Friday, October 30, 2015

#HicksLives! aka Prometheus 2 and the Pending Hold

- My initial feelings on the news that prompted this article.

It's been nearly a year since Neill Blomkamp teased the internets with fan made artwork that entailed the continued adventures of older alien fighting couple Ripley and Hicks. Soon, it was made official that Blomkamp was working with Fox on a potential new film that would somehow follow James Cameron's original 1986 classic as well as take into account lackluster chapters Alien 3 and Resurrection which saw Ripley and Hicks perish. In the meantime, Ridley Scott was still talking up a sequel nobody really wanted to 2012's Prometheus, he would be producing Blomkamp's Aliens 2 and that would somehow interconnect the two stories even though they take place decades apart. Right around the release of Ridley Scott's Fox flick The Martian earlier this month, Blomkamp released an image of an updated pulse rifle, the weapon of choice of the Colonial Marines in Aliens. After suffering the successful if unloved Prometheus, Scott struck out with low budget The Counselor and delivered an expensive dud with Exodus: Gods and Kings. With The Martian garnering critical acclaim and boffo box office, it was announced that the Prometheus follow up would be titled Alien: Paradise Lost and start shooting in early 2016.

Last night Blomkamp stated that his Aliens movie was now on hold for Paradise Lost, effectively killing all of the momentum that has been built up. It was an immediate punch in the movie lover gut to me as I've always liked Aliens much more than Alien. Just throw in the trash with the rest of my dreams and the under review sequel to Pacific Rim...The prospect of an Aliens sequel set 30 years later with older and gruffer versions of Sigourney Weaver's Ripley and Michael Biehn's Hicks is personally much more exciting than more rehash/retread/reboot that Paradise will be. The story just lends itself to a broader world with aliens and technology while utilizing some thrilling and atmospheric action grit. It's funny that Fox didn't want Prometheus to be a direct Alien film and it shows in its half reboot/half prequel execution which yielded a handsome and enjoyable enough film that drew the ire of many a viewer with it's Lost style, "let's ask 20 questions and answer 2" motif. After doing decent box office while eliciting poor word of mouth, the Prometheus sequel becomes a direct Alien film, exploring more ho-hum Space Jockey storylines with a younger, more mainstream cast. Business wise it makes sense, Scott has been working with Fox for some time producing and directing with their latest collaboration becoming a huge hit. Meanwhile Blomkamp is coming off the not successful Chappie and Sigorney Weaver or Michael Biehn are far from magazine cover fodder.

What's next? I think it's up to Blomkamp to make a kick ass picture that's a huge hit so Fox will be begging him to come back. Weaver will never lack for work while Biehn just had a kid and is financially stable from his long career and frequent convention appearances to be able to turn down roles. It's a two way street, if Prometheus 2 does well, Fox may want to focus on more chapters or if it tanks, they may get cold feet for the Alien universe in general. I hope the Aliens sequel happens but that cinematic dream has just come screeching to a halt for at least a couple of years...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Disney Daze: Halloween Happiest Haunts

Earlier this week we trekked down to Anaheim to partake in Disneyland's wildly popular Happiest Haunts Tour. When I say wildly popular I mean that I had to call at 7:00 AM a month in advance otherwise it sells out in 15 minutes. DL already does a Halloween themed series for locals, Mickey's Trick or Treat something or other where you get a separate ticket to go around the park and collect candy. Ticket holders are limited each night and the park closes early so it's a fun experience we've checked out a couple times and come home with way too much candy we never eat. Happiest Haunts is billed as a three hour tour and we had two guides, your usual Disneyland one who told you about old attractions and park info while the other was a representative from Haunted Mansion who gave you the straight dope on where Halloween customs came from. This was probably the biggest tour we've been on in the park as our group reached 20 members. The park was pretty crowded so that made it a little more difficult to hear in the ol'd ear piece. The tour is solid if not as exclusive as Walk in Walt's Footsteps or eye opening as Cultivating the Magic. It scores by giving you a couple of treats (dipped marshmallow pop and sugar cookie) and getting you onto five rides (Ghost Mountain, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain and The Matterhorn). On the Disney side I learned that the Kirk Douglas classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea had an attraction in the 60's, when it was dismantled, the organ went to the Mansion (which I knew). Apparently the giant squid was there though! Kirk! Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is the only opening day attraction in the park and we were shown a small pond by The Matterhorn has been site to many a closed down rides. All in the tour came in at under three hours and you get a Haunted Mansion Death Certificate along with a pin. You're not invited to stay in the park to enjoy the Trick or Treat party, in fact, you're escorted out!

Support This! Sleep Paralysis

Doing your own thing means meeting other like minded Doers who stopped talking and just went out and did the Damme thing. Whether it's the Mad Movie Titan Christian Parkes creating the largest genre film festival in America with Beyond Fest or my man Bennie Woodell who just finished writing and directing Love Meet Hope to my fellow JCVD and Dolph Lundgren loving homie Tom Jolliffe who wrote short film Out and is prepping his next. Oliver Brink was the manager at The Egyptian Theatre for as long as I could remember and we became fast friends when I started making his life more difficult bringing in the likes of Dolph Lundgren or a bunch of exhibitors for The Sunbow Celebration screenings of The Transformers and G.I. Joe movies. Now he's off doing what he loves, making films! His latest project is the micro-budget indie sci-fi horror flick Sleep Paralysis. Brink and his partners are setting out to make a film dealing with belief, skepticism and unproven phenomena as the nightmare and visions suffering Rachel and friends bunker down in a cabin to reclaim lost memories, explore "missing time" and sleep paralysis. And there might be an alien involved too. Find out more and support if you can HERE. Good luck, Oliver!

Workout of the Day: Knock It Up A Notch

I was doing oh so well through October with the early morning cardio and the weight lifting in the evening and the window eating/intermittent fasting but a hectic personal and professional schedule has nearly sabotaged my efforts this past week. There's no reason to get down about it as hey, life happens. I'm just under my monthly workouts goal and have nearly three days to get there so I should be in good shape. While I've been doing mainly steady state cardio in the Frank Zane mold of Ab-Aerobics, 1-2 minutes per station (treadmill, jump rope, bike, shadow boxing, stair climber, etc) for 20-30 minutes, today I kicked it up to make up for an evening full of good friends and fried food. The body can always use a rest so after a couple of days off I figured I could push myself.

