Sunday, February 28, 2010

An Adventure in Disappointment!

      This Saturday, I had the chance to go a VERY special book signing! On Saturday, February 27, @ 3pm: OZZY (****ING!) OSBOURNE!!!! came to sign his new autobiography "I Am Ozzy" at the Barnes & Noble in Dallas, TX at Lincoln Park. I have been a huge Ozzy fan for years and to finally meet him face-to-face and get his autograph would be a dream come true! I had no idea how the whole day was going to play out and to think I should have called the store the night before to find the details BUT I didn't! I had planned on getting there early and when I say early for someone on a usual Saturday doesn't get up until at least noon, well you get the idea.
 After close to an hour of driving I arrived at the store @ 10am. I expected absolute chaos with a massive line of hundreds around the block! But, to my amazement, there was nobody!?!? I walked up to the front doors where there was a small table with 2 employees sitting there. With my book in one hand and a fold-able chair in the other I was prepared for a lengthy wait. However, the employees informed me that many people had already arrived about 7:30 that morning! At first I was confused but then discovered that in order to attend the signing you had to first buy the book and then show your receipt to the people at the table in which you would receive an armband marked with a letter in the order you arrived. I had the bought the book on the day it was released at my own local store and thankfully still had the receipt inside as I had been using it as a bookmark. I got my armband (Letter "S") and was ready to wait. The particulars of the signing seemed to me very strict. They were handed on a lime green bookmark. They were as follows: (with commentary)
 - "To ensure every one's safety, please be aware of the following rules.
 - Failure to comply with these rules may result in removal from the event" (Wow!)
 - The signing is on the 2nd floor
 - The 2nd floor will be closed by security and closed off at 12:00 PM (Damn!)
 - Your wristband is labeled with a Letter (Ok, I've figured out that much...)|
 - 50 people are in each Letter Group (Yikes!)
 - All Letter Groups will be asked to line up outside the store (At least it wasn't too cold.)
 - Please do not line up prior to your Letter Group being called (Oh, man!)
 - Each Letter Group will be led by event staff into the store to the escalator to be allowed upstairs (Achtung! Schnell, Schnell!)
 - This is a Book signing ONLY- Please don not ask Ozzy to sign memorabilia or body parts (That one's my favorite!)
 - Please do not stand on bookshelves or sit on tables (I have a funny story about that very thing, save it for later, lol!)
 - Due to time constraints, no personalization will be allowed (crap!)
     Then they said to not come back until after 3pm! So now I had 5 hours to kill! Thankfully there is a really nice mall (Northpark Mall) across the street so, I got a matinee movie ticket to see "Cop Out" (pretty funny), got some lunch at Sonic and hung out at GameStop and bought a couple of cheap PS2 games (So I haven't upgraded to PS3 yet, so sue me!) I came back to the store around 2pm and found a circus! There was at least 1,000 people already lined up, the parking lot was FULL! Dallas cops EVERYWHERE! And there was even two vans from
97.1 The Eagle, the local rock station! Awesome! The line was only from letters A-D so I knew I had a long time to wait and the staff said Ozzy wouldn't even be there until 3:30. So I parked in a shady corner next to the UT store along with other fans set up my folding chair and waited...and waited...and waited...At least I had a book to read! LOL! (Oh and by the way, B&N closed the bathroom claiming it was "Out of Order" (Thankfully the restroom at the grocery store next door was still working!)
     Around 5pm my letter was finally called and I joined the line along with hundreds of others. The line wound around the cue for about an hour when I finally made it inside the store. The line progressed upstairs along the escalator and into another winding line through the bookshelves. After another half hour I finally reached the end of the line and could see Ozzy. He sat in the middle of the table surrounded by several B&N employees and I thought I could recognize Ozzy's tour manager behind him. The signing was very much like an assembly line. A B&N employee told me to place the book jacket onto the title page where he would sign it. As I was struggling to take a picture along with an annoying guy next to me Ozzy signed my book without even looking up and then the asshole manager rushed me along saying I was holding up the line. What a jerk! I didn't even get to speak to Ozzy or thank him! Still in shock starring at the signature (which didn't even look complete, more like "Ozzy Osb...") on my way down the escalator, exhausted and soaking with sweat. (I was still wearing my biker jacket after all.) I sat down at the Starbucks cafe downstairs got a frappachino and sat down to catch my breath and rest my feet, having just stood in line for over 2 hours. I didn't know whether to feel happy or disappointed, I did get to see him and he did sign my book for free so I guess...that's it then. See YouTube video:

