Archive for pop culture

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: My favorite movie and TV Devils

Posted in monsters, pop culture, The Devil, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on October 24, 2017 by Paxton

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I’m fascinated by the concept of Lucifer.  I’m fascinated in how pop culture plays that concept.  From books to movies to TV it’s interesting to see this evil archetype play out in a story.  Will the creators lean hard into the “ultimate evil” angle, or will the portrayal be more of a sympathetic character?  Will the Devil be a monster, or a charismatic presence you can’t help but enjoy despite being, you know, THE DEVIL.

The Devil has a long history in film and TV.  So many versions from silly to serious and played by a range of actors from unknown to mega-famous.  I always like seeing how Hollywood will try to portray Satan, the Devil, ‘ol Scratch, Lucifer, et al on the screen.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Here are a few of my favorite on-screen Devils from movies and TV.  Just a note, these are a few of my favorites.  But there will be some notable entries missing as I didn’t want to necessarily do a “top 10”.


Gabriel Byrne – End of Days – I don’t love this movie. I love the concept, but I don’t love the movie. However, I *do* love Gabriel Byrne as the Earthly incarnation of Satan.  He really goes for it and plays this Devil as “ultimate evil”.


Elizabeth Hurley – Bedazzled – Again, like End of Days, I love the concept of this movie, but I don’t love the actual movie. But Hurley is great as the Devil offering wishes to the hapless Brendan Fraser.  She is sultry and sexy, but at times actually pulls off scary when she needs to.  She’s definitely the charismatic character you can’t help but enjoy despite who she is.


Ray Wise – Reaper – I loved Reaper on the CW. I watched it when it aired all the way through the second season. The show is really good even if it falls off the rails a bit in the second season. Still a fun watch and Ray Wise is awesome as The Devil. He’s funny and super charming.  This Devil is mostly played for laughs but Wise doesn’t make his Devil a joke.  He’s “The Devil” who just happens to be funny as well.


Peter Stormare – Constantine – I don’t care what you say, I liked the Constantine movie. Could they have gotten someone better than Keanu as the lead?  Yes, they could have, but it’s still a dark, atmospheric movie that builds a visually interesting world filled with magic.  And Stormare is a highlight as Lucifer.  Creepy. Unnerving. Weird. So good.  That end scene when Lucifer shows up to have the final conversation with John is my favorite part of the movie.


Viggo Mortensen – The Prophecy – I love that first Prophecy movie with Christopher Walken.  Again, it builds up a pretty great world and the Angel war in Heaven that is hinted at is very enticing.  Many people forget that Viggo made a small but significant appearance in that movie as the Devil.  And in his small screen time he really gives off a great, terrifying presence as the Fallen One.

Those are five of my favorite on screen Devils.  I know people are screaming at the screen because I left someone off.  “WHAT ABOUT DARKNESS FROM LEGEND, JACKASS?!  WHAT ABOUT AL PACINO, D-BAG?!”  Well, I liked both of them, but they didn’t make this list.  Sorry, guy who was sort of rude about my list.  Go start a blog and make your own list.

Everyone else, hope you enjoyed the list.  What are some of your favorite interpretations of the Devil?



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

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Goober and the Ghost Chasers (1973)

Posted in cartoons, ghosts, monsters, pop culture, TV shows, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2017 by Paxton

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Today I’m going to talk about the cartoon series Goober and the Ghost Chasers.  It was produced by Hanna-Barbera and aired in late 1973.  It was created to capitalize on the popularity of Scooby-Doo.

Much like Scooby-Doo, the show involved a group of teenagers and their dog driving around solving mysteries.

Goober, obviously, was the dog.  He had similar mannerisms to Scooby.  Sort of a coward.  Very goofy and jokey.  He talked.  But it’s interesting, it’s not directly acknowledged in the cartoon if the teens can understand Goober when he talks.  They talk to Goober, but when Goober talks, it’s usually directly to camera and the teens never give any indication that he talked or that they heard he talked.  It’s weird.  The teens were Ted, Tina and Gilly.  The teens worked for a supernatural investigation magazine called Ghost Chasers.  Obviously Ted = Fred.  Tina is very much a cross between Daphne and Velma.  And Gilly is sort of his own thing.  He’s Goober’s closest human companion.  He’s not a stoner or a coward.  He doesn’t love to eat.  He’s the photographer for the magazine.  In some ways like Shaggy but in most ways he’s different.  Gilly is probably the most annoying.  I like everyone else.

