Sunday, June 28, 2009

Doctor Who: The Next Doctor

Writing about the fourth Doctor Who Christmas Special is, admittedly, about as much fun as sitting down to eat a bowl of shredded wheat. I feel as though I’ve said everything there is to say about how these one-offs operate, and am not sure I can bring a whole lot that’s new to the table.

It’s unfortunate that I’m coming at this material from such a blasé angle, too, because “The Next Doctor” may actually be the best Christmas special Russell T Davies has yet unveiled. Then again, it may not – such is the luxury of using the word “may.” It’s certainly a vast improvement on 2007’s “Voyage of the Damned,” although it wouldn’t be tough to improve upon that story. Watching David Tennant decorate a fucking tree for an hour would be more entertaining than another bombastic adventure set to the same tune as “Damned.” Luckily, “The Next Doctor” is a sweetly inspired piece of entertainment that goes to show that maybe, just maybe, there’s actually some life left in this yearly offering that aims to do nothing more than provide a little something for families to gather around the tube and enjoy together after they’ve feasted on a fine meal of turkey or ham or whatever it is people in Britain eat for Christmas dinner.

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here and visiting The House Next Door.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

For the record...

...I would like for it to be known that on 6/25/09, Ross Ruediger came up with the following quote:

"In the future, a celebrity will die every fifteen minutes."

This is going to be used over and over in the coming years, and I feel the need to stake my claim on it while it's still fresh.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


There are two bold strokes with which Wallander, a BBC produced crime series, is painted that set it apart from most other TV fare. The first is its intoxicating, borderline hallucinatory photography, which will grab your attention in the opening frames. A girl pushes her way through a golden field of crops carrying a plastic container of liquid. A car, driven by Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh), speeds down the highway toward a farm. He pulls up and the farmer points to the field. “She’s out there.” He hands Wallander a pair of binoculars. “You see her?” Wallander makes his way through the dense field of yellow. The closer he gets, the more frightened the girl becomes. When he’s but a few feet from her, she opens the container and douses herself with gasoline, sets herself on fire, and explodes in a ball of flame. Wallander’s jaw hits the ground. He cannot believe what he’s just witnessed. Later on, when one of his fellow detectives suggests moving on from the suicide, since there’s no real crime involved, Wallander himself explodes, “A 15-year-old girl sets herself on fire and you don’t think it’s a crime!?” It’s something of an uncharacteristic moment for the normally subdued man, who keeps his emotions bottled up inside. Indeed, the only time his feathers ever seem to ruffle is in matters of pursuing justice.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Hunger: The Complete First Season

Sex and death have a long, rich history of being cinematically intertwined. Sometimes, such as in Tony Scott’s 1983 movie The Hunger, it’s presented in a deep, artistic manner. Other times, such as in any given Friday the 13th movie, it’s as simple as “you get laid and you die.” This anthology series, produced by Tony and his brother Ridley, has nothing to do with the film from ’83, which is infinitely superior to anything presented here. It’s probably not fair to compare half-hour TV episodes to a feature film – and yet, before sitting down to write this review, I had my umpteenth viewing of Hellraiser, a movie that should have its own chapter in the book of sex and death. After watching the Clive Barker masterpiece, I realized how lackluster this series really was, having spent the last week slowly wading through it and making mental apologies for the material along the way.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Laugh? I Thought I'd Die" - 15 Funny(?) Vampire Films

Vampires are often painted as dark, sinister characters with a penchant for gothic fashion and a taste for blood that can never be fully quenched. Granted, their nature doesn't necessarily lend itself to being a laugh riot, but once in a while, we're gifted with bloodsuckers who can see the funny side of their affliction…or if they can't, then at least the viewers can. (For instance, True Blood sure as hell isn't a comedy, but if you caught the Season 2 premiere, you saw a truly hilarious scene where a new vampire took a blood taste test to determine which type she prefers.) Bullz-Eye decided to take a trip back through the mists of time to reinvestigate some of the more comedic explorations into the curse of vampirism, skipping over a couple of ostensible classics – neither The Lost Boys nor From Dusk 'Til Dawn are here – in favor of some interesting obscurities that may not have crossed your radar.

