Archive for AWESOME-tober-fest 2015

AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2015 by Paxton

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The comedy team of Abbott and Costello starred in a series of films in which they meet up with characters from Universal Studios. The first was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948. I reviewed it for AWESOME-tober-fest back in 2009.  That movie was a giant hit for Universal.

At the time, Universal was planning another straight forward sequel in the Invisible Man series (the last being The Invisible Man’s Revenge in 1948).  However, due to the success of the comedy movie, they had their script rewritten to be another But and Lou comedy.  This movie was Abbott and Costello Meet The Invisible Man and it was released in 1951.

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Unlike Meets Frankenstein, none of the original Invisible Man actors returned for this movie. Several different actors portrayed the Invisible Man in the Universal movies, but they didn’t get any of them to return. Especially not Claude Rains, the originator of the role as he’d become a huge Hollywood star by this point having starred in Casablanca, Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Notorious.

This time the titular invisible man is a new character that benefits from the serum created in the original 1933 classic.  And yes, there are some dropped lines here and there to connect this directly to that original movie.  The invisibility serum is said to have been invented by Dr John Griffin.  We even see a picture on the wall of Claude Rains, who portrayed Griffin in the original movie.  So they at least tried to keep some continuity.

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So, what did I think? It’s not bad. I had lowered expectations after my viewings of Meets Frankenstein, so that probably helped.  Surprisingly the invisible effects aren’t bad, but they are much more gimmicky than the 1933 original.  They work, but you can pretty much tell how they work.  Part of this may be because many of the effects are recycled from previous invisible man movies.  Even going as far as re-using footage and reversing it.

It’s a shame, because I’m a fan of Bud and Lou in their skits and TV shows. I still regularly rewatch skits like Who’s on First? on YouTube because they are GREAT. As a matter of fact, I just stopped writing this article to go watch it again. SO. GOOD.  But I’m just not digging the movies I’ve seen of theirs.  It’s sort of the same issue I have with The Three Stooges.  I love the shorts, but I just can’t get into their movies.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Fade (1988) – Robert Cormier

Posted in books, pop culture with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2015 by Paxton

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In 1988 Robert Cormier published the novel Fade. It is about a boy named Paul who discovers that he has the ability to turn himself invisible, or fade.

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Since this book’s publication it has consistently been on the American Library Association’s list of Most Challenged Books for it’s depiction of violence, murder and incest.

The book begins in a small town outside Boston called Monument during the late Depression era.  As a teen, Paul is fascinated by tales of his uncle and this mysterious photograph from which everyone says the uncle was there but he isn’t in the photograph.  When that uncle visits, Paul learns his secret.  Certain male members of his family gain the ability to fade. It is typically passed down from uncles to nephews.  His uncle has it, and so does Paul.  This ability has been kept a strict secret.  Only the individuals with the power actually know about it and never reveal it to the rest of the family.  Or anyone else.  The uncle warns that it is not the gift it appears to be.

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That’s the basic setup in the beginning, but the book is structured very different and goes several different places than you would expect from the first 100 pages or so.  It took me by surprise.  There are essentially 5 parts of the book, each focusing on a different character and each part jumps around in time forward many years into the future and then back again.  And honestly, for the first 2/3 of the book, the ability to fade is almost incidental to the story.  The story is really about Paul and his relationships with his family and especially his Aunt and how these relationships affect him later in life.

While using his ability, Paul finds out the fade can actually be a curse when he witnesses things he shouldn’t.  And it becomes apparent to him that the fade may be creating in him thoughts and urges he wouldn’t have otherwise.  This sets up what happens later in the book as we fast forward into the future.  There are other aspects to the fade that are interesting.  Paul can somewhat control the ability at first, but it sort of takes on a life of its own later.  Also, unlike other invisible men, Paul’s clothes become invisible when he fades.  Which is doubly interesting because other physical objects he’s touching, like a knife, won’t turn invisible.

Did I like the book?  Yes.  It was definitely not what I was expecting, but the characters were interesting as was the aspect of fading.

 


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Invisible Mouse (1947)

Posted in books, cartoons, Halloween, holiday, pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2015 by Paxton

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The Invisible Mouse was an episode of Tom and Jerry directed by Hanna and Barbera and was released in 1947.

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It was a parody of the Invisible Man concept from both the HG Wells novel and the Universal Studios movie (which was released 14 years prior to the cartoon).

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As usual the cartoon starts with the rampant chasing and violence between Tom and Jerry. They chase each other up a flight of stairs, jump on the banister and start sliding down. Then Jerry shifts to a second banister to avoid….wait, WHAT?! I don’t think banisters work that way. What the hell is going on there?

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Jerry jumps on the counter, finds a “chemo set” and jumps in a random bottle to evade Tom. However, it seems that Jerry accidentally jumped into a bottle of “invisible ink”. And it’s turning him invisible.

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Interesting.  Jerry’s invisibility is not hampered by seeing your food through your stomach. Whatever he eats seems to immediately turn invisible.

