Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Heart Jonas

Written by Pirata Hermosa

The newest DVD release from the popular Disney television series JONAS starring the three Jonas brothers (Kevin, Nick and Joe) hits stores with a Valentine’s Day theme and your very own Jonas Brothers magnets. In a red box with a giant heart on it and even a name tag for gifting, it’s obvious who it’s marketed towards. And of course, all seven episodes are of the romantic nature, mostly dealing with the relationship between Joe and Stella (Chelsea Staub).

"Fashion Victim" - When Stella gets asked out by Van Dyke (Chuck Hittinger), the school’s quarterback, Joe finds himself trying to suppress his jealousy. But when he “accidentally on purpose” ruins the band’s outfits Stella picked out for them to wear when they meet the Prime Minister of England and ends up ruining her date, she decides to get even.

"Love Sick" - Stella begins to think that Joe doesn’t like her anymore when he ends up canceling on her several times in a row. To prove they are still friends, he asks her to the school basketball game and ends up getting sick. Instead of staying home so he will be able to sing on Great Morning USA the next morning, he goes to the game and makes himself even sicker. Meanwhile Macy (Nicole Anderson) tries to prove that her obsession with JONAS is over, but ends up dating a guy whom she forces to dress and act like Nick.

"Three Musketeers" - Kevin, Nick, and Joe think it’s a great idea to try out for the school play. They get the parts because of their name and ability to sell tickets. But when Joe hits the stage he finds that he has terrible stagefright and quits. His brothers are a little disappointed, but Van Dyke takes the place of the third musketeer and gets to do the love scene with Stella. Joe becomes jealous and must find a way to stop the kiss in the final scene. While the others deal with the play, Macy has her own problems. She’s lost her lucky necklace and along with that her athletic ability. To cheer her up and help her overcome her problem, Kevin loans her his lucky boot.

"Karaoke Surprise" - It’s the 15-year anniversary from when the brothers met Stella. And to celebrate this event, they plan to throw her a surprise Karaoke party. But it’s harder than they thought to keep a secret from Stella. She becomes suspicious and jealous when she keeps catching Macy and Joe sneaking around and avoiding her.

"Frantic Romantic" - After a night out at the VIP club, Joe suddenly finds pictures of him and his new girlfriend, Fiona Sky (Sara Paxton), splashed across the tabloids. The only problem is that he has no idea who she is. When she arrives at his school, he finds that she’s a B-rated horror-film actress who is selling the story to the magazines in order to forward her career. They try several ideas to get rid of her and even try to make Joe look uncool, even though everyone knows that’s impossible. Finally it’s the number one JONAS fan, Macy, to the rescue as she takes pictures of Joe and Stella linking them together romantically on her website.

"Forgetting Stella’s Birthday" - It’s not every day that Robert Lincoln Coler picks your band to interview. His reviews can make or break a band. So while the brothers spend all their time preparing for the interview, they forget something even more important. They forget Stella’s birthday. She is completely devastated that they forgot about her, and when the boys realize they messed up they try to make it up to her.

"Double Date" - Once again, Van Dyke asks Stella out on a date. Thinking how Joe might feel, she politely turns him down. When Joe realizes why she turned him down, he tells her that she should go out with Van Dyke and not to let him stand in her way. This angers her and she accepts Van Dyke’s invitation. This leaves only one option left for Joe. He shows up at the restaurant with Macy in tow and pretends to be out on a date with her. Back at the firehouse, Kevin is trying to get Nick to bake him some more of his delicious Blue Chews cookies that he has become addicted to. Nick decides to teach him a lesson and cooks hundreds of cookies sending Kevin into a massive sugar high.

The DVD has only one special feature entitled "You’ve Been Jo Bro’d! - Surprising Jordin Sparks." Much like the prank they pulled on Chelsea Staub on the first DVD, this time they pull a prank on former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. The basic joke is that the four of them are doing a live interview with a DJ who has no idea who they are and is asking totally bizarre questions. It is more entertaining than the first joke they pulled, but just as you start to get into it, they keep breaking up the interview with the brothers explaining what is about to come. Once again their prank attempt comes off flat. They really need to dump this feature on the next release.

While I Heart Jonas is still quite entertaining and filled with the silly humor and slapstick comedy that makes the show, the constant viewing of the Joe/Stella relationship starts to get a little old. Watching them constantly pine for one another, admit that they have feelings, and then refusing to act on them becomes quite frustrating. During the original airing the episodes were spaced further apart and it had a much better flow.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Best of Battle (Vol. 1) by John Wagner, John Cooper, et al.

Written by Pirata Hermosa

A compilation of a number of the most popular British War Comics from 1975-1988 that were first published in Battle Picture Weekly and continued through its many incarnations. This collection contains stories from eighteen different comic strips set during WWII dealing with many issues and perspectives on the war from both sides of the conflict.

Some of the stories are about indestructible leaders such as “D-Day Dawson,” who has a bullet near his heart and no fear of dying; “Major Eazy,” who is the ultimate example of cool under pressure and fights battles from the seat of his own car; “Darkie’s Mob,” a mysterious officer who is so badass that the Japanese flee at the utterance of his name.

