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Halloween Scavenger Hunt: Matt R. Jones

1) Without Warning (1980)

I discovered this movie a few years back, having seen it billed as the inspiration for Predator, and even starring Kevin Peter Hall (the Predator hisself) as the troublemaking alien. And damned if I didn’t end up liking it better than Predator in some ways, which is not a knock against Predator, either. What I love about Without Warning is the smaller scale everything’s done on, from a little mountain town instead of a jungle, to the mostly-useless teenagers and dumbass
locals instead of a bunch of military badasses, to the tighter, chillier feel of a low-budget horror film instead of a big-ass blockbuster. Lo-fi intimacy goes a long way for me.

Without Warning makes good use of what it does have, to the sparing use of the alien to letting the two actual stars in the cast (Martin Landau and Jack Palance) chew the hell out of as much
scenery as they logically can before the whole affair winds down. The alien design itself is fairly standard, and nothing we hadn’t already seen on countless sci-fi shows and movies in decades
past, so director Greydon Clark kept its onscreen appearances to a minimum, but used them effectively. The first time you actually see the predatory alien, it’s kind of jolting. Plus, the thing looks damned cool and pretty imposing in the moonlight.

Even if the rest of the movie didn’t work, it’d worth it for Martin Landau and Jack Palance’s performances, both of whom put in more effort than you’d think was necessary for a low-budget sci-fi horror film. Jack Palance screaming, “ALLLLLIIIIIIIEEEEENNNNN!” toward the end is simultaneously goofy as hell and total badass. Oh, it’s also got David Caruso in it, but in 1980, nobody gave a shit about David Caruso, so he ends up alien-bait pretty quick. Predator took all the stuff from Without Warning that worked, did it on a much grander scale, and it’s a hell of a movie…but I love the scrappy little monster that Without Warning is. So much so that not an October goes by that I don’t watch it and hoist a glass to Jack Palance’s final,
ferocious charge.

2) Night of the Seagulls (1976)

The final, and best put-together, installment of Italian director Amando de Ossorio’s criminally-overlooked series starring the Blind Dead! A doctor and his wife arrive in a strange little coastal
town, where the doctor is taking up his post as the village medic, and as often happened in the 70’s, eeeeeevil is afoot! This time it’s in the shambling form of the undead Knights Templar.

Those rascally Knights are taking away seven young maiden sacrifices over the course of seven nights, and naturally, the good doctor befriends one of the maidens and tries to save her from a
grisly fate of being bled to death, dismembered, and fed to crabs, all in the (un)name of some Lovecraftian aquarian master.

The Blind Dead series wasn’t known for its inventiveness of story. Hell no. But Amando de Ossorio was a master of creating atmosphere, and the Blind Dead series is loaded with slow, creepy foreboding like few others, and he somehow makes the blind, sluggish knights a credible threat, with their grasping skeletal hands, leathery, ape-like faces, and teeth ready to chomp down on anybody they get hold of. The Knights can even still swing their swords! I know, I know, it sounds kinda ridiculous–and it is, I grant you–but like the other Blind Dead films, Night of the Seagulls is greater than the sum of its parts. There’s a reason British doom metal legends Cathedral wrote four songs about the Blind Dead, and it’s not because these were big-budget epics. Something about the Blind Dead movies just works.

I chose Night of the Seagulls because it’s the most polished and refined of the bunch, and is the least trashy of the series with the overall best story. It’s a good introduction to the Blind Dead series and an oft-overlooked gem that’s well worth checking out this Halloween. Trust me…blind and slow-moving or not, the Knights Templar are not to be screwed with.

3) Matango (1963)

A surprisingly bleak film from director Ishirō Honda (responsible for a little-known film called Godzilla) about a group of castaways stranded on a deserted island and slowly being mutated by the local mushrooms. Well, they’re low on food and gotta eat something, right? With 1960’s Japanese movies, particularly Toho and Honda, I’ve gotten used to brighter, more colorful adventures, but Matango is dark in both atmosphere and themes, with a sense of hopelessness
hanging over the proceedings from the get-go.

With Matango, Honda does everything with an even, measured hand, taking his time in building the story and applying the pressure to our castaways gradually, letting them be slowly crushed by their situation, one by one. After all, being stuck on a mysterious island with no viable source of food except for some bad-news mushrooms isn’t gonna make for happy times, and Honda’s approach is most definitely not Gilligan’s Island, but at the same time, it never gets so heavy-handed that it’s annoying. Honda just mostly lets people be people, watching them as they slowly lose their optimism and trappings of civilization until, finally, they just give in to the inevitable and literally lose their humanity.

The makeup effects are notable, too, as instead of going for something over-the-top (as you’d expect for a 60’s movie about mutating mushrooms), the makeup instead is reminiscent of radiation burns and growths, and is unsettling more than gruesome Not to mention realistic-looking enough that Matango caught some hell in Japan for depicting injuries too uncomfortably close to that of atom bomb survivors. Honda uses these moments sparingly, and to great effect.

