Friday, December 25, 2015

Collectible Time #48: A Return of the Fly Christmas

I know it's not a hot-off-the-shelf item, but I've always had a hankerin' for Majestic's "Return of the Fly" 12" action figure. 

Well, thanks to Santa (i.e., my parents), I got one, and it's all I anticipated and more. What a swell representation! It even comes with a spiffy base which features a spilled beaker; a wee fly with human head; and chilling nameplate.

"Return of the Fly" is a pretty good sequel, though made for a much smaller budget than the original and shot in black-and-white. Still, it utilizes its theme well,  concentrating on Andre Delambre's son, Phillipe (Brett Halsey) in the fated lead, with a much larger head than his dad's, as you can see. 

In synch with this swell figure, my wife gifted me a "Return of the Fly" British, lobby-card t-shirt (obtained from Filmfax Magazine). Check out the image below. Sharp, eh?

Can't wait for warmer weather to don it, but whom am I kiddin'? I'm bound to slip it on in advance, if only to relish how cool I'll look in the mirror.

Yep, I must say I'm feelin' quite fulfilled and most grateful for this special "Return of the Fly" Christmas. Ho! Ho! Ho!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015



From "Twilight Zone" and "Star Trek" to the dystopian wonders of "Logan's Run", your works have enchanted and inspired. Your thought-provoking presence will be missed.

Monday, December 21, 2015


Finally found a copy of the much anticipated CINEMA RETRO #33!!!

As you can see from the nifty Robert Vaughn cover, this issue focuses on John Guillermin's 1969 WWII epic, "The Bridge at Remagen", in a sprawling first-part retrospective by Steven Jay Rubin. The article presents many interesting tidbits on the film's development, including insight on Rod Serling's contributing draft.

And in sticking to Guillermin's work, the second half of Ray Morton's overview on "King Kong '76" (aka, "Dino Kong") is included. Its inclusion is most appreciated, considering the remake is heading toward its fortieth anniversary. (My, how time does fly!)

As a bonus for adventure fans, Issue #33 also offers an interview with Sir Roger Moore, where he shares some fond words on fellow Bond actors, Sean Connery and Daniel Craig.

Once more, CINEMA RETRO does an admirable job paying tribute to films of the '60s and '70s. Get your issue now at your local Barnes and Noble. 



(I sure pray this season isn't as fierce as the last, but then I should know well enough. Snowy traditions rarely waver!)

Friday, December 18, 2015

I saw Star Wars Awaken...

"Star Wars I-III" disappointed, not because it was a lousy saga. Au contraire, it's actually quite a sprawling epic (and a damn big moneymaker, at that). It's just that, well...somewhere in the hustle of things, it lost track of its roots. 

"Star Wars", as the adventure was presented in 1977 by George Lucas, surfaced as a shameless homage to adventure tales gone by and the heroes who led them, namely John Carter, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. (As we well know, Lucas would have returned Flash to the big screen if only he had procured the rights.) With this, a "New Hope" presented a basic tale of good vs evil, unconcerned with murky Trade Wars or the unnerving shades of gray that characterized a villain we all knew would be uncompromisingly dark in his heart. As such, Disney's assigned director, J.J. Abrams, has assured us a new movie-serial style "Star Wars" with its seventh chapter, "The Force Awakens". 

Has Abrams fulfilled the promise? The answer is yes and no, but his slight deviations on the basic elements doesn’t mar the splendor. It simply makes this chapter (written by Abrams; the legendary Lawrence Kasdan; and Michael "Toy Story 3" Arndt) its own cool thing, which simultaneously looks to the past and the future. In this regard, we again have good and evil at odds, three decades after the epic Battle of Endor and the destruction of Death Star II, with new heroes leading the charge and supporting characters taking their sides accordingly.

Of course, as we've anticipated, it's old favorites who set the cozy pace: Princess/General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher); Han Solo (Harrison Ford); Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew); and even Admiral Ackbar (Tim Rose). Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is also in there, but essentially in concealed form, his presence felt throughout "Force Awakens", just as Spock's was felt throughout "Star Trek III": a warm-up, in essence, for the saga's predestined shape of things to come. 

The acknowledgment of our past heroes helps keep this installment in check; for if there exists any remnant of the basic formula that distinguished the middle chapters, it's through these stellar stars, and its the new folks who redirect the saga into its spirited, sequelized stretch. 

The newbies include desert-dwelling Rey (Daisy Ridley); ace X-wing fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar "Ex Machina" Isaac); wise Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow); helpful Maz Katana (Lupita Nyong'o); and in-search-of-redemption Finn (John Boyega). They each figure into the plot, to some extent or another, the way the characters did in "New Hope", with a transported message prompting their actions. 

