Tagged: movie

Toys on the Hudson offers Holiday Shopping Alternative

Jersey City, NJ (November 8, 2012) – Toys on the Hudson is pleased to announce the tri-state area’s first family-focused toy fair. Developed as a shopping alternative to Black Friday, Toys on the Hudson offers families and collectors an opportunity to discover unique gifts, meet celebrities and enjoy photo opportunities in more than 18,000 square feet of floor space.

Featured will be over 100 tables of vintage and current hard-to-find toys, comics and collectibles covering unique gift ideas for lovers of movie memorabilia, DVDs, Disney, anime, small antiques, action figures, tin, sports & non-sports, Barbie, original art and classic monster collectibles.

“We’re excited to offer a fun, alternative family activity during the busy post-Thanksgiving weekend,” said Phil DeMario, co-promoter of Toys on the Hudson. “This is a great event for both families and seasoned collectors who are looking for a different shopping experience and unique gift after they’ve fought the mall crowds.”

Many celebrities will be on hand including Steve Savino from the Toy Hunter TV series with visits by Jordan Hembrough, The “Pizza Boss” TV Pizza Tossing sensation Michael Testa, The Brady Bunch’s Geri Reischl, A Christmas Story’s Ian Patrella and many more movie and TV celebrities. Toys on the Hudson will also offer great photo opportunities for families and fans with the Batmobile, the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin and Star Wars costumed characters.

“Toys on the Hudson is the perfect place to shop for the comic collector on your holiday list, as the entire Grand Ballroom is transformed into a Comic Collectors dream with over 50 tables of vintage and collectible comics, artists, authors and related merchandise,” said Mike Spino, co-promoter of Toys on the Hudson.

There will be a mix of vintage and new toys at show.  “We’re excited to bring our newest Captain Action toys and collectibles to Toys on the Hudson for this exciting weekend,” said retropreneur Ed Catto, co-founder of Captain Action Enterprises.

“Toys on the Hudson might be a great way to sell your own treasures, too. Attendees can bring a toy or collectible and have it appraised by one of the many on site appraisers,” added Phil DeMario.

For the “serious-must-have-first” collector, the show opens Black Friday Evening with a Preview Night for anyone who wants a chance to shop while the dealers put the finishing touches to their booths.

The 3 day event starts on Black Friday, November 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm and continues all weekend. The event is held at the Westin Newport Hotel, on the banks of the Hudson River, adjacent to Newport Mall, 495 Washington Blvd Jersey City, N.J.  The hotel is accessible from PATH, NYC and all NJ public transit. Parking is adjacent to hotel and is validated by select local restaurants.  More detailed information can be found on Toys on the Hudson facebook page or at  www.toysonthehudson.com  .

REVIEW: Ruby Sparks

A writer’s character coming to life is nothing new. It was done effectively on The Twilight Zone and Sharon Stone even portrayed a muse come to life to bedevil Albert Brooks. As a result, the premise behind the charming Ruby Sparks is not at all fresh but the approach is what makes this small film well worth your time and attention.  That it is heartfelt and well-constructed is to be expected considering the movie comes from Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris who first caught our attention with Little Miss Sunshine. They have been missed.

Paul Dano is Calvin, an author who hit his first novel out of the park and has been struggling to remain commercially relevant ever since (think Jonathan Franzen). Then, finally, he creates a character, Ruby, who genuinely stirs his soul thanks to a prompt given him by his therapist (Elliott Gould). The pages flow easily for the first time in a decade. A week later, though, Ruby (Zoe Kazan) has come to life and is found sitting on his couch, ready to experience life. Ruby is 26, doesn’t own a computer and always roots for the underdog, something Calvin most certainly is.

What does one do when the woman of his dreams is made manifest? If he imagined her to life, can he or should he alter her to his exact specifications? And that is what propels the remainder of the film, a sitcom version of magical realism. Does he share her with the world, make love to her, or admire her from afar? His brother Harry (Chris Messina) says jump her after realizing she is the women Calvin has been writing about.

What starts out as a pretty funny comedy takes on serious tones as we progress and the shifting mood isn’t smoothly handled. It raises some interesting question and only partially answers them, leaving you somewhat entertained, somewhat dissatisfied. This is about Calvin growing up and we watch him flail all over the place despite a support system including his mom and his step-father (nice cameos from Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas). Calvin remains a mess, still in pain after breaking up with his last girlfriend (Deborah Ann Woll), and has a tough relationship with his lousy literary agent (Steve Coogan).

