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THE MONEY PIT - 01/27/2006

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (January 27, 2006 at 11:32 pm)

Yes, it’s been another one of those killer weeks, loaded with deadlines and myriad details that needed to be addressed *right now* or the entire world collapses in upon itself with a crash, thunder, and thud. I hope you all check out this week’s Scrubs blog, which features not only a video mailbag with the cast & crew answering fan questions, but also an audio commentary for the 100th episode.

On its surface, The Aristocrats (ThinkFilm, Not Rated, DVD-$29.99 SRP) is 90 minutes of the same hoary joke, told over and over again by a who’s who of comic luminaries (the short list including Eric Idle, Billy Connolly, Robin Williams, Dom Irrera, Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Mull, Fred Willard, Chuck McCann, Emo Phillips, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, Gilbert Gottfried, Bill Maher, Drew Carey, George Carlin… the list, literally, goes on and on). The joke itself is like Felix’s bag – it has an outside structure, but a performer can pull anything from inside it. All one has to do is start with the premise that a family walks into an agent’s office to pitch their act, and then end the joke with the name of their troupe – “The Aristocrats.” Within those two goalposts, generations of comics have filled in the details of the act itself as a freeform improv containing the most vile, off-color material they can come up with – as long as it eventually gets to the endpoint. It’s a joke told amongst comedians as a way of showing off, and what this documentary – co-produced by Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette – does is use it as a mirror to our modern culture and the changing face of social morays. Honestly. It may sound highfalutin’, but it does a brilliant job of it. Bonus materials include an audio commentary with Provenza & Jillette, additional interview footage, and a tribute to Johnny Carson (whose favorite joke was “The Aristocrats”). Oh – one thing you’ll most definitely learn from the whole thing? Bob Saget is a very, very dirty man.

The second season of the George Reeves Adventures of Superman (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) finds the Man of Steel still in glorious black & white, and still operating near the top of its game. Featuring all 26 episodes, the 5-disc set features a pair of audio commentaries from Noel Neill & Jack Larson, a documentary on Neill, and the special savings bond promotional episode “Stamp Day for Superman.”

Every time I see the amazing work that Ray Harryhausen was able to accomplish without a single computer, it makes all the ooooing and aaaahing over massive CG-fests like Peter Jackson’s King Kong less impressive by comparison. With nothing but a love of his craft, a creative vision, and a lot of patience, Harryhausen created creatures of myth and the fantastic – and we bought the reality, because no matter how slick we think we are as an audience, there was a genuine sense of life and immediacy that Harryhausen imbued in his animation. You can explore the conceptual designs, storyboarding, and extensive preparation that went into constructing those cinematic fantasies with The Art of Ray Harryhausen (Billboard Books, $50.00), which is filled with scores of drawings and photos, as well as an introduction from Peter Jackson.

Since it seems HIT is intent on torturing Fraggle Rock fans with yearly waits for the show’s 5 season sets (Season 2 is currently scheduled for September), the only thing you can do to get that Fraggle fix is pick up their single-disc collections featuring episodes from across the seasons. The latest is Down in Fraggle Rock (HIT, Not Rated, DVD-$11.99 SRP), featuring 3 episodes (“Boober’s Dream,” “Wembley’s Egg,” “ and “Red’s Blue Dragon”), plus episodes of the excruciating animated series, and a behind-the-scenes featurette with Traveling Matt.

Originally released by Anchor Bay, the bizarre sci-fi “cult classic” Repo Man (Universal, Rated R, DVD-$19.98 SRP) gets a brand new DVD release from Universal with remastered picture and sound. No sight in cinema disturbed me more as a kid that seeing what befell of the highway patrolman after looking the car’s trunk… I’ll never forget that scaring the bejeesus out of me. Bonus material includes deleted scenes, an interview with Harry Dean Stanton, a filmmaker featurette, and an audio commentary.

Even though the new edition of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Paramount, Rated PG-13, DVD-$19.99 SRP) inexplicably leaves writer/director John Hughes’s commentary from the original release off, there are enough new bonus features here to justify a second purchase – including a cast retrospective, a making-of featurette, and a wonderful featurette with Ben Stein. Save Ferris!

We still haven’t gotten “Best Of” releases from cast members like Martin Short, Billy Crystal, Chevy Chase, or Bill Murray, but the “Powers That Be” thought the time was right for Saturday Night Live fans to lay down their dollars for The Best of David Spade (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP). Much more enjoyable (and welcome) is The Best of Alec Baldwin (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP) – easily one of the finest recurring guest hosts the show has ever had (though I’d like if this actually sets enough of a precedent to give us a Best of John Goodman). Both discs feature audio commentaries and dress rehearsal sketches, while the Spade disc includes additional outtakes as well.

In the early 80’s, the most popular comic book at DV was not one starring Superman or Batman – it was one starring the former DCU sidekicks, the Teen Titans. Filled with creator interviews and plenty of background information, The Titans Companion (Twomorrows, $24.95 SRP) is a fantastic chronicle of the adventures of DC’s teen superteam, from their silver age roots right up through their cartoon success and continuing presence in the modern DC universe.

If it were anyone but Jodie Foster and Peter Sarsgaard, I don’t think I would have been able to tolerate the pseudo-Hitchcockian Flightplan (Touchstone, Rated PG-13, DVD-$29.99 SRP). Foster plays a mother who, following the death of her husband, takes her young daughter and her husband’s body on a transatlantic flight back to the States on a brand new commercial aircraft she helped design. Shortly after take off, she falls asleep – and wakes up to find her daughter, and any evidence she was ever on the flight, has disappeared without a trace. Frantic to find her daughter and faced with compelling evidence that her daughter never boarded the flight with her, she’s faced with either she’s gone mad with grief, or a conspiracy is afoot, possibly including the entire flight crew, passengers, and the plane’s air marshal (Sarsgaard). Either way, like I said, it’s only held together on the strength of the performances and whatever popcorn and soda you’ve got on hand. Bonus features include an audio commentary and a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Does anyone watch bullriding just to see how long some schmo can hang onto the backside of a bucking he-cow? I didn’t think so… Which is why Ultimate Bullriding (Time Life, Not Rated, DVD-$14.95 SRP) is the perfect disc for over 40 years of the best off what the “sport” has to offer – lots and lots of spills, thrills, and near-mutilations.

