Sunday, December 31, 2006

Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

It's high noon on New Year's Eve and I just sent out my second draft of PRIMAL, the bigfoot movie I am doing a rewrite on. I talked to producer David Sterling, who must have been an early riser out in LA, then did one last look-over and shot it out.

Later today it is dinner and a movie with the family and off to some friends for the New Years party we have gone to for several years.

I looked back through my blog and realized I pretty much have the same resolutions each year--lose weight, work harder and smarter, shepherd my kids safely through the year--so they hardly bear repeating here.

I had a good year with both SEX MACHINE and BLACK MASS/THE DA VINCI CURSE/DEAD KNIGHT screening and getting picked up for distro. I am finishing the year with a lot lined up for 2007; we'll see where that all leads.

Last night my brother and I tried the new Axis and Allies game, Battle of the Bulge. It has a surprisingly different mechanic than the others in the long-standing series of board games but makes sense in the logic of the game. I played the Axis and made a startlingly large land grab as the Allied supply lines got tangled. Axis won, and another alternate universe falls.

Happy New Year, everybody!

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Stamping the X into XMas

Thank God Christmas is over. Aside from the usual trauma and catastrophes I broke an antique chair at my mother-in-law's house which will probably end up at the center of family disagreements for the next few decades or so, surpassing the Thanksgiving when my dad bit into one of my mother-in-law's brownies and broke out his front tooth.

This year, I hauled in some new clothes and Charles Frazier's new book and a few bottles of wine (including one from Coppola's vineyard), and spent an Amazon gift certificate on Philip K. Dick's Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, the Robin Hobbs Liveship Traders Trilogy, and a couple more of those great, great Hard Case Crime paperbacks.

I am chunking along on Primal for a January 1 delivery date. I saw some location photos of a pretty cool cave that will play a central part in the feature, and am working that in.

I have dozed through a few movies but been wide awake during a couple of really good ones, including Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School and Little Miss Sunshine. Marilyn Hotchkiss was so good I immediately put it back in and started listening to the commentary track, because I had a couple of suspicions about why things were done, most of which proved out to be true.

My brother got the Star Trek cartoon series on DVD and I proved that there was a character with his name in it, a sore point in his early childhood, according to our mother. In real life, he was named after Eric Fleming, the trail boss in Rawhide.

I played the new Marvel board game, which is fun but needlessly complicated, though I won in a last-ditch battle, Wolverine vs. Spiral, which catapaulted me in points over my middle-school nephew who was making hay with the Hulk. Then I turned around and stunk up Risk 2210 A.D., which is very fun even when you are down to holding Siberia and one or two other places while your brother rampages over the other continents. But like a true rogue state, I kept lobbing nukes at him, a nice added bonus missing in the earlier Risk games.

I'm ready to chuck 2006 aside and solider on to 2007. In the meantime, give me a shout at

Sunday, December 24, 2006

World's Finest Christmas

From Justice League of America 100 Page Super Spectacular, only 50 cents in 1973; the first comic I ever remember reading, given to me by my pal Tom Cherry after I wrote about it in this blog. I re-read it last night, and it is still great. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

News From Around the Globe

Reality show fever gripped my hometown of Muncie, Indiana, when "Armed and Famous," a celebreality show with people like Erik Estrada and Wee Man becoming real cops and patrolling the streets, came to town. First the local paper was front-page breathless about LaToya Jackson failing her physical and the radio station carried on about whether Erik Estrada had a toupee. But soon the bloom was off the rose when people saw them taking multiple takes of certain events and paying people to allow their faces to appear on-camera. The bitter truth is that reality shows aren't real. Just ask all my pals in the Writer's Guild, trying to get credit as writers on reality shows they worked on that allegedly don't use writers.

But my wife saw Jack Osborne at Cheeseburger in Paradise.

In other fictional programming news, I recently took "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" to task for making fun of midwesterners, showing a native of Columbus, Ohio who still used a record player and had never heard of Abbot and Costello. So the show fired back in a recent episode with a running gag about an overtime basketball game featuring "Muncie State." Now it's on. When you make fun of a Hoosier's basketball, it's on.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

And Eat It Too

Had to reboot my PRIMAL rewrite, so I have been chugging along on that for an end-of-the-year delivery.

I went to my nephew's birthday party and had one of the best pieces of cake I ever had. It was baked by an eastern European immigrant who is trying to break into business here, so he made this as a friend of my nephew's family to get the word out. It was so good that I have dreamed about that cake since. It is in the top ten pieces of cake I have ever eaten in my life. It made me weep to see crusts of it on disinterested kids' paper plates. All I can do is wish this man with his American Dream well.

I bought my nephew a classic version of Stratego. And all he did was immediately shove everything else aside and have me teach it to him. For my other nephew's birthday, I bought him Risk, and the same thing happened. Take that, Xbox. I still carry the torch for comic books, board games, and snap-tight models as the "bad uncle" I never had myself.

They served Colts Touchdown Sundae ice cream, and I observed that it started off tasting good, but the longer you ate it, the more bitter it became.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Party Like It's 1983

When I was a kid, Fangoria was the coolest magazine around. My somewhat steady appearances lately denote an overall decline in quality. Check it out here.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sex Machine Revs Up March 2007

Sex Machine Leaves Mark on Anthem Pictures
Scary Actioner – part Frankenstein, part pulp – Acquired for Worldwide Distribution
Agoura Hills, CA – Anthem Pictures President & CEO Chuck Adelman announced today it had acquired all rights to Austin, TX filmmaker Christopher Sharpe’s debut feature film, Sex Machine for worldwide distribution. The scary action-thriller is scheduled for a DVD Premiere in the United States in March 2007.