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But he still apparently casts a shadow.  Wait, what?!  What is the light reflecting around to cause that shadow?!

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Jerry has lots of fun with his new invisibility. He gives Tom the classic “hot foot” and tees off on Tom’s backside with what looks like a 3 Wood.

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The short ends with Jerry banishing Tom from the house by getting Spike the dog to chase after him and then laying on Tom’s pillow drinking his chocolate milk. Which seems to restore Jerry back to visible?!  Okay.

Well, this particular version of invisible has some goofy rules but what can you expect from a Tom and Jerry cartoon?  It’s still a fairly enjoyable watch for fans of the show.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: The Invisible Man TV series (2000)

Posted in pop culture, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2015 by Paxton

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There have been a surprising number of invisible man series here and over in Britain. Instead of covering all of them, I decided to look at one that I was the most familiar with.

In the summer of 2000 a TV show premiered featuring a sci-fi based modern interpretation of an invisible man. It was called, oddly enough, The Invisible Man.

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The show would last for two seasons on the fledgling Sci-Fi channel.

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I vaguely remember this show airing. If only for the “quicksilver” effect of the guy turning invisible.  It’s a more science-y update of the invisible man story.

Darien Fawkes (as in Dumbledore’s pet phoenix) is a thief.  And not a particularly good one.  He is caught and sent to prison for his third strike.  His scientist brother bails him out and promises him freedom if he’ll participate in an experiment for a few weeks.

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That experiment involves an artificial gland that is surgically inserted into Darien’s head that excretes a special substance called Quicksilver that coats Darien’s body and turns him invisible.  At first he can’t control it, it can only be triggered by adrenaline.  Darien, at first eager to remove the gland, is just beginning to learn to control the Quicksilver through Tai-Chi when one of the lead scientists on the team double crosses everyone, kills them and attempts to trap Darien.  In the process, he kills Darien’s brother.

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Darien barely escapes but is forced to go on the run from the rogue scientist.  He is approached by The Agency, the covert government division that funded his brother’s experiments.  It seems the rogue scientist also tampered with the Quicksilver gland so it’ll cause Darien to slowly go mad with rage the more he uses his invisibility and the longer he goes without a special serum.  The Agency offers their help and access to the serum if Darien works for them.

And that’s mostly the setup of the show.  There are some interesting ideas.  The effects aren’t that bad.  My main problem is with the actor who plays Darien, Vincent Ventresca.  He’s kind of a douche bag.  He’s supposed to be, but he does it too well.  I can’t root for the guy because he’s a dick.  And they try to make him rogue-ish and likeable, but that actually works against him.  He’s a two-bit crook who robs from elderly old men (as you see in the beginning and it’s actually what he’s put in jail for) yet he quotes Mark f**king Twain to one of the scientists.  Annoying.

The concept is interesting enough, that I did wind up watching a few episodes of the show hoping Darien’s edge would be dulled a bit as the show progressed.  I watched the 2 hour pilot and a few of the “gimmick” shows like the one with the “evil invisible man” and the possible return of the dead brother.  There’s also one with an invisible woman, but I didn’t make it quite that far.  But I did read far enough ahead on Wikipedia to discover where the government got the Quicksilver…but that’s a tale for another day.

The show isn’t bad, even if the lead is a bit unlikable.

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This is funny. At one point Darien goes to an out of the way taco place to meet a government agent. As he walks in, hanging just over the cook’s left shoulder, oh so subtle-like, is the poster for the original Universal The Invisible Man.  Well played, Sci-Fi.


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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Starlog’s pop culture history of invisibility (1992)

Posted in magazine, movies, pop culture, Starlog, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , on October 15, 2015 by Paxton

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In issue 177 of Starlog magazine, which showcases an interview with John Carpenter about his upcoming Memoirs of an Invisible Man, there is an article by Michael Wolff on the pop culture history of invisibility. It’s written as if invisibility exists and is recounting the many different ways one would make oneself invisible. And throughout the article Wolff peppers in movies and TV shows that featured some form of invisibility.

Here’s the article, click to make the images BIGGER.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Interview with John Carpenter about Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Posted in magazine, monsters, movies, pop culture, Starlog with tags , , , , , , , on October 14, 2015 by Paxton

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Issue 177 of Starlog magazine featured a cover story on the soon to be released Chevy Chase movie, Memoirs of an Invisible Man (which I reviewed yesterday).

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The featured story is an in-depth interview with the movie’s director, John Carpenter.  He had just come off a hiatus of several years to direct this big budget studio movie.  Being an indie staple, Carpenter had never really done a large studio movie before.  In the article, he discusses why he took the job and a little bit about the history of the project.

Talking about the movie, Carpenter mentions that this project had been around since 1986 and that it’s based on a book by HF Saint.  Obviously, the part about the novel is true, as I’ve reviewed that novel this month, however, the book wasn’t actually published until 1987.  And while studios today will buy up book rights before books are published, it was not done at that time.  However, Carpenter could just be off in his memory by a year, not a big deal.

