Friday, September 11, 2015

Shannara comes to MTV

A few moons ago I heard rumblings of the world of Shannara being brought to television. Unfortunately, I became so distracted by this recent rash of remakes, that not only did I lose track, I completely forgot this was in the works.

In July MTV released a three minute trailer with clips and interviews about the January 2016 premiere of the ten episodes that recently wrapped up shooting.

I had meant to reread the first few books of the series before its premiere, starting with The First King of Shannara, which chronologically in the first book of the entire series, but because of the high number of books still sitting on my "To Be Read" pile, I haven't quite gotten there yet. I've bumped it near the top though, so soon I'll be deep into the Four Lands again.

I didn't know where MTV was going to begin the story, but they those to start with the second book of the original series, The Elfstones of Shannara, the story of Wil Ohmsford who accompanies Amberle Elessedil on her quest to create a new Ellcrys, a magical tree that serves to banish all demons from the Four Lands. Oddly enough Elfstones was the first book I read of the series nearly twenty years ago. Unknowingly at the time, I read the first two books out of chronological order, but that is the great thing about the first few books of the Shannara series - they can be read independently and out of order, and the reader won't be lost or feel as if some backstory is missing.

Now as I watch the trailer, I'm excited to see this incarnation of a yet another fantasy series I grew up loving, so I thought I'd share the clip here for all my Cheesy Readers. Enjoy.

Until Next Time...
Magically Yours,

Monday, August 17, 2015

Classics and Cheese Slices I

A lot of ideas I have for posts are too short to devote a solo entry to, which gave me the idea to start compiling these tidbits, and every once in a while string 'em together for a full-length post. So without further ado, here's a few slices of absolutely useless handy knowledge.

I'm sure many of my Cheesy Readers have seen the television show Charmed and know its iconic theme song "How Soon Is Now?" by Love Spit Love. The chronicles of the Halliwell sisters, a.k.a The Charmed Ones, went for eight seasons and became one of the most successful and highest-rated shows up to that point on the WB Network. The remake of the Smiths's original hit from the mid-80s was also used in the sleeper teen hit The Craft (1996) and was featured on its soundtrack along with a whole host of other inferior and less successful remakes.

When Charmed became available on Netflix streaming service, though, the theme song had changed. I did a little digging and the story shakes out that when Netflix negotiated for the rights to offer Charmed, the rights to the theme song weren't included and a substitute theme song had to be found. So if you own the DVDs, you get to continue to enjoy watching it with the original theme, but if you're relying on Netflix to relive the adventures of Prue, Phoebe, Piper, and Paige, you'll just have to adjust to subpar opening music.   

I happened to catch an airing of Jacob's Ladder (1990, Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena) for the first time in over ten years, which inspired these two unrelated trivia questions:

What book is Tim Robbins reading in the subway scene at the beginning of the movie?

What does his live-in girlfriend (Elizabeth Peña) throw into the apartment building incenirator because it makes him cry? 

And now for a Classics & Cheese favored quote.

Nero Wolfe's assistant Archie Goodwin:
"...Wolfe held it against Jane Austen for forcing him to concede that a woman could write a good novel."
 - Mother Hunt, Chapter 12, Rex Stout

That's probably enough slices to hold you Cheesy Readers over until the next post.

Until Next Time...
Charmingly Yours,

Monday, August 10, 2015

Here Comes Another One

Cheesy Reader,

I've ranted about them enough for a hundred blogs, so let me keep it simple.

Westworld, reboot, HBO, series, 2016, may have a chance, we'll see.

Until Next Time...
Out of Controlly Yours,

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Is Citizen Kane Next?

Citizen Kane ( 1941) is considered among many film aficionados as one of the greatest movies of all time because of Orson Wells's ground breaking and visionary directing and writing for that period of time. The executives in Hollywood would be fools to attempt to remake it.

The same could be said of the silent film horror classic Nosferatu (1922). What it accomplished in mood and raw emotion as a silent film can never be matched. It would stand to reason that, like Citizen Kane, it was immune from remake.

But in 1979, Werner Herzog wrote and directed a remake that was highly hailed by critics and successfully captured the ambiance, spirit, and overall creepiness of the original. Herzog, though, was wise enough to cast some of the best German actors of the time, especially Klaus Kinski. I was fortunately enough to watch it in my college German class a number of years ago and haven't forgotten a single eerie shot. Simply a remake worthy of the original.