The guy was good at what he did. Matango is more of a psychological horror story with bits of sci-fi mixed in than it is a
conventional monster movie, and is mostly quiet and brooding in its character, and would be a good one for a rainy night with all the lights off.

4) First Man Into Space (1959)

An oft-overlooked classic from the Space Age, this little independent, British-made (but taking place in America) film looks at what might happen if a human being were to venture beyond the safe confines of our world…and the terrible price they might pay for such hubris. This was two years before Yuri Gagarin actually became the first man into space, so at the time, this was plausible enough. Cosmic rays or some shit, right?

Well, whatever the reason, Lt. Dan Prescott flies a high-altitude rocket into the fringes of outer space, going against orders, because he’s all fired-up to be the first man into space…he’s a rebel who plays by his own rules! Then he flies through a cloud of an unknown substance. Then he nose-dives. Then he ejects. Plane crashes, Prescott’s nowhere to be found. Then a monster starts roaming the countryside, tearing up blood banks and drinking cow-blood! Vampire from space!

Naw, man. Space is filled with unknown horrors humanity didn’t know shit about in 1959, and Dan Prescott ran smack-dab into them, coming home a monster. And a pretty gruesome-looking son of a gun for a late 50’s indie movie, too. The final scenes are grim as hell, with an edge you didn’t often see from this era.

This is another one of those films where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and something about this particular little sci-fi horror film just really sucks me in, and I love it, even as I know damned well it’s no masterpiece. There’s something charmingly innocent about this bloody little Space Age tale of what could happen when humans reach space, and I never tire of it.

5) The Banana Splits Movie (2019)

So…old 60’s/70’s kids show turned into a horror movie, yeah? I was excited for this from the moment I saw the previews, and when I finally got to see it, I was not disappointed. Because this isn’t the kind of movie you go into with high expectations–you go in expecting something bloody and ridiculous, and that’s precisely what it is. The Banana Splits Movie has absolutely no illusions about itself and what it’s there for, and this is meant to be watched with a drink in hand as you hoot and holler your way through the carnage.

The story, which revolves around the robotic Banana Splits going on a rampage around the studio after being cancelled after 50 years because they weren’t current enough (or something), is light and serves its purpose without getting fancy. It does a pretty decent job of putting all the pieces in place so these lovable scamps from yesteryear can mangle the shit out of some studio staff and some lucky VIPs who got to stay after the final show to meet the Banana Splits. We all know the main attraction of this film was seeing the Splits go berserk, and the film gives us plenty of that, going for gruesome laughs as the cast is neatly whittled down by the butt-hurt
robots. We’ve seen this story before, sure, but never with the Banana Splits doing the killing.

The killings themselves are predictably gory and comical, and there’s something perversely satisfying about seeing these mostly-forgotten-but-still-beloved-in-some-quarters Saturday morning characters ripping the shit out of studio folk and overzealous fans. This is the kind of movie you would’ve half-assed wrote a script for with your friends while staying up way too late on a Friday night back in junior high. I wager that the Banana Splits Movie team still can’t believe they got away with this.

In this era of reboots and retreads, I applaud the Banana Splits Movie, as instead of trying to update an old formula for the modern era, it just says “fuck it, let’s go nuts.” And as one reviewer noted, it’s not like anybody else had a better idea.

I’m the product of a small-town Illinois upbringing that neatly coincided with the rise of cable, meaning my earliest media memories are a delightful deluge of old movies from the 50’s through the 70’s being played nonstop on TBS and USA. They had to fill the hours somehow, dammit! To this day, I’m left with a love of old movies great and horrible, and an appreciation of the absurdities of decades past colors almost everything I do, including my own writing, which mostly consists of semi-cartoonish, over-the-top, and profanity-laden tales of skull-smashing vampire action and adventure. I still reside in Canton with my lovely and infinitely-patient, where I go for long bike rides, obsess over Godzilla, still watch old movies, and get the dog all hyped up before bed.

Here’s a few of the things I’ve written…
Unholy War: The Gathering Storm
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012HVGTLS
Unholy War: Rage & Redemption
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B014CCUJE8
Not Of This Earth (inspired by The First Man Into Space, no less.)
https://www.amazon.com/This-Earth-Evolution-Night-Book-ebook/dp/B077MF3HT8

Halloween Scavenger Hunt: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Today’s recommends come from one of my favorite Ozplotation directors Brian Trenchard-Smith! I was very excited to get a list from him to be part of this fun exercise for the month of October. Let’s see what he recommends for your October viewing pleasure.

1. The Haunting (1963)

Dr. Markway, doing research to prove the existence of ghosts, investigates Hill House, a large, eerie mansion with a lurid history of violent death and insanity. With him are the skeptical young Luke, who stands to inherit the house, the mysterious and clairvoyant Theodora and the insecure Eleanor, whose psychic abilities make her feel somehow attuned to whatever spirits inhabit the old mansion. As time goes by it becomes obvious that they have gotten more than they bargained for as the ghostly presence in the house manifests itself in horrific and deadly ways.

