Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Alas, some fans seem to ignore the significance of your Superman portrayal, but for 140 performances you flew about Broadway in an enchanting musical called "It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman", with upliftings songs by Charles Strause and Lee Adams. May your soul fly ever higher among your Kal-El counterparts in that superheroic sector called Heaven. Godspeed, my good Man of Steel...

Collectible Time #80: Multiverse Reverse Flash; plus Jyn Erso Action Figure and R2D2 Candy Dispenser

Received some additional action-adventure tie-in items for my birthday...

From my friend/coworker, Melissa, I got a 6" DC Multiverse Ebobard Thawne Reverse Flash, based on his CW persona, portrayed by Matt Letscher.

As you can tell from the above, the figure's detail is impressive, as is the display-case type packaging which accompanies all such Multiverse collectibles. 

Reverse Flash has 20 points of articulation and is accompanied by a couple, intriguing parts that can, after other characters are purchased, comprise a nifty Justice Buster figure...

Also on the action-figure front, another friend/coworker, Rani, gave me a lovely 3.75" representation of one of the bravest heroines to grace the silver screen: Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso from "Star Wars: Rogue One".

This Disney toy release is accessorized with a trigger-activated projectile. Cool!!!

What I like about the current series of smaller "Star Wars" figures is that they match the old Kenner line, thus continuing the fine tradition that began in '78. (They also fit in nicely with Hallmark's "Star Wars" Christmas ornaments.)

Also in keeping with the "Star Wars" theme, another friend/coworker, who wishes to remain anonymous (bless her heart), surprised me with the below 4" Galerie R2D2 candy dispenser. 

What distinguishes the dispenser, beyond its spot-on detail, is that it clicks, whistles and grants one a nice round, sugary treat when one presses its center panel. How conveniently clever! (I've a hunch this one might become a coveted item in years to come, as so many of these sorts of movie tie-in novelties do.)

At any rate, I'm most appreciative of these thoughtful gifts, which made my birthday ever more special!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2017


Your passing really jolted me, for though you've starred in so many roles over the decades, I was certain there were so many more to come. Nonetheless, I will savor the marvelous work you've done in the genres you've covered, particularly those in fantasy, including "Alien"; "Black Cauldron"; "Frankenstein Unbound"; "The Ghoul '75"; "Hercules '14"; "The Immortals"; "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"; "Lost Souls"; "Outlander '08"; "Plague Dogs"; "The Shout"; "The Skeleton Key"; "Snowpiercer"; "V for Vendetta"; "Watership Down"; and Michael Radford's version of George Orwell's "1984"; plus let's not overlook your appearances in the worlds of "Harry Potter" and "Doctor Who". You will, however, always be closest to my heart for your portrayal of John Merrick in David Lynch's "The Elephant Man". You were beyond any doubt one of the greatest thespians ever to live and will be cherished in the hearts of film fans for generations to come. 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I saw Resident Evil's "Final" Chapter...

A mere three weeks have passed since "Underworld'"s possible final chapter hit screens, and now an official ending (or so marketing proclaims) of "Resident Evil" greets us. 

Per "Resident Evil: the Final Chapter", the remnants of our world have been stripped away, but this was already projected in five, gun-blazing crusades, so why should we be so dismayed? Besides, for the sake of comfort, we still have one damn, sexy glimmer of hope...

Milla Jovovich's Alice, the superhot, super soldier, is back and still physically equipped to overcome the Umbrella Corporation's hordes of relentless mutants. 

Her "final" jaunt is written/directed by the man who's been there from the start, Paul W. S. Anderson (Jovovich's hubby, for those in the know). His visual flair and astute guidance has given us a trio of "Death Race" movies, as well as a steampunk version of "The Three Musketeers". Many would say, however, that his style thrives best within the "Resident Evil" universe. His participation is, therefore, welcome, if not essential, for ending the franchise's cinematic run.