Unfortunately now, Hollywood has decided to take a crack at this. What I've read so far, the details are still being hammered out, including the director, cast, etc., but the executives in the studios are serious about funding a revamp - no doubt in Hollywood style, which may involve over-the-top special effects, probably a lot of "pretty people" in an effort to attract the young teen movie goers, and no doubt stray far clear of much of the previous two versions.

Couldn't help bringing this to your attention, Cheesy Reader, since I've thrown at you a bunch of other remake atrocities. Would it be a bad pun if I made a "blood suckers" comment at this point? Yeah, you're right, I'll resist.

Until Next Time...
Vampircally Yours,

Friday, July 31, 2015

RIP to a Cheesy Legend I will fondly remember

As I logged on this evening, full prepared to write a post, I spotted a headline of the passing of a cheesy legend. Okay, maybe not quite a cheesy staple, but a man who starred in one of the best cheesy movies of the 1980s and made famous the classic line, "I have come here to chew bubble gum, and kick ass.... and I'm all out of bubble gum."

Yes, Cheesy Readers, the great Rowdy Roddy Piper has passed away of a heart attack at the age of 61.

The lovable hero of They Live (1988) who discovers that secret aliens have invaded and infiltrated our society from the lowliest guy to the highest offices of the government and private corporations and sets out with another kick-ass hero, played by the wonderfully versatile Keith David (Men at Work, Armageddon, the voice of Goliath in the television series Gargoyles).

Piper acted and stared in numerous films that went straight to video or cable, and while his film output never matched his wrestling output, he still managed to make his mark as a reliable character actor who specialized in science fiction films as someone not to be messed with. We cheesy 80s science fiction movie fans know ol' Roddy well. He acted right up until his death, and there are number of films he's contributed to that have yet to be released. So while he may be gone, we still have a handful of works to look forward to.

Mankind's hope of fighting off an alien invasion is now one soldier weaker. May he rest in peace.

Until Next Time,
Rowdily Yours,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Groovy (a.k.a. "This is my BOOMSTICK!")

First we had The Evil Dead, then we had Evil Dead 2, followed by Army of Darkness, all became cult classics, all were made without CGI. Those films served as launching points for the careers of writer/director/producer Sam Raimi and B-movie hero Bruce Campbell.

In 2013, The Evil Dead was remade with blessings from Raimi and Campbell. And beginning Oct. 31, 2015, via Starz, we will be given Ash vs. Evil Dead (The Series). Raimi directed and co-wrote the pilot along with Evil Dead veterans Ivan Raimi and Tom Spezialy. Original film series producer Rob Tapert is returning to co-produce along with Raimi and Campbell. Plus, Raimi and crew have brought in long-time friend and actress Lucy Lawless, who you may remember worked with Raimi and Tapert back in the Xena: Warrior Princess days. A regular family reunion --- it promises some great ghoulish fun and probably more than its fair share of gore and bizarreness.

The official series detail says: "Campbell reprises his role as Ash, the aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity, and the terrors of the Evil Dead. When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons – personal and literal." According to additional reports, actress Jill Marie Jones will play the role of Michigan State Trooper Amanda Fisher, while Lawless will star as Ruby, a mysterious woman who's on a quest to stop the evil outbreak of Deadites within our realm and believes that Ash is the cause of it. Mimi Rogers stars as Suzy Maxwell and Dana DeLorenzo plays Kelly Maxwell. Apparently this first season of ten 30-minute episodes have been shot and will air weekly. Makes me wish I had Starz, or at least hope they make it available for next day streaming on Hulu or something.

Until Next Time...
Groovily Yours,

Sunday, June 28, 2015

How Memories Change with Time

The other night, the original The Blob (1958) aired, staring a very young Steve McQueen with female co-star Aneta Corsaut, and it was a stark reminder of how memories can change over time and aren't always reliable. First I was surprised to see that it was filmed in color. My memories told me it was in black & white. Second, I realized I only remembered how it began and ended but not anything in between.

This was the first time I had seen The Blob in at least 30 years a number of years. The very first time I watched this film was with Mamma Cheese when I was a wee lad. We saw a commercial that it would air on a local television channel late on a Saturday night. She said it was one of those classic she had always meant to watch, and since up to that point in my life, Mama Cheese was my biggest influence in my tastes in horror films, if she said we needed to watch it, then by the gods I was going to watch it with her! This was pre-DVR and before we owned a VCR, so we had to stay up until past midnight. I remember the experience but only remember the final scenes. But as proof that human memories are fallible, I thought it was in black & white. Rewatching it the other night, I was quite surprised to see that it was filmed in color. I was also able to rewatch it with a more critical and experienced eye. One of the things that struck me earlier on in the film was that I didn't understand why early in the film more than ten minutes is spent in a drag racing scene between Steve McQueen and some other teens. The only thing I can figure it that drag racing would have been something of interest to the young crowd of the time, but other than that, it did nothing to propel the plot forward.

