Monday, June 05, 2006

You Can't Kill the Boogie Man or Rob Zombie

The latest atrocity in cinema is the announcement from rock star cum filmmaker, Rob Zombie, that he has secured financing from Miramax Films (once famous for producing quality indie films) to write and direct an all-new "Halloween" bloodfest feature. The allure this time out is that the movie will not be a sequel or prequel or remake of the original franchise of films. Instead, this flick will feature a whole new interpretation of the anti-hero Michael Myers, as imagined through the brainwaves of Rob Zombie himself. Ooo-ah!Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this development is that Rob Zombie noted that notorious killer, Michael Myers, over the years of sequels and licensing, stopped being a frightening figure in cinema because of saturation of the visage of the murderer. Evidently, once a Halloween mask was marketed to kids, allowing casual trick-or-treaters the opporuntity to pretend to be Michael Myers, the fear of him dissipated. Says Zombie: "...over the years, Michael Myers has become a friendly Halloween mask. When it came to the point where you could buy a Michael Myers doll that was cute-looking and press its stomach and play the 'Halloween' theme, you knew the scare factor was gone." Touché!
William Shatner or Michael Myers?!

The logic follows that the original "R" rated film suddenly became acceptable for children, since the masks were being worn by kiddies and the dolls diminished the menace of the murdering
Myers. Call me old-fashioned, but the original film, though lovingly stylish and lacking in the type of blood flood depicted in more recent horror movies (like Zombie's "House of 1,000 Corpses"), is still a scary movie; indeed, it suggests violence kids should not be exposed to until their teen angst years. Why? Because I believe in preserving the innocence of a young mind, until it develops through the unfortunate and inevitable stimuli of life itself (like hearing about the Holocaust via history books or Mafia murders through a report on the "Today Show" -- curse you Katie Couric!)
You know, for kids!

Now, as far as mass exposure of masks eliminating our cultural fears... maybe there's a point here after all. Let's see: the same fear loss occured when Richard Nixon became a popular Halloween mask. Oh, and the unnatural fear I had of Pokémon was quieted several years back when ten kids appeared at my door, all donning the famous yellow mask of Pikachu. So maybe Zombie is onto something. But the, dare I say, very subtlety of John Carpenter's "Halloween" is why that film survives and has remained a cult classic. It insinuates and rarely over indulges in the excesses of the genre -- like graphic depictions of decapitations and severed limbs. Sure, there are penetrations of sharp things, gouging of eyes with hangers, shocking impalements and the like, but they are done, shall we say, lovingly... in tribute to the masters of the genre, like Hitchcock. It's often the scenes where an implication of violence occurs that remain the most terrifying. The mind has its way of filling in the horror.

We do not have to wonder if Zombie's version will allow the mind to explore its own fears and horrors. There will be no question -- when a victim gets killed by Michael Myers, it will be complete, resolute and flowing in blood. The dripping excesses of Zombie's filmmaking are mean-spirited, compared to the expressionistic manners of directors like Sam Peckinpah. Or the implied horror resident in Hitchcock films. Is there a place for Zombie's "Halloween" in today's world? Sure, the fringe underground. Thank you, Miramax, for raising the fringe underground, like a Zombie, to the surface and delivering bloodstains on over 1,000 screens nationwide.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lil Kim's Incarceration

Remember when she was cuffed? That spunky poster punk of nearly nude hip hop kulture? Lil Kim learned -- or is learning -- the hard way that perjury and conspiracy are really illegal -- and it's all been documented in a reality show of her final days of freedom, "Lil Kim Goes to the Big House." Not that going to jail is a fun thang, but having a show made of your life right before you saunter into the slammer -- that's gotta be good for ratings, right? -- and then timed with the release of your new album... hmm... makes ya wonder if Lil Kim went to marketing school and studied Perjury 101 and Introduction to Conspiracy. Remember when going to prison was punishment?

