Monday, August 10, 2015

Remembering Rockula

1990 was a very eventful year. For example, that was the year I was born. It was also the year that a film called Rockula was released. I could have sworn I'd written about it before, but I couldn't find where I did. I first found out about Rockula about four years ago, but it certainly stuck with me past the initial viewing.

Rockula is a movie about a vampire who finds his reincarnated love every 22 years and must try to save her from a pirate with a peg leg who kills her with a ham bone. It was released on February 23, 1990. Of course, with a name like Rockula, this film is a rock opera featuring various talents like Dean Cameron, Toni Basil, Thomas Dolby, and Tawney Fere.

In the years since then, Rockula has faded in obscurity. For the longest time, you could only find Rockula on VHS, Laserdisc, and YouTube. It was apparently on Netflix for a time and Amazon Instant Video. Recently, the film has resurfaced on Amazon Instant Video for a rental fee of only $2.99. It's quite a deal at that price. Here are the top 5 reasons to rent Rockula tonight.

1. Dean Cameron

The obvious first thing is actor Dean Cameron. If you're a fan of him from his award deserving portrayal as Francis "Chainsaw" Gremp in Summer School or as Dave Marshak in Ski School, you cannot deny that Cameron has a presence. He is probably one of my favorite actors and a close personal Facebook friend of mine. In Rockula, he is perfect as Ralph LaVie and as Ralph's mirror alter ego. Not to mention, this guy can actually sing! If you don't believe me, here is a song from the movie.

I'd be doing him a disservice if I didn't at least thrown it out there that Cameron is still one of the finest actors out there. It's a pleasure to turn on your favorite show and see Dean Cameron just randomly on there, like Psych or Regular Show.

2. Toni Basil and Thomas Dolby

Eight years after their initial successful songs "Hey, Mickey" and "She Blinded Me With Science", respectively, these two one-hit wonders were the perfect co-stars for Rockula. Basil plays Ralph's mother, Phoebe, while Dolby plays the villain, Stan. It's pretty wild to see these two in this film, but Rockula is pretty out there already.

3. "Rapula"

Rockula wouldn't be the first guy to try to reinvent himself as a rapper, but I dare say that he is probably the one who did it best.

4. Mirror Ralph

As the vampire lore goes, a vampire cannot see his own reflection in a mirror. The thing with Ralph is that he sees an alternate version of himself when he looks in a mirror. This version is much more suave and sophisticated and quite the ladies man. Not to mention he is a source of pure grief for Ralph. It would be pretty weird to look in a mirror everyday and instead of your reflection, you see a completely different version of you. Maybe that's why most vampires claim to not see anything.

5. Bo Diddly

Bo Diddly acted in a total of eight things and Rockula was one of them. If that isn't enough to convince you to give this a watch, I don't know what is.

There are very few movies that I could play on repeat and not get bored with, but Rockula is certainly on that list. Do you and me a favor, invite Rockula into your home tonight.

It Follows - Review

One of the most highly praised horror films of the year is It Follows, but as with many films like this, it seems you either love it or you hate it. Well, I watched the film over the weekend and I want to tell you all about what I thought of the film.

I picked up It Follows release week at Target for $12.99 on Blu-ray. That might not matter much to you, but I love Blu-ray and I love a great release week price. That being said, I've had this film for about a month without watching it. Those closest to me sometimes get on my case about buying a film and not instantly watching it, but that is beside the point. With all the dark and stormy weather that occurred in my area over the weekend, I figured that it would be the perfect time to finally watch It Follows.

I assume since you know that this is a review, I'm not going to try to spoil the film, but if I do, I'm very sorry. Chances are, I will end up spoiling at least something.

Now, the trailer did a great job at setting up what this film is about. There is something called The It. If you have sex with someone who has The It, It follows you now. I mean...that's super self explanatory by the title. This film is extremely interesting to me because of that notion. It's absolutely horrifying, but we live in the day and age of sex being extremely common place and STDs running wild. The It, as the creature is apparently called, is a living version of that. I'll say it again...that's absolutely horrifying The It "is slow, but it isn't dumb". It literally follows you. Super slowly. No matter where you go, it is following you. It can be anybody, as its sole purpose is to get close to you and kill you. never stated.

The setting of the film is incredible. We start out in a small rural town like many others. If you've ever been to a small rural town, you know the kind of place I'm talking about. The place with one high school and where all the pools are above ground. The locations of the film really help set the world of the characters. There is something much scarier about having a horror film take place in a small town that almost seems shut off from the rest of the world. We are stuck in a place almost lost in time.

