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Preview: Famous Mark Verheidens Of Filmland

Famous Mark Verheidens Of Filmland

Mark Verheiden's thoughts... such as they are...

Updated: 2018-03-12T13:21:01.890-07:00


It's Screener Time! "The Post."


If you'd like to see something that reminds one of a time when people stood up to power and actually accomplished something, then "The Post" is for you. I was a youngun(ish) when the Pentagon Papers emerged, though old enough to have a draft card... long story short, I'd forgotten many of the details behind Daniel Ellsberg's taking of these documents and the drama behind their dissemination.

What's especially good about this film is that while there is much angst among the reporters about what they're doing and the risks involved, it isn't forgotten that the Pentagon Papers essentially said that multiple Presidents and their administrations knew Vietnam was a losing proposition, but they went ahead with the war anyway. At a cost of 50,000 + American lives, many more wounded, and countless Vietnamese dead.

Tom Hanks is good, though I have a hard time erasing Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee from All The President's Men. But Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham is amazing... and again her part illuminates a story I never really knew. There was a little "hey, who's that?" going on with the rest of the cast, populated with many familiar faces (from Bradley Whitford to Bob Odenkirk to Carrie Coon), but once things settled in that passed. Plus the press scenes reminded me of my days at the Los Angeles Times as a heroic classified ad taker. I give The Post my coveted 4 out of 4 special editions...

They Love Me In Poland!


Obviously, assuming anyone checks on this site anymore, my blogging has dribbled off a bit. Well, more than a bit. Time flies when you're having fun! Anyway, over the holidays I'll be presenting some of the greatest hits from my Facebook page and possibly even original material to dazzle and inflame!First up, a recent Polish review of my first ALIENS graphic novel series, which was recently reprinted in fine form by those jolly Santas at Dark Horse.The original is available at : the Google translate version of the article is below. Things I didn't know: Timecop was called "The Guardian Of Time" in Poland, and Aliens the movie was "Alien - Decisive Battle."Przemysław Pieniążek,WHAT WOULD BE, IF ... (ALIENS. 30TH ANNIVERSARY. THE ORIGINAL COMICS SERIES)A A AIf you're a fan of xenomorphs (however it sounds), this exclusive, jubilee edition of the graphic continuation of the hit "Alien - Decisive Battle" (1986) by James Cameron is a position for you. Dated 1988, a comic sequel, which is also a spin-off of the above mentioned film (for reasons of marketing and legal in the illustrated series could not then appear Ellen Ripley, returning in later cycles from Dark Horse), to today read and watch with real pleasure .Screenwriter, writer and producer Mark Verheiden - including the script "The Guardian of Time" (both his comic and cinematic version directed by Peter Hyams) and low-budget production "My Name is Bruce" (made by Bruce Campbell incarnating on the screen in himself) - he created a non-linear narrative written on several narrators, in which he presented the fate of Newt and Corporal Hicks. The author convincingly showed the influence of past events on the characters' psyche, despite the passage of years still struggling with the demons of the past that haunt their dreams.Staying in a closed Newt factory and a disfigured soldier once again face the multiplying creatures of acid instead of blood, which after space travels finally reach Earth. Although xenomorphs have chaos with their proper grace, some representatives of homo sapiens are immortalized as predators on the pages of the work. Like James Cameron, Mark Verheiden resigned from the futuristic-gothic horror convention of Ridley Scott's "Alien - Eight Passenger Nostromo" (1979), realizing the comic equivalent of an adrenaline pulsing, explosive combat movie. Which does not mean that the reviewed album lacks a climate of horror and tension.Presenting a dystopian, technologically advanced future in which religion, consumerism and the ubiquitous world of media collide with the idea of ​​the aliens (vide: the intriguing topic of followers of the Church of the Immaculate Incubation), the screenwriter also broadens the spectrum of knowledge about the developmental cycle / abilities of Aliens and their home planet. The plot could not be missing the theme of artificial intelligence, as well as (original, though in retrospect not completely fetched) analysis of the form of petrified Space Jockey.An undoubted advantage of this publication is a memorable visual setting. Mark A. Nelson - a cartoonist and academic lecturer in one person - prepared suggestive illustrations with an impressive level of detail (scenographic nuances, space vehicle designs, xenomorphs) and skillfully built oneiric aura, blurring the boundary between wakefulness, nightmare and poignant reminiscences (in one from them even charmingly "censored" Ellen Ripley appears).Although the faces of the protagonists do not seem particularly varied, the artist convincingly reflects the emotions of dramatis personae, underpinning the oppressive climate with spontaneous bloodshed and scenes of high octane action. It is worth noting that in the beautifully published jubilee volume (enlarged format, blackened edges of pages, gallery of sketches and tasty covers), the reader will find original black and white illustrations of Nelson (in later editions, color va[...]



A special treat for New Year's Eve! My latest movie review!

TODAY ON FAST FORWARD THEATER: Steven Seagal in "Code of Honor." How could I not go for this after reading this overheated blurb on the the back of the (budget priced!) blu-ray box: "When his family is killed in a drive-by shooting, Robert Sikes (Steven Seagal, "Above The Law"), a former Special Ops operative, vows to rid his city of every last criminal." Every one?! Take my $6.99!

