Monday, October 27, 2008


Written by El Fangorio

Following their Icons of Adventure box set released earlier in the year comes Sony’s Icons of Horror series, a quartet of genre films heralding from Britain’s legendary Hammer Studios. All of them are premiering on DVD for the first time, making it a special release indeed, as most haven’t been seen since the days (nights) of the late, late show. They all herald from the ‘60s with each title offering something unique, making it perfect for those nights when only a certain type of horror film will do. There’s three that star Christopher Lee, there’s two that involve monsters, there’s one that’s filmed in black and white, and there’s two that are shot in widescreen. Best of all, they all clock in at under 90 minutes.

Starting off on disc one is 1960’s The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, starring Paul Massie, Dawn Adams, and Christopher Lee. The good Dr. Jekyll, in his efforts to study the darker side of man, injects himself with a serum that causes his inner demons to manifest as his alter ego, Mr. Hyde. When Dr. J. finds out his wife is having an affair, it’s up to the good doctor to try and keep his senses lest his alter ego catches wind. This version isn’t too much different than others except that they chose to make Hyde less of a monster and more of a predatory ladies man, which is, let’s face it, not real scary. It doesn’t help that the make-up effects consist solely of facial hair for Jeckyll and smooth-shaven for Hyde, making it all the more unbelievable when nobody notices it’s the same person. It’s easily the weakest of the four titles at hand but is more than justified by it’s scrumptious color cinematography, shot in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and mercifully short running time.

Disc one continues with the series’ other widescreen outing, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb. Released in 1964 and directed by Hammer studio head Michael Carreras, Curse is the second of Hammer’s Mummy sequels and is known to many fans as not only the worst of the series but also the worst of the entire Hammer collection. The story is typical mummy fare with an undiscovered tomb being desecrated by scholars, resulting in an ancient curse and a resurrected wrapped one. With its history, I was expecting a lot worse but was pleasantly surprised to find the mummy sequences to be well-shot and exciting and at times, even a little gory.

Disc two opens up with one of the most anticipated Hammer releases, 1964’s The Gorgon. Playing a lot like their earlier The Reptile, The Gorgon opens up with the mysterious death of a local villager at the hands of an unseen creature. The townspeople prefer to turn a blind eye to the incidents, fearing local legends of a monster that can turn people to stone, leaving the mystery to be solved by the victim’s relative. From its decaying castles to misty forests, the look of The Gorgon is pure Hammer at its finest. Another outing directed by Terrence Fisher with an emphasis on style, this is a great example of how the studio was able to revamp early gothic horror via eye-popping color. The title creature, almost always in shadows, is one of the best and truly eerie.

Capping off the collection and, in my honest opinion, saving the best for last, is Scream of Fear. It tells the timeless tale of the already-fragile heiress (this time played by Susan Strasberg) who comes home from the asylum only to start seeing corpses (again). Is she relapsing? Or is this like every Jimmy Sangster script ever written? Needless to say, this had already been done several times by Hammer and Sangster, namely with Paranoiac and Nightmare, but who cares? This time it’s the best. Strasberg is a hell of a screamer and for good reason: those creepy-ass run-ins with her father’s corpse are some real shockers. Filmed in glorious high-contrast b&w, Scream of Fear is a textbook example of what the format was still capable of and thanks to Sangster’s script, the pace is never dull.

Sony does the Hammer fan proud by giving all of these transfers the high-definition treatment. They truly look spectacular with two of the titles, Mummy and Jekyll being their original versions, preserving some minor cussing and an extended ending for the latter. All transfers are anamorphic with digital mono audio, always sounding crisp and clean. Alas, the only special features offered are each of the titles’ theatrical trailers, which also look stunning (The Gorgon’s being the rarely seen British version). It also bears noting that the cover artwork was voted on by the fans in a web poll, proving just to what extent Sony went to make the Monster Kids happy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Written by Senora Bicho

Approximately 11 years ago I became permanently attached to Tinker Bell via a tattoo on my left ankle. She has always been one of my favorite Disney characters since she wasn’t the typical heroine. She was feisty and strong while being considered wide in the hips for usual cartoon females. The new film Tinker Bell has me seriously thinking about tattoo removal.

The story is simple, it begins with how Tinker Bell came into existence and introduces us to the world of fairies and their home, Pixie Hollow. Each fairy has a special talent that is utilized for the changing of the seasons on the mainland. Tinker Bell is a tinker and is responsible for building items to aid the other fairies in their work and therefore doesn’t get to travel to the mainland. Tinker Bell soon comes to the conclusion that her job is boring and wants to learn another talent so that she can go with everyone else to turn winter into spring. Thus the adventure begins.

Disney has had many years to come up with a story for Tinker Bell; what they have come up with is boring and simplistic. I was trying to watch the movie through the eyes of a young girl and I think even they will be bored. Good messages are provided about learning to appreciate who you are and what makes you special, but they could have come up with a more interesting story to convey those messages.