For those of you wondering how she's doing -- or those anxious who can't wait for the reality show to air, here are a few words excerpted from Lil Kim's blog: "I want all my friends, family and fans to know that I am in good spirits and I will be fine. Contrary to the rumors, I am in general population at FDC and I have adjusted to the facility and to my fellow inmates who are all cool people. Each day, I read, sharpen my focus and grow. Of course, I wish I could be out to celebrate the release of my new album this week, The Naked Truth but instead, I am looking to take advantage of this time to work on my personal development. Thank you to all for your continued support."

And according to her attorney, L. Londell McMillan, she's done just that -- focused on her personal development. Barrister McMillan had this to say: "I was amazed at just how good Kim looked on my two visits to see her in prison last week. Even in a jumpsuit, Kim still has the style and swagger of a star. Kim respects her inmates and they respect her. She will turn this experience into a positive reality for herself as well as her fans and community. She is evolving into a remarkable person of faith and courage."

But thank God, she still knows how to lie. And she dares to take on rapper 50 Cent. For that alone, she should be championed for her courage. One must celebrate her spunky, silicone shape. Towering in well under 5 foot tall (her bro says she's 4' 9"), Kim is a figure larger than life itself. She's shown how to be in control and take charge, even behind bars (which coincidentally are the same letters used to spell 'bras'). Legions of fans must be proud -- must be figuring out a way themselves to use deception for a better glory.

Check in for more Courage and Faith updates by visiting Lil Kim's blog.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Resurrection and Racing

Lent has gripped us again, with its urgency for sacrifice in the form of meatless Fridays and an abstinence of your choosing. Sacrifice. It is a powerful word that perhaps defines the very essence and meaning of the glory of Easter. Even if you are not Christian, you can follow the pure simplicty of God sending His only Son to die for our sins -- to redeem us through His own death and Resurrection.

But how did we get from the Resurrection of the Lord to chocolate NASCARS?

Us PANGEALS get out often and we frequent the seasonal aisles at drugstores for jollies. It has been said that a man can learn a life's worth of knowledge by monitoring the seasonal aisles of drugstores. They are the closest thing to Heaven on Earth, because the merchandise is focused and intense. If it's a theme you want, then this is your best destination. The Easter theme has recently been pushed to its most extreme. Historically during Easter, for decades, we have all seen the Easter aisle grow from simple candy eggs to the now legendary marshmallow Peeps -- and beyond. Paas anyone? Wax crayons? Wind-up bunny toys. Yeah, it's all been done and it's all there.

But when we all went off to live our lives beyond Lent, whilst we were all throwing Frisbees and preparing pumpkin pie and wrapping Christmas gifts, a marketeer slyly slipped in one of the most incongruous Easter items of all time -- the chocalate NASCAR. And it's not just one, but teams of chocolate NASCARS, in assorted scales and fillings. Really, what delight does a child of Easter have in rooting through his basket to discover Jeff Gordon's car is filled with nuggat? For a high octane Easter racing experience, perhaps a cherry cordial center should be added, in lieu of the transmission. Now, we've seen little cute carrot cars driven by bunnies -- they kind of make sense. But, a chocolate stock car wrapped in foil? What can that possibly mean? "It's the end of the world."
It's a simple question for a very simple season: how did we get from the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus to chocolaty delight under the hood? Wasn't the Easter Bunny a stretch enough -- albeit a logical leap? Surely with the advent of NASCAR chocolate cars at Easter, we are witnessing the checkered flag End Times.

"Now entering the track from the pits, replacing driver Tony Stewart, in Car 666, Peter Cottontail!"

Next year, we're thinking a crucifix car launcher could be a big item with kids -- you know, so your chocolate NASCAR can make a lap before being consumed. For the real collector, the Jesus Eastertime Pit Crew Set is a must have. Your marshmallow tires can be changed by the Lord Himself. And the dark chocolate windshield? That gets cleaned by the Holy Ghost, of course, who Himself is made of a fluffy marzipan. But can you really trust Judas to change those velvety tires?

