Throwback Thursday: The Monster Squad!


Remember these guys???  It’s hard to believe that this film is over thirty years old.  Featuring Andre Gower as Sean, leader of the Monster Squad, and Duncan Regehr as Count Dracula, leader of the monsters, this film didn’t make much noise at the movies but eventually gained a cult following (myself included).

It also featured early performances from Jason Hervey and Jonathan Gries, both of which would go on to bigger things with The Wonder Years and Napoleon Dynamite.

Written by Shane Black and Fred Dekker, the film featured the special effects of the legendary Stan Winston.

Along with Focus On, Throwback Thursday is a new feature that I’m adding to my page in order to provide more content for my readers.  Let me know what you would like to see featured on Throwback Thursday in future posts!

Not Your Daddy’s Oklahoma!

Sheol, OK

I enjoy watching independent film productions.  They find brilliant ways to use their limited resources to give the viewer the best possible version of their particular vision.  Independent horror is particularly interesting to me because these films often push boundaries and explore dark corners of the mind that large studios won’t risk funding at a potential loss of profit.  The big boys are quite happy producing mediocre PG-13 horror films that will draw in a certain demographic and make at least a minimal profit from with minimal risks.

Once in awhile an independent film comes along that blazes new trails for the horror genre.  The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are two well known independent horror films that took horror into new territories of gore, terror, and even humor (especially The Evil Dead).  Newer indie films like The Babadook and Wolf Creek continue to push the envelope with gore, mental anguish, etc.

Meet Me There doesn’t necessarily blaze any new trails, but it does attempt to follow the paths of many of its predecessors.  The film opens up with what is apparently supposed to be an unnerving event that opens the viewer’s mind to a ton of questions.  Then the focus shifts to Ada (Lisa Friedrich) and her beau, Calvin (Micheal Foulk), as the duo return to Ada’s small hometown of Sheol, Oklahoma in an attempt to remedy her issues with intimacy.  Ada can’t recall many memories from her childhood and she and Calvin think that by visiting her old home, her memory will be triggered and she can remove any blocks that might be putting a strain on their love life.

meet me there pic_0

The film follows the couple on their journey to Sheol from Austin, Texas, giving us more insight into both characters.  Ada talks about the few memories that she can recall and Calvin brings up a light memory of him dealing with Smurfs.  The entire sequence is rather long, bordering on mediocrity.


Once the pair arrive in Sheol, a bizarre sequence of events begins to unfold that includes everything from locals pulling a gun on Calvin for being an outsider in a Cleveland Indians cap to a visit with Ada’s strung out aunt who accuses her of bringing evil to the town.  There are also two interactions with Preacher Woodward (Dustin Runnels) who I’m sure WWE fans will recognize as Goldust and his daughter, that can be described as uneasy (the first one) and completely whacked out (the second one).


The film rambles all over the place with no real direction in sight.  As is standard for most horror films, the lead couple make one bad decision after another and get into more trouble and more bizarre situations.  Also, one thing that I found puzzling was that despite being from the small town, no one seems to recognize Ada outside of her aunt.  Everyone just seems to want her and Calvin to end up dead and they are more than eager to help them end up that way.

Light humor is injected throughout the film, much of it being delivered by Foulk, but it’s very forced in some instances.  There are also shots of druids in the forest doing things in various states of undress.  I didn’t know whether to laugh at these moments or be terrified by them.  I ultimately just stared at them wondering what the heck was going on in the scene.

Eventually the film ends and the viewer is left with just as many questions as he or she might have had at the the beginning of the film.  It’s a very bizarre flick that really doesn’t seem to have any defined end in sight.  While this works for a lot of horror films, it fails pretty hard in Meet Me There.


I will say that I enjoyed the performances of Friedrich, Runnels, and Jill Thompson (who portrayed Ada’s Aunt Lindsay).  Friedrich in particular really put herself out there in the film, and I commend her for her work.  Runnels does well with what he has to work with, and in all honesty I’d love to see him take on a slasher type role in the future.  Thompson plays up her character’s addictions and gives an excellent performance as a woman in an abusive relationship that has given up on life and has become a bit unhinged.