2. Let The Right One In (2008)

Oskar, a bullied 12-year old, dreams of revenge. He falls in love with Eli, a peculiar girl. She can’t stand the sun or food and to come into a room she needs to be invited. Eli gives Oskar the strength to hit back but when he realizes that Eli needs to drink other people’s blood to live he’s faced with a choice. How much can love forgive? Set in the Stockholm suburb of Blackeberg in 1982.

3. The Entity (1982)

Carla Moran awakens one night to find herself being beaten and raped by an unseen presence. Terrified of what’s happening to her, and shunned by friends and family who think she’s lost her mind, she seeks help from parapsychologists. The researchers soon discover that evil spiritual force has been drawn to Carla and is responsible for the violent attacks. The question now, however, is how do they stop it? Based on a supposedly true story.

4. Cabin In The Woods (2011)

Five teenagers head off for a weekend at a secluded cabin in the woods. They arrive to find they are quite isolated with no means of communicating with the outside world. When the cellar door flings itself open, they of course go down to investigate. They find an odd assortment of relics and curios, but when one of the women, Dana, reads from a book, she awakens a family of deadly zombie killers. However, there’s far more going on than meets the eye.

5. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)

In Japan, when the volunteer social assistant Rika Nishina is assigned to visit a family, she is cursed and chased by two revengeful fiends: Kayako, a woman brutally murdered by her husband and her son Toshio. Each person that lives in or visits the haunted house is murdered or disappears.

Brian Trenchard-Smith is a film director with over 50 credits to his name. Some notable titles include Dead End Drive-In, Stunt Rock, and BMX Bandits. He is also an author. His current book Alice Through The Multiverse promises a time twisting, paranormal thriller. Check out the trailer below and maybe pick up a copy with the link at the bottom.

Pick Up A Copy Of Alice Through The Multiverse!!!!

Halloween Scavenger Hunt: Tony Wash

Today why don’t we take some suggestions from someone who makes horror movies? Tony Wash has been making indie horror films for awhile and he knows his stuff. Take a look at his recommends below.

1. Phantasm II

Sure, every horror fan knows about this series and sure, Phantasm II makes zero sense, which is about zero more sense than the other four movies in the series make.  But damn do I love this movie!  I think a large part of my affinity for Phantasm II comes from watching it numerous times as a child.  This movie easily added to my developing love of the horror genre with its awesome practical creature FX, the ominous Tall Man, a four-barreled shotgun, and of course, the Flying Silver Balls of Death!

2. The Evil

Richard Crenna of Rambo fame stars in this seldom seen Roger Corman horror flick.  Same premise as most; a bunch of people who go to clean up an old house that is supposedly haunted get killed off one by one.  This is easily one of the coolest and largest houses I’ve seen a horror film shot in, and for someone who absolutely loves the “people who die in a haunted house” concept, this is no exception.

3. House By The Cemetery

Lucio Fulci doesn’t get as much credit as Dario Argento when it comes to Italian horror, which disappoints me because I am such a hard core fan of this film, as well as The Beyond and Zombie.  To a degree though, I have to wonder if his lack of fame was on account to how absurd and nonsensical his movie’s were.  HbtC is certainly no different.  A family moves into a creepy old house (the same house’s facade is used in Umberto Lenzi’s 1988 movie Ghosthouse) and discovers that the original owner, a Dr. Freudstein was responsible for a number of heinous acts against mankind and is still alive and murdering people… whilst still living in their basement!  It really doesn’t make much sense at all, but I love this movie all the same.  Don’t hate me if you despise the little kid Bob’s dubbed voice, it is truly cacophonous.

4. Beyond The Black Rainbow

Every horror fan saw last year’s indie success Mandy, but have you all seen director Panos Casmatos’ earlier film, Beyond The Black Rainbow?  Bursting with some of the best visuals a low budget indie has ever graced the screen with, this film’s production design and cinematography alone should’ve put it on your radar.  Though more sci-fi than horror, this movie still possesses tons of eerie imagery and situations to rank it amongst one of my favorite horror films of recent years.

5. Skeletons in the Closet

Yeah, yeah, yeah so I’m bringing up one of my own films, but honestly, it could use the promotion and views from true horror fans.  So if you haven’t seen this fun 80s horror anthology, check it out on Amazon Prime, iTunes, PopcornFlix, tubi, or pick up a copy from my website, scotchworthy.com.  If the trailer alone doesn’t intrigue you enough to check this flick out, no harm no foul.  But if you like 80s horror specifically revolving around supernatural terror mixed with equal parts comedy, this is the perfect film for your next viewing party.