Intervals make your body work harder because it doesn't know what's coming next. You can burn more calories outside of training because the body is burning more to recuperate. As always, just think of the body of a sprinter versus a marathon runner. One is muscular and strong while the other is pretty normal looking or a bit thin. On the treadmill, always at an incline to put less stress on the knees and up calorie burn, I walked for 30 seconds then upped the speed for a 20 second sprint, then upped it again to go for another 20. With jump rope it was regular pace for 10 seconds followed by 20 seconds of all out. Same thing on the bike and stairclimber. After 25 minutes my heart was thumping and the sweat was pouring. My shoulders and arms are a little sore from jump roping with the extra force. While the body can do so much, you can always push a little harder mentally to keep going. Find a positive mantra and repeat it to yourself, pump yourself up, semi-hyper ventilate, whatever you need to do to keep going just a little more.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

(Pre)miere: Live-Evil at Comikaze

We're just days away from Halloween and the Comikaze exclusive premiere of Live-Evil! Kick off your haunted evening with an appropriate tale of supernatural evil and zombies on Saturday, October 31st at 5:30 PM in room 515B. It's basically right over the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center. So when you go upstairs to the third floor, just go to the right for a while! We'll have trivia, prizes and giveaways like tee shirts and signed posters. The panel has grown immensely as we're joined by writer/director Ari Kirschenbaum, leading man Vladimir Kulich (The 13th Warrior), leading lady Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother), Vincent M. Ward (The Walking Dead), J. Richey Nash, Carter and Ed Ricker. Co-star Tony Todd (Candyman, The Rock) is currently working outside of Los Angeles but recently popped up for a screening at Santa Fe's Dark Frame Film Festival. Admission to the west coast premiere is included in your Comikaze Day Pass for Saturday. It's going to be a fun day as Comikaze is really coming into it's own with tons of screenings, panels, contests and special guests along with the giant exhibit floor and Artist Alley. See you there!

Chief Goods: Hometown Hero

"No, because we were f*cking great. 
I don't know if you heard but we sold like 
70 million f*cking albums."

- Noel Gallagher on not discouraging his kids to form a band

It's been a while since we had Noel Gallagher on the mind but the brains behind OASIS is back with a European tour and recently won Best Album for his High Flying Birds' second album, Chasing Yesterday. We saw The Chief play downtown Los Angeles back in May and he put on a heck of a show. Since then the well reviewed album has yielded four singles and gone Gold in the UK while landing in the Top Ten charts around the world from Australia, Ireland, Japan and Switzerland. Last night Gallagher was spotted backstage at U2's London show where the mega band is currently in residency. Noel didn't simply spectate as he joined long time friend Bono and the boys on stage for I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and a cover of All You Need Is Love.

New Tube: Public Morals

Back in the 90's, New York based independent filmmaker Edward Burns made a splash when he elevator pitched Robert Redford while working for Entertainment Tonight. Burns' family drama The Brothers McMullen was well received at The Sundance Film Festival and off he went trying to make his mark. Subsequent star making turns in front and behind the camera teamed him with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie didn't quite pan out. But Burns has kept making films on the independent level and now hits cable TV with a regular series. Reteaming with Spielberg, Burns is behind TNT drama series Public Morals based on his family's past as cops during the 1960's where officers walked a thin line between morality and criminality. Figuring I liked Burns' work, cops and the 60's, I set the DVR to record Morals.

Terry Muldoon (Burns) is a hard working, tough talking, big thinking cop in the Public Morals division. He knows people want to have a good time, he just wants to make sure they don't have too good a time between gambling, drinking and finding female companionship. The relative truce between mobsters, crooks, hookers and cops is shattered when a local boss played by Timothy Hutton gets deaded. From there you get punks trying to usurp power, the family trying to find the killer, cops trying to keep the peace and lots of backstabbing and stand offs. Wow, that all sounded really interesting yet I just deleted the remaining episodes off the DVR and turned off the series recording. Even with a terrific cast headed by Burns that includes Michael Rapaport, Neal McDonough and Brian Dennehy, there's just not much to bring you back to Public Morals. The production value is quite handsome with your period attire, hair and cars, the actors are all fine, it's just not overly exciting or interesting. Broadcast on Tuesday nights starting back in August, I always had 3-4 episodes to catch up on and never felt like viewing more than one at a time. I'm not even sure how many episodes I got through before calling it quits. Probably a good 4-5. My biggest issue with TV is the multiple storylines. You have your star doing stuff over here but you gotta give some time to the unknowns and build up a world and have them intersect, etc. Only problem is, most of the time those little detours don't go anywhere. I remember trying to watch 24 to catch Peter Weller but there were 3-4 storylines going on and I was shocked that star Kiefer Sutherland was in so little to justify being paid so much.

It turns out I'm not the only one who isn't sticking around 1960's New York as Morals debuted to a soft 2.14 million viewers in August. The show lost much of it's lead in audience from Rizzoli & Isles and didn't compare to channel anchor The Last Ship. Since then, ratings haven't improved with the show falling nearly every week with only a quarter of the audience who saw the pilot tuning in for last week's episode. With The Player canceled and lack of interest in Morals, it's up to The Muppets to keep me watching a new series. We'll see where Burns goes from here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Magnificent Seven Week: Con-Man

After our night out in Downtown Los Angeles Saturday it was right back early Sunday morning for the western and Magnificent Seven themed M7 Con! It's a small show but I had no clue there would be so much going on as we encountered closed streets for the Rock and Roll Marathon then crowds inside attending a Tony Robbins Con. We wandered around the 3rd floor looking for our room but there was no signage or sight of other attendees until one of the organizers and star Eric Close happened to walk by! I walked and talked with Close, a veteran of two of my favorite shows, Seven and Now and Again as well as the long running Without a Trace and now Nashville. Close was incredibly nice as he asked for our names and pronounced mine right on the first try! We briefly chatted Now and Again (it came right after Seven and he needed to get in shape real fast), the new Seven flick starring Denzel Washington (wondering why he didn't get a call) and popping up in American Sniper (has known Clint Eastwood for years, put himself on tape and then found himself flying to Morocco working opposite Bradley Cooper).  Again, super nice guy and seemed genuinely pleased to be there.

We checked in and walked the small dealers room with lots of western gear like jewelry, clothing and playing cards while all of the panels took place in a room next door. It was the most intimate convention experience I've ever had and that was part of it's charm. The show is put on by some hardcore fans so they're to be commended for getting it all set up for a third year running. This was to be the biggest Con to date as 5 of the 7 were scheduled to join, including "Buck Wilmington" Dale Midkiff, "Vin Tanner" Eric Close, "Ezra Standish" Anthony Starke, "J.D. Dunne" Andrew Kavovit and "Nathan Jackson" Rick Worthy along with guest stars Fabiana Udenio and Daren Flam. Sadly Worthy was shooting something in Michigan and couldn't make it. But it was a full day of programming starting with a video chat with a Steve McQueen expert from where I don't know as we came in late due to all the closures. His panel focused mainly on McQueen's run as the star of hit show Wanted: Dead or Alive and he showed off some cool and funny pieces of memorabilia that included playing cards, action figures, dart gun rifles (5 different sized toy replicas were produced), comic books and paper backs. We wandered the huge convention center for a few minutes to scope out where the Live-Evil screening will take place during this week's Comikaze and ended up in the West Hall where another show was in progress, a Mexican Jesus Con! While walking the hallway seeing nuns and exhibitors, an excited gent ran up to ask me where I got my bitching Michael Biehn/"Kyle Reese" Come With Me If You Want To Live shirt and we rapped for a few moments. Already I had chatted with Eric Close and helped spread the Biehn gospel, the day was already a success.

