Category Archives: Movies

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Today marks the 40th (!) anniversary of the release of the first “Star Wars” movie in 1977.

To celebrate, we here at About Men Radio present a round-up of some of the best blog posts we’ve had about the movie and its culture.

Enjoy! And be careful where you point that blaster!

“Star Wars” Destroyed My Childhood Bed

A “Star Wars” Fan’s Dream Comes True!

An Appreciation of Carrie Fisher

The New ‘Star Wars’ Trailer is Here And it is Glorious

“Rogue One” Was Good, But …

A Different Kind of Bucket List

When friends of a certain age get together, a bucket list – things we want to do before we die — can become the center of conversation.

There are fun and exciting things to do in far and exotic places that are probably completely out of reach due to lack of money, energy and testicular fortitude. Zip-lining through a rain forest and para-gliding over a stretch of the Gobi Desert (is that even a thing?) are waaay too intense for this geezer and most of his About Men Radio friends.

No, the bucket list I have is a lot simpler and cheaper.

I’ve written before about doing my part to expose my kids to the classics – no, not literature or art.

My classics are the movies that I have quoted many times — those great movies (at least I remember them as great) — from yesteryear.

Memorable Guy Movie Monologues

These are movies that I grew up with, some old black-and-whites as well as some from the late 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s. These are movies that are too old to be on my kids’ millennial radars.

In our house we have movie night and I would exclaim, “It’s a Dad’s pick movie night!”

And the groans would go up from my clan. My wife would groan because it may be a movie I dragged her to when we were dating that she probably (definitely) hated.

So, how was I going to expose my kids to the long list of classics I know they will enjoy, or tolerate, if they just gave it a chance?

That’s when I came up with the Bucket List. Actually it’s more of a list that is cut up into pieces and placed inside a bucket.

That’s right. I have a small bucket next to our TV that has scraps of paper in it, with the titles of many classic movies my kids have yet to see.

So, here is how this works: The bucket is filled with titles. About 85 percent of them are ones I put in there such as “The Great Escape,” “The French Connection” and “Taps.”

It’s an eclectic list of great and not-so-great flicks.

On a night that the whole group is home (my daughter is 21 and my two boys are 18 and 16, so getting them all together is challenging) I will call out, “Bucket List Night” and wait for the groans to subside.

We randomly pick a movie from the bucket. To have any chance of getting them to agree to this, I let my kids select a few of their favorite titles to include in the bucket.

One of them reaches in and pulls out a title and I read it out loud.

The most powerful one in our group — my wife — gets to employ a single veto. If she is unhappy with the selected title she can veto the choice. But the following selection MUST be watched!

The vetoed title goes back in the bucket and if it is selected again in the future, it cannot be vetoed a second time.

We have strict parliamentarian rules. After all, we are not savages.

Another rule I gave into: No horror movie titles. Arghh! That cut me hard like a mutated cornfield dweller’s machete!

Once a title survives the veto, it gets watched. And here is where my soft heart bends a little: If at 60 minutes, the movie hasn’t captivated everyone, we can terminate it. (Insert a poor imitation of Arnold here.)

We have watched a few of my favorites — along with some snark from my kids — but overall we enjoyed watching “Adventures in Babysitting,” “The Lost Boys,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Truman Show,” “The Green Mile” and “Midnight Run.”

My kids have had luck on their side as they had only a few titles in the bucket, yet they were rewarded with back-to-back selections they made.

It was my turn to groan but I endured because sooner or later they will have to watch “Rambo: First Blood,” “Spies Like Us” and “Commando” with me.

Bwahahahaha!!!!

 

“Rogue One” Was Good, But …

“Star Wars” fans have waited nearly 40 years to find out how and why there was such a fatal flaw in the first Death Star.

“Rogue One,” which debuted last month, lays out the events leading up to “Star Wars: A New Hope.” That’s the first movie that came out in 1977 labeled Episode IV.

“Rogue One” provides the story line for how the rebel alliance came to possess the detailed plans that ultimately allowed Luke Skywalker to blow up the Death Star.

As a fan of “Star Wars” from when it first premiered, I liked “Rogue One,” but I’ve got to vent about a couple of things. (For those who have not seen the movie, spoilers abound, so see it first and then come back and read this.)

* That hologram soliloquy by Jyn Erso’s dad…I know it’s there to drive the narrative forward but for heaven’s sake, the planet is crumbling around their ears and this message is droning on and on. It’s like a voice mail from a caller who does not know when to shut up.

