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March 15, 2022

Movie Review: Wrestling Queen

Mr. Peabody, if you please, set the wayback machine to a celebratively spectral time in early '70's sports...when gritty, no-holds-barred wrestling, and the equally raw, 'bash & dash' world of roller derby were the respected, underground competition-reveling form of sports entertainment, for the moment...a time when, although a clearly choreographed, performance-driven form of sporting combat, still made quite an impression upon devotedly eager viewers...gasp-induced witnesses to wincingly excruciating blows, tosses & holds...the rampant spray of sweat, spit & blood...and the echoing of repeatedly wet, pounding sounds...slamming home, not unlike that of continuously stricken, well-tenderized meat...the humble, albeit no less grueling and compelling beginnings of a national pastime, which has since evolved into quite literally, an institution...

Oh, it probably was, with folks in many homes other than mine, when I was a kid, it was a time when me and my late Mom...bless her soul...vehemently (...and growlingly) commandeered the boob tube from my Dad's regularly scheduled western movie broadcast, each and every Saturday afternoon, for two or three hours, tuning into the higher-ranged UHF, for what was essentially and stereotypically monikered as the rousing gladiator sporting events for the middle-to-lower class. And as if mass gathering in front of the TV wasn't satisfying enough, there was always the odd weekend evening, city-bound roadtrip...a mere matter of clambering into the car, and jutting out to the Olympic Auditorium, in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, to first-hand gawk and cheer these battered, albeit celebrated 'warriors' in the ring (...or on the track, if the flavor of the moment, was roller derby). It is this very gnashing, almost embracingly regressive spirit, which one, oh-so privy to this time, cannot help but harken back to, when viewing the gritty and candid, 1973 wrestling documentary, and seldom-seen drive-in theater-flavored oddity, called "Wrestling Queen"...

March 7, 2022

"The Sword and The Sorcerer" debuts on Blu-ray and 4K!

Meet Talon, a daring mercenary who conquers castles and dungeons alike with his lethal three-bladed sword. But when Talon learns that he is the prince of a kingdom controlled by an evil sorcerer, he is thrust into the wildest fight of his life. Can Talon rescue the beautiful princess and slay the warlock? Filled with brutal battles, plucky maidens, savage monsters and more! 

March 1, 2022

Static Age #20: Ghost Stories for Christmas (1968 – 2010)


Ghost Stories for Christmas (1968 - 2010)

This Static Age’s spotlight goes to Ghost Stories for Christmas (1968 – 2010), the ‘Expanded Six-Disc Collection’ (Region 2, PAL) featuring ‘all 12 episodes of the classic A Ghost Story for Christmas series, the entire Classic Ghost Stories series (presented by Robert Powell), the M R James episodes of Spine Chillers (presented by Michael Bryant) and three of the Ghost Stories for Christmas with Christopher Lee installments from 2000. Also included is a 48-page booklet with essays and full credits.’ With total running time of ‘over 12 hours’ worth of content’ this is the perfect Christmas gift, so this is the perfect time of the year to take a look on it.


Disc One includes, the legendary chiller Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968) which by combining art-house and experimental elements with truly eerie aesthetics it deserves its status as a horror classic; its remake Whistle and I’ll Come to You (2010), which is focusing mainly on modern horror atmosphere and as such it works, so much that I’d dare to say that it is somewhat better than the original; a short video of Jonathan Miller and Christopher Frayling discussing the 1968 original; a really long introduction by Ramsey Campbell; Neil Brand reading M R James’ original story; and Ramsey Campbell reading one of his stories that were inspired by M R James.


Disc Two includes, the classics The Stalls of Barchester (1971) and A Warning to the Curious (1972); filmed introductions by director Lawrence Gordon; and Ghost Stories for Christmas with Christopher Lee – ‘The Stalls of Barchester’ by M R James and ‘A Warning to the Curious by M R James (2000).


Disc Three includes, the classic Lost Hearts (1973), the eerie The Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974), and grim The Ash Tree (1975), all with filmed introductions by Lawrence Gordon Clark.


Disc Four includes, the classics The Signalman (1976), Stigma (1977), and The Ice House (1978), as well as two filmed introductions by Lawrence Gordon Clark.


And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent series…


Elves - Season 1

The 1st season of Elves (2021 – present) is about the Christmas vacation of a Danish family (this Netflix original was made in Denmark), who comes across a cute creature which also happens to have a jailed but mean ancestor. By combining Steven Spielberg-like storytelling and relatable teenagers, this is overall well-done and engaging. At a mere six 24-minute-long episodes, this makes for a quick and fun view, and is binge-worthy.


The 1st season of Russian Doll (2019 – present) is about 36-year-old hip New Yorker Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne) who works as a software engineer and spends her free time partying and using exquisite drugs. After leaving a social gathering she gets killed in an accident, but comes back to relieve her last few moments again and again. This is one of the most original shows on Netflix so far, with intelligent dialogues, and an honest depiction of the upper class drug culture. At only eight 25-minutes-long episodes, this had me wishing for more, and it looks like we’re getting some really soon.