Back to M7 Con we sat in for a writing panel with a screenwriter and author who talked how the Western genre is still lasting today with Bone Tomahawk and Hateful 8. It was interesting as he discussed the Western to be a setting that could be used for many kinds of stories but are tough sells as period pieces are not Hollywood's favorites. Many of the attendees write Mag 7 fan-fiction and the guest discussed basic ways to get their writing out and how to protect their material. Then it was time for the main event, the Q&A panel with the cast. Along with the actors, show developer and producer John Watson joined which was a real treat as he was there from the beginning and helped make the show happen:

- Watson and Pen Densham pitched the show to CBS big cheese Les Moonves after acquiring the rights from producer Walter Mirisch.
- Biehn was first cast member in, originally thought to play Vin before sliding over to leader Chris.
- Ron Perlman was the other star name and told Watson if the show got picked up he wouldn't join them. When he found out pilot was going to series, changed his mind. Was supposed to be replaced by the Confederate soldier who rebels against Kurtwood Smith but Watson had to inform him that he was fired and his character was being killed off.
- Biehn and cast had a lot of input into the show and their characters, Watson could always hear Biehn coming down the hallway with his boots and spurs. Like all good actors, wanted the show to be the best it could and asked for less dialog.
- Never had a writer's room on show, one or two scripts at a time.
- Dale Midkiff had the option to audition for multiple roles but only wanted Buck.
- Midkiff's mustache was a last minute decision, 8/10 men of the period had facial hair yet no one on the cast did.
- Flam auditioned for J.D. but lost out, ended up working as a P.A. on show and guest starred on one episode, stood in for Ron Perlman when the star had to head off for the Alien: Resurrection premiere.
- Flam got tossed around by Michael Biehn for multiple takes during a fight scene.
- Close had done an unpicked up pilot with Watson years before and had a deal with CBS.
- Several of the cast members chose the pilot as their favorite working days on the show as it was new, they were shooting outside Tombstone with a great group of guys. Close, Kavovit and Watson stayed out on location going for runs, exploring the mountains and stargazing while Starke drank with Perlman in hotel bar.
- Close never fired live ammunition from the Mare's Leg as it was not long after Brandon Lee's tragic on set accident so safety was paramount.
- Having 7 heroes meant needing double or triple that many bad guys for fight scenes. Not having to worry about squibs and blood made it easier to shoot the mass melee.
- Starke and many cast members were inspired by Michael Biehn's gun twirling skills in Tombstone. Kavovit could always be seen practicing which became second nature.
- Kavovit still has the guns and a hat.
- Starke nearly passed out in the van getting to set on day he had to dress as a woman complete with a corset. Doesn't understand how women breathe while in them.
- Close calls Magnificent Seven the greatest time he's ever had working in the business.
- Watson was producing TNT movie Buffalo Soldiers with Danny Glover concurrently with Mag 7 and they both shot in same areas. Director of Soldiers was not happy about that and threatened to hurt Watson if 7 interrupted their shoot with noise from gunshots.
- Show was always in flux, disappointed they were only picked up as a mid-season replacement, moved from Friday to Saturdays and back again.
- Show was a hit in ratings but didn't do well in big cities, people weren't talking about the show at parties. Moonves liked the show but was overruled and it was canceled.

After that there was a short meet and greet with the guests where I asked Starke, who I just realized goes by Tony Starke...about his appearance on The Flash back in the 90's. He said it was a great time and he'd love to see the character come back on the new series and has Tweeted it to co-star John Wesley Shipp. Sounds good to me, bring back a modern version of The Nightshade while you're at it. It was a long but fun day, hats off to the organizers, while also totally random with our little western fandom, Rock n' Roller runners, Tony Robbins attendees, Jesus lovers and outside next door at Staples was some kind of wrestling event so WWE fans brandishing fake title belts and yelling about John Cena. Oh L.A., there truly is something for everybody. If I'm doing the math right, M7 Con was our 17th show of the year! See ya at Comikaze!

Gotta Party! Casetify Launch

Our downtown weekend started off Saturday with what was the worst Lyft I've ever had. I'm usually an Uber guy but it was already Surge pricing. Maybe the extra money would have been worth it as our driver was three days in, was surprised I asked for some AC in the 90 degree weather and had no clue where they were going, even with GPS. After missing a turn I ended up giving them directions to our destination. You see, we took a car service because driving downtown on a Saturday night is a mess; it's crowded, parking can be sparse and we'd be drinking so it was time to be responsible. Yet we paid for a service and instead of sitting back and relaxing, I was on edge the entire time, telling them where to go and sweating from the intermittently working AC. I had to let that go though so it wouldn't ruin my evening which was immediately helped by some pizza and whiskey. After that we walked over to Poketo, a high end, mini-Urban Outfitters style shop next to barcade 82 and sausage joint Wurstkuche for the Casetify Launch Party thrown by a friend.

Casetify specializes in custom cases for your Apple phone, pad and watch along with Android products. They've recruited the likes of Hilary Duff, Snoop Dog and the like for campaigns and apparently, business is booming. California Donuts, Salt & Straw Ice Cream, Press Brothers Juicery, Longshot Coffee and ROK Drinks were all on hand to shell out food and dranks. We imbibed a quite tasty malt liquor beverage with a Rose flavor but blackout inducing Four Loko level alcohol it was not. Salt & Straw's brownie ice cream was delicious, highly recommended. Inside, phone cases and watch straps lined the walls and the place was a hopping. Many thanks for the invite, Casetify and here's to your continued success! Of course the party didn't stop there as we headed back to Little Tokyo and stopped in at Spitz for some Jameson but the Doner Kebab spot has some amazing french fries too boot.

New Tube: The Player

Back in July during San Diego Comic-Con, Wesley Snipes was on hand to promote his new show on NBC, The Player. #ActionMovieBro David J. Moore snagged a quick interview with the man and when I went to try and catch the panel it was already cashed out. Cut to a few weeks ago when The Player started it's run on NBC Thursday nights at 10:00 PM where we are greeted by a dead body and a disappointed Wesley Snipes before meeting Alex Kane (Philip Winchester), a former security, black ops, something something badass looking to start over. His wife gets killed, he gets caught up in some crazy game set up by the shadowy Mr. Johnson (Snipes) and run by his British, tech savvy assistant Cassandra King (Charity Wakefield). Something about a Game set up by high stakes gamblers where they bet on if The Player can rescue/complete an operation in a given time period. After the mysterious murder of his wife, Kane reluctantly goes to work for Johnson and King, protecting abused wives, hackers, drug cartel targets, etc. I never saw Strike Back on Cinemax where Winchester co-starred on an action centric series for several seasons but here he's just a bit bland. He looks the part of course, blonde, buff and stoic but he just doesn't hold your attention much and tends to overcook his dialog. A few online peeps seem to like him but it's kind of like Jon Hamm and Mad Men, people loved him on that show but I never saw it so seeing him in anything else he just came off BLEEP-ing bland.