When it came to easily-accessible sci-fi shows built for the audiences of the 60’s, there was but one name to turn to – Irwin Allen. Shows like Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Time Tunnel were perfect family viewing, presenting sci-fi that even grandma could understand. We’ve got the entire run of Lost in Space available, so now we get to start filling in the Allen holes, starting with the first volume of Time Tunnel (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP), featuring the first 15 episodes of the show’s first season, as a government time travel project (Project Tic Toc) faces the pulling of its funding, forcing a rash decision from scientists Doug Phillips and Tony Newman – who decide to test the technology for themselves and prove it works. Well, it does work – and they’re lost in time, ping-ponging from period to period as their fellow scientists attempt to bring them home. The 4-disc set features an unaired extended version of the pilot, Allen’s behind-the-scenes home movies, a VFX camera test, still galleries, promos, and radio spots.

Compared to the stilted, easily mocked hosting style of Tom Snyder (just check out Dan Aykroyd’s take-off on the original SNL), Dick Cavett was Mr. Smooth. Still, Snyder’s late night Tomorrow program was every bit the risk-take as Cavett’s program when it came to booking guests – and no where is that more evident than in the 2-disc The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder: Punk & New Wave (Shout! Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP). As the title suggests, it features Snyder hosting groundbreaking acts like Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Joan Jett, John Lydon, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and more. It’s a slice of musical history well worth checking out.

So, how about a trio of music DVDs to jazz up your weekend? If you actually want to literally jazz up your weekend, then there’s a pair of 1977 concerts from Norman Granz’s Jazz in Montreaux shows featuring Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie’s Big Band (Eagle Vision, Not Rated, DVD-$11.98 SRP each). If you prefer a bit of rock along with your roll, then there’s Deep Purple: Live in California 74 (Eagle Vision, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP), which even sports some audio commentaries.

Comments: None

THE MONEY PIT - 01/20/2006

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (January 20, 2006 at 11:29 pm)

Did you ever have one of those weeks where your entire schedule was thrown into whack, and you find you’re greeting the dawn and getting only a few hours of sleep… You know, an overproductive whirlwind.

While many fans of the original Batman: The Animated Series were still mourning its cancellation in the mid-90’s after a groundbreaking (and definitive) run (count me amongst the mourners), Warner Bros. decided to give the producers a new order. They took full advantage of the second run by completely renovating the show’s look and cast, and it as re-christened The New Batman Adventures – the complete run of which is featured in the fourth and final volume collecting Batman: TAS (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$44.98 SRP). In addition to all 24 episodes, there are also a trio of audio commentaries (the one on the universally reviled “Critters” is a hoot).

So what were Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and co. doing in that period post the original Batman: TAS run? They were reinvigorating the Man of Steel with the equally memorable Superman: The Animated Series, the second volume of which is finally getting its release (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$26.98 SRP). The 2-disc set features another 18 episodes (the run will be completed in just one more volume), and contains the introduction of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World characters (which would pay huge dividends in the series’ finale). Bonus features include a pair of audio commentaries, a video commentary, and a spotlight on Superman’s rogues gallery.

With the two available volumes of Walt’s People (Xlibris, $19.54 each), editor and animation historian Didier Ghez has compiled a pair of essential tomes for any fan of animation, and Disney animation in particular. Each collection contains in-depth interviews with legendary Disney artists including Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, Ollie Johnson, Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, and Woolie Reitherman, as well as contemporaries and new guard like Friz Freleng, John Hench, and Glen Keane. Combining decades of the best pieces by Disney experts like Michael Barrier, Jim Korkis, and Ghez himself, these really are priceless insights into a fascinating artform. Here’s hoping Volume 3 is already in the pipeline…

Hurray for the release of the penultimate season of The Kids in the Hall (A&E, Not Rated, DVD-$59.99 SRP), which has made its direct-order debut at prior to its commercial roll-out a few months from now (you know, for you impatient ones). It was during the 4th season that the show moved off HBO and on to CBS, but fear not – the 4-disc set features the Kids’ preferred CBC cuts of the episodes, so you won’t miss out on any risqué or edited content. Bonus features include another commentary track from the guys, the 2 Season 4 best-of compilations, and archival footage.

There was a time, after a multi-year gap, that I feared we’d never see another season of the ground-breaking Mary Tyler Moore Show hit DVD (poor sales on set 1 didn’t help matters). But then, last year, the logjam broke and we were graced with the second season, and now we’ve got Season 3 (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP). All 24 episodes are featured across 3-discs, but not a single bonus feature is in sight… Granted, it’s just great that this is available. Bring on Season 4!

It wasn’t until viewing Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Magnolia, Rated R, DVD-$26.98 SRP) that I fully understood just what a massively corrupt, infuriating, and devastating fiasco the rise and brutal fall of Enron truly was. The massive greed of the 80’s was nothing compared to the naked criminality enacted by this once-mighty behemoth, whose actions were aided and abetted by the very checks and balances that are meant to keep monsters like this from ever getting as bad as Enron did – a rogues gallery that includes executives, banks, and politicians. If you’ve ever wondered exactly what all of the fuss was about – and why people continue to point fingers at the Bush administration – then this documentary is required viewing. Bonus features include an audio commentary, deleted scenes, Enron skits, a behind-the-scenes featurettes, an update on all the players involved, and more.

Ever since I first saw its skyline from a distance while traveling to Long Island on a family trip, I’ve fallen in love with the wholly unique character that is the city of Manhattan. Others have fallen in love with the “City that Never Sleeps,” and it’s their artistic vision of the Big Apple that makes up Impressions of New York: Prints from the New York Historical Society (Princeton Architectural Press/Chronicle Books, $50.00 SRP). If that’s whetted your appetite for more fascinating views of the city, you might want to snag yourself a copy of New York Changing (Princeton Architectural Press/Chronicle Books, $40.00 SRP), which recreates the shots of famed photographer Berenice Abbott, making for a fascinating contrast in just how much the city has changed – buildings gone, statues weathered – yet still feels the same.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m a fan of the trainwreck quality of MTV’s Viva La Bam, and lament the fact that the 3-disc release of the complete 4th and 5th seasons (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) marks the end of Bam Margera’s parent, friend, and especially uncle-endangering misadventures. In addition to all 16 episodes, the set also features audio commentaries, deleted scenes, the MTV Cribs episode on Bam, and more.