The film isn’t terrible, but I don’t see it making any lasting impression.  It is apparently loosely based on the hometown stories of Destiny Talley (who co-wrote the film with Brandon Stroud) and seems to try and fuse these small town stories (every small town has at least one weird story) into a horror film.  Hopefully the cast and the writers will continue working on projects like this, as I did see a few flashes of greatness within Meet Me There, but not enough to recommend buying this film.  It’s currently available to stream for free on Amazon Prime, so if you’ve got a little time to kill, give it a chance.  You might like it more than I did.

Thanks for reading, everyone.  Be sure to go out and support indie films, especially if they are created locally.  I’ve been involved with a few short films myself, and they are extremely fun to work on with friends and locals.  Even if the end product isn’t all that great, it’s still a great feeling to put something out there for others to see and tell them, “I made this.”



Who Knows….

What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Men?

Having recently revisited The Rocketeer and The Phantom, two 1990’s films set in the 1930’s, it’s only natural that I also take a look at 1994’s The Shadow, an Alec Baldwin vehicle that had high hopes just like those films did but ultimately fell flat at the theater.  Of these three films, The Shadow is my least favorite.  I liked it, but not as much as the other films.  I’ll give my reasons below.

Based on the character made popular in pulp novels, a highly successful radio program narrated by the legendary Orson Welles, and classic serials, the film seemed to struggle to find its way.  Lamont Cranston’s (The Shadow’s alias) background story was okay, but I felt that it was poorly explained in the film.  I also felt that the villain, Shiwan Khan (John Lone), wasn’t impressive or consistent enough to be a real threat.


Jerry Goldsmith’s score also seemed a tad lazy.  While the film had style for miles, the music felt a tad phoned in and the hero’s theme sound very similar to Danny Elfman’s 1989 Batman theme.  Oddly enough, it was the success of Batman (who was created with partial inspiration from the original Shadow) that apparently triggered this short run of superhero films that also included Dick Tracy.  I also wasn’t a fan of Original Sin, the end titles song performed by Taylor Dayne.  Dayne did a great job vocally, but the song just seemed dull and uninspired.


The special effects were brilliant in almost every aspect.  The look of New York in the 1930’s was brilliantly executed with both sets and matte backgrounds.  That’s right, kids, even in the 90’s we were still using traditional paintings as part of the background.  That, in my opinion, gave the movie an even more classic look and feel.  The Shadow’s facial features were apparently prosthetic, and worked quite well.  Animation (not CGI) appears to have been used for the Shadow’s shadow as well as the fight sequences (which featured the Shadow fading in and out of the scene), which were simply wonderful.


Where the effects failed was when Phurba, the knife of Tulku (Cranston’s trainer and mentor), appeared on screen.  The effects were terrible for this knife and it jarred me out of the movie every time I saw it.  Thankfully Phurba didn’t spend a lot of time on the screen.


The film had a solid main cast that included Baldwin, Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Curry, and Ian McKellan.  It also featured a stellar lineup of supporting actors that included Peter Boyle and Jonathan Winters (who had major supporting roles), and a whole smorgasbord of character actors that we’ve all seen on television or film over the years.  Sharp-eyed viewers will recognize Max Wright, Joseph Maher, James Hong, Sab Shimono, Ethan Phillips, Abraham Benrubi, Steve Hytner, Wesley Mann, and Al Leong.


For a film that was a tad hit and miss, The Shadow is still worth a look.  It’s got plenty of style and a great all around cast that gets bogged down in a script that can’t find its legs.  I’d love to see The Shadow get another shot on the big screen in the near future, but I don’t know if it will happen any time soon.


For now, fans will have to be content with the 1994 film and the classic serials and older films.  Personally, I think I’ll stick to the pulp novels.  The movie has plenty of things going for it, but it doesn’t hold my attention as well as The Phantom and The Rocketeer.  Still, I highly recommend that you give it a look.

As always, thanks for reading.  Let me know what you thought about the film in the comments section.  I hope to have a review for Solo: A Star Wars Story in the very near future, so be on the lookout for that and other upcoming posts including another Focus On feature, and a look at collecting blind bag items.


Focus On: Alan Cumming

A True Star

Welcome to the first of what I hope is many editions of Focus On, where I’ll showcase one performer, artist, or band that has greatly influenced my life in some way.  Each post will briefly introduce readers to the artist, and hopefully encourage them to seek out more of the artist’s work.