Finn, in my estimation, is this chapter's most identifiable protagonist, though some would argue that Rey is more so, if only for her Skywalker similarities. Still, Finn is the one through whom we experience the adventure: the misguided guy who gets thrust upon this gallant ride after befriending the dynamic Dameron, who in his own right becomes a significant Solo stand-in. (On a speculative note, the following chapters will probably do a better job of fleshing out Finn and Rey, thus strengthening their significance within this yet expanding universe and for better or worse, tease at a potential romance.)

So, what exactly does our dynamic duo face (or rather, should I say, fall into)? Well, again it's a division of sides, with the freedom-fighting Resistance vs the multiplying "Neo-Nazi" First Order/Empire loyalists. We also learn that matters weren't definitively resolved at "Return of the Jedi'"s end, with (and this is solely implied and never succinctly stated) ineffective leadership having allowed pockets of sovereign seekers to cause disarray (much as any typical terrorist group would when not kept under thumb). 

Finn is wise, having shed his Stormtrooper shackles in the name of galactic freedom and stumbles upon Rey, who immediately takes to him, and from there their alliance fortifies for a shared cause and against a common foe. 

There are a number of baddies in "Episode VII", including memorable supporting characters, like Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis); the staunch General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson); and the gleaming Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), who make a strong visual (and sometimes dramatic) mark, but never dominate the plot.

The villainous beacon, therefore, is the heavily publicized Kylo Ren (Adam Driver): an often masked zealot with a most distinct light saber, who desires supreme, cosmic control. He's this segment's Ming the Merciless or Killer Kane; a counterpart to reality's hated Hitler and for the here-and-now, our would-be Darth Vader. He's hellbent on rekindling the Sith Lord's influence, and his impetuous temperament confirms this. Oh, and in case you're unaware, he's the son of...well, never mind; most of you've already caught wind of the startling revelation and outcome. Anyway, Ren's wayward presence is why Finn and Rey fight the good fight, though they require guidance along the way.

For such, they (along with the bad guys) seek the elusive Luke Skywalker, and with Solo, Chewy and the Millennium Falcon's help, "Force Awakens" starts to take shape, becoming at least on the surface, what Abrams projected: a thrilling quest story. 

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t always make the best use of its cast, opting (as the weaker chapters have) to emphasize organic window dressing instead of extended characterization. Tekka's presence, for example, could have been expanded, and Dameron, though engaging when given the chance, should have received much wider focus.

Though it may totter in its character balance, "Force Awakens" indubitably delivers the goods in visual glitz and not of the cartoonish CGI sort, either. This chapter is laden with old-school, heavy hardware and fast action, which earned it a PG-13: a warning to parents that such sleek intensity may be unsuitable for their coddled kids (sad, but true). Nevertheless, for those who savor movie-serial zest, "Force Awakens" should more than please and have most fans clamoring for more. 

Also to its benefit, this chapter downplays the cutsey stuff. Sure, the adorable, snowman-shaped BB-8 is there to pick up the torch from R2-D2 (Kenny Baker, who in this instance "consulted" on the droid's movements) and fidgety but amiable C3PO (Anthony Daniels), but it's all within the proper context. When given their various moments, the three give the film that Disney-esque charm: apt since the franchise is now officially Disney stationed. However, they are more of a cheerful additive than a mawkish, Jar Jar Binks distraction. 

At the end of the day, whether one labels it a hit or miss, "Force Awakens" is but another part in a progressing mythology. How this chapter will figure into the grand scheme is yet to be seen. (Remember, "Empire Strikes Back" wasn't necessarily praised as the best of the best upon release.) For the time being, and for the sake of launching a new start, the film now stands as the franchise's "new hope": a chance to avoid the disfavor paved by the prequel trilogy. It may also become, in the long run, another magnificent moment in space-opera history. For now, with the box-office numbers blasting through the roof and fan praise mounting, things look most promising.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Collectible Time #47: JAKKS 18" R2-D2 Action Figure and Force Awakens Plush Blanket

Thanks to my parents, I received an early Christmas present and swell lead-in to "Star Wars: Episode VII"...

It's the JAKKS 18" R2-D2!!!

The figure is equipped with movable legs and a quasi-rotational dome. 

This one's a great addition to my other jumbo JAKKS "Star Wars" figures and in scale to the series' 18" Yoda (see "Collectible Time #41": Oct '15). 

Right now, this particular R2-D2 is a tad elusive, though it's starting to make increased rounds at various department stores. Indeed, a nicely detailed piece and for the price ($40-$50), a wise investment.

Also, as yet another advance "Star Wars" Christmas gift, my dear friend, Melissa F. surprised me with a spectacular "Force Awakens" plush blanket, featuring Kylo Ren (with his distinct saber searing the scene), accompanied by various past-and-present "Star Wars" favorites.

