Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: Baked Beans ala Trinity

Every third Tuesday or so, I'll be taking a break from spreading the message of Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi (that scantily clad women cause earthquakes) to bring you simple recipes inspired by some of the movies reviewed at Cinema Steve and related blogs. The dishes will be simple and hopefully fun to share with your movie-watching buddies.

Up first, is Baked Beans ala Trinity (although it is inspired just as much by any number of Spaghetti Western comedies as baked beans eaten straight from the pan seem to be a common theme in them).

Baked Beans ala Trinity


1 can of Bush Country Style Baked Beans (16 oz. can for 2-3 servings, 28 oz. can for 5-6 servings)
4% fat ground beef (1/4 pound for 2-3 servings, 1/2 pound for 5-6 servings)

Step One: Brown ground beef in a no-stick (or lightly greased) small frying pan for 2-3 servings, or a large frying pan for 5-6 servings.

Step Two: Pour baked beans from can into frying pan. Stir. Heat to simmer.

Serve in pan with thick-sliced pieces of French bread and butter. Be careful, because the pan will be hot.

While Trinity always eats directly from the pan, you probably want to provide a serving spoon and individual plates and spoons for your guests. They can still use the bread slices to mop up any leftover sauce in the pan, just like Trinity, however.

Monday, June 28, 2010

'The Love God?' goes on just a little too long

The Love God? (1970)
Starring: Don Knotts, Anne Francis, Edmond O'Brien, Maggie Petersen, and B.S. Pulley
Director: Nat Hiken
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

After his bird-lovers magazine is bankrupted, Abner Peacock (Knotts) is conned by a producer of pornography (O'Brien) into using the magazine's title and 4th-class mailing permit as a way to print a new dirty magazine. When journalist Lisa LaMonica (Francis) takes control of the magazine's editorial direction--turning it into an upscale "swingers" magazine, she convinces Abner that its his patriotic duty to be the magazine's figurehead and lead the life of a swingin' ladies man... because publishing smut is a 1st Amendment right! Soon, the meek bird-watcher finds himself a symbol of sexual liberation, even as he is assuring his sweetheart (Petersen) that they'll be getting married any day now.

"The Love God?" is a comedy that pokes fun at the American "sexual revolution" in the Sixties, though a fictitious version of the "Playboy" company. However, there is a lot more to the film, namely the commentary on mass-media, politics, and how the two converge and often share the same agendas. The film's satirical examination of how no one in the media or political life ever are what they seem, and the statements about the media can make anyone into anything, even if that person isn't at all like the image that is being put forward, are as biting, accurate, and fresh as they were when this film was first released some 40 years ago. In fact, the commentary on the media and "civil rights advocates" on both the liberal and conservative sides of the argument are perhaps even more accurate than four decades ago, because neither politicians nor media companies have gotten less manipulative and cynical as the years have passed.

Although it has a timeless script that is more relevant than ever, the film is still a product of the garish Sixties, so one has to look past that. Another weak spot is that this is one of those movies that just doesn't know when to quit. While the final plot complication is amusing (the minister father of Abner's sweetheart will only let him marry her if he holds a press conference and announces to the world that not only isn't he a swinger--he's a virgin) it stretches on for too long and the movie drags itself toward the finale. It's a shame, because until the last 15 minutes, "The Love God?" moves along as a steady pace, with new twists and complications being added at just the right times.

"The Love God?" is a film with a fine cast (although Anne Francis is a bit of a dead spot), a nice soundtrack, and a 1960s style that is fun and psychadelicious. In addition, the script has numerous timeless elements that puts this film firmly in the category of "classic." It's not without its flaws, but it is well worth your time if you like comedies that come with political commentary that skewers everyone.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Who is to be protected by this effort?

This seems like a wonderful and worthy project.

Paris hosts cyber-shelter for oppressed bloggers

But does anyone know what would prompt Julliard to say, "If the CIA [...] want to get round it they can, but this will make things much more difficult"? Is there something that those more Enlightened/Informed than I can tell me about? Links would be nice.

I wonder what bloggers need protection from the CIA. Will Jean-Francois Julliard and the other good people at Reporters Without Borders be turning their efforts over to the likes of Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and the ETA? Those are the only kind of subhuman wastes of skin and cyberspace I can see the CIA caring about. Certainly, the CIA couldn't care less about "citizen journalists" in China or Iran. I wish it wasn't so--I wish we were HELPING them--but we sure as hell aren't hunting them. Or have I missed something?

Or is Julliard's comments just another example of our French "friends" feeling more sympathetic toward those who are dedicated to murdering Americans where ever they can find them?

'Knightriders' is a surprising Romero movie

Knightriders (1981)
Starring: Ed Harris, Gary Lahti, Tom Savini, Amy Ingersoll, Warner Shook, Patricia Tallman, Christine Forrest, Brother Blue, and Cynthia Adler
Director: George Romero
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Like so many movies I watch and review, I came to this one not knowing what to expect, but attracted to it by the DVD cover image of a mace-wielding knight in full armor on a motorcycle. It turned out that "Knightriders" is quite a different sort of film than what we usually expect to see when the name "George A. Romero" is in the credits.

There are no zombies or psycho killers in this film. Instead, what we have is the story of a traveling roadshow consisting of stunt motorbikers who travel the country putting on a renaissance fair that is set apart from the usual such shows by elaborate jousting matches on motorcycles. Even more unusual, these carnies have created their own utopian society where the model set by King Arthur's Camelot is what they aspire to and where ancient virtues and knightly honor are the order of the day. However, just like the real Camelot, corruption and greed soon threatens to destroy what they have created....

"Knightriders" is a film that deserves more attention that it's gotten over the years. It's supremely well acted--Ed Harris' performance as the "king" who struggles to keep his community together brings a fantastic emotional purity to the film, while Tom Savini's enigmatic Morgan (and chief challenger to the king's throne) brings a nice touch of counterbalancing darkness--features great music, and some really great cinematography. The bike stunts are also fantastic and one wonders how no one got killed on the shoot!