First up is Alan Cumming, a star of film, television, and the stage, who has impressed me with his massive body of work.  I was first introduced to him in the Circle of Friends back in the 1990’s.  From there I saw him in films such as Emma, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and Get Carter.


What really made me a fan of Cumming, though, was his brilliant performance in The Anniversary Party, which featured a solid cast that included Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Parker Posey, Jane Adams, and many more.  After seeing the film, I actively sought out more of his work.


Of course, most of my readers probably recognize Alan Cumming from either his performance as Nightcrawler in X2, the second X-Men film, or as Fegan Floop in the Spy Kids films.  If you’ve seen him there, be sure to check out some of his lesser known science fiction and fantasy roles such as Glitch from the SyFy Channel miniseries Tin Man or his work as Judas Caretaker in another SyFy miniseries, Riverworld.


Oh, and if you were hooked on the pop sounds of the Spice Girls back in the 90’s, you probably already know that he was in their feature film, Spice World.  If not, I highly suggest you see that film if for no other reason than to see how bonkers that film and those ladies could be on the screen!


Alan Cumming has been in entirely too many films and television series to list here, so I highly recommend that you take a look at this work.  He’s a brilliant actor, a defender of LGBT rights, and an all around cool person.


As always, thanks for reading.  I really hope that any of you that haven’t seen Mr. Cumming’s work before will seek out some of his performances.  You won’t regret it!

Pirates, Steampunk, Wrasslin’ and More!

Lake Charles, LA

Since 1957, pirates have taken over the city of Lake Charles, LA, for one of the largest festivals in the state.  Originally called Contraband Days, the festival grew from a one day event into a two week festival that included speed boat races, concerts from major artists in multiple genres, a carnival, and, obviously, lots of pirates!

As the years went on, the event underwent multiple changes.  A family night was added that featured performances by national, regional, and local Christian artists.  The boat races were removed.  Bed races (yes, bed races) were added, taken away, and then brought back.  Admission and parking fees came and went and fluctuated with each year.  Concerts began to focus more and more on the regional and local levels as well.  Ultimately, festival goers began to feel that they weren’t getting much bang for their buck and the festival experienced a massive downturn in attendance.

One of the biggest and most divisive changes occurred on International Talk Like A Pirate Day in 2017, when the Buccaneers of Lake Charles announced that the festival would no longer be called Contraband Days, but instead be referred to as the Louisiana Pirate Festival.  Both support and backlash came from the local community over this change, but the festival stuck to their guns on the issue.  Many believed that politics was the driving force behind the change, while others stated that it was simply a change to widen the appeal of the event.


Whatever the real reason may be, I decided to attend this event on both of its weekends.  I assisted with the Tour Lafitte bike race and watched the Amanda Shaw concert on the first weekend, and took my family out for a day at the carnival on the second weekend.  I did notice that the crowd was quite a bit smaller this year than it has been in the past (most evident at the lightly attended concerts), and I also noticed that the event itself had downgraded in size.  I really felt bad for the bands that performed at the event.  There just wasn’t a big crowd to give them any type of support.

The highlights for me were the Pirate’s Parrots show and the Amanda Shaw concert.  The carnival was enjoyed by my whole family.  The weather was extremely cooperative this year (there’s been a bad run of storms on the weekends for the last few years prior).  The Buccaneers didn’t seem to be out in as big of a force this year as they have in the past, but I did see a few of them hanging around their area at the festival.


Myself and Amanda Shaw. Yes, This photo was edited to remove the RESTROOMS sign behind us! Photo by me.

Based on my own personal account, this festival looks to be floundering around on its last peg leg.  I’d really love to see it win back its audience, but with so many ill feelings in the community, I don’t know if the Louisiana Pirate Festival will ever be the same.

Gettin’ Steamy!

This weekend in Gulfport, MS, the 2018 Southern Steampunk Expo will take place at The Warehouse (3420 Giles Rd, Gulfport, MS).  I won’t be able to attend, but those lucky enough to check this event out will get the opportunity to see authentic set pieces from films like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  There will also be live entertainment from Professor Pinkerton and the New Orleans Steam Cog Orchestra.  Cosplayers will also be in attendance including two of my personal favorites, Redtop Cosplay and Hashtag Cosplay.


Image taken from the Facebook Event Page.