The movie opens with a lengthy sequence of a silent (and huge) Seagal perched on a water-tower, using a sniper rifle to slaughter a bunch of conveniently gathered mobsters/gang-bangers doing a drug deal. Slaughter over, in come the cops, who don't know if they should arrest the vigilante or "give him a medal." An FBI man (played by Craig Shaffer, a LONG way from "The Program") with ties to Sikes starts looking for him. Okay, time to FAST FORWARD.... Sikes goes to a strip club, smokes a cigar, then leaves and triggers a bomb that somehow kills a bunch of mobsters but only leaves cartoon-type soot on the strippers. FAST FORWARD... FBI Man Shaffer confronts Sikes, who in a weird Cajun-ish accent talks about being a hero. FAST FORWARD... Sikes shoots a bunch of drug dealers, including one who for some reason is playing next to a puddle with an electrical wire (!). He gets shot AND zapped! FAST FORWARD... Sikes lures a newsman and his cameraman into an alley by promising them a story. The cameraman looks nervous and Sikes says, "don't worry, I know you're just working for the man." Then Sikes pulls a knife and throws it into the cameraman's neck, killing him. The Newsman is upset, "you promised no weapons!" Ha ha, Sikes fooled him - he said no GUNS. He throws a second knife into the Newsman. No story tonight. FAST FORWARD... somehow everybody's wound up in a warehouse, where Sikes and FBI Guy Shaffer (who turns out NOT to be FBI, but a fake!) have the dullest knife fight in cinematic history... FAST FORWARD... Seagal has another bomb and blows everything up. Then for some story reason I missed in my fast forward frenzy, a hooker and her kid walk off into the sunset. THE END.

Code of Honor gets six FAST FORWARDS from me, which means I probably only actually watched about 25 minutes of it -- which is a better percentage than most of Seagal's recent pictures. If you crave a Punisher movie but hate character development, real action and have always wondered what a 400 lb. former Karate champ would look like in battle, this is for you!

Happy New Year!! 

Tales Of McDonalds... Car-Wash Edition!


Like many young people (and, unfortunately these days, some not so young), my first job was working at a McDonalds franchise outlet, which for me meant a store in Beaverton Oregon. Other than picking strawberries in the summer, which I guess is considered illegal child labor now, I had no experience whatever, but that was not a problem.They needed cheap bodies (I started at $1.55 an hour) and being in high school, I needed a flexible schedule and a way to make a few extra bucks. Note that I worked for McDonald's in prehistoric times, as in the halcyon pre-breakfast, pre-frozen fries (one of my jobs was slicing and "blanching" hundreds of pounds of potatoes daily) era. Just after the earth-shattering introduction of the ever popular Quarter Pounder. Ahh, for those simpler times.It was all brand new to me. When I sat down for my job interview, the manager took notes on a specially prepared form, writing his name in the spot marked "manager": "Head." I thought he was joking or trying to make a point, like "get it, I'm the head manager", until I found out his name was actually Lee Head. I think he enjoyed my momentary confusion. Perhaps that very smart and smug young fellow is still working there. We can only hope. I was also hired back when they still had the three color "hat system" that clarified your status within the McDonalds ranks. A white hat was a base trainee, unworthy of respect. A blue hat was for a trained employee, a status that mostly meant they took just a little less shit. A red hat was for managers.Ahh, the managers. Now there was a bunch. When you're 16, 22 year olds in authority positions might as well be 60, but in fact, most of the management crew were indeed in their mid-twenties, maybe one or two in their late teens. Being it was my first job it was difficult for me to pass judgement at the time, but looking back? It's clear these people hated their positions with a red hot passion. There were also occasional visits from the owners (his name was "Ollie") and the district manager, a burly graduate of McDonalds University who liked to order trainees to get on their knees to scrub the floor so he could put his foot on their back. I am not kidding.  Looking back, it's clear that some of their managerial methods would not pass muster in the modern work place. For instance, disciplining an employee by throwing a tray of hamburgers in their face. It happened to me one day when, after being accused of not fully cooking the burgers, I said "no, they're done." This particular manager clearly did not like being contradicted, which prompted the reaction, but that he did it in front of a crowd of customers seemed to a little over the top. Suffice to say, the gesture provoked one of the five times I quit the McDonalds empire (I can still remember stuffing my paper blue hat into the grill's grease trough), only to return months later to make some easy money...But those are stories for another time. Today I'm going to talk about a car-wash. Specifically, the coin-operated hand-nozzle car wash that was located directly behind this particular McDonalds location.Remember those hats I mentioned earlier? Well, at this particular McDonalds, the managers and long time employees had come up with a unique and rather sadistic way of celebrating someone's promotion from white-hat trainee to blue-hat regular employee. They would wait for the graduate's shift to end, then forcibly drag him to the car-wash, pump quarters into the coin-op and jam the nozzle spraying scalding hot water down the initiate's pants.Remember what I said about managers making dubious decisions? I think this one qualifies.So my graduation day finally came. I was about to dispense with my white hat and step up into the glorious world of blue. All during that shift, the managers and other blue hats were gleefully tormenting me about the hell to come. How there would be no escape. In fact, the manager asked me to point out my car so they could box it in, forcing me to stay [...]

Burger Continental R.I.P.


I had occasion to pass through my old stomping grounds of Pasadena, CA. recently and drove past the location of an old fave restaurant, Burger Continental. The elegant signage was still there, but the ominous "Farewell" poster over the door (which I only caught on the fly, driving past) suggested the B.C. was no more.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I took up residence in an area called Highland Park (basically between downtown L.A. and Pasadena), where I lived in rather seedy apartment complex called "The Golden Palms." The G.P. (we used initials for everything back then!) had become a low-price hangout for students attending the nearby Art Center for Design. I came in toward the end of that era, and while I was not a student at Art Center, my reasons to be there were similar to the starving students, i.e., I had no money and the place was cheap.

