Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorites of 2014 (a.k.a The Year of El Rey)

Once again, I apologize for my long hiatus.  Between school, work, and a girlfriend moving in, I've barely had time to watch movies (much less write about them).  Nonetheless, of the movies I watched this year, these were my favorites:

5) Gone Girl - David Fincher knows how to tell a compelling crime story with a lot of suspense.  He has become a master of manipulating the audience with his camera.  With stark contrasts between environments (warm flashbacks versus cold reality), the imagery of the film had me on the edge of my seat.  I believe the casting was quite good and the score maintained an intense vibe.  This may not be my favorite Fincher film (that spot goes to Se7en), but of all the films I've watched this year, this is the one I want to revisit the most so I can take it apart.

4) Guardians of the Galaxy - This was the film that surprised me the most.  Even though I'm a big comic book fan, I had little expectations going into this film.  However, James Gunn surprised us and made an entertaining space opera.  With cool visuals, characters, and an awesome soundtrack, I can sum up this film in 1 word - "FUN!"

3) Godzilla -  The King of the Monsters is back!  I loved the direction and how they strayed away from the "bad" Godzilla.  This won't be an Oscar nominee for best picture, but this franchise has me excited for more.  The back story was solid and it was a great way to re-introduce Godzilla to a contemporary audience.  I can't wait for more "Legendary" battles and hope Kaiju are here to stay.

2) Interstellar - If I were to describe this film, it would be hybrid between Signs and 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  Having come off the Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, I believe audiences were underwhelmed by Nolan's latest film -  I think people were expecting a visual splendor like Gravity.  However, this film is much smaller even though it spans across the space-time continuum.  It is character driven and visits some really neat concepts.  If anything, other than feeding my man-crush on Matthew McConaughey, Interstellar has fed my interest in space exploration (it even got me to visit the Kennedy Space Center over the holiday).

1) Nightcrawler - I believe I had way too much fun with this movie.  It's gritty, disgusting, and shows the flaws of humanity - Yet I still loved it.  Jake Gyllenhaal's performance was mesmerizing, playing an ugly character I didn't really like.  However he was so intriguing, I couldn't stop watching him.  The director, Dan Gilroy, does a fantastic job of showcasing how Gyllenhaal grows into a news chaser.  Showing the tricks of the trade, we discover Gyllenhaal is an adaptable creature that becomes a cameraman who is just as despicable as the news.  This isn't an uplifting film, but it's a terrific character study mixed with the procedural aspects of building a business from the ground up.  Although I'm not really familiar with the director, I can wait to see what Dan Gilroy has in store for us next.

So besides film, here's some other shout-outs I'd like to mention this year:

-Favorite TV show:  Sons of Anarchy - There's not much I need to say other than I will truly miss this show. 

-Favorite Podcast:  Film Junk
- Comic Geek Speak will always be my home, but the cast of Film Junk has kept me highly entertained during my commute between home and work.  Although I respect their movie reviews, its their interactions that keep me awaiting for next week's download.

-Favorite Radio Show:  Serial - Since I haven't listened to a lot of music this year, I figured I needed to represent the radio some how.  Even though it's technically a podcast, I'm going to group it with the FM airwaves since it originally aired on This American Life. Even though I came to this late in the game, Angie and I binged this crime case driving across the state of Florida.

-Favorite Blu-Ray Release:
  Twin Peaks - I don't normally buy a lot of TV series on home video, but this was a good year:  True Detective, From Dusk Till Dawn, Batman, and Pee Wee's Playhouse.  But the one I've enjoyed the most has been Twin Peaks.  It's contained in one beautiful package and you can't complain about getting more David Lynch on Blu-Ray.  Although I haven't fully dived into the special features, rewatching this series gives me a good excuse to have some Cherry Pie and Coffee.

-Entertainer of the Year:  Robert Rodriguez - I don't care what people say, I still enjoyed Sin City 2.  And besides, he's created the greatest cable network in the world - El Rey.  I can't get enough of this channel - it's usually what I have playing in the background as I'm doing stuff around the house.  If you still haven't checked out the El Rey Network, see the commercial below that presents everything I love about pop culture and cinema:  Kung Fu Films, Godzilla, John Carpenter, Grindhouse, Luchadors, Jessica Alba, and Quentin Tarantino.  Thank you Robert Rodriguez for an entertainment hot spot!

