Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Woman in Black (2012)

Syd and I decided to break the bank yesterday and rent the movie The Woman in Black from Redbox during a shopping trip to Wegman's.

It's a movie we both wanted to see for some time. We decided against seeing it in the theatres because the person working the ticket counter warned us that the audience was made up of 13 to 16 year olds. Although watching them all burst into tears seeing Harry Potter in a horror film might have been worth the price of admission.

And that's the other thing Daniel Radcliffe is actually very good in this film. I'm sure it's going to be difficult to shed the Harry Potter image after eight films. But he makes a decent effort at it in this film.
That and it's always nice to see a lead actor in a film under 5'11" seeing that Hollywood tends to go in a direction of 6' and up.

Not only was it a decent effort from Young Master Radcliffe, it was actually a very good effort from Hammer in their first really big picture since 1979.

Based on a novel originally written by Susan Hill, Radcliffe plays a young solicitor named Arthur Kipp who has come to a remote village to handle the estate of Alice Drablow who owned Eel Marsh House. Alice lived at the house with her husband, son Nathaniel and her sister Jennet. We soon come to discover Nathaniel to be Jennet's real mother. Alice had taken Nathaniel away from her sister believing her to be unfit. After Nathaniel's death in the marsh, Jennet hangs herself in the nursery.

But it wouldn't be a horror film if there wasn't a spooky twist. Since Jennet's son was taken from her, whenever anyone sees her ghostly form, known to the villagers as the Woman in Black, a child in the village dies in a way right out of Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

Arthur witnesses this soon after his first encounter with the Woman in Black when a young girl is brought to the police station by her brothers having consumed a bottle of lye

Very much like classic Hammer, the film tended to be a bit slow going in the beginning. It also had some of the trappings of the classic Hammer Films, such as people from the village being particularly unfriendly towards Arthur Kipp with only one or two people showing him kindness. One being the wife of the innkeeper who lost her three daughters because of the Woman in Black and the other's a wealthy landowner Sam Daily and his wife who lost their son to as well to this vengeful spectre.

Of course it wouldn't be Hammer if there wasn't some slight deviation from the original story. But like any great Hammer film such as Dracula or Frankenstein, the changes made do not ruin the movie. And even though I suspected the ending, I was still surprised by it. Because they threw in a double twist. Just when you 're sure one thing happened, something else happens and then you realize the one thing you initially thought happened actually happened.

As far as atmosphere, it's probably the level of gothic creepiness that Hammer always wanted and now can achieve because of budget and advances in special effects. However, what made classic Hammer fun to watch was the fact that it was campy and gory. Maybe not always scary, but the gore was always over the top in a very operatic way that make those film captivating to watch. Not to mention some memorable performances by Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in those films.

But I enjoyed the Woman in Black and I hope this is thebeginning of a new cycle of films for Hammer. I have heard there's already a follow up to the Woman in Black in the works. And I heard whispers another  classic Hammer series Dracula might be rising from the grave.

However, for me personally I wouldn't mind seeing Hammer take another stab at Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps instead of The Hound of the Baskervilles, they do their treatment to A Study in Scarlet or The Sign of Four.

But I'd highly recommend you stop by your local Redbox Kiosk and pick up a copy. You can even check it's availability on their website:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Anniversary weekend in Mystic, CT... and NO! We didn't eat at Mystic Pizza!

It's hard to believe that already a year has passed since Syd and I exchanged vows and walked down the aisle together. I suppose there is the urge to return to the place where you went on your honeymoon to relive all the fun and happy memories you had as newlyweds. In our case, Newport RI had been a great deal of fun which included checking out the Summer "cottages" of the rich and famous, sailing tours of the harbor and whizzing around downtown Newport in a snazzy Scooter Car.

Although, that was all great we decided it might be a lot more fun to go somewhere neither of us had ever gone before for our one year anniversary. So, we decided after a quick trip to Gillette Castle we would spend the night in Mystic, CT.

Syd had never been to Gillette Castle and was really taken aback by the place. I really don't feel like I appreciated the spacious home of really the first actor to become the face of Sherlock Holmes long before Basil Rathbone.

I have begun to wonder if I have a distant relation somewhere in my past that was a sea captain. Because I always feel very much at peace when I'm down by the sea. Although, Mystic is not as vast as Newport we had a really wonderful weekend. And I got to sample a couple of really good local beers with the Mystic Bridge India Pale Ale at a restaurant that specialized in oysters. Had a really nice Oyster Grinder mind you. And a Lobster Red Ale at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

The nicest part was last night we had decided to go somewhere very fancy for dinner Sunday Night at a nice little restaurant called Latitude 41. We decided to get a table outside and enjoy the evening by the water. There was also a really big wedding going on that night so service was very slow.

But we had no intention of making a big stink out of the slow service. It had been a perfect day and we were going to make the best of it. Apparently, they had screwed up Syd's drink order first. They were out of whatever she ordered so she had to order another drink. And then we find out the kitchen screwed up our order which had not even been place.

I think what helped us is we didn't act like a couple of jerks. We just sat there, chatted and made the best out of the evening. It wasn't like India Cafe where we were the only customers but service stunk. This place was super busy. We were just happy to get a table.

Well, not only was our waitress very apologetic but we also had the manager come out and apologize for the bad service not making any excuses for it.

And because we were very nice and understanding towards their situation WE GOT WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A $60 (plus tip) MEAL FOR FREE!

Actually, Syd decided that we should tip the waitress. She had been very nice and very apologetic the entire time. So, we got a $60 meal for $12.06!!

I would highly recommend Latitude 41 for anyone staying or taking a day trip to Mystic. The place is a total class act.

I was able to give Syd's anniverary gift while we were having our drinks. Unfortunately, her gift to made had not arrived. She had got me a vintage 1950 typewriter. Non electric. AND it works!! But she had planned on giving it to me before we left. Something like that is very hard to hide naturally.

But all in all, the entire weekend made for a nice little vacation away from home and a nice anniversary. And we didn't go to Mystic Pizza!

A Cracking Good Review for the Ninnies

The British Fantasy Society wrote a great review on the Ninnies. Click on the link below to read it:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jeremy Brett: The Definitive Holmes

There have been many great actors who have graced the threshold of 221B Baker Street in the role of Sherlock Holmes. And some awful ones as well. Everyone has their favorite. Their definitive. From Basil Rathbone's sharp, upbeat, and energetic portrayal to most recently Benedict Cumberbatch's more moody and melancholy take on the character.

For me it was Jeremy Brett.

The series he did for Granada Television (shown in the States on the PBS Series Mystery!) was really the first time both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson were portrayed the way Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had written them. Watson especially who had, with the exception of a handful of films, had always been depicted as a blithering old idiot.


This all changed when David Burke took the role of Watson. Most every production that followed, have depicted Watson very much the way the Granada series did.

In many of those early episodes, I feel as though Jeremy Brett and David Burke resembled Sidney Paget's artwork so much, you would almost think they walked right out of a copy of the Strand Magazine.
Much of the brilliance in Jeremy Brett's portrayal comes from the actor's own personality. In real life, Brett suffered from manic depression. Much of this you can see in his take on Holmes. Having read Conan Doyle's original stories, this is the way I could see the character. Moody, manic, swinging from happiness to anger at the drop of a hat and taking drugs to stave off accute cases of boredom.

Although, in real life, Jeremy Brett actually wrote Lady Jean Doyle (the daughter of the late Sir Arthur) and asked her permission to have Sherlock Holmes kick his addiction to cocaine when he found out children in England looked up to the character and considered him to be a superhero of sorts.

The character is seen emptying a phial of cocaine and burying his needle on the beach in the episode The Devil's Foot.

This was also the first time I feel we also saw in my opinion the definitive portrayal of Holmes's arch-nemesis Professor James Moriarty in the form of Eric Porter.



Although the character remains in check, you do get the feeling that he could become unhinged at any moment with this face twitch Eric Porter would use as the character.

I've gone on the record (and got my fair share of grief) for saying I am not a fan of Andrew Scott's "Jim" Mortiarty from the Benedict Cumberbatch series. Which isn't a shot at the actor himself. I haven't seen enough of him to draw a conclusion of his skills as an actor. But I just don't like the whole "goofball" element they added to him.

To be honest, I liked Jared Harris's take on Moriarty in the Robert Downey Jr. film better. However, I like the Benedict Cumberbatch take on Holmes better.

With that said, I'm not going to ridicule you just because I didn't care for the Moriarty from Cumberbatch series. Or leave nasty notes about it on Steven Moffat's Twitter account telling him how much I dislike the way he has interpreted the character.

That would be stupid.

If you're new to Sherlock Holmes and have become interested in the character because of the Benedict Cumberbatch series, I would highly recommend you check out the series starring Jeremy Brett. Although, it may not be as high-octane as some of the current interpretations of the character, it is highly enjoyable.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Elementary, my dear Watson. It's going to be awful!

What made Sherlock a success is what's going to make Elementary a disaster. Writing! Let me start out by saying I like Jonny Lee Miller as an actor. He's very good. But seeing CBS's teaser for their version a modernized Sherlock Holmes living in America, I thought the series looked awful. Syd and I watched in on her iphone and we sat there rolling our eyes and shaking our heads at the lines Sherlock Holmes was given. None of which we could ever imagine Sherlock Holmes EVER saying.

One of which when he discovers the dead body in the safe by rolling a ball bearing towards a safe to discover a body and then utters "Sometimes I am sorry when I'm right" Or apologizing to Dr. JOAN Watson (played by Lucy Lui) about wrecking her car. Both of us just felt Sherlock Holmes would never do that!! He would never apologize for his actions. Especially if he felt the ends justify the means. I suppose it's American television's attempt to give Sherlock Holmes some humanity and humility. Make him a flawed hero.

I'm not buying it.

In all of his incarnations. From Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Robert Stephens, Peter Cushing and most recently with Benedict Cumberbath and Robert Downey Jr. the thing that has made Sherlock Holmes's character great is the fact he's so unapologetic. Actually, he's just a downright jerk. Probably Rathbone's portrayal of Holmes is by far the warmest and most sympathetic of all the Sherlock actors mentioned.

They even got that right in House. What made Hugh Laurie's character so popular is the fact he was such a jerk.

I should probably state that Sherlock Holmes is public domain. Which means ANYONE can do something with the character. My gripe is that the whole series seems very lazy and this is just American Television capitalizing on the success of something Steven Moffat, wife Susan Vertue and Mark Gatiss worked very hard to create. A modernized Holmes HAS been done in the past. But not nearly as successfully as team Moffat/Vertue/Gatiss has done. And this just feels... well... really lazy.

I understand Moffat and Company's irritation with the American series. They've worked really hard to cultivate this idea and make it a success. As a spectator looking in from the outside, all it seems like to me is CBS just riding on the coattails of Sherlock's success. And doing so in the most contrived and unoriginal sort of way.

However, I do not agree with Moffat's statement that this series will somehow ruin the brand if it's a distaster. Honestly, I don't think it will make his series any less of a success. As a matter of fact, I think just the opposite will happen. I think people who view in on this Americanized Holmes in the Fall who are familiar with the BBC series will just say, "I think the British version is better".

If CBS had any sort of imagination (it's obvious that they DON'T) then they would do just the opposite and create a Sherlock series with Jonny Lee Miller in the States. BUT have it set in the 1890's. Larry Millett did a series of Sherlock Holmes novels set in the states. Why not use that.

Or they would pick another literary character to adapt. If they were smart (see above) they might consider being clever (again, see above) and do a series with Jonny Lee Miller based on A.J. Raffles. A character created by E. W. Hornung.

But I suppose Sherlock is more lucrative than Raffles. And it's easier to rehash something someone has already done than to take a chance and do something completely original.

I won't be watching Elementary this fall. Well, I might tune in on the first episode just to see if the rest of the show is as bad as the previews for it looked.

Either way, I see this making "Show Being Axed" list.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

stART on the Street: Spring Edition

This will be the third year stART on the Street will be hosting their Spring Show. The last couple of years they have held it on Main Street as opposed to Park Avenue where the Fall show is held.

After a rather lackluster turn out on Main Street last year, I was talking to Tina Zlody at an art show for Derek Ring and she mentioned at the time stART was in talks about pulling up roots on Main Street and opting for  a different location.

I had given her my two cents about my experience last year. Although, it was entirely disappointing, it wasn't nearly as successful as either the Fall or December show. At the time things were still pretty hush hush because a decision had not been reached.

But a location was ultimately found and this year stART on the Street: Spring Edition will be held on Green Street in the Canal District!! And it sounds as though this year will be an absolutely doozy of an event!!

Along with what has made stART successful in the past with over 150+ artists and crafters, live music, activities for children and a food court. There will also be a classic car show this year!!

Don't think Summer Nationals with screeching tires and kids revving up their ridiculously souped up cars until they blow something in the engine and have to be towed away.

But I'm sure you'll see some amazing cars from bygone era's.

You never know. You might even see the Sr. Herholz's 1937 Chevy on display.

Not only will I be selling copies of my books, prints and original artwork at the show. But this will be the first sTART on the Street event to feature my wife Syd's fun household items made from recycled vinyl.

She is offering bowls, wine holders, file holders, jewelery and earring holders. ALL made from used LP's!!

It's all taking place Sunday June 3rd from 11AM till 5PM on Green Street. For more info log onto stART on the Street's website:

stART on the Street: Spring Edition

Hope to see you all there.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Looking at the new Dark Shadows movie from the right perspective

Okay, Ladies and Gentlement. Boys and Girls. If you go into Dark Shadows either comparing it to the original series or expecting this to be up there with Tim Burton films like Pee-Wee's Big Adventure or Nightmare Before Christmas you're just setting yourself up for disappointment.

I went in with neither expectation and I enjoyed myself. Don't let the trailer for the movie fool you. The movie is actually pretty creepy and not as goofy as the trailer might suggest.

I'm getting a little sick of reading some critics reviews of this film and suggesting Tim Burton has only made five good films in his career. Which I think is ridiculous. And it makes me wonder if some of these reviews were written by bitter little toads who are just upset because Tim Burton rejected their screenplay.

 I especially enjoyed the cameo by Lara Parker, David Selby, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jonathan Frid during a party scene at Collinwood. And not just one of those blink and you miss it type of cameo's. They even gave them a nice line too.

True this may not be one of his best of all time. But it's far from being his worst. That section in cinematic hell is reserved for Mars Attacks and Planet of the Apes in my opinon.

I didn't look at this movie as better or worse than the original series. Nothing ever beats the original. I look at the big screen treatment as a tribute to the original series as well as Tim Burton's version of it.

I suppose if I'm going to complain about anything as far as Tim Burton's current crop of films is I really miss the stop-motion special effects he used in some of his earlier films like Pee-Wee and Beetlejuice. But we live in a supply and demand age and I suppose it's easier to get a picture out there faster put together effects on the computer than to toil countless months trying to get the stop-motion effects right.

But with that said, I still have a soft spot for stop-motion creatures.

Go into Dark Shadows with an opened mind and you won't be disappointed. And if I listened to every movie critic out there, I wouldn't enjoy half the movies I'm into.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Latest episode of After Hours is up!!

The latest installment of Cracked.com's original and funny series After Hours is up and running!! Check it out!!

Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch by Lara Parker

As Syd and I prepare to go see Tim Burton's big screen treatment of the cult classic Dark Shadows, I am currently in the process of reading The Salem Branch. An original novel based on the series written by Angélique herself Lara Parker.

Who is going to be making a cameo in the upcoming film in a party sequence along with several of her Dark Shadows co-stars including the late Jonathan Frid.

I'm finding her continuation of the series to be really enjoyable. And I always appreciate the fact when someone who has been a part of a long running series cares about the show so much that their involvement with the series continues long after the series ends. What I enjoy about this story in particular is the connection with the Salem Witch Hunt. Which she has the Collins Family somehow connected with that horrible period of history.

Given the show's time-travel aspect in later episodes, I could almost imagine Jonathan Frid and other members of the cast as the Salem branch of the Collins Family.

In the present we find Barnabas Collins, cured of his vampire curse and set to marry Dr. Julia Hoffman. The woman who cured him. But life is less  than tranquil in Collinwood when a flower child by the name of Antoinette, who bears a shocking resemblance to the witch Angélique, has rebuilt the Old House. Which (as in real life) was destroyed in a fire.

All the Collins family are present and you can almost hear their voices as you read the books.

A British company Big Finish that specializes in creating audio plays actually did a dramatic reading of Lara Parker's previous Dark Shadows book Angélique's Descent that is worth checking out.

They had also produced one called The Night Whispers which featured Jonathan Frid reprising the role of Barnabas Collins for the very last time. Also worth giving a listen to.

But I would definitely give The Salem Branch a definite look as well.

Just to see how the Collins family are keeping nowadays.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Ninnies available for EPub and Mobi

For those of you who prefer to read your books digitally, Obverse Books is offering an EPub and Mobi version along with the hardcover version of The Ninnies by Paul Magrs.

Click on the link below to either order or download your copy today. The ideal book right before bedtime. Especially with a flashlight and the sheets pulled over your head:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day!!

My Dad was actually born today in 1945. Which was also the same day German forces surrendered in Italy.

So Happy May Day everyone and Happy Birthday Dad!!