* Can anyone tell me what Forest Whitaker’s character, Saw Gerrerra, was doing in this movie? He saves young Jyn. Hurray! And then years later he is some radical rebel even feared by other rebels? What? I was confused.

* I cannot help it but there is one scene where Gerrerra takes a deep inhalation from his oxygen mask that just so takes me back to the crazy character Otto played by Kevin Kline in “A Fish Called Wanda,” in which Kline’s character deeply sniffs his own armpit.

* The villain, Orsen Krennic, was not villainous enough. I mean, yes, he comes across as half-crazed when during a test-run of the Death Star he watches the destruction from afar and declares “It’s beautiful!” But overall he seemed more whiny than evil.

* Did Darth Vader go on a diet? The actor, Spencer Wilding, who is 6 feet 7 inches tall, somehow looked smaller in frame and about 30 pounds lighter than the original actor, David Prowse, who was 6 feet, 6 inches.

When Krennic enters Vader’s chamber and Vader starts walking toward him, I swear he sashays down the ramp. Yes, sashays. Not good. Not intimidating. What is he doing moving his hips like that?!

* Maybe my hearing is going, but I had a hard time understanding some of the dialogue because of the actors’ different accents.

* The scene where the shuttle pilot is brought before Gerrerra, and then subjected to some kind of mind meld with a slimy creature to see if he was lying was reminiscent to me of the Ceti eel scene in which one of the larvae makes its way into the ears of characters in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”

* What exactly made Capt. Casian Andor not go ahead with the assassination of Galen Erso?

* Felicity Jones was OK but I don’t think she holds a light saber to Daisy Ridley, who played Rey in last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

OK, now on the plus side:

* I thought K-2SO was great and pretty much stole the movie. Ditto Donnie Yen.

* The movie did not have many light moments but the ones it did were well-timed and genuinely funny.

* The final battle scene was glorious, particularly the strategy to ram the two star destroyers into one another. Totally bad-ass!

* Speaking of bad-ass, the climactic ending with Vader taking on the rebels was vicious and no-holds-barred in its violence.

* The movie depicted war in the most realistic way of the “Star Wars” franchises so far.

* I know there have been a number of critics who have complained about the CG return of Grand Moff Tarkin (played in the first movie by Peter Cushing, who died in 1994) and a young Princess Leia (the late Carrie Fisher).

One of my friends said the appearances took him right out of the movie. I was fine with the recreated characters. I thought they were a neat surprise that did not detract from the movie.

I have also heard some critics say that “Rogue One” was the best in the “Star Wars” franchise and was better than “The Force Awakens.”

I could not disagree more.

And to those who think that way, I can only say you are a half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerfherder.

Related:

A “Star Wars” Fan’s Dream Comes True!

We Need Your Opinon: Which “Star Wars” Movie Is the Best of the Seven?

“Star Wars” Destroyed My Childhood Bed

Memorable Guy Movie Monologues

I love movies and I am a guy.  So I really, really love guy movies.

There are a few things that are undisputed that make up a guy movie and one of them is it has to have one or a few memorable quotes.

It’s the quote that gets repeated anytime guys get together. I wrote about it at About Men Radio. But there are movies that are guy movies determined not just by a quote but rather an entire monologue.

I selected these five not as the top five best ever but simply as five great and memorable monologues.

 

Wall Street – Michael Douglas Gordon Gekko (1987)

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Ahh, the 80s. When corporate greed was acceptable, allowed and admired. The divide between the robber barons and the rest of the population was wide but accepted because the economic meltdown had yet to occur.

In this came an antihero who in his famous monologue explained why greed was good. And we all applauded.

Key quote: “The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

 

Animal House – John Belushi John Blutarsky (1978)

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Classic movie monologues don’t always have to be serious. They can also be from one of the greatest comedy movies ever made. This infamous monologue is delivered brilliantly by the late great John Belushi.

The director John Landis said Belushi had the most expressive face he had ever had the fortune of directing. Think to the laughs he generated in the cafeteria food line scene without ever speaking a word but then near the end he gives one of the most rousing comedic monologues ever delivered on the big screen.

Key quote: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

Blade Runner – Rutger Hauer Roy Batty (1982)

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What would a guy movie be without a great villain? In the great sci-fi adaptation of Phillip K. Dick “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep,” the villain of the movie, now titled “Blade Runner”— because really, electric sheep?! — delivers a monologue in the pouring rain.