While music lover’s looking for the next hip act in the 70’s might turn to shows like SNL and The Midnight Special in the US, Brit viewers made their discoveries via the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test, which showcased bands and singers on the cusp of superstardom along with long-established acts. The second volume collecting performances from those groundbreaking shows (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP) includes artist as diverse as Roxy Music, Meat Loaf, The Who, Thomas Dolby, Jim Croce, Hall & Oates, The Pogues, and over a dozen more. Bonus features include an audio commentary from presenters Mark Ellen and David Hepworth, reminiscences from the artists, and a gallery.

As someone raised on Queen’s greatest hits albums (you know – the red and the blue – it’s wonderful to go back and discover all of the fantastic album tracks they had, particularly from their breakthrough album, A Night At The Opera (Hollywood Records, $24.98 SRP). It was serendipity that I viewed an in-depth documentary on the making of this landmark album just as it was getting a completely remastered special edition release, featuring not only a crystal clear version of the original album, but a bonus DVD with remastered 5.1 surround and music videos (including the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” video).

If you’re looking for the high stakes tension and drama of 24 with a decidedly British feel, then you’re going to want to check out the UK spy thriller MI-5, whose third season (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$79.98 SRP) is now available for adrenaline junkies the world over. The 5-disc set features all 10 episodes, plus commentaries, cast & crew interviews, deleted scenes, and behind-the-scenes featurettes. Hey, at least it’s something to catch up on when you’re filling time between Bauer-a-thons.

In recent years, I’ve been more annoyed with Nic Cage flicks than enamored, but I did enjoy Lord of War (Lion’s Gate, Rated R, DVD-$30.98 SRP), which stars Cage as an arms agent who reaches a brick wall that even he, with all of his skills, may be unable to scale. As far as bonus features go, the 2-disc special edition contains an audio commentary with director Andrew Niccol, deleted scenes, a pair of making-of documentaries, a featurette on weapons, and trailers.

The BBC’s CG science and speculation Walking With… series continues with an exploration of the creatures that populated the earth prior to the rise of the dinosaurs, Before the Dinosaurs: Walking With Monsters (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP). The 26-foot sea scorpions are still freaking me out. The disc also contains a 30-minute making-of documentary focusing on the making of all 3 Walking With… specials.

I’m sure, somewhere, there was an exec that thought The Man (New Line, Rated PG-13, DVD-$27.98 SRP) was a can’t miss concept – A comedy starring the unlikely partnering of Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy when a case of mistaken identity leads a group of arms dealers to believe that dental salesman Levy is an arms buyer, forcing Jackson’s tough-as-nails federal agent with little choice but to keep the misunderstanding going if he wants to make the bust. Oh, the comedy that… should have ensued. Unfortunately, it’s a listless enterprise that invokes all of the worst black/white cliches you can imagine. Ah well… Not everything’s a sure thing. Bonus features include behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, and a blooper reel.

Do yourself a favor and put and lingering memories of the wretched American version out of your head when digging into the hilarious 3rd & 4th seasons of the original UK version of Men Behaving Badly (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP each). Martin Clunes & Neil Morrissey are brilliant as the slovenly, testosterone-laden flatmates Gary and Tony, to whom the touchy-feely 90’s were merely an annoyance. You’ll love it. Bonus features are limited to quizzes that, thankfully, at least reward you with outtakes from the show.

Saddle-up! They’re not the season sets most were hoping for, but at least we’re finally getting some classic Gunsmoke on DVD via a pair of 3-disc sets (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$36.99 SRP each) celebrating the show’s 50th(!) anniversary. Volume 1 contains 17 episodes from the first 9 seasons, while Volume 2 features a dozen from seasons 10-19. Both sets feature special episode intros from James Arness, gag reels, audio commentaries, interviews, Emmy footage, documentaries, promos, and more. While you’re at it, make sure you grab the complete third season of Have Gun Will Travel (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$50.99 SRP).

Titus (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) was one of those shows whose longevity baffled me – here was a show that was just too dark, too subversive, and too funny to avoid the network axe (much like Arrested Development’s avoidance of the be-suited reaper). I mean com on – a sitcom with an abusive father and schizophrenic mother, and even Phyllis Diller? The 21-episodes comprising the third and final season are collected in a 4-disc set, with cast interviews and commentary from Christopher Titus and creators Brian Hargrove and Jack Kenny.

Though far from a great film, one of the best, quirkiest things to come out of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic were the Portuguese versions of classic David Bowie hits performed by Seu Jorge. All of those tracks and more are featured on The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions (Hollywood Records, $18.98 SRP), and is definitely worth picking up.

By the second season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP), the soap opera element – always intended to be the main thrust of the show, anyway – really began to take hold, and left very little for viewers who wanted a little bit of superhero action with the bubbly. Still, the show enjoyed its greatest success this season, becoming a hit with audiences who, sadly, loved the bubbly. The 6-disc set features an audio commentary with Dean Cain, a season 2 retrospective featurette, and a featurette focusing on the show’s fans.

It’s a shame when a great film with an amazing performance falls through the cracks, but I think that’s just what’s happened with Hustle & Flow (Paramount, Rated R, DVD-$29.95 SRP). Terence Howard delivers a powerful performance as DJay, a pimp caught between impending fatherhood and the street life who, after a chance encounter with an old school friend, realizes there may be more to his dead end life than he’d dare to hope for. Just check it out. Bonus features include an audio commentary with writer/director Craig Brewer, behind-the-scenes featurettes, footage from the Memphis premiere, and promotional spots.

By the third season of Doogie Howser, M.D. (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP), star Neil Patrick Harris had begun to age out of the cute concept of a baby-faced doctor prodigy and the show was forced to deal with Doogie’s virginity, moving out on his own, girlfriend issues – you know, all that growing up stuff. You go, Doogie. Bonus features include new interviews with Harris and James Sikking.

Well, it took awhile, but eventually a zombie flick had to be merged with hard-partying teens on a spring break jaunt in Mexico, and that’s just what All Souls Day (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP) delivers in gory spades. Horror fans will dig it. Bonus features include an audio commentary with director Jeremy Kasten and producer Mark Altman, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted/extended scenes, and a trailer.

So what are the three albums featured in this week’s soundtrack round-up? Well, if there’s a new Spielberg film, then there must – the law states – be a John Williams release, and in this case it’s the score for Munich (Decca, $18.98 SRP). Spielberg-related (tangentially) is the original cast album for the Broadway version of The Color Purple (Angel Records, $18.98 SRP). Finally, there’s the soundtrack album for Capote (RCA/Legacy, $18.49 SRP), which features both Mychael Danna’s score as well as 1964 recordings of the real Truman Capote reading excerpts from In Cold Blood.