Tinker Bell was made using 3-D digital animation which is vastly different from the traditional animation used for Peter Pan. The background colors and scenery look fantastic but the fairies look strange and Tinker Bell just doesn’t look right. And, yes, she speaks. I understand a movie with just jingling wouldn’t work but it certainly takes a little getting used to. Tinker Bell is voiced by a relatively unknown actress Mae Whitman who will probably be best recognized by children watching the movie as she was Katara in the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Angelica Houston, America Ferrera, Lucy Liu and Kristin Chenoweth also lend their voices to the film.

There are a few special features on the DVD. “Magical Guide to Pixie Hollow” explores all of the different areas of the fairies' home, “Ever Wonder” shows how fairies impact nature, and “Tinker Trainer” is a DVD-ROM activity. There is also a music video for “Fly to your Heart,” one of the songs from the film sung by Selena Gomez. “Creating Pixie Hollow” is a ten-minute making-of and there also three deleted scenes with optional commentary by director Bradley Raymond and producer Jeannine Roussel.

Tinker Bell is one of Disney’s most popular characters and I really wish they would have put a little more time and effort into a more thoughtful and creative movie but I have no doubt that it will do well. Disney is certainly counting on it since they already have three sequels in the works. As a Tinker Bell fan, I was extremely disappointed and am anxious to pop Peter Pan into the DVD player in hopes of wiping Tinker Bell from my mind as quickly as possible.

JACK FROST (Remastered Deluxe Edition)

Written by El Fangorio

Just in time for Halloween comes this Christmas classic that opens up on Groundhog’s Day. Marketing strategies aside, one may take refuge in knowing that it’s by those maestros of stop-motion puppetry, Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass. They are, of course, the creators of such holiday staples as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Yuletide television favorites that still get annual airings some 40 years later.

The story of Jack Frost, he of nose-nipping fame, is told by world famous groundhog, Pardon-Me-Pete (Buddy Hackett). Pete explains the relationship between his seeing his own shadow and the resulting extra month of winter that allows Jack to spread his frosty cheer. Pete also goes on to tell the story of how Jack once sacrificed his own immortality and winter wizardry to be human so that he could stay with the one woman he loved. Of course we all know that this never works out and that no human being is worth the loss of super-awesome super powers.

Though not as obscure as some of their other titles (Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold and First Christmas Snow come to mind), Jack Frost has been content to sit in the shadows of its more popular December brethren until the Family Channel picked it up as part of their annual programming a few years back.

Now, thanks to the people at Warners, Jack Frost comes to us as a remastered deluxe edition, putting to shame the earlier transfers found on its various digital incarnations, most of which were public domain. While the picture quality alone is worth the small price tag, this release still could have benefited from some better special features. One would think that the R&B vaults would be brimming with behind-the-scenes footage but the only extras on hand here are a few sing-a-longs and a segment called “Totally Cool Crafty Creations.” This thankfully short bonus would be better off titled “Three Disasters Waiting To Happen,” with one of the recipes even calling for a bag of Sodium Polyacrylate. Trailers for other Warner titles round out the package.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Written by Pollo Misterioso

Put Helen Hunt behind the camera, calling the shots. Put her in front of the camera to play an emotionally challenged woman. Assemble a small, but very recognizable cast around her and you have the beginnings of Hunt’s feature-length directorial debut. Then She Found Me is a genuine film about human betrayals, filled with the glitches of a first-time filmmaker, but carried by a story that empowers women and causes you to think.

Based off of the novel of the same name by Elinor Lipman, Hunt took on acting, producing, screenwriting, and directing roles for this film. This was a script that had taken her ten years to get to the screen. Clearly, there is a decent amount of care that went into this picture. But it paid off, with a perfect supporting cast played by Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick, and Bette Midler.

Hunt plays the schoolteacher April Epner, who has recently been left by her husband (Broderick) right before her adopted mother passes away and her birth mother (Midler) appears. Plagued with the need to give birth, April struggles with connections with people around her. Firth plays Frank, a single parent raising two children, who is enamored with April. When she tries to start a relationship with Frank, although still married to her husband, she finds out that she is pregnant—making for interesting doctors appointments. When she tries to start a relationship with her birth mother Bernice, she is constantly let down.

Described as a film about betrayal, it is also a film about different relationships with other people and with yourself, but within that comes the disloyalty between human beings. Written in a way that strays from the Hollywood formula, there are very empowering and real-life moments that are quite haunting. In fact, it is supposed to be a comedy, but not the kind of comedy one might think. Instead a light humor is laced throughout, lifting the burden of these intense emotions.

Hunt does an incredible job on both sides of the camera. Her character is a strong woman, but who wears her tragedies on her face and in her body language. Life is not easy for April, or anyone, and it becomes tangible on the screen. Midler is always a joy, bringing a spark and ferocity to Bernice that makes her lovable and despicable at the same time. The two male leads carry their roles perfectly, but the most beautiful scene in the film comes between April and her mother as she cries in the doctor’s office.

