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

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A better-than-expected film from The Asylum

Age of the Hobbits (aka "Lord of the Elves" and "Clash of the Empires") (2012)
Starring: Christopher Judge, Bai Ling, Srogn, Khom Lyly, and Sun Korng
Director: Joseph J. Lawson
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

In Indonesia, 12,000 years ago a final battle between civilizations erupts when Tek Tek  (Srogn) of the peaceful, dimuniative  Tree People finds aid among the honorable human hunters (Ling and Judge) in his quest to rescue his people from the bloodthirsty, dinosaur-riding Rock Men.


The low-budget exploitation outfit The Asylum has been a source of amusement for me for the past 10-15 years. Invariably, when there's a big budget film about to come out, they have a direct-to-DVD low budget film with a similar title in the hopes of capitalizing on the bigger effort. More often than not, the films from The Asylum barely have a thematic similarity to the ones their titles copycat... and if they do, those themes are found within a fun-house mirror distortion of the themes and subject matter. With "Age of the Hobbits", The Asylum not only tries to evoke "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", but the DVD case proudly proclaims that it's an "epic adventure in the tradition of 'Clash of the Titans' and '300'." The truth, however, is that the film has more in common with "Fire Monsters vs. the Son of Hercules" and "Hercules Conquers Atlantis" than any of the films The Asylum is trying to sop reputation and sales figures off.

With that in mind, the only true statement in the quote from the DVD cover is that the film is an epic. Moreso than most low-budget fantasy films, the writers and director on this picture paid very close attention to the story structure and pacing that gives epic tales their epic feel. The heroes must not only fight their way through hoards of bad guys and monsters, but they go through emotional and spiritual growth, and by the end of the story the veiwer is left with the sense that we have just experienced a tale that was transformative on every level. Although the low budget and two-week shooting schedule is evident in many ways--some of the fight scenes feel under-rehearsed and the lack of full-sized prop dinosaurs mean that when live actors are supposedly riding or touching them, all we get are close-ups of their  heads and shoulders--the skill with which the film was shot and the performances of the actors almost makes up for those shortcomings.



The film's "name" leads, Christopher Judge and Bai Ling, are both excellent. Judge in particular shows that he deserves to be far better known than he is, as he repeatedly demonstrates talent that's been honed over 20 years of television acting that he knows how to say more with a softening or hardening of a facial expression than ten lines of dialogue could ever convey. And Ling is like a "Frazetta Girl" that has been brought to life--not only does she have the facial structure for it, but she strikes Frazetta-like poses repeatedly, even while beating and stabbing at enemies with a spear.
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Also noteworthy are some of the dwarves who are playing the hobbits, with Srong (or Choeung, depending on the source) being particularly excellent. Like Judge, he repeatedly conveys more with small changes in facial expressions or posture than dialogue could do, and he's almost as charismatic as the big-name stars. It's a shame that whoever put together the IMDB listings for the film couldn't be bothered mentioning him or any other of the Cambodian actors.




Basically, if you like the old-style fantasy films or cavemen vs. dinosaur flicks (like "One Million Years B.C.", "Hercules in the Underworld" or the two previously mentioned sword-and-sandal epics), I think you'll have fun with this picture. But if you're expecting "300", you're going to be disappointed. Me, I was pleasantly surprised.



Note: The producers of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" sued The Asylum over the use of "hobbit" in the film's title. A judge issued an injunction against distributing the film, and a court hearing is scheduled for early January. A friend of mine has a copy of the DVD as it was originally intended to be distributed (with the "Age of the Hobbits" cover art. He kindly lent me his copy so I could write this review. The link above presently goes to a streamed, view-on-demand version of the film. It remains to be seen what the film will ultimately be widely released as on DVD.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Jack Klugman dead at 90

I loved him in "Quincy,M.E.", the pre-cursor to  "CSI" and all the other science-based crime-dramas. Click to read more at the L.A. Times.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas is Coming: Santa is a Gangsta!

Nice Peter with a Christmas rap that will amuse Christmas haters... and quite possibly Christmas lovers, too!




Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why the world didn't end yesterday....


It's possible the Doctor saved us.

It's more likely the Mayan calendar--supposed foreteller of doooooom--is basically no different than the one you have hanging in your kitchen.

Here are some really smart people explaining why we're all still here. (Although as I lost this, it's still 12/21/2012 on some parts of the planet, so I may be joining the NASA scoff-fest too soon.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas is Coming: He's Santa and He Knows It!

Here's a little spoof that should appeal equally to Christmas lovers and Christmas haters.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas is Coming: In Dulci Jublio

Let's add a little Metal to your Christmas with this Christmas homage to Mike Oldfield and the spectacular version he did of "In Dulci Jublio."




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas is Coming: Jack Black and Jason Segal

Did you see the video from yesterday? Well, here's a modern version.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas is Coming: Bing Crosby and David Bowie

A couple of great singers, performing "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Peace on Earth" in this clip from a 1977 Christmas TV special.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas is Coming: What Child Is This?

This version of "What Child Is This" is performed by popular Christian rock band MercyMe, and the visuals consist of famous paintings of the Nativity Scene.



I first encountered the goofier side of MercyMe and had no idea that they were a Christian band. Click here to see some of their very funny "unplugged" covers of famous pop and rock songs over at the NUELOW Games blog.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas is Coming: Nice Peter's Holiday Song

Nice Peter is one of the most consistently funny YouTube music video makers. Here's one of his holiday offerings.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas is Coming: The Little Drummer Boy

"The Little Drummer Boy" gets the metal ballad treatment from Whiteheart, with little drummer boy pictures and Bible quotes as the visuals.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas is Coming: In Dulci Jublio

A brilliant video for a brilliant tune arranged by and featuring the brilliant Mike Oldfield!

It would not be Christmas without this song... so here it is on 12/12/12 (posted at 12:12)!