Anderson keeps the story, which picks up shortly after "Retribution", fixed within the familiar, with Umbrella honchos, Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) and his various clones; cold-hearted Albert Weskers (Shawn Roberts); and good gal Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) influencing the maddening dilapidation. And let's not forget that cute, little Red Queen (Jovovich's daughter, Ever Gabo), who this time presents a global cure-all. 

Isaacs and Weskers' plans tie to the Queen's, but naturally with an insidious bent, and it all starts (or rather restarts) dead smack at its origin, in good ol' Raccoon City. Isaacs' insidious persistence leaves Redfield and her Mad Maxian companions with little choice but to battle on with Alice: an expected set-up, based on a long established home-video game, with just enough gory plot to succor our interest for a couple hours or thereabout. 

The familiar draping gives continuity to what’s been a tried-and-true saga; however, if “Resident Evil” has ever dimmed its luster (and mind you, the same can be said of “Underworld”), it’s upon turning predictable and therefore, bland. Let's face it, when any saga's patterns reflect too much of what’s come before, the scenarios can't help but feel more retold than further explored. 

What works for the new and "final" film is its dismal foundation: so sizzling, cruel and alien. Still, the question begs, is this concluding landscape as well utilized (i.e., original) as hoped? Sometimes it is, but more often, it's not. 

Though it's hard to pull one's eyes from the fast-paced mayhem, Anderson's adios should've gotten a somber “Army of Darkness” or live-action "Heavy Metal 2000" treatment, but instead we get only hints of what such Hive-spawned possibilities could have been. Yes, there are monsters descending from above and below, and it's anyone's guess what other viral evils lurk behind all that looming sand and rumble. For the most part, it's all insinuation, which wouldn't be so bad if the suspense mounted to its impetuous max. 

There should've be a menagerie of new, improved mutants and tons of lumbering, Lovecraftian hopefuls in this scheme, but rendered in the O'Brien/Harryhausen vein: menacing and fantastic things that beckoned the dinosaur age, but unlike anything that’s ever stomped the earth before. Man, such manifestations would have polished this chapter in ways no one would have expected, giving the series a reverberating blow that may have caused fans to decry, "To hell with no more."

Anyhow, for all of its hindrances, the cap-off is still entertaining, but again, it all comes down to the sultry Jovovich to pull it off. Really, if not for glamour girl Alice and her flexible frame, we might have faced a wry, bullet-holed travel log of despair, with only occasional motorcycle peeling, zombie growls and pounding explosions to keep us in tune. Yes, sir, when it comes to old favorites, our invested interest is what keeps us hanging on, and Alice seizes our devotion (and libidos), even when things sometimes feel tired and dry. 

Still as fans, can we sincerely say we've had enough? Sure, maybe it's time to move on after all that bloody repetition, but if oh-hum Hollywood favors retreads, why not at least pump 'em up? And no matter how the "Final Chapter" ends, anything can be retooled and refueled for the better. In other words, contrary to what some might say, for the sake of "Resident Evil'"s return, there's a most obvious way...

As I mentioned in my “Underworld: Blood Wars” review earlier this month, a meeting between Alice and the bloodsucking Selene would be so supreme. Think of it…defeated zombies piled to the left of the screen, dead Lycans layered to the right, and there in the middle, eyeing each other with lustful intent, our ladies fair and cruel. Will they fight or kiss and make up? Maybe a little of both? Oh, yeah…

Sure, a concept so sensible will likely go overlooked, but if there's a sure-fire formula to keep the mythologies going and guarantee box-office success, it's in a merger: one, in my estimation, long overdue.

Ron Fortier's Where Love Takes You: A Play of Love and Devotion

Most folks associate Ron Fortier with action/adventure tales and gutsy characters like Captain Hazzard, Lady Action, and the chilling Brother Bones. However, Fortier has a nostalgic side beyond pulp heroics, as he demonstrates in his delightful, three-act play, "Where Loves Takes You," published by Airship 27 Productions. 