So 2014 was a pretty good year, but I'm anticipating a lot for 2015.  Yes, I'm excited for the big franchises: The Avengers and Star Wars.  But as you all know, what I'm really waiting for is The Hateful Eight!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Month on El Rey - August 2014

So if you haven't taken my advice and checked out the El Rey Network, here's some of the movies showing this month (with plot summaries provided by IMDB):
Assault on Precinct 13:  The lone inhabitants of an abandoned police station are under attack by the overwhelming numbers of a seemingly unstoppable street gang.
The Harder They Come:  Wishing to become a successful Reggae singer, a young Jamaican man finds himself tied to corrupt record producers and drug pushers.
Duel:  A business commuter is pursued and terrorized by a malevolent driver of a massive tractor-trailer.
The Street Fighter:  When an important business magnate dies, the Mafia and Yakuza want to hire Terry to kidnap the daughter so they can obtain her newly inherited fortune. When they refuse to meet Terry's exorbitant price, they try to kill him so they conceal their secret plans.

Electra Glide in Blue:  A short Arizona motorcycle cop gets his wish and is promoted to Homicide following the mysterious murder of a hermit.  However, he is forced to confront his illusions about himself and those around him in order to solve the case.

Rolling Thunder:  Major Charles Rane comes back from the war and is given a number of gifts from his hometown because he is a POW. When some greedy thugs decide to steal a number of silver dollars from the Major, they murderer his family and destroy his hand in the process... Hence Revenge!
As for original Content, Matador has been a fun show.  Part DEA, part CIA, and part Soccer player, Tony Bravo is a superspy saving the world in this Mexiploitation. 
As for The Director's Chair, some cool guests are being interviewed by Robert Rodriguez.  At the beginning of the month, Guillermo del Toro was featured.  He was a fitting pick for his involvement with horror, his Mexican roots, and his friendship with Rodriguez (Fun Fact - He was del Toro's Second Unit Director in Mimic).  Airing tonight (August 13th), we get my dream interview - Quentin Tarantino Volume 1!

So until I give another update next month, make sure you check out the El Rey Network!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bullet Points - A Scream Factory Edition


Today's Bullet Points are brought to you by Scream Factory:

Halloween III: Season of the Witch - For the longest time, I wrote this movie off.  From my edited viewings on AMC, I always considered this to be a cheesy movie with no Michael Myers to support the franchise.  However, after watching this Scream Factory release, I now realize how great this movie is.  Besides the beautiful transfer, we follow a doctor (played by Tom Atkins) investigating the death of a patient.  With some gruesome scenes involving children and Halloween masks, this movie is quite entertaining (oh, and you can't forget that catchy Silver Shamrock jingle).  As discussed in the special features, we learn the Halloween franchise was supposed to be a new tale for each film.  However, after Halloween 3 bombed, it was decided Michael Myers must return as the star of the series.  Although I like the boogy man, I wish this series would have stuck to its original plan because some interesting original stories could have come into fruition.

Death Valley - Starring Ralphie from A Christmas Story, this a pretty solid slasher that takes place in Death Valley.  When a mom (played by Catherine Hicks) takes her son on vacation to meet her new boyfriend, the young boy discovers evidence from a murder scene.  When the killer realizes the boy took a necklace that may link him back to the murder, his family becomes his next target.  With a fun set piece taking place in a mock western town, this was a fun gem uncovered by Scream Factory.

Terrorvision - Although it's a cheesy 80's film, the effects, props, and sets make this an enjoyable watch.  When a family gets a new satellite system for their television, an alien literally invades their channels.  As the alien releases itself from the television set, bizarre murders occur.  Made by an Italian director, this movie is a weird mix between a Giallo and an early Tim Burton film.

