Sunday, May 30, 2010


Sooner or later, someone in Hollywood will remake not only every classic film that has been ever made, but every half-way decent film, too. The original 1953 INVADERS FROM MARS really isn’t a great piece of sci-fi, but it is regarded as a classic because of some of the magnificent images in the movie, e.g. the lights behind the hill with the fence and people being sucked by a swirling vortex into the ground. In the early 1980s, Tobe Hooper (of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE fame) set out to remake his favorite movie of all time, INVADERS FROM MARS.

The movie revolves around David Gardner (Hunter Carson). David loves astronomy. One night during a freak thunderstorm he thinks he sees a spaceship land not far from their house, just over a hill. He tells his parents about it, but they think he was just dreaming. However, David’s father, George (Timothy Bottoms), investigates and when he returns in the morning he is a different man. He tells David he was right, that there was something just over the hill but before he gets a chance to show David, the school bus arrives to take David to school. Later, David’s mother and school teacher start acting just as strange as his dad and David suspects that aliens are involved. After he catches his teacher secretly eating during a meal, he knows aliens have invaded and are taking over people’s bodies. He meets with the only person he feels he can trust, the school nurse, Linda Magnussen (Karen Black). Initially she doesn’t believe David, but does believe something is going wrong in his life. But after seeing the truth for herself, she sets out with David for a nearby military base for help.

When this version of INVADERS FROM MARS was initially released, it was panned by critics and bombed at the box office. People kept talking about how good the original was and that this movie just didn’t live up to it. I don’t think any of those people ever saw the original movie because other than some amazing visuals and some fine acting by Jimmy Hunt as David Maclean, the 1953 INVADERS FROM MARS isn’t that great of a movie. There’s really only one alien in that movie and the rest are a bunch of Martian/human hybrid mutants that are referred to as “moo-tants” (instead of “mew-tunts) and are portrayed by people in green makeup and rubber suits running around with their hands in a robotic positions. The budget was so low that the interior of the cave in the original was made from blown-up condoms that were painted over. It’s true that watching the original movie now, there is a certain charm to it that initial viewers of the remake might not have felt upon watching the remake.

Still, you can tell that Tobe Hooper was a major fan of the original movie because his version carefully replicates the best parts of that movie and sometimes the worst (including the terrible ending). However, he updates the movie with a more modern feel and also leaves his own special touch in a few places. The result is a fun little piece of sci-fi horror that is overall actually just as good if not a tad better than the original. It’s a mix of humor, sci-fi action, and horror that at times borders on campy, but is blended fairly well. Also, watching the movie over 20 years after its initial release, the remake has a certain charm to it to, though of a far different kind than the original.

That’s not to say INVADERS FROM MARS is a great movie, because it’s not. However, it is a fun one. It’s a movie that people would probably enjoy watching on a rainy day or late at night when they can’t get to sleep.

The extras on the DVD include an original publicity featurette, a sci-fi featurette, and the original theatrical trailer.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Suggestion

Last month I read this book, THE UNLIKELY DISCIPLE by Kevin Roose. I highly recommend it. Kevin was a Quaker with a taint of agnosticism and a strong Democrat who went undercover at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. The book is well-written in a flowing, narrative style with a conversational tone that is easy-to-read. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes reading, especially Christians and those who are feel they are anti-religious. Believers and non-believers alike can take something away.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Interesting Posts About Iron Man and The Mandarin

I recently read a couple of blog posts about Iron Man, the movie IRON MAN 2, and the next villain in IRON MAN 3. You can check the posts out at the blog entitled "The Hurting". Read the entries for May 18, 2010 entitled "Cool Exec With a Heart of Steel" and May 19, 2010 entitled "Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy". The author, Tim O'Neil makes some great points about why The Mandarin should be the main villain in IRON MAN 3 and the reasons he probably won't be (mainly because Hollywood is a major wuss).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Set in alternative timeline where the Third Reich didn’t lose WWII and Germany and much of Eastern Europe is still under control of the Nazi regime against a backdrop that the gods, goddesses, and monsters of mythology are actually real and have returned to meddle in human affairs, the four-part SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN: WHOM GODS DESTROY is one of the worst Elseworld stories I have ever read. Most Elseworld stories are kind of hooky, but charming with about as much substance as a dime-store novel. There have been a few Elseworld stories that are quite spectacular, e.g. RED SON. However, sometimes there’s an Elseworld story that attempts to be monumental but is in really just trash, such as SUPERMAN: AT EARTH’S END. SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN: WHOM GODS DESTROY is another.