Then She Found Me is empowering for women in a way that is not often seen in films. Our female lead goes after what she wants, making mistakes along the way, but still representing a strong-willed woman that wants to be a mother, dealing with what “motherhood” means when she has been adopted herself.

Unfortunately, one might overlook this simple indie film and it could easily be considered boring with its chosen pace. But there are memorable moments that redeem the film. Hunt is clearly finding her voice as a director. On screen and off, there are slight hiccups that make the film short of seamless. That does not discredit all that she did right, but give her a few more films and she will have perfected her craft. As a first film, this shows promise and as an independent picture, Then She Found Me takes the everyday and makes it cinematic, which is never an easy thing to do.

The DVD extras that accompany the film include audio commentary from Hunt. Included are cast interviews with the lead cast. Most interesting is the extra is the entire cast featurette, explaining how they got into the project and what they think of it.

Adam-12: Season Two

Written by Hombre Divertido

In 1968 Jack Webb was in the midst of his second run as police sergeant Joe Friday on the incredibly popular police drama Dragnet. Webb had originally created the program for radio and brought it to television in 1952 where it remained on the air for seven years. Webb brought Dragnet back in 1967, while also planning to launch a similarly themed program based on patrol officers. With Dragnet once again a ratings hit, Webb would launch Adam–12. Like Dragnet, it would be a huge hit and remain on the air for seven years.

Webb not only knew that people had an interest in police stories, he also knew the fundamentals of successful television: keep it simple, focus on endearing characters, and leave the audience wanting more. Adam–12 had all these characteristics, and is a television classic.

Released on September 30th from Shout Factory are all twenty-six original episodes from season two, and it is rare to find any non-serial television show on DVD that will leave you wanting to watch the next episode like this collection will.

Ten years before we were introduced to Jon and Ponch on CHiPs, we met veteran police officer Pete Malloy, played by the former star of the popular series Route 66 Martin Milner, and rookie Jim Reed, played by relative newcomer Kent McCord. Their chemistry was solid, as Malloy was a strong calming force for the enthusiastic and over anxious Reed.

Adam–12 lacked the jocularity, personal life stories, flying cars, athletic adventures, and general cheesiness that peppered episodes of CHiPs. Like Dragnet, Adam–12 was based on real police cases, and played well in that era. Watching it now, it is clearly dated when compared to current law enforcement based entertainment endeavors, but is reminiscent of a simpler time in the world and on television.

Yes, some of the supporting characters were a bit much, and anyone who has taken the Universal Studios Tour will certainly recognize every exterior shot on the show, but by the second season Adam–12 had truly hit its stride. The writing was consistent, and like Dragnet; the thirty-minute format was perfect for the current television landscape.

It is rare that the launch of classic television show on DVD would actually have bonus material that is detrimental to the release as a whole, but the extras here are just incredibly weak and actually have little to do with Adam–12. Photos of historic law enforcement sites and training facilities used by real police officers would seem to have limited appeal, and added legal information to certain episodes in a format that should have been titled “Cop-up Video” is nothing more than a distraction. The worst of the bonus material are the episodes that include commentary by real officers who basically point out how things would be handled differently now, or the errors made in police procedure.

Recommendation: Despite the weak bonus material, this is just good television that will be appreciated by young and old alike. A great addition to all collections.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Written by Puño Estupendo

How ridiculous of a premise can you have in a movie before you get taken right out of the experience? But what if that premise is inspired by a true story? I've never really asked myself these questions before, but Stuart Gordon's latest film Stuck had me mulling it over.

The setup is simple but mind-numbingly ignorant: Brandi is a nurse at a retirement home by day and a pill-popping club girl by night. Everything is going great for her because her super-clichéd boss just unofficially offered her a promotion. Mr. Thomas Bardo, however, is having an extremely bad day. He can't seem to catch any breaks whatsoever and embarks on his first night as being homeless. Brandi is driving recklessly home from the club that night, Tom is crossing the street with his newly acquired shopping cart and she hits him. His legs break and he flies headfirst through her windshield and Brandi just keeps on driving, bloody passenger and all, back home and parks him and the car in the garage. The next 12 hours play out with such ridiculous ignorance (of which the film seems to be very aware of) that you somehow can't look away. That seems to be the twisted joke here. You watch this woman Brandi (played with wonderful stupidity by Mena Suvari) do everything in her power to not deal with Stephen Rea's Thomas Bardo, still alive and a bloody mess, stuck in her car's windshield.

Stuart Gordon is definitely becoming an interesting filmmaker after his more famous stretch in B-movie gorefests, which included Re-Animator. His 2005 film Edmond was based on David Mamet's play and Mamet even wrote the screenplay. William H. Macy gave a great performance in it and the film won several awards. Quite a far distance from the horror-head circuit and Stuck seems to continue his unexpected path in this direction.