Friday, February 26, 2010


     George A. Romero's films have become some of the most remade titles in horror films in the last decade. After 2004's "Dawn of the Dead", "Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006) and "Day of the Dead" (2008) it seems his zombie films won't stay dead, (or undead)! Although I am usually reluctant to accept most horror remakes. George A. Romero's "The Crazies" (1973) although one of his lesser known films and not part of his Living Dead series, does stand out in his extensive filmography. Director Breck Eisner ("Sahara" (2005) brings a new, updated vision of "The Crazies". With the theme of paranoia from government secrets still relevant in our society "The Crazies" is an intense and terrifying ride that doesn't slow down. When the small Iowa town of Ogden Marsh succumbs to a mysterious biological agent, having contaminated their water supply, the town descends into chaos as ordinary citizens become murderous psycho-paths! As Sherriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant) and his wife Judy (Radha Mitchell) discovers the cause of the mysterious illness, they try to escape from both his maniacal neighbors and the ever increasing military bent on containing the contagion by any means necessary!
    While the original "The Crazies", a pre-"Dawn of the Dead" Romero film, explored both subplots of a group of survivors as well as the military trying to contain and ultimately cure the spreading disease. The new "Crazies" explores more on the town and the ordinary citizens who try to survive but also vilifies the military who resort to simply containing the disease by killing off the whole town with no hope of a cure changes the whole theme. These two films seem oddly conflicting whereas the original was set in the early 1970's as the hippie generation and Vietnam grew out of control the original seems to show the government more helpful then the remake whereas the time we live in, a post-September 11th society would seem we have grown even more distrusting and paranoid of the government than we realize. I think it poses a fascinating question as any good horror/sci-fi story will show and reflects our own society in the fears we have. The biggest difference in the two films also comes with the disease/contagion itself in the appearance of the "infected" are much worse than in the original where those that became infected only showed mental and behavioral aberrations, the new movie shows also physical evidence as well, in an almost zombie-like appearance with rotted flesh and bloodshot eyes, much like the effects of the "Rage virus" from movies like "28 Days Later" (2002) and "28 Weeks Later" (2007).
    "The Crazies" (2010) was a surprisingly impressive and frightening experience, although will undoubtedly go unnoticed with the majority of horror films this year. On a personal note, I was given the opportunity to see an advanced screening of the movie and was glad I got the chance to see it before its initial release! On another note, it is probably one of the scariest films I have seen in a long time and not to give away any spoilers, but I will definitely think twice before going into drive-thru car washes anytime soon!

Saturday, February 13, 2010


    Of all the re-makes of classic horror and sci-fi movies in recent years, there are very few who truly capture the essence and impact that those classic movies possessed. Since I was young, I have been a huge fan of the classic Universal Monster movies of the 1930's and 40's, particularly the original "Dracula" (1931), "Frankenstein" (1931), "The Mummy" (1932) and of course "The Wolf-Man" (1941). For anyone who denies these movies impact on popular culture and film do not realize  where our fascination for monster movies came from. Very rarely has studios sought to remake these classic films and in-turn become successes, such as "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992) directed by Francis Ford Coppola and "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (1994) directed by Kenneth Branagh are among those triumphs. However, the recent "Mummy" franchise from director Stephen Sommers left much to be desired. Now, Universal has resurrected another of their greatest monsters in the tradition of the original films with the release of "The Wolf-Man (2010) directed by Joe Johnston.
    I went to this with high hopes that Universal would renew my faith in my old favorites thus dispelling their failures with "The Mummy" and others. This new incarnation the Wolf-Man delightfully draws directly from their sources in presenting a new adaptation of the Wolf-Man story which references both the original 1941 classic as well as the 1961 British Hammer film "Curse of the Werewolf". Set in 1891 England, Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro), an American raised Shakespearian actor, returns home at the bequest of his brother Ben's fiancĂ©e, Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) who explains Ben's mysterious disappearance and when Lawrence arrives, of Ben's gruesome death at the hands of an unknown creature. Upon returning to his ancestral home he is reunited with his estranged father, Sir John Talbot (Anthony Hopkins) once an adventurous world-traveling hunter, now a disheveled aging man who appears to be falling apart along with their now crumbling and cob-webbed mansion. As Lawrence tries to discover the truth behind his brother's fate he must face terrible childhood memories long repressed concerning the death of his mother. Soon he himself is attacked and bitten by the creature and is now cursed to roam on a full-moon night searching for victims as a werewolf! When prominent police inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving) arrives to solve the murders he suspects Talbot to be involved and seeks to capture him and if necessary, destroy him.
    "The Wolf-Man" marks a long-time coming return to the gothic style of the classic era of Universal Monster movies complete with its turn of the century European setting, foggy forests and graveyards, to dark, foreboding mansions and lets not forget one the most terrifying monsters to come out of the Universal pantheon, The Wolf-Man himself, reborn with amazing special make-up effects from the master himself, Rick Baker! For anyone who loved the classic monster movies as I did or wants a truly horrifying experience in true horror, "The Wolf-Man" is an impressive movie, with an amazing cast! This is the best horror film I've seen in a long time and the best remake since the 1990 versions of Universal's Monsters! I'd say it's about time, now if you'll excuse me I have to go bark at the moon...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Shen Yun in Dallas

      I consider myself a reasonably cultured person. I have seen my share of art exhibits, museums, theater, opera, musicals as well as more multi-cultural performances. On the subject of religious tolerance I am very open, I respect most religious beliefs and practices, although I am not a religious person myself I can respect the wisdom of whether it be Jesus, Buddha or Mohamed. However, when someone tries to shove their religion in my face, we have a problem.
 Tonight I went with my family to see
The Shen Yun Performing Arts Group at the Dallas Fair Park Music Hall. I love most Asian cultures, especially Japanese and Ancient Chinese, but my knowledge of current events regarding the current state of Communist China, I must admit, is somewhat lacking. The Shen Yun group is a dance group from New York who perform traditional Chinese dances and tour all over the world. Although that is, until recently...The other day I read an article before seeing the show that Hong Kong had denied their travel Visas and cancelled their performances.
 I did not think very much about this until I actually saw the show and realized that the show although featuring traditional Chinese dance does present a very religious and political message. I must commend the Shen Yun group for being bold enough to present their ideals as part of their art but I myself do have some issues in how they presented them.
 The Shen Yun group did put on an amazing performance with very talented dancers, singers and musical performances. I myself love the sound of the traditional Chinese fiddle-like instrument called the
erhu. There is a surprising amount of technical wizardry involved as there is a sophisticated theater sized video screen background featuring animated scenes of the heavens and breathtaking Chinese landscapes. There is a somewhat ulterior motive to this performance as it is a way for art to protest the oppression of the Chinese Communist Government. I had no idea just how authoritarian the Communists regime in China was, especially after Hong Kong was reclaimed from British Control in 1997 and gained sovereignty. As I do support the Shen Yun's defiance of Communist rule however their show also presents their strong religious beliefs in Falun Dafa a recent and growing, yet controversial Buddhist sect or even "cult" as some may call it.
 While most of the show presents very traditional music and dances featuring lanterns, fans and drums. A few of their vignettes during the course of the show blatantly present their religious and political views. Two of their plays were very unusual, if not disturbing. One of their pieces entitled "Nothing Can Block the Divine Path" depicts a group of Chinese citizens engaging in Falun Dafa exercises, when a group of Communist "police" arrest a young mother, separating her from her child and beats her with clubs while the child watches. When the mother is then dragged to a detention center and killed, the father and child watch as Buddhas come down from the "heavens" and take her and destroy the detention center with lightning.
 This episode depicting "divine intervention" is not the first as in a later segment titled "Astounding Conviction" depicts a solitary Chinese man standing in Tienanmen Square holding a banner which reads: "Falun Dafa is Good." Soon the police show up again and mercilessly beat and imprison him leaving him physically broken. Soon after, although he is healed and freed by a host of Buddha like figures who bestow him with superpowers and defeats the police.
 The operatic musical performances are also not without less than subtle religious and political overtones especially from soprano Haolan Gong who continuously sings the lyrics "Centuries we have waited, Millenia have we longed, Divine beings now walk among men, Creation joyously follows along."
 I went to the Shen Yun expecting the typical drums, fans and dragons but instead got more like "Buddha Christ: Superstar"! I enjoyed most of the music and dances with the more traditional Chinese mythological and Buddhism aspects but I question the use of Shen Yun to promote and publicize Falun Gong, which from what I have read is more like a Chinese version of Scientology. Do not misunderstand me, I appreciate art in all its forms and appreciate all cultures. Art is often political or religious in nature and I hope Shen Yun will continue to enlighten those who are unaware of the oppression of the Communist regime on the Chinese people. I only see fault in using it to "advertise".