A few of the stories are also shown from the German perspective, but with these soldiers they are trying to bring back honor to their name and prove themselves over false accusations. “Fighter from the Sky” is about a German paratrooper who has been stripped of his identity because his father tried to warn the people that Poland was about to be invaded. “Panzer G-Man” was falsely accused of being a coward when he tried to stop a deserter and was the only survivor in his battalion. Now he must fight as a grenadier who runs along beside the tanks as they fight the Russians.

While there are more than enough different comics to match many different tastes readers may have when they pick up this book, the sheer volume of them is ultimately what leads to its downfall.

With so many selections, each one only gets about four strips. This format is okay for some of the strips like “The Bootneck Boy,” where a young man tries to prove that he’s big enough and old enough to make it as a Royal Marine. His adventures are self-contained and can be enjoyed no matter what the length. You see his evolution from being turned down because of his size, to saving a ship from mines, and then he saves his men while taking over an airstrip.

In “Day of the Eagle,” the story is extremely compressed. Not only is Mike Nelson (The Eagle) given a mission to assassinate Hitler but only a few pages later he has made it all the way into Munich and has put a well-placed bullet between the Fuhrer’s eyes. Before you can really get into the story, it’s over.

But the worst example of how small snippets don’t work is “Hold Hill 19”. A group of 13 soldiers have to hold the hill against an onslaught of Germans. Each comic is one day of the fight. The story gets more and more intense as they fend off different enemy waves and end up losing several of their own men. And then, on Day 3 it stops, leaving you hanging. By far that was the most frustrating of them all. It was like watching a DVD and the disc stops playing right when you get to the end.

The two best comics are “Rat Pack and “Johnny Red.” “Rat Pack” is much like the film The Dirty Dozen where you have a group of convicts that escape from prison and are sent on various suicide missions. “Johnny Red” is about an undisciplined fighter pilot for the R.A.F. who gets demoted to the merchant marines. But when their fleet comes under attack he steals a Hurricane and shoots down the attackers. Afraid that he will get in trouble for stealing the plane, he flies into Russia and teams up with a ragtag group of Russian pilots.

Most of the stories are good, but overall it ends up feeling like a big tease. There’s an advertisement in the back for the Titan Books website where you can purchase some of the full collections. Unfortunately, after checking the website I was unable to locate any of them currently for sale, but some of them are scheduled for release later in the year.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Written by Fido

From the very opening of the movie and the immediately out-of-place title music, it’s hard not to get wrapped up into Kingdom Of The Spiders right off the bat. Slow moving spiders beating up even slower reacting people – sign me up. It brings back fond memories of lazy Sunday early evenings in Southern California watching Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, on Channel 9 while settling into an amazingly cheeseball, but fun movie.

It’s always good to see William Shatner in any role outside of Captain Kirk, or a character alluding to Kirk. And in this flick, he delivers an oddly "dramedic" (drama + comedy) performance under the moniker Arizona’s own Dr. Robert “Rack” Hansen. Now I won’t spoil the story behind the catchy spy-guy nickname, but instead I will whole-heartedly recommend that any fan of horror or ‘70s movies in general grab this puppy up as soon as they can.

Alongside Shatner is Tiffany Bolling playing the alluring female lead. From her very first zero reaction to finding a giant tarantula in a vanity drawer for no reason, her performance falls right in line with what you expect (and want) from the role.

How many William Shatner films can you see where Shatner is the most under-control actor (well, at least until his attack scene that he mysteriously survives when others were knocked off with one nibble)?

It has all of the hallmarks of a good ‘70s horror romp – the overacting; the grainy, gritty film feel; the low budget stretched to the Nth degree; the appropriate yet still completely abrupt ending; and a ton of other entirely endearing qualities that make the ‘70s era of horror (and film in general) one of the most interesting and now influential eras in film history.

The opening scene in which a prize show-cow is assaulted by one of the offending beasties is shot from the spiders’ point of view. Call me crazy (as many have before and will again) but I love when older horror movies take a P.O.V. shot from a bug and treat it as high drama – which this movie does do not once, but a couple times. It’s this kind of sensibility in these films that I find so magnetic. Simple little devices used in unintentionally funny ways that draw you into even the worst of films are few and far between nowadays. Kingdom Of The Spiders finds a way to be unintentionally funny without being thoroughly terrible or unentertaining.

There’s also this wonderfully blurry line between TV movies of the era and movies of the same time period. This one has the same “could’ve been an ABC Sunday Night Movie” feel, but it doesn’t take anything away from the fun.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie is that 90% of the music is a lifted score from The Twilight Zone. And it’s not only used once or twice; it’s the dramatic underscore for a vast majority of the movie. Although it’s recognizable, it does nothing but add to the heaping amount of chuckles. When it’s not The Twilight Zone as the backbone of the musical drama, it’s a melodramatic score that overplays even the smallest of incidents, but again, that’s not a bad thing in this case.

As far as the special features go on the DVD, there’s a couple damn interesting nuggets. The first and best one is a rare behind-the-scenes film shot during the making of the movie. There aren’t many movies of that era with the foresight to archive some of the making of the movie and there are less DVD-authoring companies that will go the extra mile to find stuff like this. For that alone it’s worth getting the DVD. But there are other features: one on the spider wrangler for the movie, an interview with the venerable William Shatner, and an interview with the writer of the film. And though all the features (including the original trailer which is an ass-kicker) are sweet, it’s that behind-the-scenes one that really grabs you.