Tony Wash is a horror filmmaker out of Chicago. His films can be found at the following links:

Tony Wash
President
Scotchworthy Productions, Inc.
www.scotchworthy.com

Short Film Curator www.Bloody-Disgusting.com

2018 Show Reel https://vimeo.com/251458782

Skeletons in the Closet Trailer (NSFW) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5szjVvzAW_Q

The Rake Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzV_JQnNurQ

High on the Hog Trailer (NSFW) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnSRbTmQnPc

World of Death Trailer (NSFW) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HAPLjEB8PI

The Midnight Drive-In: Uninvited & Strays

This week cats invade the podcast.  First up we go for a luxury cruise when a mutant cat sneaks on a rich persons yacht and starts eating everyone in Uninvited.  After that we movie into a new house that suddenly gets taken over by cats in Strays.  We also chat about musicians birthdays, Leprechaun Returns, and the Arrowverse Elseworlds Crossover.

Zack Snyder’s Vision of an Evil Superman finally realized…by James gunn.

Hey everyone, Sometimes Mike here. Between living in hotels and also locking myself out of GN.com, I’ve been away for a bit. But with the hotel’s wi-fi, and the help of some guy named Bryan in GN IT,  I’m back now, and what have I got for you? No, I didn’t get you any T-shirts. I didn’t know what sizes to get, or if you’d even wear them if I got them for you. 

No. Today, I’ve got a new trailer for you. The movie is called Brightburn, and while James Gunn’s name is stamped prominently on the trailer, as well as shamelessly on the above title, it was written by his brothers, Brian and Mark Gunn, and directed by David Yarovesky. 

The tagline goes thus: What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister

Sounds familiar, and you’ll spend the trailer making note of all the similarities to you know who. Superman…in case you didn’t know who but didn’t want to ask for fear of looking silly. 

Give it a look:

I mean, they even used the same font from Man of Steel. And I haven’t looked that closely into it, but the music sounds very close. Zack Snyder’s vision of making the DCEU’s Superman (or at least, this movie’s version of an alien that for copyright reasons definitely probably isn’t Supes) the evil overlord of Injustice fame is coming true, at the hands of a group of people very capable of making it worth seeing. At least we know there might be decent, unambiguous character development this time around.

Superhero horror is the next logical step in this equation, and let’s be honest, it’s taken a lot longer to hit the big screens than you figure it would. This looks interesting for sure, and my curiosity is more than a little piqued at the timing of such a movie, what with Gunn getting the boot from Disney, and half the DCEU’s future being a giant question mark. Is this a play to prove something to the ill-fated, lackluster WB/DC movie-verse, or is it a move in spite of them? Either way, James Gunn’s money is in the pot, so I think we’re in for something special.

Brightburn hits theaters May 24th, 2019. 

What did you think of the first Brightburn trailer? Let us know in the comments.

Marvel reveals their endgame

Ever since the end of Infinity War we’ve been waiting.  Antman and The Wasp gave us a quick glimpse on who could be left to help our heroes but we wanted more. Finally we get a look at what world we’re left with. How our heroes are coping with the loses.  Now it looks like they are ready to take that step forward and fix everything.  Take a look at the Avengers Endgame trailer.

McFarlane To Bring Back Movie Maniacs

Back in the late 90’s and early 00’s, any kid that wandered into their local Spencer’s Gifts or Hot Topics would eventually come face to face with some of the most amazing genre based collectible figurines.

Legendary comic creator Todd McFarlane launched a line of collectibles called Movie Maniacs. Amazingly intricate and detailed figurines of the icons of horror. Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and so many more were able to be brought home to adorn our shelves. But like so many things, they went the way of the dodo.

Now, in the age of ultimate nostalgia, McFarlane is bringing back his line of creepy collectibles

During an interview at New York Comic Con over the weekend, Todd McFarlane told IGN that a handful of the lines that put the company on the map will be coming back.

“We live in a brave new world now where you can go literally from production to the consumer, right? You can cut out all the middle men and we’re seeing that with Kickstarters and people doing direct, you know, dot com,” McFarlane told the site. “So what we’re gonna do is, when we started McFarlane Toys twenty-plus years ago, we were built on the detailed stuff, doing all these cool monsters and all this sort of wicked stuff. Unfortunately, the stores we were selling to at that point, like Tower Records and Suncoast and Babbage’s and KB Toys, and all these other ones, they’ve all fallen to the wayside.”

But it won’t just be the Movie Maniac line, McFarlane dropped another big bombshell when he said “So we’re gonna go back to our origins and we’re gonna go, hey, for all you people who like Tortured Souls? There’s gonna be more. For all you people who like some of the Movie Maniacs? There’s gonna be more. But even the new — the stuff we just created, like Dragons? More. Spawn? More. Twisted Tales? More.”