Sex Machine, which takes its name from a mysterious tattoo on the hero’s arm is the gripping story of a man who wakes up in the middle of a gangland hit to discover that his limbs are not his own. Frank is a tough-talking patchwork assassin, stitched together from the body parts of other failed assassins. When Frank learns that his ex-girlfriend is the next test subject, he opens both barrels on his “creators” and unleashes a gory bloodbath of revenge.

“When we first screened the movie we knew we had a winner – not only with the audience who love movies like Reservoir Dogs or The Killer, but with the folks who like their gore, “said Adelman. “Sex Machine really delivers the goods. This is a pulpy hybrid of horror and hitmen that really goes for the throat.”

Sex Machine, winner of the 2006 MicroCinema and DeadCenter Film Festivals was shot in and around Austin, TX and Oklahoma City, OK and comes from the demented minds of Director Christopher Sharpe and screenwriter John Oak Dalton. Shot for over several months as cast and crew were available, Sharpe and Director of Photography Shogo have infused with the movie with what critics have called, “killer visual style” from the opening credits onward. Hundreds of sketches, conceptual photos and makeup tests were completed so that the filmmakers could keep a consistent and interesting look on their meager budget. The planning paid off.

The movie was brought to Anthem by writer-producer Bill Cunningham (Scarecrow, .Com For Murder and the upcoming Gore Gore Gore-met ) when the director sent him a copy for his advice. “I watched the movie from beginning to end without having to fast forward, which is a testament to the story’s punch. I called Christopher right away and asked if the film had distribution and if he was represented by anyone. I wanted to be that guy. From there I took it around to my colleagues in the industry and Chuck really responded to what I did – the film’s pulpiness.”

Plans for the March 2007 DVD include: the feature, trailers, a DVD commentary track with the filmmakers, a behind-the-scenes feature and a gallery of stills and artwork.
# # #

Yeah, I better get that commentary track cranked out.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Zardoz Redux

I think I am about two-thirds through the PRIMAL rewrite for director Michael Su and chugging along. For those tracking my propensity for writing shower scenes, this one pretty much takes place outdoors where there is no plumbing. So we had to settle for a sponge bath, naturally.

I finished listening to Paul Giamatti read A SCANNER DARKLY by Philip K. Dick, and it was a great audio book. I had picked up the paper version some time ago because SEX MACHINE FX person Leah Sharpe got a job working on the movie version down in Austin, and I figured I would check out the movie at some point. But it just got too depressing, so I shelved it. I came back to it a week or so ago on audio book and really enjoyed it. What I like most about what I call "hippie-fi" is how virtually everyone up until William Gibson wrote NEUROMANCER had no concept of what the wireless, internet, cell phone future would actually be. There are always rooms with huge banks of tape-spinning computers and guys (and women) walking around in plastic jumpsuits open to their navels. Drugs and sex always play a big part, a failure to forecast the Reagan Era. Just think Sean Connery in ZARDOZ, John Saxon in EARTH TWO, and Charlton Heston in PLANET OF THE APES to see the kind of future lantern-jawed, blue-chinned, hairy-chested leading men they were forecasting in the 60s and 70s. Were it that we could return to that (future) past.

I would love to write a screenplay that takes the stance that it was written in the 70s and forecasting the 90s (like A SCANNER DARKLY), then raid a Salvation Army and shoot it with all the sideburns and bell bottoms and plastic ray guns and giant computers still intact. There's something deeply appealing about that.

And I know I could do it, too. I remember shooting a Super-8 short in the early 80s that featured a guy talking on a phone in a car, and having to make sure that you could see the cord trailing off to the dash, because of course if the phone didn't have a cord it would look broken. And I was also the guy that thought CDs would never take off because, after all, they were just little records. Nostradamus, indeed.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bride of Bigfoot

Thanksgiving went well, and by well I mean any Thanksgiving where somebody isn't peeling out of the driveway with their middle finger out the window is a good holiday, our current barometer for measuring such things.

I am always in charge of the post-meal movie, and it is usually hard to find something that appeals to the six to sixty age bracket, but this year I thought it would be easier because circumstances dictated that nobody in attendance was under eighteen. I selected THE ICE HARVEST because it seemed to be a holiday comedy, although the box neglected to mention that this particular John Cusack Christmas movie opened with several extensive scenes in a strip club, for which my wife held me personally responsible. I had to tell her, Just because I have written a few movies that happen to have scenes in strip clubs does not mean I am responsible for every movie with scenes in strip clubs. So we put in RV instead, mild enough for any audience and easy to sleep and digest turkey to.

My hometown of Muncie, Indiana is going to be hosting a reality show called "Armed and Famous" and is about third-tier celebrities getting police training and going out on the mean streets. With guns. Seriously. Check it out here.

Spent a lot of Friday and Saturday morning cooking out PRIMAL for director Michael Su. I noted in working on the rewrite that the monster is referred to as both a yeti and a sasquatch. These are two different things. I knew I was the right person for this job.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Morning

It's a perfect Thanksgiving Day in Indiana; the sun is bright and the air is crisp. We would say that the frost is on the pumpkin.

Downstairs I hear the Macy's Parade on TV. For only the second time in the last 19 years somebody besides us is hosting Thanksgiving, so we are having a more peaceful morning than usual. We are off to my mother-in-law's, where the debate is already raging between football and holiday movies. She makes oyster dressing and liver pate so my mouth is already watering. My wife is finishing deviled eggs and a fondue downstairs.

I baked cookies last night and played "Memoir 44" with my brother. I won two battles and he won two battles.

I saw the trailer for We Are Marshall at the movies the other day and it still brings a tear to my eye.

Winter is closing in. We start thinking again about Scrabble at night and old movies on Sunday mornings.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sasquatch Redux

I am doing a rewrite for director Michael Su and producer David Sterling on a bigfoot feature called PRIMAL. It goes into production in L.A. in December.

Yes, I know that there is a danger I will become "the Bigfoot guy," after the success of my earlier Bigfoot movie, AMONG US, currently extremely popular on the Space channel in Canada. And I'm basing this assumption on the fact that when I went to Canada this summer they let me through the gates.