On top of that Shout has done something wonderful that may be of little note or care to others, but to me it’s the way these kinds of movies (or actually any movie on DVD to that end) should always be released – they used the original theatrical poster as the cover for the DVD – awesome!

As a totally related Trek side note – if you like this, go treat yourself to the giant rabbit invasion that is Night Of The Lepus (hopefully Shout will release that one with the same care they released this gem. It stars DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) and is equally if not more entertaining in every wrong way possible.

Anyway, aside from any kind of hoity-toity film analysis, Kingdom Of The Spiders is an unabashedly entertaining fun example of a filmmaking sensibility that has sadly gone by. You go watch now.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The House On Sorority Row: 25th Anniversary Edition

Written by Fantasma el Rey

“Sister in life, sisters in death.” That’s the tag line for The House On Sorority Row, the 1983 horror/thriller that recently (late 2009) spawned a remake. I don’t know what the remake is like but the original is a fun little romp filled with bad ‘80s hair, decent suspense, and killings galore plus a good amount of nudity. The plot isn’t too terribly bad either.

Writer/director Mark Rosman opens his thriller with a doctor’s house call on a stormy night in 1961 and we witness what appears to a botched childbirth by C-section. Fast-forward to the then-present, early 1980s, and that same old house on Sorority Row. We see a handful of happy young girls after their graduation, filled with hope for the future; little do they know that their future will be slashed short.

The mean-spirited housemother kicks all the girls out by a certain day every year, no exceptions. This year's lot of girls isn’t going to play her game and they’re gonna stay anyway and party like crazy; no crabby old coots stopping them. So the girls of Theta Pi sorority plan their party and a prank on the old maid they despise so much. But their prank goes tragically wrong and the old bag is killed and “hidden” in the old green, slimy pool out back or so the girls think.

While the graduation party rages on, a few extra rowdy guests head out back to play in the filthy pool and as the nervous girls rush to herd the boys back inside, they discover that the body is missing. And this is when the fun starts. The girls involved begin to disappear one by one as they are killed off and thrown in the pool. So the slayings go on and the old doctor from ’61 is phoned and brought back into the picture. Ninety-one minutes and a somewhat cliché ending later all is revealed.

The House On Sorority Row isn’t really a slasher as Rosman tries to pay homage to Hitchcock and other masters of film, having some murders off screen or in shadow. The ending, which is the best part, makes the whole damn picture worth seeing for that scene alone. Too bad we didn’t see a bit more of that or the original ending for that matter which Rosman was forced to cut by his backers. He describes the lost scene pretty well and leaves us thinking that the original ending would have put this movie truly over the top in cult-horror film history.

Bonus features to this 25th Anniversary Edition DVD include a story board comparison, photo gallery (with some nice stills) and a decent audio commentary by Rosman and actors Eileen Davidson, who we see topless in the film, and Kathryn McNeil. The DVD cover is also noteworthy for the fact that it features a scantily clad hottie in front of a creepy, gothic looking big window. Hubba, hubba!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Men Who Stare At Goats

Written by Fido

Well, alright then, that was an incredibly lost movie. Like someone handing them the casting lottery ticket and they gave it to three-year-old who used it to wipe his nose after an incredibly unsatisfying sneeze. It had no idea whether it was a comedy, drama, etc. and it is just a complete waste of what should've been a good (and at the least fun) flick.

I go into this a big fan of everyone in the movie Kevin Spacey, George Clooney, Ewan MacGregor, and Jeff Bridges (freaking Flynn Lebowski for corncob’s sake) and this is what gets delivered?! At its best, it’s a dirty rotten tease of a movie that makes you think it’s just gathering steam for a great payoff. However, when all is said and done it just passes out on the floor right after you think you’re going to get lucky. (A story for another day, but I digress)

Granted, the script was nothing to really revel over. The movie felt like someone got way too stoned and listened to way too much Coast-To-Coast AM one night, then decided they could write a script about this remote viewing and psy-ops military stuff. Turns out that “special” brownies and insomnia don’t always equal genius.

Like I said before, is it a comedy, are we a drama, are we a true story kind of romp or are we just kind of stroking ourselves and spending the studio’s money on a sweet-ass vacation in the desert for a couple months. It turns out it’s the vacation the director and writer opted for. Now hey, don’t get me wrong, hangin’ on that set would’ve been a blast. I mean kickin’ around with all those guys and that much talent – so much to draw off of and get inspired by. It would be a dream job.

George Clooney does a half-ass job of his O Brother, Where Art Thou character as a drugged-up “psychic,” we get a little throwback to The Big Lebowski from Bridges, Spacey plays the usual likeable jerk that you kind of want to be friends with and punch all at once. Ewan MacGregor, not being stupid in real life, just doesn’t carry the insecure dumbfounded guy role off that well whatsoever.