But what about the story, you ask? Unfortunately for It Follows, the script isn't as exciting as it needs to be. For the first half or so of the film, I was laughing. I didn't relate to any of the characters as they are all one dimensional and not worth caring about, but I found myself more interesting in the fact that Jake Weary looks like Joshua Jackson than I was with what was going on in the film. It was just so funny. One of the first times we see The It, it is a super old woman. As I stated earlier, It follows you super slowly. And as it being an old woman, I saw no terror whatsoever. The woman was clearly the It, so there was no suspense. It was laughable.

It isn't until a later point when the director uses the notion of the It being anyone to a great advantage. There are times where the film is spooky, but I'd never go so far as to call it terrifying. There were times where I was extremely enticed by the film and cheered at how fantastic certain aspect were, but these moments all revolved around The It. As I said before, the characters are so underdeveloped. There is the nice girl next door, her kind of slutty sister, the unrequited love interest (Who wants to have sex with the girl next door so badly that he is willing to get The It. Seriously, dude. She isn't into you. At any point in the film...ever.), the nerd friend, the rebel guy, and the outsider. Cliche works, but not here. Never once did I care about these characters. This isn't Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street where the characters are expendable and you don't have to care about (most of) them, because you and I both know that Freddy and Jason are the stars of those movies. If you find yourself rooting for the monster, perhaps the human characters need more development.

The director stated that John Carpenter and George Romero were big influences on this film. The opening shot and the score scream John Carpenter. It's almost absurd. I don't see the director becoming one of the next masters of horror anytime soon, but he is well on his way. If he follows this one up with a sequel or another suspenseful film, I'll see if I reconsider. At this point, the director, David Robert Mitchell, has only one other film under his belt. He still has a lot to prove.

The director had a vision and I did enjoy seeing it come to life. If my review seems unkind or gives you the impression that I didn't enjoy the movie, it is because as good as it was, there was a lot of bad, too. I think It Follows is the perfect popcorn flick to share with your friends at a movie night in the next few months. The perfect film to embrace your crush as he/she gets scared. But maybe close over the fact that it's essentially a PSA for safe sex, as that might kill the mood. It follows (No pun intended) in the footsteps of many films that came before it (I had to watch Final Destination afterwards, as I couldn't stop comparing the two in my head) and will most likely not slip into obscurity anytime soon. It might even become a mega cult classic in the next few years, I really don't know. If you are curious about the flick, there isn't much reason to not give it a try. All I know is that for $12.99, I am satisfied.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gomez Addams - Father, Lover, Train Enthusiast

After writing about Herman Munster, I figured that a tribute to another patriarch was in order. Here is the history of actors who played Gomez Addams.

John Astin (1964-1966, 1972, 1977, 1992-1993)

The original Gomez, Astin starred in the original TV series and in the 1977 TV special, Halloween with the New Addams Family, and voiced the character in an episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies and the 1992 animated The Addams Family series. That's quite unprecedented. Astin created the character that we know and love today. Hell, he even had a hand in picking the name of the character. His version of a man who is madly in love with his wife, doesn't care how his career as a lawyer is going, cares deeply for his children and trains is still perfect. Without Astin, I would say that The Addams Family might not have been as successful (Even if The Munsters did better in the Nielsen ratings). Not to downplay the rest of the cast, but Gomez is the glue that holds the family together.

Raúl Juliá (1991-1993)

For most people of my generation, Julia is the actor that comes to mind when one thinks of Gomez as we all grew up watching the films The Addams Family and Addams Family Values. Julia brought a more sophisticated side to the character, but also showed more of the Castillian side of Gomez. But the intense love of his wife, Morticia, and his trains was, thankfully, left intact. I absolutely think that Julia was the ideal choice to continue the legacy of Gomez. I couldn't imagine a single actor who could have done better. Unfortunately, Julia passed away a year after the second film was released. I can't help but think of the films that never got made as a result.

Tim Curry (1998)

Tim Curry. We all know the name, but certain people tend to forget that he played Gomez in the 1998 Fox Family original movie, Addams Family Reunion. I have this one on VHS and I watch it around this time of year, as I totally miss the 13 Day of Halloween on Fox Family (And no, you can't convince me what's on ABC Family is the same thing). The unfortunate thing about this film is that Curry is...Curry. I don't think he phoned this one in by any means, but he doesn't try to change himself enough to make it feel any different than Home Alone 2, Clue, Muppet Treasure Island, etc. The fact that he did this made for TV film almost feels beneath him, really.

Glenn Taranto (1998-1999)

The previous film with Curry was essentially a backdoor pilot for a new TV show which was released in the same year. Glenn Taranto took over the role for the series and he played it like John Astin. Normally, things like that kind of bug me, as I feel that an actor doesn't have to fit the mold exactly if it is a brand new incarnation of something. But, I think Taranto's version works extremely well. He looks and sounds a lot like Astin, so it feels almost like a continuation of the original series with a few tweaks. This is helped by the show remaking and updating quite a few episodes from the original series.