But how many guys get to write two Bigfoot movies in their careers? Not William Goldman, not Michael Tolkin. So there you go.

Updates on PRIMAL soon!

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Blue Monday

A couple of new projects percolating I hope to add to the ol' sidebar soon. In the meantime, the Colts lost. Once the worst undefeated team in football, now the worst 9-1 team. I missed watching the game as I had promised to take my wife to the movies. It was the first game I missed watching so far this season. As we were leaving the theatre I clicked on the radio and heard the score. And my first thought was: If only I had been watching, they wouldn't have lost.

I can feel winter coming on. We start wanting to play Scrabble and stay inside and watch old movies. You know how most couples have a "free pass?" I mean a fantasy one, not the neighbor. My wife's are George Clooney and Johnny Depp. Meaning that if either of them came down in a spaceship in the cornfield behind my house and wanted to take her away, she could go. Let me give you a piece of marital advice to young newlyweds: if your wife asks you whose yours are, you say you don't have any. Even if she has a whole list. Even if yours might be Bridget Fonda and Gong Li. You have none. And that is how I have stayed married for nineteen years.

But watching old movies made me think of one I can't shake loose. Suzanne Pleshette, in a time machine, back to 1966.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Turn the Page

I haven't done a meme in a long while, but this one on pal Chris Hardie's blog struck my fancy, with answers off of the top of my head:

1. One book that changed your life?
Feature Film-making at Used Car Prices by Rick Schmidt.

2. One book you have read more than once?
For a while I used to re-read Joseph Heller's Catch-22 every year.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
D&D 3rd Edition DM's Guide.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Candide by Voltaire.

5. One book that made you cry?
Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry.

6. One book you wish had been written?
One more Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones book from Chester B. Himes.

7. One book you wish had never had been written?
Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler.

8. One book you are currently reading?
Michael Connelly's Echo Park; I've been hooked on his Harry Bosch mysteries for a while.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
My Life by Bill Clinton.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sundown, Yellow Moon

Has it really been two weeks since I posted here? I have been busy reading scripts for a couple of possible rewrite jobs, as well as girding up to record a commentary track for SEX MACHINE, which now has a DVD release date of March 2007. It's been so long since I actually did the rewrite I'm going to have to sit down and figure out what the hell I was thinking back then; a common enough pasttime, I'm afraid.

More news soon; in the interim, give me a shout at

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

And what better day to post that HELLSHOCK/BLACK MASS/THE DA VINCI CURSE is now renamed DEAD KNIGHT, with a slightly different trailer online, though fans of my writing can still see me get machine-gunned in the face.

And now a word from the Midwestern Anti-Defamation League: in last week's episode of STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP, we saw a character getting a visit from his parents, all the way from Columbus, Ohio. Although Columbus is a thriving metropolis with over a million residents, includes Big Ten Ohio State, and is the state capital, this character's parents are portrayed as squinty-eyed rubes--so much so that the dad still has a record player, and has apparently never heard of Abbot and Costello's legendary "Who's On First?" routine. I mean, seriously. Even funnier, the parents can't spend the night with the son in what is probably a pretty nice mansion, but have to "get on the road" back to Ohio after the show's conclusion at what is probably one in the morning. One is to presume that they are anticipating rolling into Columbus by five or six a.m., instead of five or six days later.

Ah, wilderness. Give me a holler at

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bad Eggs Pg. 21

Note Tilda's new hairstyle, after the "ski cap" comment by my daughter. One of my favorite pages, for some reason.

Bad Eggs Pg. 22

Follow The Volunteers in their self-titled spin-off comic, available whenever I get one done.

Bad Eggs Pg. 23

As the hour grew late during my 24 hour run, I strayed to the philosophical.

Bad Eggs Pg. 24

Thanks for reading my 24 Hour Comic "Bad Eggs!" We will now return to regular programming.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bad Eggs, Pg. 19

Many true baseball fans will enjoy this sentiment.

Bad Eggs Pg. 20

First appearance of Lumberjack and Splinter, later seen in my "Volunteers" comic. Next time: the startling, somewhat anticlimactic denouement!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bad Eggs Pg. 13

Sort of my tribute to "Mean Streets," with capes.

Bad Eggs Pg. 14

More domestic drama. My daughter thought Tilda's hair looked like a hat. Oh well.

Bad Eggs Pg. 15

Another continuity error brought on by fatigue. "Evil Eagle" was supposed to be one character, but I drew him flying and also getting zapped by Visor. So now I guess it's one of those things like what happens to Iron Man where somebody steals the plans for the armor and builds a bunch of suits. Hey, it works for Marvel.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bad Eggs Pg. 10

Passing resemblance to Avengers line-up noted.

Bad Eggs Pg. 11

Astute readers of "The Vow," my serialized comic also online for your relative viewing pleasure, will note a seeming continuity error here. It is called "being tired," but I have come up with a better explanation, if anyone notices and comments in the comments section.

Bad Eggs Pg. 12

Terry, aka "Lickety Split," was named for the vaguely criminal boyfriend of an ex-girlfriend.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bad Eggs Pg. 6

"Lickety Split" first appeared in my serialized comic experiment "The Vow," done at about this same time and distributed to a few unfortunates via the local comic shops. For further punishment, you can read "The Vow" on my blog also, starting here.

Bad Eggs Pg. 7

To see what happened at 24 Hour Comics Day 2005, start here.

Bad Eggs Pg. 8

"Lickety Split" is currently appearing as a foe in my semi-regular 'zine "Volunteers."

Bad Eggs Pg. 9

The first appearance of The Victors, an Avengers-style supergroup whose names I all got from a random superhero name generator on-line.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bad Eggs Cover

I missed 24 Hour Comics Day this year because of the event's move to October, alas. But in honor of this great annual event, this week I will be posting my first 24 Hour Comic, BAD EGGS, 24 pages in 24 hours done in honor of my 35th birthday way back in 2001.

