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April 1, 2019

Static Age #3

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Static Age’s third installment! You have asked me how I decide what shows go to the spotlight and which ones do not. For a TV series to go to the Static Age’s spotlight, it must have aired before the current millennium (i.e. pre-2000) and all of its seasons are reviewed. And the recent shows’ division is all about what I consider to be the golden age of television (i.e. post-2000) while only one season at the time is reviewed. The golden rule though is that all shows capsule-reviewed in Static Age are of first-watch variety only. No re-watching business here. Makes sense?

The Langoliers (2005) DVD box art.
This Static Age’s spotlight goes to The Langoliers (2005), a two feature-length (90 minutes each) episodes television special, in which all passengers of an aircraft disappear, apart from a few that get stranded in a seemingly abandoned airport full of mysteries. Based upon a novel by Stephen King (as was so often with those TV horror specials back then) by Tom Holland (who also directed, and for whom no introduction is needed), this scared the bejesus of many kids who caught it when it was first aired in the mid-1990s, but it hasn’t dated too well, and its special effects are unable to elevate above the SyFy-level bar. Still, it is genuinely creepy at times, so you might want to check it out if you like this sort of thing.

I also caught up with the following recent shows…

The 1st season of The Returned (2015) created by Carlton Cuse kicks off with a road accident involving a school-bus full of children that of course die. A few years later, and while their parents and the community mourn, the kids keep on showing up alive and well. More of a drama rather than a full-on horror series (the returning kids are not quite your usual undead), this is the U.S. remake of the same titled French series that I previously covered in this very column. It is suffering from a very slow tempo and an unnecessarily moody atmosphere, but a serial killer targeting members of the community livens things up a bit. It was cancelled after this initial season. The French version had a better cast.

In the 4th season of Peaky Blinders (2013 – present) the same-named Birmingham gang led by Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) is now broken apart and has left its criminal past behind. That is until a revenge from the past will come knocking on their door and will find them against the Sicilian mafia of Italy and New York.

Wolf Creek - Season 2 BD box art.
A group of tourists go on a tour of Australia, when their bus is hijacked by local serial killer Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) in the highly entertaining and quite addictive 2nd season of Wolf Creek (2016 – present), which is easily the best series to ever come from Down Under by keeping things local but also bearing a universal horror sensibility. It is also of great help that pretty much all characters are well-developed and sympathetic, so you actually get to care about them. Finally, the last couple of episodes feel entirely different from the rest of the series, mainly due to the change of settings.

In the 2nd season of creator Aaron Martin’s Slasher (2016 – present) a bunch of reckless teenagers end up killing a girl and hiding her body in the woods. Five years later they return to the scene of the crime in order to hide evidence, but somebody seems to know their secret, whilst offing people left, right, and center. A thousand times better than the first season, this is entertaining as hell. The editing goes back and forth in time, but the information given is really simple to process, so this doesn’t become distracting. All episodes directed by Felipe Rodriguez.

Channel Zero - Season 2 DVD box art.
Executive produced by Max Landis and with supervising producer Don Mancini onboard, the 2nd season of Channel Zero (2016 – present) is about a group of college students that enter the no-end house, in which six rooms cruelly await with bad intentions for their fate. Creepy as usual, and featuring an array of impressive one-shots, this one should not be missed.

The 2nd season of Black Mirror (2011 – present) is strong, stressful, and horrific in its exploration of the dangers of the new technology-depended world. It continues its anthology format and it is offering 4 episodes/stories. ‘Be Right Back’ is one of the best episodes and it is about a gorgeous young woman, Martha (Hayley Atwell) who just lost her boyfriend, Ash (Domhnall Gleeson), and tries to cure her mourning by signing up to an application that gathers data from the deceased’s online presence over the years and creates a bot that mimics him. ‘White Bear’ is a really terrifying episode about which one can’t say too much without spoiling it, so I’ll leave it for you to see it. ‘The Waldo Moment’ is a masterpiece of an episode, featuring the titular cartoon character which frighteningly becomes a huge political phenomenon and a multimedia franchise. The season finale, ‘White Christmas’ is somewhat of an anthology piece, and its format doesn’t work, nor does its lengthy running time, and it is a big contender for being the series’ worst episode yet.

Doctor Who - Season 2 BD box art.
The 2nd season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) sees the increasingly gorgeous Billie Piper returning in the role of Rose Tyler, whilst the role of the titular alien hero is now played by David Tennant who is the best of the recent Doctors, and one of the best in general too. The duo will embark to several adventures that range from plain fantasy to escapist horror, all in good British manner.