Although the film runs a little too much past what should have been its climax, it presents an engaging, subtle retelling of the classic Arthurian tale that, like its model, has a timeless quality that makes this film just as vibrant now as it was in 1981. It's worth checking out by lovers of Ren Fairs, Camelot-style romantic stories, and well-made, intelligent cinema.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Indian Film Spoofs Bin Laden?

"Tere Bin Laden" ("Without Bin Laden") is a low-budget satire from India slated for release next month. Publicity surrounding the film is starting in earnest, and the article quoted below caught my eye.

But does it really make fun of Osama bin Laden? The headline on the AFP story says that it does, but the summary doesn't sound like it.

Bollywood makes Osama bin Laden spoof

I did find it interesting that star Ali Zafar felt the need to state that the film "does not hurt anyone's ideology." Does this mean that Osama bin Laden is a figure of worship and idolatry like the Prophet Mohammed (may peas be upon him) and there will be death threats for showing his image? If so, theater chains were wise to drop "Postal," which featured Osama as a major character.

Click here to visit the film's official site. Some of it's in a language I don't know, but the cartoon is cute and the music jammin'.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Complete Adventures of Harold & Kumar

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (aka "Harold & Kumar Get the Munchies") (2004)
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Dan Bochart, Neil Patrick Harris, Ethan Embry, and Paula Garces
Director: Danny Leiner
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

A pair of pot-smoking roommates, Harold and Kumar (Cho and Penn), get a severe case of the munchies and an overwhelming craving for hamburgers after seeing a TV commercial for fastfood chain White Castle. They set out to visit an all-night White Castle, but their simple trip turns into a major quest as they drive, run, ride, and hangglide through the strangest night of their lives.

"Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" starts out seeming like it's going to be a predictable cross between a stoner comedy and a road picture. As it unfolds, however, it becomes far more than that, brimming with well-delivered social commentary and bizarre surreal humor.

The film's title characters are likewise a multicultural cross between Bing Crosby and Bob Hope from the "Road to..." pictures, and Jack Lemon and Walter Mathau's "Odd Couple" characters--Harold is of Korean extraction and Kumar has Indian roots, but they are both very firmly American. They serve as the primary conduit for the film's running commentary on what a bad idea it is to buy into the notion that there is such a thing as "race identity" and the film's constant use of stereotypes to both undermine that they are useful when dealing with other individuals and to make points about how they may even limit our ideas about ourselves. (Kumar, for example, spends so much time fighting against the stereotypical notion that Indians are either overachieving doctors or store clerks that he's been ignoring his own exceptional abilities and talents, while Harold has so bought into the notion that Asians are boring numbers-crunchers that he's been denying himself and Kumar all sorts of opportunities for partying and more.

As for the film's progression, it starts out fairly tame, but gets stranger and wilder as it unfolds. The high point of the absurdity (and hilarity) comes when our heroes find themselves face-to-face with an escaped cheetah that is referred to repeatedly in the background. A close second is when Neil Patrick Harris appears in a small role spoofing himself.

"Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle" delivers intelligent messages and commentary wrapped within the lowest of lowbrow humor--such as a game of "Battleshits" and the aforementioned appearance by Neil Patrick Harris--without ever straying into the territory of being preachy. If you don't mind offcolour humour and satire taken to extreme levels of absurdity, you'll love this movie.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (2008)
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Rob Corddroy, Danneel Harris, and Neil Patrick Harris
Directors: Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Harold (Cho) and Kumar (Penn) are mistaken for terrorists when Kumar decides to use his smokeless bong on a Trans-Atlantic flight. They are confined to Guantanamo Bay by an overzealous (and dumb-as-a-bag-of-rocks) Homeland Security official (Corddroy). Will our heroes manage to escape the toughest prison on Earth in time to stop Kumar's ex-girlfriend (Harris) from marrying a complete douchebag? Will they manage to prove they're just regular Americans instead of terrorists? Will they survive another encounter with former child star Neil Patrick Harris (played by Neil Patrick Harris)?

"Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay" has all the lowbrow humor, shots to the crotch, nudity, and off-color jokes than you'd expect from a stoner comedy. However, it also delivers some hilarious political satire--which seems to have gone over the heads of most critics--and a running commentary on American culture and race relations, multiculturalism, and REAL patriotism and love for America.

Yes, this is one very smart and intelligent stoner comedy that provides more serious and insightful commentary on the current state of American society and the "War on Terror" than all those crappy political screeds (like "Lions for Lambs" and "Stop-Loss") combined. If you have patience for off-color humor, I recommend you check out this movie. You'll smile, you'll laugh, AND you'll do some thinking. Plus, Harold and Kumar are two of the most loveable characters you'll ever laugh at... and Neil Patrick Harris is one of the scariest characters you'll ever laugh at.

(By the way, if you're at the conservative end of the political spectrum and you like listening to talk radio, don't buy what some of the hosts were saying about this film when it was released. While they were busy taking offense over the film's portrayal of President George Bush, they failed to notice that Bush is a good guy in the film, and he's one of the few characters that Harold and Kumar interact with who actually truly is interested in their well-being, helps them, and does exactly what he promises to do.

If the Harold & Kumar movies sound interesting to you, you might like the "Evil Bong" movies, which are reviewed here, at the Charles Band Collection. A third "Evil Bong" movie is currently under development and scheduled to start shooting this Fall.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tectonic Tuesday: Samantha Mumba

Proving that Prophets still walk among us, the Imam of imams Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi shared this divinely inspired reality with us mere mortals: "Many women who do not dress modestly [...] spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

And here's more proof that he's right.

Tenth Case Study: Samantha Mumba

Born in Dublin to an Irish mother and a father who immigrated to Ireland from Zambia, Samantha Mumba enjoyed tremendous success during the years of 2000-2002 as one of world's most popular female pop singers. With an album that went Platinum and several very popular videos where she danced and sang and otherwise put herself on display, she was certainly the cause of the Gujarat earthquake in January of 2001.