Comments: None

THE MONEY PIT - 01/13/2006

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (January 13, 2006 at 11:22 pm)

Another week has come to its inevitable conclusion, and we barrel into the weekend with another pulse-pounding collection of geeky acquisitions-in-waiting. Hunker down, strap in, and let’s get this train a’movin’…

It’s been a long wait, but I’m thrilled that the first season of Black Books (BBC, Not Rated, $24.98 SRP) is finally hitting the US. Giddy, in fact, since it’s one of the finest comedies – British or American – ever produced. Created, co-written by, and starring Shaun of the Dead co-star Dylan Moran it centers around the twisted world of customer-hating bookshop owner Bernard Black, a man fond of drink, swearing, antipathy, anger, but definitely not customers… Imagine if Basil Fawlty’s antisocial tendencies were given full reign and a bottle of vodka. Paired with Black is new-hire Manny (Bill Bailey), a good-natured man clearly out of his element and an easy target for Bernard’s ire and ridicule - which is only mitigated somewhat by the presence of daffy friend Fran (Tamsin Greig). Crikey, how I love this series. The complete first series features all 6 episodes from the premiere run, plus commentaries and outtakes. Here’s hoping they hurry up and release the already-available-in-the-UK second and third series post-haste.

As his covers so helpfully (and delightfully tactlessly) point out, John Swartzwelder is the writer of 59 episodes of The Simpsons – probably more by now, as he’s the most prolific writer the long-running comedy fixture has going for it (although he still stubbornly refuses to do commentaries on the DVDs, the bastard). So, right off the bat – before even reading a page of his novels – you get a sense of where the guy’s sensibilities lie. To say that I enjoyed both of his forays into self-publishing – The Time Machine Did It & Double Wonderful (Kennydale Books, $15.95 SRP) – is an understatement. Both are full of sublime comedy, while the former weaves it within a detective potboiler and the latter takes it into western territory… But not wholly in ways you would expect. If it seems like I’m dancing around it a bit, I’m hoping you’ll take me on blind faith and pick up both of these books for yourself, and be just as pleasantly surprised as I was by the narratives that unfold within them. In terms of style and wit, I will even go as far to say that both of these books could just as easily have been penned by the late, great Douglas Adams. Head over to Kennydale Books and pick up your own copies. Also, be aware that the next volume in the adventures of Frank Burly, the central character of Time Machine, is due out this spring. Its too good to pass up title? How I Conquered Your Planet. You’d be a fool to pass up a book like that. Don’t be a fool.

The seventh and (as of this writing – barring the movie or a return to TV) penultimate series of Red Dwarf (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$44.98 SRP) was filled with changes galore. Co-creator/co-producer/co-writer Rob Grant was gone, Chris Barrie’s Rimmer was written out after the second episode (recurring sporadically throughout the series via flashbacks and dream sequences), the addition of Chloe Annett as Kochanski, the live audience was eliminated, and the series went for a more filmic look (in anticipation for the as-yet-realized movie). What resulted was a season that didn’t feel quite like the show I’d come to know and love, as there was definitely a far different vibe due largely to the missing live audience reaction an the energy that creates in the performers (the episodes were later shown to an audience and the responses recorded for the laugh tracks featured on the eps). Is the season a failure? No - it’s just… different. The stories became a lot more ambitious (the Kennedy assassination time travel tale of the premiere, and Rimmer’s departure, for example), and at least, this far in, they were willing to play with the form. And honestly – for the “Rimmer Munchkin Song” alone, this season was worth it. The 3-disc set features all 8 episodes (in both their original and extended forms), audio commentaries with the cast, a brand-new 90-minute documentary, deleted scenes, smeg-ups, featurettes, effects footage, and much more. As usual, these Dwarf releases feature some of the best bonus materials out there. Now where’s Series VIII?

I love when I run across a book that lives of to the very definition of a “coffee table book” – and by no means do I mean that as a denigration. No, what I mean is that it’s a book so fascinating that you can pick it up at any time, flip to any page, and be immediately sucked in by what you find there. Such is the case with the massive American Cities: Historic Maps and Views (Assouline, $69.95 SRP). As the title implies, this tome features incredibly rare maps of major American cities dating back to the 17th century (in the case of old New York, then a Dutch colony), presented in full color and in a large enough scale that you can pore over every minute detail. Also include are Washington, DC, Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago, and Denver. This is a fantastic resource and a great page turner, and I’d love to see a companion volume focusing on the great cities of England, or Europe.

Due to rights issues, there’s one film missing from MGM’s fancy Pink Panther box set released last year – and it was the film that reinvigorated the franchise after the legendary A Shot in the Dark. Newly remastered, you can now fill that glaring hole with Blake Edwards’s The Return of the Pink Panther (Universal, Rated G, DVD-$14.98 SRP). This was also the flick that inaugurated the no-holds-barred slapstick from Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau that would characterize the remaining Panther flicks.

The World According to Garp was a shot across the bow in regards to Robin Williams’ desire to be taken seriously as an actor and not just a comedian, but it wasn’t until the late 80’s that he dove in with both feet via a pair of films aimed at fully establishing him as an Oscar caliber actor – Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poets Society (Touchstone, Rated R/Rated PG, DVD-$19.99 SRP each). Both films have finally gotten deluxe, feature-laden special editions (of the two, Vietnam is still my favorite – from the rapid-fire adlibs to its dramatic turns that resonate even more in the age we find ourselves currently living in). Vietnam features a multi-part production diary, unedited versions of Williams’ monologues, and the original theatrical trailers. Dead Poets features an audio commentary, a retrospective documentary, cinematography and sound featurettes, raw footage, and the original theatrical trailer.

There are black comedies, and then there are *black* comedies – and for the outrageously sadistic Britcom Nighty Night (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP), we’ll have to create a whole new term for just how dark its humor is – maybe “Pitch Comedy.” Julia Davis’s unflinching comedy focuses on the maniacally self-centered beautician Jill Tyrell, who immediately decides to move on with her life as soon as her husband is diagnosed with cancer… that he’s soon after given a clean bill of health doesn’t deter Jill – she just neglects to tell him that the doctor said he was fine, and instead convinces him he’s still terminal. Free in her own mind to pursue new love, she latches onto the husband (Angus Deayton) of her wheelchair-bound new neighbor (Rebecca Front) – pathologically show. What follows is a tale of lies, lust, and murder that, despite the aforementioned “pitch” bent, is extremely funny… guiltily so, in very much an “I can’t believe they did that” kind of way. The disc features all 6 episodes of the first series, plus outtakes and deleted scenes.