Stuck is shot very nicely and carries itself well for the most part. Gordon's horror roots come through in a big way though. There are agonizingly long and very graphic scenes in which Bardo tries to free himself from the car and Stuart's past exploitative nature also shines through in a sex scene that goes on a little long given the setting. But that's the feel of this film and it works. The fact that there's a sex scene in this movie at all tells you how infuriatingly ignorant Suvari's character Brandi is. She says things to her crippled garage guest like "Why are you doing this to me?" which had me yelling at my television and laughing at myself for doing so. There are a few more moments like that. Some of the people do the most insanely stupid things, all of which keep that poor man in that windshield, that you'll be shaking your head and telling yourself that nobody is that stupid. All of this anxiety builds up and I was laughing about it, which is what's intended. The ending comes together in a very Tales From The Crypt kind of closure, but after the way the movie plays out, the ending just gave a much needed "There, that's the end" and you can let loose with a relieving sigh.

The disc has absolutely nothing in the way of bonus features. A trailer, that's it. I actually could have used an interview with Gordon on this one, or even one of those lame text screens chronicling some of the production points. All in all, if you've got a twisted taste in humor and aren't afraid of some seriously cringe-inducing scenes, Stuck isn't a bad watch in the least. Leave's me still wanting to follow up with wherever Stuart Gordon's going next.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Written by Fantasma el Rey

Rest Stop: Don’t Look Back
. Well, they did warn me in the title.

Potential, yes this movie had it. Rest Stop 2, as I’ll call it going forward, tried to expand on the first movie and add a back story, which always gets me; I’m a sucker for histories. And I was slightly amused for an hour and a half, so I guess that’s a good thing. Anyway, as far as slashers go not too much of that took place and as for the ghost story aspect it’s just okay.

So the plot is thus: G.I. big brother of the douche that got hacked in movie one assembles a team of the usual slasher crew (dumbass sidekick and impatient, hot bitch) and goes looking for baby brother and his girlfriend. Along the way they run into all the creepy folk from Rest Stop Uno and the new crew become the hunted. But this time the new crew are aided by the Ghost of Corpse’s Past and are given clues to “the bus” where all the Driver’s evil goes down. Along the way torture of the new team ensues and half-naked chicks are placed in key camera positions.

What gives this sequel a small niche is its back story and attempt at a California Bermuda Triangle of sorts, where ghosts and spirits run rampant and torture “sinners” as they travel down “The Old Highway.” In round two of Rest Stop we get to see the “who made who” regarding the Driver and the Winnebago Family. The Driver is the hand of God that delivers the death blows while the Winnebago Family, who are religious freaks acting as seekers, helpers, set-up men, or whatever you want to call them, have at it.

So here it is, y’all (Spoiler Alert). The Family kills and tortures the Driver after the Driver bangs the preacher’s wife. Sinner! The Driver must be cleansed (killed), loses a hand and an eye as the Bible commands but in this mysterious corner of the world the body and/or spirit rises and hacks the looney family to bits, gets in his phantom truck, and drives off to an eternity of killing sinners.

We get flashes of what happened in the first movie as we encounter the ghost or almost ghost from the first movie. I say “almost” because when the ghost or these barely living people are encountered, they disappear after some key actions. So did they die awhile ago or just now after the current team finds them and “rescues” them? That part of the film does make me wonder and I was hoping that would be further expanded upon but maybe in the next two or three flicks they hope to make we’ll get the answers.

Anyway, that’s about all this movie’s got. There is not much slashing and torture as the makers wanted to concentrate on the ghost story of Rest Stop 2, which ends up rather confusing. I dig what the makers of this flick tried to do it’s too bad they fell a bit short. Sadly this whole film can be figured out by watching a few minutes of each chapter and then pressing the skip button on the DVD player’s remote; I did both and got the same results except I missed the little gore that took place: nails and drills in thighs, eyeball extraction, minor slashing with sharp objects.

The DVD’s special feature includes a decent look at what the men behind this movie wanted to do. There is audio commentary as well that carries as much insight as the featurette does. Deleted scenes don’t add much either.

So, ghoulies, in short, go watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead.

Monday, October 13, 2008

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Eighth Season

Written by Senora Bicho

The bar for the Eighth Season of CSI was set very high as, in my opinion, Season Seven was its best to date. While I can’t say it was as good, it delivered some great episodes and certainly was enough to keep me as an avid viewer. Two million other viewers didn’t agree, however, and stopped watching.

The premiere of Season Seven introduced us to the Miniature Killer, a serial killer storyline that continued throughout the season. Season Eight starts off with her finally in custody as the team desperately tries to locate Sara Sidle (Jorja Fox). In an act of revenge aimed at Dr. Gil Grissom (William Petersen), the killer has pinned Sidle under a car. The team eventually finds her, but the whole ordeal proves to be the last straw for Sidle and she packs up and leaves town midseason. Before the start of Season Five, Fox was the source of some controversy and was actually fired from the show along with her co-star George Eads who plays Nick Stokes. Both were looking for more money but in the end they were both hired back for no additional money while their other co-stars received raises. This time it is said that Fox’s leaving was at her request as she no longer wanted to be committed to a weekly series. I was not sorry to see her go. I was never particularly fond of her and the show managed for the rest of the season just fine without her.