As her music career began to falter, Mumba turned to acting. She appeared in a number of Irish indie films, as well as 2002's big-budget sci-fi flick "The Time Machine."

In 2002, Mumba was voted one of the 100 Sexiest Women in the World by the readers of FHM, and the adultery that spread in society led directly to earthquakes in Iran, off the coast of the Peru, and in the United States in June of that year.

With her show business career in the doldrums during the latter half of the decade just gone by, and her activities mostly limited to reality shows on British and Irish television, Mumba's threat to the world has been minimal. However, she will be appearing in as many as three movies slated for release this year or next, including the supernatural action thriller "Cross" and the ghost movie "Loftus Hall". Only time will tell what happens then... but those who believe in the divinely inspired wisdom of Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi are fairly certain they know what the results will be. And they're buying earthquake insurance!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Steve Miller issues demands to American-born
Al-Qaeda spokesperson Adam Gadahn

My demands are presented below, but first are highlights of the latest video from the world's most famous zoophile, Adam Gadahn. It plays after a short ad.

Steve Miller's Demand to Adam Gahdan

Make a video where you shoot yourself in the head. Have your body returned to the United States of America and buried on or near the sheep farm where you committed your first rape. I promise to organize yearly trips for 72 Americans to come and piss on your grave after binging on pork-rinds and beer.

At-a-glance biography of Adam Gadahn

Adam Gadahn was raised on a sheep farm in California where he waged jihad on the virginity of ewes. He later moved to the Pakistan/Afgahnistan border where he could pursue his Muslim faith, sexual practices, and murderous psychotic impulses unfettered and with like-minded individuals as a member of the world's largest association of proud pedophiles, rapists, and zoophiles, Al-Qaeda.

Friday, June 18, 2010

'Star Odyssey' is an insane trip

Star Odyssey (1978)
Starring: Gianni Garko, Yanti Somer, Malisa Yongo, and Chris Avram
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

After an evil alien purchases Earth at an auction held by representatives of a far-flung, interstellar civilization, he heads for his new acquisition in his indestructable flying saucer, intent on capturing those rarest of sentient beings--homo sapiens--and selling them into slavery so he can get a return on his investment. Only a group of heroic misfits (genius scientists, psychics, and/or hot-looking chicks, in tight clothes all) can save the Earth from total enslavement.

I am sure that this is the movie that broke me. With "Star Odyssey", the residue of crap that's been building up in my brain over the past 15 years of watching and reviewing crappy movies finally reached critical mass and drove me completely over the edge. I'm not even certain if I'm actually typing this right now. For all I know, I'm standing naked on the corner of Rainer and Sunset, and a member of Renton PD's finest is about to come up to me and say, "You--naked, bearded, and disturbingly hairy fat man--are under arrest!"

If I'm not hallucinating, then why does the poster used to illustrate this article have both English and German writing on it? Why?!

Initially, there didn't seem to be anything amiss. I was watching the film with growing annoyance. It was clearly made on a budget of $1.95, and it was most likely a send-up of 1930s style sci-fi films with some fairly heavy-handed message bits about the evils of slavery and colonialism. It's an old and trite message in sci-fi, and it was being delivered particularly badly.

Then, suddenly, I was watching a scene that I MUST have seen at the beginning of the movie--it was the scene that established our bad guy and the fact that he was purchasing Earth so he could enslave the planet, sell everyone as slaves, and plunder the natural resources. Even more heavy-handed than the other delivery of the message--coming some 50 years late... but why was this scene nearly an hour into the film?

Then, suddenly, I was watching a flashback to an earlier scene in the film, the one where we're introduced to the dashing psychic con-man/adventurer Dirk Laramie (Garko) and his partner/girlfriend and his ex-girlfriend (Somer and Longo... I really don't know which chick played whom. The current bedmate is blonde, while the former one is a brunette; Somer was blond in the two other movies that used the same sets, costumes and minatures that appeared in this film, but was she the blond... can I be sure of anything?). But it's not a flashback... it's the establishing scene for a sequence from earlier in the film, and here they actually show us that Dirk and his ladyfriend are fleecing gamblers in a casino, not a cafeteria or a singles bar. But, this is coming completely unmotivated, right after our alien bad guy sets out for Earth... even if he arrived on Earth in the film's first scenes and are already scooping up slaves.

THEN, we cut to a scene of a pair of military officers discussing the fact that slaves are being carried off--which means we're not back to where the movie had been before these strange, unexplained and totally unnecessary flashback scenes occurred. And I have absolutely no ability to figure out what is happening where or when, even if i attempt to diagram it.

So... either someone REALLY scrambled the reels when this film was transferred to videotape--and what was actually the films first ten minutes ended up at the 2/3rd mark instead--and no one actually watched it when it was transferred to DVD and included in the "Nightmare Worlds" DVD boxed set.

Or I've lost my mind, and I'm not typing at all. I never watched the movie I think I watched. Could I really standing in downtown Mecca singing, "O Holy Night" at the top of my lungs.

I THINK this is the third of a string of low-budget Italian pictures using the same sets and actors--the other two being "War of the Planets" and "War of the Robots". However, I can't be sure that I didn't hallucinate the whole thing. Can someone please help me establish my grip on reality again?! Did someone REALLY use these costumes in two different moves?!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hercules conquers hearts in Atlantis

Hercules and the Captive Women (aka "Hercules Conquers Atlantis" and "Hercules and the Haunted Women") (1963)
Starring: Reg Park, Fay Spain, Luciano Marin, Laura Atlan, Salvatore Furnani, and Ettore Mani
Director: Vittorio Cottafavi
Steve's Rating: Six of Ten Stars

After the King of Thebes (Mani) receives a warning from the gods that a mystic doom is about to visited upon the city states of Greece, he travels to the distant land of Atlantis with his old friend Hercules (Park) and Hercules' son (Marin). Here, they discover the decadent and evil Queen Antenea (Spain) has created an army of supermen with which to conquer the world. She is motivated both for her own glory, but also for that of Uranus. Will our heroes stop her in time, or will Uranus be all in the end?

"Hercules and the Captive Women" is an Italian fantasy flick with all the cheesiness that implies, However, it also features to pretty cool sets, great costumes, and a fairly decent plot. It even features monsters and foes that won't make you giggle when Hercules and the other heroes fight them.

Hercules is actually a real character in this movie--he starts out wanting nothing more than to stay at home with his wife, Deinaria, and after he gets shanghaied by his son and the king into the mission to Atlantis, he initially refuses to help at all with amusing results. Later, as he believes his son to be dead, we see more depth in the character than I've seen in any other movie of this type.

Another aspect that makes this movie interesting is that there's less emphasis on muscle-men in skirts doing stupid strong-man acts than is typical and quite a bit of time spent of developing the civilization of Atlantis. I've always been keen on any films and stories that feature Atlantis, and this is one of the better ones I've encountered. The evil priests and spellcasters, the decadent queen so obsessed with power that she is willing to kill her own daughter (played by the very cute Laura Atlan), and the brave and virtuous heroes struggling against the tide of evil reminded me very much of my favorite Atlantis novel, "The Lost Continent."

I think fans of fantasy movies and fiction will find much to like about this film, assuming you can be patient with the goofier elements. Even if you can't, "Hercules and the Captive Women" features better battle scenes and a faster pace than most films of this kind--it is definitely one of the best "sword & sandal" films. Further, the 10-year-old boy who resides in all of us (even you women out there) will also get a kick out of the film, given it features lines like "This day is dedicated to Uranus" and "Uranus will rule the world!")

And for you true film snobs out there who might think this sounds interesting but need a conscience-soothing reason to check it out: If Roman Polanski has a favorite Hercules movie, I bet it's this one. See if you can figure out why from the content of this post.

To check out the classic novel "The Lost Continent," as well as the original writings where Atlantis was first invented, click here to visit The Fiction Archive at my website.

You might consider checking out "The Mistress of Atlantis," an undeservedly obscure movie that is not as wild as "Hercules and the Captive Women," but which is a fascinating early fantasy film nonetheless. Click here to read my review at Shades of Gray.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'War of the Robots' is an atrocity

War of the Robots (aka "Reactor") (1978)
Starring: Antonio Sabato, Yanti Somer, Mellisa Long, Aldo Canti, Jacques Herlin, Frank Seidlitz, and James R. Stuart
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

When a scientific genius (Herlin) and his luscious assistant (Long) are abducted by strange, golden-haired aliens, an experimental reactor is left running. Only the professor knows how to shut it down, but if it isn't shut down, it's going to explode. So Captain Boyd (Sabato) and the brave crew of the starship "Trissa" are dispatched to rescue him before Sirius Station is destroyed.

"War of the Robots" is an awful space opera that lifts elements from all sorts of sources ("Star Trek" and "Star Wars" come to mind, but since "Star Wars" itself is an hodge-podge of borrowed fantasy and sci-fi elements, it's hardly fair of accusing someone else of borrowing from it) and mixes them up in a plot that doesn't know when to quit. There were moments toward the end of the movie where I thought it was finally over... only to have another "threat" emerge for our heroes to fight off. If there ever was a case of a movie overstaying its welcome, it's "War of the Robots."

And this is on top of badly choreographed fight scenes, serious sub-standard acting, and overlong, tedious space battles (I can almost hear the producer in the editing room as they unfold: "I paid 250 lire and a Happy Meal for those models--and I'm spending a lot more on animators. I want every second of model footage on the screen. ALL of it!").

Speaking of 250 lire and a Happy Meal.... Even more damaging to the entertainment value of this film--other than for those who like to make mocking commentary as a film unfolds--is the fact that little cleverness the script contains is negated by the fact that the film's ideas overreach its tiny budget. The set requirements and costuming requirements and special effects needs of this film all demanded that a great deal more money be spent than was. If a decent amount of money HAD been available, we might have been treated to a humanoid robot menace a little more awe-inspiring than these guys:

(I suspect they were going for a "Nordic Alien" sort of vibe--based on one of the more-often described types of outer-space visitors who supposedly abduct and anally probe trailer park dwellers in the American southwest--but what they end up with look more like the members of a failed rock band named Lord Fauntleroy's Fanboys.)

In fact, this film was SO low-budget that many of the same sets, costumes, and spaceship models can be spotted in two other sci-fi films featuring the same actors and production staff; together with this film, they are what I have labeled "The Recycling Trilogy." So low were the budgets that they just brought back the same actors to wear the same costumes, so they didn't even have to pay for a seamstress to refit them.

"War of the Robots" is elevated slightly by a couple of clever plot-twists--which I will refrain from revealing; by the delightful Yanti Somer walking around in a uniform that's about one size too small; and some unintentionally comic elements such as the commander of the mighty alien armada being named General Gonad, it's not a movie I can recommend with good conscience to anyone but Osama bin Laden or others I wish the greatest possible suffering upon. (In fact, Somer and her ill-fitting uniform may well be the film's high points.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Al Williamson dead at 79

Illustrator Al Williamson passed away on June 13 after a long illness. He was one of my favorite illustrators on both the "Star Wars" and "Flash Gordon" strips, and I likewise loved his artwork on the "Agent X-9" comics.

Williamson's last published work was as the inker on Marvel Comics' woefully underappreciated "Spider-Girl" comic book series. (Speaking of which, a Williamson Spider-Girl illo and several other of his drawings make up this week's installment of "Picture Perfect Wednesday" at Shades of Gray. Click here to check them out.

Perez Hilton Could Be Thrown In Prison

I'm not usually one to support reporters of any stripe going to jail, but from what I know of and have seen from this Perez Hilton character, he seems like a mean-spirited prick who deserves whatever the law can throw at him.

As reported on Perez Hilton Could Get Up To 36 Years In Prison for distributing revealing photos of Miley Cyrus
He and anyone who goes after the children of celebrities, or goes out of his way to invade the privacy or be vicious towards celebrities on a personal level just because they happen to be in the public eye, hopefully also have a very special place in Hell reserved for them.

'Glen or Glenda: The Musical' coming soon?

Do you have any spare change under that couch cushion or in that car ashtray? Would you like to be part of musical theater and cinematic history? Then perhaps the show that writer/composer Michael Penny is trying to raise funds for will interest you.

Penny is hoping to stage "Glen and Glenda: The Musical."

Click here to visit Penny's pitch-page at There you can read a little bit about his ideas and the PBS-style "pledge rewards" you can get for your contribution to his project. He states that he is hoping to raise US$10,000 by August.

On the face of it, that sort of sounds like a set-up like the guys from "The Producers" might be trying to pull off, but I there might be a potentially good idea here. AT the very least, I'd love to see a version of "Glen or Glenda?" with a real soundtrack score. Further, as I said in my review of "Glen or Glenda?" there's something special about this flick... and maybe Penny's adaptation can bring it out more clearly.

Tectonic Tuesdays: Irish McCalla

The most holy Imam of imams Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi shared this divinely inspired reality with us mere mortals: "Many women who do not dress modestly [...] spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

That's powerful, inspired stuff, that is. You can read more about the grand message of Iggy (as his friends call him) and why I am devoted to making sure the world sees it by clicking here. Short version: Iggy opened my eyes to the wisdom of Allah and his Messengers... and the evil of women and their Dangerous Curves!

Here is more evidence to convince the non-believers that Iggy is a visionary, perhaps even a Prophet!

Ninth Case Study: Irish McCalla

Irish McCalla was a pin-up model who enjoyed a brief acting career during the 1950s. She moved from being a mild threat to the planet to being a serious danger when she starred as "Sheena: Queen of the Jungle" for 26 episodes on American television in 1955 and 1956. The year "Sheena: Queen of the Jungle" started airing across the United States, the place where it was filmed, California, was rocked by a major quake. Click here to see McCalla in her most earthshaking role as "Sheena: Queen of the Jungle".

McCalla retired from acting in the early 1960s to become an artist. acting career was brief and she retired from it shortly after "Sheena" ceased production to persue a career as a painter... but not before she helped cause the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck southwestern Alaska in 1958. That was the year she appeared in "She-Devils". While McCalla was, for her, relatively modest (she wore shorts and a white shirt with several top buttons undone) there were a bevy of other beauties in the picture in skimpy bikinis.

Although Irish McCalla passed away in 2002, she remains a threat to the planet. The entire "Sheena: Queen of the Jungle" series is available on DVD, for a very low price. She may still be inspiring adultery and causing earthquakes as you read these very words!

Monday, June 14, 2010

'War of the Planets' isn't worth a struggle

War of the Planets
(aka "Cosmo 2000: The Planet With No Name") (1977)

Starring: John Richardson and Yanti Somer
Director: Alfonso Brescia
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Captain Alex Hamilton (Richardson) and his brave starship crew are to the space outside the solar system to find the origin of that signal. They reach an unknow planet where a giant robot enslaved a whole population of humanoids by taking their psychic energies. The robot's got his eyes on the Earth, too...

"War of the Planets" is one of three low-budget Italian sci-fi films that are filmed on the same sets, utilizing the same props and featuring many of the same actors in virtually the same costumes. Despite this, they are not sequels nor related in any way other than the pragmatic need to squeeze as much out of every lire invested by recycling. I wonder if this makes these the Greenest sci-fi films ever?

Out of the three films, this is most coherent storywise, but that isn't saying much. The the script offers some minor sci-fi chills with its alien civilization dominated by a psychic supercomputer, the fact the evil computer looks like a giant slot machine and the only character aspects that aren't flat are the breasts of the women in tight shirts ends up placing this film deep within drab and mediocre territory.

If you are the kind of movie lover who hosts Bad Movie Parties where you and your guests poke fun at the action on screen as it unfolds, I think you'll derive a great deal of fun from this movie. Otherwise, the only attractive thing about is Yanti Somer (although she isn't as attractive here, as she is in "War of the Robots" where her clothes are much tighter).

I've seen that uses the same sets and cast, and I think it may be the best. Certainly, the plot is the most coherent of the bunch, and the action the most interesting. Still, it's a movie that will serve best if watched with smart-asses who are good at poking fun at what unfolds on the screen. (Yanti Somer is quite attractive to look at again... even if the tight uniform from "War of the Robots" is preferable to the oufit here.)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

War! What Is It Good For?
(At least two poorly done Italian sci-fi flicks....)

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this coming week, I'm presenting three movies that not only demonstrate how to stretch your pathetically low budgets even further, but that also are guarenteed to allow viewers a chance to experience the supernatural phenomena known as Deja Vu. In case you were raised by wolves (or educated in the Chicago Public School System), Deja Vu is a strange sensation that you know you've been somewhere or seen something that you are equally certain you've never seen before.

(In the case of these movies, you will have seen it before, as they feature the same actors on the same sets, but performing in three different films.)

Please join me! Two of the reviews are identified on that nifty DVD cover image above. Can you name the third? First person to correctly name the third film in a reply to this post, before I actually put up the review, will win a DVD from my huge stack of movies.

Friday, June 11, 2010

'Shoot or Be Shot' is comedic near-miss

Shoot or Be Shot (aka "Shooting Stars") (2002)
Starring: William Shatner, Harry Hamlin, Julianne Christie, and Scott Rinker
Director: J. Randall Argue
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

An escaped lunatic (Shatner) holds a film crew hostage to force them to make his screen play. Meanwhile, love blooms between the creatively lazy diretor (Rinker) and his leading lady who, to show she can do something other than low-budget crap, has taken on a new identity... and is an actress pretending to be a struggling actress (Christie).

"Shoot or Be Shot" is a fairly predictable and thoroughly unbelievable movie populated by stereotypes belonging to the bottom rung of Hollywood's film business--the low-budget outfits that have been the source of the vast majority of the film's reviewed on this very page. Despite the lack of surprises, the film offers up a large amount of laughs, and William Shatner is lots of fun as he cuts completely loose as a technical writer who snapped after writing one VCR instruction manual too many and who now has turned to screen writing. (It's even funnier that his character is probably the only one in the whole film who has any real talent.)

Speaking of talent, there seems to be a bare minimum of it coming into play in this film. The script has some great jokes and Shatner is riot... and these elements by themselves keep this film slipping below the high end of average. Most of the featured actors give weak performances, and the director was unable to keep the reality of the film he created intact by engaging in the sort of sloppiness that should have gone out with the 1970s and which indicates that J. Randall Argue was almsot as lazy as the fictional director in the film. Of course, it's possible that "Shoot or Be Shot" was trying to be self-ironic, but I doubt it, because nowhere else in the film is there a sense that it is. (I can't go into details without revealing the ending--although any attentive viewer guess it well before the filmmakers reach it--but suffice to say that the movie that supposdely results from the tribulations of the film crew isn't one that anyone could possibly have shot.)

With just a little more effort, this could have been a good movie instead of mediocre one.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Forgotten Comics: Destroyer Duck

One of the greatest writers to ever work in comic books was Steve Gerber. I will eventually be posting reviews of the bulk of his output for Marvel Comics here at companion blog Shades of Gray, but I will be covering some of his more recent contributions to the artform in this space.

I was torn between making the first Gerber review on this page one of his grossly underappreciated "Nevada" mini-series (arguably his last great comics work), his obscure (yet important) "Omega: The Unknown", or the wildly rebellious and anti-establishment and anti-corporate greed "Destroyer Duck." All three are Vintage Gerber, with strong doses of social commentary, rampant and hilarious absurdity and bone-chilling moments of terror (the latter being perhaps the most remarkable part about Gerber's output, because he has stated he didn't like doing horror and monster stories, yet his superhero tales often contain more horrific elements that those written by others who are expressly trying to scare their readers.

I settled on leading with "Destroyer Duck," because not only is it one of Gerber's greatest, darkest satirical series, but it was pencilled by the equally brilliant artist Jack Kirby and inked primarly by the monstrously talented Alfredo Alcala, but the series also featured a back-up strip, "The Star Child", a horror-tinged superhero tale that ranks among some of the best work from Jerry Seigel and Val Mayerik. Finally, it certainly it firmly belongs in my "Forgotten Comics" series, as it's one of Gerber's works that are unlikely to be reprinted, because the original films were destroyed during a flood of publisher Eclipse's offices and the original art pages are either likewise destroyed and/or scattered among who-knows how many collectors.

However, as I did a little fact-checking, I came upon a webpage that contains a article that was pretty much what I had already planned on writing... and which did it better than I probably would have. Click here to visit the article about Gerber's "Destroyer Duck" at Comics Should Be Good.

As you will read on that page, "Destroyer Duck" had its origins in an effort to raise funds to help Gerber in a creator's rights dispute against Marvel Comics involving Gerber's most famous creation, Howard the Duck. To say the references to the real-world players are thinly veiled is an understatement. However, like most of Gerber's work--and all good literature--"Destroyer Duck" is both a product of its time and relevant to this very day, because the roughly three decades that have gone by between the publication of "Destroyer Duck" and now have not seen the targets of Gerber's ire become any weaker, nor has the big picture in regards to the problems he was calling attention to gotten any smaller. With the exception of some Pacman-based humor, the bad actors of "Destroyer Duck" and the reasons for its hero's rampage against the corporate power structure could just as easily been written today. (Heck, the same excuse that one of the villains use is even still being used by Middle Eastern terrorists and their apologists/supporters to justify their monstrous actions. Like all of Gerber's best work, "Destroyer Duck" highlights more than anything the depressing fact that the more things change, the more they stay exactly as crappy as they've always been.

The eight issues of "Destroyer Duck" may not be easy to find, but they are worth tracking down, if you are interested in reading some of the best work Steve Gerber had to offer, as well as seeing some of the greatest late-career artwork by the legendary Jack Kirby.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

There's only one Wonder Woman for me!

According to WENN, Jennifer Love Hewitt is fighting hard to play the title character in the big-screen, been-in-preproduction-a-LONG-time version of "Wonder Woman".

"I think Warner Bros is getting ready to make Wonder Woman and I really want to play Wonder Woman," Hewitt is quoted as saying. "I am obsessed with Wonder Woman."

Other names that have come up in connection with the Wonder Woman role in recent years are Sandra Bullock (who, as much as I love her, is too old for the part), Eliza Dushku (just wrong), Megan Fox (too young), and Beyonce Knowles (too talentless, and only brought up because of the dumb notion that Everything Is Better With Black; save her for the big-screen version of "Isis").

Out of the actresses who have come up, only Hewitt is fit to fill Wonder Woman's red boots. Here's hoping someone at Warner Bros is going to wise up and hire her forthe part, no matter who ends up on the director's chair.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tectonic Tuesdays: Jessica Alba

Imam of imams Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi revealed to the world in April of 2010: "Many women who do not dress modestly [...] spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

Continuing our expository series proving him right, we offer this latest supporting evidence.

Eighth Case Study: Jessica Alba

Jessica Alba started endangering the Earth by putting her body on display while cavorting with sea-creatures in the television series "The New Adventures of Flipper." In 1997, at the age of 16, she caused the Qaen earthquake in the northern province of Iran.

As she grew older, the threat she posed grew in proportion, and when she starred in the sci-fi/action television series "Dark Angel"--habitually appearing in tight pants and tighter shirts--she triggered a major earthquake 75 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska, cracking roads and crumbling support mechanisms for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in 2002; and rocked most of Asia with a massive quake right after Christmas in 2006.

However, it was in 2005 that Jessica Alba might well have destroyed the entire planet. That was the year she played a writhing, grinding exotic dancer that inflamed the passions of men everywhere and caused who-knows how much adultry in society (as Nancy Callahan in "Sin City"); appeared in a form-hugging blue jumpsuit that left little to the imagination (as Sue Storm in the "Fantastic Four"); and ran about in tiny swimsuits that left nothing to the imagination (as Sam in "Into the Blue"). The result was predictable--if you accept the inspired vision of Imam Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi--and in October of that year, the Pakistani city of Muzaffarabad was almost completely destroyed and 80,000 people lost their lives.

Of course, Jessica Alba's destructive powers were at their most naked in "The Love Guru", a film so awful that it's unclear if the earthquake that struck Japan in June of 2008 was caused by the wanton dance she performed in the film's final moments, or whether it was God punishing the world for the very creation of that movie. (You can read a review of it by clicking here to visit Movies to Die Before Seeing.)

And all because of the immodesty of Jessica Alba.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Jason Belmer Saga

As I continue gathering my reviews and commentaries onto the Blogger blogs that make up Cinema Steve, I occasionally come across "Golden Oldies," like the tale of Jason Belmer, a guy so bright he tried to escape police in a car that was up on blocks.

Suspect Tries to Flee in 'Lifted' Car

October 4, 2004 04:32 PM EDT

PITTSFIELD, Maine - A drug suspect who eluded capture in Maine and Colorado was captured Monday when he hopped into a car, cranked the engine and went nowhere because the wheels were lifted off the ground for repairs.

Jason Belmer, who is accused of burying cocaine in his grandmother's yard, was caught trying to steal the car, Police Chief Steven Emery said.

"He jumped into the car and started it up and tried to drive away. His big downfall was they had been working on it and it was on jacks," Emery said.

Belmer, 25, had been on the lam since running into the woods after 8 pounds of cocaine, with an estimated street value of $380,000, was seized Aug. 19 from his grandmother's property in Corinna.

A Colorado State Patrol trooper stopped a car in which Belmer was a passenger for speeding on Interstate 70 in eastern Colorado in early September. Belmer eluded capture by running into a cornfield. Authorities here were tipped that he had returned to Maine.

The Jason Belmer saga was one of the more popular ones in the "Jailbird Parade" section of a messageboard I ran for a few years. We even had his girlfriend enter herself into the Jailbird Pagent with a string of replies. You can read the original posts here, if you like.

The main (and Main, for that matter) update to the story was this, posted in January of 2005...

Jason Belmer gets 13-year sentence

BANGOR (AP) - A Corinna man has been handed a 13-year prison sentence under a plea agreement that followed his arrest in what police described as one of Maine's largest cocaine seizures.

The 25-year-old Jason Belmer was sentenced last month to 13 years in prison after waiving indictment and pleading guilty to aggravated trafficking in cocaine, criminal restraint, burglary to a motor vehicle and refusing to submit to arrest.

The woman with whom he fled the state was sentenced earlier to time served. Michelle Carmack, 27, of Corinna was sentenced on Nov. 8 to 45 days in jail on charges of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and hindering apprehension.

Carmack and Belmer were stopped on Sept. 4 for speeding on Interstate 70 in Burlington, Colo., a few miles over the Kansas border. Carmack was arrested but Belmer disappeared by running into a cornfield.

Belmer could have received up to 30 years in prison for aggravated trafficking in cocaine if the case went to trial and he were found guilty.

Belmer's 64-year-old grandmother, who owns the property in Corinna where the cocaine was found, has also been charged in the case.

(Michelle Carmack violated the conditions of her parole and was tossed back in the clink during the winter of 2005. She served nine months.)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Superior adaptation of classic romance

Jane Austin's Persuasion (2007)
Starring: Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones
Director: Adrian Shergold
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

As a young woman, Anne Elliot (Hawkins) rejects a marriage proposal from Wentworth, a penniless Army officer (Penry-Jones), but as time passes she discovers that he is her true love. When he re-enters her life nearly a decade later, will she be able to correct the biggest mistake of her life and find happiness?

"Jane Austin's Persuasion" is a fabulous adaptation of one of the great romantic tales of the English language. Featuring a great cast (led by unconventional beauty Sally Hawkins) each is talented enough to make the 18th century dialogue sound perfectly natural and commonplace. Hawkins is particularly excellent, able to convey complex and shifting emotions through nothing but facial expressions.

This is another excellent British television production that in addition to the excellent cast features great costumes, excellent camerawork and lighting, and a perfect musical score. The story moves swiftly and always carries a sense of immediacy and passion... and high romance. It's a film that touched the heart of even a hardened cynic like me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The last great Catwoman caper?

Catwoman: Selina's Big Score (DC Comics, 2005)
Writer and Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

I loved the Catwoman comic book as it was in the 1990s... Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) was a super-thief and her adventures, mostly, were heist/caper-tales. As the new millenium dawned, that aspect of the series gave way to grittiness and "defender of the down-trodden"-type stories, starting with Selina being tossed in the clink and almost driven mad by Harley Quinn.

Well, I stopped reading "Catwoman" (returning briefly to sample the title when a favorite artist of mine was doing a brief turn on the book... but the stories were still not to my liking), and it wasn't until recently that a browsing trip to a rarely-visited comic shop saw "Selina's Big Score" catch my eye.

In "Selina's Big Score", Selina Kyle returns to Gotham City to rob a massive shipment of mob drug money, seed capital that will allow her a fresh start. She assembles a team of top-notch thieves--including her old mentor, Stark--concocts the perfect break-in and and an even better get-away. It's the perfect plan, and nothing can go wrong. Except, of course, it does... with deadly results.