The play centers on Fortier's parents, George and Gaby, and in spite of their age difference, they fall in love just prior to George's entrance into WWII. What develops is a sentimental story, where Gaby's Penelope-like devotion savors every letter that George writes during his battle-wrought days and a sense of duty and patriotism encompasses even those back home. 

The story is introduced/narrated by Fortier and his wife, Valerie, who would be played by performers other than themselves for any given production. They grant the story amiable warmth, giving the tale an "Our Town" feel. In between, we experience not only romance, but kindness, fear, triumph and comedy. (One of my favorite moments is when George is invited to dinner by a particular Hollywood icon, and with George resembling Ray Milland...well, let's just say a most humorous moment is recounted.)

I recommend "Where Love Takes You" to those who enjoy classic movies and tune in to TCM whenever the chance arrives. The play, in fact, plays much like a movie in one's mind, stirring the flavor of such bittersweet, wartime favorites as "Best Years of Our Lives" and "I'll Be Seeing You", with a contagious Frank Capra charm throughout. 

If you need an escape from the harshness of current-day concerns, order a copy of "Where Love Takes You". You'll be swept away to a time that was certainly harrowing, but full of love and euphoric surprise. And for those itching to put on a play (whether for a high school, college or community theater), this is definitely one to consider: a guaranteed, applause-rousing success for those willing to invest the time and dedication. 

Order your copy of "Where Love Takes You" at...https://www.amazon.com/Where-Love-Takes-You-Fortier/dp/1946183075/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485388706&sr=1-1&keywords=where+love+takes+you+ron+fortier.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I saw the Justice League Dark...

With so many alternate takes in the comic-book world, it's no wonder an in-between twist on the traditional Justice League and Suicide Squad would surface. To fulfill this, Peter Milligan has given us the clever and brooding "Justice League Dark", which now exists as a direct-to-disc/home viewing release, directed by DC/WB faithful, Jay Oliva; and scripted by Ernie Altbacker of "Green Lantern: the Animated Series" fame, from an idea he co-penned with the legendary J.M. DeMatteis. 

Batman/Bruce Wayne is the leader/recruiter here, and his dark aura suits the macabre ensemble well, with special attention on John Constantine and later down the line, in an overdue, animated-feature advent, Swamp Thing. Constantine and Swamp Thing, aka Alex Holland, alone should boost one's interest, but to cement the excitement, there's also the gorgeous and startling Zatanna; the ghostly but comical acrobat, Dead Man, aka Boston Brand; and the demonic Merlin adversary, Etrigan, sustained through the knightly Jason Blood.

For traditional JL fans, the usual members make appearances, as well, like Superman, Wonder Woman and John Stewart's Green Lantern, but they're only there to initiate and cap events, since the circumstances of this particular story do arguably require (if only for atmospheric aesthetics) a darker breed of hero for the darker task at hand. It's ultimately Constantine who vocalizes the need for such an allegiance, though the Caped Crusader clearly knows the score from the get-go. 

As in the live-action "Suicide Squad", "JL Dark" presents otherworldly, mind-tripping forces, inspired (or so we're led to believe) by the wizard, Felix Faust, in an apparent attempt to dominate the world through the power-granting Dreamstone, which Constantine's pal, Ritchie, possesses. The set-up is forceful, engrossing and surprising once revealed, but coming off "Squad'"s blockbuster heels, it also seems a tinge redundant. On other hand, would it be any better if the antagonists were standard supervillains like the Joker and Lex Luthor, spurring rehashed, terrestrial capers? 

Though Batman may be the story's most respected character, Constantine becomes its occultist catalyst. In fact, one of the film's best scenes occurs in its earliest phases, when Constantine and Blood engage some shifty demons in a game of cards. From this scene, we learn that Constantine is a spiritual agent, and he gives the story a quick current of "Sleepy Hollow" and "The X-Files", but then fans already know this about him. 

Constantine is moody and sometimes blunt, an extension one might say of Batman, but if need be, as crafty as his opponents. Altbacher's script helps in this regard, detailing Constantine's cunning, with all the little hows and whys (as he does with all the recruits), but also essays the magic man's determined progression toward getting the job done. 

Though Constantine shines above the other mystics, we really can't deny the impact of those surrounding him. As with any JL grouping, we learn that success stems from teamwork, but at the same time, each participant is allowed to grow and excel in his/her own spectacular way: that is, the power of individuality spawns success. Alas, a rare theme in mainstream reality...

Though "JL Dark" is comprised of many thrilling sequences, Swamp Thing's entrance is its best, which takes a while to surface and some may find too short, but man, is it ever rousing! In this incarnation, our soggy hero is more intimidating than usual (prompted by a past disagreement with Constantine), but due to Holland's sophistication, he's also pensive and for obvious reasons, more than a tad sad. (Let's hope this manifestation inspires some enterprising filmmaker to do a new, live-action version on Bernie Wrightston's celebrated mutant, or in the very least, a solo, animated film or new series.)

Once Swamp Thing ushers matters along, we're really off and running, but this also darts the story to its climax, which though explosive, is disappointingly brief. Then again, maybe this is a good thing. "JL Dark" is so interesting in its supernatural gist, we're compelled to want more. 

So, do the shadowy good guys defeat the shadowy bad? Heck, you already know the answer to that. To do it any other way would be unjustified.

Though "JL Dark" may be more menacing than other such team-ups, it's still classic DC in spirit and heart. And yes, a sequel is essential, if not inevitable. After all, we've yet to see Batman and/or Constantine enlist the Spectre for some far-out crusade. Until that happens, how can we consider the animated experiment complete?

Jerome Returns (No Joke)!!!

Elated to see "Gotham'"s producers have redelivered Cameron Monaghan's Jerome Valeska to the show, now with scary scars and all. We were promised the return of the Maniax's guffawing leader before the third season's start, but seeing is believing. (I still wasn't convinced this was going to occur, even with the tease in "Ghosts", but now that Frankenstein experiment entitled "Smile Like You Mean It" has concluded, how can I deny the obvious?) Still, we really got burnt with a vicious mislead in the early phases of Season 2, for which I (and it appears many other fans) haven't been too forgiving. 

It remains debatable whether resurrected Valeska is, in fact, the Joker-to-be. He might simply be a demented guru to Gotham's would-be, greasepainted thugs, from out which the veritable Joker will grow. (If it's the latter, we end up with a foreshadowing of "Batman Beyond" and all those futuristic Jokerz, but for chronological purposes, that rather distorts things.)

All the same, why clown around with us? We got our young Penguin, Riddler, Mad Hatter...Catwoman. It's only right we get our fledgling version of Batman's arch-foe. (Rumor has it that Harley Quinn might appear as well by season's end, but that doesn't grab me: too much projection, far too soon. Let's focus on the Joker right now, and substantiate his presence beyond a doubt.)

Monaghan is a damn good actor, and his absence from "Gotham" has been one of the most embarrassing miscalculations to hit a series in quite some time. At least Jerome's return is a step in the right direction, even if he might yet dash our Clown Prince of Crime hopes.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Like your talented father, you covered so many bases in the acting field. You're one of the primary reasons "RoboCop" became a classic, and you gave such fine seasoning to the weird world of "Twin Peaks". You also left your mark in "Deepstar 6"; "The Harvest"; "The Guardian"; "Star Trek III"; "Iron Man 3", "Brave New World '98"; the H.G. Wells tribute, "The Man Who Wasn't There"; plus three, cool appearances on HBO's "Tales from the Crypt". And let's not overlook what might be your finest performance ever in the eerie "Stephen King's Night Flier", as well as your supporting presence in the mini-series adaptation of the author's "The Stand". Your versatile voice also strengthened so many DC, animated outings, with on-target vocalizations for Aquaman; Deathstroke; Martian Manhunter; Sinestro; Vandal Savage; and the Weather Wizard. So sad you've left us so soon, but I and others will continue to relish the splendid sustenance of your expansive work. 

Collectible Time #79: Kotobukiya Marvel Now! Wolverine ArtFX+ Statue (for my Birthday)

I've been charmed by an early birthday gift from some fine folks at work...a 7.5" Kotobukiya Marvel Now! Wolverine ArtFx+ plastic statue, based on a famed painting by Adi Granov!!!

Like Kotobukiya's DC line, its Marvel series is breathtaking. The figures do need some basic, snap-assembly, but such isn't too involved. The detail on these figures is exquisite and the painting, professionally rendered. 

Wolverine is, as one can tell from the photos, a crowning case in point. 

For the sake of Logan, I rather fancy the orange/black outfit. (Okay, I suppose the orange may be a shaded yellow, making such a tinge more in tune with Granov's depiction. BTW: the legs are kissed by a stylish bronze.) At any rate, with this particular ArtFx+ Granov tribute, sculptor Junnosuke Abe gives us the right, rippling musculature, which seeps through the illusion of tight attire. The facial expression and pose also capture Granov's invested rage and determination, with Wolverine's six, deadly blades furiously hoisted. And speaking of display, the boots and base can be magnetically linked for sturdy posing. (The box graphics are also pretty cool.) 

Proud to add this dynamic piece to my collection, and if I may be so bold, it acts (at least for me) as an indirect warm-up for "Logan", the next X-Men feature.

I thank my dear friends for coming through with such a remarkable representation of one of the greatest, superheroic mutants of all time!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

An Alternate Reality #14: Death Race 2050

"Roger Corman's Death Race 2050", directed by G.J. Echternkamp, is a sequel to "Death Race 2000" (see "An Alternate Reality #4: May '15), which the iconic producer released in '75. Directed by cult favorite, Paul Bartel, the original film spawned a quasi-sequel, "Death Sport" in '78 and a trilogy of offshoots, commencing in 2008 with Paul W.S. Anderson's theatrical restart. (Each film, to some degree or another, is based on Ib "Time Travelers" Melchior's acclaimed short story, "The Racer".)

Anderson stated that his '08 epic is, in fact, an alternate-reality '80s prelude to Bartel's madcap event. This, therefore, officially establishes the entire series as existing on a parallel plane. The events of "2050" project a future that may not exactly stem from our current reality, but will exist somewhere within a dimensional sector just outside our own: a similar concept, one could argue, to the Biff-reigned realm of "Back to the Future: Part II".

In any other way, Echternkamp's follow-up exists as an independent (mis)adventure, with many nods to the '75 picture implanted for fans. In other words, if you've not seen any other "Death Race" movie, that's okay. This one works on its own accord. 

As a distinguishing factor, the "2050" races occur not only to delight the blood-thirsty masses (now assisted by a virtual-reality component that seats them alongside to their favorite racers), but also to quell overpopulation. The racers hold a celebrated dual purpose, therefore, as they gain points by killing people along a stretch from Old NY to Old LA and are again inspired by the popular, masked Frankenstein, played by Manu "Arrow" Bennett. 

As "Death Race" fans know, the franchise is characterized by a series of Frankensteins, who've been portrayed by different actors over the years. This makes perfect sense within the deceitful dystopia, since when one Frank dies, another masked anti-hero can simply take his place: for all intents and purposes, a resurgence of the same man pieced together to live, speed and slay again.

Nonetheless, Bennett's Frank is probably closest to David Carradine's '75 version (right down to owning a reptilian-lookin' car). Though he acts and sounds rather like Christian Bale's Batman when costumed, Bennett's Frank is otherwise dutiful, charming and wry when unmasked, with a hip, New Zealand accent, too boot. 

The other racers are just as charismatic in their own eccentric styles. They include angry, song-bird Minerva Jefferson (Folake Olowfoyeku); the genetically engineered Jed Perfectus (Burt Grinstead); the Harley Quinn-ish/cult idol Tammy the Terrorist (Anessa Ramsey); and the artificially intelligent auto, Abe (D.C. Douglas), who's supported by his sexually charged creator, Dr. Dorothy Creamer (Helen Loris). They are, like their '75 predecessors, crazed knock-offs of Hanna-Barbera's "Wacky Racers". (Too bad, though there's no Machine Gun Joe this time out; the namesake would have been a welcome addition. The musclebound Perfectus, nevertheless, is a an honorable substitute, giving Frank an immediate adversary to topple. He and Frank even engage in a brawl similar to that of Carradine and Sylvester Stallone.)

As with any "Death Race" movie, there's a governmental ruler overseeing the carnage. Malcolm McDowell assumes that role here, playing the feathery Chairperson of the United Corporations of America (an organizational concept introduced in the first film, as well as in the competing production of the time, "Rollerball"). McDowell's snooty assessment of the carnage fits the film's totalitarian atmosphere and in a subtle way, references his role in the equally demented "A Clockwork Orange". There's a moment, however, when he expresses a sincere yearning for the past, a time when decency and hard work were the norm: commendable, but hardly enough to make him redeemable. 

Despite the Chairperson's moment of florid sentiment, resistance fighters are out to break his regime, behaving much like their '75 counterparts, though armed and attired more in tune with Mad Max's world. They're led by the revolutionary, speech-spewing Alexis Hamilton (Yancy "Witchblade" Butler), who offers lots of rough humor through her gutsy speeches, as she and her uncouth gang zigzags into the race to bump off its steadfast participants. Odd thing is, the rebels are as reckless as those they pursue, embracing Revolutionary War rhetoric without fully comprehending it. Still, when it comes to choosing sides, they're clearly the lesser of two evils. (BTW: Hamilton holds a racy secret, perhaps not so beneficial to participants of either side.)

In contrast to Hamilton and her rambunctious flock, Annie Sullivan (Marci Miller) acts as Frank (and the narrative)'s navigating voice of reason...well, maybe she just wants broadcast exposure above all, but then again, perhaps it's something more elusive...more noble. No matter how one tries to pigeonhole her, on the whole, Annie fills the mold of previous sidekicks in her thoughtfulness, beauty and determination. (BTW, "Annie" is, in fact, the name of Frank's partner in the original film). Also, like previous "Death Race" leading ladies, this one never plunges into prolonged, kissy-faced interludes or breathless exchanges on why life is so tough. Yes, she knows things should and can be better and strives to make them so, but never gets so exasperatingly high and mighty to dilute the story's strange silliness.

It's this unpretentious angle that makes "2050" such an obvious knock-off of its founding chapter. Perhaps this is what Corman (and his wife, Julie, who co-produced) intended, giving Echternkamp and his co-writer, Matt Yamashita, the evident blessing to create a satirical reflection. Whether by purpose or plan, Echternkamp's visual style is reminiscent of Bartel's, though splotched with enormous splatter, to the point where the imagery sometimes mimics George A Romero and Herschell Gordon Lewis than Corman's exalted enlistee. (On an ironic note, Corman was allegedly displeased by Bartel's comedic handling of Melchior's material, but if so, he's clearly had a change of heart, considering "2050" is a full-fledged, dystopic spoof.)

Taken as an exploitative, action-adventure movie, "2050" admirably rises to the occasion: an entertainment for the brave of heart, filled with crazy car designs, noisy music, mainstream media mocking and jaw-dropping stunts. At the same time, one might argue, the film's excessive violence spews a sneaky statement on current society's casual acceptance of crash-and-burn catastrophes. 

For certain, the outlandish "2050" won't tickle everyone's fancy. It's an offering for fans of the franchise (particularly, those of the original) and those random, action fans who might wish to give it a spin. However, the new (and arguably improved) version extends enough of the original's impetuous panache to satisfy those who seek the wild and/or daring. Rest assured: If a namesake reunion doesn't come via Corman or Echternkamp, than indeed it'll roar from one of their inevitable successors. No ifs, ands or buts about it: Frankenstein will return.