The 1st season of DC’s Birds of Prey (2002 – 2003) is set in a futuristic Gotham (yes, more futuristic than usual), when Batman has hung his cape, and his work is now continued by the titular superheroes, namely Black Canary (Lori Loughlin), Oracle (Dina Meyer), and The Huntress (Ashley Scott, always happy to show us her sexy belly). Developed by Laeta Kalogridis (her debut, before undertaking several more successful mainstream projects), this is as boring as they come, and it was cancelled after this initial season. The season finale is spectacular, and the employment of Tatu’s ‘All the Things See Said’ works miracles, but it’s still too little, too late.

But I also caught up with some mainstream films as well…

Aquaman (2018) R1 BD box art.
Each time I convince myself to check out the new multi-million dollar extravaganza, I realize why I try to avoid those in general. This time I was bored by DC’s Aquaman (2018) directed by James Wan, which is so bad that the less said about it the better.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Russian cop Ivan Danko who finds himself in Chicago, on the trail of a Georgian criminal (Ed O’Ross), in director Walter Hill’s Red Heat (1988), which comes with breathtaking action (shootouts, fistfights, car crashes, and whatnot), exceptional one-liners (Danko is particularly funny when he explains that Russians deal stress with vodka), and overall 1980s action awesomeness.

Set in 1987, director Travis Knight’s Bumblebee (2018) is about the titular robot that lands in California and finds solace at the company of troubled teenager Charlie (the gorgeous Hailee Steinfeld), until their peace is disturbed by the arrival of a duo of evil robots. This was unexpectedly fun (if I dare to say so, even more than the other Transformers flicks), what with the 1980s hard rock nostalgia and VHS tapes, but I’ll probably forget all about it by the time this article is published.

Bumblebee (2018) R1 BD box art.
The Banks family is about to get evicted when Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) comes to the rescue in Rob Marshall’s Mary Poppins Returns (2018) which is this year’s ultimate feel-good movie. There is singing and dancing of course, but it’s all about the costumes here. You will be amazed.

Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt (2019) is about Motley Crue, a band whose music made them famous, and whose life made them infamous. Based upon the band’s same-titled collected autobiography, this may be era specific (from their rise on Sunset Strip, to the world takeover, to breaking up and reuniting for the first time), but the filmmakers couldn’t have done things differently, unless they wanted their film to be ten hours long. Yes, Motley Crue’s antics were many, and the film manages to navigate us through the most important ones. But aside the endless partying and groupies galore (a series of gags result in many laughs and a good time overall), this biopic is full of rich character development, about a gang (yes, they mostly resemble a gang, rather than a band) that took it to the top. And for us, the fans of their songs and their legacy, this is an invaluable film for which we are thankful. Well done!

And finally I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions…

20 years in the making, John Szpunar’s Blood Sucking Freak: The Life and Films of the Incredible Joel M. Reed (2018, Headpress) is about the legendary exploitation filmmaker. By combining interviews with him and several people that have worked with him, or were just casual New York characters, the book becomes an excellent oral history of a time gone by and greatly missed. Aside from the several amazing stories that we get to read about, the author also sat down with his subject and watched all of his films, providing commentary for each one of them. The filmmaker comes across as a dirty old man, and I am saying this in the best possible way, as this is the sort of characters we missed from New York’s 42nd Street heyday. Be warned though, that this is not a book for someone to be induced to exploitation film history, as the author is targeting mostly people in the know, and wastes no time for needless introductions for several genre film legends. Do yourself a favor, and buy this immediately.

Roberto Curti’s Tonino Valerii: The Films (2016, McFarland), is about the films the eponymous auteur has made during his career that spanned 40 years but was never prolific, opting for quality rather than quantity, a rare feat back in the day in Italy’s genre celluloid landscape. Valerii is better known for his western masterpieces (at least among those of us whose knowledge of the genre goes beyond the two Sergios), but he also tried his hand on other genres, including a very successful stint at a giallo. The book is well-structured, and takes us through a film-by-film journey, in which no stone is left unturned, as the author analyzes and gets to speak with the filmmaker. What’s more, the book also includes a thoughtful afterword by Ernesto Gastaldi, and about a dozen more interviews with people that have worked with Valerii, including Bud Spencer and Franco Nero. All in all, another excellent addition to Curti’s bibliography, and a treasure for genre movie fans and scholars alike.


Part autobiography and part history of pornography, Robert Rosen’s Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography (2010, Headpress) takes through the author’s real-life journey into the magical world of smut as he writes about pretty much everything from the rise of the phone sex lines to the Traci Lords scandal and a lot of other things. The author used to edit several porn magazines and therefore has seen a lot and is much too happy to share them in this book. At 214 pages is a short and easy read, but I could only wish that the text was accompanied by pictures.

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