Bad Eggs Pg. 1

I actually drew the first two pages last and man, was my hand tired. Not that you can see any marked loss in artistic ability, natch.

Bad Eggs Pg. 2

The last page I drew in the 24 hours. I love to rock that 70s JLA old school flava.

Bad Eggs, Pg. 3

The actual first page I drew. Note that I was starting with more of a relationship drama. It didn't take long to devolve. I'm pretty sure "George" is named for George Taylor in "Planet of the Apes" and "Tilda" from Tilda Swinton in "The Beach," both of which I watched, flipping back and forth, while I was drawing these pages.

Bad Eggs, Pg. 4

I said it didn't take long to devolve!

Bad Eggs, Pg. 5

Optical Sloth published a review of BAD EGGS on their site--check it out:

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Thanks to all whose kind words and emails reminded me that Black Goliath might not really stay dead for long. Longtime fanboys used to say that all you can count on was that Bucky and Jason Todd would both stay dead, and look what's happened there.

But then I read JLA #1 and my faith in the world was restored. The first storyline is about Red Tornado? 'Nuff said.

I'm rebooting my blog and should have everything up and running again soon.

I think I've glimpsed a little of everything playing in the new fall season and I believe the only new shows I'm going to watch are "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" and "The Nine." I didn't want to get hooked on another complicated serial but "The Nine" started right after "Lost" and got me pulled in. I like the storytelling so far but we'll see how long it lasts. "Studio 60" is one of those fantasy shows where everyone is hipper and sharper than you and the stakes are always high. However, unlike "West Wing," the stakes are not the world but a late-night comedy show. As I am wont to say at my day job once in a while, it's only television. But I like it for the same reason I like Robert Ludlum-sized spy books; nobody has to eat TV dinners or go to the bathroom or get bored and just flip through a magazine. People dole out withering cracks all the time even though in most offices, like my own, you can't even joke about the Colts.

I have heard "Kidnapped" and "Heroes" are both good but I don't have time in my life for anything new. I should dump "ER" but it's like a friend I've had for years I've drifted away from but still remember fondly. I catch the Law and Order and CSI franchises when I can, and if I'm sleepy Sunday nights give up and watch "Cold Case" and "Without a Trace." "Earl" and "The Office" are both still firing on all cylinders. Waiting for "24." I like "48 Hours Mystery" but the answer always is "the husband." If there's anything else I'm watching regularly right now, I don't recall it.

"Lost" is crackin' good again but most of what I love I Netflix from HBO.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

In Mourning

Not felt like posting much since I found out that one of my favorite characters, Black Goliath, got killed by, of all people, a clone of Thor during Marvel's lame "Civil War." Now that's some weak-ass bullshit right there. Retcon, please.

Some books I found in a 25-cent booksale: Mirgorod by Nilolai Gogol, The Rebel by Albert Camus, An Ice Cream War by William Boyd, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, Starlight by Alfred Bester, Meet Me in the Green Glen by Robert Penn Warren, and Bystander by Maxim Gorki.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Keanu, Indeed!

I got this email from my pal Shogo, the D.P. for SEX MACHINE, about THE DA VINCI CURSE/BLACK MASS, a different movie I worked on just after S.M. now making its way through Japan:

it is actually called de vinci war in japan. i accidentally run into it in rental store. i thought this is another bull crap that tries to ride on de vince wave and when i picked it up to take a look closer, i saw your name written in japanese and went keanu (wow!) in the store. you know the funny thing is, of course anything with the title de vinci is very popular in japan and the rental store i went had more copies of de vinci war than Red Eye, Two For the Money or Jet Li's Fearless.

Domo Arigato, b-lovers of Japan!

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Saturday, September 30, 2006


The lunatics over at the Polonia Brothers Fan Club have declared their birthday an official holiday. I believe the Brothers celebrated by hanging out on a beach with Misty Mundae. More info here: Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Interplanetary Adventures of Jeff and Amos

From 1976: Awash in sci-fi in books, TV, and movies, the artist launched a long-running futuristic opus starring purple-clad spacefarer Jeff and his jittery robot partner Amos. By issue #2, we see at the open that a lot of crap has already happened. Posted by Picasa

Blue Moon

In another episode, Jeff and Amos have the misfortune of crash-landing on Earth apparently during a roadshow version of "Grease." Posted by Picasa

Midnight Express/Starlight Express

Another needlessly exposition-laden issue find Jeff and Amos in a space prison, hoping to escape before 60,000,000 crix go by. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 18, 2006

Book Beat

My latest "Book Beat" column from Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence, the magazine of the Magna Cum Murder Mystery Conference:

THE CLOSERS by Michael Connelly
In my opinion, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch has had one of the more complex story arcs of series characters in modern mystery fiction, and Connelly has written a consistently engaging series. In this entry, Bosch rejoins the L.A. police force after a short stint as a private investigator, coming back to the Cold Case unit. The first case appears to be a slam dunk after a DNA match surfaces many years after the murder. But, naturally, nothing comes easy to Bosch and he is right back hip-deep in possible police corruption as well as a murder that shattered a family. Another compelling story in this admirable series.

THE ICE SOLDIER by Paul Watkins
A traumatized World War II veteran has settled down to life as a schoolteacher, eager to forget a mountain-climbing mission in the war that ended in tragedy; but a chain of circumstances sends our reluctant hero back to the mountain that almost ended his life years before. Watkins’ latest is a blend of high adventure and World War II action, written in a crisp, self-deprecating style. Fans of Len Deighton and Jack Higgins should seek out Watkins’ diverse body of work.