It’s everything my teenage self with no disposable income could have desired. If you have forgotten what they looked like, check out below for a look at some of the original line of the Maniacs and then start putting your pennies away. Watch out Funko, McFarlane Toys is coming for you…

 

 

The Midnight Drive-In: Slater September! Heathers & Sorority Row

It’s that time of year again.  The leaves are turning.  A small chill is in the air. It must be time to go back to school!  Luckily that falls during Slater September so we can celebrate with the Christian Slater classic Heathers!  After that we head to college to see what devious pranks befall the girls in Sorority Row.  Also Noah talks about his cat, Doug talks some Iron Fist, and Bryan goes back to the Summer of ’84!

Graveyard Duck Episode 33 – River City Ransom

This week we discuss a long overdue title for the NES, River City Ransom. Somehow Scott has gone his entire life without playing this one. Come here his first impressions.

Don’t forget to keep up with the show and relive all the nostalgia by following us on Twitter, Instagram,  and Facebook. Send us your memories or show suggestions at graveyardduckpodcast@gmail.com. And be sure to check out all of the great content from this show and other nerdy favorites at geeknerdery.com.

Interview: Darrell

Fan-favorite and one of the best players to play the game, Darrell is in the house! We ask the standard questions, but we also had to squeeze in some questions about Sarah Greyson, the Gauntlet Queen and one of my favorite players. Darrell was a super charming and personable guy, and we bought him hot dogs. We’re basically best friends now. This wraps up our interviews from the Challenge Throwdown for the Cause event in Yorkville. Thanks for listening!

Interview: Melinda

Melinda asked us to get a little weird with it, and we did. I think we made her a little uncomfortable, but that’s ok because she did the same to us. Or at least she tried. We haven’t seen Melinda on the show for quite some time, but we were still excited to meet her in person. We had a separate conversation before our interview that I wish we would’ve recorded but alas, this is all you get of the beautiful Melinda.

Champs Vs. Stars: When Loyalty Is Spot On

This week we find out which team Booby is sending into the Elimination.  Also a Champ has a tirade and accuses another team of cheating.  After that we find a twist that lowers the competition to just 4 teams.

Interview: Nicole Z.

We weren’t sure what to make of Nicole exactly, but her over-the-top presence we see on TV made for quite the charming, interesting and exciting interactions we had at the Challenge Throwdown for the Cause event. She was very candid maybe a bit drunk for this interview, so prepare yourself.

Interview: Derrick K.

Let’s be honest, our podcasts are not competitors, so we love having Derrick on a show other than Challenge Mania. Word of warning, this was quite late in the night and many drinks were had, leading to some distraction and some nonsense. Challenged Superfan Kelly interrupts this episode to give Derrick a foot massage which certainly didn’t help the distraction issues. Derrick was super cool, very outgoing and we’re thrilled to have this fan-favorite on the show.

Karate Kid sequel crane kicks its way onto Youtube Red

Look,  we’re sorry about that awful title too, OK? But we’re a legit site, and all the legit sites do the awful headlines like that. We’re rolling with the times, folks.

Alright, let’s get serious here. Guys, the first trailer for the Karate Kid sequel dropped today.

Behold the 48 seconds of pure nerdgasm…or nerd rage, depending on which side of the fence you find yourself.

It’s a teaser, so we’re only getting a taste, but let’s break it down anyway.

Camera flies over the California hills. Screen fades in from black on a handful of trophies before the black curtain drops and we see the All Valley Karate Championship tournament tree revealed. Some newspaper clippings of Daniel and Mr Miyagi. A taped up yellow flyer of Johnny, the new master of the Cobra Kai dojo, inviting you to join.  Freshly stenciled mantra in bold black on a white wall:

STRIKE FIRST, STRIKE HARD, NO MERCY

All the while Johnny is shouting out orders. Then Daniel questions Johnny’s judgment…

We’re 14 seconds in and the nostalgia meter is already off the charts.

Inside a building, more trophies, with two people sparring in the back.  Now a cliffside where two are practicing moves in sync. A stark contrast in teaching styles. Johnny’s stern voice reminding everyone that mercy isn’t a thing. Daniel telling someone that the fundamentals are all that matters.

Over the shoulder shot of Johnny looking on at his students. A yellow tinted shot of the outside of Cobra Kai, insinuating we’re getting an origin story for the best blonde haired bad guy 1984 had to offer.

Now it’s Daniel’s turn with the back of the head shot as he ties up that iconic black and white Hachimaki.

Some Rivalries. NEVER END.

The music crescendos as we finally see them. Daniel and Johnny. Face to face. Daniel makes a fairly standard threat as the 30 year old tensions reignite.

Cut to black.

Fade in the Cobra Kai logo.

Cue the drums.

CUT THE CHECK.

We’ve always been staunchly opposed to the rebranding, repackaging, and reselling of our youth…

(Ed. note: This doesn’t count.)

That said, we were genuinely disappointed that the Danny McBride Crocodile Dundee reboot turned out to be nothing more than a crummy commercial.

But this, we can’t decide on. It would be good to see what became of both Johnny and Daniel after that fateful night…besides the misadventures in Japan and that, of course. But is it worth it?