Carpenter also mentions that Chevy Chase himself bought the rights to the book and the first drafts of the movie were written by the great William Goldman with Ivan Reitman attached to direct.  However, Carpenter said that after everything was “set to go” Chase decided he didn’t want to do a “Stooge” comedy.  He wanted more of an adventure movie.  Which seems odd to me because the book is NOT a comedy.  I guess Goldman/Reitman assumed that’s what they’d be doing with Chevy Chase attached and adapted the book that way.  I tell you what, I’d love to see a Goldman/Reitman/Chase invisible man comedy movie.  I’d be 100% on board for that.  But that iteration of the movie fell apart and is sadly placed on top of the giant pile labeled “movies we’ll never see”.  After Goldman and Reitman left Richard Donner came on to direct and did some work but eventually he left as well.  It was then Chevy Chase that brought Carpenter on to the project as director.

So this movie has an interesting back story.  Clearly, it was a passion/vanity project for Chase.  He controlled nearly every aspect of production.  Carpenter’s interview is very informative with lots of “inside Hollywood” info.

Below is the full story. Click the images to make them BIGGER.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2015: Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Posted in Halloween, holiday, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2015 by Paxton

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In the late 80s Chevy Chase bought the rights to a 1987 thriller novel about an invisible man in order to turn it into a vehicle for himself. After several years of development hell in which the director changed at least twice and the tone of the movie switched from thriller to comedy and back to thriller, Chevy finally got John Carpenter to direct and the result was the 1992 comedic adventure, Memoirs of an Invisible Man.

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The chaotic development of this movie was somewhat chronicled by Carpenter himself in an interview published in Starlog #177.  It’s interesting the iterations that this movie finally went through, check out that article in the link to see what Carpenter had to say about directing this movie.

I’d seen this movie back when it first hit VHS.  I remember it in theaters at the time, but I didn’t see it because I was not really a Chevy Chase fan.  He was kind of in the middle of a phase in his career in which he was playing smug douchebags (see Funny Farm, Nothing But Trouble, Deal of the Century and even Fletch Lives which is nearly unwatchable).  So when it finally hit VHS, I rented it and gave it a shot.  However, at the time I don’t remember liking it very much and thinking Chase was once again playing the smug D-bag who’s better and smarter than everyone else.

When I watched it for this review, I did it reluctantly, but I was curious to see if my previous thoughts were correct.  And they were not.  Chevy is actually mostly toned down in this movie.  He’s goofy and endearing much the same way he was in the original Fletch.  And Daryl Hannah is just adorable and sexy all wrapped up in one amazing package.  The villain, I forgot, is the great Sam Neill who does NOT get enough play in movies today (Check out Daybreakers if you doubt my sincerity in that statement).  This would be about 2 years before Neill would play Dr Grant in the first Jurassic Park movie.  Other notable actors in this movie are the awesome Michael McKean, Stephen Tobolowsky and the first big screen appearance of Patricia Heaton.

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The setup of the movie is basically the same as the book. A guy, Nick Halloway (Chase) is trapped in an experimental process that goes wrong and is turned invisible. He comes to the attention of a shady government group led by David Jenkins (Neill) who does everything he can to capture Halloway.

However, while those story points are the same, the details have changed tremendously. For instance, Daryl Hannah’s Alice meets Nick before he turns invisible whereas in the book Alice doesn’t meet him until the last half of the book and has never actually seen him. Plus, the action takes place in and around San Francisco whereas in the book everything took place, for the most part, in New York City. In fact, I’d say New York City is a major character in the book as Nick knows the city pretty well and uses it to hide from the shady government agency.

But I’m here to review the movie as a whole, and not as an adaptation of the book. And, as a whole, the movie is enjoyable. Despite the changes from the book, I felt the movie was entertaining and the effects were actually pretty good. They even recreated invisible stunts from the book like vomiting and you get to see Nick smoke and covered in rain. Nice little effects that add up within the movie.  The only negative I can place at the movie’s feet is the fact that the “memoirs” part of the story is essentially dropped not even half way through the movie.  I liked Chevy’s narration and it helped remind me how much I also liked it (and Chevy) in the original Fletch.  But, alas, it doesn’t last.

Something else I liked in the movie included a scene in which Nick is wearing the same outfit as the Claude Rains Invisible Man including the goggles, the robe with the checkered lapels and even an ascot.

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That was a nice touch by Carpenter.  This is a completely different movie than you’d expect from John Carpenter who’d just directed They Live four years before and had taken an extended break due to production difficulties on that movie.  Two years after directing this movie he’d take Sam Neill and film an adaptation of Lovecraft’s In the Mouth of Madness. Also two years later Chevy Chase would top line Cops and Robersons with Jack Palance.

So while this movie may not have burned up the box office, it’s actually a fun little adventure movie.  Give it a shot if you haven’t.  And if it’s been a few years, I say give it another spin, I think you’ll like it.


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