Monday, December 01, 2008

Shock Festival by Stephen Romano

Written by Fantasma el Rey

B-movie nut/screenwriter Stephen Romano has put together a nifty 356-page color book salute to “101 of the strangest, sleaziest, most outrageous movies you’ve never seen” of the late 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s from an alternative universe. He along with comic artist/film designer Tim Bradstreet (Hellblazer) and film actor/director Thomas Jane provide good back stories, interviews, and excellent poster art. Drawing it all together to bring forth and create interest in films possibly lost to the sands of time or known only to cult fanatics and monster-tattooed freaks. And that’s only one story contained within these horror-filled pages of wonder and dread.

Romano writing is easy to read and makes the subject appealing for those that may not have a big interest in such movies. For those of us that dig this whacked-out, creepy, over-the-top, oddball “art,” the book is fascinating and reads at a quick pace. The pages are filled with photos and reprints of the posters that Romano has plastered all over his office walls, desk, ceiling, and, I believe, floor. He includes pictures of the office and his living room to verify that it is indeed plushed out so. The photos interject perfectly while not blocking or disrupting the text. The subject matter is kept at a digestible length as said photos spur you on to the next page. I would call it a page-turner but as I received an electronic copy the “book” kept me scrolling down to the next page.

The book covers too much material and way too many people to mention them all but a few names that stuck out and are repeated time and again include a particular Roc Benson (who starred in many of his own films as well as wrote, directed, and produced them) while a bunch of others where produced by Jayne Juanita Chance. Many of the chosen flicks star a dashing young man named Scott “Jetskie” Michelle along with the super-hot Natalya “Natalie” Ustinov. Some of these films I want to watch for her alone, well along with the fact that these films have interesting names that span many genres.

Popular genres range from space epics a la Star Wars to slashers and zombies pics right alongside cops, gangsters, monsters, mutants, barbarians (think Conan), bad girls exposed, and of course blaxploitation. I won’t even mention the titles of the last category but from some of the others we have great ones like Starfire and Raygun, Shark Hunters, The Wrong Idea, and for westerns with a twist we have Judge Blackheart and my personal favorite Nunslinger. That’s right, they did her wrong and she’s after an eye for an eye. I must find these films, I must, I must. Seriously. Wait, wait! I left out Lone Star Living Dead Axe Maniac Showdown. How could I forget that one? It’s like the father of them all. Zombies and axes; crazy shit I tell ya.

Anyway, ghoulies and creepy sorts, if gory, racy, kick-ass monster art is what you’re wanting to see and read about then go out and hunt up Stephen Romano’s Shock Festival. You won’t be disappointed with its “over 600 exclusive images including still photos and other rare memorabilia.”

Jake and the Fatman: Season One, Volume Two

Written by Senora Bicho

Jake and the Fatman
aired on CBS from 1987-1992. The crime drama stars William Conrad as J.L. “Fatman” McCabe, a Los Angeles District Attorney, and Joe Penny as his private investigator/sidekick Jake Styles. The series is a loose spin-off; Conrad played a similair character, district attorney James L. McShane on two episodes of Matlock. Jake and the Fatman spawned a spin-off of its own when Dick Van Dyke guest starred in Season Four, which resulted in Diagnosis Murder. TV trivia fans should keep that under their hat.

McCabe is a hardnosed police officer turned district attorney. He is a tough old bird who is stubborn and stuck in his ways. Styles is handsome, easy going, and quite the ladies’ man. Their personalities often clash as they try to solve the toughest of crimes. In Volume Two of Season One the crimes include, rape, theft, and lots of murder. All of the episodes start off with the crime taking place and the home viewer as an eyewitness. Then, it is up to Jake and McCabe to figure it out.

I have never been a fan of this format; I like to try and figure it out the mystery along with the crime fighters. I find it boring and anti-climatic but some viewers may enjoy waiting to see how the criminal messes up. It is also interesting to now watch a crime show that is devoid of forensics. Here, gut instinct and hunch detective work are the crime-solving methods and they usually work.

Season One was comprised of 23 episodes, this DVD collection contains the last 11, which aired from January through April 1988. The only extra included in the DVD collection is episodic promos for a select number of episodes.

If you never watched the show or are not a fan, I really see no reason to start now. There are so many better, more interesting crime shows worth trying out first. However, this is a non-graphic, simpler drama, so if you like the older style crime dramas in the vein of Murder She Wrote, Magnum P.I. or Matlock this just might be the show for you.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (3-Disc Collector's Edition)

This worthy sequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe gets the royal treatment as the 3-disc collectors edition from Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media hits shelves Tuesday December 2nd.

Our four stars are back as is equally important director Andrew Adamson whose ability to bring the work of C.S. Lewis to life is indispensable to the success of the series. Yes, the innocence is gone in this sequel and the story is much more simple as our experienced and restless warriors return to Narnia, but the pacing in this second outing is much quicker, and there is certainly more action.

Our heroes, Georgie Henley (Lucy), Skandar Keynes (Edmund), Anna Popplewell (Susan), and William Moseley (Peter) have only been back in our world for a year, but 1300 years have passed in Narnia when they are summoned back by Prince Caspian (Ben Barnes) who is fleeing for his life from his evil uncle Miraz (Sergio Castellitto), who is out to secure the throne for himself and eventually his son. Caspian is befriended by the long-thought-extinct Narnian creatures that have been in hiding, and he and our four heroes lead the Narnians in an epic battle against Miraz and his mighty army.

Though the violence in the film may be too much for young children, a clear effort has been made to insure that the result of the deadly blows remains just out of the range of the camera.

The bonus material in this new release will have you longing to visit the sites where the film was shot as much as seeing the movie will make one long for a visit to Narnia. The in-depth documentaries cover not only the computer visualization of the film prior to a single frame being shot, but the extraordinarily beautiful locations, the numerous logistic and environmental challenges faced by individuals and the team as a whole, and the choreography of the exciting duel between Peter and Miraz as well.

The standard blooper reel leaves something to be desired and for the most part it is clear why the deleted scenes were indeed cut, but the audio commentary by Adamson is extremely informative as he pulls us into the process of storytelling here as well as throughout all the bonus material.

Recommendation: With the film itself running at a healthy 149 minutes, there is enough bonus material to keep the whole family entertained for an entire rainy afternoon, and the digital copy that is included will be great for road trips. Fans of the first installment may grow impatient waiting for Aslan to return, but his arrival and the subsequent scene with Lucy are well worth waiting for. As long as the parents are aware of the violent nature, there are enough cute characters, and light humor to keep all entertained.