven-part series will be available for the suggested retail price of $19.95.

"Untamed and Uncut"Thrilling Series Arrives On DVD For The First Time On February 24

SANTA MONICA, CA - Deadly animal encounters bring all the excitement and chills with the debut of "Untamed and Uncut" on DVD February 24 from Animal Planet and Genius Products. From a vicious attack by two great white sharks to a snake handler's ill-fated meeting with the highly poisonous monocled cobra, intense raw footage provides an up close look at some of the most exotic creatures. Compelling and controversial, the top-rated series offers rare insight from people around the world as they share the stories of how their lives were forever changed by an unfortunate encounter with a dangerous animal. Capturing some of the most incredible animal footage ever caught on tape, the anatomy of each critical situation is dissected with the aid of ground-breaking computer technology providing digital imagery to help explain the animal positioning in each event and the subsequent outcomes. Razor-sharp claws, lethal neurotoxins and crushing jaws of steel serve as reminders as to how dangerous wild animals can be and why mother nature should be respected. Featuring four one-hour episodes packed with high stakes action, "Untamed and Uncut" will be available for the suggested retail price of $12.95.


Friday, November 28, 2008


Taking over the directorial reins from Stephen Sommers, Rob Cohen (DRAGONHEART, XXX) continues the saga of Rick and Evy O'Connell and their never-ending battle against mummies in 2008's THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR. If you didn't like the first two, chances are this one won't win you over either. If you did like them, you should have an exceedingly good time.

A lengthy prologue tells the story of Emperor Han (Jet Li), a ruthless conqueror who's bent on ruling the world with an iron fist. He summons the aid of a beautiful witch, Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh), to make him immortal, but when she falls in love with his trusted General Ming, the jealous emperor condemns them both to death. Zi Juan then places a terrible curse on him, turning him and his entire army into terra cotta statues.

Cut to 1946, as a retired Rick and Evy's grown-up son Alex (Luke Ford), now an action archeologist like his parents, uncovers the emperor's tomb. Needless to say, old clayhead gets resurrected and sets off to find the legendary city of Shangri-La, where he'll be able to shed himself of the curse once and for all, reanimate his terra cotta army, and conquer the world.

All our favorite characters are back, though some have changed a bit. Evy looks a lot more like Maria Bello than Rachel Weisz these days, which is cool since I've always been a fan of the lovely Maria. Luke Ford is a reasonable grown-up version of son Alex, who displays character traits from both parents--intelligence from his mom, recklessness from his dad. And speaking of Dad, Brendan Fraser is his usual wonderful self, able to perform comedy and action heroics with equal skill as few other actors can. John Hannah returns as Evy's cowardly brother Jonathan, while newcomers to the Mummy saga, Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh, add a whole new dimension to everything, as does Isabella Leong as Lin, Zi Juan's daughter and love interest for Alex. A particularly welcome presence is Anthony Wong (INFERNAL AFFAIRS, EXILED) as the Emperor's toady, General Yang.

Rob Cohen's direction and editing are too busy-looking at times, and I found myself wishing he'd just keep the camera still more often. Another thing that bugged me is the frequent use of less-than-convincing CGI. Of course, that's something I should be used to by now after watching the first two MUMMY films, yet it always seems to take me out of the movie.

Some of it works--an avalanche that threatens to annihilate the O'Connell party in the Himalayas looks pretty awesome, as do some of the climactic battle scenes between the Emperor's army and a horde of ancient undead summoned to engage them. The Yeti are another story, though, along with some of the character animation of Jet Li and the various supernatural creatures that he turns into (one of which bears a startling resemblance to Ghidrah). But if the digital monsters in the first two MUMMY movies or in Sommers' own VAN HELSING didn't bother you, then you shouldn't have any problem with these.

That said, there is a ton of exciting action setpieces in this film. A lengthy chase scene down the crowded streets of Shanghai is a highlight, and a fierce gun battle in the Himalayas is pretty intense. The clash between the terra cotta army and the undead is reminiscent of RETURN OF THE KING's main battle sequence. Along the way we're treated to lots of hard-hitting fistfights and other mayhem, and we even get to see Chinese superstars Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh go at it. The settings for these scenes are fantastic, including some impressive standing sets found in China (such as the old Shanghai streets) and numerous actual locations. Interior sets constructed for the Canadian phase of the shoot are also quite lavish.

Presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.40:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 sound, the movie looks and sounds great. Disc one of the deluxe edition features some deleted and extended scenes and a scene-specific commentary from director Cohen. Disc two includes featurettes "Preparing for Battle with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li", "The Making of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor", "Jet Li: Crafting the Emperor Mummy", "Creating New and Supernatural Worlds", "Legacy of the Terra Cotta", "A Call to Action: The Casting Process", and "From City to Desert." Subtitles are in English, French, and Spanish, and there's even one of those tracks for the hard-of-seeing with a narrator breathlessly describing what's going on ("Rick ducks behind a column as the Emperor throws a fireball!")

While perhaps not the best in the series (I still prefer the second one), THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR is a welcome continuation of Rick and Evy's seriocomic adventures. Extravagant, action-packed, funny, and loaded with dazzling imagery, it's what the term "dumb fun" is all about.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lucio Fulci's Young Dracula: A Review by Troy Howarth

Young Dracula (1975)

A businessman (Lando Buzzanca) is bitten by the effeminate Count Dragelescu

(John Steiner) and turns into a vampire....

Despite a screenplay co-written by Pupi Avati (director of the acclaimed The House with the Laughing Windows), Young Dracula - aka, Dracula in the Provinces- doesn't emerge as one of Lucio Fulci's stronger pictures. The film came at a good creative period for the writer/director, and it bears the hallmarks of classic Fulci: atmospheric cinematography by Sergio Salvati, crisp editing by Vincenzo Tomassi, a score by the trio of Frizzi, Bixio and Tempera. In terms of production values, it's a capably mounted and executed production. Alas, despite the best efforts of an above-average cast, the film never really catches fire. The film deals with the themes of homosexual panic and the exploitation of the working class, but its satire feels forced and heavy handed - a tremendous contrast to the legitimately funny The Eroticist (1972), directed by Fulci only a few years before. In that film, Lando Buzzanca gave a terrific comedic performance as a senator with an overwhelming ass fetish – its potshots at Italian institutions landed the director in hot water, whereas no controversy greeted Young Dracula, a sign, perhaps, of its comparative feebleness. That is not to say that the film is without merit, however, nor does it indicate that it belongs in the bottom tier of Fulci's filmography. Some set pieces are executed with undeniable flair, notably a genuinely amusing visit to a phony wizard, played with elan by Ciccio Ingrassia. Fulci also piles on the nudity, a genuine plus with so many attractive starlets in the cast. Buzzanca is amusing as the neurotic antihero, and he's well supported by the likes of John Steiner, Sylva Koscina and the aforementioned Ingrassia.

Valentina Cortese (Day for Night, The Girl Who Knew Too Much) makes a fleeting appearance, but isn't given much to do. The metaphor of vampirism for corporate greed promises a much sharper satire than what emerges, but devotees of the director would still do well to seek it out. Regretfully, the only version circulating in the US is of very poor quality, derived from a Greek VHS source, but at least it is in English and widescreen. One can only hope that a company like Severin or Blue Underground may afford it a proper R1 DVD release.

**1/2 out of ****


Popeye the Sailor, Volume Three: 1941-1943 Review by Jack T

Review: Popeye the Sailor, Volume Three: 1941-1943

Fans of the Popeye the Sailor will not be disappointed in Warner Bros.’ third installment in the Max Fleischer cartoon series, even though Volume Three wraps up the Fleischer brothers’ final years animating these shorts for Paramount .

Disc one largely consists of the final 18 Max and David Fleischer cartoons, ending with Baby Wants a Bottleship. Obviously, once the 1942 season resumed, all of the shorts change direction—the 1941 season is largely Popeye putting up with and bailing his “Pappy” out of trouble. The next year changes, with far more war-themed storylines and developments. Popeye and Bluto are no longer enemies, but allies in beating up Japanese soldiers and other Axis powers.