(This might also be one of the days where the world is supposed to end according to the Wise Ancient Mayans, or at least according to the morons who think they understand calendars, both as made by the Wise Ancient Mayas and modern-day printers. But... in case they're right: Merry Almost Christmas! Aren't you glad you're going out humming at great tune?)


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Very James Bond Christmas

If the ever made a James Bond Christmas film, it would probably open something like this....

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas is Coming: Rucka Rucka Ali

Here's a little something from Rucka Rucka Ali for all those out there who hate Christmas. (BTW, if you with no sense of irony or understanding of sarcasm, you don't want to hear this song or watch the clip.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas is Coming: The Little Drummer Boy

An edgy version of my most favorite Christmas song of all, "The Little Drummer Boy", by Sean Quigley. There really isn't a genre of music that Christmas songs don't work for.



"The Little Drummer Boy" (originally known as "Carol of the Drum") is a popular Christmas song written by the American classical music composer and teacher Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. Click here to read more on the history of this song at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas is Coming: What Child Is This?

A very cool, intense rock version of "What Child Is This" sung by Elle Zamudio, with Mario Vasquez on guitars.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas is Coming: Silent Night and More!

The great Mike Oldfield starts off a Christmas medley that features wonderful renditions of "Silent Night," "The Little Drummer Boy," and more... all played on guitars and bagpipes (with a few keyboards and drums thrown in for good measure).




Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas is Coming: O Holy Night

"O Holy Night" sung by Josh Groben with clips from "The Nativity" serving as the visuals.



Enjoy the season, everyone. May it be a happy one for you!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Self Control: A Pop Song of Horror

We all probably have several songs that bring to mind our childhood and/or teenage years. For me, one of those songs is "Self Control." It is a great pop song from the mid-1980s that fed my imagination. It's even done so as recently as 12 or so years ago, as it helped spark the idea for a major alien race in my "Star Wars" RPG campaign, as well as shaping the personalities of a couple of key NPCs that belong to it.

When I was a kid, I thought this song was spooky. As an adult, I still find it so... why it's never been used as the theme in a horror movie, I'll never know.

Laura Branigan

And the video for the Laura Branigan version is like a little horror movie, so it's a perfect match to the song.



Here's a less creepy modern (from 2011) cover by the Danish outfit, ironically, named Infernal. However, as the video progresses, the horror aspect of the song fully asserts itself. It's nice to see that even though they took a dance tune with spooky undertones and made it even more up-tempo, they paid attention to the details. That's a rate thing, I think.




And here's the version recorded by Raf, the song's co-writer. It was a hit all across Europe in 1984, at the same time that Branigan's version was enjoying an even greater level of popularity. If memory serves, this was actually the first version I encountered. It's not as atmospheric as Branigan's version--and it feels more like the "creatures of the night" in the song are just party-goers and clubbers rather than mysterious monsters--but it was certainly deserving of the hit status it enjoyed.




Here's a version by Sunday Girl. It tries to take the horror aspects of the song and bring them to the forefront. The video succeeds. The song itself? Not so much.


'The Fourth Kind' is kind of a waste

The Fourth Kind (2009)
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Elias Koteas and Will Patton
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

After the strange death of her husband, Nome-based psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler (Jovovich) vows to carry on his work, investigating sleep disorders. She discovers that the root cause is alien abductions, only to be targeted by the aliens herself. Or is she being targeted?


"The Fourth Kind" is a different sort of hoax movie than "The Blair Witch Project" or "Paranormal Activity." While it lays claim to being just as real, it takes a "America's Most Wanted" or "Unsolved Mysteries" approach, mixing re-actments with supposedly real video footage and audio tapes. They also decide to use a split-screen approach in many cases, trying to bolster their claim of reality by placing the reenactments side-by-side and even merged with the "documentary footage and recordings."

Of course, it's all a bunch of hooey. Just like no student filmmakers vanished in the forest and there is no demon-possessed Katie wandering the streets of San Diego, there is no Abigail Tyler and the people of Nome aren't disappearing because of alien abductions; they're disappearing because drunkenness and harsh winters don't mix (or so says the FBI).

But that doesn't mean the notion of space aliens preying on Alaskans isn't a good idea for a hoax movie. If it is, though, it didn't translate into this film. Writer/director Olatunde Osunsanmi spends too much time showing off his cleverness with split-screens and sharing his apparent love with areal shots of Alaska and overlong establishing shots to make the movie scary or even interesting. It moves too slowly to ever be truly exciting, and the characters are too drab for it to be scary, because we never really get invested in them. The one truly scary moment in the film is a BOO-Gatcha! moment that doesn't come close to making up for the boring build-up. Not even the secret surrounding the death of Tyler's husband turns out to be all that interesting. (Although it does make you wonder why stronger action wasn't taken against Tyler sooner.)

Ultimately, this is a forgettable film that is badly put together. The most remarkable thing about it is Jovovich's greener-than-green eyes.

Christmas is Coming: What Child is This... Hava Nagila?

Christmas is fast approaching. From now, until the 25th, I'll be posting music videos featuring nice Christmas song to help you get in the proper spirit! (I'll even throw in a clip or two for those out there who hate Christmas... it is the season for giving after all. Even to misanthropes, fanatical atheists, and the closted homos of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.)

I'm kicking things off with a little something that combines things everyone should love--Christmas, kittens, and cute dogs!



This is also the first of several renditions of "What Child Is This?" that will be appearing here this month.

"What Child Is This?" is a Christmas carol written in 1865. At the age of twenty-nine, English writer William Chatterton Dix was struck with a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bedrest for several months, during which he went into a deep depression. Yet out of his near-death experience, Dix wrote many hymns, including "What Child is This?", later set to the traditional English tune "Greensleeves." (For more information, visit Wikipedia by clicking here.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day of the Turkey: Community College

It's Thanksgiving Day here in the United States... and at Cinema Steve, we celebrate with turkeys, just like everyone else. (It's just that these are turkeys that may not be worth giving thanks for..)