Actually, it was even cheaper than it should have been. The building was under rent control, which meant rents could only be raised a set amount on current tenants. If a tenant moved out, the new tenant could be charged whatever the landlord liked. But somehow the residents remained remarkably stable during my time at the G.P., as in, my apartment was actually listed under another name. You would think that would raise an eyebrow from the owner, but turns out he was an absentee landlord named "Mr. Tung" (I'm not kidding) who didn't seem to care who handed him cash every month, as long as he got it. Mr. Tung used to walk the corridors of the building with a bag that literally had a dollar sign on it, like the Monopoly guy, collecting rents. Given this was a fairly gang ridden area, I was always surprised at his bravery, but as long as he didn't raise questions, que sara sara.

Anyway, groups of us would occasionally pile into a car and head over to the B.C. for Greek food (I know, "burger" continental, but what can I tell you) and beers. It was a friendly, open air place as I recall, and we spent many an evening arguing over art and love and God only knows what else after downing ten beers with our falafal.

But my fondest (sort of) memory of the B.C. came when I suffered a romantic set-back in my life and was really, really, REALLY down. My neighbors, who hadn't known me that long, nevertheless could see I was a mess. Maybe it was when they saw me staggering teary-eyed toward my apartment with a 12 pack of beer and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Anyway, out of the kindness of their hearts, they dragged me out to the B.C. so I wouldn't be alone. Those neighbors, as I recall (and things were a little foggy that night!) were James Gurney (yes, THAT James Gurney, the guy who later created Dinotopia) and Thomas Kinkade (yes, THAT Thomas Kinkade, later known as the "painter of light").

Much life has gone by since that evening, and Thomas himself passed away four years ago under unsettling circumstances, but that night was a moment of compassion that has stuck with me all these years. And it all happened at the Burger Continental...

By the way, when I got in front of the computer I decided to check see what exactly had happened to the restaurant. Well, hmm... turns out sanitary conditions had taken a turn for the worse, and after numerous warnings that evidently went unheeded, the place was shut down by the health department in 2015. An ignominious end, but so it goes... 

Great Sequences #1


With the advent of DVRs and DVDs and streaming and soon, direct-to-brain interfaces, it's easier than ever to pull up your favorite film or TV show. And with this ease of viewing, I find myself strangely drawn toward certain sequences that strike a chord. Whether it's a great performance, an especially riveting piece of dialogue or just a sweet turn of events, I find myself watching certain scenes again and again, trying to understand what it is that's drawing me in, and how the writers, filmmakers and actors pulled it off.

Here's one, and by the way, MASSIVE SPOILERS are involved:

"John Grisham's The Rainmaker." Aside from kind of loving the fact that novelist Grisham has his name in the friggin' title of a Francis Ford Coppola directed picture, there is a lot to like about this legal thriller. Matt Damon plays an idealistic young lawyer who goes to work for a shady but honest legal firm, and immediately finds himself suing a big medical insurance firm for denying benefits to a cancer victim. The case of course ends up in court, where Damon, assisted by an excellent Danny Devito, tackles a smarmy corporate lawyer played by Jon Voight and, as the CEO of the crooked medical firm, an exquisitely creepy Roy Scheider.

My favorite sequence: after Judge Danny Glover slaps down Damon by refusing to admit some stolen documents, blowing Damon's case out of the water, Devito gets some legal advice from his mentor (and sleaze-ball) Mickey Roarke and gets the evidence reintroduced. After suffering through several smarmy put-downs from Voight's opposing counsel, Damon, with Scheider on the stand, systematically dismantles the entire crooked operation. Watching Scheider, at first supremely confident, squirm with irritation as he's forced to admit wrong-doing, is sweet. But the key moment comes when his testimony wraps. Scheider walks from the witness stand carrying an especially damning piece of evidence and with imperial disdain tosses it onto Voight's desk, summing up their relationship, his attitude toward the proceedings and Voight's total humiliation.

It is an exquisitely directed scene full of details that draw me back in time and again. Scheider wears a rather ridiculous blue sweater, clearly an attempt to humanize him with the jury. When Devito comes around the defense table to present some documents, he trips over his own briefcase but manages a perfect "I meant to do that" recovery.  Danny Glover's Judge, who refuses to allow his personal views to cloud his decisions from the bench, nevertheless takes some pleasure from Damon handing Voight's character his proverbial ass. And when the verdict finally comes down, there is an excruciatingly powerful moment when the father of the now-dead cancer victim approaches Scheider with a photo of his dead son, forcing him to look.

More classic scenes to come as the mood strikes...

The Eltingville Club!!


Maybe it's my general sourpuss nature, but it takes a lot to get me to laugh out loud these days... yet this book did the trick. A collection of (I think) every story that writer/artist Evan Dorkin concocted starring the Eltingville crew, if you have even a passing familiarity with comics fandom or simply obsessed individuals in general, this will strike a chord.

So who are these Eltingville fellows? Essentially a composite of every overblown fannish stereotype, taken to 11 and then some. These guys make Sheldon on Big Bang Theory look like the soul of normalcy. In the most insane (and funniest) story, one of the four members is put in charge of the Club's comic-shop haven while the grotesque owner is off scoring (stealing) toys from the back room of a local Toys-R-Us. Power goes to the lad's head, and soon the members are beating one another senseless with expensive custom toys ("Thorr's" Hammer with special misspelling versus what looks like a real pair of Hulk hands). It's the gas station scene from Mad Mad Mad Mad World (see that too!) taken to a comic shop extreme, though unlike the bloodless Mad World sequence, Dorkin lovingly depicts his fan archetypes literally getting their teeth knocked out.

Dorkin's decided to end this series one and for all, so this collection is "it" and well worth the $$.

For a better explanation of the genesis of the Club, here's a 2015 interview with writer/artist Evan Dorkin...

Sub-Mariner! The Underwater Guy!