Mama Cheese and I went to bed at the movie's conclusion, and the rest of life was normal. A few weeks later though, we saw another commercial, and that exact same television station was going to show The Blob at noon that coming Sunday. She said a few choice four-letter words, I shook my head, and eventually we went to the theaters and watched one of Roger Corman's last films,  Battle Beyond the Stars.

Per my last two blog postings, The Blob was remade in 1988 and stared Kevin Dillon and young, emerging scream queen Shawnee Smith (from horror film Saw fame). From what I remember, it was a worthy remake, not nearly as bad as many I've seen. Although ironically, unlike the original in which I only remembered the beginning and the end, with this remake, I can only remember the middle portions. I do remember though that both Dillon and Smith were decent enough actors that they didn't embarrass themselves, and the special effects for this film were fairly decent.

But all this goes to show that we should rewatch the classics from time to time and refresh our memories of them. Plus, with the passage of years, we've changed as individuals and may discover new aspects about the film (or classic books) that we didn't notice the first time around. We'll approach it with a different level of expectations and relive those portions we loved the first time around. Finally, rewatches remind us of the people we shared the experience with, and maybe sometimes, for a few ethereal moments, that person is with us again.

Until Next Time...
Nostalgically Yours,

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Exception to the Rule

So, Cheesy Readers, I've given you time to absorb the full implications of the crime Dwayne Johnson is masterminding. So far, I've found no news to console you, but trust me when I say I'm digging. I've also been trolling the internet for a Chinese witch doctor who charges reasonable rates for casting curses. While I'm busy doing that though, I thought I'd give you more to think (and talk) about.

Last time, I boldly stated that remakes of cult classics nearly always fail, but I also said there were exceptions. Coincidentally enough, both exceptions I had in mind involve John Carpenter. The first is 1982's The Thing, which was actually inspired by the novella "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell. But upon it's release and for a while afterwards, people believed it was a remake of The Thing From Another World (1951), a movie about an isolated military base that uncovers a frozen ship from space and unintentionally unleashes its alien pilot which they then have to kill. The box office and media treated Carpenter's The Thing as if it was a remake of that black&white B-movie, as evidenced by poor ticket sales and a complete pan by the critics, but it was the video market where it earned its biggest financial reward and earned the status of a late night, pizza-eating, soda-drinking, cult classic. Coincidentally enough, the movie's protagonist R.J. MacReady was portrayed by none other than Kurt Russell. 

The second example I can recall again involves John Carpenter, and I initially approached this remake with the same attitude and complete disregard as I currently do for The Rock's upcoming mistake. When I first heard news of Rob Zombie's desire to remake Carpenter's slasher classic Halloween, I thought it was a mistake on two levels. First, it was a trail blazer that gave birth to the slasher films of the late 1970s and 80s, and second, because it was a slasher film, there was really no point in retelling the story, since it was pretty straight forward and had already inspired more sequels than I could recall.

Reluctantly I watched --- and quite simply, Cheesy Readers, it absolutely blew me away. In many ways, it surpassed the original, and earned its way into my list of Top Five Horror Movies of All Time. I was so excited by this remake, that I was able to talk The Boss (who hates horror films) into giving this one a shot since she had not seen me this excited about a movie in a long time. She loved it, and at the same time cursed me because the images, story, and overall creepiness of the film burned themselves into her psyche.

Zombie delved deeply into the mind and story of Michael Myers and how he grew to become the killing machine adult obsessed with violently murdering all his relatives. The acting was superb, especially by the child actor, Daeg Faerch, and Zombie did a wonderful job refilming the killing spree of the 10-year old Michael, giving it much more depth than the original. Zombie explored Michael's early life prior to the acts that led to him slaughtering his sister, as well as the years of his confinement in a mental institution and how his mother's personal demons, and subsequent suicide, haunted him as well. Basically, Zombie's remake of the slasher classic became an insightful psychological study of a mass murderer. If for some reason you've held off watching this film, then by god, make the time. It will move you in ways no horror film ever has. And don't forget, ever faithful Cheesy Readers, Zombie's version is a remake!