Season Eight offered a crossover with Without A Trace and that series’ episode is included in the DVD collection. The scenes with Petersen and Anthony LaPaglia, who plays FBI Agent Jack Malone on Without A Trace, are the best part of the episodes and I wish there would have been more. They both provide the foundations for their respective shows and excel in their roles. These characters are very different with vastly different jobs and watching these contrasts brings a new dimension to each show.

In addition to the 18 episodes, the DVD collection offers many special features. Season Seven introduced an episode focused on the lab techs; it was very successful so they did it again this season with “You Kill Me” “While the Cast’s Away the Rats Will Play” is a featurette about that episode. A commentary track with the writer and the lab techs is also included.

William Friedkin directed the episode “Cockroaches” and he is joined by the writer and Peterson for an audio commentary. Peterson and Friedkin worked together previously on the film Live and Die in L.A. and play off of each other nicely as they each give interesting insights. There is also a featurette on the episode entitled “William Fredkin: A Different Take”. This episode not only offers a feature film director but it is also the beginning of the downfall of Warrick Brown (Gary Dourdan), which concludes in dramatic fashion in the season finale.

“So Long, Sara Sidle” pays tribute to the actress and her character and includes interviews about her departure. “What Happened in Vegas” provides a synopsis of the season. “Shot in the Dark” focuses on the unique look of the show. “TOD: A Bug’s Life” illustrates the important role that entomology plays in the show.

All of the signature elements that make CSI stand out are present in Season Eight: a unique look, feel, and sound along with strong writing and acting. As the series continues, the characters get better developed. This season had a lot to offer and while it wasn’t as strong as Season Seven it was still much better than any other traditional crime drama on television.


Written by Pollo Misterioso

There was a bittersweet farewell in 2004. It was a tough goodbye, with tears shed—partly for the departure of friends, partly because we were slightly buzzed from a pink cocktail. It needed to happen and yet we weren’t ready to see off our best girlfriends. But leave it to Hollywood to bring back our girls one more time. Sex and the City - The Movie has come to DVD and (hopefully) is the final installment to the much-loved series from HBO.

A film had always been in the works for this show. After wrapping up the series, the film was put on hold and four years later, they are back and now they are in their forties (well, all except Samantha). Sex and the City - The Movie brings back every beloved character from the show and even introduces new ones. The film, running well over two hours, is filled with drama, but stays true to the heart of the show—friendship.

We pick up right where we left off. The opening credits reveal where the girls have ended up, but also where they came from, referencing some of the more funny moments from the show. Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) is happily living with her newly adopted daughter, Lily, and husband in Manhattan. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Steve are with their son Brady in Brooklyn. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has moved to Los Angeles to help Smith Jarred with his television career. Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is living happily with John Preston or better known as Mr. Big and when they decide to find an apartment together, they also decide to get married.

This begins the whirlwind of events that leaves Carrie alone and back in her old apartment, left to start again. Although we never get the feeling that she is back to living the single life, being left one more time by Big hits her the same way that it hits us—one blow too many. But being characteristic of Mr. Big, the real surprises in the film come from what the other characters must go through, how they handle life’s obstacles. In fact, although Carrie’s story leads the film, her friends are the ones that shine as they figure out what it means to be a woman that is happy with herself.

The smart humor is still there, along with the fashion and fantasy that the show embodied. The writers have still managed to play with the fine line between tragedy and humor. Watch as you choke up as Charlotte passionately stands up to Mr. Big but leaves you laughing when she prances into her car. It’s genius.

The film is funny, but it relies on its fans, the audience, to really take joy in seeing the girls on the big screen. In theaters, women and gay men cheered when Samantha first appeared and wept when Charlotte announced that she was pregnant. There is something so pleasing about watching something familiar, as if we have always been a part of it. The love that the fans had for this show is what made it possible for a film.

The show ended perfectly in 2004 as Carrie Bradshaw walked away into the city crowd
and disappeared. Sex and the City - The Movie ends with the women—right where it began. With that said, one of the first shows to really make HBO a channel of well-written and well-directed programs, Sex and the City was a show for women, about women that spoke honestly about sex, love, and friendship. The movie, like the show, is a tribute to the deepest love shared between friends. The film is a perfect addition to the collection, which means the perfect excuse to order another cosmopolitan.

Sex and the City - The Movie is available as a single-disc DVD, a two-disc Special Edition DVD featuring an extended cut, and an extended cut on Blu-ray. Commentary by director Michael Patrick King is available on all versions and the extended cuts include a "Conversation with Sarah Jessica Parker and Michael Patrick King."