The blanket measures a practical 50" x 60" and is ideally suited for staying comfy and adventurous all at the same time. A handy work of art if ever there was such!!!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Legend of Tarzan Trailer Premieres

Caught the first trailer for David Yates' upcoming "Legend of Tarzan": due for a July 2016 release.

This latest film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's classic creation stars the athletic Alexander Skarsgard as the King of the Jungle and in the role of Jane Porter, the ravishing Margot "Harley Quinn" Robbie. Also in the cast is Samuel Jackson, John Hurt and Christoph Waltz. 

The apes look smashing (akin to Rick Baker's simians in "Greystoke") and I dare say, Tarzan has never swung so fast through the trees. 

Got a feelin' this is gonna be a good one, folks. It's sure great to see one of the first (and most influential) superheroes back on the big screen! July can't come fast enough! Ungawa!!!

Friday, December 11, 2015

I saw Moby Dick in the Heart of the Sea...

Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” has been filmed numerous times. Though the most famous adaptations are the 1956 John Huston/Ray Bradbury production with Gregory Peck and the 1998 mini-series with Patrick Stewart, there’s also a 2013 mini-series starring William Hurt, and a 2010 modernization with Barry Bostwick. And let's not forget those early John Barrymore trendsetters, “The Sea Beast” and “Moby Dick ‘30”; let alone that "Star Trek: First Contact" borrowed heavily from Melville's allegorical concept, as did the medieval epic, "Age of Dragons". 

Though many perceive “Moby Dick” as a revenge-ridden tale (and, thus far, the vengeance element has surfaced in all adaptations), it also appeals to monster fans. Though it may seem extreme these days (i.e., politically incorrect) to call a whale a monster, Moby Dick, like Kong or Joe Young, is a most extraordinary specimen: beyond mammoth and startlingly white, equipped with cunning cognition. These traits have characterized all versions of the beast, and the latest (though indirect) tribute is no exception, making "In the Heart of the Sea" another chapter in what some consider a genuine "sea monster" franchise. However, the great-white-whale angle is only one disquieting part of the latest scheme.

The adventure (or perhaps more precisely, misadventure) comes via director extraordinaire, Ron Howard, based on the acclaimed historical novel by Nathaniel Philbrick. Philbrick’s account commences in 1820, aboard the doomed ship, Essex, where the crew endures not only a merciless whale attack, thus inspiring Melville to pen "Moby Dick", but fierce weather and the horrid consequences of starvation.

Portraying the ship's fledgling captain, George Pollard, is Benjamin "Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" Walker; and his dynamic (if not disgruntled) first mate, Owen Chase is played by Chris “Thor” Hemsworth. Rounding out the Essex's primary crew is Tom “soon-to-be Spider-man” Holland, as young Thomas Nickerson (the cabin boy); Brendan "Mad-Eye" Gleeson as old Thomas Nickerson (who reluctantly reflects upon his youthful escapade); Cillian “Scarecrow” Murphy as Matthew Joy (Second Mate and childhood friend of Chase); and as the man who documents Nickerson's disconcerting account, Ben "Q" Whishaw as Melville.

The men commence their adventure from Nantucket, Massachusetts without seeming worry, but when a enormous, white-specked sperm whale rams their ship in the Pacific Ocean, they must disperse into separate whaling boats, as their mighty vessel sinks.

In addition to fearing another attack (for the whale does trail them), they must face the consequences of being lost at sea and running out of supplies. The whale, therefore, is a monstrous harbinger for what turns this true-life story into one of horror. Like the Donner Expedition or Andes Flight 571, cannibalism becomes the crew's source of survival. 

There is no polite way to depict the consequences of such, even though the gruesome procedure is at best implied. One could say that, in a allegoric sense, the whalers have been cursed for their oil-profiting pursuits, and it's Moby Dick's precursor that has placed this curse upon them. 

Though Captain Pollard figures significantly into events, Hemsworth's Chase is the story's hub and the crew's doleful cheerleader. Because of Hemsworth's prior roles, instinct tells us to trust him, but even his towering frame can't defeat the damning craze that ensues.

As Charles Leavitt's excellent script develops, the sheer hopelessness of Chase's actions become apparent, seeping through Gleeson, Holland and Murphy's characterizations to a marked extent, each actor exuding convincing anguish and woe. Howard's pacing also enforces the crew's nihilistic descent, giving the film's second half a disquieting, slow-burn ambiance, similar to the director's "Apollo 13". 

Though the tale's cannibalistic component assures a morbid allure, it might also be dismissed as disappointing after the big attack, which is a destructive wonder to behold. The sequence, albeit brief, crackles with a relentless roll found only in the best giant-monster films: calculated to make one's heart pound and leave one depleted in its aftermath.

In fact, so powerful is the whale's presence that (for poetic license) it could have been more frequently reinstated, mounting the air of danger. As it stands, "Heart of the Sea" often leaves the crew's desperation to stand in lieu of the majestic monster.

The crew's dilemma, however, allows one to consider the grave obstacles sailors faced in days gone by. Though there's no doubt the story is embellished, just as "Moby Dick" is, one has no choice but to acknowledge that the basic story did, in fact, occur: something that should give one reason to pause and ruminate.  

Monsters and the horrors they spawn aren't solely relegated to the printed page or movie screen. Their roots often reside in reality, and reality can often be a most unnerving place, as the Essex crew--and now we, the audience--can assuredly attest. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015



I'm still riding on a stimulating high from the previous Femforce issue, but man alive, I had no objections to receiving another titillating jolt!

Issue #173 incorporates (surprise, surprise) another eye-catching bevy: Black Phantom; Black Venus; Blue Bulleteer; Ms. Victory; Nightveil; Racer G; She-Cat; Stardust; Synn; and Tara!!!

The high-kicking stories and splendid artwork are brought to us by the immensely talented Mark and Stephanie Heike; Jeff Austin; Jacob Bear; Simon Davies; E.T. Dollman; Brian Dunphy; Andrew Hawnt; David Pugh; Francesco Savi; Scott Shriver; Colin Stanford and my Facebook pals...the always surprising Rock Baker and Mark Holmes!!!

This issue supplies a number of thematically varied, action-packed tales, with a wild, espionage-laced wedding in the forefront; enticing homages to "Death Race" and "Old, Dark House"; Bondian villains; winged demons; science and sorcery. Indeed, there's a little something for everyone, along with that faithful flow of gorgeous eye candy!!!

If you've a hankerin' for a compilation that's smart, sprawling and sexy, Femforce #173 is your ticket to ride!!! (Order today at

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

I saw 60 Years of the Gill-man...

Documentaries (as with any film category) vary in quality when it comes to various subjects, whether it be historical overviews, biographies or propaganda. I'm pleased to report that the latest on the Creature from the Black Lagoon (from Shadow Play Enterprises) is one of the best to emerge, paying comprehensive homage to the Gill-man and his creators. 

However, much of its historical content has been covered before in articles, books and Universal disc supplements. What distinguishes director Matt Crick's "Creature Feature: 60 Years of the Gill-man" is the fan appreciation. "Creature Feature" is to "Creature from the Black Lagoon" what "Trekkies" is to "Star Trek": a celebration of a phenomenon that refuses to die and only gets bigger with the passing of time. 

As scripted by Sam Borowski and narrated by Keith ("The Thing"/"They Live") David, the celebration initially recounts how Jack Arnold became assigned to direct due to his success on "It Came From Outer Space"; how Arthur Ross made the Gill-man sympathetic and less bestial; how such prestigious stars as Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Julie Adams, Whit Bissell and Antonio Moreno became part of the tapestry. It also grants proper credit to Millicent Patrick for designing the Creature and Chris Mueller for sculpting the costume; and we shouldn't forget those courageous men who articulated our star: Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning in the original; Tom Hennesy in "Revenge of the Creature"; and Don ("Tales of Frankenstein") Megowan in "Creature Walks Among Us."

To the filmmakers' credit, the late Chapman covers a large sum of the documentary, culminating in a convention re-teaming with Browning. The cheerful Julie Adams is also present throughout the proceedings. Each appears sincerely appreciative of being part of the franchise and the admiration awarded them.

The featured fans are quite diverse. Some are celebrities, like Benicio ("The Wolfman") Del Toro and character actor, Daniel Roebuck. Some are Gill-man historians, like David Schow and Bob Burns. Others are exclusive Creature collectors, like Johnny "Arizona Gill-man" Gilbert and Scott "Gill-Boy" Erhard.

The stories shared add to the sentiment, from Gilbert reminiscing on his yearning for a bendable Gill-man from the Easter Bunny to Chapman's encounter with Marilyn Monroe and the sly way his movie persona was revealed to her through Peter Lawford. 

The documentary also highlights the Gill-man conventions. One scene, featuring Ed Bowkley (the Creature from the Black Lagoon Yahoo Group President) and his tribute tattoos, is worth the price of admission alone, as is acclaimed makeup artist, John Goodwill, transforming an audience member into a Gill-woman. As a special treat, the Wakulla Springs, Florida convention, which caps the film's later half, offers a boat tour where the first two chapters were filmed, its lush scenery seemingly unchanged since the mid-fifties. 

On the whole, "Creature Feature" is a tender-loving essay on how we attach the best moments of our lives with those things--or more precisely, those creatures--that impact us when we're young. Those impressions, like the Gill-man, are part of who we become, defining our sense of wonder and appreciation for the unique and wonderful. "Creature Feature" captures that fondness with care and grace: a sentimental journey designed to supplement one's most cherished, monster memories.