So - sad for the audience, the “making of” is/will probably be far more interesting than the movie itself. Maybe the DVD release will have that on there to help gloss over the stark matte finish of this flick.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not the kind of movie that you’ll walk away from not liking the guys in it. It’s a good lesson for any moviemaker to show them that script and direction actually do matter more than the names on the marquee. So to that end, its existence is justified, but otherwise I watched this thinking, “Alright, here comes the good part. Oh man, this is going to be great when we see it all really gets moving. Okay, well maybe in the next act, we’ll get momentum." I had this inner monologue right up until the last scene. When my optimism faded, I looked around the living room, realizing I forgot to vacuum this weekend, and that would’ve been far more productive and far more entertaining.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

ER - The Complete Twelfth Season

Written by Hombre Divertido

As the twelfth season of the classic hospital drama hit the shelves on January 12th, 2010, one could not help but be intrigued by packaging that, for the first time, displayed no pictures of any original cast members. With the virtual disappearance of Sherry Stringfield’s Doctor Susan Lewis (apparently if you leave a hit show a second time, it is without fanfare) and the departure of Noah Wiley’s Doctor John Carter (who does manage to make a few appearances in season twelve, but only as a special guest) the show embarks on a new season with the changing of the guard now complete.

Due to the eleventh-year ending with one of the weaker season finales in the history of the series, season twelve opens with a mess to clean up. The first episode ("Cañon City") accomplishes that, but Linda Cardellini’s performance as Sam the frantic mom in search of her runaway son is a bit tired, and stretches the competent actress beyond her abilities. On the bright side, the episode marks the beginning of the end for the relationship between Sam and Luka (Goran Visinjic). Said relationship struggled through season eleven almost as much as the audience struggled to watch the storyline.

Where season eleven faltered with writing for the series veterans, season twelve gives the audience more of what they want. Shane West as Dr. Ray Barnett and Scott Grimes as Dr. Archie Morris were underutilized in season eleven, but are given the opportunity to shine in season twelve. West’s Barnett brings a youthful energy to the series not seen in the ER in years, while Grimes’ Morris brings subtle humor to the show for the first time. Though Grimes would remain with the show through the final season, his comedic abilities remained unappreciated.

Along with Grimes and West, the more experienced members of the ER cast are certainly given their respective time to show what they can do. Most noticeable is the performance of Maura Tierney in episode eleven “If Not Now” where Abby ponders a life-changing decision. Let us also mention that though the packaging may not show their pictures, there are some cast members who have been around since season one and they are given some solid screen time in season twelve as well. Yvette Freeman gets some wonderful storylines as Haleh and does great work, and Abraham Benrubi as the endearing Jerry steals scenes in several episodes.

Where the regulars shine, the newcomers tend to come up short as continued attempts to add an antagonist fail. Kristen Johnston as Nurse Manager Eve Peyton certainly added an imposing female force to the cast, and the characters ability to be imposing yet less confrontational than Kerry Weaver (Laura Innes) was entertaining, but eventually there was little for her to do. Also added to the mix was new attending Doctor Victor Clemente portrayed by John Leguizamo. His performance was solid albeit limited in dimension, and ultimately, arrogant and screwed up have both been done better by previous characterizations.

Whereas the performances of the series regulars were consistently good, the writing in season twelve hits both highs and lows rarely seen in years past. The episodes spent following Doctor Carter in Africa are interesting, but ultimately too much time is spent away from the ER, and both the character of Doctor Greg Pratt and the performance of Mekhi Phifer seem lost. Nonetheless, anytime spent in Africa in season twelve is preferable to the time spent in episode six “Dream House”. From the treating of a monkey to the antics of Dr Dabenko (Leland Orser) on the two-way mobile television, this is one of the worst episodes in the series. The writing rebounds in episode eight “Two Ships” which smoothly blends exciting storylines featuring not only our regular cast but those involving patients, visitors, and characters normally found outside the ER.

The season finale certainly is filled with excitement, but the script is too contrived, the guest performances are weak, and ultimately it’s just enough already with the stories about Sam’s family.

Many of the episodes of season twelve are enhanced by music like never before in the series. Martin Davich’s work with the music in the final scene of “If Not Now” is amazing as he frames a picture in sound worthy of award consideration.

Above all else it is directing that leads the way in season twelve as ER displays true elegance in its storytelling. Episode 13 “Body and Soul” features a subtly brilliant performance by James Woods, but it is the writing of Joe Sachs and the directing of our old friend Paul McCrane that makes this star shine.

Unaired scenes make up the bonus material in this release, and the lack of any other extras continues to be a disappointment with each new set of "ER" DVDs.

Recommendation: After a disappointing season eleven, it is time to check back into County General. ER comes back stronger in season twelve and lays some promising groundwork for the coming years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Written by Fido

Really, it’s not that complicated. It’s not the kind of movie that’s going to change the landscape of movie-making. It’s not some effects-laden adventure story culled from hundreds of other stories and dressed up in a fancy new CG package. There’s no incredibly clever stuff here. The jokes in the movie you’ve heard before and the plot is pretty dang pedestrian. But what sets Nancy Meyers It’s Complicated apart are the performances in that exceedingly normal story.

The big giant surprise, Meryl Streep is once again completely hypnotizing to watch. You find yourself quietly rooting for her from beginning to end. Even through moments of her character’s middle-aged chick nuttiness, you never grow tired of her. In fact, I found myself wondering halfway through the movie if she has ever really been atrocious in anything. Even in the worst of scripts (which this movie isn’t) or productions, she winds up with her head above water.