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Written by Fumo Verde

Proselytize: To convert or attempt to convert (someone) form one religion, belief or opinion. Advocate or promote (a belief or course of action) - The New Oxford American Dictionary

Where did anyone get the idea that it was all right to kill in the name of God? This question was being asked by director Oren Jacoby while the country was rushing off to war. Meanwhile, author and former priest James Carroll was on his own painful quest to understand how the religion he loved and was a part of could have slaughtered so many people all in the name of God. Constantine’s Sword is the coming together of question and quest. Like two detectives digging up old cases to find their relevance that matches patterns happening today in our county, the evidence is overwhelming. Even in our own military and at those academies which produce the officers who control the weapons, cadets and soldiers alike are being proselytized too. This is a dangerous sign.

As this documentary opens we learn of the lawsuit brought about by some Air Force Academy cadets who are not Christian, or as so gently put, non-believers. They were constantly being harassed and persecuted not only by other cadets but also by teachers and staff. Carroll, who lived on the Academy grounds as a kid because his father was a high-ranking Air Force General, had to go there and find out himself. Following Carroll’s journey, we learn why he became a priest and why he left the religion he loved but never lost his faith. For him, the church back then stood for values that would make the Christian Right in America today scream treason.

This movie looks deeper into the Christian past, starting with Constantine’s fateful vision of the cross and the battle for Rome which he won and attributed it to, and then working its way through the Inquisition and Crusades all the way up to the Nazi occupation of Europe. As Carroll came to realize during this journey, those ideals he thought Christianity stood for back in the ‘60s, were a quick flash of hope in a world trying to break free from the fear and oppression of which this religion endorses completely.

The Gospels teaches the Jews killed Jesus so they became the enemy of every Christian, and deep down every Christian knows if the Jews don’t convert they too must suffer the wrath of God. When I say convert, I means accepting Jesus as their Lord and savior. The Inquisition was set up to does just that, and nations who wanted to stay in favor with God followed suit. Soon throughout Europe, Jews and non-believers were slaughtered.

Yes, then there were the Crusades, which look to have started all over again; these battles were mainly to keep powerful landowners from fighting amongst themselves. The Pope, who has more money than God, but needs armies to protect it, paid his fighters to stop fighting amongst each other and to go take back the holy land from the Muslims.

Let us not forget about the in-house fighting among those who consider themselves Christian, along with the conversion of savages in the Americas and Africa. Christians themselves don’t always get along. Violence between Catholic and Protestant was alive and heating up to the latter part of the 20th century, including Hitler who called himself a Christian and said he was doing the Lord’s work by killing the non-believing Jews. The church at this time, epically the Pope didn’t do a thing while trainloads of Jews were hauled off to concentration camps. The Christian world said nothing, because remember, the Jews killed Jesus. We think it’s just Islam who will kill you if you don’t convert, well, their brother religion here has a lot more blood on its hands, and not just because it’s been around longer.

A film like this must be watched for it proves to the viewer this religion of love is being used as a religion of hate, and this hate is pouring out into the American landscape. American history is trying to be re-written as if the Bible was and is the only cornerstone of our nation, and that the Constitution was designed after the Bible and the Ten Commandments, which is a lie. Constantine’s Sword reminds us why governments and religions should respectfully stay separated as it says in the First Amendment. This documentary lays out the facts like a history book and, unlike The Da Vinci Code and Fox News’ “War on Christmas” this documentary is true with facts and evidence. There is no denying the reality of what is happening in this country today with almost a new mega-church popping up a day. Rev. Ted Haggard even took time from doing meth and having gay sex to let us know of this good news. He said that saving everyone was every Christian’s mission, no matter whom it is or where they are at.

Non-believers like myself will find this interesting and kind of scary, and though we think we live in an age of logic and reason, of science and math, there are those who wish to go backwards in time, to forget theories learned and freedoms won. They do this for reasons beyond they’re own comprehension, but yet follow it blindly with no questions asked. Me, I love to ask questions; this is one reason why I don’t believe. As for the lawsuit against the Air Force Academy, the court dismissed it because there was “no bodily harm” done. You know, nobody was crucified or thrown to the loins.

This is Fumo, looking over his shoulder a little more often now.

Monday, October 06, 2008


Written by Musgo Del Jefe

Scooby-Doo! Where are you? Or should I say "What's happened to you?" This October brings what has become an annual event - the release of a Scooby-Doo direct-to-video release. This year's movie, Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King is the 12th release of its kind since the 1998 comeback, Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island. Last year at this time I was heaping praise upon Chill Out, Scooby-Doo. Today I'm asking these son-of-a-guns, "What the heck happened?"

Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King starts at the Coolsville (c'mon already) Halloween Carnival. Shaggy and Scooby upset a magician, the Amazing Krudsky, by exposing him as a fake. Krudsky decides to get his "revenge" by becoming the Goblin King. Krudsky sets about capturing a faerie who will lead him to the goblin where he can steal the scepter and get the "power of Halloween." I'm not even making any of this up, so far. This is the worst character motivation I've seen since The Adventures Of Pluto Nash.