Community College (2012)
Starring: Jordan McSorley, Tim Dean, Jon Dean, Tommy Avallone, Brian Hagan, and Mike Hadfield
Director: Tommy Avallone
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

 Four friends (Avallone, Dean, Dean, and McSorley), drunken slackers who are eternal students at their local community college, decide to pull themselves together and graduate so they can get enough money to buy their favorite bar so it doesn't close.


 "Community College" is one of those low-budget comedies that will keep you watching because the cast is so enthusiastic about what they're doing and because there are just enough jokes that work you keep thinking the film is on the verge of coming together and turning out for the better. But, as is usually the case, you will, when the end credits roll, find that your hope was in vain.

The biggest disappointment with "Community College", though, is that I have the sense it could have been a much better film if parts of it hadn't felt as if it was created by someone as lazy as its heroes. There is an inconsistency in tone throughout the movie, as it keeps flipping back and forth between a semi-realistic comedy (ala "Back to School") and bizarre comedy (ala "Animal House" or even "Airplane"); the first time it happens, you think one of the characters is hallucinating... but no--there really is a guy in bar dressed like an octopus.

Further, there are numerous plot-threads and joke set-ups that are either left under-developed or so badly exploited that you wish writer/director/co-star Tommy Avallone hadn't bothered. The worst of these manifests itself in the much-vaunted bowling ability of Jonny-300, as when we finally get to the point where he goes bowling, there isn't even a real shot of him doing so. In fact, the only jokes/plot elements that felt fully realized in the film was the strange environment of the friends' favorite bar, and the rivalry that develops between them and a little girl and her father over lemonade stands. Everything else has a half-assed, half-baked feel to it.

Near as I can tell, "Community College" has had a six-year journey from its filming (in 2006), through screenings at festivals and direct DVD sales by the producers (around 2009), until it was finally picked up and released by distributor Chemical Burn in the summer of 2012 -- a step that may have been prompted by the critically acclaimed comedy series "Community."

"Community College" isn't a total loss. If you are desperate for entertainment, there are worse ways you could spend your time. Also, the Chemical Burn DVD is crammed with bonus features, such as music videos and some seriously twisted cartoons which you may find more worthwhile than the main feature. As such, while the main feature may only rate Three Stars, the overall package gets a Six for bonus features that are quite extravagant when compared to what is offered on most discs.

Note: This review was based on a preview DVD provided by the distributor, Chemical Burn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bringing ancient history to life (sort of)

Caesar the Conqueror (1962)
Starring: Cameron Mitchell, Rik Battagalia, Raffaella Carra, Ivo Payer, and Dominique Wilms
Director: Tanio Boccia
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

In 54 BC, Julius Caesar defied the will of the Roman Senate and led his army against Gallic rebels in a winner-takes-all approach to once and for all solidify Roman power over Europe. Standing in his way are forces led by Vercingetorix (Battagalia), a barbarian chieftain Caesar once showed mercy to, and Queen Astrid (Carra) of the Gauls... and if he fails, it will mean more than just the lives of him and his soldiers.


The opening credits of this film proclaim that it is based on Caesar's writings (specifically Book VII of "The Gallic War"), but it is based loosely on them. History is dominant at the film's beginning and kinda-sorta makes a reappearance during its third act, and the characters are mostly based upon historical figures, but the bulk of the story, with its evil queen and her lusty barbarian warriors, has more in common with your run-of-the-mill Maciste or Sword and Sandals film than the history of Caeasar's campaigns against the Gauls.

That said, "Caesar the Conqueror" is actually more entertaining than most Maciste/Sword and Sandal "epics." The director at the helm spent his entire career making movies like this, and this is perhaps one of his better efforts. The presence of historical figures also helps the film along, because I'm not certain it is even possible to make a boring movie that has Caesar as a major figure, as his coldblooded politicking married with his warrior's honor makes him both a hero and a villain in the story, all depending on what he is trying to accomplish at that time.

That's not to say this film is perfect. There are some absolutely miserable stretches where we have to sit through under-rehearsed and under-budgeted battle scenes and performances so bland by some of the supporting cast that we desperately wish for Mitchell's Caesar to  come strutting back onto the screen, evenif just to tell us what he had for lunch that day. Another misstep that the filmmakers made was to have Caesar refer to himself in the third person whenever he is speaking of himself, retaining the stylistic flourish that the general used when he wrote his accounts of his battles. It makes Caesar seem a little comical at times when he shouldn't be... and I don't know that there's any historical evidence to support that Caesar actually did that constantly... Asterix and Obelix adventures aside.

"Caesar the Conqueror" is included in several DVD multi-packs, and I think it's a worthy addition to them all if you like the genre. I just don't think you'd be doing yourself any favors if you tried to watch it instead of reading actual books if you're doing a paper for school.

(If this sort of fictionalized history is something you enjoy, you might also be interested in "Oriental Stories, Vol. 1", a collection of novelettes by Robert E. Howard that I have edited. Click here for details.)



Friday, November 9, 2012

A two-part Ninja Epic!

Epic Lloyd and Ask-a-Ninja team up with Sam Macaroni for the most epic Ninja video ever!

Part One:


Part Two:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

'Nacho Mountain' is an underdeveloped comedy

Nacho Mountain (2009)
Starring: Jay Larson, Kevin Interdonato, and John Charles Hunt
Director: Mitch Csanadi
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

When Keefer (Larson) is fired from his job and catches his girlfriend cheating on him with a transvestite, his best friend Meegosh (Interdonato) suggests that he uses his gift for consuming mass amounts of food to make a living. They set up an underground eating competition--Food Wars--and soon every big eater in the area is gunning for the champ. Including born-again health food nut Mayor Fingstahl (Hunt), whom Keefer must face in the do-or-die challenge of Nacho Mountain!