For that matter, Alec Baldwin is pretty charming here too. There’s a little overload on the whispering voiceover version of his voice, but when it comes down to it even the “dirtbaggery” his character dispenses becomes kind of endearing. Add onto that an increasingly odd-looking, but still comfortable to watch, Steve Martin in the role of the peon new guy that stumbles his way into the arena of family nuttiness, and this movie has something that is unfortunately seen less and less nowadays.

The acting is well done and leads to sheepish, smile-inducing chemistry. That alone makes It’s Complicated anything but complicated to grab a hold of and enjoy no matter your age or if you have a penchant for a cleanly executed romantic comedy.

Even down to the miniscule scenes between The Office’s John Krasinski and Meryl Streep (by the way they have an interesting dynamic on screen that would feed really well into some kind of cougar premise, if that whole thing isn’t played out yet), this movie is a shining example of how actors with actual talent, not just flash-in-the-pan pop stars force fed to us, can make anything not just watchable, but exceedingly comfortable.

In the end, I can’t see why It’s Complicated would win any awards, but not every movie needs to be some sweeping epic, cheap awards grab or hackneyed statement on social mores of the time. Sometimes it’s great just to see a movie that makes you feel a little better about the state of acting and the state of yourself.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Written by Pirata Hermosa

The story begins with Anita (Amanda Seyfried), “Needy” as her friends call her. She’s narrating the story to explain how she ended up in the mental hospital where we now find her.

Just a few months earlier she was a nerdy girl in high school, hanging out with her boyfriend, Chip (Johnny Simmons), and her best friend, Jennifer (Megan Fox). They all lived in a small town called Devil’s Kettle, which was named after a nearby waterfall that emptied into a bottomless hole in the ground.

Jennifer and Needy had been best friends since they were little kids. Needy was the quiet reserved type, while Jennifer was the wild one getting them into all kinds of crazy situations. And to live up to this reputation, Jennifer convinces her friend to accompany her to some dive bar where she’s looking to hook up with the lead singer of a barely known band from the big city called “Low Shoulder”.

The band is your typical bunch of sleazeballs led by Nikolai (Adam Brody) who seems more interested in figuring out if Jennifer is a virgin than the music he’s playing. In the middle of the performance, one of the lighting rigs catches fire and within minutes the entire building is on fire. The two girls manage to escape through the bathroom and run directly into Nikolai. While the girls are still in shock, he leads Jennifer over to the band’s van and drives away with her.

Later on, when Needy can’t contact Jennifer on her cell phone she becomes worried. But shortly afterwards, Jennifer shows up in her kitchen covered in blood and vomiting up black bile. Just as quickly as she appears, she disappears and leaves Needy terrified.

While Jennifer appears to be her normal self and acts like nothing happened, she is actually killing and eating the boys around school. Nobody in town suspects who the cannibal is, but Needy knows that something is wrong and has her suspicions confirmed when Jennifer shows up in her bedroom and confesses that she is the killer. She also tells her how the guys from Low Shoulder drove her out to the falls and used her as a virgin sacrifice to Satan.

Needy does some quick research in the occult section of the school library and discovers that they performed the ritual incorrectly. They needed to sacrifice an actual virgin, which they did not. Instead when they sacrificed non-virgin Jennifer it allowed a demon to escape from hell and possess her body. Needy must now find a way to defeat the demon and save the town.

Starring what some consider one of the most beautiful women in the world, in a film called Jennifer’s Body, you’d think you might actually see Jennifer’s body. But no, there’s no nudity, no slow camera pans over her figure, or even an ounce of sexiness in the film.

Overlooking that, you might be able to forgive it because it’s supposed to be a horror film. But once again it fails because it’s not very scary or filled with any gore. Most of the horror aspect is only alluded to with the cameras turning away before you see anything or what is done is via silhouette. Even the format in which it’s told as one big flashback removes any suspense as the audience already knows that Needy lives through it all.

The writing is bad as it’s obvious that the writer is trying to make up new terminology that we should be using, such as “Salty” for someone who is hot looking and “Jell-O” for being jealous, and a number of the plot points just don’t make basic sense. Nobody in the world would have chosen Jennifer, dressed like a hooker, pushing alcohol, and aggressively flirting as "the virgin" over the timid, mousey, plain-looking, nerdy girl. Would you? The satanic ritual performed by the band was taken off the Internet and contained about three words. Why would the demon come to Needy and confess to her that she was the murderer? What small town would have a giant occult section in the school library?

For a film that almost puts you to sleep, the ending was actually pretty cool. It’s the only part of the film that actually makes you want to see more, probably because it’s about five minutes long and is done in a montage sequence where you see Needy escape the mental institute and deal out some vengeance to the boys of Low Shoulder.