"Selina's Big Score" is one of the best Catwoman adventures ever published, and it is definately worthy of the graphic novel format. The story Cooke weaves is both dramatic and funny, partly poking fun at the tropes of noir and heist tales (such as a section narrated by Slam Bradley, a private detective who enters onto the scene as complication to Selina's well-made plans), but also deploying them with great skill and using them to their fullest possible effect. The character of Stark is also an interesting one, a man who lives and dies an enigma to all. (There is last possible twist to Stark's character that bothers me, and it might be that I'm reading too much into a single panel because of waaay too much knowledge of Batman comics from the 80s and 90s. However, since I'm unclear what Cooke was intending, I won't hold it against him or the book.)

Cooke's line-work reminds me a little of Alex Toth--it's more cartoony, but it has a similar quality to it... and he's a perfect fit for this kind of story. His dialogue could use a bit of work, as a couple characters use the same unusual phrasings (and I think it's the writer shining through, and not spending enough time seperating the characters), but in general he does a good job. The exchanges between Selina and Stark are particularly well-written.

"Selina's Big Score" is a great graphic novel. If you enjoy well-done comic books, if you enjoy a great heist tale, or if you're just looking for a damn good read, then you need to get a copy of it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cinematic Wisdom for the Ages

In this age of economic hardship, these are words to live by:

If you have to go around feeling sorry for yourself, at least put your best pants on.

(These immortal words were spoken by Honor Blackman in "The Glass Cage", a messy little mystery film from Hammer Studios with a script by Richard Landau. Click here to read my review at Shades of Gray.)

Happy birthday, Spirit!

Today, it's seventy years since one of the most influential comic book creations first saw print--Will Eisner's "The Spirit." Through these weekly tales, Eisner (along with a handful of collaborators) created much of the visual vocabulary that we take for granted in comics today, whether they're from America, France, Japan, or some place in Africa no one's ever heard of.

Pappy (of Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine) has put together a post marking this milestone that's far better than anything I was going to do... which was something not much different than the paragraph above. He presents the three different versions of the Spirit origin tale that Eisner created. They are interesting both for the way they tell the same tale in three different fashions, but also in the way they show how Eisner's artistic and storytelling styles changed between 1940 and 1966.

Click here to visit Pappy's place and see the thrice-told tale of how Denny Colt came to be The Spirit.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tectonic Tuesdays: Jaime Pressly

In April of 2010, Iranian holy man Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi revealed the following divinely inspired fact to the world: "Many women who do not dress modestly [...] spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

Unbelievers scoff and mock this revelation from Allah. However, some recognize Slammy (as he is known to his friends) as something just shy of the Prophet Mohammed (may peas be upon him), and we are devoted to proving him right. This week's evidence:

Seventh Case Study: Jaime Pressly

Gymnast turned model-and-actress Jaime Pressly has been endangering the world from a young age. At the age of 15, she was emancipated from her parents, and has been appearing in public in very little clothing since even before then. Aside from appearing in photo layouts for a variety of men's magazines, she usually appears in little or no clothing in film.

In 2002, Pressly flaunted herself in "Demon Island" and triggered earthquakes along the Russia/China border, in the Fiji islands, and in Alaska.

In 2005, Pressly appeared in "Death to the Supermodels," a film that featured half a dozen immodest women in virtually no clothes at all. It's not surprising that the Kashmir region of Pakistan was struck by a massive earthquake. The following year, Pressly was featured with even more scantily clad women in "DOA: Dead on Arrival," supposedly a video game adaptation/martial arts movie, but it was really just an excuse to show nubile young women in bikinis so they would bring destruction to the world! The result was an earthquake off the Hawaii islands, one that was intensified by the concentration of immodest women always found there anyway.

In recent years, Pressly has been a little less of a threat to the world, as she has been almost dressed in her ongoing role in the television series "My Name is Earl." However, she has three movies in production at the moment--including "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure"--so she may re-emerge as a threat shortly. Who knows what calamity the immodesty of Jaime Pressly may cause in the future?

Lots of possibilities wasted by lack of focus

Death to the Supermodels (2005)
Starring: Jaime Pressly, Brooke Burns, Matt Winston, Diane Delano, and Kimberly Davies
Director: Joel Silverman
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

When Tiffany (Pressly) the ever-perky and supermodel-wannabe editor of "Merle Magazine" (favorite periodical of transvestites and overweight housewives throughout America) is given the green-light by her boss (Delano) to arrange the ultimate swimsuit issue featuring the world's top five supermodels and the worlds greatest pair of fashion photographers, it's like her fondest dreams have come to life. However, when they all arrive on the isolated tropical island for the shoot, the dream starts to crumble, no matter how hard Tiffany tries to hang onto it. The models are simply too dumb and too bitchy to be around, the photographers too tempremental... and, to add insult to injury, a mysterious killer starts whacking the models one by one, Will Tiffany die with her dream?

"Death to the Supermodels" is bizarre little comedy that keeps zig-zagging back and forth across the middle ground between a dark comedy and a zany bit of nuttiness in the vein of a Zucker/Abrams/Zucker film. Unfortunately, the odd approach does not make for a solid comedy. The nutty characters of the supermodels, the "asexual" photographers, and the never-say-die optimism of Tiffany are humorous enough to keep the viewer watching, but the material the actors have to work with just isn't focused enough to make the movie truly worthwhile. (The actors all do fine jobs, by the way. Everyone's performance are right for this kind of comedy--with Pressly leading the pack at her cartoon-character-come-to-life best).

This is one of those movies that could have been so much better if the filmmakers had spent a little more time defining the type of comedy they wanted to make. It proves that comedies remain among the hardest kind of movies to make. It might be worth catching if it comes around on late-night cable, but it's not worth going out of your way for.