Doctor Who - Season 12

The 12th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present), might be this run’s best one yet. ‘Revolution of the Daleks’ brings back our favorite enemies that we had missed so much in the previous season. ‘Spyfall: Part One’ and ‘Spyfall: Part Two’ nods at a franchise that I’m quite sure you are aware of, as it brings aliens against the MI6, who inevitably ask for The Doctor’s aid. ‘Orphan 55’ has alien monsters attacking a holiday resort. In ‘Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror’, The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) meets Nikola Tesla (Goran Visnjic) and Thomas Edison (Robert Glenister). ‘Fugitive of the Judoon’ is featuring the rhinoceros-like aliens. ‘Praxeus’ is one of the best and most complicated episodes of this season, featuring anything, from an eco-horror plot to a gay romance subplot. The action in ‘Can You Hear Me?’ begins emphatically enough in ancient Syria. ‘The Haunting of Villa Diotati’ is about the birth of the Frankenstein novel. ‘Ascension of the Cybermen’ is featuring a full-on attack by its titular villains. Season finale ‘The Timeless Children’, is a journey of epic proportions, revealing many things about the Doctor that did not know and never would have thought as being possible (the magic of sci-fi) and is featuring stunning CGI work.


I Know What You Did Last Summer - Season 1

The sole season of the Amazon Original I Know What You Did Last Summer (2021), is a remake of the same-titled slasher classic from the 1990s, and this one too is about a group of teenagers (albeit this time more queer and feminist, to catch up with the times) that get involved with an accidents which they cover up and are a year later stalked by an unknown assailant. Serious when it needs to be and fun for most of the time, this consists of 8 episodes that are worthy of a binge, although a lot of it contains drug use, smoking, nudity, sex, and whatnot to guarantee for a more adult viewership.


Also, please allow me to speak a word or two about some recent mainstream films…


Shang-Chi and the Legend of...

Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021), directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, may be very welcome for introducing the screen’s first Asian superhero in a U.S. blockbuster (played by Simu Liu) and include some of the most stunning stunts in recent years (both of the martial arts and the CGI variety, as well as combinations of thereof), but the end result is weak and tiresome at over 2 hours long.


Made on a massive $110 million budget, Marvel’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021), manages to look cheaper than a SyFy production. Serial killer Cletus Kasady transforms into Carnage (Woody Harrelson) and goes after the man who put him to jail, namely Eddie Brock who needs to once again become Venom (Tom Hardy). Directed by Andy Serkis, this has the feel of a b-movie noir made by people who don’t really know how to approach this kind of cinema. Before 1991 we used to stare at the big screen in awe during all the stunts featuring motorcycles and helicopters etc., but now with these lame video CGI we stare in disbelief as they all look like video games.


The Matrix Resurrections (2021) promo art

Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections (2021) is the belated sequel to the action film trilogy from 1999 – 2003 that changed cinema forever (for good or worse is debatable amongst critics and fans alike) and with more crucial top-notch technology at its disposal as well as a whopping $190 million budget, this works miracles not only on the spectacle department – something that was expected – but also on the storytelling one, as similarly to the original film, great mythos is created. I’d go as far as to say that this is the best in the series. Featuring returning stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss, as well as newcomers Jessica Henwick and Christina Ricci.


Parasite (2019) poster

The Academy Award Winning Parasite (2019) directed by is a social drama about a poor family who bullshits its way into working for a rich family in order to live behind the misery of a basement apartment. Supposedly a commentary on capitalism and class injustice, this preachy anomaly is boring and at over 2 hours long it becomes a torturous experience, maybe even more painful than what the main characters have to go through during the film’s gory finale, which cannot salvage much.


In terms of monster movies, I really wanted to review Orion Pictures’ The Prodigy (2019), which is clearly about the possession of a young boy by something sinister, but as the film itself refers to the event as an ‘incarnation’ kind of thing, I couldn’t possibly built a strong case for inclusion on the reviews bellow. Saying anything more specific about the plot would spoil the fun. Genuinely creepy and absolutely captivating, this should not be missed by any fan of recent horrors.


Us (2019) stunning poster

Undoubtedly though, this year’s best film has to be Us (2019), which is about a vacationing Black family, that gets terrorized but what appears to be themselves. A modern masterpiece really, that is as atmospheric as it is visceral, and it is featuring one of the best soundtracks in recent years. Who’d knew that Blaxploitation horrors would make a comeback, disguised as art horror?


The aesthetics of many monsters involves Gothic sensibilities, and a modern master of such intentions is director Tim Burton, who may have somewhat lost his touch in the last few years, but his latest, Dumbo (2019) is a very pleasant surprise. Telling the adventures of the titular baby elephant who is separated from his mother and now has to perform his flying-with-his-ears-as-wings abilities in a circus in order to find her again, this is a very touching drama, the likes of which we would like to see more. The soundtrack by Danny Elfman is absolutely magnificent too.