Unfairly cast aside as awards season takes hold, I thought The Constant Gardener (Universal, Rated R, DVD-$29.98 SRP) was one of the best films of 2005. Based on the John le Carre novel, it stars Ralph Fiennes as a diplomat on the hunt for his wife’s murderer, who instead uncovers a massive conspiracy that threatens the lives of millions. I love it when a great thriller comes along, and this certainly fits the bill. Bonus materials include deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Warners continues to be the studio to beat when it comes to honoring their back-catalogue, as their spotlight falls upon a quartet of westerns under the appropriately titled Sam Peckinpah’s The Legendary Westerns Collection (Warner Bros., Rated R, DVD-$59.98 SRP), featuring Ride the High Country, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and the director’s cut of The Wild Bunch. All four films are fully remastered with audio commentaries and featurettes, while Pat Garrett and Wild Bunch are 2-disc editions with extensive documentaries and commentaries (Garrett features the 1988 Turner Preview Edition of the film, as well). All in all, Warners remains the studio to beat.

If you need further proof that Warners truly are the kings of catalogue releases, they’ve decided to celebrate Black History Month with three films from the vaults that were quite a rarity upon their release, focusing on black actors and stories – The Green Pastures, Cabin in the Sky, and Hallelujah (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP each). All three films feature commentaries with Black Cultural Scholars and actors like LeVar Burton and Lena Horne, plus musical shorts, featurettes, and more.

While not as stunning as Warner Bros.’ treatment of their catalogue, Fox’s efforts to get their likewise extensive back-catalogue of classics into cineastes’ hands is worth praise as well, as they’ve been presenting remastered editions of titles that should be required viewing for any film fan as part of their “Cinema Classics Collection.” The latest additions to the line are the story of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in Stormy Weather, Jeanne Crain & Ethel Barrymore in Darryl Zanuck’s Pinky, and the steamy Caribbean romance and intrigue of Island in the Sun (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP each). All three films feature audio commentaries, while Island gets the A&E Biography of star Dorothy Dandridge.

This week’s soundtrack spotlight falls on the Latin-themed songfest for The Matador (Superb Records, $16.98 SRP), the perfect companion to a flick that looks to be the first positive step in Pierce Brosnan’s post-Bond career.

A natural outgrowth of the concern that brought forth the landmark Live Aid and Live 8 concerts, relief svengali Bob Geldof journeys into Africa in the 6-part documentary series Geldof in Africa (Rhino, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP). Intent on dispelling myths that have long mislabeled it as the dark continent, Geldof’s journey instead reveals a beautiful, fascinating, and varied land full of vibrancy and potential. The 2-disc set features audio commentaries, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and an introduction from Geldof.

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THE MONEY PIT - 1/06/2006

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (January 6, 2006 at 1:33 am)

The holidays are, in many ways, thankfully over – gone is all the stress, awkwardness, and strain of a supposedly “restful” break. Ah well… They can’t all be gems. Either way, we’re back and ready to go, armed with a whole bunch of money-sapping items just waiting to burn through your post-holiday cash stash.

Over the long holiday, when I wasn’t listening to the requisite seasonal tunes, I was spinning and re-spinning the latest pair of John Lennon remasters – Walls & Bridges and Some Time In New York City (Capitol, $18.98 SRP each). The clarity of the remasters are a revelation on what traditionally have been some rather muddy albums (particularly the original CD issue of Some Time. Recorded during his “Lost Weekend,” Walls & Bridges has always been one of my favorite Lennon albums, being a far more playful beast than some of the more strident, social-minded albums of his early solo career (Some Time in New York being a prime example of that mode). Both albums contain a couple of bonus tracks, but sadly not the still-missing “Move Over Ms. L” – a not very favorable tune about Yoko written during their break-up period.

In a disappointing cinematic year (for every Batman Begins there was an Elektra or a Fantastic Four), there were a few comedies that stepped up to the plat and actually hit the ball out of the park. One was about a 40-year-old virgin, and the other was about a pair of Wedding Crashers (New Line, Not Rated, DVD-$28.98 SRP). Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn) and John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) are a pair of divorce mediators that use the annual wedding season to crash parties and pick up emotionally malleable women for non-committal flings. But, as you can probably see from a mile away, one of them – John - breaks their sacred “rules of wedding crashing” by falling in love at the biggest nuptials of the year – to the daughter (Rachel McAdams) of the United States Secretary of the Treasury (Christopher Walken). That leaves Grey at the mercy of her clingy sister and at odds with his best friend, as he tries to defend the rules and pull his buddy back from the brink. And then come the glorious twists… that I’ll refrain from spoiling. Why aren’t there more comedies like this in any given year? It’s like the end of a long, dark tunnel. The “uncorked” edition includes 8 ½ additional minutes, commentary with Vaughn & Wilson, deleted scenes, featurettes, an audio commentary with director David Dobkin, and also the theatrical addition of the film.

With the holidays over, the luckier among you have pockets overflowing with gift cash and cards, and an eagerness to blow it all. If you’re an anime fan, there are a couple of titles that should be near the top of your self-gifting list – first and foremost being the 21-disc Robotech: Protoculture Collection (ADV, Not Rated, DVD-$129.98 SRP). Containing – for the first time ever – the complete 85 episode run (comprising the Macross Saga, The Masters, and New Generation) completely remastered, it’s also loaded with 7 discs full of extras (including pilots, deleted scenes, rare promos, and much more). This, sans hyperbole, is the mega-set that fans have been salivating for.

If you’re not broke yet, than you probably will be after you pick up the 2nd and 3rd collection of the uncut and uncensored Gatchaman collections (ADV, Not Rated, DVD-$34.98 SRP each). Better known as Battle of the Planets here in the US, these 3-disc sets feature the 12 episodes apiece of the original Japanese versions, plus a bonus disc of extras. Alex Ross’s beautiful box art is just icing on the cake.