Shaggy and Scooby end up in a magic shop in the film's first nod to Harry Potter. It is here that the shop owner informs them of their mission to save Coolsville and their friends by stopping the Goblin King. In the film's second nod to Harry Potter (when in doubt, steal from what's popular with the kids these days, right?) they are taken to the goblin land on a train that might as well have Knight Bus written on it. As we follow Shaggy and Scooby into the faerie world, we sadly realize that Fred, Daphne and Velma will be making nothing more than a guest appearance in this film.

The interaction of the whole cast is one thing that made these later movies so interesting. Even the recurring character of Del Chillman gave the older characters someone interesting to play off of. Getting back to just Scooby and Shaggy leaves only two predictable jokes - the two are either really scared or really hungry. And sometimes both.

The quest to save the faerie world still could have been entertaining. Dropped into this strange world, Shaggy and Scooby could easily have followed a Wizard Of Oz-type plot, making friends along the way to battling the Goblin King and saving both the faerie world and their own world. But the plot doesn't choose to become that interesting.

In one of the better visual jokes of the film, the two take a magic potion to sneak closer to the Goblin King to steal his scepter. Scooby turns into Velma and Shaggy turns into Daphne. Unfortunately, the scene is wasted. In what quickly becomes cheap and lazy plot turns, the two are revealed to be themselves before they can steal the scepter. Oddly, the meeting they are sneaking into looks exactly like the Pagan meeting in the Dragnet movie.

This race to get the scepter by midnight is hollow. There isn't a lot of suspense and it's unclear what the consequences are for not getting it by midnight. The chase turns into the Scooby-Doo! tradition of the musical chase-montage. This time it's a song called "Goblin Oogie Boogie" by James Belushi. Sigh.

The voice casting is top rate and should have made this a more entertaining feature. In addition to the usual voice cast, they've added Hayden Panettiere as an annoying faerie, Wallace Shawn, Jay Leno, Tim Curry, Lauren Bacall, James Belushi, and Wayne Knight as the put-upon magician, Krudsky (not too far from his Jurassic Park character). If only the money spent on this talent had been used on writers!

The movie continues with seemingly one dead end after another. But at each turn, "magic" is used to get them out of their trouble. It's really frustrating. I won't reveal the end but suffice it to say, there isn't a "mystery" here. That's the real problem with the whole picture. I loved the original series and most of the direct-to-video releases because they existed in more of a "reality." The monsters were guys in masks - the phantom was the mayor. Here, the magician is fake but the goblins and faeries are real. The characters just don't work well in that format and it's been proven over their history. I wanted the fun of "Mystery, Inc." that I found in Chill Out, Scooby-Doo. What I got was a misguided film that tries to force its scares and instead just bores. This series has shown that it can appeal to all ages and this effort may not end up appealing to any.

The DVD has a bonus feature called "Scooby-Doo: You Believe In Magic?" that shows how some basic magic tricks are done. It's an interesting diversion especially considering how uncharacteristically cruel Scooby and Shaggy were to The Amazing Krudsky.

I've been entertained enough by this series in my life to know that even when I'm faced with Scrappy-Doo, eventually they'll return to their roots. Until then, I'll wait for release number 13 next fall - hoping we'll leave Coolsville behind and just return to the mysteries.


Written by Pollo Misterioso

After making its run in the festival market, including Sundance Film festival, and a limited release in theaters in November 2007, the Academy Award nominated documentary War/Dance has been spreading a powerful message on the simple ways that music can uplift the wariest of souls, in the most bleak situations.

Northern Uganda has been in a state of war for the past twenty years. The rebels are attacking the local villages, killing innocent people, and abducting children to become part of their army. Families are forced into refugee camps; unable to return to their homes they are forced to start a new life. In War/Dance there is hope amongst the turmoil and that lies with the children and the music they create.

The children’s school, Patongo, is able to compete for the first time in the National Music Competition in Kampala. Here the students participate in eight different categories of song and dance, including a traditional dance that is native to their tribe and an original composition. War/Dance beautifully intertwines three children’s stories and their relationship to the war and the music that inspires them during this turmoil.

Nancy is a fourteen-year-old dancer who has had to take care of her siblings since the death of her father and abduction of her mother. Crying to the camera, she recounts how scared she was the night that the rebels came for her mother. Resilient, she understands what she must do for her family and she turns to music and dance saying that when she dances “it feels like home.”

Dominic plays the xylophone with a passion that is tangible from the screen. He had been a child soldier for the rebels and has escaped to the camp where he lives with his mother and plays xylophone with the school. The stories he tells are the horrifying tales that cannot be avoided and should not go unnoticed, haunting after the film has finished.

Rose is a beautiful and strong thirteen-year-old that lives with her aunt because her parents were killed by the rebel forces. She looks into the camera with eyes that have seen some of the most gruesome aspects of war. Struggling to balance the work she must do for her family and music, she finds solace in music and dance.