Dano and Kazan are wonderful together, ably supported by the deep, veteran cast. They rise above the film when the material gets weak or meanders but overall leave you entertained from beginning to end. This could have benefitted from a stronger script but still remains entertaining and thoughtful, not at all a bad combination.

The transfer to Blu-ray by 20th Century Home Entertainment is excellent and the disc comes with the standard assortment of special features. Most feel like they came from the press materials with little shot specifically for the disc. You get a handful of pieces ranging in length from three minutes to four minutes, never letting you delve deep into the film itself.

Mike Gold: Why I Didn’t Cold-Cock Walter Simonson

There’s been a lot of high-quality books lately that reprint classic stories straight from the original. My friends at IDW do a lot of those, so they’ll be deeply depressed that I’m not going to be talking about one of theirs. And of course there’s no reason to believe a comp list wouldn’t change my attitude.

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear; in this case, about two months ago. We’re at the vaunted Baltimore Comic-Con – in specific, the Harvey Awards dinner. Walter Simonson had an advance copy of Titan Books’ hardcover collection of the Alien movie adaptation, as done by Walter and the late and much, much missed Archie Goodwin. This book was the exception that proved my point that doing an absolutely first-rate adaptation of a movie is a near-impossibility.

The needs and treasures of the comic book medium are different from those of the movie medium: we have total control of time and space and we’ve got a special effects budget that is limited only by the collective minds of the producing talent. Movies, on the other hand, have going for them music, motion and the benefit of the shared-experience. Apples and oranges.

The Goodwin-Simonson Alien was one of those rare exceptions; perhaps the best of those exceptions. Either way, it was and is worthy of this new high-quality format.

So when Walter was showing off his advance copy like a proud papa before an audience of some of the most talented people in the artform (Mark Wheatley snuck me in), I thought about doing what every other red-blooded comic book fan would think of doing: cold-cocking the son of a bitch, stealing his book, jumping into my Ford Focus and driving back to Connecticut, laughing hysterically while leaving my daughter to fend for herself.

I maneuvered into position in the darkened room, avoiding Louise Simonson. While I’d take Walter on, I do not have what it takes to take on any person who could be so gifted and so nice after working for James Warren. Then, and only then, did I have an epiphany.

I’ve known Walter for decades and decades. We lived near each other on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, we played on the same volleyball team. We’ve dined hither and yon – he once drew a massive prehistoric landscape on the linen tablecloth at a Skokie Illinois restaurant in order to “illustrate” a point. I respect and admire Walter as one of the nicest human beings on the planet… with the exception of the volleyball courts.

But that’s not why I didn’t cold-cock Walter Simonson. Clearly I’ve gotten old, an aging lion gumming his dinner in the corner of the cage while the younguns are preening themselves for pussy.

No, I didn’t cold-cock him because I remembered I already ordered the book. So stealing his simply wasn’t worth the energy.

But it was worth the wait. Buy it before it sells out.

Alien : The Illustrated Story (Original Art Edition) by Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson • Titan Books • 96 oversized pages • $75.00 retail

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil, who’s also a very nice guy



Emily S. Whitten: Sturm und Drang and a Bit of Darkness

Before I get down to today’s main topic, I want to say that I’m thinking of all who may be in difficulties or have suffered damage or loss due to Hurricane Sandy. I know a lot of comics pros (and fans!) live in NYC, which was pretty hard-hit, and I hope that most of you there and everywhere else made it out of the storm with minimal inconvenience.

As it turns out, at least one of our community did not fare so well. NYC-area comics artist J.K. Woodward (of Peter David’s Fallen Angel and more) and his wife Monica lost pretty much everything in the hurricane. Darrell Taylor and J.K. have a weekly podcast called J.K.’s Happy Hour, and this week it’s all about the craziness that J.K. and Monica went through. You should seriously listen to it, because it’s nuts. (I got to, “The couch started lifting up and floating, and we realized we were fucked,” and I just started laughing in horrified disbelief, even though it’s really not funny. It’s just that unbelievably crazy. And J.K. is funny, even in the midst of his loss.)