I don’t care if the holidays are over or not – you *MUST* pick up a copy of He-Man – She-Ra: A Christmas Special (BCI, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP). It is, simply put, one of the most mind-blowingly bizarre holiday specials ever produced, in any medium. I can’t even put into words just how disturbing it is. Just get it. It’s even got bonus materials, including a pair of documentaries, a music featurette, and collectible 4×6 art cards (by artists Phil Jimenez & David Mack). How’s them apples?

The fourth season of The Man Show (Eagle Vision, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP) marked the end of two eras – it was the final season hosted by creators Adam Corrolla and Jimmy Kimmel, and it was also the final season that was actually enjoyable. After Adam & Jimmy’s departure… well, let’s just say that their replacements weren’t nearly as fun. This 3-disc set features all 21 episodes (including the final show and best-of), plus outtakes, additional highlights, and more.

Any Bill Hicks on DVD is great, and it helps that Bill Hicks: Sane Man (Ryko, Not Rated, DVD-$19.95 SRP) – filmed before Dangerous – features a newly-sober Hicks firing on all cylinders. This DVD issue features both the original 60-minute and newly expanded cut of the film, outtakes, the story of Sane Man, previously unseen footage, and more.

When it comes to insights into the creative mind – be it filmmakers, comic artists, or writers – I continue to be impressed by the Interviews series put out by the University of Mississippi Press. Collecting a career’s worth of in-depth interviews from various sources into one tome, they provide a unique view of the creative process – and lives - of the personalities they spotlight. The latest releases focus on Sidney Lumet and Roman Polanski (University of Mississippi Press, $20.00 SRP each) and are just as essential as the previous volumes in the series.

If you’re a Queen fan, Queen: Under Review 1973-1980 (Chrome Dreams, Not Rated, DVD-$19.95 SRP) is a surprisingly in-depth analysis of the group’s output from its inception through their meteoric rise with albums like A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races and ending right at the dawn of what would be their final decade (I hope a follow-up disc is already in the works). Packed with rare footage (both interviews and performances) as well as unvarnished critical insight, it’s a welcome look at a legendary rock band.

Farscape fans who have been enjoying the feature-packed Starburst reissues should be thrilled that ADV, responding to consumer dislike of the double-sided discs of the previous editions, have opted to commence a single-sided 4-disc presentation for future sets, beginning with Season Three, Collection 1 (ADV, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP). Now, if only Universal would follow their lead and get rid of their double-sided TV-on-DVD releases.

THUNDERCATS, HOOOOOO-boy, am I embarrassed that I’ve actually been looking forward to the second volume of Thundercats’ extra-long first season (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$64.98 SRP). Does that make me sad? Come on… you can be honest with me. What if I were to tell you that I used to imagine Mumm-Ra kicking Skeletor’s bony butt? Okay… maybe that is a bit sad. Either way, this 6-disc (!) set features the reaming 32 episodes from the show’s premiere season, plus an interview with Executive Producer Arthur Rankin, Jr. about the show’s enduring appeal.

Originally a DVD release, the rare performances contained on Have You Heard Jim Croce Live (Shout! Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$11.98 SRP) finally get a CD release, and a welcome one at that. Croce was a master singer/songwriter whose career was cut short by a plane crash, but his body of work endures –and it’s true that, even though I love his album cuts, he was an amazingly charismatic live performer (much like Harry Chapin, whose career was likewise cut short by an accident). There was many a reflective night I spent during my time at NYU that I would play his “New York’s Not My Home” – followed in quick succession by Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy In New York.” Give it a spin and you’ll see what I mean.

I was mostly indifferent to the original Alien Nation feature film, but I absolutely dig the TV series. After re-watching the show’s complete, all-too-brief 22-episode run on DVD (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP), I’m happy to confirm that my original love for the show was well-founded, as it’s interstellar immigrant’s tale still rings true and the interplay between its two leads is still great buddy-cop material. The 6-disc set features commentary from director Kenneth Johnson on the pilot film and a behind-the-scenes featurette (tho, sadly, not the TV film that wrapped up the series a few years later).

I find it interesting that the latest Spike & Mike collection – Contagious (Shout! Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP) – features a quote from Spike comparing Adult Swim to a Honda and S&M’s festival of the animated weird to a Harley Davidson – basically pointing out that a lot of that Cartoon Network’s adult animation block has stolen a lot of the uniqueness and thunder of the original bad boys of animation. Still, there are gems to be found here, and these collections are always worth checking out.

Even in its 5th season, All In The Family (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$29.95 SRP) was still a force to be reckoned with, with scripts as sharp – and often sharper – than those of earlier seasons. This is the season that featured the “pilot” for the Jeffersons as the Bunker’s moved on out, and by the end of the year, Gloria and Mike had decided it was high time they did the same.

If you were to excise any of the charm and heart that made the American Pie trilogy more than just a teen raunch-fest, you’d get a teen raunch-fest like the direct-to-video American Pie: Band Camp (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$26.98 SRP). Reduced to its basest qualities and set in what rapidly became an overused joke – yet, sadly, retaining the too-good-for-this Eugene Levy from the original cast – the less said about this atrocity, the better. Bonus features include outtakes, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and more.

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Joe Corey’s PARTY FAVORS - 1/2006

Posted by Ken in Party Favors (January 1, 2006 at 1:28 am)

MANHATTAN - The World’s Oldest Teenager is now the World’s Freshest Corpse.

What was the purpose of dragging Dick Clark out to countdown 2006? Did he really wish America a “Happy nude dear!” Not that there’s anything wrong with wanting people to strip down for the coming year. That’s how we always like to celebrate major holidays at the Corey Estate. Sure there’s the powerful business of a man coming back from a stroke. But Teddy Bruschi already has filled that role. All Dick did was cling onto his former glory while sharing the screen with Ryan Seacrest. If there ever was a moment that begged for an on-camera murder -suicide this was it.

While I didn’t watch Dick Clark the entire night because I was partying hard, I caught enough glimpses of him sitting on the sofa in front of a window to ask that horrifying question - Is he replacing the Crypt Keeper like he did Ed McMahon?

And what’s so “rock’n” about a show that features Mariah Carey and the Pussycat Dolls. The Rock police need to yank that title off the show. But I guess “Dick Clark’s Pop’n New Year” sounds like a sex offense.

Well at least we know that this will be the year that we’ll be comfortable naked. Hopefully Jessica Alba listen to Dick.