The basic plotline begins with an elderly Lois Lane is having nightmares about Superman going around the world and joyfully killing people. She confides in her BFF, Lana Lang. Meanwhile, Superman is living in semi-exile in his Fortress of Solitude on the moon. Old Supes discovered the hidden remains of the Holocaust a few years ago and went postal. He’s been banned from even the airspace of the Third Reich with a promise that his very appearance will be seen as a declaration of war from the U.S. Anyway, Lana Lang gets kidnapped and starts having some dreams that are even more bizarre than Lois’. Lois and Clark fly to Germany to discover what happened to their mutual friend, but along the way their plane is attacked by harpies. Yes, harpies. Superman rescues the plane, but when it lands Lois and Clark are taken into custody. They meet with one of the leaders of the Reich, Adonis. Readers eventually find out that the Greek gods of mythology have tired of staying out of human affairs and want to be important again and similar to the tragedy that was the Trojan War, they’ve decided to start a conflict. The stakes are high. Superman is bewitched by Circe and turned into a centaur; Lana Lang is given the power of the Oracle of Delphi and turns young; and when one of the Greek goddesses dies after a battle with the German army, she bestows all of her powers to Lois who becomes a new Wonder Woman. The original Wonder Woman has betrayed her brethren of Paradise Island and has joined the Nazis. That’s only the first half of the story.

I read SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN: WHOM GODS DESTROY because the basic premise of Superman and Wonder Woman fighting incarnations of the Greek gods was one I found interesting. However, I was appalled by the storyline in which the premise is delivered. The characterization of Superman is completely off with the Man of Steel behaving more like a troubled teenager than the hero he is. Then there’s the whole concept of the Third Reich still existing. Anytime a comic book has to fall back on a Third Reich that somehow won WWII and wasn’t defeated, you know the story is going to be bad. In fact, the only real reason I can see that this entire plot was brought about was so that Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and Superman could end up in a menage a trios.

This series was written by legendary Marvel writer Chris Claremont. Claremont wrote some amazing stories for Marvel and the X-MEN, but he apparently didn’t know much about the DC universe. SUPERMAN WONDER WOMAN: WHOM GODS DESTROY is the second worst Superman story I have ever read, beaten out only by SUPERMAN: AT EARTH’S END.

The only reason I can offer for reading this book is for the eerie prediction of Sept. 11th from Superman’s typewriter and Lois Lane’s nightmare in the first book of the series. Other than that curious trivia, there’s no reason to waste your time reading, let alone buying this comic book story.

Stephan Pastis Makes a New Friend

The comic strip "Pearls Before Swine" is the best comic strip being written right now. "Peanuts" and "Calvin and Hobbes" were my favorites growing up, but Watterson retired and Schulz died. "Fox Trot" was great, but that's only a Sunday strip now. Now the only strip that's a "must read" everyday is "Pearls Before Swine".

The strip's creator, Stephan Pastis writes a blog. I found one of the latest entries particularly funny. I've copied it below. Check it out.

On Sunday I went to a place that serves Brazilian food.

The guy behind the counter said, “What can I get you, my friend?”

I asked what he recommended.

He said, “We have many good things, my friend.”

I asked what most people ordered.

He said, “The chicken and rice, my friend.”

I stared at him, wondering how we had grown so close so fast.

“I’ll take the chicken and rice,” I said.

He entered it in the register.

“That will be eight dollars, my friend.”

I started to take my wallet from my pocket but stopped.

“Eight dollars?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “Is that a problem?”

“Yes,” I said, staring him in the eye. “I thought we were friends.”

He didn’t smile. He didn’t react.

As I paid him, I felt compelled to add one more thing.

“You’ve put a great strain on our relationship.”

Private Pay At Historic Lows

In an article from yesterday's USA TODAY, it was reported that, "Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year," while, "At the same time government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010."

This isn't good news. Yes, we need programs to help people in need, but if the economy is really getting better, as is being reported in most of the traditional media sources, then private pay should be increasing while government provided benefits either remain the same or decrease. The opposite has happened and, as evidence by what's happened in Greece and is on the verge of happening in several other European Community nations, this is one of the final warning signs before a nation jumps over the edge of the cliff. History does repeat itself, will we learn from the mistakes of the past or will we just repeat them, too?

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Return of the Ghostbusters--Sort Of

The group Improv Everywhere, at the request of the New York Public Library, recently had the "Ghostbusters" visit. Below is video from the event. It brightened my day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Last year Seth Grahame-Smith became an internationally-recognized author with his horror mash-up PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. The book is about 70% of Jane Austen’s original work with the other 30% Grahame-Smith’s, filling in the holes of the story with a battle against zombies. The publication and huge success of the book has created a subgenre of literature: the horror mashup. There are now stories about Alice in Wonderland fighting the undead, Queen Victoria fighting demons, Robin Hood slaughtering zombies, as well as several other horror mashups that feature Mr. Darcy as a vampire. In ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, Grahame-Smith has produced another mashup, but one that successfully combines the biography with an alternative historical fiction about American vampire history.

The book begins with an introduction from the author describing how he came into contact with the secret diaries of Abraham Lincoln, how he had them verified as real, etc. The rest of the book, except for the last few pages, are a combination of the writings from Lincoln’s secret journals and a biography of Lincoln as told by the author.