In regards to the war-era shorts, they are NOT censored—to WB I say, “thank you.” While many might find the caricatures of Japanese characters in the shorts offensive, they are a product of their time and should remain intact. Removing the offense is even worse than leaving them in. On that note, parents of sensitive children interested in showing them these shorts may want to pre-screen them first.

Special features are abundant on this DVD, with the “Popumentaries” filling in the background of what was going on at Fleischer studios at the time. The documentary, Forging the Frame: the Roots of Animation, included on disc two is a general overview of animators from that period and is put together quite well.

Also included are some vintage Fleischer shorts from the 1920s. The Clown’s Little Brother, The Cartoon Factory, Koko Needles the Boss, and Finding His Voice are all fascinating early examples of animation and are equally entertaining (and in Finding His Voice’s case, educational) as the sound shorts that were to follow them.

Once again, Warner Bros, has outdone themselves in the video department, as these cartoons look as clear as the day they were shot. All of the transfers are presented full-frame 1.33:1 in glorious black and white. Clearly they are working with some original elements here, as gray tones and shadow and highlight detail are all balances and clear, with the right amount of grain. The audio, which is critical to many of these shorts is also clear, albeit somewhat flattened by what sounds to be equalization.

Popeye the Sailor, Volume Three comes on two discs in a cardboard sleeve with overlap case. As I’ve expressed in other reviews, I’m not a fan of these overlap cases, particularly when I’m jogging between shorts between discs, but this is a case of storage rather than convenience and I understand why Warners has chose to present them this way.

Overall, Popeye the Sailor, Volume Three is guaranteed to please all, young and old alike. It represented the last of the greatest of the Popeye cartoons. I hope that Warners keeps the chronological series up in the future rather than the rumored “Best of” sets, but between the first three volumes, I’m a satisfied customer!


  • Problem Pappy - Conversation with Historian Jerry Beck & Steven Waldman
  • Quiet! Pleeze
  • Olive's Sweepstakes Ticket
  • Flies Ain't Human
  • Popeye Meets Rip Van Winkle - Conversation with Historian Jerry Beck & Steven Waldman
  • Olive's Boithday Presink
  • Child Psykolojiky
  • Pest Pilot
  • I'll Never Crow Again
  • The Mighty Navy - Commentary by Historian Jerry Beck & Director Bob Jaques
  • Nix on Hypnotricks
  • Kickin' the Conga 'Round
  • Blunder Below
  • Fleets of Stren'th
  • Pip-eye, Pup-eye, Poop-eye and Peep-eye
  • Olive Oyl and Water Don't Mix


  • 3 Popeye Popumentaries
    • Directing the Sailor: The Art of Myron Waldman
    • Popeye: The Mighty Ensign
    • Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye an' Peep-Eye: Chips Off the Old Salt
  • 3 Out of the Inkwell Shorts
    • The Clown's Little Brother (1920)
    • The Cartoon Factory (1924)
    • Koko Needles the Boss (1927)


  • Many Tanks
  • Baby Wants a Bottleship
  • You're a Sap, Mr. Jap
  • Alona on the Sarong Seas
  • A Hull of a Mess
  • Scrap the Japs
  • Me Musical Nephews - Commentary by Directors John Kricfalusi and Eddie Fitzgerald and Cartoonist Kali Fontecchio
  • Spinach Fer Britain
  • Seein' Red, White 'N' Blue - Commentary by Animator Mark Kausler
  • Too Weak to Work - Commentary by Director Bob Jaques
  • A Jolly Good Furlough
  • Ration Fer the Duration
  • The Hungry Goat - Commentary by Historian Jerry Beck
  • Happy Birthdaze
  • Wood-Peckin'
  • Cartoons Ain't Human


  • Documentary: Forging the Frame: The Roots of Animation, 1921 - 1930
  • Finding His Voice (1929)



When the National Science Foundation invited filmmaker Werner Herzog to come to Antarctica to make a documentary, he "left no doubt that I would not come up with another film about penguins." ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD (2007) is indeed much more than that, although it does have penguins in it.