ART OF 2005

I won’t give you a Top Ten list of great entertainment moments because there was only one true piece of entertainment that will mark the year for decades to come: R Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet.”

Has there ever been a stranger more pathetic performance piece that has sold millions? It only build in its freakiness while transforming from a song cycle, video series and finally a live performance on MTV’s Music Awards. And at each step, it just got weirder. Not since Styx’s “Kilroy Was Here” has a musical “genius” gone completely nuts. But unlike the painful nature of seeing Tommy Shaw act between songs, it’s impossible to take your eyes off the trainwreck that is R. Kelly.

And it wasn’t just one song, but 12 different chapters of this story. And the videos reminded me of a dinner theater troupe. Of course I can’t fault the casting since it gave work to Michael K. Williams who played the scary Omar Little on HBO’s “The Wire.” He plays the cop who is banging R. Kelly’s wife and then goes home to get a cheating surprise from his trailer park bride. If you haven’t seen “The Wire,” rent it so you can see that he’s not merely a comic cop. And probably after watching him wandering Baltimore ripping off drug dens, you’ll wonder why he didn’t shotgun R. Kelly and have him trapped in a casket.

When he stood on the stage at the MTV Awards and attempted to lipsynch the project as if he was one man performance for a head trauma center, it was gold.

Musically it has the most listless backing track. Then R. Kelly reads a short story that would have been given a C- in a freshmen creative writing class. It wouldn’t pass as a Penthouse Forum letter. Everybody seems to be secretly screwing each other and hiding in the closets and waving guns. You figure a guy with felony charges potentially pending against him would lay off the gunplay. But no. Of course you’d also expect him to avoid all scat references. But then he tops off the entire project by having a dwarf crap in his pants. Where does such creativity come from? The only thing missing from this film is a guy in a gorilla suit speeding around in an MG Midget.

Forty years from now when people want to remember 2005, they’ll repeat the lines from “Trapped in the Closet.” Not because it is a work of art, but there’s not much else worth remembering.


My favorite DVD of the year is “Grizzly Man.” Werner Herzog has returned with this tale of a eco-nutjob who thought grizzly bears liked him only to get eaten by a grizzly. The bear also ate the guy’s girlfriend. If you have small children who think that bears are nice critters like the ones in the Coke ads, get this this film. Let them learn the truth about bears.


Don Cheadle is the greatest spokesperson the NFL could have hired. The man has the intensity of a fan without looking like a freak. I wanna watch a game with Don. I’ll even bring a bag of Cheetos.


There are few reality shows more nerve wracking to work on than The Style Network’s “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway.” The only one that tops it for me is “Chainsaw Juggling Made Easy.”

What makes “Wedding” a tough gig is that you are filming an actual wedding. We’re spies and not the producers of the wedding like those Fox shows. There are no second takes during the ceremony. The camera zipped around the room chasing after the wedding planner and other folks. But we’re supposed to be invisible. This means I had to constantly find new places to hide so the shots weren’t ruined by having the Creepy PA too close to the action. And when I did hide, I couldn’t bump into a guest during the reception and ruin their experience. If I ruined the wedding I’d end up on Judge Judy being forced to pay for the cake I tipped over. The pressure during the wedding day to get the shot and at the same time keep out of the couple’s wedding pictures is crippling.

Thank goodness the couple we worked with had an open bar that lasted past our wrap time.

On a show like this there’s conflicting desires between the production crew and the wedding party. We want to see major disasters explode in the Wedding Planner’s face. Our planner had everything under control. There’s no TV in a smooth production. We need conflict and comedy. Midway through our production I joked with the director that I should attempt to plan a wedding so they could have a 2 hour Disasterpiece. “The Bride Wore Tears” would be the name of my wedding planning business. And my catch phrase: “Can’t this work for you, too?” If you want me to plan you wedding, email me at I can only promise you that I’ll have a minister and paperwork. Everything after that is up for grabs.

For those of you wondering what episode I lurked around, it’s Ivy Robinson’s Chapel Hill wedding with the Marine honor guard. And if you’re a fan of the show, Ivy’s hair does look impressive in person.


Thank goodness I wasn’t nine years old last month. I don’t know if I could have handled Johnny Damon signing to the Yankees after all he meant to the Boston RedSox. It’s hard to not see him as a traitor to the cause. How can a man who hated the Yankees put on the NY black cap? As Cindy Lauper sang, “Money changes everything.”

While it will be painful to hear Damon’s name called, at least the man who walks into center field in the Bronx will be clean shaven with short hair. I won’t have to root against Captain Caveman. They might as well just announce “now batting, John Damon.” He’s just another millionaire in Manhattan going to work in pinstripes to me.

I don’t think he’ll have a fun time in the House that Ruth Built. His weak throwing arm will come back to haunt him in that cavern outfield. And I recall seeing a stat that Damon’s worst offensive numbers came from visits to Yankee Stadium. I predict George will be grousing about Damon in August. And John will wish he was beloved Johnny instead of just another prick like A-Rod, Sheff and the Big Unit.

At least we now know what Johnny Damon would do: he’d go for the money.


Who asked for follow up films to “Big Mama’s House” and “Cheaper By the Dozen?” I have a sock full of dog poop that needs to be bashed over your head.

Does anyone in Hollywood know what’s funny anymore? All the comedies that were out around Christmas were devoid of humor. I fear how stinky the comedy slate in February will be. And the sad part is that you have people who used to be funny starring in these films. What exactly was supposed to the “Fun with Dick and Jane?” It had all the focus of a Horatio Sanz performance. What’s funny about a couple robbing coffeeshops - especially after they stole $10 out of your wallet and held you hostage for 2 hours. You are victims of Dick and Jane’s crime spree if you paid for a ticket.

All the movies that Judd Apatow touches are about as funny as a Tom DeLay benefit. “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Anchorman” could have had the same number of laughs as 10 minute short films. It’s just a shame he wasn’t involved in “Dukes of Hazzard” so I can blame him for that stinker - although Broken Lizard might be Judd’s farm team. I enjoyed “Super Troopers” (on cable), but “Dukes” and “Club Dread” show they can be as unfunny as any washed up Saturday Night Live regulars.

Remember when Steve Martin was funny? And to have Steve going against Eugene Levy should be like Bird vs. Magic. Instead it’s got all the comic chops of Steven Seagal vs. a ham sandwich. I take that back. Seagal and. a ham sandwich are the same things.