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vanilla Sky

When Cameron Crowe unleashed Vanilla Sky on unsuspecting audiences back in 2001, few were prepared for it, especially considering that it bore little resemblance to anything else in his ongoing tapestry of work. No doubt the phrase “From the director of Jerry Maguire” was bandied about at the time, but anyone expecting to be shown the money, instead showed up and saw heartbreak, pain and a jagged, dreamlike storyline. Is it possible that Vanilla Sky is director Crowe’s masterpiece? It’s probably unfair to say that it is, given that it's a remake of the Spanish film Abre Los Ojos. But does that make Vanilla Sky any less of a movie, especially to someone who’s never seen the original? If nothing else, Crowe must be commended for cramming his pop culture stamp into every available crevice of the story. In doing so, he made it his own, while still being entirely true to the original concept, which is no mean feat in the world of Hollywood remakes.

Tom Cruise plays 33-year old David Aames, the heir to a powerful publishing empire. Here’s a guy who’s pretty much had everything handed to him his entire life; work must be pried out of him. He’s got looks, money, people waiting on him hand and foot, and he even manages to keep Cameron Diaz around as nothing more than a fuck buddy. When you can keep Cameron Diaz on that dubious a leash, you can probably have anything you want, on whatever terms you want. It’s difficult to like the grinning golden boy David for the first 45 minutes of the movie. He’s smug, successful, self-assured, good-looking - in a lot of ways, Aames is Tom Cruise, although it’s a stretch to say the actor and the character have much more in common than the obvious superficial similarities. (If nothing else, one can never say Cruise hasn't worked hard for his achievements.)

But then an ugly tragedy befalls David, and he emerges a changed man on nearly every level. His face is physically disfigured and his self worth is eroded. It’s at this point in the movie that you realize just how smart the entire concept really is, because what can be a braver move on the part of a filmmaker working with Cruise than to remove the actor’s famous smile? No matter what you may think of Aames for the first part of Vanilla Sky, you can’t help but feel for him at this point. Just as the tale looks to have become so dark that you simply want to look away, the clouds part and the sun begins shining again, due in no small part to Penélope Cruz’s Sofia, a character who provides the film with numerous bits of perfect dialogue, but perhaps none as profound as “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.” Vanilla Sky is a movie in constant states of turnaround, and there are even more shocking reveals further down the line. Who is the mysterious Ellie? What are the flash-forward scenes of Aames, covered in a strange mask, and talking to a prison psychiatrist (Kurt Russell), all about? What does a ubiquitous dog - who was frozen for three months and then brought back to life - have to do with everything?

Over the years, the movie hasn’t been given its proper due, and it’s easy to see why. It’s an often times uncomfortable viewing experience, but ultimately it reveals itself to be a life-affirming thing of beauty. The science fiction elements that crop up in the last 20 minutes are perhaps a little more convoluted than they need to be, and if one dissects the mechanics of the plot too thoroughly, it can be a frustrating experience. But to do so is the wrong way to watch this movie that’s all about emotion and ideas. I stopped trying to make perfect sense of it around the third viewing and accepted it on the terms on which it was reaching out to me. And it can and will work for you, too, provided you go in with an open mind and heart. Oh, and then there’s the soundtrack, which is most certainly the best of Crowe’s career: the perfect melding of movie and music, and a collection of tunes that I still frequently listen to nearly eight years after first picking up the CD. Finally there’s Cruise. This take-no-prisoners, emotionally-draining performance is easily one of his boldest, and it’s been the only one that’s required him to check his vanity at the door. That alone may mean that Crowe performed a minor miracle.