Fans tuning in for some Wesley Snipes action will quickly tune out since the man is just a supporting character. Each episode contains a one on one scene with Kane to discuss their crazy world and the fact that thought dead wife might not actually be deceased. So if Kane wants Johnson's help, he's gonna have to play it Snipes' way. Of course the main draw of the show is the action and there it delivers quite handily. The Player basically goes into "action" mode with loud, heavy metal style music accompanied by onscreen shooting, fighting, chasing, kicking and mayhem. It's entertaining and you don't have to pay too much attention. Of course the mystery of Kane's wife comes in giving it all a little more heart and backstory. Snipes has quietly gotten to do a little more action each episode with this past week culminating in a sparring match turned exposition filled duel with Will Yun Lee that showed off a few flashy kicks before going into joint and wrist locks. Fights need more kicks, they're much more cinematic and visually impressive than Steven Seagal style joint manipulation. Five episodes in and the show is just starting to find it's groove as Kane protects a hacker from government double agents and Chinese mobsters. There's shootouts, car, motorcycle and foot chases, a knife fight on a helipad, geeky tech talk galore and a quick appearance from Chi Muoi Lo from Vanishing Son! Now where's Russell Wong?!

Sadly The Player has not been able to keep it's lead in audience from The Blacklist and premiered to a soft 4.68 million viewers but received an additional 2.5 million watchers from DVR. Since then the show hasn't picked up much steam, reviews were never kind and it was just announced that NBC is cutting the season from 13 episodes to 9 which just finished shooting, effectively canceling it. I'm not much of a TV guy but I've enjoyed The Player as it gave you a bit of high octane, brainless fun filled with a little snazzy tech that didn't require you to pay too close attention or listen to endless, would be dramatic droning as is most television. I'm not sure if the show would have done any better with Snipes in the lead role but I'll be sure to check out the last four episodes. At least NBC has the intention of showing the final chapters rather than yanking it off the air so my initial investment hasn't been in vain.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Back to the Future Day

Happy Back to the Future Day! It was actually this past Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 as that was the day Doctor Emmett Brown and Marty McFly traveled from 1985 to the then future 30 years ahead in a souped up Deloreon. Since 1985's biggest box office hit, the classic film spawned two hit sequels, an animated series, merchandising galore and one memorable vision of the future. While we never got hover boards, hydrated pizza or flying cars, society has embraced movie sequels, VR glasses and video chat among other things. To prep, Pepsi released a limited run of Pepsi Perfect bottles seen in part II, We're Going Back staged large scale events with guests and props at shooting locations, USA Today used the cover from part II and multiple theaters around the country screened the trilogy. If you'll recall, we've seen part I a good 7-8 times in theaters and the full marathon twice. Heading over to the Cinemark at Playa Vista we caught the last minutes of I before settling down for II & III. It was nice to see the giant theater nearly sold out for this momentous movie occasion.

Between films they played Universal's hilarious Jaws 19 trailer, their frigging atrocious Hoverboard spot as well as the Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as Doc ad for the new blu-ray set. Watching II again I was surprised at how efficient the story was as you go to the future, back to the present, which is now an alternate reality, back to the past where you intersect with the events of the first movie. It all works pretty well even if the back half of II is the least engrossing portion of the trilogy to me. I never noticed how many roles Thomas F. Wilson got to play as young dumb Biff, old crotchety grandpa Biff, Donald Trump style 1985 successful Biff and future psycho grandson Griff. Then in part III he gets to play a crazy gunslinger, not a bad run. I prefer the third over the second with it's mix of time travel and modern humor juxtaposed against a western with the old one street town, hats, dusters, six-shooters, rifles, shotguns, whiskey and ol timer talk. The focus is shifted to Doc as he gets a love interest and the ending finale is similar to the first only with more trains and explosions. All in it was a great night revisiting the films and our crowd was excellent as well, cheering and applauding at all the appropriate moments. These films stand up so well as their simple message that the future isn't set so it's up to us to make it a great one goes in line with additional optimistic 80's favs like "no fate but what we make" from The Terminator or "there's only one of you in the universe" from Masters of the Universe. The celebration was a hit with screenings pulling in over $1 million bucks on just over 1,000 screens while some 25 million Facebook users posted BTTF related items. The limited run of Pepsi Perfect sold out instantly, infuriating would be buyers forcing the sugar giant to announce a second run for November.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Magnificent Seven Week: Season 1, Part 1

Prepping for this weekend's M7 Con is the perfect excuse to revisit The Magnificent Seven series. The late 90's and early 2000's were about the last time I actively followed a show and The Magnificent Seven was one of those final titles. Growing up it was all about reruns of Knight Rider and G.I. Joe while The Simpsons, Home Improvement and syndicated fare like Highlander or one season wonders like The Flash crammed their way into my psyche. M7 starred a post Terminator, Aliens, Navy SEALS, Tombstone and The Rock Michael Biehn so of course I had to tune in. How does the show hold up 15 years later? Pretty Damme well actually as M7 boasted a terrific cast, solid production value, action packed episodes and enough drama to keep things interesting.

Episode 0, The Pilot: Ghosts of the Confederacy
Former Confederate Colonel Emmett Anderson and his forces stumble around the old west after the Civil War, attacking a village of natives and freed slaves. The elder seeks out gunslingers from the lawless local town where we meet Chris (Biehn) and Vin (Eric Close) as they partner up to stop Nathan (Rick Worthy) from being hanged by a bunch of honkeys. Hired for $5 bucks a head, they gather up Chris' womanizing buddy Buck (Dale Midkiff), conman Ezra (Anthony Starke), preacher Josiah (Ron Perlman) and inherit young buck J.D. (Andrew Kavovit). Together they prep the villagers for battle and of course, come out on top at the end. While the pilot debuted in the top ten for the week, it's also one of the weaker episodes. Geoff Murphy's direction is a little choppy and the actors haven't quite eased into their characters yet. Biehn is all squinty eyed, lean and puffing on a cigar while Close sports what looks like a horrendous mess of a bad wig. The picture doesn't look great transferred to DVD and there's a certain flimsiness to the goings on. Costumes and sets are appropriately dusty and lived in but lack a certain grittiness the show would pick up in later episodes. There's shootouts, knife throwing, cannon fire and slo-mo galore. You get stiltedly awesome lines like "I am the bad element" and "Life's hard, then you die" then Kurtwood Smith and Tony Burton add a little familiar face firepower while Laurie Holden's Mary Travis is set up as a possible love interest and major supporting player. Unlike the film, all seven survive albeit with several injuries.