The Blu-Ray version is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen with DTS-HD Master Audio and includes two discs. The first disc is a digital copy for your computer. The second disc includes both the theatrical and extended versions of the film, plus all of the bonus features. The video quality of the disc is a little grainy, but with most of the scenes shot with limited lighting the quality didn’t matter as much. There were some issues with the sound mixing. The dialogue was much too quiet compared to the music. I had to have the remote control in hand throughout the film as the music would suddenly just start blasting at full volume from my stereo system. I even checked the settings of my equipment just to make sure it wasn’t my fault. The actual sound quality seemed just fine, but I must confess that I am not a big fan of any of the songs on the soundtrack

The Bonus Features include:

A commentary by director Karyn Kusama and writer Diablo Cody on the theatrical version only and a commentary by Kusama on the extended version.

Deleted Scenes: most of these scenes were deleted for good reason, but there is a scene in the girls’ locker room that should have been left in. It’s actually pretty important as it helps make sense of why Needy is afraid of Jennifer going to the dance, and why Jennifer goes after Chip.

Gag Reel: there’s just a couple of bloopers and then it becomes a music video mixed in with random footage.

"Jennifer’s Body: The Dead Pool" is an in-depth discussion and behind-the-scenes look into the film’s climax where the two girls fight one another in a pool to save Chip’s life. Not only does it discuss the motivation, but it also shows you how all of the special effects were done.

Video Diaries of the cast members as they run around with handy cams taking uneventful home videos.

"Megan Fox is Hot" is not really a feature, but 30 seconds of Megan Fox close-ups from the movie.

"Megan Fox Peer Pressure PSA" starts off as a serious PSA announcement about peer pressure in school that talks about how you should be yourself and then completely changes gears when you realize it’s being told from Jennifer’s demonic point of view.

"Fox Movie Channel presents Life after Film School with Writer Diablo Cody": three film students do a serious interview with the writer. They discuss how she became a writer, her life as a stripper, and what it was like to win an Oscar.

Overall, Jennifer's Body is kind of a blah film as it feels like everyone is just going through the motions. The acting is pretty uninspiring and Megan Fox’s performance is just terrible. The storyline is just a regurgitated version of prior horror genre films that did a better job of telling the story the first time around.

Farscape: The Complete Series

Written Pirata Hermosa

In the early ‘90s the Jim Henson Company wanted to embark on a new endeavor and try something it had never done before. They were looking to take their unique skills at puppeteering and their Creature Shop and do more than just special effects in films. They were looking to create a television series where they could bring all of their creations to life.

After bringing on Rockne O’Bannon, who was known for creating Alien Nation and SeaQuest, to head the series, it still took them several years for it to hit the airwaves. It wasn’t until after the FOX network had passed on the series and they were about to make it out of their own pocket for syndication that the Sci-Fi Channel stepped up and said that they would use it to head Sci-Fi’s new original-programming format. But even then, the series was a huge expense on any network, so the Henson Company used a multi-national approach for funding. It was supported by three different agencies: one in the United States, one in Britain, and one in Australia. In return they each got broadcast rights in their respective country. This is also the main reason why all of the filming was done in Australia and ended up with only the lead role being cast with an American actor.

John Crichton (Ben Browder) is a modern-day astronaut/scientist who is conducting some experiments while orbiting the Earth in a single-man spacecraft. At the most critical juncture of the experiment, something goes horribly wrong and he finds himself and his small craft hurtling through a wormhole that deposits him on the opposite side of the universe. If this wasn’t enough of a problem by itself, he finds himself in the middle of a battle with a squadron of fighter ships that are attacking a much larger vessel.

But before Crichton can think, let alone act, his ship collides with one of the fliers, destroying it. This accident forces him to align with the ship under attack as the smaller fighters are targeting him as an enemy combatant. Once aboard the giant ship and after managing to escape from the battle, John discovers that he is aboard a prison ship filled with prisoners who have just completed a daring escape from their captors. Not only does John find himself with a group of possibly dangerous criminals, but also he quickly learns that in this part of the universe the race that looks like human beings are called Sebaceans, whose powerful military organization known as the Peacekeepers rules all the other races with an iron fist..

Somehow he must learn to get along with his new shipmates and find a way back home; all the while they are hunted by Crais (Lani Tupu), one of the Peacekeeper captains whose brother perished in the earlier collision with John’s spacecraft. He must also avoid capture by a creature called Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), who is only half-Sebacean and is hunting him down to learn the secrets of wormhole technology in order to create the ultimate weapon..

As both Jim Henson and Rockne O’Bannon said, they were looking for something completely new that had never been done before and wanted a more adult show, and in that they succeeded. The characters were all completely different from one another and their true motivations were not always apparent. If you are a science fiction fan and looking for something fresh and new, this would certainly be something worth having.

The extreme range of aliens created for the show is amazing. Some of them are so realistic that you wouldn’t believe they are animatronic. And then there are those like Rygel (Jonathan Hardy), looking like a cross between Yoda and a bullfrog, who at first glance seems silly but as the series progresses totally pulls you in.

The biggest problem I had with this show is that it’s not quite serialized enough. That’s not a bad thing when you’ve got the entire set in front of you to watch from beginning to end, but when it was originally airing and you would only catch an episode here and there, it made for some completely confusing television as everything always appeared to be in flux. Allegiances would change as well as cast members, plotlines carried over multiple episodes and a number of them were two- and three-part episodes, so if you weren’t regularly following the series it was easy to get lost.

