Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fantasmo Episode 51: The Two Faces of Dr. Syn (AKA We Can Stop the Music)

Hey Superfans,

Hot on the heels of our landmark 50th episode Zombieocalypse, we are returning to our first Friday schedule after a long summer/fall. This year’s holiday episode is also a landmark of sorts in its own right, as we break with our longstanding tradition of screening the ultimate crowd favorite Can’t Stop the Music. It was a painful decision to actually prove that we could indeed stop the music, but we figured a break was in order for this fine feature film that has served us so well over the years. So if you feel the need to celebrate the season with Steve Guttenberg, Bruce Jenner, and the Village People, it will have to be at your own personal home edition of Fantasmo : )

Even though our beloved standard will not be shown, we have come up with something very special for this breakaway Fantasmo. In what truly is a gift to you our loyal viewers, Team Fantasmo will be showing two big screen adaptations of Russell Thorndike’s Dr. Syn character. For the uninitiated Dr. Syn is a Revolutionary War era Robin Hood type vigilante based in rural England. Unlike Robin Hood however, Dr. Syn is a truly fearsome masked avenger not unlike The Dark Knight. The film versions, Night Creatures and Dr. Syn: Alias the Scarecrow, star Peter Cushing and Patrick McGoohan respectively. While both put their own spin on the character, each conveys a sense of threat and menace as they wreak havoc on the monarchy’s elite soldiers. Perhaps what is most interesting is that the films are produced by Hammer (Night Creatures) and Disney (Dr. Syn), which has to be one of the weirdest developments in the history of cinema! As one might expect Dr. Syn is not your typical Disney film, and remains one of the biggest cult titles in their catalog.

In this groundbreaking holiday episode, you can witness both of these classic precursors to the likes of Batman in all of their widescreen glory! Here are your full Episode 51 details:

When: Friday, December 4th, 8:00 p.m.

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322

Films:

8:00 p.m.: Dr. Syn: Alias the Scarecrow

9:45 p.m.: Night Creatures

So there you have it Superfans, another great (if Village People free) holiday edition of Fantasmo! This year we’ll prove that we have the power to stop the music (much to the relief of cinema lovers everywhere : )

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review: Steven Seagal Lawman

Well I have just experienced the first episode of Steven Seagal Lawman, and have to say it lived up to all expectations (which were running pretty high). The show played it pretty straight, and presented Seagal as a solid contributor to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Dept. As he stated in the promo it was "for real." For anyone who has ever seen an episode of COPS, that is pretty much the set up for Lawman. We follow Seagal and his partner on several calls to everything from carjacking to domestic violence . . . and it is definitely real. As with the long-running Fox show it gives you an appreciation of what these brave folks endure on a regular basis. That having been said, Lawman definitely has a distinctly Seagalian flavor as one would hope. There are some trademark outrageous (yet cool) moments that distinguish this as a Steven Seagal enterprise through and through. Here are some highlights I noted:

1 - Kicking off the opening credits sequence Seagal has a voiceover giving some background on his participation with the Dept. What I love is that he says "my name is Steven Seagal . . . that's right Steven Seagal." It's just a great tough guy line and announces Lawman as a show to be reckoned with.

2 - During the opening chase to nab a carjacker Seagal has this voiceover where he explains that "as a lifelong practitioner of the martial arts," he is "trained to stay calm in the face of danger." He actually uses that "lifelong practitioner" statement several times in various contexts, and it never gets old. In any case, it's like in the middle of this chase the show goes into a Zen moment which is very cool.

3 - Still in the midst of the carjacker chase, Seagal starts yelling directions to his partner who is driving. The partner then says "Steve let me drive!" Seagal responds by saying "just telling you where the holes are." It's an interesting moment that reveals these two have a regular relationship, and that the other cops don't just bow down to Seagal because he's famous. I liked that they left this in, as it shows they aren't just sugarcoating to maintain a perfect image for Seagal.

4 - After catching the carjacker, Seagal pulls a hockey mask out of the perp's back pocket and says it "looks like Jason." Who knew Seagal was a Friday the 13th fan?!? Pure gold.