This leads into the other “problem” with this new series: It’s a Youtube Red exclusive.

Youtube is making a run at getting their paid service off the ground for good, and they’re coming at the one thing so many of us can’t resist: Our childhood.

Diabolical…

Personally, the draw of the new adventures of D and J won’t be enough to get us to buy in. Not right away at least. If it turns out to be the next Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones…(it could happen) then a re-evaluation will be in order.

How about you? Is the site of the immortal, always perfect Ralph Macchio enough to convince you? At least it isn’t a Smith spawn on the screen, right?

The 10 episode Cobra Kai series is set to drop all at once later this year on Youtube Red.

The Midnight Drive-In: The Dark Crystal & Labyrinth

It’s an episode all about Jim Henson and his films The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.  We discuss the awesomeness of the puppets, sets, and of course David Bowie’s bulge.  We then chat about IT, The Cloverfield Paradox, The Shape Of Water, Pieces, and Before I Wake.  Just before the show ends you get to find out that Noah is in fact a literate racist.  Enjoy.

Dear Jerks: An Open Letter to the CW.

Hi CW,

It’s me again. This is my 14th letter to your company despite my 13 previously unanswered correspondence.  I write to you, as always, a loyal member of the Arrowverse Aptly Ambling Society, but with a level of concern for your product that should surpass that of a 38 year old. I am well aware that I am outside your marketing demographic, and my words will fall on deaf ears. At least they have 13 times prior. That said, I find myself week in and week out further questioning my allegiance to your shows.

You know what? Let’s stuff the formality. YOU clearly have.

No need to put on airs at this point, as far as we are into the current season, so I’ll just out with it. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? What possessed you? Are you being stubbornly idiotic on purpose or is it laziness?

Not too long ago, the DC/CW universe was the strongest, most capable representation of DC properties going. It dominated over Fox’s Gotham, and even stood above the consistently ill aimed DCEU. Your stories were solid, your characters strong, and episodes tight and action packed. No one in the TV landscape could contend, not even the powerhouse that is Disney Marvel.

Perhaps, that was your own downfall.  Did the lack of true competition make you complacent? Is that why everything has fallen to pieces? If you don’t agree, rewatch the pilot of Arrow. It’s on Netflix.  Now watch ANY episode from this season.  Do you see the difference? Miles apart, isn’t it?

I am speaking specifically today about Arrow and the Flash. Supergirl is doing her best at staying relevant, if not a bit mundane, in an age where no one seems to know what to do with Kryptonians, and Legends, as I have already and will continue to shout, has figured out its voice and is being exactly what it was meant to be.

If you’ll indulge me, there are fixes here. I’ll cover two of them. One for each show.

ARROW

Make things matter again.  I know you thought that my fix for Arrow was killing Felicity. Well you would have had you read the previous 13 letters. But she’s not the probl…no, I can’t finish that sentence. I physically cannot. Because she absolutely is. You’ve gone GOTHAM levels of off canon there.  But,  she’s hardly the root of the problem.

Nothing matters anymore. There were at least 10 people on that island when it exploded at the end of the fifth season. Why are 9 of them still alive? I know you knew there were problems with the show. Your star said in more than one interview that there were, so it was at least discussed. Nothing says course correct like blowing up 90% of your cast.

I’m not suggesting kill all of them. But kill more than the woman who already wasn’t in the show. See where your biggest pain points are in the off season and simply stop writing them.  Thea hasn’t been relevant in 3 seasons. Let her go.

Example: Season 1, Oliver stopped the bad guy and saved the day. Well, he stopped the bad guy at least. He lost his best friend in the process, and the city suffered a horrific earthquake. Season 2, Slade killed Moira, a main character up until then, right in front of her kids. There were CONSEQUENCES. Stuff mattered because it could be lost in an instant. Yes, you killed off Laurel. Don’t think I’ve forgotten that.  But you still have a Black Canary.

That’s an entire argument of its own.

The point being is that now, every single character is too precious to lose, and as such, there’s nothing for them to do. People can’t even stay injured. Felicity is paralyzed. There’s a chip for that. Diggle has the shakes. Nah, there’s a chip for that. Seriously, knock it off. Kill a couple people.  Make the show mean something again. Let one of them be Felicity.

Flash

This same too many characters problem bleeds into the Flash. Everyone is a best friend now. We’re just best friends saving the best friend world all the best friend time. I mean, isn’t Joe’s fiance like a commissioner or something? How the hell does that work her dating a subordinate? Doesn’t she have other things to do besides be a pregnant, conveniently temporary psychic? Why is she always at S.T.A.R. Labs?

And help me out: what exactly does Iris DO? She’s a reporter, right? So why is she part of Team Flash? What expertise does she possess to be in a super secret science lab? Or coordinating operations? What the hell is going on here? Is she actually a double agent?

Back to my larger point.