So there you have it, two exceptions to my "no remakes" rule. Both these films are well worth watching and adding to your personal film library.

Until Next Time...
Remakefully Yours,

p.s. Bit of trivia  -- scream queen Danielle Harris appears in both series of Halloween films. In the John Carpenter series, she portrays 10 year-old Jamie Lloyd, the daughter of Laurie Strode, in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5. In the Rob Zombie remake series she plays Annie Brackett, friend of Laurie Strode. For those who haven't seen either Halloween series, you may know her as Molly Tilden, Darlene's best friend/nemesis from the TV show Rosanne.

p.p.s. More trivia --- in the original film, Michael Myers's mask was nothing more than a mask of William Shatner (Captain Kirk) spray painted completely white.

p.p.p.s. Even more amazing trivia -- the budget for the original Halloween was so miniscule, that Jamie Lee Curtis was required to supply her own wardrobe for the film.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

You Know What Ol' Jack Burton Says...

In case you haven't heard by now, Fox Studios and Dwayne Johnson are in talks of remaking the cult classic (and my favorite movie of all time) Big Trouble in Little China. This serves as yet another example of Hollywood taking something perfectly good and then screwing it up.

It's common knowledge that Hollywood executives are hypersensitive to money-losing movies to the point where it could be described as a paralyzing fear. As such, they are notorious for sticking to stick to previously successful plots and gimmicks. It has earned them such tags as "movie by committee" for example.

Paradoxically enough they can be talked into backing movies that are guaranteed flops before the first minute of filming even begins. Some of those guaranteed flops are remakes of classic cult films. In the entire history of remakes of cult classics, I can only think of three that did as well as, or better than, the original --- Night of the Living Dead, Rob Vombie's Halloween, and John Carpenter's The Thing. (More on my opinion on two of these remakes, in an upcoming blog post.)

The reason the remakes of cult classics fail is usually because usually the original cult classic was turned down by Hollywood studios, and were personally financed by the writers and directors who believed passionately about their film. And because the films creators were also the ones who finance it, they remain faithful to their own vision.

As such is the story with Big Trouble in Little China. Since the moment he conceived the idea, John Carpenter loved this project so much that he poured his soul into it, not only financing it, but writing, directing, and even writing the theme song (a god awful song, but catchy and filled with all the usual sounds and clichés of a typical 80s theme). It failed in the theaters mainly because Fox didn't know how to categorize and therefore promote the film, but became a video cult classic and gained such a large cult following that nearly 30 years later, people still buy and proudly wear Jack Burton t-shirts and other related items (in fact, Quentin Tarantino loved the film so much, the original shirt Kurt Russell wore can been seen framed on the wall at the bar in the movie Death Proof).

Something that Mr. Johnson and the executives he has convinced to back this project have forgotten two basic facts of cult classic films:
1) they nearly always flop in the box office on initial release
2) their cult success is owed to the chemistry of the actors and their performance, and can rarely be reduced to a formula that can be reproduced.

So now, The Rock and various Hollywood executive committee members have dollar signs dancing before their eyes thinking that this particular remake will be one of those rare exceptions that do better upon initial release than its predecessor. But no one can deliver the one-liners the way Kurt Russell did, and no one can write into the script the kind of personality that Russell brought to the character. Carpenter, Russell, and Kim Cattrall captured lightening in a bottle (pardon the pun and the cliché), and I just don't see Johnson repeating that sort of magic.

To be fair, Dwayne Johnson has impressed me in other comedy roles, specifically Get Shorty and Get Smart, and to be totally fair, he could come within shouting-distance of the job that Russell did if he redefines the Burton character and is able to find a female lead whose chemistry works well with his. Plus, Johnson will have to take into account that the original was part homage and part spoof of Asian action films, two little facts that have been forgotten with time.

But let's be really honest here, Johnson will never be able to pull off lines like, "You know what ol' Jack Burton says at times like this..." or "It's all in the reflexes,  and of course, "...The check is in the mail." Sorry, but Russell did it best; Johnson, you're going to have to write your own one-liners, and that's not going to be an easy task.

More than everything else, though, this will present a personal issue for me. I'm frequently asked what my favorite movie is, and I always cite this film. But if that remake becomes a reality, I'll  be forced to answer "The original Big Trouble in Little China" with emphasis on the word original. This answer will no doubt illicit one of four responses from the person who asked me, and of the four potential replies, only one will be acceptable.