Some of the more interesting story arcs involve their ship Moya, who is a living creature and gives birth to a male ship named Talyn; Scorpius implanting a chip in Crichton’s brain in order for it to discover his secrets and the chip becoming its own personality that John is constantly at war with, and finally his love affair with former Peacekeeper Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black).

It’s truly a wonderful thing that they have finally released Farscape as individual seasons and this giant Megaset. Up until now, you were forced to buy them in volumes, which are not only much more expensive, but it was difficult to find each of the volumes, leaving gaping holes in your personal collection. The Megaset includes 26 DVDs featuring all 88 episodes with two discs filled with extras such as:

"Making of a Space Opera" is a basic overview of the entire series and goes into detail of its creation and details of the special effects and the inner working of the animatronics used.

"In The Beginning: A Look Back With Brian Henson" is a sit-down interview where he discusses the basic concepts of how Farscape came into existence from the initial concept, how the show was financed, why they picked Rockne O’Bannon as creator, why season four ended as a cliffhanger, and even how the fans and their "Save Farscape" campaign brought the show back and allowed for the mini-series Farscape: The Peace Keeper Wars (not included here) to be made.

"Farscape in the Raw: Director’s Cut Scenes" takes original scenes and compares them to the Director’s cut, which doesn’t have the sound effects, music, special effects, or even the correct actor’s voices dubbed in.

"Farscape Undressed" was filmed just before season three aired and hosted by Ben Browder and Claudia Black. Essentially, it is a recap of the first two seasons in order to jog the memories of current fans and to help new viewers catch up to the current storyline.

“Listening In with Composer Guy Gross" reveals the musical side of the series as you get to observe him creating. Not only does he pause to add his own commentary, but it’s shot looking over his shoulder as you watch him play the synthesizer while he watches the scene on a television in front of him. This is certainly different than what you get from most DVD sets and there are 12 of these features, each from different episodes.

"Behind the Scenes Interviews" are with nearly every member of the cast except for the two main stars Ben Browder and Claudia Black.

"Video Profile: Creator/Executive Producer/Writer Rockne O’Bannon and Executive Producer Writer David Kemper" which are both very similar to the interview with Brian Henson, but these two have much more video clips mixed in and less information.

There are also 31 commentary tracks, deleted scenes from 33 episodes, a blooper reel, TV promos, and so much more for fans to explore. If you are a fan of the series, pick up this set.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Winnie the Pooh - A Valentine for You (Special Edition)

Written by Hombre Divertido

The special edition is due to hit shelves today, but it does not appear that Disney has added much to make this release significantly more “special” than the 2004 release. The six-year evolution has resulted in the addition of another episode from the television series The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1989), and six Valentine cards (three designs, two copies each) to “A Valentine for You,” “Un-Valentine Day,” “Three Little Piglets,” and the game “Catch the Love Bug,” which were all included in the 2004 release.

“A Valentine for You” tells the unusual tale of Pooh and his friends in search of a “smitten,” or a love bug, in order to cure Christopher Robin of his first crush. The tale is unusual in its lack of a sensible story. The transitions which send our friends on their search make little sense, as do the turn of events once the smitten is captured. Though the very young may enjoy the tale like a shiny new toy, parents may find that said toy will not keep the young ones entertained long.

“Un-Valentine's Day” makes far more sense from a pure storytelling perspective, and has more energy than “A Valentine for You.” It should garner more attention from both the young and old.

“Three Little Piglets” starts abruptly, and is a cute telling of the classic tale, but seems incomplete as an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

New to DVD is “My Hero.” Like “Three Little Piglets” this story is far from new and has nothing to do with Valentine's Day. In “My Hero” Piglet inadvertently falls in a small pond where Tigger is floundering. Tigger believes that Piglet has saved his life, and vows to become his servant. Sound familiar? Yeah, it would be hard to find a sitcom of the sixties or seventies that did not play out that same scenario. Nonetheless, the episode is fun, and highlights the vocal talents of John Fiedler who has been the voice of Piglet for more than forty years.

The “Catch the Love Bug” game is far too basic for the technology of today, and even would have been simple six years ago, as one is asked to move the jar utilizing the arrow keys on the remote, and then press "Enter" when the jar is over the bug. Even the youngest of children will eventually figure out that it is not necessary to move the jar as the bug follows the same course every time and will fly under the jar.

The vocal talents in this release are generally excellent primarily due to the inclusion of not only Feider, but also the legendary Paul Winchell as Tigger in all the stories. Jim Cummings who has been providing the voice of Pooh for over twenty years has taken over the voice of Tigger for the last ten years. Owl is voiced by Andre Stojka in “A Valentine for You” and Hal Smith in the other stories. Smith has been providing the voice of Owl since 1968 and has more of a worldly energy to his voice than that of Stojka. All the stories tend to lack input from Eeyore (Peter Cullen) whose mundane delivery pleasantly counters the exuberance of the other characters when we do get to see and hear him.

The menu on the DVD is awkward, and may be difficult for children to find what they want.

Recommendation: There simply may not be enough material here to warrant the purchase, and certainly not enough new material for those who own the previous release. If it’s on sale, it’s hard to go wrong with anything from the Hundred Acre Wood.