"Nacho Mountain" is a throwback to the 1980s and early 1990s to the sort of comedies that you could find on USA Up All Night and as every third release in the video store. It's raunchy, silly, and turn-off-your-brain dumb. It was actually just the sort of comedy I was hoping for when it showed up in my mailbox recently.

Unfortunately, just like the majority of those comedies from the 1980s, "Nacho Mountain" cannot be described as very good.

Basically, this is a sort-of "Extreme Fighting" parody infused with as many bodily function jokes as possible. It starts strong with Keefer's hilarious dismissal from his job, but aside from the isolated gag, the film never quite gets that funny again. The main flaw is with the weak script and flabby editing. Actually, I hope that aside from the eating competition scenes--which are generally very funny--that most of the scenes of the scenes were ad-libbed from loose a loose outline, because if they weren't, then this was a script that needed a second draft before shooting started. Too many of the jokes have kernels of something very funny buried within too much babble, crudeness, or literal bathroom humor. Examples that stand out as scenes that could have been very funny but just drag on is the one where Meegosh hits on a deaf girl at a bar, the one where Mayor Fingstahl and his cop henchman are in a sauna, and the one where Meegosh and Keefer are chatting while taking dumps in a public restroom. All of these had lots of potential, but they were in dire need of refining and condensing.

I also think that if a little more effort had been put into the script, the "Footloose"-style subplot lurking beneath the surface would have been  more fully developed to great benefit. There was also potential with Keefer's ex-girlfriend and her transvestite lover that was left unrealized.

As for the cast, stand-up comedian Jay Larson gives the standout performance in the film, and his supported nicely by Kevin Interdonato. I think if they have been working within a tighter script, they would both have been excellent, and I would be raving about this film instead of shrugging my shoulders with disappointment. Larson is a talented actor, and I hope to see him again in something better.

"Nacho Mountain" may be a movie worth checking out if you looked forward to "USA Up All Night" back in the day, or if you are having a seriously bad day and can do with a little cheering up--it is silly and stupid enough that it will brighten your mood if you have an appreciation for low-brow humor. I also think it deserves consideration for its outrageous central concept. It just isn't the movie it could have been.

Note: This review was based on a screening copy given to me by distributor Chemical Burn.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pulling the plug

In the unlikely event that there's anyone out there aside from myself that might notice, I'm pulling the plug on Nine Days of the Ninja. My heart isn't in it--or in really much of anything at the moment.

There are some pre-programmed posts with videos that will be showing up, but no original reviews or art gallery posts.




Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween: The Kings of Halloween



It's a rap tune, yo. Chillin before we be illin from eatin' too much candeeee, beeiaaach.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween: Kitties

While Terror Titans is the home to the horror short films all this month, this one is weird enough (and cute enough) that it belongs here, despite the presence of a zombie, a zombie hunter, and... someone else.

Directed by Greg Hanks


Pentatonix and 'Somebody That I Used to Know.'

From the Covers That Are Better Than the Original Performance Department:


The members of Pentatonix.

Friday, October 12, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween: It's a Dead Man's Party!

Whether you came of age during the 1980s, as I did, or you are of a later or even earlier generation, I doubt you will disagree there's a more rousing Halloween Anthem than Danny Elfman's "Dead Man's Party."

This post features a couple versions from the original performers, as well as some of the best covers floating around YouTube.

I'll kick things off with the ultimate version of the song--the extended remix featured on the "Best of Boingo". It's perhaps the greatest expression of that uniquely dark yet can't-help-but-dance style that was the hallmark of the best Oingo-Boingo songs.




Here's the video for the original song, as well as the original song. It's a little slower and a little less elaborate in the sonic layers and busiwork... but still cool beyond cool. (There is one more version that you'll commonly hear that falls in between the two I feature here, both in style and length.)





Here's a version of the song by The Last Dance that emphasizes the dark and horrific aspect of the song, but which is almost as amazingly cool as the original.





And, finally, Waltham brings us a metal variant that leans in a more playful direction than The Last Dance version. They make the song their own, but they don't quite measure up to the original.

Monday, October 8, 2012

My feet are not long fellows.

Lester Smith of Popcorn Press is putting together another Halloween poetry and short-short fiction anthology--this one is titled Cthulhu Haiku & Other Mythos Madness.

Since I am in a poetic mood at the moment--I am putting the finishing touches on a little collection of Robert E. Howard poems for release by NUELOW Games--I decided to try my hand as some verse.

I just submitted the best two of a dozen little poems I've written over the past few days, and I thought I'd share one of the ones I didn't feel worth submitting.




HE RETURNS
The Black Pharaoh walks
the trackless sands of Egypt.
Dread fills sleeping minds.





If you can do better than that, you should consider sending Lester a poem or two. Submissions are open through 10/13/2012. For details about the project (and links to the Kickstarter page that goes with it), click here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why do you make me suffer, oh Lord?!

I love McRib sammiches! They are the only thing I get from McDonald's on a regular basis... which means that I am only a regular customer of McDonald's for that all-too-brief period each year when their heavenly McRib sammich is available for purchase and consumption.


But this year, there will be no October/November McRib Runs for me. Because McDonald's isn't going to offer the McRib UNTIL LATE DECEMBER!

Why, God, do you make me suffer so?! Why do you deny me my McRib sammich?! Are the evil powers of corporate greed so strong that even You cannot prevent their wickedness?!

And it is only pure greed that is keeping the McRib sammich from making its annual appearance. After looking at ways to strengthen the fourth-quarter 2012 OPNAD calendar, McDonald's made the decision to move the sandwich promotion to the latter half of December. 