This film is powerful in the way the directors have chosen to capture the children. Placed in front of the camera, they speak with an honesty and innocence that cannot be scripted. They are the ones that tell this story, opening and ending the film with narration from Dominic. This is their story and it needs to be told. Through the young eyes of these children, their stories are just some of the examples of what has happened to thousands like them.

When the children reach the competition, they are nervous and feel inferior to the schools from South Uganda. In the three days that they are in Kampala, some of the most touching moments come when they visit the city: seeing what city life is like, drinking soda, and watching airplanes. At the competition, we become more than just viewers of this film, but an audience to their performance that they have been working so hard for. We are rooting for them, to restore hope in these children.

War/Dance is a troubling and deeply moving documentary. Not only have the filmmakers captured something that needs to be documented, but they have weaved together a story of triumph and despair that leaves the audience in tears. Amidst this heavy despair the joy that comes across the children’s faces when they play, when they sing, and when they dance becomes more than just hope for the children, but it restores faith in the human spirit.

The documentary is distributed by Shine Global and can be purchased from their website.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Schoolhouse Rock!: The Election Collection

Written by Fumo Verde

During the mid ‘70s when I was only knee-high to a grasshopper, fireworks were still legal, there were two lids in a joint, and our government was taught on TV along with the Saturday morning cartoons. Like mini musical commercials, Schoolhouse Rock! taught a whole generation about how our country came to be, the way it was governed, and why we think it works so well. Some call it inspiring, others call it brainwashing, but either way the songs and little animated characters can still be sung and remembered by both sides.

“Hey, do you know about the U.S.A.? Do you know about the government? Can you tell me about the Constitution? Hey, learn about the U.S.A.”

Lynn Ahrens, whose voice sounds like a young Joni Mitchell sang that lead-in and right from that moment you knew it was time for some history. That’s what this DVD is all about; the Election Collection brings us three groups of animated vignettes that include: “How Government Works,” “Our History,” and “The Campaign.”

In “Our History” we get “No More Kings,” and this is where we learned that taxation without representation is not fair, also the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” where we learn how the first shot was the start of the Revolution. Both of these glossed over the struggles, which our founding fathers had to deal with during the eight years of war with England, but it does lay the groundwork. Putting it into a cartoon gave kids a chance to see it over and over, and the catchy songs helped them remember. Tom Yohe who produced the series understood this and exploited it to its utmost. Other stories in “Our History” include the “Great American Melting Pot,” “Fireworks,” and “Mother Necessity,” which told about famous inventors but kind of strayed away from how the nation became. “Elbow Room” would have been a better choice.

The following segment called “How Government Works” contains the “Three-Ring Government” that teaches us about a circus, or a “dog and pony show” as my grandfather used to call it. Here we learn how the Congress, the President, and the Judicial branch work in balance with each other, or at least are supposed to. It also has “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage,” which has the most rock in the Schoolhouse music bag.

Of course, the most famous SHR vignette is the one with the sad scrap of paper telling us all, “I’m just a bill. Yes, I’m only a bill and I’m sitting here on Capital Hill…” Here we learn how laws come into play, again very glossed over but you get the basics. The “Preamble” is also a part of this group and I have to say it still has to be my favorite of the SHR Election Collection series. “We the People in order to form a more perfect Union establish justice and insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this constitution for the united states of America.”

The ones I didn’t care for were in the category of “The Campaign.” These included “Walkin’ on Wall Street,” which now seems like a load of bullshit as they lose our investments, walk away with golden retirement checks, and we as taxpayers get the bill. Others are “Tyrannosaurus Debt” which not only glosses over what the national debt means to Americans, it makes it look a house pet which we should not ignore but just accept and not worry about. They talk about trying to tame the debt, but not about how to get rid of it.

One of the next three is “I’m Gonna Send Your Vote to College” which is complete garbage as we have found out in some recent elections. It tells us how the popular vote gives way to the Electoral College and the college follows what the popular vote is, but that’s a laugh and a half. There is another one even worse that. It’s called “Tax Man Max” and guess who’s our friend?

The only one I liked in “The Campaign” group was “Energy Blues” which was written by George Newall and preformed by Jack Sheldon. Earth is telling us it’s running out of energy and we must start to look elsewhere. Pretty prophetic coming from a cartoon back in 1978 considering the price of oil now; it brings to mind the phrase about history repeating itself.

Back when this stuff came out, it helped kids learn while they were in front of the boob tubes, and some of it stuck. To this day when I start singing one these little tunes I find people of my age and a little younger joining in or saying “Hey, Schoolhouse Rock! I remember….” Should this be used as an educational tool? To lay some groundwork, okay, but not to get them ready for reality.

Cute and fun is the best way to describe this DVD, which also comes with a map of the States so you too can join along on Election night and see who wins what. This is one of those DVDs that if I saw it and it was in the dollar bin at CVS, then yeah I would pick it up for giggles, but only for a buck.

This is Fumo saying, “Yes, two joints to a lid. I roll big joints.”