5 - Shifting from the following a patrol type format, the show has a parallel track in which Seagal is trying to help a trainee pass his firearms test. If he fails he'll be consigned to desk duty. Before we see Seagal actually training the guy on the range, he states that he's "trying to pass along secrets that have made him a master shooter." Let's just say he is more than able to back this up. Seagal demonstrates a stunning level of ability with a pistol, that is just shy of magical. He puts several bullets in the same initial hole on a target, and even is able to hit Q-tips and a match. Believe me it's pretty wild stuff. While the trainee just squeaks by with a passing score, I'm still very impressed with Seagal's ability.

6 - When the show shifts back into patrol mode, Seagal goes into more depth about the aikido philosophy as applied to the job of a policeman. He sees the patrolling of neighborhoods as their effort in "trying to take away the bad guys and restore harmony." He also emphasizes that he always tries to solve problems first with humor and kindness. This may sound corny, but it does add another layer to the show that is pure Seagal. And you have to like the guy for espousing these standards (which he displays when bouncing a drunken fellow from a local bar, then chatting and signing autographs for the folks on the scene). I just kept waiting for some version of the On Deadly Ground "essence of a man" speech to come out . . . maybe in later episodes.

7 - Perhaps the most outrageous moment of the show is what I am going to refer to as "Seagal Vision" from henceforth. Seagal gives a voiceover early on in which he states his martial arts training allows him to derive information from environmental cues. For example a cocked head on a perp might indicate that he is about to flee. After this setup there are several instances where Seagal will spot something unusual (e.g. an open door, certain movements) and the screen will zoom in and go into a sort of X-ray mode, indicating Seagal's special martial arts vision. It's almost like the Predator, but not quite as technologically advanced. No matter how you slice it, the effect is absolutely ridiculous yet completely awesome!

8 - Finally I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Seagal retains (mostly) his adopted Cajun accent for the show. There are a few times, largely during the training segment where he seems most natural, sounding more like Nico Toscani than Jacob King . . . so the Seagal we knew from the old days is still there. I suspect the accent comes from hanging around with the folks he's working with. This actually explains a lot, as it is sort of natural to fall into picking up an accent after you've spent a great deal of time in a different region of the country. Either way it still adds some serious entertainment value.

In summary, Lawman is off to a fantastic start and I can't wait to see future episodes. Pictured above is a special limited edition set you can get with the episodes "The Way of the Gun" and "The Deadly Hand," as well as some other fun goodies (including that nifty bulletproof vest . . . like he needs such a thing)! That and an online Lawman game can be found over at the A&E official site even as I write this. Truly superior!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lawman Tomorrow!

Hey Superfans!
A fantastic development to pass along! Tomorrow night (11/18) on the A&E web site at 8:00 p.m., there will be an early screening of the premiere episode of Steven Seagal's reality show Lawman (the regular series will start in early December). Those of you who have followed the blog for a while know this is the much anticipated mashup of Fox's COPS with the trademark street justice Seagal dishes out in his filmic endeavors. The preview clips thus far have been pretty surreal, especially one where a perp recognizes excitedly that he has been apprehended by Steven Seagal. Truly the show promises to be pure gold : ) I'll be back on Thursday with a review, but I highly recommend you do everything in your power to not miss what is sure to be quite an experience! All the info (including a delightful countdown clock) can be found on the official site here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Just in Time For Thanksgiving! Fantasmo Episode 50: Zombieocalypse!

We’ve been talking about this for a while now and it’s finally here – our full-blown zombie event! If there’s one thing you’ve told us over the years, it’s that you love zombies. Well that message has been heard loud and clear! Because you demanded it we are going above and beyond the norm with this one. Not only are we screening a triple-feature of zombie classics old and new, we are also going to have the latest zombie games on hand (both video games and board games). But that’s not all! We’re also holding a zombie costume contest with some great thematically relevant prizes for the best dressed. Truly if you have any interest in zombies, and we know you do, you don’t want to miss this one!

As always the fun will start at 8:00 p.m. Movies and games will run simultaneously. It will truly be unlike any other Fantasmo you’ve ever attended . . . guaranteed! Without any further ado, here are your full Episode 50 (can you believe Fantasmo is turning 50 ?!?) details:

When: Friday, November 20th

Where: Chesapeake Central Library, 298 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322

Films:

8:00 p.m.: Land of the Dead (2007)

9:45 p.m.: Fido (2006)

11:30 p.m.: [REC] (2007)

So there you have it, the beginning of what is sure to become a proud Fantasmo tradition! See you there!