The mysteries this crew investigate usually wind up having a real supernatural aspect to them. As in real ghosts and real monsters as opposed to Scooby in which the mysteries had a basis in reality.  Plus, for some reason, Goober can turn invisible. He can’t control it, and it usually happens when he gets scared, but it happens.

Like Scooby, many episodes would have “special guests” show up to help solve crimes.  For at least half of the one and only season the Ghost Chasers crew were joined by the Partridge Kids (Danny, Laurie, Tracy, Chris, seen below in the middle).

The Partridge kids were voiced by the actual actors; Danny Bonaduce, Susan Dey, Suzanne Crough and Brian Forster.  For some reason, around episode 11, the Partridge Kids disappear and never make another appearance.  However, don’t feel bad for them, about a year later they would get their own cartoon series.

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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

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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.

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

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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 S1E10 – Take Two

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

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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: Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray (2013)

Posted in comic books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2017 by Paxton

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Today I’m going to talk about a comic book called 5 Ghosts. It was first published by Image in 2013. It’s written by Frank J Barbiere and drawn by Chris Mooneyham.

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The premise is pretty interesting.  Fabian Gray is an adventurer and master thief.  After an accident, he was infused with an artifact called The Dreamstone.  It allows him access to the abilities of five ghosts; the archer, the wizard, the detective, the samurai and the vampire.  However these abilities have a cost.  In not only his body, but his mind.  Plus, the accident also robbed him of his sister who he’s determined to find and bring back from wherever she is.  All while being chased by a shadowy group of supernaturals.

That’s a pretty great premise.  And it mostly lives up to that premise.  The art is fantastic.  It’s drawn like an old book or pulp novel.

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There’s lots of action. Lots of flashbacks. You don’t get much of Fabian’s backstory and when you do it isn’t until midway through the book. But there’s some good, snappy dialogue and great action. I like how the ghost abilities work and that the actual process of using the abilities seems to cause Fabian a lot of problems.  However, I do wish they had filled in more backstory.  Like, a fuller version of the story of how Fabian ended up with the Dreamstone embedded in his chest.  And maybe even more background on the ghosts that inhabit Fabian.  But, conversely, I also like that the exclusion of these stories allows the reader to fill some of that story in themselves.  But I also assume these story aspects will probably be told at some point.

It all boils down to this, I guess, this comic is definitely worth a read if you’ve been considering it at all.  Fun adventure, supernatural elements, cool throwback style art.  There’s something for everyone.



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

AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: A Night of Fright is no Delight! (1970)

Posted in cartoons, TV shows with tags , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2017 by Paxton

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I’m a big fan of Scooby-Doo Where Are You?  I watched it as a kid and I find even now it’s still fun to watch.  I covered a Scooby Doo episode last year for mummies, so I thought I would do one again this year.  So I picked one of my favorite episodes that involved…ghosts.

And the episode I picked was only four episodes after the mummy episode.  It’s from Season 1, episode 16 – A Night of Fright is no Delight. It aired in early 1970.

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I love this episode. The design of the ghost is so cool. I remember seeing it when I was a kid and thought that it was just so awesome.  Obviously, I liked it so much I used it for my AWESOME-tober-fest banner this year.

Enough talk, let’s take a look at the episode.


The Mystery Inc crew is sent to an old Southern mansion which seems to be on an island in the middle of a lake somewhere? Col Beauregard Sanders (yep, Col Sanders) has included Scooby in his will for saving him at some point in the past.


The lawyer is Mr Creeps. Perfect name.  Col Sanders’ will is recorded on a long playing record because it’s 1970.  All of the relatives plus Scooby must spend the night in the haunted house to get their share of the Colonel’s money.


Getting ready for bed, Shaggy, in keeping with his M.O. of trying to eat things that are inedible to normal humans, tries to put fish food on his sandwich.  See also “Liver a la Mode sandwich with an olive garnish” in Scooby Doo and a Mummy Too!


While Shaggy eats his fishy sandwich, Scooby decides to take a bath and gets kidnapped in the most Scooby Doo way possible. I love that there’s a second bathtub FULL OF WATER behind the false wall ready to take the place of the missing Scooby.

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