Episode 1, One Day Out West
Things start to gel as the seven end up in Four Corners and take on some goons from the local cattle baron. Biehn gets a hardass moment when he's insulted being called a cowboy, then later threatens to slit friend Buck's throat when Chris' past is used for small talk. We meet original Magnificent star Robert Vaughn playing a circuit judge and is Mary's father-in-law. The seven have to decide if they'll stay or go as Vin has a bounty on his head and needs to clear his name, Chris is looking for his wife and son's murderer, etc. Young J.D. ends up becoming sheriff with a steady line of advice from Buck. You start to get some clanning within the seven with Chris and Vin riding into trouble together, Nathan and Josiah running the local medical and church facilities, Buck and J.D. riffing like big and little brothers, etc. By the end, the seven are hired on to watch over the town and we see the emerging tone of action and humor. I'm not sure how far apart episodes were filmed but everyone's hair is longer here and the actors look much more comfortable in their costumes and surroundings.

Episode 2, Working Girls
We'd already gotten a taste of prejudice in the pilot as natives, blacks, whites and Confederates all squared off and a little beef between scoundrel Ezra and doc Nathan. In this episode the show takes on women in the old west and prostitution as we learn Buck's mom was a working woman. After a girl is severely beaten by her pimp, she flees and it's up to the seven to protect her. Mary butts heads with the "unwanted element" and there's more fuel to the fire added about her wanting a piece of Chris. I mean Michael Biehn is the Father of the Future so can you blame her? J.D. pairs up with a beautiful young woman as he wants to seal the deal but it's more of an innocent teen romance. You get a big horse/wagon chase resulting in said wagon going flying over a cliff and crashing in impressive, practical fashion. Ezra and Nathan butt heads again over the Ezra's efforts to get the hookers to act as mail order brides which Nathan sees as another form of slavery. Social commentary, action and laughs, what else do you want on a 90's Friday night?

Episode 3, Safecracker
Buck and Nathan escort a paroled prisoner to town who ends up being a mother and her young daughter. Only trouble is, the mother is a former safecracker and her ex-partner wants her help to rob the Four Corners bank. Buck gets caught up with the criminal gang while Josiah and Ezra watch over the escaped kleptomaniac young daughter. Chris plays drunk and seemingly kills Buck to infiltrate the gang and help stop the robbery. T.J. Scott directs arguably the weirdest episode yet with lots of canted angles and sweeping shots of characters walking down dark and wet streets giving everything a bit of a nightmare feel to it. You really notice the size and scope of the town set which made me wonder how much an episode cost and if the street was still standing somewhere north of Los Angeles. Desert Heat baddie Jeff Kober shows up as the episode villain while a pre-Spy Kids Alexa Vega plays the daughter.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Magnificent Seven Week: VHS Origins

Can you believe I've been to a whopping 16 comic book and popular culture conventions this year?! Big and small, they've all been terrific for the most part. Well except September's Long Beach Comic Con which was a frigging mess. Comikaze looms at the end of the month but before then we'll be headed to downtown for a show I never knew existed, the western and Magnificent Seven themed M7 Con! I don't know how I missed this for the last two years as The Magnificent Seven movie and TV show are among my favorites of either media. I remember the first time I saw M7 the film was on AMC back when they still showed movies, fell in love with it then bought it on VHS and subsequent special edition DVD. Based on Akira Kurasowa's seminal film The Seven Samurai, the story of a band of ragtag samurais protecting a small village in Japan, Magnificent transplants the action to Mexico where veterans and gunfighters band together to take on a bandit and his small army. Directed by Damamged Goods Hall of Famer John Sturges with a script credited to William Roberts, Seven starred Yul Brynner as black clad leader Chris Adams while launching the careers of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Robert Vaughn. Released in 1960, the film made little impact in America but made a splash in Europe and returned to become an audience favorite that garnered an Academy Award nomination for composer Elmer Bernstein's rousing score.

John Sturges had steadily been building his reputation as the go-to filmmaker for action flicks with heart and machismo with Escape from Fort Bravo, Bad Day at Black Rock and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral already to his credit. Seven would cement his status as an action director who specialized in alpha, doer-centric casts and would culminate in career high effort The Great Escape in 1963. Allegedly The Magnificent Seven is the second most played film on television. Yul Brynner lead sequel Return of the Seven was released in 1966 featuring an all new cast that included Robert Fuller and Warren Oates. Burt Kennedy (Support Your Local Sheriff!) directed the Larry Cohen scripted affair which reused Bernstein's memorable score. George Kennedy assumed the role of Chris Adams with Bernie Casey and Joe Don Baker appearing in 1969's Guns of the Magnificent Seven before 1972's The Magnificent Seven Ride! recruited Lee Van Cleef as Chris for the film franchises final ride. An update was bandied about in the 80's from Hard Times and The Warriors' Walter Hill then the 90's with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark writer Lawrence Kasdan at the helm but those versions never materialized.

Cut to January of 1998 and CBS premiered The Magnificent Seven starring Michael Biehn, Eric Close, Ron Perlman, Anthony Starke, Rick Worthy, Dale Midkiff and Andrew Kavovit. The pilot found the new seven taking on a band of disgruntled Confederate soldiers headed by Robocop's Kurtwood Smith as he threatens a village of natives and freed slaves. Young Guns and Under Siege sequels director Geoff Murphy takes the reins for an action packed if unevenly shot 90 minutes which manages to fit in some social commentary about race relations, belief and honor back in the old west from a script by Frank Q. Dobbs, Chris Black, Pen Densham and John Watson. Of course Biehn's involvement got me hooked early on but the cast all get their time to shine. Biehn plays black clad leader Chris who is known as a cold blooded killer throughout the territory after losing his wife and son. Eric Close fills in for Steve McQueen as 2nd in command sharp shooter Vin while Perlman is Josiah, the preacher who drinks and fights, Starke is the card shuffling scoundrel Ezra, Worthy plays Nathan the stretcher bearer turned town doctor, Midkiff as ladies man Buck and Kavovit as young whipper snapper J.D. Debuting on Saturday, January 3rd in place of Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman, The Magnificent Seven pilot came out guns blazing, securing the # 8 spot for the week with 10 million viewers and 19% share of monitored viewers. I remember sitting in a movie theater on a Friday night and suddenly realizing I had forgotten to set the VCR to record an episode. I contemplated using the pay phone to tell my mom to do it for me but luckily the entire series would be released on DVD in the mid 2000's.