In the aftermath of that, J.K. and Monica are trying to find a new place to live and to replace basically their whole lives (right down to their clothes! Yikes!), and they could really use some help. To help finance a new home, car, and household items, J.K. is selling original art here. Or, if you’d like to help them out but would prefer to give directly, they also have a PayPal account at jkwoodward1205@gmail.com. Alternatively, if you want to donate clothes (J.K. is an XL in mens’ tees) or household items, through at least December they can be sent to: J.K. Woodward, c/o Reiss Studios, 4301 22nd Street, Studio 206, Long Island City, NY 11101.

You can also keep up with how they are doing and any updates as to what help they might need at J.K.’s blog. It must be terrible to lose everything like that; but hopefully some of us in the community can help them get back on their feet!

And, now, onward to something a little creepy – which is appropriate, as I was reading it right before Halloween. “It” being a review copy of the graphic adaptation of actor Thomas Jane’s movie Dark Country, which is now available in hardback. Both the movie and the graphic novel are based on a twisty little story written by Tab Murphy. The graphic novel is published by RAW Studios, founded by Thomas Jane (The Punisher, The Mist, Hung) and in partnership with Eisner Award nominated illustrator/production designer Tim Bradstreet (The Punisher, Hellblazer, Criminal Macabre) and a crew of talented creators.

I admit I haven’t seen the movie (although now that I’ve read the graphic novel, I may just do so). So this review is all about the new hardback graphic novel, which actually contains three distinct parts: a “silent” scratchboard-style graphic story by Swiss artist Thomas Ott, the original short story by Tab Murphy, and a collection of information and images related to the making of the film.

I haven’t encountered that many silent comics before; although memorably, Frank Tieri’s Deadpool #61 in the “Funeral for a Freak” storyline (appropriately entitled “‘Nuff Said”) is one, and is very well done. But the Dark Country silent comic is very impressive – both in the unique style of art, which is alternately beautiful and ominous or even gruesome; and in the way it’s able to tell the story without a spoken word from any character. Done all in black and white, Ott’s style is pretty interesting (samples can be seen here), being simultaneously very precise and detailed, and diffuse due to the scratchboard technique. The style also contributes to the noir-ish mood of the story and to the impending sense of dread as it unfolds. It’s definitely a striking artistic work and story.

Reading Tab Murphy’s original short story is a slightly different experience, but no less enjoyable if you like suspense and horror. If you haven’t encountered the story before, I won’t spoil it for you; but I will say, it’s an interesting little tale with a weird twist that’s hard to get out of your mind; one of the kind that you want to read through again after you’ve finished it, to see how your own perception of the plot has changed. It starts out with a newly married couple driving from Vegas to Albuquerque through the desert at night, and gets ominous when they encounter a body in the road. I’m not a horror fan in the sense of “blood, guts, and slasher films.” What I do like, though, are psychological thrillers and stories that are terrifying because of their puzzles, twists, or dark mysteries; and this is something along those lines, and certainly worth a read if you enjoy that genre.

The third part of the hardback package is almost fifty pages of materials from the making of the movie, like background, storyboards, production notes, and still photos. Despite not having seen the film, I found this part really interesting. It’s a glimpse into Thomas Jane and Co’s creative process during production, in a detail I haven’t encountered before (being as most of my “behind the scenes” reading about movie production has been done piecemeal and by happenstance while clicking around online). From discussions about the influence comic books had on Jane’s vision to the process of making the film in 3-D to concept art and storyboards, there’s a lot to digest here, and it gives a nice glimpse into the development of a film from concept to screen. Also there are some great bits of art by David Allcock scattered about.

Altogether, the compilation of these things is pretty cool; and if you’re a fan of the movie or of noir, horror, suspense, or some combination of those things, I’d think this would be a neat addition to your collection. Just don’t read it before bedtime, or you might find yourself unable to escape dreaming of the Dark Country.

Wishing you all a sleep free of nightmares, and until next time, Servo Lectio!

E.T.A. And to wrap up on Halloween-themed things, it so happens that I have just entered my Arkham City Harley Quinn costume in a little contest. Winners get cool comics prizes! So if anyone is so inclined, please feel free to vote for me once a day through November 14, and maybe I can win! (In which case, I would most certainly choose the Harley Quinn prize. It’s only fitting). Thanks!!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis and The Adventures Of Black-Man!