1.) "Oh yes, the original was the best. This remake sucks."
2.) "I don't know, this new version was pretty good too" --- this response will immediately cause me to throttle the person where they stand.
3.) "I've never seen the original" --- at which point I will duct tape them to a chair and make them watch the original over and over until they recant.
4.) "This was remake? I didn't know that? Who was in the original?" --- their fate shall be the same as Response #2.
As these next few months pass, I will be keeping my eye out for any news one way or the other, and because of my passion about this, you can be sure I'll keep you in the loop.
Until Next Time...
Original Yours,
p.s. Much to the chagrin and annoyance of those who know us, it's no secret that The Boss and I can quote Big Trouble in Little China word for word from the opening scene to the final credit. So for those who have seen the movie, I've included some of the more famous quotes below. And for you folks who have never seen, please take this time to stream or rent the movie and enlighten yourself.
Jack Burton: Like I told my last wife, I says, "Honey, I never drive faster than I can see. Besides that, it's all in the reflexes."
Jack Burton: When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."
Eddie: Well sure it was a war. And anybody that showed up was gonna join Lem Lee in the Hell of Being Cut to Pieces.
Jack Burton: Hell of being what?
Eddie: Chinese have a lot of Hells.
Gracie: I'd go with you but...
Jack Burton: Yeah, I know, there's a problem with your face.
Jack Burton: [tapping on the walls] Two, three feet thick, I'll bet. Probably welded shut from the outside, and covered with brick by now!
Wang Chi: Don't give up, Jack!
Jack Burton: Oh, okay, I won't, Wang! Let's just *chew* our way outta here.

Jack Burton: You know what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like this?
Thunder: Who?
Jack Burton: Jack Burton! Me!

Jack Burton: You can go off and rule the universe from beyond the grave.
Lo Pan: Indeed!
Jack Burton: Or check into a psycho ward, which ever comes first, huh?
Jack Burton: "Jack" what? I'm supposed to buy this shit? 2000 years, he can't find one broad to fit the bill? Come on, Dave, you must be doing something seriously wrong!
Jack Burton: Would you stop rubbing your body up against mine, because I can't concentrate when you do that.
Wang Chi: A brave man likes the feel of nature on his face, Jack.
Egg Shen: Yeah, and a wise man has enough sense to get in out of the rain! 

Jack Burton: Feel pretty good. I'm not, uh, I'm not scared at all. I just feel kind of... feel kind of invincible.
Wang Chi: Me, too. I got a very positive attitude about this.
Jack Burton: Good, me too.
Wang Chi: Yeah!
Jack Burton: Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?
Jack Burton: Sooner or later I rub everybody the wrong way.
Jack Burton: Just remember what ol' Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol' storm right square in the eye and he says, "Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it."


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

That Damn Eyre (Words of the Moment IX)

I made it through years of public school followed by years of college and university work without ever having been assigned or read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Not that this is any sort of anomaly, but apparently it is slightly unusual, especially considering my major and especially considering many of the classes I took, i.e., classics English literature, Victorian literature, Old and Middle English literature, etc.

But once I got older, questions and references would come up from time to time in which the speaker or author assumed I had read Charlotte's signature novel. In fact, it reached a point where I knew the novel so well that I didn't see a need to read it.

Then one day at lunch a few years ago, inspiration hit and I wrote a poem about being pursued by Jane Eyre and the ongoing efforts to avoid her. It contained a few cuss words, a few inappropriate references, but it was all done in fun. I read it at a few poetry readings where it was well received, I polished it a little, and eventually had it published. During that time I broke down, gave in, and actually tried to read the novel - twice. Both times I made it about halfway through, lost interest, and abandoned it.

So last week, I'm looking up other words in the dictionary and browsing through other pages when my eye caught the word eyre. Yes, eyre. It's an actual word. A noun, no less.
    • eyre - A journey in circuit of certain itinerant judges called justices in eyre (or in itinere).
The word is now obsolete, was used primarily in England until the 20th century. Which makes me curious about where Bronte got the idea to name her title character. Is there some sort of symbolic joke here? Maybe a reference in the text I haven't encountered? Was it in common use at the time? Or had its eventual decline from the language begun at that point? If so, did the average reader still "get" it?

You know what that means, don't you? Yep, more homework, but more importantly, it'll soon be time for me to make a third attempt, maybe this time read a little more attentively.

Looks like Jane may win this battle yet.

Until Next Time...
Eyrely Yours,