Not to mention, Astin came aboard the show to play Grandpa Addams. If that's not a sign that this show was excellent, I don't know what is.

Now, I struggled with whether or not to include the next two people, but I finally decided that their absence would make this article incomplete. (Unlike Lennie Weinrib. Sorry, Lennie.)

Nathan Lane (2010-2011)

The line "Who moved the rock?" will forever be associated with The Addams Family, so it seemed only fitting that the man who uttered it would one day become an Addams. Lane played the character for about a year on Broadway in The Addams Family musical. He certainly looks like how Charles Addams drew Gomez and I am quite fond of what I've heard from the original cast recording.

Roger Rees (2011)

Rees finished out the Broadway run as Gomez. From the little bit that was released of his as the character, he was more in line with what Julia brought to the part than what Lane did with the role. Hopefully one day we will see more of what he did, but I am unsure if the whole performance was ever recorded. Unfortunately, Rees passed away last month. While Gomez was far from the last role he performed, to someone like me, it is an honor of the highest degree.

The Addams Family will always return. In 2010, a reboot from Universal Studios was discussed with Tim Burton creating a stop motion film that used the characters. It was cancelled, but another reboot this time from the owner of the rights to the original series, MGM, was announced two years ago. There hasn't been much motion on it as of the current moment, but I look forward to seeing what might eventually happen.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The History of Herman

Last week, Fabulous Films released Here Come The Munsters on DVD in the UK, which makes every version of The Munsters (Aside from a cartoon and a game show episode) available to watch more easily, as beforehand Here Come The Munsters was only released on VHS.

Since 1964, various actors have donned the role of the Munsters patriarch, Herman. A Frankenstein's Monster like man who is clumsy, kind-hearted, and sometimes a little bit foolish, but always well meaning. In order of their turn as the roles, here is a history of the men who would be Munster.

1. Fred Gwynne (1964-1966 and 1981)

When most people think of Herman Munsters, Gwynne will be the person they remember in the makeup. Much like Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's Monster, you can't really disassociate the two. Gwynne brought a loveable side to Herman and his facial expressions are second to none. Not to mention that his laugh became a key feature of the Herman character. Gywnne played the role past the original series in two films called Munster, Go Home and The Munsters' Revenge before retiring from playing the character.

2. John Schuck (1988-1991)

Before becoming Herman in The Munsters Today, Schuck starred in one of the greatest Halloween specials (The Halloween That Almost Wasn't or The Night Dracula Saved the World) as Frankenstein's Monsters, so he knew a thing or two about playing such a character. I won't pretend to love The Munsters Today, it's not my favorite version of The Munsters and part of that lies with Schuck, unfortunately. While he is a great actor in the show, he never felt like Herman to me. If this was a complete reboot, a lot can be forgiven (More on that later), but to call it a sequel and have an actor who looks nothing and sounds nothing like the actor before his didn't work for me.

3. Edward Herrmann (1995)

I might be biased here, as I love Herrmann from many other things, but he did a great turn as Herman in this telefilm. He looked the part and he knew what it took to play the character by bringing his own take to it, but leaving in enough original Herman to make sure the audience feel like they already knew the character. Here Come The Munsters was great, in my opinion. Breathing new life into the characters, but not forgetting their roots is a very smart way to play it.

4. Sam McMurray (1996)

McMurray is a legend for the sheer fact that he interacted with The Addams Family and The Munsters. A rare thing indeed. McMurray took on the role in The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas. It wasn't until rewatching Here Come The Munsters that I realized that this was a sequel, as Mary Woronov returned as the nosy neighbor. It was unfortunate that the cast of HCTM didn't reprise their roles as this was barely a year later, but McMurray did a great job as Herman. Like Herrmann, McMurray played Herman as the loveable family man we remember from the original series. I'd have liked to see more Herman from McMurray.

5. Jerry O'Connell (2012)

Mockingbird Lane was a brilliant experiment. The other incarnations didn't really attempt to modernize or reinvent The Munsters like Mockingbird Lane did. The characters are still the same monsters we know, but they don't look like them. O'Connell played Herman, who is just a man sewn together instead of a Frankenstein monster with green skin and a flattop head. I think because he looked so different, I didn't expect him to play it just like Gywnne did. This was a new version and that meant the characters didn't need to be compared to the original. I am one of the people who really wished that Mockingbird Lane would have continued. I think this show had a lot going for it.

The Munsters is a well known property, so there will eventually be another name to add to this list. It could come in the from of a movie or a new TV show, but I guarantee that you haven't seen the last of Herman and his family.