Due to the nature of the book, there might be some confusion about how to read it. Some have read the book expecting a piece of brilliant and bizarre historical fiction, others have expected an exciting piece of horror-action featuring Abe Lincoln, while others seem to expect a graphic horror story. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE is not written as a historical fiction, as an action story, or as a horror novel. Instead, the book is presented as and written as a biography about Lincoln that explains the secret history of vampires in America. There are some elements of an action story, such as the descriptions of some of the vampire battles, but this is not an action story. There are some scenes of violence described, but other than the involvement of vampires and in some cases real people, there is nothing frightening enough to describe the story as horror.

As a biography about Lincoln, the book is average. Except for the entire fictionalized vampire history, there is nothing new in the book that adds to what we know or has already been written about Lincoln. Of course, it’s the vampire element that makes the book unique.

I really enjoyed reading ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. I thought it was a great fictional biography. But what really impressed me was how much research was involved in meshing the real history of Lincoln with Grahame-Smith’s vampire story. Real names, dates, and events are all used and the actual historical record is in sync with the vampire history. In fact, I learned a great deal about many of Lincoln’s friends as associates as I compared the people mentioned and named in the book to other sources. Take for instance Dr. Joseph McDowell. This was an actual doctor who lived in his medical school in St. Louis. He really did wear a breastplate of armor, he really did go around the area snatching bodies, and his school really was equipped with canons atop. He was known for his erratic behavior, his distrustfulness, and his successionist views. Years after he supposedly died his school was supposed to be one of the most haunted places west of the Mississippi until it was torn down in 1882. If vampires existed, Dr. McDowell would be a prime candidate and in the alternative world of Grahame-Smith, he really is.

There’s also the interesting use of Lincoln’s words. Some of the journal entries contain phrases, sentences, and whole passages that were actually written or spoken by Lincoln in other sources. The author does a fantastic job of using those words and combining them with his own to create the fictional “secret diaries”. The combination is seamless in most cases. I also enjoyed the photographs. Some of the pictures are doctored better than others, but they add a nice element to the book’s premise.

There are only two flaws I had with the book. First, is that as a book it initially only has limited appeal. I think the book will be a major publishing success, but initially people will probably be disappointed because they will all be expecting the book to be different things that it is not, e.g. historical fiction, action story, horror tale. Once people realize that it’s a fictional biography about Lincoln involving vampires (think steam punk with a gothic angle) then it will catch on.

The second flaw I had with the book is the ending. The book creates what is supposed to be an ironic twist, but with everything else that happens in the story the ending feels like a shallow and tacky add-on. It’s the only part of the entire tale that really doesn’t fit.

I found ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER to be both a highly entertaining and informative read. It was much better than I expected it to be. In fact it’s the best book I’ve read so far in 2010.

Can a Villain Ever Win SURVIVOR again?

I've been a huge fan of the tv show SURVIVOR since it first aired in 2000. I've seen almost every episode (I've missed 3) and have applied for 17 of the 20 seasons (I missed the 1st season and I didn't send in an application for the All-Stars or Heroes Vs. Villains seasons). Richard Hatch won the first SURVIVOR and was seen as being the ultimate villain until this guy, Russell Hantz came on to the scene. Russell is the ultimate villain, including all the arrogance that great villains seem to possess. He basically played the same game that he played in "Heroes Vs. Villains" as he did in "Samoa" and the result was the same: he didn't win. Russell should have won in Samoa, but he made a lot of boneheaded decisions in "Heroes Vs. Villains". However, Russell is really the first true villain since Hatch to make it to the finals, which raises the question, can a villain ever win SURVIVOR again?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

LeBron James Isn't a Champion, Yet.

Adrian Wojnarowski has written a very interesting article at Yahoo! Sports about LeBron James, his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and what it takes to be a true champion. The Cavaliers are playing the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs right now. I've been a Celtics fan almost my whole life. After winning the 1st game of the series, the Celtics got creamed in the next two games but have now turned things around and are one game from winning this playoff series. Here's hoping LeBron James will remain selfish so the Celts can finish things off.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Does God Delight in the Art of Non-Christians?

Thanks to Justin Taylor for pointing out this essay by Tony Reinke that addresses this issue. And, with a few caveats, the short answer to the question is yes.

Friday, May 07, 2010

I Want To See This Movie

I just learned about this movie recently. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


There is no such thing as "spirituality." Doesn’t exist, has no meaning. It’s just a name for “doing what I want to do and feeling that the universe somehow smiles on me for doing it.”
--Alan Jacobs

Thanks to Justin Taylor for providing this link.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Interesting Facts.

Just some more interesting facts from a book I'm reading, 1001 Facts That Will Scare the S#*t Out of You.

*The Bible is the most shoplifted book in the world.
*The human stomach must produce a new lining every day to protect itself from its own acid.
*The acid in the human stomach is so powerful it can dissolve a razor blade in less than a week.
*Continuous human farting for 6 years, 9 months would create enough energy equal to that of an atomic bomb.
*A person can live without eating for weeks but only survive 11 days without sleep.

And what did I learn from all of this, it's highly improbable that Bobba Fett survived being swallowed by the Sarlaac in Return of the Jedi. Notice I said improbable, not impossible.