Ed Gorman writes solidly in both the mystery and western genres, and this one is a slice of both; a town marshal in an increasingly tame West tries to keep out from under the thumb of the most powerful man in town, but when the man’s son breaks the law the two men go head-to-head. Drawn into the maelstrom is the marshal’s wife, who as it turns out has an ex-husband who inconveniently finds himself dead in a local hotel. A nicely-paced mystery with western overtones will satisfy fans of both genres.

Irish writer Ken Bruen presents one of the most tarnished antiheroes in noirdom with Jack Taylor, a disgraced cop and reluctant investigator who walks a fine line between disaster and salvation as he solves crimes. In the latest in the series, Taylor kicks his various addictions largely because his drug dealer has gone to jail. When the dealer convinces Taylor to look into a suspicious “accidental” death of a young woman, Taylor tears the lid off of a lot of issues he probably wished he’d never been involved with. Downbeat, but written with a sardonic sense of humor and a deft sense of Irish culture and custom.

From the entirely excellent Hard Case Crime series comes this lost classic from the writer of the long-running 87th Precinct police procedurals. Matt Cordell is for all intents and purposes a bum, but in a previous life had been a private eye; so when a sympathy case of finding some lightly embezzled money turns into full-throttle murder, Cordell has to set aside the bottle for a while and make things right again. Tough-talking and hard-boiled, more so than the usual from Ed McBain. One wonders if Lawrence Block, with his alcoholic private eye Matt Scudder, had a dog-eared copy of this one under his pillow.

GRIFTER’S GAME by Lawrence Block
And speaking of Lawrence Block, he also appears in the Hard Case Crime series with this poisonous tale of a genial scam artist who falls head over heels for a woman who, as noir conventions dictate, nudges him over the edge into the murder of an in-the-way husband. When the husband turns out to be a big-time drug dealer, the train starts to go off the tracks. A surprisingly bleak finale—even for a noir story—caps this nicely-done entry in the Hard Case Crime series.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

More Wooden Dialogue

So the Polonia Brothers go off and make a movie with Leslie Culton in a hot tub and then one with Misty Mundae on the beach and I don't get invited, but they make one with Jon McBride dressed up like a creepy priest and I'm right there. Such is the sad life of the b-movie screenwriter. Despite these letdowns I am rejoining the Bros on a new horror feature, SPLINTERHEAD, about a ventriloquist dummy inhabited by the spirit of a soul unjustly accused of witchcraft back in the day who tries to get revenge on the village that did him in (thank you, muse, for the trip to Salem this summer). The next generation of Polonia Brothers, Mark's son Anthony, plays the lead in this more PG-flavored outing, soon underway in America's b-movie backlot, Wellsboro Pennsylvania.

More new projects in the hopper; until then, give me a shout at

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Battle Royale: 1977

Not that anybody asked, but I found some more of my old drawings; this one, the artist rendered on lined paper, with no. 2 pencil and crayons as his tools. And probably should have been doing his homework. (1977) Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Telephone Line

I have been away working up some new projects, not including the dream I had where I was directing the Polonia Brothers playing gangsters in a noir film called Double Knuckle Homicide which I know sounds like a manga but again, this was a dream. Not that I dream about the Polonia Brothers all that much or anything. But wouldn't that be a cool movie?

To answer a few letters I have received in the ol' blog mailbag during the time that I was writing about Microcinema Fest: JK, I actually have heard of a number of westerns with undead themes; DG, if you're still looking for recommendations I have really found "Ex Machina" pretty damn cool lately; DS, yes, I will be writing longer reviews of stuff from the Fest, and a couple of the reviews are already up right here; and JS, thanks for the wise words, back at ya.

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

The End of MySpace

A couple of people have asked if my disappearance from MySpace is because of my new outlook on life post-turning 40. I have to say it was percolating before that. At one time it seemed to be a good networking place for my far-flung b-movie people, before the teenagers glommed on to it; now, I'm not so sure.

My wariness started when my daughter's high school friends found me on there. As has previously been documented in this humble blog, my rumored status as a porn king has been circulating around the high school for a while--and having a MySpace page with friends called Assmonkey and Frenchkitty and SexMachine had my protests falling on deaf ears.

Thus came the swell of Friends requests from my daughter's potential suitors. I had to reject them all, because there has to be a wall built between my daughter and the sordid world of bigfoot monsters, pirahna, and metrosexual frankensteins. I think working on a movie called Sex Machine tipped me over the edge. I was at one of my daughter's sports events and some of her guy friends were yelling out, "Hey, Sex Machine!" My heart almost stopped. I cannot have high school boys yelling out "Sex Machine!" to me in a crowded place.

Thus came down the MySpace page.

A better story circulating now, based on cold fact, is that I told several parents that if a boy wanted to take my daughter out they would have to first come and beat me in the board game Axis and Allies, much as the target-shooting contest in The Odyssey sorted out the suitors during those days of old. No takers yet, but I told my daughter to watch who is practicing in the lunchroom.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Four Decades...

So I went to the weight loss boot camp and actually gained weight, a hornet stung me on the elbow and it swelled up, my computer has been slowly wheezing and dying and my brakes went out, and the dash went dead in my daughter's car, and speaking of her I went to watch her cross-country meet last evening and she went into the trees destined to finish strong and after a long while came out being carried by her coach, having slipped and severely twisted her ankle, and I woke up this morning and damn but I'm forty years old.