Herzog's friend Henry Kaiser, a diver who explores the watery world below the thick ice covering Texas-sized Ross Bay, made a short film called "Under the Ice" which first interested Herzog in the desolate continent. Kaiser's underwater photography is utterly stunning, plunging us into a world every bit as strange as any alien landscape. Bizarre lifeforms scuttle along the bottom on undulating tentacles. A large Weddell seal, seeming almost like some curious, sweetly-serene E.T., leads us through a labyrinth of faintly sunlit ice tunnels. A self-illuminated jellyfish that resembles a beautifully-ornate organic lamp drifts languidly through the water.

Narrator Herzog has an odd sort of curiosity about things, and in Antarctica there are a lot of things to be oddly curious about. He comes across a lone researcher named Dr. Ainley who has lived among the penguins for so long that he's almost lost the ability to converse with humans. "Dr. Ainley, is there such a thing as insanity among penguins?" Herzog asks. Ainley considers this for a moment, then tells of the occasional penguin that suddenly decides to waddle off resolutely toward the interior of the continent, alone, for no apparent reason. We see one such penguin who, after what appears to be some deep consideration, sets off for a mountain range 70 kilometers away, his tiny form dwarfed by the looming desolation ahead. Why? It's a strange and affecting sight, as we know that he will surely perish there. The odd Dr. Ainley, meanwhile, seems no less prone to some similar unknown impulse--it wouldn't surprise me to see him heading off toward those mountains himself someday.

Antarctica seems to attract odd people whom Herzog finds fascinating. The McMurdo polar base, which depresses him at first because it resembles "an ugly mining town", turns out to be rife with interesting characters for Herzog to seek out. One freaky-looking dude found growing tomatoes in a hothouse describes the base's inhabitants as "PhDs washing dishes, linguists on a continent with no languages", people who have fallen off the earth and accumulated at the bottom. Many of them seem to exist in a metaphysical daze, perpetually zoned-out by their surroundings--even the large Weddell seals that some of them are dedicated to studying provide a fitting soundtrack for this spaced-out existence by making noises amazingly like one of those early Pink Floyd soundscapes.

Herzog seems to find interesting people wherever he ventures on this endlessly-fascinating continent. A volcano watcher keeps his camera pointed into a lava pit that explodes periodically, sending molten rock through the air. Volcano etiquette, he explains, includes facing the explosion and following the lava's aerial arc so that one might step aside when necessary. Elsewhere, a physicist who's just released an enormous balloon that will help track neutrino activity from the stratosphere ecstatically gushes at length about how incredible neutrinos are, and how they seem to exist in their own separate universe, which also seems an apt description of him and his colleagues.

Visually, ENCOUNTERS captures the vast, intimidating emptiness of Antarctica well enough, and just as efficiently records the expressive faces and compelling stories of the assortment of souls who inhabit it. But nothing else compares to the world beneath the ice, which truly sets this documentary apart from anything else I've ever seen. Herzog remarks that the divers look to him like astronauts floating in space, and it's an environment that easily conveys such an impression. The solemn atmosphere of a vast cathedral is augmented by the soundtrack's ethereal choral music during these awe-inspiring sequences. Much of the rest of the film's evocative score is performed by diver Henry Kaiser himself, with David Lindley.

The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with Dolby digital sound. Audio commentary is provided by Herzog, producer Kaiser, and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger. Kaiser's film "Under the Ice" is included, along with "Over the Ice", a series of gorgeous helicopter shots of Antarctica's dry valleys near McMurdo Base. "Dive Locker Interview" is a tech-talk interview with divers Kaiser and the film's diving supervisor, Rob Robbins. "South Pole Exorcism" is a short film by Kaiser documenting his first trip to the continent, and includes the exorcism of evil engineer spirits from a tunneling machine. (Yes, these are people with too much time on their hands and not enough to do with it.) "Seals and Men" is a few minutes of the Weddell seals, followed by a trailer. The second disc consists of director Jonathan Demme's hour-long interview with Herzog before a live audience at New York's Museum of the Moving Image in June 2008.

As ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD winds toward its conclusion, Herzog begins to contemplate the fate of Mankind and its eventual demise. Ehh, whatever. The impression I choose to retain from watching this beautiful film is that of a world-traveling, deep-thinking philosopher who now drives a forklift at McMurdo base, who recalls a quote which seems descriptive of Herzog's filmic endeavor: "We are the witness through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence."