Archive for the movies Category

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Frighteners movie novelization by Michael Jahn (1996)

Posted in books, Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

On Friday I talked about one of my favorite ghost movies, Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners from 1996. Well, as luck would have it, they released a movie novelization for it.  It was written by Michael Jahn.

 

I Read Movies

So, I recorded a very special Halloween episode of I Read Movies all about this novelization. I talk about extra scenes, I talk about new plot points, there’s even a good bit explaining the nature of the movie’s ghosts. Lots of good stuff to hear, so either download the latest episode of I Read Movies on iTunes and Google Play or listen to it right here.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Frighteners (1996)

Posted in Genres, ghosts, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Today I finally get to talk about The Frighteners by Peter Jackson starring Michael J Fox.  I’m trying to remember how I first found out about/watched this movie.  I’m fairly certain I did not see it in the theater as I would have been still in college and this particular movie wouldn’t have got me or my friends into the theater.  Plus, I don’t actually remember it in the theater.

I’m pretty sure I found out about it later. The draw for me would have been Michael J Fox in a horror comedy. I’m also fairly certain this would have been my first exposure to Peter Jackson as well. I probably caught it on DVD sometime in 1998 or 1999.  And I loved it.

The movie is about Frank Bannister, played by Michael J Fox.  He can see ghosts. He uses this ability to fleece money from people as a “psychic investigator”.  However Frank stumbles upon a rash of recent killings that look to be linked to a murder that happened decades earlier and he’ll need to use all of his supernatural skills to solve the murder before he becomes the next victim.

That’s the basic synopsis.  Lots more is going on here.  Let’s take a look at the movie.


Opening title card.


This is the Bradley House. At one time it was Fairwater Hospital/Sanatorium.  It was the site of the Bartlett/Bradley murders.  Now it’s mostly closed and abandoned.  The only people living here are Patricia Bradley and her mother.


As I’ve already mentioned, I’m a big fan of this movie. I want you to know that upfront before I talk about the opening of the movie. The opening is a very exciting set piece within the Bradley house. We see Patricia being chased by a ghost that is materializing within the walls of the house. It’s a fast paced chase with some pretty great effects for 1996.  And Patricia, played by Dee Wallace Stone, seems pretty terrified.  Eventually the ghost materializes under the carpet on the stairs and grabs her just as her mother appears with a shotgun and blows away the part of the carpet where the ghost’s head would be.  It’s a nice, thrilling beginning to the movie.  However, once you get to the climax of the movie, it ultimately makes no sense.  At all.  Even Peter Jackson admits this opening is a cheat.  It’s ostensibly one of the bigger problems with the movie, but honestly it never really bothered me.


Easter Egg Alert!  We learn some backstory about Patricia and her boyfriend, Johnny Bartlett, in a sequence featuring a “real crime” video one of the main characters is watching. This is the cover of the video. The picture of the couple on the left is supposed to be a photo of Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey as their characters in Jackson’s previous movie, Heavenly Creatures.


Patricia’s mother the very next morning after the above opening sequence and she’s sporting a hairdo in what looks to be an unsubtle homage to Gary Oldman in Coppola’s Dracula which was only 4 years before this.


Michael J Fox plays Frank Bannister. A man that has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts.  As I mentioned he uses this ability to con people by working with ghosts to haunt houses so they have to hire him to “exorcise” the ghosts.  Fox is pretty great as the lead.


These are the ghosts that work with Frank; Cyrus and Stuart. Cyrus is a 70s disco gangster and he’s played by the great Chi McBride. Stuart is sort of a nerdy guy played by Jim Fyfe who, to me, is probably best known for hosting/producing those “Buy Me That!” series of PSAs about how commercials use camera trickery to make their products appear more attractive.


This is another ghost working with Frank, “The Judge”. Judge is an Old West gunslinger/sheriff played by John Astin.  He is sort of decrepit, his ectoplasm is drying up, and he has trouble keeping his jawbone in.


Frank starts seeing spectral numbers carved into people’s heads.  At first he thinks his ghost associates did it but we learn they didn’t.


Great cameo by R Lee Ermey as Sgt Hiles. He protects the cemetery and is essentially playing his character from Full Metal Jacket.


Here’s the ghost that Frank is up against. This ghost is killing people by appearing out of the walls and squeezing their hearts until they die.  The Judge calls him the Soul Collector.


Jeffrey Combs is excellent as Special Agent Dammers. Dammers is an expert in parapsychology. His work with cults has rendered him a bit…insane.


At one point The Judge humps a mummy.


“Dr Teeth” Jake Busey plays Johnny Bartlett with much scenery chewing.

Those are just some of the highlights.  Like I said, I quite adore this movie.  Fox is great.  I think, for the most part, the effects are great, especially for 1996.  And it’s got this fun horror-comedy vibe that I just dig.

The movie does pose several questions in the nature of it’s ghosts.  One of the biggest issues I’ve had for years is that the ghost that’s committing the murders is WAY more powerful than ghosts like Stuart and Cyrus.  As a matter of fact, Sgt Hiles also seems way more powerful than Stuart and Cyrus.  Why is there a difference?  Are there different classes of ghosts?  What are the rules?  The movie doesn’t really spell any of that out.  For the most part, this lack of clarity doesn’t really hurt the movie, but those of us that have watched it many times can’t help but wonder what’s up.

I acquired the movie novelization to The Frighteners which is written by Michael Jahn.  I was hoping it would address some of my concerns.  On Monday check out my review of said novelization on a brand new episode of I Read Movies where we’ll see if any of this ghost business is explained.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Real Ghostbusters S1E11 – Citizen Ghost

Posted in cartoons, Ghostbusters, ghosts, monsters, nostalgia, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on October 11, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

So last time I reviewed J Michael Straczynski’s season 1 episode “Take Two”.  It was a super meta episode about Hollywood making a movie about the cartoon Ghostbusters that included actual footage from the Ghostbusters movie.  Next up is another super meta episode by Straczynski involving the cartoon Ghostbusters and the aftermath of the actual events in the first movie.


Season 1 – Episode 11. Citizen Ghost.  I wanted to watch this episode because, as I alluded to, it’s supposed to be a direct sequel to the original 1984 movie.


Peter is interviewed by a reporter for a news story. Peter tells the story about how Slimer came to be the mascot of the Ghostbusters. This involves flashing back to immediately after the first movie fight against Gozer.


So we flash back.  Gozer has been defeated, but the GBHQ is still destroyed from when Walter Peck had shut down the containment grid and the ghosts escaped.  You see the holes created by the escaping ghosts.


We see the Ghostbusters are still in their all gray movie suits.  Egon mentions that they need to destroy these suits due to all the ectoplasmic radiation they absorbed in their fight with Gozer.


Janine announces that luckily right before their fight with Gozer they got delivery of their brand new uniforms.  We see the guys pull out their new, more colorful, cartoon versions of the Ghostbusters suits.  I love that already this cartoon is explaining why the cartoon’s suits are different than the movie.


Peter is in charge of destroying the irradiated uniforms. He kicks the box aside and completely forgets about it. The box slides right up next to the new containment unit and starts absorbing some ectoplasmic radiation that happens to be leaking from it.


The irradiated suits absorb so much ectoplasmic energy that they start glowing and get up and walk out of the box!


The suits generate ghostly versions of the Ghostbusters that shoot ectoplasm out of their proton packs.  The fellas must fight their ectoplasmic doppelgangers with the help of Slimer who, instead of escaping with the other ghosts during the movie sequence, decided to stick around the headquarters with the guys.  Slimer ultimately helps defeat the spectral Ghostbusters.

This is a fun episode that attempts to explain the several differences between the movie and the cartoon.  And they are pretty good explanations.  I liked this episode quite a bit.  I’m surprised this wasn’t used as the very first episode right out of the gate.

Also, evil spectral Ghostbusters.  You know I’m all over that.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: The Real Ghostbusters S1E10 – Take Two

Posted in cartoons, Ghostbusters, ghosts, monsters, nostalgia, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

Since I’m doing ghosts this year for Halloween, I thought I really needed to discuss Ghostbusters in some way.  I didn’t want to review the movie, that’s been done a million times.  I didn’t want to review the sequel either.  There aren’t any Ghostbusters novels to read (I’ve talked about that as well) and I seriously considered talking about last year’s Ghostbusters reboot. However, I decided to discuss the cartoon based on the movie:  The Real Ghostbusters.

I talked about The Real Ghostbusters cartoon before when I explained the difference between it and Filmation’s Ghost Busters.  I’m a fan of the show. It’s not one of my holy sacred childhood things but I do like it quite a bit.

I noticed recently Netflix added 5 seasons of The Real Ghostbusters to its streaming service so I decided to check out a few episodes since I hadn’t watched it in so long. There were a few episodes that I’d heard about and never watched so I decided to use this opportunity to check them out.  I’ll review each of these episodes separately throughout this month.

So, let’s start with the first one on my list…

I’d heard that J Michael Straczynski wrote several of the first season episodes of the show.  Straczynski is a well known comic writer and novelist.  Two of these early season 1 episodes I’d heard about were super meta involving the first Ghostbusters movie and how it connects to the cartoon.  This sounded super interesting to me so I thought I’d check them out.  The first of these episodes was…


Season 1 episode 10. Take Two. In this episode, Hollywood is going to make a movie about the Ghostbusters. So the guys are flown out to LA to be consultants for said movie.


While flying out to Hollywood I guess Venkman was harrassing the flight attendant because Egon mentions that she threw Peter’s suitcases out of the plane while they went over Cleveland.


The guys arrive in LA and we of course get a gratuitous Hollywood sign appearance (But it looks like it’s in the Grand Canyon for some reason).  The guys get a look at the cast list for the movie and are less than impressed. Winston reads out, “Murray, Ackroyd and Ramis? Is that a law firm?”


Oh yeah, Slimer tags along on the trip and once in LA the first thing he does is chase Carmen Miranda? WHAT?


While on the movie set an old “sleeping ghost” is awakened. A sleeping ghost hates noise so any time he hears loud noises he goes berserk. The sleeping ghost inhabits a giant robot prop from a space movie set and goes on a rampage across the movie studio lot trying to shut everyone up.  You know, making a LOT MORE NOISE while trying to get everyone to MAKE LESS NOISE.


The guys’ proton packs are accidentally switched with props so when they try to bust the ghost, nothing happens.


Slimer happens to bump into the poster for the Ghostbusters movie they are making.


We are on a movie studio lot so there are several scenes of the guys hanging out on different movie sets. Here Winston, Ray, and Slimer chill out on a western set.


After capturing the sleeping ghost the guys dress up in tuxes and attend the movie premiere.


While sitting in the theater you see actual film footage from the 1984 Ghostbusters movie including Venkman’s voice saying lines from the opening scene (the lines are dubbed by another actor, however). Peter even looks at the screen and says that Bill Murray looks nothing like him.

This was a wonderfully meta episode.  I quite enjoyed watching this one and seeing how the cartoon handled the idea of a movie being made of the cartoon.  J Michael Straczynski wrote one other “metafictional” episode right after this.  I’ll review it next.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Thirt13n Ghosts (2001)

Posted in Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2017 by Paxton

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Thirteen Ghosts from 2001 was a remake of a 1960 William Castle movie by the same name.  The remake took the basic story by Robb White and “modernized” it.  It was directed by Steve Beck who only has one other directing credit to his name…Ghost Ship.  From the very next year.  Not a stellar resume, to be sure.

13 Ghosts poster

Back in 2001, I was actually excited to see Thirteen Ghosts (aka Thirt13n Ghosts).  It looked like a cool stylized modern horror movie.  It had an awesome glass walled clockwork house and Shannon Elizabeth.  I had (actually have) quite a crush on Ms Elizabeth.  In 2001, the run up of movies she was in before this included American Pie, Scary Movie, American Pie 2, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.  And she was…well, if not a great actress, she was likable enough.  And she is super attractive.

I remember kind of liking this movie when I saw it in the theater.  It wasn’t the greatest movie I’d ever seen but I remember liking the concept and the world the movie inhabited.

title card
As you can see this movie follows Se7en‘s lead of embedding numbers stylistically into the title.

Cyrus
F Murray Abraham plays Cyrus, a genius/psychotic ghost hunter obsessed with trapping ghosts.  He uses these glasses to actually “see” the ghosts which is a neat little inside joke to the original 13 Ghosts from 1960.  William Castle passed out glasses to audiences which allowed them to “see” ghosts in the theater.

Lillard 1 Lillard 2
Matthew Lillard and his favorite thick sweater (he loves those sweaters – see Scream, right) is in this movie as well playing a psychic that helps Cyrus trap the ghosts.  And also like in Scream, he loves to SHOUT ALL OF HIS LINES.  And yes, he says “Aw, man…” a few times.  Honestly, I’m poking fun at Matthew a bit, but I’m a fan of his.

house 2 house 1
At the center of this movie is Cyrus’ house. It’s designed to exacting specifications as seen in the book The Arcanum. The entire house’s purpose is to hold and store ghosts until it’s time to release them and start up “the machine” that exists in the middle of the house. All the construction materials and inscriptions in the glass are specifically to trap the ghosts inside.


This is Cyrus’ surviving family. Tony Shaloub is Cyrus’ brother-in-law, Shannon Elizabeth is Shaloub’s daughter and the chick on the left is the nanny for the little boy in the movie which I’m not showing you a picture.  They come to inherit the house when Cyrus dies capturing a ghost.

The Jackal ghost
There are 13 types of ghosts needed by Cyrus to pull off what he wants to do. They are referred to as The Black Zodiac.  This ghost is called “The Jackal”. It’s one of the more terrifying ghost designs.  Each of these ghosts were designed by the filmmakers and given complete backstories.  One of the things I love about this movie is how they really thought about the world this movie inhabits and really tried to flesh out some of the backstory even if that backstory would never be seen actually in the movie (see book pages below).  Wish they would have given this type of thought to the actual script.

arcanum page 2 arcanum page 3
Pages from The Arcanum.  It’s in The Arcanum that is described the 13 types of ghosts.  The one on the left is the most powerful ghost called “The Juggernaut”.  The middle one is “The Jackal”.  The ghost on the right is called “The Hammer”.