I drove to work and just surfed the radio channels. Bob and Tom are still on and sound the same as they did when I was a kid, how old are those dudes now? They came to a big outdoor frat party at Ball State years ago when I was either still in high school or maybe first in college and too young to do more than sort of peek around the place and they were more or less starting out after camping on an outdoor billboard to get the morning FM radio job and I was just starting out learning my job by shooting Super-8 and by learning how to type instead of write longhand. I hear Loverboy and I think about my brother and I taking long summer trips in the back of my dad's Econoline van and playing that tape over and over on our little cassette player. I hear The Police and I remember my high school sweetheart giving me "Synchronicity" for my record player. It was the first album somebody gave me. A friend named Todd had given me "King Tut" on 45 because he had two copies. At home I played that and my mom's 45s like "Come and Go With Me." Later I bought for myself "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Jimi Hendryx Smash Hits" from a rummage sale across the street. My first 8 track was "Styx Crystal Ball" but I played "Wings Greatest Hits" and The Fifth Dimension and Carole King's "Tapestry" until they wore out. "Boys of Summer" plays and I remember when I met my wife on a blind date. I was wearing a Western-style shirt with bone buttons and the army coat from the Vietnam vet next door. Within ten months we were married. "Thunder Island," of all things, plays and I remember a skinny girl with straight blond hair I used to have a crush on that lived around the corner growing up. Then played "You Sexy Thing" and I remembered being a kid and going to a dance at the elementary school where my dad taught and hearing this song and "Black Betty" back to back, and thinking I was at the coolest party ever. A lot of memories crowd in so I finally pop in Michael Buble to chill out. Michael Buble! The balder, fatter me looks down that long dusty hallway to the shaggy-haired, skinnier me in that Who t-shirt and shrugs. Time marches on.

On my 34th birthday I decided I would spend one year trying to break into freelancing. It was also the year 2000, kind of an apocalyptic vibe. So that year I did okay and decided I would try one more year. And every year I stop on my birthday and evaluate if I am going to keep on. I know that sounds arbitrary but it works for me. Now six years have gone by and I have a lot to think about this year. I think I have worked on around fifteen projects in the last six years. Five or six now can be seen on festival screens or at the video stores or on cable TV. Not a bad batting average, all told. Some personal setbacks as well as a positive job change over the last twelve months caused me to be in somewhat of a self-imposed exile at times from freelancing in 2005. Despite that SEX MACHINE and THE DA VINCI CURSE came out this last year and have done pretty well, and I'm proud of my parts in both. Since Microcinema Fest I have had a bit of a recharge, and suddenly have some new projects on the horizon which are very promising and will hopefully be revealed here in the near future. I still have some thinking about where I have been and where I am going that might take longer than just this one day; but I will keep on cooking and see what happens. As I tell my daughter during basketball season, you miss all of the shots you don't take.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tombstone Head and Graveyard Mind

Me chilling out in an old, old graveyard in Salem, Massachusetts. Directly behind me is the memorial for those killed in the Witch Trials. Not fun at night. Believe me, I came back and regretted it. The next time somebody wants to interview me for a b-movie mag I'm sending them this photo of me. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Microcinema Fest 2006: Saturday Screenings

Saturday afternoon rang in with the first of Canadian director Carey Lewis' shorts, THE SPLIT. Lewis bowled the crowd over with last year's Best of Fest STREETS OF WONDERLAND, a powerful drama about junkies at Niagara Falls preying on tourists, and one addict's struggle to break free. THE SPLIT was, surprisingly, a jokey, edgy crime short about two thick-headed low-grade crooks set up to take a fall. Equally surprising was the more loose approach taken to the production, a little rougher around the edges than STREETS. But quite funny throughout, with a running gag built around a trip to the bathroom a highlight.

Next was EL REPORTE from Puerto Rico and director David Saldana. I think some of the Fest's younger hipsters did not connect with this easygoing if a shade overlong tale of a young business exec's sidetrack-filled trip across the island for a business meeting, and the lessons about cherishing life that he learns along the way. But this story warmed my aging heart, and I could overlook some soft editing and a few gaps in production value. Engaging performances also helped. Nice to see more micro from the non-English-speaking world.

Bill Kersey's PERMIAN FLOW screened 'barnside' last year, and it was generally agreed should have been in the Fest. Kersey makes thoughtful short nonfiction works with nice shooting and editing, and this was a solid addition to his body of work.

PAPER DUE, from director Daniel Vendt, was really designed to be a showcase for his interest in musical composition, and succeeded on that front; but otherwise was just a clever little sketch about a college kid who forgets to bring a paper to class.

The afternoon closed out with TRANSFORMERS, another funny outing from director Carey Lewis about the same pair of knuckle-headed crooks and their attempt to blackmail a rich guy, with surprising results. A little funnier and sharper-looking than the first short about these characters, and worth seeing more of.

After dinner, the Dastoli Brothers returned with one of their more lo-fi productions, a gangster adaptation of a Shakespeare classic called GANGSTER MOVIE. It's nice to see the brothers showing some skills on the acting/scripting side as well.

Ryan Graham took on the zombie genre next with LIVELIHOOD, about a different kind of zombie plague; where the zombies simply try to return to normal society, and face a variety of problems and prejudices. A wide-ranging social satire with a steady stream of laughs, though carries on just a shade too long. This one features another performance from Scott Graham, the director's brother and--as I said in my OCULUS review--an actor I think is a rising talent in microcinema.

THE FATHER, UNBLINKING by Ziggy Attias was a very beautifully shot, though I felt a bit emotionally distant, short about a taciturn farmer who finds his young daughter has died rather suddenly.

THE UNITED STATES OF NOOO! was a very loose-limbed, tongue-in-cheek documentary from Jay Bauman and Mike Stoklasa, riffing on that ill-fated pop culture moment in the new "Star Wars" trilogy when Darth Vader is born. Stoklasa narrates the proceedings in a likeably easygoing, self-referential way. At times there seems to be a bit of mock in this doc, but an older Russian woman who slowly edges away from Stoklasa when he imitates the birth of Vader is too priceless not to be real. I think personally that this short got the biggest laughs of the Fest.

The Fest closed with Christopher Sharpe's SEX MACHINE, of which much has been written about on this blog. Rather than offering my slanted review, I will quote from the Q&A afterward, with me taking questions from the crowd. A guy in the back raises his hand:

Q: How much was the movie made for?