Tickets at the door are only fifteen dollars for Saturday and ten dollars for Sunday for adults, and kids aged five to thirteen only cost ten bucks for each day.  Weekend passes for adults are only $25 and for kids aged five to thirteen, $15.  Kids under five get in free!  The event is family friendly, but there will be an adults only show that will cost an additional five bucks.

This sounds like a wonderful event.  If you can head out that way this weekend, get there!  For more information, follow the event link here.

Texas-Sized Title Bout!

On the other side of Louisiana, Hurricane Pro Wrestling will be crowning their first ever Women’s Champion in Beaumont, TX on June 16th.  I attended a Hurricane Pro event back in March and wanted to go back again last month but was unable to due to other responsibilities.  When they announced their next event, The Crowning (more info at their website and at the event link here), I made sure that I cleared the weekend of June 16th (which happens to be the same week as my birthday) and picked up VIP passes for myself and my kids.  This event looks to be insane with former Impact Women’s Champion Chelsea Green, the mighty Sheeva, newcomer Phoebe, Hurricane Pro favorite Miranda Alize, and Reality of Wrestling’s Hyan squaring off to become the first Hurricane Pro Women’s Champion.


All photos are from the Hurricane Pro Facebook page and are their property.

Of course, the ladies aren’t the only ones getting in on the action in June.  HPW has also announced two other matches that will take place at The Crowning.  Brysin Scott and Estrella Galactica have some bad blood with the Pump Patrol and  Ayden Cristiano and Jordan Jensen will also be facing off on an evening that’s only going to get better as more matches are announced!

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If you’re located in southwest Louisiana or southeast Texas and love professional wrestling, I highly recommend that you attend this HPW event.  The wrestlers are very interactive with the crowd and they are extremely talented as well.  For The Crowning, VIP passes can be purchased for $25 and include a pre-show meet and greet with all of the ladies in the main event, a photo session, autographs, and a commemorative  shirt!

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Remembering Margot Kidder

It is with a heavy heart that I have to say that yesterday we lost another iconic star.  Margot Kidder, best known to nerds like myself as Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve Superman films, passed away at her home in Montana.  No other information has been made available at this time.


Few people could draw attention away from the wonderful performance of Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel, but Kidder’s spunky Lois Lane stole plenty of scenes and commanded the audience’s attention.  Kidder also starred in other genre films like The Amityville Horror, Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, and Sisters, but she’ll always be our Lois.


In Conclusion

That’s all I have for now, folks.  If you have an event coming up in the near future and would like to have it featured in my blog, please message me through this blog or contact me on Facebook here.  Please know that I received no compensation for promoting neither of the events above.  I simply want to spread the word about things that I believe I would love and that my readers would love as well.  If you attend the Southern Steampunk event, let me know how it goes.  If you’re going to be at the Hurricane Pro event, The Crowning, let me know ahead of time so that I can meet you and get your opinion on the show!

As always, thanks for reading my posts.  It makes my nerdy heart feel good when I see that Views counter tick up.  If you have anything you’d like me to cover, just let me know.




Please, Call Her Miss Shaw!

On The Lakefront

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing about the soulful, country-dipped, rock n’ roll blended, New Orleans bluesy sound of Amanda Shaw on a blog called Ken’s Alternate Universe.  Well, in all honesty it’s because I like Miss Shaw’s work.  Plus, she and I both call Louisiana home and I never hesitate to promote anyone or anything from the Pelican State.

I had the good fortune of seeing Miss Shaw and her band, The Cute Guys, perform on Saturday, May 5th at the Louisiana Pirate Festival (formerly known as Contraband Days) in Lake Charles.  In all of the years that I’ve listened to Miss Shaw’s music and followed her career, I never got the chance to see her live.  I finally did and she didn’t disappoint.


Amanda Shaw and The Cute Guys, Louisiana Pirate Festival, Lake Charles, LA, May 5, 2018. Photo by Kendall Fontenot

Miss Shaw played tunes that ranged from the country rock of the Charlie Daniels Band (The Devil Went Down To Georgia) to the punk sounds of The Clash (Should I Stay Or Should I Go).  She performed multiple tunes from her new release, Please, Call Me Miss Shaw (including Dirty Blonde and Holiday) and fan favorites like Pretty Runs Out, Adieu Rosa, and Red Plastic Cup.


Amanda Shaw at the Louisiana Pirate Festival, Lake Charles, LA, May 5, 2018.  Photo by Kendall Fontenot.

Shaw flawlessly flowed from upbeat dance numbers to traditional sounding country tunes and held the crowd’s attention for the entire time.  She capped off the evening with Johnnie Can’t Dance, a well known tune throughout southern Louisiana composed by Michael Doucet (Beausoleil) and Wayne Toups (Wayne Toups and ZydeCajun) and made popular by Toups.  While I didn’t keep a close eye on the clock, I’d say that her show ran for roughly one hour and twenty minutes.


My copy of Please, Call Me Miss Shaw.

After the show, Miss Shaw met with fans and had copies of her latest disc for purchase.  I got a selfie with her (although it wasn’t until after I left that I noticed the giant RESTROOMS sign behind us) and picked up a copy of her album.  Pick up a copy for yourself.  I’m particularly fond of How Lucky You Are.  Shaw’s voice sounds like a wonderful blend of Dolly Parton and Lorrie Morgan on that track.

Miss Shaw was extremely nice and thanked each and every person for coming out to see her.  If she’s ever in the neighborhood again, I plan on making it to her show.  If you like artists that don’t necessarily fit one specific mold but can comfortably execute tunes from multiple genres, check out Amanda Shaw! Visit her website here for more information about her and her upcoming shows.


Myself and Amanda Shaw. Yes, This photo was edited to remove the RESTROOMS sign behind us! Photo by me.

Thanks for reading this quick post.  I will continue to add more music based posts reviewing everything from albums to concerts as I continue on this wild and wonderful blogging journey.

If you’ve seen Amanda Shaw live or enjoy her music, let me know in the comments!

Thor Finally Gets A Decent Film

The Titan Arrives

It has taken ten years and almost twenty films to get to his big moment, but Thanos finally arrived on the silver screen in Avengers:  Infinity War in April.  As of this writing it has easily cleared the one billion mark and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon.  There isn’t much competition in its way, excepting the R-rated Deadpool 2 which I’m sure will pull in a considerable audience and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story which, despite a lot of negative press, has managed to outdo Black Panther in pre-sale tickets.

As it is with all of the Marvel films, the Mickey Mouse hype machine pumped up audiences for the film and they didn’t disappoint Disney one bit, making Infinity War the the second highest grossing film of 2018 and the fifteenth highest grossing film of all time in just one week.  That means that the film will probably easily pass another Marvel flick, Black Panther, as the highest grossing film of the year and probably become the highest grossing film of all time.


No Spoilers…..For Now

Full Disclosure:  While I’ve read many Marvel comics over the years, the bulk of my knowledge of Thanos comes from the MCU. 

As I already stated above, Marvel and Disney took ten years to bring this story to fruition.  Despite this slow churning build, the plot of the film is pretty basic:  Thanos is coming to purify and “save” the universe by wiping out half of its population and establishing a new universal order where he calls the shots.  In order to do this, he has to collect all of the Infinity Stones.  The film opens with him already in possession of the Power Stone and attempting to collect the Space Stone from Thor, Loki, and the refugees of Asgard.


From there the story bounces across the universe from one scenario after another where small groups of our heroes gather to fight Thanos or members of his Black Order as they attempt to collect the rest of the stones.  It’s full of fast and loud action that’s shot heavily at close range.  While certain heroes stand out from the pile of Avengers, the bulk of them are simply there to fight.  As I said, the plot is very basic and we’ve had many years to see most of these characters develop, so there’s really no use to develop them anymore.

The film sits back and lets the audience soak in a full out battle that is often littered with incomprehensible action.  Sooner or later things calm down and there’s a quick head count, only to have our heroes get tossed into yet another round of fighting.

When it’s all said and done, lives are lost, questions are raised, and a big cliffhanger is set up.  Who lives?  Who dies?  You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

I enjoyed the film well enough.  It tossed away the silliness that was Thor: Ragnarok and stacked up the intensity.  There were moments that were obviously meant to shock, but all of them felt forced.  It was as if the Russo Brothers (who directed) and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (the writers) were trying to push home a point that the audience already knew:  Thanos is a bad dude who is extremely ruthless and powerful.  They could have skipped over a lot of this and played out other parts of the story, but they definitely know their core audience because there are a billion memes on the web about every single “shocking” death at the hands of Thanos.  But let’s be honest. We all knew what was going to happen in this film, we just didn’t know who it was going to happen to in the film.



There’s plenty to love about this film.  For starters, Thor actually started to act like Thor in this film.  He’s cocky and brash, but now he has lost Asgard and most of his friends and the few that he has remaining are being threatened by Thanos.  Thor becomes something of an avenging angel in the movie and I love it.  Dr. Strange also gets to shine a bit more than the rest of the Avengers in this film as he attempts to figure out what Thanos’ next move will be.  Gamora, Hulk, and even Nebula also get a bit more of development in this film.  Iron Man, of course, gets a bunch of lines, but he’s starting to wear thin with me.  He’s the only Avenger in the film that I actually wanted to see get whacked by Thanos.


Captain America, Black Panther, Falcon, War Machine, Black Widow, and the rest of the Avengers are just there for the fight.  Scarlet Witch and Vision have a few standout moments but they too become punching bags for Thanos.

The music was fantastic.  Alan Silvestri did an excellent job of weaving hero themes from the other films into the score for Infinity War.

The special effects were good, but there was no denying that the bulk of the action was CGI and Thanos definitely wasn’t fooling anybody.  I really wish that they would have used more practical effects on Thanos.  I can understand their use in the fight sequences, but they needed to step up with Thanos.

Overall, Avengers: Infinity War is a very good film with no real surprises.  You know what you’re getting into, so I don’t understand what’s so shocking about some of the things that happen in the film.

Thanks for reading.  For a few spoiler-rific thoughts about the movie, keep scrolling beyond the photo of Cap below.

Spoilers Ahead!!!!

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Now for the spoiler portion of my review.  Here are some pros and cons about the film.  Let me know what you think in the comments section.

Pro: Thor

Chris Hemsworth kept this film interesting.  He took Thor to an entirely different level.  His quest for revenge against Thanos for the death of the people of Asgard, Heimdall, and Loki (maybe, maybe not, dude is sly) is exactly what this film needed.


Con:  All of the heavy handed deaths

Thanos kills.  That’s what he does.  He chokes out Loki early in the film in an apparent attempt to set the tone that no one is safe.  We already knew that.  Why drag out Loki’s death other than to draw a few tears from an audience that has been spoon fed the story for a decade now?  Gamora’s death was also prolonged.  We knew that was coming as well.

Pro:  Thanos’ torture techniques

I felt Nebula’s pain as she was being slowly ripped apart.  When Thanos burned Thor’s face, it made me tense.  Heck, Ebony Maw (a member of Thanos’ Black Order) pulled off some of the best torture sequences in the film!


Con:  The CGI

The CGI had a few moments of greatness, especially once Thanos arrived in Wakanda.  In a few brief flashes of sunlight, Thanos looked almost real.  The rest of the time, it was obvious that a computer was doing most of the work.  Those dog creatures were horrible.

Pro:  The Background Avengers

Spider-Man, Mantis, Drax, Captain America, Black Panther, and Nebula all had solid performances in the film, but with 8.7 billion Avengers on the screen, we didn’t get much time to appreciate their work.


Con:  Inconsistent Powers

The Black Order was manhandling two of the most powerful Avengers, Scarlet Witch and Vision, until Captain America and a bunch of normal humans with souped up tech arrive to fight them and they end up fleeing the scene.  Really?  Spider-Man and Iron Man outsmart Ebony Maw who, up until the point in the film where they fling him into space, has successfully sensed every single move the group made beforehand????  Okoye and Black Widow, two humans, hold their own against Proxima Midnight until Scarlet Witch breaks free of her emotional grief long enough to fling her into one of those round grinding things????


Pro and Con:  Thanos

He’s just one more in a long line of predictable and dull villains from Marvel.  With that being said, though, he’s the first real threat that the Avengers have ever faced.  He’s an excellent foil for either Thor or Hulk, and I hope that both of them get another shot at him in the next film.

Well, there you have it.  What did you think about the movie.  Let me know in the comments, but if you’re going to reference a spoiler, please make a note prior to posting your comment so that other readers that haven’t seen the film yet won’t have their day ruined!




“The Ghost Who Walks” Revisited

For Those Who Came In Late….

I’ve quietly been a fan of the Phantom since I was a child.  I was never that familiar with the comic strip since it didn’t run in any local papers, but I remember reading the strip every chance that I got whenever we would visit friends and family or vacation in areas where the newspaper carried the comic strip.


It wasn’t until 1996’s The Phantom film that I really began to love the character.  I began to read more of the old strips and picked up a couple of the comics as well.  I’ve watched that film and the classic 1943 serial featuring Tom Tyler on multiple occasions.  This post will focus on the 1996 feature, but sooner or later I’ll revisit Tom Tyler’s run in the purple costume.


Following the release of The Rocketeer (1991) and The Shadow (1994), The Phantom was the third film in an unconnected trio of films set in the early 1900’s that called back to the days of cliffhanger serials.  While the Rocketeer wasn’t actually created until the 1980’s, he was based on classic serial characters.  The Shadow arrived in 1930 and found an audience in pulp novels, eventually spreading into film and a successful radio program.  The Phantom came six years later in a comic strip and eventually spread to other forms of media including two moderately successful cartoon series, Defenders of the Earth (1986-87) and Phantom 2040 (1994-96).

Much like The Rocketeer and The Shadow, 1996’s The Phantom found an audience, but it wasn’t big enough for the studio to put a second film into production.  Perhaps it was too nostalgic or maybe the core demographic of the time just didn’t care for these films, but interest wasn’t very strong.

The plot was simple enough.  An evil business tycoon from New York sets out to find three skulls that will give him power to control the world.  He stops at nothing to find all of the skulls, but one man stands in his way…..the Phantom!

I don’t blame the cast, particularly Billy Zane (Titanic, Tombstone) or Kristy Swanson (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), nor do I blame the special effects team, the writers, or director Simon Wincer.  The film just didn’t generate enough interest to pull in an audience.

Granted, the film is far from perfect.  It sets itself firmly in its time period, which means that an audience that had just witnessed the beloved Batman (1989) film and the highly stylized and glitzy Dick Tracy (1990) was being asked to take a couple of technological steps back and watch a film that features pirates, magic skulls, and a superhero whose greatest weapons are a magic ring that he only uses once in the film, a pair of guns, a horse named Hero and a wolf named Devil.  Sure, Hero and Devil do some pretty amazing things, but I honestly believe that the lack of whiz bang technology hurt the film’s chances to draw in a crowd.


The film’s primary villain, Xander Drax, is played with joyful abandon by Treat Williams.  Williams holds nothing back in his performance, chewing and gnawing his way through every scene that he appears in during the movie.  Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa portrays the Great Kabai Sengh, leader of the Sengh pirates and the owner of the third skull that Drax is in search of in the movie.  While Tagawa’s role is small, he does an excellent job.


Catherine Zeta-Jones, who would go on to a much bigger and more successful career in films like The Mask of Zorro and Entrapment, appears in the film as Sala, leader of a band of female air pirates that capture Diane Palmer (Swanson).  She does a great job as a character that develops rather nicely despite having a standard villain story line in the early parts of the film.  Swanson channels her inner tough lady as Palmer, and handles her own against multiple villains in the film.  Sadly, Swanson never did seem to break out into larger films.


Simon Wincer’s direction allows the cast to play to their strengths, especially Zane, who delivers multiple humorous lines throughout the movie with a wink to the audience.  He’s the consummate lady’s man and delivers an excellent performance.  Zeta-Jones cranks up the sex appeal, Williams is a ham, and Swanson is simply captivating.

The score, guided by David Newman, manages to skillfully capture the heroism of the Phantom and delivers the right mood for each setting in the film.  The jungle is mysterious and full of adventure.  New York City is loud and bustling.  Overall the score is very good.  It’s not as breath-taking as The Rocketeer’s score, but it’s still quite nice.


I don’t know how many times I’ve watched this film.  Of the trio of 1930’s flicks, it’s my second favorite behind The Rocketeer.  If you haven’t seen this film, you really should check it out.  It’s a fun romp that expertly catches the tone of its classic hero.


As always, thanks for reading.  I think that The Phantom is ripe for a new audience, and I’d love to see a new film released that’s worthy of the character’s name.  There have been a couple of attempts at bringing the character back to the big screen, but none have come to fruition.  SyFy treated viewers to a mildly passable mini-series, but nothing has come close to the 1996 classic.  See it if you can.