Where are the Occupy [Insert Random Location Here] goons?! Why aren't they storming McDonald's locations across the United States in response to this bare-faced example of the worst possible corporate green?! Where are the demands from Obama that McDonald's behave like responsible corporate citizens and give us our McRib sammiches?! Where is Harry Reid and his imaginary friend with demands that the McRib be acknowledged as a right rather than a privilege?! And why aren't the presidential challengers speaking out about this issue?! The first one to fight for the McRib By Election Day will get my vote!!

Give me McRib sammiches or give me death! (Actually, not getting McRib sammiches probably extends my life... but is a life without the McRib worth living? I think not!)


The heavenly McRib will return in time for Jesus's birthday!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween: Texas Chainsaw Yakety Sax

There are two kinds of people: Those who think "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is one of the greatest horror movies ever made, and those who think "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is one of the dumbest horror movies ever made.

This clip might bring them together in Halloween cheer....




Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Terror Tuesday: Kart Driver by Drew Daywalter

Every Tuesday this month, I'll bring you a strange or horrific short film you can watch in its entirety right here at Cinema Steve. It's all part of the 31 Night of Halloween celebration taking place across my blogs.

First up is a bizarre little number about a plumber who may seen eerily familiar....


Kart Driver (2011)
Starring: Robert V. Galluzzo, Azure Parsons, Ben Giroux, and David Mattey
Director: Drew Daywalt
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Monday, October 1, 2012

The 31 Nights of Halloween Have Begun!

For yet another October, Terror Titans will flooded with Halloween-related posts from now until the Big Night, and there will be spill-over at Shades of Gray and my other blogs, too.

Please stop by every now and then to see what's going on... and possibly even to leave a comment or two on the great little short films I'll be showcasing.

This graphic was "borrowed" from Fullmoonmaster.
Check out his Deviant Art page by clicking here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

It's Friday!

Bri Heart and Jervy Hou are celebrating with slow-burn silliness and an epic cover of "Friday"!

 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Herbert Lom dead at 95

The legendary actor Herbert Lom passed away in London today. He was 95. Click here to read his obit at the L.A. Times.

Although most people recognize him as Inspector Clouseau's long-suffering superior in the original "Pink Panther" movies, he actually tackled just about any role a male actor could play--from sauve leading men, to dangerous psychopathic villains... and every kind of character in between. He appeared in over 100 televisions shows and movies, and their genres were as diverse as the characters he played.

Click here to read reviews of Lom-starring films at Terror Titans--in which he played Van Helsing and the Phantom of the Opera, respectively.

Click here to read a couple of reviews of comedic mysteries featuring Lom at Watching the Detecitves--including one of his turns as Inspector Dreyfus in a "Pink Panther" film.


Monday, September 24, 2012

An average spaghetti western

Ringo: Face of Revenge (1967)
Starring: Anthony Steffan, Eduardo Fajardo, Frank Wolff, Armando Calvo, Alejandra Nilo, and Alfonso Goda
Director: Mario Caiano
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A pair of drifters (Steffan and Fajardo) save the life of a man who has half a treasure map tattooed on his back (Calvo). They join him in the hunt for the second half, which is tattooed on the back of a bandit-turned-sheriff (Goda), but the quest is complicated by a professional gambler who strong-arms himself into getting a cut of the treasure (Wolff) and greed and distrust among this band of adventurers with questionable morals.


"Ringo: Face of Revenge" is an average European-made western populated by cliched characters that are that just enough spin to them to make the proceedings interesting. As is almost always the case in these sorts of movies, the "heroes" are only slightly less villainous than the bad guys... and usually can be distinguished from them only because they don't don't pick on or kill people who didn't "have it coming" (for the most part).

The film is also fun to watch because elements that usually ruin a non-comedy like this somehow work here... like the way the entire cast except Anthony Steffan seem to be playing to the back rows, and the fact the plot only works because the characters do stupid thing after stupid thing. Instead of garnering my usual reaction of looking for something better to do with my time, the unevenness in acting and the boneheadedness of both heroes and villains alike actually made the movie more engaging,

Frank Wolff, as Tricky, was excellent as the slimiest double-crosser you've ever want to reach through the screen and punch in the face, and Eduardo Fajardo delivers one of the best comic-relief sidekick old timers that I've come across. Fajardo is even better when the comic sidekick turns dangerous and tragic toward the end of the film.

While this may not be a film worth seeking out for casual western fans, it's worth seeing if you can't get enough of spaghetti westerns, or if you're a fan of Athony Steffan or treasure-hunt stories.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Something positive from the "Muslim World"

I spend a lot of time here snarling about the murderous beasts that give decent Muslims in the "Islamic World" and across Europe and even here in the United States a bad name. I've always been very particular about only directing my hatred at terrorists and their supporters and enablers, so when something great like the events of yesterday occur--events that saw the good people of Benghazi drive out the monsters posing as men from their midst,  it's only proper that I devote some time to that as well.

The psychotic dirtbags of Ansar al-Sharia are looking for  a new home.
If you haven't read about the spectacular events that happened yesterday, click here to read an article about it from the New York Times.

You can read additional coverage and see more pictures at The Daily Mail Online.

Cars and buildings belonging to Ansar al-Sharia were set ablaze.
Wouldn't it be grand if such events could take place all across Asia and the Middle East? Wouldn't it be brilliant if there could be a true "Arab Spring"?

Here's hoping this is the start of something wonderful and not just a "blip" in the course of world events. If this had been the outcome of the "Arab Spring", I would buy the notion that the Obama Administration was doing something right with their foreign policy. Hell... if this is the beginning of something positive, I may have to reevaluate my opinion and where my vote was going to go in November..


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Three cheers for 'Charlie Hebdo'


The publisher of "Charlie Hebdo" puts a lie to the common American satirical image of the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." Charb, as he is known, has more fight in his left little toe than most American publishers have in their entire bodies... hell, in their entire editorial staffs.



The blood-thirsty idol-worshipers of Mohammad (as opposed to peaceful and civilized true Muslims) have had the American media running scared since 2005... so scared, in fact, that when one of their own--cartoonist Molly Norris--came under threat, anyone barely said a peep and just stood by and watched her get "disappeared."

American publications don't even dare print the Danish Mo-toons... and work so hard to ignore them that many of them don't even know they're Danish; a particularly gross CNN anchor kept referring to them as Dutch last week.

But "Charlie Hebdo" has extended a metaphorical middle finger in the direction of the bloodthirsty maniacs, the same middle finger they've offered to Catholics, Jews, and other religious and political groups that have been satirized in the magazine's pages.

Yet, they are being told from various corners that they should not mock Islam and its fabulous prophet Mohammad--they might hurt the delicate sensibilities of Muslims... not to mention the delicate sensibilities of freaks who claim they belong to "the religion of peace" while raping and murdering an American ambassador or setting fire to press clubs because they feel they're not getting enough media attention.

Even supposed defenders of free speech rights have criticized them for printing the cartoons and others, including the feckless Obama Administration have given limp defenses of freedom of expression while setting the stage for a "they were asking for it" if Charlie Hebdo's offices get firebombed again.

"One gets the impression it's okay for 'Charlie Hebdo' to criticize the Catholic extreme right, but no one is allowed to poke fun at Muslim fundamentalists," Charb told reporters.

And he's right. It's hip and edgy to make fun of Catholics and Mormons and Jews, but go after Muslims and you're a bigot or asking for trouble.

Funny thing is... most of those people who will say that Charb or Kurt Vestergaard or anyone who has the stones to actually throw some much deserved ridicule the way of Mohammad-worshipers and Muslim extremists would turn purple with rage if someone told a rape victim that she was "asking for it" because of the hooker boots and mini-skirt she was wearing during her late-night stroll through Central Park.

Publishing obnoxious cartoons of Mohammad in "Charlie Hebdo" is not 'Islamophobia' as I've already seen at least two ninnies state. No, Islamophobia is NOT publishing cartoons or doing comedy routines directed at something that is so richly deserving of mockery and contempt--the notion that Muslims and their dogmas are somehow more sacred and worthy of respect than those held by people of other religions, or even those who hold no religions.

By the way... I actually don't care for many of the Mo-toons that "Charlie Hebdo" published, so I won't be reposting most of them. Some will show up for the return of Mohammad Mondays at Shades of Gray once I translate them into English--assuming there's a point to revive that series come Monday. As I've said before, I only post Mo-toons when the bad behavior of idol-worshiping Mohammadans give me reason to. But several of those cartoons don't contain enough wit or artistry to warrant reposting, but instead are created for shock value and to offend. However, you can take a look at them here and here if you like, along with commentary from the blogs that posted them.

But just because I don't care for the "Charlie Hebdo" Mo-toons, and personally would not have printed them, doesn't mean I don't support their right to do.

Three cheers for "Charlie Hebdo" for not surrendering to fear of violently mad Mohammad cultists--and for even going so far so as to flip them the bird.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

A couple of pictures from the great Masamune Shirow to get you in the mood!



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remember September 11, 2001

I've been seeing a theme in 9/11/2001 memorial postings that I've not noticed before--that we remember "accurately" what happened that day.

Great sentiment. Here's what happened, for those who need reminding:

Nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airlines with the intention of flying them into buildings, murdering all passengers onboard and as many people on the ground as possible. 15 of the 19 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. All 19 were Muslim, and they carried out their plans of mass-murder in the name of their god and prophet.

Two planes were flown into the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, one was crashed into the Pentagon, and the passengers on the fourth jet fought back against the terrorists and crashed it in a field in Pennsylvania, saving who knows how many people or historical landmarks.



The total death toll on that day was over 3,500 innocent people, and 19 monsters who walked and talked like human beings.

The word of the terrorist attacks on American soil spread around the world with the speed of light, the world reacted with a mixture of shock and celebration. The Palestinians were particularly jubilant.


So yes. Let's remember accurately what transpired on September 11, 2001.

Friday, September 7, 2012

'Supernova' is a bit of a disaster

Supernova (2005)
Starring: Luke Perry, Tia Carrere, Emma Samms, and Lance Henriksen
Director: John Harrison
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

When the sun is hit by a large meteor, it stars throwing off waves of superheated plasma and magnetic storms, which cause massive devastation on Earth. But that's only a prelude to the real disaster: A brilliant astronomer has predicted that the sun will go supernova in mere weeks, destroying all life on the planet.


"Supernova" originally aired as a two-part mini-series on the Hallmark Channel. I almost didn't bother watching it, because if the disaster being faced by Earth really is a supernova then the ending is a foregone conclusion. Well, since the DVD was sitting around, I ended up watching it anyway.

Basically, it's a by-the numbers disaster movie. If you like such things, you'll probably enjoy it... if the occasional bad special effect or computer graphic doesn't bother you, and you don't mind the number of continuity gaffs sprinkled throughout the film. Or the fact that there's a disorienting disconnect between the film's stated location and the locations it was filmed at. I know cities double for other cities all the time, and that Vancouver, Canada, has been passed off as just about every major American city at one time or another, but rarely has any cinematic effort been so sloppy in trying to get viewers to believe one place is actually somewhere entirely different.

The bulk of the series supposedly takes place in and around Sydney, Australia. But the principal photography took place in and around Cape Town, South Africa. South African license plates can be seen in several shots... and famous natural scenery such as Table Mountain is front and center in several scenes. This of course accounts for the strange lack of Australians anywhere in the film, white or aboriginal.

I can't help but wonder if the series was originally set in South Africa, and that it was decided that for some reason it would work better if it was set in Australia. Whatever the rationale, if you recognize Africa for Africa while watching it, it will appear that more than one set of characters manage to drive across the ocean.