A: I think about $8,000.

(Murmur of surprise)

A: And they paid me $6,000 of that, so--

(Ripple of laughter)

Q: So they actually made it for $2,000?

(Crickets chirping)

A: No, that was a joke, but see me after, you and I could work together!

And that was the end of Microcinema Fest 2006! Until next time, give me a shout at

Saturday, August 26, 2006

MIcrocinema Fest 2006: Friday, Part II

Back from dinner, and on to the short that landed several prizes in Palatine including Best of Fest: OCULUS, which I reviewed some time ago at Microcinema Scene right here. I was standing backstage shivering and one of the guys asked if I was cold. I answered, "No, this thing STILL scares the shit out of me!" Go read the review.

Next was a new one from the Dastoli Brothers, a pair of technical wizards who have been regulars in the Fest since their high school days just a few short years ago. SOUTHWESTERN ORANGE COUNTY VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS was another loony FX-laden eye candy short, and though it was visually astounding not as cohesive as some of their other work. Still, much respect for what these young auteurs have done over their brief careers.

Then camed the much talked-about DESPERATION, from director Jon Clark. This pegged a number of awards at the fest, though it made everyone's skin crawl. A young woman is trapped in a car wreck with her leg pinned, and is misfortunate enough to be found by two budding serial killers out for an evening of fun. Heavy sledding at times, but nice work from the three leads, and crisp storytelling work from Clark, kept everyone in their seats.

Next was a one-joke horror short called AND THEN THERE WERE NONE that was cleverly executed over its short four-minute running time, a palate cleanser after DESPERATION.

Back came the intensity with Sean Gormley's BLACKOUT, about a drug-fueled psychologist whose excesses become his undoing. This one picked up best photography for S. Tyler Wilson, an extremely talented young auteur whose directorial work--including ABOMINATION and TOMORROW'S LULLABY, two of my favorite micro shorts--has nabbed many kudos in the last two Fests.

Wrapping up the evening was STUMP THE BAND, a tongue-in-cheek b-movie about an all-girl punk group who run afoul of a bunch of backwoods crazies, including a guy called "Coach" who collects human feet. Pretty much hits all the genre beats from skinny-dipping to spatter to a monstrous man-child who, curiously, acts like a dog. Director Bill Holmes packed the seats with an appreciative local crowd to send this night home.

Next time, even more reviews; 'til then, give me a shout at

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Microcinema Fest 2006: Friday Screenings

I MC'd this day at the Fest, and it was a good day to be introducing work, though some of them I had to watch backwards through the rear projection.

First up was LIVE ON TAPE DELAY, a sketch comedy show that played "barnside" last year and was about the funniest thing in the entire Fest, including things that were actually being shown. This year this wild show got its proper respect as part of the proceedings.

Next, Rewind veteran Jason Santo was given his due with a half-hour slot to play what he wanted, which he used to show the raunchy comedy APHRODISIAC. Santo is more well-known for his heavy drama, and I think though the raw humor sat a bit uneasily on his shoulders there was fun to be had throughout.

Then Palatine's own Marc Muszynski showed TOUGH LOVE, a noirish spy thriller that was stylishly done, but somewhat hindered by the fact that the two leads, both veteran spies and assassins, did not look old enough to order martinis (shaken, not stirred). Unfortunately this is a common problem to microcinema and rears its head again here, despite good production values.

MY IMAGINARY FRIEND LARS STEVENS from director Brian Amyot (who brought us DOUBLE DIP) was another caustic, oddball short about a guy with an imaginary friend who might not be so imaginary after all.

My pal Gary Lumpp screened THE ROAD TO next, a brief noir short with a lot of twists and turns packed into five minutes. Although not as polished as some entries, the storytelling caught the audience's attention.

Director BRIAN MCQUERY was up next with VACANT, a hard-nosed cop drama told in an energetic fashion. Interesting for its nonlinear storytelling, but the storyline felt as if it needed to expand past its roughly twenty-minute running time. We will see if McQuery grows this into a feature; it would be worth seeing.

After a break, we saw PAT GETS A CAT from director Adam Bertocci, about a lonely guy who adopts a cat, and begins imagining that it is a young woman. Some found it to be sweet, others a bit kinky, depending on one's mindset. A lot of talk about the subtext of this one at dinner later.

From New Zealand came FUTILE ATTRACTION, a winning comedy about two mismatched singles who are forced together on a reality show. A bit overlong, and hammers the same points a few times, but really nice performances from the whole cast made it enjoyable.

All that before dinner! Next time, the scariest movie I've seen in a long time. 'til then, give me a shout at

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Microcinema Fest 2006: Thursday Screenings

Here are my from-the-hip reviews of the Opening Night of Microcinema Fest 2006. Some of these will probably turn into full-length reviews on Microcinema Scene at some point.

The Fest kicked off with Matt Meindl's GO BAREFOOT. I think last year everybody realized that this University of Toledo filmmaker was a unique talent, so it was good to see him in the pole position at this screening. This one is another story that embraces childhood indulgences and pairs it with sophisticated storytelling. I hope he sold every DVD he had with him, his stuff needs to get out there.

Next was the rawboned comedy THE B-TEAM from the usual gang of suspects at the University of Illinois Carbondale, which seems to have a good thing going there in the media department. Like some past work from this school, it was a "throw every joke out there and see what sticks" parody, this time of "The A-Team." Some hits and misses, and loses points for naming the villian "Dalton" instead of the hero, but really nice production values and superior FX with enough laughs to carry the day.

Kaleo Quenzer's AD MAN was essentially a goofy monologue about a hapless soul who wants to go into advertising but really has no concept of how to do it. Essentially a one-joke premise, and your enjoyment of the performance and the story's central conceit will determine your mileage on this one. I enjoyed it.