The Amityville Horror -  When a family moves into an old house with a dark past, the father begins to lose control of his senses and develops murderous tendencies.  I'm not an expert of the subject, but I'd say The Amittyville Horror is the beginning of the modern haunted house film.  Sure, William Castle made some entertaining haunted house flicks with Vincent Price in the 1950's.  However, this movie transformed the sub-genre since it was based on the accounts of real life people (even though James Brolin and Margot Kidder didn't believe in the events).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tarantino Comics - Issue 32

It's been a while since I've featured an issue of Tarantino Comics, so it's about time I actually post something to earn the title of my blog.  So without further adieu, Tarantino Comics # 32 was drawn by Andrew Charipar at The Super Wild Pig Show 2012.

Exposed through high school lunchroom talk and TV commercials, two things from Kill Bill resonated in my mind before I even saw the film:

1)  Poison Ivy in a Yellow Jumpsuit
2)  Some one-eyed nurse whistling a creepy tune

As expected, I was blown away after I saw Kill Bill for the first time.  However, even after years of re-watching the film, the sequence with Elle Driver walking through the hospital still sends shivers up my spine.  As depicted above, Andrew captures the eeriness of the scene with grey tones.  However, he amps up the danger with a hint of blood red.  Andrew brilliantly places the Bride's face in the background so we can visualize the De Palma Split Screen and hear the Twisted Nerve theme.   

I've known Andrew for a couple of years and he's become a good friend (plus he's a fellow Floridian too).  His cartoony style is always eye-pleasing and remains a hit with the people at the conventions.  Andrew's art gets better every day and I love his ink work.

Be sure to checkout his blog so you can see his awesome portfolio of  character sketches he continually draws:   And if you see him at a convention, be sure to hit him up for a commission!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

El Rey Network - Ride With Us

As you may know, I have a decent movie collection that I'm pretty proud of.  From horror (Scream Factory), to Kung Fu (Dragon Dynasty), to even some art house (Criterion Collection), I collect Blu-Rays and DVD's so I can watch the films I like to watch whenever I want.  Unfortunately, when I watch plain old television, I endlessly flip through hundreds of channels before I find something that I can tolerate to watch...  that was until now!

Robert Rodriguez has created a Television Network that suits my needs.  Mixing TV shows with cult followings and exploitation films, El Rey is a cable network programmed for people who like real entertainment.  As much as I love original series from FX and AMC, El Rey has tapped into something really special.  I no longer need to get up from my seat and pop in a Blu-Ray disc.  Instead, El Rey is showing the same movies I've spent years trying to find.

Talking to people I know, there's few who know about this channel because it's relatively new.  Since I don't really have advertising on this blog (although Tarantino Comics would be a terrific venue for El Rey), I'm going to present 5 things I really love about this network:

5)  Flying Five Finger One Armed Eight Pole Shaolin Exploding Death Touch Thursdays
- I believe back in the day, TV channels had "Kung Fu Hours" as a part of their regular programming.  However, as time went on, pictures from The Shaw Brothers were no longer syndicated and they were hard to come across.  Luckily El Rey is providing us awesome movies such as The Flying Guillotine, Return of the One-Armed Swordsman, and Dirty Ho.  Although the dubbed dialogue can be corny (yet I love the aethstetic), the choreography and stories are highly entertaining.  You have to remember, these movies inspired Kill Bill!  So if you've never watched Kung Fu, remember Jennifer Aniston's excitement for these films in Office Space and take advantage of Thursday nights.

4)  Grindhouse Fridays Rodriguez has really embraced Grindhouse films ever since Planet Terror.  To share his passion, Rodriguez established Grindhouse Theatre to showcase awesome exploitation films.  One of the first movies shown on El Rey was Switchblade Sisters (a film from Tarantino's Rolling Thunder line).  From that moment on, I knew this channel meant business.  So if you like movies that exploit sex, action, kung fu, horror, and bizarre subject matter, El Rey is the place to be on Friday Nights. 