Aside from the settings gaffes, the most annoying thing in the movie revolves around the calculations used to determine that the sun is about to blow up. I can't go into details without ruining a plot-twist in the second episode, but I doubt I was the only one one saying, "Seriously?" to it.

On the acting and casting front, everything is serviceable... like the general thrust of the film, every actor is playing the sort of character we're used to seeing them play. No one stands out as particularly bad or particularly good. The only missed beat is that if you're going to put Tia Cararre in your film or series, shouldn't there be at least one scene where she's in a tight outfit or showing lots of cleavage? I thought that was some sort of cinematic rule?

Oh, and if you are attracted to "Supernova" because you're a fan of Peter Fonda, you need to know that despite his presence on the DVD cover, his role amounts to an extended cameo. Not only does his character have nothing to do with the main action of the story--his role in it is over as the movie is starting--he has no scenes with any of the main cast. I can't help but think that is time on the series was a couple of half-days.

All in all, "Supernova" is something most of you can miss without feeling your life is poorer for it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

In honor of the 2012 Democratic National Convention

Sometimes I think that Peace Prize Winners shouldn't have a kill list.
But you dumped Bin Laden in the sea so maybe it's all good.





Monday, September 3, 2012

Mike Oldfield: Far Above the Clouds

If you've been coming here for a while, you know I'm a big Mike Oldfield fan. His music often serves as background static for when I'm writing and as an inspiration for when I'm trying to come up with ideas.

"Far Above the Clouds" filled my head with visions of inter-stellar war, the fall of civilizations and the migration to new worlds. It was music that finally brought into focus the *true* history of a race of near-human aliens that have been a cornerstone of my long-running RPG campaign--since 1995 and counting. (It's a history that I, up to the point of listening to that track, knew was incomplete and distorted, as the distant forebearers of the modern peoples had gone to great lengths to deny their true origins as genetically engineered servants to another species. Up to that point, though, I didn't know the full truth either. But, thanks to Mike, I finally did.)




The track is from "Tubular Bells III", a disc that remains among my favorites from Oldfield and in my collection.

Here's the original, epic version.




Here's a version that contains both parts of "Far Above the Clouds"--the section that opens the "Tubular Bells III" album ("The Source of Secrets") and the grand music that closes it. I think some of the changes were not well considered, mostly where the use of the bells go, but the best parts of the song remain intact.



Here's a remix that, unlike many such dance mixes, manages to keep much of the epic quality of Oldfield's original version. The video even reflects the ideas on a cosmic scale that the song inspired in me.




Here's a fan-recorded cover of "Far Above the Clouds" that captures the essence of the piece nicely, if not the scale:




Here's a remixed version you might like, if you're into club and/or trance music. Personally, I think it waters down the impact and power of the music by stretching it too thin and repeating some of its simplest cues over and over again. The structure of the original piece is dissolved here, and the most powerful sections are gone. (Yes, I understand that was necessary to create this particular remix... but it makes me sad for those who might not experience the power of more effective versions.)




Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Here's a fun action flick built around time travel!

This review originally ran on Watching the Detectives. I'm re-presenting it, because when I wrote it, the film was an indie production is search of a distributor. It has since been picked up by Maxim Media, and it will hit stores on August 21 on their Brain Damage Films label. It's a good film, worth your time and attention. (And they even had the good sense to use quote me on the DVD cover. :) )




Time Again (2011)
Starring: Angela Rachelle, Tara Smoker, John T. Woods, Scott F. Evans, and Gigi Perreau
Director: Ray Karwel
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

After he loses a set of magical coins that allows the possessor to travel in time and alter events is lost in a local diner, a power mad gangster (Evans) goes on a murderous rampage in the establishment, killing or maiming who were present. Six months later, her sister, Marlo (Smoker), is still dealing with the guilt of having traded shifts with her and thus avoided getting killed, when the gangster catches up with her. He is still looking for his magical coins, and he believes she has them. But as she is trying to escape, she encounters a mysterious old woman (Perreau) who actually DOES have the coins. She gives them to Marlo, thus giving the girl the chance to save her sister and everyone else in the diner by changing the past.


I love time travel stories, so it is a given that I liked "Time Again" a great deal; it basically takes a real crappy bunch of filmmakers to make a time travel movie I don't like.

Fortunately, first-time director Ray Karwel and the cast in his film are far from crappy.

The story moves at a quick pace and is lots of fun with its repeating time loops--each one a little different as Marlo tries to undo events that seem destined to happen, and each one getting increasingly fun to watch as she takes advantage of knowledge gained during one trip to effect events in the other.

The acting is also better than one finds in many films made at this budget level. It's about as good as what you find in the 1980s films from Crown International or Andy Sidaris, which means it's mostly solid if a little stagy at times, but nowhere near as brain-achingly amateurish as what seems to have become the norm in the low-budget films these days. But that's not too surprising given that Karwel's leads are all experienced actors, most with a dozen more films or television appearances under their belts. Angela Rachelle and Scott F. Evans are particularly strong in their parts, and I will have to keep an eye out for other films they're in.

Karwel also has mostly firm control over all the technical aspects of the film. He understands how to place a camera to make a fight scene seem like people are actually throwing punches instead of playing Cops & Robbers in the backyard, and the film's CGI muzzle-flashes and gunshot wounds are generally well done as well. There are only a couple of times where the film's low budget shines clearly through in the sense that close-ups or off-camera events are used in order to cover effects that would be too expensive or complicated to pull off. But, in my book, that also puts Karwel in a different class than many of his peers, as they would have attempted the effect anyway to the detriment of the over all picture.

I also have to admire the post-production efforts that went into the picture, as there isn't a single instance where I can mount my standard gripes about lack of color correction, bad use of sound, or inappropriate use of soundtrack music.