Well at least someone took pity on us and decided to put “American Pie: Band Camp” straight to video. And what’s the point of seeing any comedy in the theater since you know that the DVD will be unrated and have bare breasts? You’re basically buying a ticket to see the “safe” version of the film. If you wait 4 months, you can at least see

Maybe in 2006 there will be something in the cineplex worth a laugh besides when the kid in the vest calls the golden goo “butter.”


If you grew up in Boston during the late 70s, your mind was probably scarred by WLVI’s “Creature Double Feature.” On Saturday afternoon, they’d run back-to-back monster flicks. I was only able to absorb this during our trips up to the Bay State, but I remember the excitement of watching it at my cousin’s house. I still remember coming back from an early morning of sledding and getting to watch “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” as our toes defrosted.

Over half of the 202 films have come out as either public domain releases, Sony’s Godzilla collections, Universal’s Classic Monsters sets or MGM’s Midnite Movie Double Features. And now Lion’s Gates has jumped into the fun offering us American International Pictures titles that are controlled by Sam Arkoff’s estate.

The first two double feature DVDs are “Earth Vs. the Spider’ with “War of the Colossal Beast” and “How to Make a Monster” with “Blood of Dracula.” All four are low budget scary gems and priced to move since you can get them for $9.28 from

The first DVD features special effects magician Bert I. Gordon. He’s the low budget Ray Harryhausen. It’s a shame that Bert doesn’t get the same coolness as Ray. I discovered the magic of Bert when they made fun of him on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (along with Sandy Frank). But unlike Ray who overshadowed his directors, Bert directed his films. “Earth Vs. The Spider” (1958) is another case of Arkoff pumping up the title. The Earth doesn’t really fight the huge spider. He only has to face a small town police force that worships Don Knotts. Bert does some cool effects having a real tarantula torturing a small town. It’s fun to watch his films frame by frame to figure out how he made the effect work with such a low budget. There’s a funny moment in the film when one of the heros is seen working at a movie theater showing “The Amazing Colossal Man.” This was Bert’s movie about a man who exposes himself to an atomic bomb and ends up growing out of control. The sad part is that this title is controlled by the Jim Nicholson estate. He was the other head of AIP. Right now the head of the estate is Susan Hart. You might remember her as the original fembot from “Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.” She hasn’t made a deal with Lionsgate so this Bert classic is locked in the vault. Luckily Arkoff has the sequel “War of the Colossal Beast” (1958). Even though we thought Col. Glenn Manning had died when he fell into the Hoover Dam after demolishing Las Vegas, he’s popped back up on the radar. But the radiation has taken its toll and half his face is skull. He’s not quite the man or Colossal Man, he used to be. There’s a recap of the first movie, but it crops up halfway through the film. A big bonus is that the finale is in color - it adds to the jolt. It does feel odd to only see the second half of the landmark CDF double feature. Susan Hart needs to strike a deal for the other half of the greatest indie studio’s vault. A weird piece of trivia is that Arkoff went with “Colossal Beast” so people wouldn’t think it was a sequel.

There is a bittersweet edge to the second disc. Both “How to Make a Monster” (1958) and “Blood of Dracula” (1957) were directed by Herbert L. Strock. He was born in Boston in 1918 (remember when that year haunted Bostonians?), but unfortunately he passed away last November. Hopefully he knew that two of his titles would be coming out on DVD so folks could enjoy his AIP entertainment. I wonder if he ever saw these films on the CDF? “How to Make a Monster” is about a make-up man ticked off that American International is getting out of the monster biz and he’s getting fired after years of work. So he gets his revenge by making real killer monsters out of the actors doing “Teenage Frankenstein vs. Teenage Wolfman.” They go off to take revenge on the studio suits behind the no horror policy. And it’s another black and white film that ends in color. It’s fun to see the monster heads to a lot of the early AIP scary flicks. “Blood of Dracula” has a vampire loose at a private girl’s school. Strock’s films look like a twisted Ozzie and Harriet world. Clean living with devious folks smiling from the breakfast nook.

The films look crisp and clean. They look better from my childhood memories since that inolved my cousin Bill adjusting the superloop to keep us scared on those Saturday afternoons. There’s no bonus features. Not even a trailer. But it’s four more CDF titles that you can now have at home. Seeing how Sony hasn’t announced what they’re doing with the Midnite Movie Double Features line, it’s good to see Lionsgate keeping us happy. In fact they are supposed to have more titles out in April with “The Day the World Ended” & “The She-Creature” and “The Saga of the Viking Women” & “Teenage Caveman” slated.

While watching these films, I can still hear Bill’s mom yelling for us to go outside and do something productive.


I miss Trio TV. I know it’s supposed to be kept alive as a broadband site. But it’s just not the same. Damn those idiots at NBC-Universal that killed this channel. It was sad seeing them burn off their programming in the past year. It was like watching cosmonauts die in orbit.

I miss their reruns of classic Letterman, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and the Parking Lot series. And they gave us “Good Clean Porn.” Why did Trio die and Spike survive?

Everyone talks about the 500 channel universe, but realistically it will never get that out of control. Sure you have the brand spins like 19 different channels name Discovery _____. Although from what I’ve been seeing with this Slingbox technology, the Channel U concept is getting closer. Forget about 500 channels from a sat dish. Soon there will be millions of channels with people running their own TV channels that their family and close friends will be able to “tune” into via the internet. I know there’s a bunch of people aching for my James Bond marathon that’s commercial free. I do hope the networks are ready for the consumer being the distributor.

I’ve decided that Ovation is my new fall back channel since the death of Trio. And will Boomerang please quit running Baby Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry Kids. Those cartoons have no reason to exist.


So after I whined about why Paramount won’t come up with a decent boxset package for their Elvis titles, they did the next best thing. You can now get 5 of their 9 Elvis films for $5.99 at This includes “Blue Hawaii” and “Girls! Girls! Girls!” So now I can torture guests with letterboxed Elvis with those majestic sunsets behind him.


I’m not a fan of Opie and Anthony on XM radio. But I heard their gag when they fooled a woman in line for the “Tony Danza Show” into thinking she was on the cellphone with Tony Danza. “I know who’s a big Tony Danza fan” is now a catch phrase around the house. You can hear the funny at


They’re making a new Broadway bound musical of Dr. Dolittle with Tommy Tune in the lead. I can hear this dog talking.

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