Most recently, Barry helped save Goldberg who was serving a life sentence for jackhammering a cop. He got stabbed and Barry helped save his life. But it couldn’t just be that Barry saved the life of a murderer. We couldn’t have that. No. See the Allens, both Barry and Henry, wouldn’t save a person because its the right thing to do regardless of their crimes. It had to be that Goldberg was actually framed by Kickpuncher.

Barry doesn’t save murderers’ lives. That’s all there is to it. He will however release a man convicted of murder, run him to China and strand him there without money, passport, extra clothes, or even a small idea as to whether or not he even speaks the language, all the while foregoing the legal process because the system was wrong!

I’m not even getting into the trial, conviction and appeal of Barry. That was a joke, start to finish. I only have a baseline understanding of the judicial system, having logged well over 200 hours of Law and Order and its sister show, SVU, and even I understand how much of a farce that whole proceeding was…Alright, one note from it.

Barry is at his sentencing. HIS SENTENCING, when the villain du jour was running amok and needed to be stopped. It went thus:

“We need a speedster!”

“Ok, cool. Someone call Wally and we’ll–”

“NO! Tell Barry about it. Have him do it. Have him asked to be excused from his own trial where he’s been convicted of murder and have him go do it.”

Again, I digress. It comes down to you have too many characters scratching for screentime, and you aren’t using any of them correctly. (Dibny aside. Dibny is damn awesome and when his time is up here, get his stretchy behind on the Waverider)   Tighten up the corners, let bad guys be bad guys, wrap this whole Devoe project up, and for God sakes stop this random pregnancy powers weird plot device from happening again. It’s cheap and lazy.

Look, I know this letter has only made it as far up as some 3rd AD’s secretary’s assistant. I know that none of this matters, end of the day. You’ll do what you do and that’s all there is to it.  But I ask, NO, I IMPLORE that you, Marybelle,  somehow get word from your little desk in an office in Vancouver to one or three of your writing staff and insist they go back and watch the first season of Arrow, and the first two seasons of Flash. Understand what is possible, and find your way back there.

And as always, kill Felicity.

Your friend in time,

M

 

Dads, Dark Matter, and the Diggle Shakes: It’s this week’s Arrowverse Weekly Round-Up!

We know. We missed last week, making this not all that weekly of a round-up. You can thank illness of the face for that. But we’re back this week! So let’s break this one down before another week slips by us.  Worst to First, let’s do it! (A bit spoilery, but not too bad)

Supergirl

Bless her little Kryptonian heart, she’s trying. She really is. But what do you do with an all-powerful, god-like character? A question that’s plagued the Superfamily since forever.  At first, the showrunners decided to borrow some of the best of the MAN of Steel’s history the first season, then had him actually show up in National City  for what was arguably the best episode of season 2. Well, the answer this year seems to be ignore the question, because other characters not named in the title have a lot going on, and we’ll get to Kara. Promise.

This season has a lot happening to be sure. There’s Alex and Maggie’s wedding that is CLEARLY doomed to not happen as hinted at these first three episodes, Nathan Petrelli is doing his best at megolomaniacal industrialist (until his isn’t? Maybe next week?), Lena Luthor bought Catco because…um…reasons, and Odette Annable will at some point be “making it Reign”. (That’s her quote, not our quote. It’s punny as hell, but admittedly better than what we would have come up with.) Oh, and that one girl is sad about her boyfriend being maybe dead. What’s her na–OH! Kara! Right!

To be FAIR, Kara did some stuff this week. J’onn did most of it assisting M’gann and the white martian resistance though, but Supergirl helped. It was a decent bit of business with J’onn reuniting with his father he previously thought deceased.

A darker, distracted Supergirl was kind of fun. Not Snyder dark, but Kara with a chip on her shoulder that first episode would have made for an interesting sub-plot this season as she works through the idea that even with all the power in the world, she can’t save everyone she loves. It’s a good third season plot that could flesh out Kara and grow her as character. Because if she’s the role model for a generation of young girls, they need to see that even our heroes struggle and we all need to find it in ourselves to overcome.

…No? You’d rather wrap that up half-assedly after 2 eps? Alright, how about a wedding shower then? Yeah to hell with it.

Arrow

…What are we going to do with this show? The time slot change is  bad enough as it makes it a lot more difficult to get these reviews done in a timely manner–on top of all the other reasons– but the writers insist on recycling the same storylines the way Flash recycled Ollie’s apartment in last week’s episode. Yeah, we noticed. All of us noticed.

Anyway, Oliver is again this season spending more time as the mayor than as the Green Arrow like last year. Because when we go to watch superhero dramas, it’s important to us that we spend at least 10 minutes an episode worrying about new legislation.  

This week, Diggle takes over as Green Arrow as Oliver is under the watchful eye of FBI Agent Mrs. Plot Device, and wants to be a better father to William “Exasperated Sigh” Clayton. Digs got the shakes though as is having confidence issues thanks to his last season visit to Lian Yu. I don’t speak any languages beyond this sort of English and “I am a pineapple” in French, but I have to assume Lian Yu is Mandarin for “No Real Stakes Island”.  We’ll come back to that.