3)  Badass TV - When awesome movies aren't being played, El Rey is showing some awesome old TV shows.  Syndicated sitcoms like Friends or Seinfeld aren't shown on El Rey... instead we get shows with strong cult followings.  Representing the era of 70's exploitation, we get Starsky and Hutch.  To ensure we believe in the paranormal and question the unknown, we get to follow Mulder and Scully in the X-Files.  And to satisfy my long-time crush on Jessica Alba (sorry Angie), I get to watch her beat-up bad guys on Dark Angel.

2)  Original Programming - As much as I love movies, Television has a greater advantage of taking its time with a story.  Knowing Tarantino has created some interesting characters, Rodriguez flushed out the From Dusk Till Dawn universe by giving it an original series.  Although I'm ashamed to admit this, I was somewhat skeptical of this show.  But after watching the pilot, I was hooked.  I love the locations, the cinematography, and even the "cool" dialogue.  Mixing veterans like Don Johnson and Robert Patrick with new comers D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz (who play the infamous Gecko Brothers), we get a really awesome cast.  And as hard as it is to top Salma Hayek as Santanico, Eiza Gonzalez is a great match for someone who can mesmerize a crowd.   Having recently finished the first season, I can't wait to see what's  in store for us next season.  Thankfully, El Rey is in full pursuit with more original programming and coming out with Matador in July.

1)  The Director's Chair - One of the reasons I still buy Blu-Ray movies is for the special features.  Cable TV can't provide those audio commentaries and behind-the-scene featurettes I love so much.  Luckily, El Rey is there for the movie buffs and has recorded hour long interviews between Robert Rodriguez and well-known movie directors called The Director's Chair.  The first show featured John Carpenter - A true visionary and inspiration to anyone who loves film.  They discussed how he got into the business, shared stories about his movies, and answered questions from fellow directors to give insight about his unique film making process.  Other interviewees I'd love to see in The Director's Chair are Brian DePalma, William Friedkin, Stuart Gordon, and of course... Quentin TarantinoThe Director's Chair is my favorite program happening on El Rey.

Although we haven't seen any news recently, I'm highly anticipating Lucha Libre.  I've never seen a match in my life, but I believe the colors and theatrics will resonate with my tastes.

As I hope you can see, I'm truly a fan of the El Rey Network.  I'm a huge supporter of what it's trying to do and may even get myself some swag.  If my enthusiasm isn't enough to excite you, at least watch Rodriguez's own excitement hereAnd for goodness sake, if you watch the promos, even Godzilla Rides With El Rey!

Friday, June 6, 2014

My Lovecraftian Journey - The Beast in the Cave

I'm not a huge reader of books, but I was enthralled by this beautiful (and affordable) hardback of H.P. Lovecraft - The Complete Fiction at Barnes and Noble:

What I find most interesting about Lovecraft is his influence on so many writers and directors of the horror genre.  Lovecraft was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe, who in turn, inspired Stephen King.  This lineage of literary greats reminds me of the cinematic legacy spanning from Hitchcock, to DePalma, to Tarantino.  So that I can become a little more "cultured," I plan to give a summary of each Lovecraft tale I read.  Hopefully I can talk about any influences that have transpired, whether its in television, music, or film. 

To start things off, the first tale I read was "The Beast in the Cave (1905)."  The story begins with a man getting lost in the Mammoth Cave.  As our narrator searches for the rest of his tour group, his torch slowly dims away.  Having visited this National Park myself when I was a little kid, I can just image how terrifying it would be getting lost in a world of pure darkness.  Once all of his visibility disappeared, he hears footsteps of a "beast" following close behind.  Feeling for weapons around him, he flings two stones at the beast which is stalking him.  Successfully landing a blind throw at the monster, our narrator runs away and luckily meets up with his tour group.  Explaining his situation to the tour guide, the group decides to search for the monster that's lurking in the caves.  As they retrace the narrator's trail, they see a pale and hairy figure lying on the ground.  As they take a closer look at the body, they discover it was really a man!
Even at the beginning of the 20th century, Lovecraft alluded to creatures adapting to strange environments.  Just as naked mole rats have evolved to live in their pitch black surroundings, Lovecraft imagined human civilizations surviving in blind conditions.  When I associate this tale to film, The Descent comes to mind.  Although I'm certain better films have displayed this theme, The Descent is a modern horror classic that depicts an unknown (yet horrific) civilization living in the vast darkness.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Top Five Countdown - Best Movies of 2013