Watch this movie online at

Friday, June 05, 2009

Land of the Lost - Season Three: Enik the Dick

The third and final season of Land of the Lost is often considered the ugly, misshapen, redheaded bastard stepchild of the series. Indeed, if the 13 episodes of which it consists were the only Land of the Lost ever created, the show would have been long since forgotten. But it’s worth mentioning that the initial impetus for doing this three part retrospective came from the desire to come to the defense of Season Three, and try to give a little bit of respect to the episodes that are routinely shunned even by the people who display their love of this show as a badge of honor.

Season Three again saw shifts in the production team, and even more noticeably, in front of the camera. As I understand it, Spencer Milligan couldn’t reach an amicable contract agreement and so he abruptly left the show. With his departure came new lyrics for the opening credits:

Will and Holly Marshall
As the earth beneath them trembled
Lost their father through the door of time
Uncle Jack went searching
And found those kids at last
Looking for a way to escape
From the Land of the Lost

Uncle Jack replaced Ranger Rick, and he was played by Ron Harper, best known to genre fans as astronaut Alan Virdon in the TV series incarnation of Planet of the Apes. He was a true uncle, rather than a father – instead of being preachy and bestowing wisdom, he was more often than not a man of action; a guy trying to get things done. I like Ron Harper, and if there’s a reason I’ve got some love for Season Three, much of it’s due to his presence. Would Spencer Milligan’s Rick have been as believable in many of these situations? Likely not. He’d accrued too much info during his time in the Land for these stories to work. In contrast, Uncle Jack was experiencing this madness through fresh eyes, and so he was more accepting.

Behind the scenes, Jon Kubichan and Sam Roeca took over as producer and story editor respectively, and between the two of them, they scripted the majority of the season. Their vision of the series was quite the departure from the two seasons that came before. Nearly everything - including the iconic elements such as the Sleestak, the Pakuni and the ubiquitous dinosaurs - got a major overhaul.

Find out how Land of the Lost ends by clicking here to read the rest of this piece at Premium Hollywood.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Land of the Lost - Season Two: "Mysterious Forces"

Before jumping into Season Two, allow me to discuss the Land of the Lost movie for a bit. As you might glean, I’m a pretty hardcore fan of this show. Yes, believe it or not, we do exist; Land of the Lost has a small, but fervent cult following. The last thing fans of this series ever wanted to see was a comedy send-up of the premise. No, most fans had minor dreams of someday seeing a big-budget, sci-fi movie created by people that took the concept as seriously as David Gerrold did back in the day. But, alas, that did not happen, and instead we’re getting a movie that’s likely closer in tone to some of the other Krofft properties, rather than the one it’s actually based on.

All that said, any amount of money that can be made by this movie must be positive for Land of the Lost as a brand name, and if the movie does well, you never know what the future might hold. Personally, I’d like to see the movie do so well that somebody decides to greenlight a new version of the series for Sci Fi, which would be the obvious network for it to end up on (indeed, Sci Fi has even been running Land of the Lost marathons as of late). I mean, really, how many steps away from Primeval - an enormous success for ITV in England, as well as here in the States on BBC America - is a serious version of this concept? So if you’re a fan of the series, don’t be so quick to skip the movie, simply because it isn’t what you envisioned. Grab some friends and a few beers and head out to the movie theatre this weekend, because the future of Land of the Lost probably rests in the obnoxious antics of Will Ferrell. (That is, admittedly, a sentence I never in my life thought I’d have to type.)

Now back to your regularly scheduled breakdown of Season Two of Land of the Lost

David Gerrold left the series after the first season, and so a new story editor was hired in the form of Dick Morgan, who’d written such Season One offerings as “Album” and “Follow That Dinosaur.” Clearly Morgan had a lot of respect for what Gerrold had laid down, but it seems that he perhaps didn’t have a big vision of his own. (In all fairness, this is an unfair supposition on my part; as with any TV show there are many fingers in the pie, and who’s to say who’s to blame?) Part of the problem with Season Two is that it frequently tries to expand on ideas from the first season, often without success. This isn’t to say that the season isn’t any good; in fact, you’ve got to be a bit obsessive about the show in order to notice a big difference from the first season…but, then again, that’s why I’m here sharing my insights with anyone who cares to listen.