Avengers: Endgame (2019) poster

Speaking of big budget stuff, I recently had the opportunity to watch Avengers: Endgame (2019), in which the titular superheroes indulge into some time manipulation business in order to un-fuck the world (a very common theme in today’s mainstream cinema that is all too inspired by the climate change and other such menacing happenings). After watching it I came to the conclusion that Disney cannot really satisfy my appetite for popular culture; it’s just that their films are not suitable for my delicate taste. In reality, the biggest change Marvel brought to cinema is the studio system. Seriously, I know that this is a Marvel film, and although I have seen all of them (despite remembering not much from any of them), I have no idea who these directing Russo guys are! They’re not John A. Russo, that’s for sure.


But now that the market is flooded with all kinds of superheroes (based on comic books or otherwise), filmmakers can do all sorts of unique things, such as comedy superhero films (you know at which Marvel property I am referring to) that are maybe not that original (considering you know of which 1980s Troma property I am referring to), it became possible to do a superhero horror movie and Brighburn (2019) is just that. However the James Gunn-produced original (it is not based in any previously franchised property, for a change) by being a cross between super-villain origin story and a possessed kid Blumhouse kind of standard, fails to succeed in winning either genre’s fans and it looks a bit mediocre at both, while it is never captivating.


Possum (2018) grim poster

There is a film I loved so much that I couldn’t bring myself to properly composing a review of it; it is much more difficult to write 1,000 words for something you liked, rather than 10,000 words on something you hated. Case in point the slow and atmospheric Possum (2018) which is about a puppeteer who returns to his home and now has to face stepfather and the numerous secrets of his family. Reminiscent of David Lynch’s best moments, this is mesmerizing and captivating, and one of the eeriest films to see the light of the day from Great Britain in the last decade. Highly recommended.


Finally, The Secret Life Of Pets 2 (2019) is about further adventures of several domesticated animals, and it is featuring hard-to-achieve animation, mainly because there are so many different species on display. Another winner from Illumination Entertainment, it may not be as fun as the original because that film was mostly about the pets’ behavioral goofs, while this one is mostly about the admittedly standard story.


The Endless (2017)

Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, The Endless (2017) has brothers Justin (Justin Benson, who also directed and wrote the screenplay) and Aaron (Aaron Moorhead, who also directed), going back where they had experienced a U.F.O. death cult as kids. Cosmic horror galore, but the end result is boring.


Blumhouse’s latest (and also promoted as the last) entry in the Purge franchise, entitled The Forever Purge (2021), directed by Everardo Gout, is following the story of a family of Mexican migrants and their struggle with racism and adjusting in the U.S., but the bigger picture is a group of right wing extremists who aim to “cleanse” the States by continuing the purge long after its official wrapping time. Many years since the first film, series creator James DeMonaco returns with a surprisingly original concept, making a winner entry, as well as killer commentary on the unofficial civil war the western civilization is understatedly going through right now.


Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

In Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021), a younger generation of science geeks discover the tools of the trade of the eponymous heroes of our childhoods, now old enough to be their grandparents and equally irrelevant and forgotten, but when multiple threats of the paranormal kind (in the form of ghosts, of course) make a spectacular appearance, the new generation works with the old one for the good cause of trapping the enemies. Directed by Jason Reitman (who also wrote the screenplay with Gil Kenan), this takes a while to get things going, but once it does the whole thing becomes super fun and absolutely respectful to the 1980s legacy.


Marvel’s Eternals (2021), directed by Chloe Zhao introduces us to the titular superheroes and their war against the evil deviants through space and time. Weak and far too long at over 2 and a half hours long, this is somewhat salvaged by its strong cast that includes Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek.


John C. Donkin’s The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild (2022) are about the heroic attempts of the titular weasel (voiced by Simon Pegg) and his two possum friends (Aaron Harris and Vincent Tong) to take down the evil empire of the Lost World ruled by a genius dinosaur. Stunning animation and weak story are the order of the day in this modern Disney feature, which is nonetheless fun enough to not outstay its welcome.


The Many Saints of Newark

Alan Taylor’s gangster epic The Many Saints of Newark (2021) is about the story of mob man Dickie Moltisanti (an excellent Alessandro Nivola), as witnessed by a young Tony Soprano (played by Michael Gandolfini). This prequel to the renowned 1990s series, has all the tropes of a Scorsese masterpiece and while its focus is of course organized crime, the story also benefits from the cultural and historical backdrop of the time and place (New York). The cast is great and it also includes Jon Bernthal, Ray Liotta, and Vera Farmiga.


And finally, I would like to let you know that I enriched my bookshelf with the following additions…


I recently ran out of books and money to buy new ones, so I went for a raid on my wife’s bookshelf, from which I picked up and read Edmund Crispin’s The Moving Toyshop (1946), Hermann Hesse’s Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (the best novel I’ve read in ages; a real page turner), Coraline, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Madame M’s Creepy Little Bedtime Stories and Eerie Little Bedtime Stories, Agatha Christie’s The Sittaford Mystery, and Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Hollow City, and Library of Souls) and their continuation (Tales of the Peculiar and A Map of Days: The Fourth Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children). I also borrowed Ian McEwan’s The Children Act (2014), from a friend.


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