Although my picks won't necessarily line up with the Oscars this Sunday, I wanted to share my Top 5 Favorite Films of 2013:

5.  Elysium - After watching 2009's District 9, I knew Neill Blomkamp was the next great sci-fi director... And thankfully, he didn't disappoint me!  Filled with social commentary, this futuristic tale mixes the grittiness of an apocalyptic earth with high octane action adventure.  I think this film was forgotten in the Oscar hype, but I'll continue to enjoy it after many re-watches.

4.  American Hustle - This was my first David O. Russell film.  I like Marky Mark and Jennifer Lawrence, but I needed a crime film to get me acquainted with director (I promise, I'll eventually visit The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook).  The plot is intriguing - When the FBI uses a conman to con politicians, how does the conman con his way out of the situation?  Complimented with "Scorsese-like" narrations, all of the actors are fantastic - Jeremy Renner is surprisingly likeable, Bradley Cooper is despised, Amy Adams is beautiful, and Jennifer Lawrence is purely wild.  However, it's Christian Bale's performance that made me love this movie - For a fat and grimy conman, he is the hero of the story and the man we root for.  On top of that, I'm once again amazed how he can transform his muscular abs to a chubby potbelly.

3.  Pacific Rim - For something that's not related to the King of the Monsters (meaning Godzilla for  you naysayers), this is the best Kaiju film in years.  Guillermo del Toro grips the attention of the audience with mind blowing effects showcasing gigantic monsters fighting enormous robots.  Although the story isn't an award winning script, the plot is still fun and serves it's purpose in this visually intense film.  I don't think this movie did as well as expected, but I'm hoping there's a Pacific Rim sequel in the future.

2.  The Wolf of Wall Street - Martin Scorsese is one of my favorite directors of all time.  Once again casting his "new De Niro," Scorsese proved he's the King of the Crime Drama... or should I say Jester of the Crime Comedy?  DiCaprio plays the resourceful stoke broker Jordan Belfort.  Although he's not really a good person,  he charms us by talking directly to the audience.  But unlike Goodfellas and Casino, this crime film has no murders or killings. Instead, it focuses on the dirty shenanigans that can happen in the corporate world of Wall Street.  Mixing sex and drugs with midget throwing and chest singing, this movie creates uncomfortable situations inducing laugh after laugh.  With a mesmerizing story and an extraordinary cast, this was easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

1.  Man of Steel - After Bryan Singer introduced Lois and Clark's love child, I had no interest in seeing another Superman film.  However, Warner Brothers changed my mind by putting Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan at the helm.  So why do I consider this the best movie of the year?  To start things off, choosing Henry Cavil to play Superman was a superb choice.  His physique truly captures the build and demeanor of the ultimate superhero.  Second, everybody knows the origin of Superman. Unlike The Amazing Spiderman which rehashes the hero's backstory at the very beginning of the movie, the Man of Steel perfectly sprinkles the Smallville scenes throughout the film to enhance emotion. Finally, the Man of Steel puts Action at the forefront.  Rather than focusing on how Clark is going to keep his identity a secret from Lois, he's battling robots and aliens. The visuals were stunning and the fight scenes were creative.  So for those of you who complained this film had too much action, realize Superman originated from ACTION COMICS!  I know I may be biased because I'm a comic book fan, but I can re-watch this movie over and over again.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Tarantino Comics - Issue 31


Happy New Year!  To kick off 2014, I present to you Tarantino Comics # 31 illustrated by Larry Watts at C2E2 2012.

Inspired from Kill Bill, Larry perfectly captures the fluid motions between the Bride and Gogo.  The action is crisp and clean and I love how the background pushes the image out of the page.

Larry is a fellow Floridian I hung out with at C2E2.  He's an awesome artist and a great guy, so if you ever see him at a con, be sure to say hi.  He's currently working on Robyn Hood at Zenescope.  You can also check him out on his blog at