From there, the never-ending, white hot poker in the eye that will not be named came on screen. I  was suddenly overwhelmed by my own form of Diggle Shakes and slapped the video halfway across the room. I came to outside, standing over a burn barrel holding a box of matches as my tablet sat on top of the pile, reeking of gasoline. The tablet’s fine, but I can’t finish a review for you, because I’m on a kind of expensive laptop and I don’t want to risk another blackout.

Even with the imminent destruction of my tablet, Arrow still ranks ahead of Supergirl this week. This show is still trying to find it’s way back, and we feel like it still can, but it needs to bring back the high stakes that the first two seasons had.  Yeah, they killed Laurel, and for this, we will never forgive them, but this show has lost it’s nerve. If you’re going to have every character on an island, and you’re going to explode that island, then have every character survive, you’ve wasted a perfectly good island explosion. They had the chance to course correct, (same as with Flashpoint) and they didn’t take it.  They keep letting all the plucky sidekicks survive. They have so many, they could Game of Thrones the hell out of the show once every two weeks, and by season end, there’s still six characters left. My math’s off, but you get the idea. Trim the fat. You have two quirky scientists. Axe one of them. You have 2 gun-toting hard asses. Axe one. You have 2 Canaries. Break one’s neck after you’ve injected bleach into her veins and set her on fire, then reform Laurel, you canon-destroying-on-a-whim, Felicity-fellating jackasses.

I’m feeling woozy..let’s move on.

FLASH

The Flash, what do you say about it? It’s a consistently good show. This week and last week were no exceptions. The writer’s have loosened up on the overly dramatic reins for the time being and everyone is having fun. We didn’t get to cover this, so we’ll touch on it here, last week’s episode made it enjoyable to watch Barry and Iris together for the first time in a while. She wasn’t constantly harping on him all episode and he didn’t spend the tenth week in a row explaining how he’ll never let anything bad happen to her. For the first time in a while, there was natural chemistry between them, and it was good to see. 

As far as the fun goes, they introduced Hazard this week; a girl with the worst luck in the world, until she’s introduced to dark matter, thanks to Barry’s return from the Speed Force. She’s a petite blonde that’s  funny and fun to watch. In the end, she’s monster of the week, so they wrap her story quick, but she’s got a bigger part to play in Junior Brainiac’s no good, very bad scheme.

This week also saw the return of Tom Cavanaugh (It’s about time you got here! Welcome home!)  and Earth 2 Harry Wells. Always good to have him back so Cisco has someone to properly bicker with. The problem there is Harry seems a bit too…not scatterbrained, but less full of himself than when he was around previously and that felt like it lost something. Still good to have him back.

Oh, and poor Wally. This town’s not big enough for two speedsters apparently. Tough Luck, Bro.

Also, I spent the episode deciding that Cecil needs to back the hell up a step. But, that’s obviously not going to happen. Nice cut to black on that one.

Legends of Tomorrow

Understand that before we get too far into this that we know. We do. We know and we understand any trepidation you might be feeling with this being the second Round-Up in a row that Legends came out as top dog. If the illness hadn’t struck last week, Legends would have been number one then too. WE KNOW! It doesn’t make sense!  After the first two seasons, we get all of it. 

Listen up, though: Legends is the current champion of the CW’s Arrowverse. If you aren’t watching, you’re missing out. Allow us to explain.

Is it a perfect show? No. Some of the worst extra acting around. Sometimes the mains’ acting isn’t all that great either. But what is it about Legends that we find so damn convincing? We said it last time: They’ve found their voice. The writers and showrunners know what they are, and they’re making it work. Not everyone wants the light-hearted approach that Marvel takes with it’s properties muddling in with the super serious world of DC, but this is exactly what the show needs to be.

The Legends aren’t a stoic band of heroes that save the space time continuum while attempting to bone each other in the meanwhile. They’re an imperfect group of screw-ups and also-rans that are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. The showrunners finally cracked that code and allowed themselves and their characters to be fun.

The introduction of the Time Bureau, run by previous captain Rip Hunter, is the perfect adversary for the Legends as they skip through time striving to put right what once went wrong (thanks to their incompetence).

Thats not to say that there aren’t moments of them potentially falling back into old habits, but we’re still cautiously optimistic. The reintroduction of Amaya to the Waverider is a slippery slope. We’re waiting for the moment when they fall back into the well-trodden drama of a relationship between her and Nate, but so far they’ve avoided it. We can only hope that they continue to steer around it so as to not get bogged down with the heavy-handedness of their relationship.

It probably feels unnatural to you, but unless you’re staunchly opposed to humor in your Arrowverse, this is the show to watch. It’s been consistently entertaining for these first three weeks, and with Matt Ryan’s Constantine slated to come aboard, hopefully it can only get better.