All of this new product must come with the obligatory warning on the package: Be careful you don't eat too much, because in three days, it will rise again. Amen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Spamalot on Ice

It's 10 degrees in New York and still the hottest ticket in town is Spamalot, the Monty Python, Eric Idle musical shenanigan. We just trudged across the snow-covered, black-iced streets to check the box office and were offered seats for this evening's performance at a mere $310 a pop -- gosh, that's only three times the regular price. Which raises the question: is Monty Python -- nay, is Eric Idle funny if you've paid $620 for a pair of tickets? Add to that that the Booth Theatre is so small that if John Wilkes jumped from this balcony he would not have sprained his ankle.

So we passed on the "opportunity." Two nights later, thousands of miles from wife and family, we tried again -- on Valentine's Day. Sure enough, there had been a few spats earlier in the day -- and a couple of tickets were now available at a much more reasonable, laughable price. We snatched them up and proceeded to our seats. Should this show be a hot ticket? Of course -- and if you see the show, that gives you an idea of how healthy the musical comedy is in the 21st century. My only two complaints: in the first Act, the princess plays her role almost straight and doesn't dip too deeply into the campy style of acting -- and her part works beautifully and hysterically.

Act II, unfortunately, has her show up way over the top, as if to say, "if you didn't know I was here schticking it up earlier, well, I'm here now and I AM really schticking it up." The other complaint will be easily dismissed as time passes: one of the Knights Who Say Nee makes an aside, alluding to our Vice President's hunting skills. I have no issue with poking fun of the VP peppering buckshot in the face of an old man; what bothered me is that the joke is not placed anywhere in particular, does not come from any action or inaction in the performance. It's just delivered, like a bad stand-up comic would throw out material on the Joey Bishop Show.

Otherwise, the show was a hoot and worth a number of howls.

Miles to Go Before Toy Fair Sleeps

One can only imagine that the woods are lovely, dark and deep. In Central Park, the woods are covered with a record snowfall of 26.9 inches. In the City, cars are bulldozed into a state of frozen impermanence as plows pile and carve the blizzardy storm blast into the curbs, making it more treacherous for pedestrians to walk than motorists to drive. The New Yorker spirit thrives with passersby willing to push a taxi that in normal weather would otherwise run them over.

So what did this mean for Toy Fair? The spirit of Toy Fair Past pushed many into the Javits Center and fewer into the Toy Center, where a few diehard companies maintained their showrooms. The sentiments were varied, but our unscientific poll had Toy Fair next year in Vegas. It wasn't so much the snow storm that compelled many folks to think about the February Toy Fair closing down in New York. Indeed, the snow was but a metaphor -- imagine a soft white blanket being placed upon a corpse -- the corpse is the show itself. There's no hope that the blanket of snow will revive the dead show; but there is a quiet resolve that the snow was the final cap on what was inevitable. The snow blew into town faster than most people could set up their booths. And its firm but temporary paralysis gave one just enough time to pause. Buses kept running, but few rode them.

That a lack of energy was missing from what will hopefully be the final February show in New York is an understatement. Even at the Javits, one could feel a certain sense of being dupped for the last time. With the bigger toy companies having their own private shows with the major toy buyers and the mid-sized toycos being further compressed by the market, it makes sense for the industry to accept the inevitable and change -- otherwise, there's no reason for the trade show OR the industry association to exist. Spinning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot see the falconer. Javits or Toy Center or one of the buildings near Toy Center or some midtown hotel or -- how about this: Vegas! You know, what happens there, stays there.

Dump the October Pre-Show -- where will it be held -- Church Street? That's not a likely destination for companies that manufacture fun. How about -- oh, I don't know -- Vegas?! In order to make the show make sense -- it needs a bigger reason to exist -- like it's a preview of what's to come in Hong Kong, so hold the show in November. Or it's a follow-up to Hong Kong, so hold the show in May.