Disney Daze

Halloween is in full effect at the Disneyland resort in Anaheim with the 3 hour Happiest Haunts tour being sold out 15 minutes after going on sale and Mickey's Halloween Party and trick or treating taking over the park several nights a week. With Disneyland closing at 7:00 PM Friday, the crowd invaded California Adventure Park so we decided not to head over. Saturday we supported the House of Mouse by taking in touted # 1 show The Lion King, an expanded version of the 1993 mega hit starring James Earl Jones, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Jeremy Irons. Playing a limited engagement at Costa Mesa's beautiful Segerstrom Center for the Arts across from giant mall Southcoast Plaza, the 90 minute movie was expanded to a 2 hour and 40 minute show that sees elaborate costumes, moving sets, song and dance. I can't say I'm the biggest appreciator of live theatre but you had to admire the effort. The venue was quite large and the cast, crew and orchestra put on quite a show. There were bars on each floor where you could pre-order a drink for intermission even though you couldn't take them to your seats, random...

On Sunday it was off to Disneyland to make use of our Annual Passes. It was surprisingly crowded but we were taking a tour so we'd be in good shape. This is our 3rd or 4th tour at Disneyland after learning about Walt Disney himself, getting the lowdown on California Adventure Park and the general Welcome look around. Tours are an awesome way to experience the park as not only do you learn a lot, get hard to see looks behind the scenes and a special pin but best of all you get on several rides without waiting! Today it was Cultivating the Magic aka checking out all the plants in the park. Disney's magic is in the details and horticulture is a big part of it. With nearly 200 employees taking care of the plants, it's amazing some of the things you walk by not realizing how much time and effort goes in to maintaining. Some eye opening developments for me were learning about the vast types and numbers of plants used throughout the park like decades old trees lining Main Street or a Chinese redwood over in Adventureland. Or how the fences and walkways change between lands. At one point it was pointed out that stalks of corn were growing near Tomorrowland while the Jungle Cruise's lush rainforest is all irrigated and an Energy Star winner meaning that Disney isn't wasting a lot of money or resources to keep up appearances. Rides we were able to walk on to were The Jungle Cruise, where we got our own boat, the Haunted Mansion (bypassing the huge line) and those little boats over at Storybook Land. It was a brisk two hour tour and our guide was great. We were recognized by another tour guide so I guess that makes us regulars huh? See ya next week for the Happiest Haunts 3 hour extravaganza!

Fall Flicks: The Walk

After that terrific morning workout it was off to The Outlets of Orange aka The Block for some breakfast and a movie, Robert Zemeckis' tight rope spectacle, The Walk. It's been years since I've been to The Block but it's held up pretty nicely. You have lots of brand names stores like Calvin Klein, Banana Republic, DKNY next to hold out restaurants like Cafe Tu Tango, Market Broiler and newer additions like BJ's Brewhouse and The Saddle Ranch. It's kind of funny the Sunset staple has expanded to Universal City, Triangle Square and The Block but it's a fun spot and they give you cotton candy. The AMC houses no less than 30 screens and is quite the movie palace. There's quotes on the floor, giant posters as wallpaper and a half dozen of those Coke machines that make you 100 plus favors of fake. Our early screening of The Walk was old school with open seating.

Based on To Reach the Clouds, the memoirs of street performer and tight rope walker Philippe Petit, The Walk tells the tale of a driven daredevil and his quest to walk a high wire between the soon to be open World Trade Center Towers in New York City in 1974. The always likable Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the Frenchman who learns how to walk the wire from circus promoter Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley) as he contemplates how to fulfill his dream of walking between the American towers. Forming a gang of accomplices, Petit heads to New York and sets in motion his plan to break into the tower, string the wire across the open 140 feet, do the walk and not get thrown in prison. It's a pretty straight forward affair filled with fun, danger, a touch of romance, heavy French and New York accents and more than a few intense moments of rigging, walking and extreme heights. I heard people were getting sick and vertigo from watching but our 3D show brought us nowhere near vomit inducing. Some people are just weak I guess, I mean if you get sick watching shaky cam in a Bourne Identity flick I just can't relate. After the low budget Flight brought Zemeckis back from technology driven affairs like Mars Needs Moms, The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, The Walk is an economical crowd pleaser that has sadly not made a huge dent at the box office. But with hits like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, Cast Away and Flight to his credit along with pushing the limits of filmmaking technology, it won't take long to see him bounce back.

Workout of the Day: Traveling Man

After that late night and awesome meal from Wendy's, of course I took advantage of the hotel gym in the morning. It was actually a pretty well equipped space with dumbbells, a cable/chin station, several benches and multiple cardio options. I went basic for Chest and Biceps with:

- Chins and Push Ups
- Incline DB Press and Zane Incline Curls
- DB Flys and Concentration Curls
- DB Pullover and Hammer Curls

In general went for 12/10/8 for reps to get a nice pump. Finished off with some forearms and Standing Calf Raises, using the foot of the bench and holding a Dumbbell in my hand before a few minutes on the Elliptical.

Gotta Eat! Junk Gold

It was a short holiday weekend down to Orange County where we'd be taking in The Lion King stage show as well as a tour at ol' Disneyland. The OC Auto Show was in full effect so our standard Anaheim hang outs The Double Tree and Red Lion were booked up. We opted for The Double Tree in Orange a few miles down the 5 since they had a shuttle to the park and were right next to The Outlets of Orange, formerly The Block. I used to live and work down here so it was a bit of a time warp seeing Best Buy, Wendy's, Krispy Kreme and Friday's from our hotel window. It was a nice
spot and pretty quiet up on the 11th floor. As usual we over packed weekend supplies that included chips, bars and chocolate while we picked up some delicious Seagram's 7 Apple Orchard whiskey along with some Munchie Mix, pork rinds and Combo's. While I've been doing the 8 hour window eating thing, it was time to kick back because it's not everyday I can walk to a Wendy's. They've been advertising $4 meals where you get a Jr. burger, chicken nuggets, fries and a drink. Apparently fast food joints have moved away from the dollar menu and embraced small meals like KFC's Five Dollar Fill Up, Jack in the Box's $6 Night Meal or McDonald's Double Cheeseburger and Fries for $2.50. I went old school and grabbed a Classic Double (in my youth it would have been a Classic Triple), fries, chocolate Frosty and chicken nuggets. It was all Damme tasty. It's funny to see people forecasting the death of struggling top dog McDonald's but a little research shows that they posted roughly $5 billion in profit last year. Not made, but PROFITED off near $36 billion in revenue. You know who is second behind them? Starbucks with $12 billion in revenue. I think they'll be ok...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

(Pre)miere: Live-Evil at Comikaze

It's been a wild ride this last year and a half producing events that's seen Dammaged Goods presents at three different theaters around town hosting a multitude of guests from Sheldon Lettich, Dolph Lundgren and Steven de Souza to Carl Weathers, cast and crew from G.I. Joe and Transformers and of course, the recent two day He-Man and She-Ra event that saw no less than five screenings and over a dozen guests. On Saturday, October 31st, I can add comic convention moderator to my list of accomplishments as yours truly will take the stage at Los Angeles' largest comic book and popular culture convention, Comikaze Expo! That's right, I'll be hosting the west coast premiere of Live-Evil exclusive to the Comikaze crowd on Halloween night. Written and directed by Ari Kirschenbaum, this quirky, throwback flick is a mash up of Ghostbusters, Dawn of the Dead and The Twilight Zone. Having been accepted to a half dozen festivals on the east coast and picked up a few awards, Live-Evil stars Vladimir Kulich (The 13th Warrior), Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother), Vincent M. Ward (The Walking Dead), J. Richey Nash (Hitting the Cycle) and Tony Todd (The Rock, Candyman). It's Halloween night in a small college town when supernatural forces are unleashed resulting in walking nightmares and zombies armed with machine guns.