Monday, January 04, 2010

10 Things I Hate About You - 10th Anniversary DVD Edition

Written by Fantasma el Rey

10 Things I Hate About You
is the best of the slew of teen comedy/dramas that hit the screen in the late 1990s. A strong cast, good writing and the fact that it’s built around a Shakespeare play are some factors that set this film apart. Ten years after its release by Disney/Touchstone it is still loved and widely watched as this 10th Anniversary Edition proves.

The basic story is a simply one. Adored teen daughter (Larisa Oleynik) of an overprotective father (Larry Miller) won’t let her date until her antisocial older sister (Julia Stiles) does. So a pure-hearted admirer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) of the adored cutie and his friend (David Krumholtz) set in motion a plan that involves a rich snob (Andrew Keegan) and a mysterious outsider (Heath Ledger) to lure said older sister into the dating sphere. Along the way much fun is had, love is fallen in and out of, youths party and dance, the villain is foiled, the boys get their girls, and all is right with the world.

Sound vaguely like a Shakespeare play? Well it is, sort of, The Taming Of The Shrew. The writers envisioned a modern-day (1990s) version of the play set in a high school and somehow it works well. Blending some classic Shakespearean lines in along with their own witty dialog and cleverly mixing and matching names for certain characters. Examples are Patrick Verona for Petruchio, born in Verona; Katharina and Bianca are now Kat and Bianca Stratford for the birthplace of The Bard himself; and the students attend Padua High School (an actual high school building in Washington that looks like a castle) named after the city the play is set in.

Clever and well done with its many memorable lines and scenes that push the limit of its PG-13 rating, 10 Things has held its own in the ten years since its release. The film never talks down to its audience in general. The characters are never stupid (although some do dumb things) or try to talk in then-current hipster lingo. We get smart, bright youths who can act and speak intelligently. The majority of the cast were actually teenagers themselves while filming and playing these roles, which shines through in their chemistry. As you watch you get a sense that some will go on to bigger things in their careers.

The DVD bonus material includes a funny, anecdote-filled audio commentary by writers Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith along with cast members Oleynik, Keegan, Krumholtz, and Susan May Pratt (Kats friend Mandella, who’s madly in love with Shakespeare). As a bonus there is a 30-minute documentary with vintage interviews from the cast and current reflections by director Gil Junger as well as the brilliant writing duo. This edition comes with a digital copy on a separate disc for those who want to take the film wherever they go. Noted on the DVD are deleted scenes that are not shown separately but included in the documentary.

The movie isn’t a masterpiece or a perfect film. There are many little flaws and shooting goofs, but unless you have that keen movie eye or it’s pointed out, you may never know. 10 Things I Hate About You came together very well and is very enjoyable today as it has been through the years; one of my many guilty pleasures.

ER - The Complete Twelfth Season

Written by Senora Bicho

ER was nearing the end of its 15-year run when season 12 aired in 2005-2006. Ratings had been steadily dropping and this season saw a plummet from #16 to #30.

This season brings new challenges for those working in the ER. Dr. Luka Kovac (Goran Visnjic) and girlfriend Nurse Samantha Taggart (Linda Cardellini) call it quits again, which leads him back into the arms of Dr. Abby Lockheart (Maura Tierney). Neela Kaur Rasgotra (Parminder Nagra) welcomes Dr. Michael Gallant (Sharif Atkins) home from Iraq and he has an important question for her. Dr. Gregory Pratt (Mekhi Phifer) travels to Darfur to assist Dr. Carter (Noah Wiley) while at home he begins to find a family with his estranged father. Dr. Ray Barnett (Shane West) tries to balance being a doctor and a rock star. In addition to all of the personal drama that the characters endure they must also deal with complicated, demanding, and life-altering patients.

ER continued to have more cast changes in season 12. Previously, season 11 saw the departure of Noah Wyle with a tribute in the season finale. In contrast, Dr. Susan Lewis (Sherry Stringfield) makes her final appearance in the first episode here with surprisingly little fanfare via an announcement at the beginning of episode five. John Leguizamo joins the cast as Dr. Victor Clemente, John Stamos as Paramedic Tony Gates, and Kristen Johnston as Nurse Manager Eve Peyton.

James Woods received an Emmy nomination for his guest appearance in "Body & Soul" as Dr. Nate Lennox, professor of medicine and Abby’s mentor who is suffering from debilitating ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The progression of the disease is illustrated through flashbacks working backwards to the day of diagnosis. It is an extremely well-done yet difficult episode to watch that highlights the seriousness and destruction of this disease. Danny Glover and Sara Gilbert continue their recurring roles, and Dr. Carter returns for four episodes involving a special storyline in Darfur. Stana Katic (“Castle”), C. Thomas Howell, Ernie Hudson, Serena Williams, Diane Ladd, Mary McCormack, and many other lesser-known actors appear throughout the season.

There are 22 episodes in the season and the only special feature is “Outpatient Outtakes” presenting deleted scenes.

I previously had the opportunity to review Season 11 which offered great writing and fine storytelling with engaging storylines. While this season offered some good moments and interesting episodes, it was not nearly as strong of a season. Considering that the show is 12 seasons in, it is still very strong and better than many other medical dramas that have followed. If you checked out of the ER before this season aired, I suggest a return visit with the staff of County General.