As scripted, the monologue was fantastic and masterfully delivered.

But then Rutger Hauer, playing the part of the replicant Roy Batty, improvised the final line, “Like tears in the rain,” transforming a great monologue to a masterpiece!

Key quote: “All those moments will be lost in time. Like tears in the rain

Silence of the Lambs – Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lector (1991)

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And while on the topic of villains, has there ever been a larger than life one than Hannibal Lector? Watching the great Sir Anthony Hopkins perform it simply freezes my spine, and it isn’t even the famous Chianti line. It is his final farewell to Clarice. Even though there is an interaction with the film’s protagonist, the delivery of the questions can be pieced together into a single, unforgettable and bone-chilling monologue.

Key quote: “You think if Catherine lives, you won’t wake up in the dark ever again to that awful screaming of the lambs.”

Jaws – Robert Shaw Quint (1975)

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The Indianapolis speech from the blockbuster “Jaws.” Very little introduction or explanation is required of this monologue. Any true card-carrying guy can almost completely recite this one. But no one can ever deliver it with the gravitas that the late great Robert Shaw did. Reportedly Shaw did not like his first delivery of it. The following day he re-did the scene and was supposedly very drunk.

Key quote: “…and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.

 

Jason Lives! Celebrating “Friday the 13th” in Its Hometown

What does Friday the 13th mean to you?

For many people I’m sure it represents some superstitious beliefs about the number 13, bad luck and ominous happenings on this day that can possibly occur three times a year.

For many people who are fans of a certain movie genre, it is a cause to celebrate one of the most successful horror movie franchises in history, “Friday the 13th,” and all of its sequels and recent reboot.

I just attended a “Friday the 13th” showing of the original 1980 movie in the town where much of the movie was filmed.

Blairstown, N.J., is the home of the Main Street and diner where many of the beginning scenes were filmed.

The nearby infamous Camp Crystal Lake where the story takes place is actually an active Boy Scout camp Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco that occasionally during times when no camping is taking place will hold tours for the movie’s fans.

They even have a display of memorabilia from the original filming on site.

Every year, Roy’s Hall, which was also known as the Historic Blairstown Theatre, screens the original film that gave birth to this franchise.

Roy's Hall

I finally was able to go this year and it was a great fun-filled experience.

Jason was in the lobby wearing his iconic hockey mask and wielding a bloody machete — perfect for a photo op.

Jason and Rich

He didn’t utter a word but was agreeable enough to pose but stay in character.

If you check out the Blairstown News Facebook page, it chronicles Jason’s tour through town and the diner “entertaining” and giving the local folks some scares and laughs on his way to the movie screening.

My daughter and her friend joined me, as they both love to watch horror movies.

They had seen the movie on video, but I had to laugh when they both jumped during a couple of jump scares, especially when Jason comes out of the lake and grabs Alice in the canoe. (Oops! Should I have prefaced that with a “Spoiler Alert”?)

Fridaythe13th

This is so the power and delight of watching a movie in the dark on a big screen that being at home on TV can never compare to.

It was a packed house and the start of the movie was met with cheers and applause.

Each name in the opening credits was shouted out with hoots and hollers.

Every killing was met with shouts and clapping –- a real hardcore slasher movie crowd.

When the character Annie first appeared on screen, the crowd went wild, as she was walking down Main Street in Blairstown and then right by the theater that we were all sitting in.

More cheers and claps as she goes into the Blairstown Diner, where she asks for directions to the camp and gets a ride from a local truck driver and is dropped off at the Moravian Cemetery in nearby Hope, N.J.

More cheers.

It was a great time had by all. I’m looking forward to next year and hanging with Jason.

Until then: Chi chi chi ah ah ah…

Jason Mask

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Why ‘The Revenant’ Is Not Worthy of an Oscar

Maybe by now you’ve heard of this movie called “The Revenant.”

It’s gained a fair amount of notice after being nominated for 12 Oscars (including best picture, best actor and best director) and after it won three awards at the Golden Globes.

“The Revenant” – a reference to a person who has returned, especially from the dead – depicts Leonardo DiCaprio as a top-notch frontiersman leading a troupe of trappers.

They confront Indian attacks, ferocious weather and each other in a tale of survival, greed and revenge.

Think “Death Wish” meets “Dances With Wolves.”

DiCaprio’s character, after being viciously mauled in a grizzly bear attack, is left for dead by his fellow travelers, particularly one who is expertly depicted by Tom Hardy.

(Hardy, in my opinion, was the best performance of the movie and justifiably got an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.)

Given the considerable buzz about “The Revenant,” I was looking forward to being swept off my feet the way I was in watching “Spotlight” or “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Alas, what I was treated to was two-plus hours of pretty scenery, a computer-generated bear attack and a depiction of brutal living conditions in the woods.

I thought the movie was solid but just not worthy of Oscar contention.

Much has been made about how the cast, DiCaprio in particular, subjected themselves to extremes for the sake of the film: Wading into icy rivers and coping with temperatures well below zero.

Well bully for them, I say.

But the movie felt like one giant stunt after another meant to call attention to how difficult it was to shoot. For that reason, I found it rather self-indulgent.

How did what the “The Revenant” cast and crew put up with in the Canadian Rockies and in Argentina any different than the extremes the cast and crew of “Mad Max” endured in the south African desert?

Don’t misunderstand me: From a technical point of view, the natural beauty and visuals in “The Revenant” are stunning. But I could get those in a calendar. And stunning visuals do not an Oscar contender make.

My real gripe about the movie is that I was not emotionally invested in the story or DiCaprio’s character. I found myself not caring what happened to him.

I was a big fan of “The Revenant” director A.G. Iñárritu, whose “Birdman” last year was, I thought, masterful and original.

Yes, “The Revenant” had some memorable scenes, such as the well-publicized bear attack, which I had hard time believing DiCaprio’s character would truly be able to survive.

For an idea of how detached I felt from the movie consider this: The very final scene is of DiCaprio, bearded, bedraggled and bloodied. He looks right into the camera and all I could think of was how it reminded me of Michael Palin’s bearded man delivering the opening of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Bottom line: “The Revenant” struck me as the product of extraordinary movie-making simply for the sake of extraordinary movie-making.

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An Open Letter of Apology to Carrie Fisher

Dear Ms. Fisher:

I feel I owe you an apology. And while I say this speaking strictly for myself, I suspect there is a wider swath of men who might feel the way I do.

You recently came under attack by social media trolls who criticized you for — gasp! — having the temerity to look older since the last time you appeared in a “Star Wars” movie.

The shaming you were subjected to came after your appearances as General Leia Organa in “The Force Awakens.”

Some of the comments, which I read on Twitter, were vitriolic. I was stunned at how base some people were.

But then again, I should have known better: That’s because I’m guilty of contributing to this kind of mentality.

There’s a generation of us men who grew up unenlightened about women. In our childhood and adolescence, we knew Hollywood actresses only to be young and pretty.

I’m thinking here of an age of “Charlie’s Angels” or “Wonder Woman,” for example.

I suppose Hollywood has always placed a premium on youth and good looks, with the scales unfairly tilted against actresses.

My wife and I have had this discussion numerous times, with her pointing out that beyond a certain age, the opportunities for an actress shrink as her perceived value (read good looks) fades.

For a long time I argued – in a Pollyannaish way – that was not the case. I realize, of course, that is very much the reality and that guys like me have contributed to that ethos.

It is a culture that the comedian Amy Schumer so perfectly skewed in a sketch on her show that parodied “Twelve Angry Men.” The all-male jury’s deliberations focused on whether Schumer was “hot enough” to have her own show.

While the sketch was brilliantly subversive and spot-on hilarious, it also exposed an uncomfortable truth:

Terms like “objectify” are not part of the cultural vocabulary of many men when it comes to women. Instead, we use descriptions like “hot,” “cute,” “babe” or worse.

I’ve been a fan of yours since “Star Wars” came out in 1977 and, yes, as an 18-year-old when “Return of the Jedi” was released, lusted after you when you appeared in that bikini outfit.

But that’s a long time ago and it’s belatedly clear to me that women in general and particularly in Hollywood are held to a different set of standards that are linked almost exclusively to their appearances.

Your response to the social media trolls struck a nerve with me:

“Please stop debating about whether or not [I] aged well. Unfortunately it hurts all 3 of my feelings. My body hasn’t aged as well as I have. Blow us.”

Those comments were an epiphany.

I sensed a genuine hurt beneath the layer of sarcasm. Also, there’s something about the fact that I grew up with you, my admiration for your forthright public battle with mental illness and addictions and the head-on way you addressed the trolls that spoke to me.