Fest coordinator Steve Coulter screened FATE TWISTED SIMPLY, which I saw a preview of last year. Considering that Steve is (I believe) just a senior at the University of Iowa this is a surprisingly resonant tale of father/son relationships, with a nicely understated performance by Steve's own dad in the lead. Some of the production values were a bit more raggedy than much of the other work from this group of Palatine filmmakers, but FATE features one of my favorite scenes in all of microcinema: a crisply-edited, joyously-performed dance sequence that springs up out of a chatty party scene.

After intermission we came back to Shogo's EXILE, his third short in as many years at MCF. Shogo DP'd a project I worked on screening later in the fest, SEX MACHINE, so I'm a little biased here, but even before "SM" was a reality I admired his deadeye shooting. Although the storytelling wasn't as strong as in last year's CLOUD SYMPHONY, his videography is as good as it gets, in my opinion.

People were rolling on the floor during DOUBLE DIP: OR HOW FOUR DISCS OF PEARL HARBOR RUINED MY LIFE, a raw, raunchy short about a dude whose life falls apart when he gets hooked on the Special Edition of "Pearl Harbor." Great ideas and performances made this one of my favorite comedies in the Fest.

The night ended with the crime drama JIGSAW by Scott Staven, a thematically complex, nonlinear story with some strong performances. The story seems to be going every which way until the end, when it ties up more tightly than you might have imagined. It is a moody thriller that demands your attention, and a lot of its details were discussed (or explained) after its screening. This is one I would like to watch again to see how it all hangs together.

And that was Thursday. Next time, more micro.

Until then, give me a shout at

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Microcinema Fest: Wednesday and Thursday

My brother Eric and I rolled into Palatine late Wednesday in time to catch the traditional "barnside" screenings held during Microcinema Fest. Once this was held on the side of an actual barn on the Linn Brothers ranch in the wilds of South Dakota. Now it is set up on a nice screen in Mike Noens' roomy backyard. Filmmakers can screen things that are works in progress or otherwise not in the festival, or submissions that didn't make it are nabbed out of the big cardboard box and shown to the multitudes.

For the first time I showed two things--one, the promotional short film I worked on last year, "Postcards from Farmland," and the second "B-movie Man," the sardonic documentary short about my b-movie career cooked up by a couple of students at Ball State University, my alma mater. Both played nicely enough. We saw a nice mix of work before the rains came and cut things a bit short. Interestingly, two shorts screened barnside last year--"Live on Tape Delay" and "Permian Flow"--were both in the Fest this year.

That night we continued another more personal tradition--Game Night. This time filmmaker Jon Solita brought the board game "Puerto Rico," which he, Jay Neander, my brother, and I played late into the night. Jon would be crowned King of Puerto Rico, and all retired with visions of flickering screens dancing in our heads.

The next day dawned with more traditions; the Filmmmakers Breakfast, workshops, and then Laser Quest.

I did not get there in time Wednesday for the Roundtable, but on Thursday Jon Solita and Jay Neander led a well-informed HD workshop. I had just gotten into shooting HD before I left my last job and still had a lot to learn myself. I think some of the older guys realized that the tech was starting to move more rapidly, and equalizing the playing field quite a bit. In fact I saw a marked improvement in production value at this year's Fest than I had seen in previous ones.

After the workshop it was back to LQ. Wally Fong, a former Laser Quest employee who deals death with every flick of his blood-thirsty gun, had the misfortune of being born in the peaceable kingdom of Canada; but once a year, he joins his saber-rattling North American friends to the South and gets out a whole year of agression.

Much blood was spilled, but we all arrived more or less intact for the Fest kickoff. Next time: my capsule reviews of the films at the Fest.

Until then, give me a shout at

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Day Which Will Live In Infamy

I had dreamed about Billy's Pancake House since last year, but for some it turned into waking nightmare. Last year my bet that nobody could finish a Meat Skillet left many broken men in its wake (including myself). But upping the ante to a pitcher of beer led Jason Santo to be the first person in Palatine's recorded history to finish one. Note Jeff from Cutting Hall looking on in shock and awe as Jason asks for some of his wife's pancakes. The greatness of this accomplishment was only slightly tarnished when Jason revealed later that he used his ulcer to access additional space in his body cavity. Posted by Picasa

More Coffee, Please

Another shot of the Filmmaker's Breakfast on this historic morning. Later filmmaker Brian McQuery would also down one, leaving some to speculate as to whether the plutonium-heavy contents of said Skillet had changed in the last twelve months. And with the signs of apocalypse upon us, I retired this bet for well and true, as two honorable, strong-hearted Americans passed into Palatine history. Quoth Jason later, "I did it first, bitch." Posted by Picasa

Three Micro-teers

Now this was a long time coming. The three original writers for Microcinema Scene, Jason Santo, me, and Gary M. Lumpp, had never been in a room together, despite working on the site for the last three years. Perhaps there was a good reason after all. That sweat is because I came right from a LaserQuest whipping to the Opening Night. I coulda used some Right Guard. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Your Micro-Fu is Strong...

Return of the Five Deadly Venoms! I first met up with these hard-drinking, hard-shooting fest-goers three years ago in Rapid City; and they have only gotten better at both since. Me, Jon, Wally, Jeremy, Jay. Posted by Picasa

The Eighth Deadly Venom

Way at the end is Jon Clark, who followed Miguel Coyula and S. Tyler Wilson as honorary inductees into the Five Deadly Venoms, with his friendly Fest demeanor and his representin' skills on the screen. It didn't hurt that he also bought us some beer. However, I would never turn my back on this dude, as pictured by the other Venoms here, because his feature "Desperation"--about a woman trapped in a car being tormented by two teens--gave me the stone creeps. Posted by Picasa


Matt Meindl has a wholly unique filmmaking vision and has been earning much respect in the micro scene. Here he proves a renaissance man by playing his banjo outside of Cutting Hall. Posted by Picasa