All in all, this is a fun, swift-moving action flick that makes great use of its time travel story elements and its talented cast. Karwel and everyone else involved with this film are names and faces to watch for in the future.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ra-Ra-RASPUTIN!

When I was a little kid, a favorite record of my friends and I was Boney M's "Night Flight to Venus."

One of my favorite songs of it was "Rasputin". Just for the heck of it, here are some versions. Feel free to dance around and sing like an idiot if you want to feel like a bunch of 11 year olds in 1979.

Let's kick things off with the original.


Here's a hard-rock cover from Turias.


And no collection of videos would be complete without a cover played on ukeles. It's almost authentically Russian, no? Ukuleles are a poor man's balalaika, I'm told!



Monday, August 6, 2012

Of the Artist Formerly Known as Snoop Dogg

I just read that rap artist Snoop Dogg is no longer. Where he once stood, is now reggae artist Snoop Lion!


I think Snoop Lion has indeed devoted himself to a high(er) calling than rap. And here's a video in his honor:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A murderous bastard is burning in hell today

I am quite angry and worked up at the moment, so here's a straight-up rant. If you disagree with any of it, you can fuck off. I don't usually take that stance, but in this case... there's no room for debate or disagreement. Feel free to post a reply, I will make it public if it's not spam, but I won't even make a half-hearted attempt to engage in debate or "see another point of view."

It this case, there isn't one.

A psychopath went on a shooting rampage at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin today, Sunday, August 5. You can read an early report by clicking here.


It's too early to say exactly what prompted this should-have-been-aborted bastard to do what he did, but I fully expect assholes like Alex Jones and Harry Reid and Rachel Maddow to do their level best to shift blame from the murderer to people who had nothing to do with the killings.

What I hadn't expected was to see people I consider far more intelligent than those three stooges combined to start doing the same pretty much immediately on Facebook with witty comments like, "Republican rhetoric that will give tacit approval to this behavior in 4...3...2..."

For the like-minded fucks out there, here's what REPUBLICAN Nikki Haley posted to her Facebook feed: "It's very sad to see something like this happen to a peaceful place of worship. Our prayers and condolences go out to the families of the innocent victims and the family of the heroic officer in this senseless tragedy."

And here's a tidbit for the truly ignorant fucks: Nikki Haley's parents are practicing Sikhs.

I've not had dealings with Sikhs that have never been anything but pleasant. Sikhs I've met both here and overseas have been some of the nicest, kindest people I've known. What happened today was an act of pure, unvarnished evil.


It pisses me off that people would use it for partisan cheap shots. I'm not a Republican, but I get mistaken for one often enough, so I'm pissed off on their behalf. And that's adding to the fact that I'm pissed off that more innocent lives have been claimed by some son of bitch who should have done us all a favor and just eaten a bowl full of crushed glass when he was in 5th grade.

Assholes with keyboards and internet access need to either condemn the killer or celebrate the fact that he is being fucked in every orifice by Spined Devils in Hell.

Don't fucking detract from what he's done because you want to show your friends what a partisan ass-kisser you are. Save your partisan bullshit until it's at least known what the murderous fuck used as an excuse for his sorry existence and the fact that he had to destroy lives on his way to Hell.

Updates will follow tomorrow, after the sheriff's press conference. But, frankly, I'm less interested in the "why" as I am in the fact that it happened in the first place.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Uninformed people piss me off.

All of those out there who like to trot out that lame slogan "In Genesis is was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" are showing that they should keep their ignorant mouths shut.

Everyone knows that in Genesis, it was Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford, and Tony Banks.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Heartbreak of Super Mario Bros.

I couldn't decide if this strange little video belonged here or at Terror Titans. I'll let you folks be the judge!



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Anyone want a free ebook of short fiction?

As some of you are probably aware, I publish RPG material and fiction anthologies through a little outfit called NUELOW Games.

We've been doing okay with our fiction anthologies in the Robert E. Howard Collection, which are put together by yours truly, but I wish we were doing better. I like putting gas in my car, and I like even more the notion that people out there discover that Howard was a lot more than just a guy who created Conan and wrote fantasy stories. I have this crazy idea that if interested readers saw ratings or comments on the titles, they might turn into actual readers.

With that in mind, I am offering interested readers of this blog each one free copy of one of the following NUELOW Games collections of classic pulp fiction. I am hoping that you'll post rankings or reviews at DriveThruFiction.com when you're done with the book--be they good or bad--and I wouldn't mind coverage on your various blogs either. No strings attached, however... if you want a free book, just put a reply at the bottom of this post with an email address so I can send you the free download link. Or you can email me at stevemillermail [at] gmail.com; mention 'free NUELOW book' in the title.

Here's a list of the books that are subject to this offer; pick one in a genre you like. They are all in pdf format, which is compatible with most ebook readers, but can certainly be read on all desktop and laptop computers, as well as iPads and iPod Touches. Click on the links for more information.

Alice in Blunderland by John Kendrick Bangs - Political Satire (more than a century old, but still sadly relevant)

Shanghaied Mitts by Robert E. Howard and Steve Miller - Adventure/Comedy Fiction


Names in the Black Book by Robert E. Howard and Steve Miller - Horror/Detective Fiction

Shadows Over Texas by Robert E. Howard - Horror Fiction

White Fell and Other Stories by Robert E. Howard, Clemence Housman, and Steve Miller - Horror/Werewolf Fiction

The Deadly Sword of Cormac by Robert E. Howard - Historical Fiction

Oriental Stories Vo1. 1, by Robert E. Howard and Tevis Smith - Historical Fiction

Oriental Stories Vo1. 2 by Robert E. Howard - Historical, Fantasy, and Action/Adventure Fiction

Oriental Stories Vo1. 3: A Texan in Afghanistan, by Robert E. Howard - Action/Adveture Fiction

Skull-Face by Robert E. Howard - Action/Adventure Fiction