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Peyton Place: Part One

It doesn’t take long after putting in the first disc of Peyton Place to see that it must have been a huge influence on David Lynch, ultimately taking his imagination down the path that eventually led to Twin Peaks (and to a different degree, Blue Velvet).

Peyton Place is a town full of secrets. It’s been put on slow boil, ready to erupt at any minute. Its characters’ lives are all so intertwined with one another, it’s amazing that anyone has a secret to keep, but that’s alright, because it’s all the more gripping when the skeletons come tumbling out of the closets. Peyton Place is a small, New England town full of doctors and high school students, the sane and the mentally unhinged, the good, the bad, and all those in between. It even features a mill with a complex family history as a major backdrop, which Lynch perhaps added to his series as an acknowledgement of the town in which the swaying trees and waterfalls of Twin Peaks were rooted. If you’ve never watched Twin Peaks, my advice would be to go buy the complete series box set, and then come back and watch Peyton Place. If, however, you are a Peaks devotee, then have I got a series for you (minus, of course, all the Lynchian weirdness like log ladies, giants and dwarfs).

Peyton Place was essentially TV’s first primetime soap opera. Based on the hit book and movie of the same name, the series was quite the runaway hit coming out of the gate, and having now seen 31 episodes of it, I understand why. It’s addictive television in a way that only the best soap operas have the power to be.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Earth: Final Conflict - Season One

It might be difficult to imagine an entire TV series being built around the leftover notes and story ideas of a deceased individual, unless that individual is someone like Gene Roddenberry. Earth: Final Conflict went into production nearly six years after his passing, and it was based on notes he left behind that were in the possession of his widow, Majel Barrett. (Interestingly, this occurred not once, but twice – Andromeda, starring a post-Hercules Kevin Sorbo, was another posthumous Roddenberry series.) We’ll never know exactly how Gene would’ve ultimately fashioned this material, but this first season remains an oftentimes thought-provoking look into the mind of a man who’s predominantly known for one achievement: Star Trek.

The story begins sometime in our near future; close enough to now (or rather ’97, when it was made) to feel like the present, but not far enough away to feel futuristic. The most noticeable difference is that aliens known as the Taelons have been openly living with humanity for three years. It’s not the bleak scenario of a series like V. No, these seemingly benevolent beings have shared with us their strange, organic technology which has allowed Earth to jump ahead and catch up with the rest of the universe, although the effects the Taelons have had on the planet are not always portrayed as clearly as they perhaps should be. There are questions for the viewer from the start, which might be part of the goal. In return, the Taelons only appear to desire a peaceful coexistence. They ask for little in return, other than the ultimate cooperation of a select few.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Land of the Lost - Season One: "It's Not Just for Kids Anymore"

If there’s one thing the upcoming Land of the Lost movie can be counted on to do, it’s generate some long overdue interest in the classic Sid and Marty Krofft series upon which it’s based. Viewers of the new film, starring Will Ferrell, will largely be made up of two groups: those who watched the show back in the seventies, and those who have no idea the movie is even based on a TV show. With a sweet new “Complete Series” box set currently in stores, there’s no better time than now to look back at the show that began scarring many a young psyche when it was unveiled in 1974.

The Kroffts unleashed all manner of trippy live action television fare on Saturday morning viewers back in the ‘70s, but the majority of their output was campy and comical. Land of the Lost really stood apart from most of their other productions with its far more serious themes and dramatic approach. The first season of Land of the Lost is often times seriously thought-provoking science fiction, wrapped around a fair amount of fatherly advice, sibling friction, and heaping helpings of action & adventure and thrills & chills. Rick Marshall (Spencer Milligan) and his teenage children Will (Wesley Eure) and Holly (Kathy Coleman) are, as the famous theme song goes, on a routine expedition when they go over a waterfall and end up in a strange place populated by dinosaurs, monkey people, and a slew of lizard men that gave a generation of kids nightmares that lasted for years.

Read the rest of this piece by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.