The fun starts at 5:00 PM on Saturday, October 31st with the exclusive screening followed by Q&A with Kirschenbaum, Kulich, Amoia and Nash. Admission is included with your Comikaze Day Pass and stay tuned for location updates when the full schedule is released. This year Comikaze welcomes the likes of Stan Lee, Carrie Fisher, William Shatner, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, Rob Liefeld and many, many more. Get your tix and stay up to date HERE.

Sneak Cinema: Death Valley

This Saturday sees the Hollywood red carpet premiere of Death Valley, a noir style crime thriller set in the harsh desert between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. What starts out as a drunken wedding run turns into a struggle to survive after a hit and run pits a group of strangers against one another. Directed and co-written by longtime Stunt Coordinator T.J. Scott with a script assist from Brad MacPherson, Valley stars Katrina Law (Arrow, Spartacus), Lochlyn Munro (Scary Movie), Victoria Pratt (Heartland, Mutant X), Nick E. Tarabay (Longmire, Crash) and Kelly Hu (X-Men 2). The film hits VOD on October 20th, until then check out the sex, sun, booze and betrayal packed trailer:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Animated Goods: King Arthur & the Knights of Justice

For your second heap of 90's awesomeness, let's take it back to 1992 for syndicated animated series King Arthur and the Knights of Justice. I grew up watching this show and really dug it, one year I fashioned a Sir Gallop costume for Halloween out of cardboard, string, sweat pants, PVC pipe and a couple of baseballs. It's been ages since I'd watched the show but a friend had recently rediscovered it and I'm now 6 episodes back in. After a rollicking electric guitar heavy, 90's rock theme song, the series starts with King Arthur and his Knights having been captured by the evil Queen Morgana and imprisoned within some diamonds in a cave. Wizard Merlin is unable to free the ruler and gazes into the future, coming across Arthur King, a likable quarterback from modern times and his football team The New York Knights. On their way home from a victorious game, the 12 football players take a shortcut in the rain and end up transported to Camelot. Merlin enlists them to free the true King Arthur which will require finding the 12 Keys of Truth. Being a bunch of city boys, the football team can't fathom how they'll be able to protect the kingdom while they search for the keys. Luckily the magic round table gives them each armor, weapons, a specialty item that can be summoned and the skills to fight and ride.

The team pledges "fairness to all, to protect the weak and vanquish the evil" in order to receive a He-Man-esque transformation and go out to kick Morgana's forces in the pants. Lord Viper leads the huge and powerful if dumb Warlords who have names like Axe, Bash and Blackwing. Both sides have armored steeds decked out with projectile spears, battering rams, smashing wrecking balls and catapults. Each episode sees the Knights go on a mission to help nearby townsfolk or locate a key of Truth. The characters are pretty broad with the fair and leveled leader of Arthur, big dumb guys Trunk, Brick and Phil then the I-talian builder Tone, geeky Asian Zeke and fast talking Sir Breeze among them. Tone was always my favorite for some reason, it must have been it his overblown accent and ability to build the Brooklyn Bridge in half an hour. The action is entertaining as swords clang, stuff gets launched everywhere, Warlods knocked off horses, etc. No beheading action but you know, this is Saturday morning stuff here. The fantasy aspect is played up with a magical unicorn who talks through mind bullets, dragons in caves and the like. Then you get some basic morals as one knight finds his courage, kids stand up to overwhelming odds, Arthur puts himself into knowing danger for the benefit of others, etc. Sure a lot of it doesn't make sense (why would you take a shortcut during a horrible storm? Why are there only 12 players? Why would one of them be the bus driver? Why are they so cool with being forced into Merlin's plan?) but it's a cartoon, folks, just go with the randomness and enjoy it.

King Arthur and the Knights of Justice ran for two 13 episode seasons in 1992 and 1993. I can't recall season 2 where they face off with Asian influenced enemies so it will be cool to watch or rewatch with nearly fresh eyes. I remember some really ugly figures from Mattel of Viper, Arthur, Lancelot and Darren which seemed like rejects from Masters of the Universe. Then again the line did reuse the Slime Pit and one of the vehicles so I'm probably not far off. Marvel Comics put out a three part series and a SNES video game hit in 1995. You can pick up the entire series on DVD for a cool $8 from Amazon and relive the glorious 90's with me. "Knights, Knights, Knights! Yeah! Knights, Knights, Knights! Break it down!"

Paneled Goods: The Kindred

After revisiting Divine Right I hopped into some Backlash, the badass, mutagen enhanced soldier turned Stormwatch combat instructor. Before receiving his own monthly series, The Lash was teamed up with fellow resident masked deadly smartass Grifter from WildCATS for miniseries The Kindred. You see both Backlash aka Marc Slayton and Grifter aka Cole Cash were part of Team 7, a covert ops action squad that were exposed to the Gen Factor, a crazy, pink, radioactive type dealy that gave them all powers. Backlash is able to turn into mist and utilizes psionic whips to take fools out or swing over stuff while Grifter got the short thrift as his powers of telekinesis waned but he ages slowly and heals fast. But he's a deadly sharpshooter and was trained by an alien warrior so it all works out. Exposure to the Gen Factor gave Team 7 powers but also made some of them mad and commit suicide. Tapping into "The Rush" accelerated the mental and physical deterioration.

Hitting stores in 1994, four part The Kindred follows former teammates turned bitter acquaintances Backlash and Grifter as they attempt to rescue their former leader John Lynch and his assistant Alicia Turner. They've been kidnapped by a villain called Bloodmoon and taken to Caballito island. Lynch and Turner are put on trial as we learn that Bloodmoon is actually Robert Diaz, a thought dead member of Team 7. Injured and left to die, Diaz washed up on Caballito island where he was taken in by The Kindred, human/animal hybrids resulting from secret experimentation done by Lynch's contemporaries at International Operations. Basically The Kindred are the results of an early version of the Gen Factor so it's Lynch's and I.O.'s fault times two. It's action and one liners galore as Backlash goes in with the troops, Grifter turns up, they're captured, they escape, they rescue their comrades and shocked to learn that Diaz is still alive. Grifter tries to help his former friend but after so much pain and the mental derangement of the Gen Factor, Diaz is hearing none of it. After lots of bloody battle and explosions, Grifter has the chance to save Diaz after a bridge collapses but Backlash can't hold up the two of them and forces Grifter to let go, essentially killing Diaz a second time. While Backlash and Grifter begrudgingly team up for the series, by the end Grifter is back to thinking that Lash is a self centered @$$hole only looking out for himself.