With a new faction and fraction of the industry now doing its own independent hunt for a building, presumably still in New York, it's clear that the industry needs to get smart leadership and wrangle together what's left of the small to medium-sized companies and make a run for it. Where's the glue holding this industry together? Stop sniffing and start mending. This was a convention of convulsions. For those who attended Toy Fair, you could see the light at the end of the tunnel, as the paddles of life were drawn away one last time. The death knell sounded several years ago for the February Toy Fair -- the year companies stopped doing giveaways. Indeed, what's a trade fair without tchotchkes?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Jihad Comics

In case you haven't seen the 12 "offending" comics that are turning Europe upside-down, read this.

Here's the story that explains the start of it all, months ago.

I think it's important to show support to both our Danish friends and our Muslim allies. Overall censorship is intolerable and not evidence of a free thinking society. Without free thinking, we wouldn't have Ikea or Swedish pornography. Jutland, as we know it, would not exist! Yet freedom of speech does not mean you can trounce on the sacred and get away with it. You put down my prophet and I'll burn your flag. You make me laugh at my prophet and I'll salute your flag. Really, it's all about whether the comics are funny. Why risk offending someone's religion unless you make them laugh? It's not about offending them for the sake of offending them. Aren't we all in it for the yucks? Of course we are. So the lesson to learn is: if there are no comedy clubs in the country, then lay low on the comics in the newspapers. Comedy, by its very nature is subversive. And if you don't "get it," if you don't laugh at it, then it's not subversive -- it's OFFENSIVE! Nobody likes bad attempts at humor. Nobody. It's offensive.Now, with that in mind, here's my list of comics we should target in the U.S. to have a jihad against:

• Beetle Bailey
• Marmaduke
• Apartment 3G
• GarfieldSure, there are plenty others, but we must establish a value system to the ones that have caused the most pain and have been the most disruptive to our society and popular culture. Once we get these comics taken care of, then we can set the rest of our priorities. I'm thinking ahead here, but maybe fifth on the list would be all editorial cartoons in the New Yorker.

I chose Beetle first and foremost because of its blatant mockery of military authority and the fact that it has not made me laugh once in its decades of being in print. I don't have anything against Beetle himself -- it's really the one-toothed Sarge who bothers me the most. Look, Sarge, if it's so easy to drive a jeep, why don't you drive it yourself?! Perhaps it's his weight, his arrogance, his overbearing presence in the midst of the ever-so slight Beetle -- I'm not sure. But I am sure that jihad against this comic is clearly warranted.

Marmaduke -- can anyone argue the point to NOT have jihad against this comic? Careful, Clifford, the Big Red Dog isn't too far behind, wagging his tail and sniffing Marmaduke's butt. Just to put it all in perspective -- Marmaduke is the kind of dog that would hump Muhammad's leg. So, ai-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi! to Marmaduke.

Apartment 3G -- what the hell is going on? I always thought comics were supposed to be funny. Isn't that why they're called the Funnies? What's funny about some whiskered bloke visiting one of the girls and offering a toast for the New Year? I mean, really. Who honestly follows these psychiatric-driven soap opera comics? By the way, down the hall from Apartment 3G is Rex Morgan, MD., who also almost made the jihad comics list. One more case of herpes and he would have. I forgive Rex Morgan, MD somewhat, because of bizarre contemporary comics like this one, where he only appears in the title panel, swilling down a therapeutic brewski. I'm sorry, but the panel about a bomb going off in the guy's face and the bartender's reation is funny to me. Make me laugh, no jihad. It's that simple.
Garfield -- were it not for the feature film, I would probably have allowed the lazy cat
alone. The only thing endearing about Garfield was when he was voiced by Carlton the doorman. But the film -- the DVD -- the merchandise. Much damage has been done to society by this cat. So enough is enough. Garfield! Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi!In the meantime, make mine Andy Capp. And wake me when the paper comes in so I can see what Zippy and Pogo are up to these days.