1968 was such a great year for comics, and especially for a Marvel Comics fan. This was the year when something changed, distribution-wise, for Marvel, allowing them to launch a spate of new titles spinning out of their "two-fer" books. Tales of Suspense spit out Captain America and Iron Man titles, Strange Tales gave us Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD and Doctor Strange, and Tales to Astonish split into The Incredible Hulk and Sub-Mariner books.

I loved them all through thick and thin, through good stories and... LESS good stories. I was dazzled by Jack Kirby's Captain America run, Jim Steranko's revolutionary SHIELD, Herb Trimpe's Hulk and finally, later in the series, Bill Everett's last stand on Sub-Mariner.

Subby was created by Everett back in 1939, and his art and story made the character something special from the start. When superheroes took a rest in the late 40's, Subby was one of the few to make a short-lived come-back in the 50's, again with Everett at the helm. For the book's solo '60's-70's run there were many fabulous artists, from Gene Colan to John Buscema to Gil Kane, but when Everett himself came back with issue #50, things took a definite turn toward the really great.

Much of this run has just been reprinted in Marvel's long running "Marvel Masterworks" series, Volume 227 (!, and yes, I have them all!). It's hard to describe what makes these so special, but there's a lightness and wide-eyed enthusiasm to Everett's art that was different from the house Marvel style and yet perfect for Sub-Mariner. Roy Thomas's introduction tells the story of Everett's return, sadly cut short by Everett's health problems...

The BW image taken from the original art below is just a hint of Everett's style. It's really great that this material is back in print, in easy to find form. Check it out!  

Bone Tomahawk! See It BEFORE Dinner!


Well, so, guess I took a few months off from the blog without realizing I was GOING to take a few months off. But so it goes...

Anyway, hey, back to it! BONE TOMAHAWK! If you see just one Kurt Russell western this year, may I humbly suggest you make it this one. Actually, feel free to see Hateful Eight too -- I'd like it to succeed so maybe the door opens to even more westerns, and it ain't bad -- but Bone Tomahawk is superior in every way.

The plot is simple. The wife of a local cowboy is kidnapped by marauding "troglodytes" (yep, that's what they call them) and Kurt and his intrepid associates head out to find her and bring her back. Suffice to say there are some encounters along with way with varied and sundry, and then things take a very surprising turn. The less said about the "turn" the better, though if you watch a preview it's pretty clear this is an uncompromising horror western and not a straight ahead oater. 

What makes this one stand out are the great performances by Russell, Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Lili Simmons, Sid Haig (!) and David Arquette, who are speaking dazzlingly witty and gritty dialogue by writer/director S. Craig Zahler. This movie got my vote in the WGA awards for best screenplay -- it's really that good. Richard Jenkins especially stands out, taking what could have been a stereotypical "Chester" role (is that reference too old? Gunsmoke? Longest running Western in TV history? Anyone? Anyone?) and fleshing it out into a full blown, emotional character.

Then there's the ending. I didn't know anything about the movie going in except "Western", so the conclusion caught me off guard. It's strong stuff but works.

If you have a chance to see the blu-ray version, there is a deleted scene that I found delightful, though I can see why it was cut. I'll say no more. The "Making of" is also interesting, revealing (among other things) that the movie was shot in 21 speedy days on locations only 40 or so miles outside Los Angeles.

It's gets the full MV "Check it out!"

Catching Up!


Okay, so it's been three months since my last blog post.  I've been busy!  I did this show called Constantine that was unfortunately and unfairly just cancelled by NBC, I wrote a pilot for another network that came "this close" (Maxwell Smart voice, and if THAT doesn't date me, nothing will), and embarked on various other adventures that will remain clandestine for the time being... When I'm not attached to the computer, I'm, well, attached to other viewing platforms.  Movies, TV, audio, my senses are being attacked on a daily basis.  There is so much out there of interest and so little time... you don't really need my review of the new Avengers movie, but here are a few slightly more obscure objects of art that have piqued my interest.First up, the latest and greatest from the inimitable Steve Ditko, co-creator of Amazing Spider-Man and a host of other characters. At 80-something, Ditko continues to produce a book every three or four months, financing his efforts through a series of Kickstarter campaigns.  I am proud to say I've contributed to (I think) every one, and just as proudly have the entire S. Ditko collection on my own personal comics rack.  I would try to describe the stories, but really, you have to see these to really get the vibe. The comics don't really tell you how to order, but an e-mail to Ditko's partner/publisher Robin Snyder at will probably get you the information you desire. Buy, enjoy, savor...Next, from writer Ken Sharp... Power Pop Heroes Vol 2 is a 800 page (!) wealth of interviews with some of the Kings of Power Pop, ranging from members of Cheap Trick to the Rubinoos to the Ramones to the Bay City Rollers.  And yes, you read that right... this is volume two, with volume three coming soon.  I've always loved power pop and even if you don't, there is a lot of interesting ephemera about the music business, band longevity (The Rubinoos have been together 40 years?!) and just basic survival skills.  Go here for the details --, then check in with Bruce at to get the upload on all the insane stuff he's got coming out this year.  Then get a second job, you're going to need it!Also from Bruce at popgeekheaven, an announcement that made me sad and caused me to part with a few more bux.  Michael Carpenter is an exquisite singer/songwriter who has decided to move away from recording, but not before knocking out one more double album of power pop greatness. Check out his financing site and give a power-pop brother a hand...  MICHAEL CARPENTER ANNOUNCES HIS RETIREMENT FROM MAKING SOLO RECORDS TO CONCENTRATE ON PRODUCING.   I can't think of a solo artists I've known and worked with over my 25 years of power pop who I think more highly of than Michael Carpenter.   His first four solo albums appeared on Not Lame Recordings, as well as one other side-project(The Supahip) and over the last 17 years, he's released a large body of consistently excellent albums - must be close to 20.   Now, he announces this last solo album(a double album) and YOU CAN HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN and show your support.    Check out all the details:     [...]

A Whole Lot Of Star Trek...


So I'm a real big fan of the original (Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley) STAR TREK series.  And over the years I have slaked my fan desire on all sorts of books dedicated to the stars and the show, from the contemporary "Making Of Star Trek" paperback by Stephen E. Whitfield, to David Gerrold's exhaustive examination of the making of "Trouble With Tribbles", to biographies by and/or about virtually every significant cast member.  And when I met my son's babysitter's Grandfather for the first time, I was stunned to be in the presence of the great Anthony Caruso, AKA Bela Oxmyx from "A Piece of the Action."

So like I said, I'm a fan.  And I thought I knew a lot about the show.  But turns out I didn't know diddley.  However, a prolific writer named Marc Cushman knows a WHOLE lot, and he's produced a three volume (!) set of books to prove it, exhaustively looking at the development and production of every single episode of the original Trek.  Exhaustive may not quite cover it -- the book exploring the episodes produced during season three is over 750 (!) pages long. 

Using interviews from the major players, both old and new, Cushman explores the development of scripts (including many that got away), the backstage machinations, concerns of the actors, network battles, on and on and on.  And it's all written in an accessible style that draws the reader in.  It's going to take me weeks to plow through it all, but if you have ANY interest in the original Trek beyond "I kinda liked it", this ridiculously (in a good way!) comprehensive set will make the heart flutter. It's available in hardcover and softcover (tho the price difference between hard and soft cover is minimal) and on Kindle from Amazon. 

(PS: Deforest Kelley was making $2500 an episode in season three.  Walter Koenig was at $650 per show.  Things really HAVE changed...)

Whiplash! The Movie, Not The Song Or Auto-Related Injury!


Finally catching up to my screener collection, and since the studios weren't kind enough to send out John Wick for our amusement (what?  They don't see "Oscar" written all over that one?) I decided to give Whiplash a spin.  As a casual drummer myself (extremely casual!), I was intrigued by the subject matter.  And as a JK Simmons fan, I was intrigued to see him tackle an intriguing character.  And intriguing he is!  Simmons plays Terrance Fletcher, a good hearted music teacher who... oh wait, that was Richard Dreyfuss in Mister Holland's Opus.  In Whiplash, Simmons plays a musical sociopath who plays brutal head games as he pits his students against one another and ultimately against him. 

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a determined young jazz drummer who is taken under Fletcher's vulture-like wing.  Needless to say, the fur flies, along with a chair and other objects, as Fletcher drives Andrew toward "Charlie Parker"-like perfection.  Fletcher lights a fuse under Andrew, but then things take an unexpected turn. 

What I really liked about Whiplash was that I really had no idea where it was going, and was surprised (in a good way) by the plot twists and turns.  Until...


So toward the end of Whiplash, both Fletcher and Andrew have been fired/expelled from the music school and are drifting down alternate paths.  When Andrew accidentally comes across Fletcher playing a jazz gig at a NYC bar, they talk, seem to patch things up, then Fletcher invites his nominal prodigy to play with Fletcher's band of professional musicians at a "JVC competition."  Fletcher raises the stakes as Andrew arrives, warning his (professional) band that record labels and talent scouts are in the audience, but when they hit the stage, Andrew discovers he's been set up.  Fletcher calls for a song that Andrew doesn't know, fails to provide even charts, and Andrew goes down in flames. (That's not where the movie ends, but I'll save SOMETHING for those folks who ignored my spoiler warning and read on anyway). 

So here's my question.  Yes, I get that Fletcher rightfully blamed Andrew for getting fired, and that he might be the sort who would seek "revenge."  But would a guy this crazy-compulsive about making perfect music really throw the rest of his professional musicians under the bus to screw over his ex-student?  During an actual, live, competitive show?  Wouldn't the other professional musicians (not students, remember) want to take Fletcher's head off for sending them out with an unprepared drummer who ruins their set? I mean, diabolical is one thing, but self-immolation is another.

Suffice to say things "work out" to some extent, but it's interesting what's a bump for some is a feature for others....

Monster! The Magazine!


"Back in the day", before computers and the internet and websites and (f this, I'm feeling old), there were these curious publications known as "fanzines."  Which were pretty much what they sound like, amateur or semi-professional magazines written and published by "fans" of pick-the-genre.  In my world, there were all sorts of fan magazines dedicated to comics, science fiction and movies.  Why, I even published one myself, a mimeographed movie-related 'zine called "The Big Screen."  When I finally gave up the publishing ghost I had close to 100 subscribers, but it was all too much for a high school student with limited funds...

Anyhow, most of these small publications are long gone, but there are still a few out there that have the glorious fanzine feel.  I especially like Video Watchdog (nearing issue #200!), Shock Cinema and a more recent endeavor called "Monster." Available through Amazon and (I suspect, tho I may be wrong!) published using print-by-demand technology, Monster has kept a rigorous monthly schedule, with issue #12 just released.  Basically, if you're into oddball/obscure horror or science fiction, Monster is bound to have something for you.  With articles by experts like Stephen Bissette and editor Tim Paxton, it's a great read.  You have any interest in the world, go to Amazon and check out the detailed contents.  And support these guys so I can selfishly read more!

Crashmobile! I'm Not The Only One Who Likes Them!


I love Crashmobiles.  And is there are a more forgotten figure in American pop culture than Art Linkletter?  How does this connect?  Is Mark finally (?) losing his mind? 

I'll let history be the judge of my mental acuity, but re: Linkletter --for a time Art was the "kids" guy, most famous for "Art Linkletter's House Party" and "Kids Say The Darnedest Things." (He also lived to the ripe age of 98 and passed away in 2010.)  Anyhow, Art also liked exploding car toys.  Here's a cool poster of Linkletter pimping, I mean, selling the wondrous Crashmobile.  As seen on TV!!

In Brief(s)... Cool Comics Stuff


No, I'm not IN my briefs (well, actually I am, but you don't need that mind-picture)... some of the latest comics related stuff that's piqued my interest:THE COMPLETE JUNIOR AND SUNNY by Al Feldstein There are obscure comics, and then there are OBSCURE.  That I lived to see the day when a publisher like IDW would reissue the entire run of future Mad Magazine editor Al Feldstein's sexy comics from the early 50's astounds me.  But I did.  And I am astounded.  This big, 400 page full-color volume may strike some as overkill, but given the price of these books on the collector's market, $50 is a steal.  So, what makes this stuff worth the deluxe reprint treatment?  Don't look at the stories, which are dull "inspired by Archie" teen junk.  What makes this stuff "raise the ol' eyebrow" is the ridiculously detailed fetish art by Feldstein. Specifically, the dude liked drawing lady's breasts.  Feldstein took pains to delineate thrusting, bursting-from-the-fabric breasts on every female character.  And I mean every female character, not just the cute Betty and Veronica surrogates, but also matronly "mom", elderly teachers -- if the character's female, chances are her sad chest is just aching to explode from some ridiculously tight blouse or sweater. The end result is frankly quite surreal, since none of the stories ever actually touch on the insanely overt sexuality.  This book also features a nice text piece on Fox Comics (where this stuff originally appeared) and various rarities, like sketches.  And I'm still astounded.BLACKLIGHT - THE WORLD OF LB COLEThis may be even MORE obscure.  Cole was a comics publisher/artist/editor from 40's-on whose claim to fame lies with his crazy dayglo, pop-art comic book covers.  Cole was a fairly talented artist, but his real talent lay in his great design sense.  This guy knew how to catch a reader's eye.  Since Cole mostly worked for smaller companies, they needed something to differentiate them from the more mainstream DC and Timely/Atlas/Marvel books.  He certainly managed that! At 270 full color pages and even LARGER than the Junior/Sunny book, this is more Cole than most people need, but it is a comprehensive and well produced volume. CREEPING DEATH FROM NEPTUNE - Basil Wolverton Vol 1.There are several Wolverton art collections out there, but this is the first volume of a set that intends to explore his entire career from a biographical point of view.  Most collectors know Wolverton for his really bizarre pen-and-ink "portraits" (his drawing of "Lena The Hyena" made the cover of Mad magazine) but he was also a great comics artist, radio personality (!) and etc.  This is a remarkably detailed biography of the man's early years, including rare photos of Basil visiting the set of Buster Keaton's "The General" (it shot in Oregon, near Wolverton's hometown).  I confess a personal obsession with Wolverton, who lived near where I grew up... when my Uncle ran into Wolverton and told him that his nephew was a comics nuts, Basil was kind enough to call this very young fellow and talk... well, local wrestling, but also comics. Nice guy and a nice book.   [...]

John Wick Gets MAD


So while toiled away at varied and sundry, I've almost managed to catch a few movies.  Among those caught:

JOHN WICK: There was a brief internet firestorm when the first trailer for this appeared, partly because it looked like an awesome action movie, but also because it seemed to be slightly mocking the genre.  When a fierce Keanu Reeves growls that the bad guys are going to pay because they killed the dog his dying wife left him, well, it's hard to take that completely seriously.  But pay they do in this ferocious and fun action movie.  Wick is a retired hitman who, by sheer bad fortune and concidence, is targeted by some Russian mobsters who want to steal his cool car.  The aforementioned dog croaks and Wick decides to seek vengeance.  Turns out Wick knew these bad boys in his past life and suddenly things get complicated.  But boy, does he GET vengeance.  The body count in this movie has to be pushing triple digits, with assorted Russian goons shot, stabbed, hurled off high places, run down and otherwise dispatched.  It is a non-stop orgy of well choreographed violence... over a dog.

The action is extremely well done and Reeves is excellent as Wick.  Morally though, I'm a little dubious about a story that celebrates a sociopath lunatic wasting dozens of mob soldiers who had NOTHING to do with his doggie's demise. (Remember: he's avenging a dog.)  I'm also in awe of the fantasy city where a guy can go on a massive, city-wide murder spree without drawing the slightest police attention.  Imagine the tumult that would occur on real life news channels if 89+ people were violently murdered in one night by a single shooter/stabber/nut-kicker/neck-twister.  Also, it appears that the video tracking systems that have become a staple of television cop shows (24, Criminal Minds, etc.) have been totally dismantled in John Wick's world, since evidently not a single one of his murders is captured on surveillance.  But -- so what.  Any movie where the best line is "oh" followed by a dropped telephone works for me!

Well, That Was Awhile...


So it's been a few months.  Give a guy a break.  But with any luck I hope to be back with a little more frequency now.

Just to catch up, I've been working on a little show called Constantine for a little network called NBC.  Our first season wound up being 13 episodes and now we wait to see what happens next.  Contrary to some reports, Constantine was not cancelled by NBC -- all episodes will run, they continue to promote the show, and life is good. As far as what the future holds, well, we're not the only series waiting for a pick-up.  In other words, "we'll see."  I would report on other big doings, but doing Constantine was pretty much "it" over the last few months. 

What I will probably start doing is rev up my movie/music/book reviews... as always the goodies have been piling into the Verheiden manse, and where better to discuss them?  Keep watching FMVOF for updates!  

Constantine: So It Begins!


Months of writing, months of shooting, months of editing, 60 minutes of viewing excitement... the CONSTANTINE TV adventure begins 10/24/14!  Watch everyone's favorite dabbler in the dark arts take on all manner of demons, devils and undead spirits!  10PM Friday night on NBC, after Grimm, before the news (on most stations), but without a doubt at EXACTLY the right time.

Constantine! This Fall On NBC!


I'm so impressed with people who manage to post something every day.  Obviously I've taken a bit of a hiatus from my blog, mostly because... well, sloth when you're working 14 hour days is probably the wrong term.  But when you're at the computer all day writing/working, spending more time there versus staring into orbit becomes an easy decision.

So.  Catching up.  I am currently an executive producer on the upcoming NBC series CONSTANTINE, based on the DC Comics Hellblazer and Constantine comics.  As I write this I'm about to head to lovely Atlanta to kick up production of my first episode, co-written with fellow exec. producer and series co-creator David Goyer -- meaning we're well into shooting and making fun television.  All TV brings challenges, but we have a great group, studio (Warner Brothers) and network (NBC, obviously) who are all helping us making the best and coolest Constantine we can.

I also have to bow in the direction of the great people at DC, especially Geoff Johns, for allowing me back into the TV DCU for the first time since SMALLVILLE. They have been totally supportive of the writers and producers and if this thing works (of which I have no doubt), no small credit goes to them and all the folks who realizing the best way to do John Constantine was to, well, do John Constantine!  Replete with sarcasm, ciggies and the occasional moral ambiguity.

I'm also thrilled to be back in the saddle with composer Bear McCreary... I got to suggest blues lyrics for a very special song the other day, a rare treat.  You'll get to see the results when this episode erupts on screen this Fall!

A Brand New Stalkers Review?! What th -- ?


These fine folks review "Stalkers", the Epic book I co-created and wrote along with my pal Jan Strnad way back in *mumble mumble*.  And they like it!  They're really like it!  Click the link for all the gruesome details...

Blue Ruin


A cool indie movie currently in limited release and available on pay per view, BLUE RUIN has the structure of your basic revenge film, but done with a different sense of style.  The lead character, Dwight, is hardly a Charles Bronson surrogate.  Instead, he's homeless, spending his time alternating between the beach, breaking into homes to take a bath and sleeping in his hideous blue car (hence "Blue Ruin").

Then things change.  A friendly police officer informs Dwight that the man serving time for murdering Dwight's father is being released from prison.  That sets in motion an escalating series of increasingly violent events that draws heat not only on Dwight but also his (innocent) sister.  Even though Dwight is our nominal "hero", he does a lot of thoroughly non-heroic things, screws up repeatedly and ultimately makes some discoveries that suggest his quest for justice (or whatever it is) may actually be wrong-headed.  The movie's also not about steely super soldiers.  There's a very sensible scene in the film where an injured person tries to fix a wound on their lonesome, Rambo style, only to fail miserably and resort (sensibly!) to the E.R. You'd never see Stallone do that!

Blue Ruin is very quiet for this sort of film, with several scenes of real tension that reminded me of the recently concluded True Detective series.  There are a few eyebrow-raising moments (I'm either impressed or unnerved at how many people in this film don't seem particularly gob-smacked by murder) but overall it's a nice, tense piece of work.  I liked it!

Great And Crazy Movies...


A new (?) cable-ish network called EPIX is throwing up a bunch of really lousy 70's/80's horror and sci-fi that pretty much is like sitting in my living room circa that era and going through my VHS tape collection.  Just randomly grabbing things, I found LADY FRANKENSTEIN (poor Joseph Cotten stars, "from Citizen Kane to THIS?!"), the Traci Lords version of Roger Corman's NOT OF THIS EARTH, Umberto Lenzi's grotesque zombie epic NIGHTMARE CITY (in subtitled Italian!), and perhaps the most grotesque, WILLIAM SHATNER'S GONZO BALLET, a dance film based on William Shatner's musical collaboration with Ben Folds.

The Shatner piece is recent, but the other stuff appears to be taken directly from the original fuzzy VHS copies. This is not some archival effort ala Blue Underground's Criterion-like restorations, but down and dirty and the exactly the way I remember them.  Since the channel comes in over whatever crazy cable package I'm getting, I'm not sure what I'm paying for this stuff, but it's worth it!

OLDBOY: A bit more recent (as in "last year"), I finally caught up to Spike Lee's remake of OLDBOY.  The original version is an insane, completely perverse masterpiece.  The remake is more or less faithful (must less toward the end), but for some reason, despite some amazing talent, it just doesn't come together.  Josh Brolin plays the title character, a bore who finds himself locked in a hotel room-ish prison for 20 years, with no idea why he's there or who's holding him.  He gets to watch plenty of TV during his incarceration and learns he's been framed for his wife's murder.  20 years in, he's suddenly released and goes on a mission of vengeance.  Somehow 20 years in stir has given him the chance to develop some keen martial arts skills, which he definitely needs as he takes hammers and fists to an assortment of folks who don't want to give a guy a break.  Eventually he discovers the magnitude of the mad plot that led to his incarceration, a plot that required some impossible to predict alliances to succeed.  I can't quite put my finger on why this doesn't work better than it does... it's not bad, it just doesn't have the crazy sizzle of the original.  And that's too bad because I would LOVE for more gritty, crime-ridden movies from Hollywood...  

William Friedkin's SORCERER is finally out in a fully restored, approved by Friedkin blu-ray that looks AMAZING. The previous DVD was a pan and scan nightmare, but this edition has gorgeous color and is probably as good or better than the first 35mm prints.  Released at the same time as STAR WARS and with an unfortunate title that promises some supernatural element that doesn't exist, this was considered a big disappointment back in the day -- but it is one of the best 70's movie out there, easily in my top ten of the time.  A remake of the French film WAGES OF FEAR, this is a sparse, gritty crime/adventure drama with some of the most harrowing trucking sequences ever filmed. (I know what you're thinking, how can a "truck sequence" be harrowing? Watch this movie and see!) Anyhow, five stars, thumbs up, highest recommendation, etc.

The Fateful Return...


It's been awhile since I posted, partially out of ennui, being busy, being sick, and partially out of "can't think of anything to say."  Sort of a conundrum for a guy who writes for a living, but hey, that's fiction.  I suppose I could fill this up with imaginary tales ("After knocking the knife out of Don Rumsfeld's hand, it was just the two of us, mano a mano...") but no, I save that "brilliance" for paying customers.

I guess there's a reason why there aren't a lot of movies about the act of writing.  Most of it is sitting and thinking and typing and rewriting and sitting some more.  Interspersed with downloading the latest Springsteen show from his official site and taking time out for watching Chris Hayes and shaking my fist at the world.  Not exactly scintillating drama. I suppose I could extrapolate on the writing experience, but process-wise, I tend to operate on a very intuitive basis. I would not be good at teaching this nonsense, because my main advice would be "write interesting stuff and keep writing enough of it to fill X number of pages." I'd feel bad charging $200 for that. (Not THAT bad, but bad.)

I've been taking some trips down memory lane recently as we clean out my parents house to prepare it for sale.  My Mother kept EVERYTHING, including piles of old homework, stories, artwork, etc. As I flip through stacks of my old art pieces, I am vividly reminded why I switched to writer, but it's fun to look back at what my 13 year old brain was creating.  We also found some early rejection slips and other ephemera that only has meaning to yours truly.  And still make me STEAMING MAD.

Anyhow, I'll try to be back with work updates and reviews as the mood strikes.  Meanwhile, happy Easter!

Mr. Springsteen And His Shows


Yes, I know it's been over a month since my last post.  What can I say, I've been busy on various fronts and that focus comes at a price.  Besides, when you download a new official Springsteen show every couple of days, there goes the weekend, baby!

So, as I write this, there have been 11 official releases from Springsteen South Africa/Australian tour.  Out of those, Springsteen has elected not to put up one of the nights (2/16/14), at least not yet. The theory from fans is that Springsteen admitted on stage that he was a little buzzed that evening, and the show, one of the longest in awhile, was not exactly up to his standards.  Of course, this just makes that night a holy grail among fans, many of whom enjoy the idea of sloppy as much as perfection.  I have no doubt that some enterprising taper will eventually throw that night into the morass known as "the internet", but I do hope B.S. reconsiders and puts out an official version.

Meanwhile, anyone even vaguely interested in this nonsense should check out at least one of the shows. It's hard for me to pick a favorite, since the set lists vary drastically night by night, so your best bet is to peruse the set-lists and make your choice off that.  Born in the USA fan?  One night he does the entire album.  Darkness On The Edge Of Town devotee?  Same deal.  Sound quality is more or less equal (tho some nights feature a LOT of crowd) so that really isn't an issue.  Here's the official website...

Stuff I Like!


Ahh, Amazon, how you fulfill me... here are a few of the latest and greatest goodies to pass over the MV transom...

ROCKPILE: Live At The Rockpalast: An imported CD/DVD of an early 1980 show by the late, great Rockpile.  Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Billy Bremner and Terry Williams owed my rock and roll world back in the day, and this concert is pretty much the boys at their best.  Think a dab of rockabilly combined with a dollop of 60's rock, amp it all up to 11 and there's Rockpile.  The band broke up WAY too soon, though the principles went on to storied solo careers.  But there are always archival releases like this to remind us of past glories...

DAVE EDMUNDS "Alive": Speaking of storied careers, this is the first new Edmunds material in years.  Unfortunately there are only five new tracks combined with some goodies from previous releases, but the old stuff is only old if you've heard it before, and most of the songs are from Edmunds' more obscure releases.  The new stuff shows he hasn't lost a step, and here's hoping for a full-on new CD soon...

STOP YELLIN': Ben Pivar And The Horror, Mystery and Action Adventure Films of His Universal B-Unit.  Well, the book's subtitle kind of says it all.  Pivar produced dozens of movies in the 30's and 40's, but is perhaps most remembered for his contributions to the Mummy series and "The Brute Man", one of the more disturbing movies to emerge from the 40's.  Not because of the subject matter, per se (standard serial killer stuff), but because the star was Rondo Hatton, a sadly deformed man who evidently piqued Universal's interest after he appeared in a Sherlock Holmes movie.  This 500+ page tome absolutely tells you everything you ever wanted to know about Ben Pivar, and since you probably didn't want to know anything, some might call all that overkill. Me, I found it a fascinating slice of life from the trenches of 40's filmmaking with some Barton Fink overtones.

SPRINGSTEEN Live: Well, he's finally doing it.  Evidently every show from Springsteen's upcoming tour is going to be released 48 hours post-concert to an eager Bruce-loving world.  That's the good news.  The slightly less advantageous news is that the concerts are being distributed (at first anyway) through a system where you have to buy a 2GB memory stick either at the concert or from Springsteen's site for $40, which will them allow you to download Mp3 medium-resolution concerts from the internet.  Want more concerts, you gotta buy more memory sticks. Want higher resolution flac files, forget it (for now).  Look, I'm not gonna bite the hand that's finally giving fans what they've been clamoring after for decades, but here's hoping a non-memory stick, high quality downloadable version is hot on the heels of this initial effort!

ADDITIONAL INFO HOT OFF THE PRESSES!  Turns out Springsteen is also offering Mp3s and flac files from his website for $9.99 and $14.99 respectively.  FANTASTIC.  Now I wish I hadn't jumped in and bought a wristband already (*sob*).