As if you didn't know, I love 90's comics. The supersized bodies, egos and action all make for some fun and intense reading. With a globe spanning security force, secret mission backstory, genetic experiments gone wrong, hostile buddy dynamic and exotic locales, you really got a lot of bang for your buck. Sure it's overblown with the action, one liners, muscles, hot babes and all but that's the point, it was the action decade! You get Grifter talking about someone suffering from lead poisoning after shooting them, quoting John McClane as he swings in shooting, scantily clad, uber buff men and shapely women and oh so many masks with exposed hair. The layered and intricate backstory adds history and heart to the goings on but never gets too confusing between I.O., Team 7 and whatnot. Jim Lee and Brandon Choi provide story details while Brett Booth gives it all a kinetic and violent edge with lots of destruction, physical dust ups, fire and more destruction. This is also the series that sees Backlash jump kicking a man-bear as the Island of Dr. Moreau influence is used to excellent effect. Next time we dig into Backlash's ongoing series!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ask Me a Question: The Monster Squad

As if four movies on Saturday weren't enough, it was time for the weekend's fifth on Sunday with a matinee of 1987's The Monster Squad at The Ace Theatre in downtown. As I already mentioned, it was frigging hot this weekend and The Ace is right next door to the Eastern Building where they shot Predator 2. So going into scorching hot downtown was in a sense, like reliving Predator 2 since that took place during a heat wave. The great folks at La-La Land Records invited us after attending He-Man & She-Ra Day at The Egyptian last month. La-La had new copies of Bruce Broughton's excellent score available in the lobby and co-host Creature Features had tables full of prints, posters and other cool stuff. Upstairs there was a VIP reception where you could mingle with attending cast and crew but honestly I wouldn't recognize anyone besides F/X gurus Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. The bar(s) were open so I enjoyed a couple of Jameson and ginger ales before and during the flick. We saw Back to the Future here a while back and I feel like the inside changed somehow, the seats seemed closer to the stage or something...

Eric "Quint" Vespe from Ain't It Cool News was the host and apparently he organized the first revival screening of Squad back in 2006 in Austin. Since then the flick has experienced a resurgence thanks to many a repertory screening and a 20th anniversary special edition DVD. Creature Features hosted a Monster Squad event at The Aero years ago and it played during last years Beyond Fest. Sadly composer Broughton couldn't attend but Vespe brought out actor Stephen Macht, cinematographer Bradford May, Gillis and Woodruff for a pre-movie panel:

- May was a young camera man hired by non-union director/producer Peter Hyams to shadow him. Ended up on Monster Squad and had a great time.
- Film shot for just over 3 months, utilized much of Warner Brothers backlot including Hazzard Square, the lake featured in the film is now office buildings.
- Peter Hyams' wife liked Stephen Macht in a television series, Hyams asked actor if he wanted to be in the movie, they shook hands and that was it.
- Macht's movie wife Mary Ellen Trainor (Lethal Weapon, The Goonies) was a terrific human being and the two became lifelong friends. Had no clue she was ill and sadly passed away in May.
- Stan Winston's studio hired to do the Mummy, Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein and Gill-Man f/x. Wolfman is based on Winston's own personal appearance and hair style. Gill-Man was first time Woodruff was in a suit, would later be the Alien in several films. Was in Gill-Man suit for 14 hours once. While shooting in lake, didn't want to pee in suit as he thought it might change material color.
- Originally wanted to use Universal monsters but studio passed.
- Gillis is still semi-embarassed they used remote control cars to move bodyparts around.
- Tom Noonan was method and stayed in character as Frankenstein, would answer direction with grunts and never let child actors see him without make-up.
- Macht doesn't think the film could be remade because it was a simpler, more idealistic time in the 80's. His son Gabriel (The Spirit, Suits) grew up on the film and still loves it.

While I own The Monster Squad and played it in the background, I've never actually sat down and watched it so seeing it on The Ace's beautiful screen was absolute best way to experience it. Basically, a crew of teenage kids who love monster movies (Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Brent Chalem, Michael Faustino, Ashley Bank and Ryan Lambert) end up in possession of Van Helsing's diary. There's an amulet, a prophecy and virgins involved but Dracula and his monster cronies have returned and it's up to the kids to stop them. Directed by Fred Dekker with a script assist from Shane Black, Squad is a great 80's flick where kids curse, monsters are scary and realized practically, a kid can write the Army a letter in crayon and they show up while still injecting some real life drama like fighting parents and child bullying. Plus there's a big score by Broughton and a montage set to a snazzy 80's pop tune. In addition to the kids cussing, you also get one of them killing the monsters via wooden stakes and arrows then making and shooting silver bullets and it's no big deal. See? Don't coddle children, let them eat dirt, it'll be fine.

After the flick, Vespe introduced cast members Andre Gower (Sean), Ashley Bank (Phoebe) and Ryan Lambert (Rudy):

- In true Shane Black fashion, some of the dialog has a hard boiled detective/pulp novel feel. Gower was instructed to deliver the final line of the film with Clint Eastwood style steely aplomb.
- As kids they had no idea what a big production the film was, they could only work 6 hours a day and had 3 hours of school a day.
- On set teacher watched out for them, objected to Lambert climbing up into the treehouse set.
- All remember Treehouse set being great, so detailed and realized.
- Shooting in square was hard as giant fans were blowing them around, debris everywhere.
- Bank's scene and terror with Dracula Duncan Regeher was real as she had never seen him with his evil red contacts and he really frightened her.
- None of them knew the film had such a cult following. Lambert was in San Francisco playing in bands when first heard. They've attended multiple screenings around the country and love seeing film with fans as each crowd responds to different things.
- Fat kid Horace actor Brent Chalem was shy at first but eventually gelled with crew. Sadly passed away from complications with pneumonia in 1997.
- As adults, give major props to the crew who actually made the film while they went home.

Everyone involved looked back fondly and really appreciated that the film was still playing so well nearly 30 years later. After the Q&A, the actors hung out signing posters and taking photos while I grabbed Bradford May a moment. You see, May went on to have a prolific directing career mainly in television with Nash Bridges, The Equalizer, The Twilight Zone, Dallas, JAG and multiple TV movies making up his 100 plus credits directing and as a cinematographer. For me it all comes back to Michael Biehn as May directed 1997's Asteroid, a $20 million dollar, 4-hour miniseries that was watched by 30 million viewers. Biehn starred as the gritty and heroic leader of FEMA and May told me it was a huge production, shooting for nearly 4 months, mostly in Denver. I have a copy on VHS at home even though it omits some 60 minutes of footage from the original broadcast. But May is a great talker, he had stories and decades worth of technical knowledge in his computer but somehow doesn't make it dry or hard to understand. It was a nice cap to a very fun afternoon.