WEDNESDAY MORNING: Why Mike Gold Didn’t Cold-Cock Walter Simonson


REVIEW: The French Connection

The escapades of New York Police detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle was well known even in the early 1960s and attempts to tell his story fell through until he was captured in print in the best-selling Robin Cook book The French Connection. William Friedkin helmed a film adaptation that made Doyle the poster boy for brutal but effective policemen for the next decade and catapulted character actor Gene Hackman into leading man status. The French Connection is very much a product of the 1970s as filmmakers were shaking off the restrictions of the now-dead studio system and a new wave of filmmakers were stretching their muscles, trying things that were new and fresh in terms of structure, production, and performance.

As part of 20th Century Home Entertainment’s Signature collection of classics now on Blu-ray, this film is a reminder of just how good a movie can be when all the right elements fall into place. When first released in Blu-ray back in 2009, Friedkin was intimately involved in the transfer and touted its improvements. Overlaying a saturated color print over a black and white print, Friedkin obtained a washed out color palette that he felt properly represented his vision and while purists howled. This new version is also approved by both Friedkin and Cinematographer Owen Roizman and looks good, certainly better than the original DVD. The transfer captures Manhattan at a time when it teetered on the brink of grime and bankruptcy.

Why did this win the Best Picture Award in 1971? It’s a story of good versus evil, drugs, an immortal car chase and terrific performances by an ensemble that featured Roy Scheider as Doyle’s partner Buddy “Cloudy” Russo, ex-con-turned-coffee shop owner named Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco), and French shipping executive Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), who is trying to brink 120 lbs. of heroin into the city. The core story is the attempt by Doyle and Russo to find out when the shipment will arrive and arresting Charnier, but getting the facts and then executing the arrest propels the movie with the tempo of a finely tuned race car. Doyle is the center, profane, racists, crude and mesmerizing.

Speaking of races, the car chase is a class as Doyle commandeered a civilian’s Pontiac LeMans and chased an elevated train carrying an escaping hitman. Shot in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, it followed the BMT West End Line (now the D and B lines) until the subway collided with another. The front mounted cameras was undercranked so the speed appeared higher than it was but was an adrenaline-pumping sequence that elevated the film to the upper echelon of action pics at the time.

The disc re-presents the 2001 DVD’s extras including two audio commentary tracks – one from Friedkin, the second with Hackman and Scheider. The deleted scenes are accompanied with Friedkin’s interesting commentary and there are two documentaries: the BBC-produced The Poughkeepsie Shuffle and Untold Stories of The French Connection – 30th Anniversary Special. New to Blu-ray are seven new pieces: Anatomy of a Chase; Hackman on Doyle; Friedkin and Grosso Remember the Real French Connection; Scene of the Crime; Color Timing The French Connection; Cop Jazz: The Music of Don Ellis, and Rogue Cop: The Noir Connection, with historians James Ursini and Alain Silver. Like others in the Signature series, it comes with a glossy booklet with tons of information on the film.

REVIEW: The Brothers McMullen

Few made a bigger debut in the 1990s than Edward Burns who wrote and starred in The Brothers McMullen, which remains a quiet classic, often overlooked. These days, he is perhaps better known for his run on HBO’s Entourage, playing a version of himself. Thankfully, he continues to be a creative force, continuing to appear in and make movies. Still, his first offering is worth a look and thankfully, 20th Century Home Entertainment has given us a new Blu-ray edition as part of their Signature Collection.

What makes his first movie so powerful is its storyline and sparseness. Working on a shoestring budget, the film lacked a large production crew, shooting on location without permission while his mom made lunch for whoever was on set that day. It was guerilla shooting fueled by passion and it all shows on the screen. As a result, you’re forced to focus on the characters and story and there’s plenty here.

At the funeral for his father, Finbar “Barry” McMullen (Burns) says goodbye to his mother (Catharine Bolz), who will be returning to Ireland. We then jump ahead five years to see that Barry and his brothers are all dreaming and struggling. Jack (Jack Mulcahy) and his wife Molly (Connie Britton), still living in the McMullen family home, are straining as she wants to start a family and he’s resistant to the notion (igniting an affair). Then there’s serial dater and would-be screenwriter

In an ironic touch Patrick (Mike McGlone), the most devoutly Catholic of the Irish brothers, is dating Susan (Shari Albert), a nice Jewish girl whose father wants to shower them with an apartment and give the man a job. Marrying her has Patrick scared. Barry is a serial dater and would-be screenwriter who is ending his latest relationship with Ann (Elizabeth McKay), leaving him homeless.

We pick up on the occasion of Molly’s thirtieth birthday party and then we follow the next eight months of their lives and it’s never short of fascinating as events force the three brothers to once more be living under the same roof, with all its ghosts and memories. In time we come to understand that the boys are mostly worried about recreating their parents’ loveless marriage, raising a cold family largely in caused by their father’s alcoholism. The cycle may be broken when Barry begins seeing Audrey (Maxine Bahns).

Overall, the performances are spot on and it’s refreshing to see Britton early in her career at a time she is shining on ABC’s Nashville.

This is well worth a second or third look and thankfully the Blu-ray transfer of the 16mm film is pristine. The disc comes with a commentary from Burns, honestly revealing the trick she used to get this film made while still working for Entertainment Tonight. Culled from previous versions is Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy with Tom Rothman (14:26) which reminds us this was the first release from the Fox Searchlight label. The Signature case includes a glossy insert with production notes about the film.

The Point Radio: WALKING DEAD Comics, TV and….Movies?

Robert Kirkman, the brain behind THE WALKING dead talks to us about the comics, the TV show – and if the two will ever meet. Or better yet, what about a WD movie? Plus ARGO‘s director-producer-star, Ben Affleck, explains why that film is generating so much Oscar buzz, and why Marvel is using A List talent on new B List books.

The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or on any mobile device with the Tune In Radio app – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.



The White Rocket Podcast debuted this week. Hosted by New Pulp Author Van Allen Plexico, the White Rocket Podcast is a one-on-one conversation with the leading figures in the worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Pulp and New Pulp, Action and Adventure Literature, Movies, Comics and Television.

In episode 1, Mark Bousquet, movie reviewer and novelist, joins Van to discuss Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS, the sort-of ALIEN prequel– just released on Blu Ray and DVD.

You can listen now at www.whiterocketbooks.com/wrpodcast.

REVIEW: Chernobyl Diaries

Producer Oren Peli commanded our attention with the interesting Paranormal Activity, but has since proven to be a lot less interesting to watch. His subsequent works have lacked flaw or much suspense or originality. His latest disappointment is the post-apocalyptic Chernobyl Diaries, which is a horror film using the Russian nuclear disaster as the catalyst. The film, out on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, lets down the viewer by not being good, scary, or by having anything to say about nuclear reactors at a time when the topic is bubbling up once again as we scramble for alternative energy sources.

The basics of the story show a group of friends take an “Extreme Tour” of Prypiat, the town next door to the fabled power plant which exploded in 1986 and currently sits buried under concrete. When they somehow get stranded from the tour, you know nothing good will come of this decision. Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko), the tour guide, is the one to make the inane decision to spend the night rather than hike through the night the twelve miles to get help or find appropriate shelter. In a thankfully brief eighty-six minutes, we watch several get killed and a few lucky ones survive. Ho hum.

Peli knows how to scare us, having made his name with Paranormal Activity but he and Bradley Parker reuse all the same techniques in a new setting, recycling without any benefit to the audience. At least visually they make things look and feel bleak with Hungary and Serbia standing in for poor Prypiat.

This film was shot on the cheap, reportedly $1 million, which may explain the lack of adequate script or solid cast to convince us something bad is really going on. The quartet of kids is led by singer Jesse McCartney and Norwegian actress Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, neither of whom are bad enough to deserve Razzies, just bland. They run, they hide, they get hunted by who-knows-what, which miraculously transforms into I-don’t-care long before the fifty minute mark.

Before he is allowed to shot another movie, Peli needs to convince us he has something to say or something to show us. Right now, we’ve seen it all and have little need to come back for more.

The movie looks and sounds fine on the transfer. The Combo Pack offers us the Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet along with a few extras including Uri’s Extreme Tours Infomercial (1:19); Chernobyl Conspiracy Viral Video (2:25); a single deleted scene and an alternate ending that doesn’t help.