All 12 ghosts gathered around the device about to open a portal to Hell.

So, watching it again, I feel the same.  The movie isn’t exactly terrible.  There are certain aspects like the house, the ghosts, how the machine works, that I like.  But other things like the script and the majority of the actors are just not very good.  Normally you’d think Tony Shaloub would be great, but he’s not.  He’s not terrible either.  But he’s not good.  And Shannon Elizabeth is barely in the movie.  The ones that get to really chew some scenery are F Murray Abraham and Matthew Lillard.  They get to have all the fun here.  And there’s a great set piece in the opening of the movie where they capture a ghost.  It’s thrilling and action packed.  Wish the rest of the movie could have been the same way.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Casting the Runes and other Ghost Stories by MR James

Posted in books, Classic literature, Genres, ghosts, Halloween, holiday, horror, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , on October 4, 2017 by Paxton

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Doing research for ghosts I looked up scariest ghost stories to see what popped up that I want to cover. The name M.R. James kept showing up in lists.

MR James

He’s a very well respected author from the late 19th-early 20th century.  Most of his work with ghost stories shows up in the early 1900s.  James began what is now called “antiquarian ghost stories”.  James abandoned the high “Gothic” cliches of what was then the presiding style of ghost stories and set his stories in a more contemporary setting.  He also generally used a protagonist that was a naive or very reserved scholarly gentleman who had found or come into possession of a mysterious object that drives the crux of the story.

There have been several collections of James’ ghost stories, so I picked one that had the most variety but also one that included several that were generally considered his best.  Hello Oxford World’s Classics edition.

Casting the Runes cover

In this collection, the main ones I wanted to read were Casting the Runes, Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad, and A Warning for the Curious. I also planned to cherry pick a few others depending on how much I liked what I read first.

So, I read the stories, what do I think?  Honestly, the stories just didn’t grab me.  There’s some interesting things James is doing, but none of them connected with me.  I read the story, liked the setup, but nothing ever creeped me out or scared me.  I came in fully expecting to be terrified of these stories but…nope.  Nothing.  I think James is a good writer, but for whatever reason, these just didn’t punch those specific creepy buttons for me.  I was more scared when I reread those old Alvin Schwartz Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books than I ever was here.

This is a shame because I really was excited to read these stories for some good creepy fun.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

Announcing I Read Movies microcast all about movie novelizations

Posted in books, movies, podcast, pop culture with tags , , , , , on August 31, 2017 by Paxton

If you’ve read this blog or follow me on Twitter for any length of time you know I’m a fan of movie novelizations. I read them. I collect them. I love finding new ones I never knew existed. If you check back in the Awesome Archives you will find several reviews for many different movie novelizations.

On the Nerd Lunch Podcast, whenever we do genre movie drilldowns, I try to read the novelization for the movie we’re discussing to see if it can add anything.  Specifically, Nerd Lunch did drilldowns on all the Indiana Jones movies and many of the original Trek movies (we are currently waiting to do Star Trek V).  For Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home I did extra helping discussions on both of those movies’ novelizations.

Here are the links:

Star Trek IV novelization drilldown

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade novelization drilldown

In those mini-episodes I talked about the differences between the books and the movies including extra characters, scenes, and story differences. It was a lot of fun and I received a nice response to these solo episodes.  So, since I tend to read novelizations on the semi-regular, I decided to spin these mini-episodes into their own microcast called I Read Movies.

I Read Movies logo

Shout out to CT for creating this amazing looking logo/icon for the show. And another shout out to Shawn Robare for helping me set things up behind the scenes to get this show up and running. Without CT and Shawn’s support I don’t think I could’ve got this venture off the ground. Thanks guys.

Anyway, the two extra helpings above are essentially the prototype for what this microcast will be. It’ll be short, I’ll try to keep it under an hour. Probably even 45min or less. And it won’t have any regular time table. The show is at the mercy of what novelizations I get read. And even then, I won’t do every novelization as not every one is worthy of microcast treatment. But we’ll see. I’ll do as many as I can, even if it’s only a 10 minute episode about why the novelization is not worth a read.

So, to get things started, I already have a few episodes in the can.  The first three episodes of this new show will be a trilogy.  I’ll be doing the original Indiana Jones trilogy.

IRM Raiders

And episode 1, featuring Raiders of the Lost Ark, is LIVE. You can download it from iTunes or listen to it directly right here.

I expect to have Temple of Doom drop in a week or two and I’ll have a special repost of the Nerd Lunch Last Crusade novelization extra helping a week or so after that.  Then, I have a special Halloween episode planned for October.  So things are starting to shake over here in the I Read Movies HDQ.  Stay tuned for some fun shows.

And if there are any novelizations you’d like me to cover, let me know on Twitter.