On screen, you’ve played a princess and a general and in real life you are a mother, daughter, author and actress.

To me, though, you’re smart and brave.

Thank you for that.

Sincerely yours,

Christopher Mele

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We Need Your Opinon: Which “Star Wars” Movie Is the Best of the Seven?

The debate is on and we need your input!

All of the members of the About Men Radio posse have now seen the latest installment in the “Star Wars” franchise, “The Force Awakens,” but there are shades of disagreement about how TFA ranks compared to the previous six installments.

As you will hear in in this episode of the podcast, Pedro and I rank TFA as No. 1 among the seven episodes.

I’ve now seen it four times and I am more in love with it with each viewing.

Rich and Silvio, while deeply impressed with the new movie, rank it as No. 3 in the pecking order of all things “Star Wars” and John merely thought it was good but not mind-blowing.

How do you rank TFA?

For hardcore fans who were around in the 70s and 80s, “The Empire Strikes Back” holds a special place in the No. 1 slot.

But recently having viewed “Empire” (as well as the rest of the preceding movies), I just don’t think they hold up as well TFA.

What do you think? Share your thoughts and reasoning on our Facebook page or write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com.

We’ll publish a roundup of opinions. Who knows? Maybe you will change some minds — but no Jedi mind tricks allowed!

collection

 

Are You Ready to Take Our “The Force Awakens” Quiz?

How hardcore a “Star Wars” fan are you?

Well, if – and only IF – you have seen the newest SW Episode VII movie, “The Force Awakens,” should you take this quiz. (There are spoilers ahead…)

Let’s see if you are a Jedi master or merely a scruffy nerf heder.

For answers, scroll all the way to the bottom.

  1. Rey is the daughter of …?
  1. Who was Max Von Syndow’s character?
  1. Why did Luke Skywalker going into hiding?
  1. Finn’s parents are…?
  1. How did Kylo Ren get Darth Vader’s mask?

 

 

 

 

ANSWERS

  1. Damned if we know!
  1. You mean the Obi-Wan-wannbe? Shrug.
  1. Unpaid landspeeder tickets?
  1. Hell, we thought YOU knew the answer!
  1. We got answer “D.” What did you get?

I guess we have to wait for Episode VIII to find out the true answers! May the Force be with you!

Know “Star Wars” Think You Do? This Quiz Shall You Take!

This quiz, compiled by John O’Connell,  will test your knowledge of the “Star Wars” books, movies, cartoons and games. (For answers scroll all the way to the bottom.)

1.  Who restored balance to the Force?

2.  What was the name of Queen Amidala’s planet that she ruled?

3 . What elephant-like armored tanks were on Hoth?

4. Name the planet where Chewbacca is from.

5  He is after Ezra Bridges and Obi Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars Rebels.”

6.  Princess Leia insults Han Solo by calling him this.

7.  Anakin nicknamed Ahsoka Tano this in “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

8.  Who is the main character from the Jedi Knight series?

9.  He said, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

10.  He wasn’t dumb, he was Darth Plagueis the…?

11.  This planet gets destroyed by the Death Star.

12. From Star Wars Rebels, this is the planet that Ezra Bridger is from.

13.  Who co-wrote “The New Essential Guide to Alien Species”?

14. In “Return of the Jedi,” Lei, Han Solo, Chewbaca, C3PO and  R2D2 must take down the shield generator from this forest moon of? The inhabitants of the moon are named…?

15.  This planet is found in the outer rim near Tatooine.  There are several episodes about it in Star Wars The Clone Wars. It is the home of the Twi’leks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers

1  Anakin Skywalker
2  Naboo
3  AT-AT’s
4  Kashyyyk
5  The Inquistor
6  A Nerfherder
7  Snips
8  Kyle Katarn
9  Yoda
10 Wise
11 Alderaan
12 Lothal
13 Helen Keier
14 Ewoks
15 Ryloth

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“The Force Awakens” Is a Source of Great Comfort

I wish I could say I was blown away by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Instead I was — and this is going to sound odd — delighted with it.

You know that feeling you get putting on a favorite pair of broken-in jeans or when you look forward to a favorite cousin or uncle coming over a visit? Or maybe the sensation you get when you catch the scent of your mom’s cooking or baking?

That’s what my experience was like watching TFA in a Times Square theater in the wee hours of Friday morning with about 20 other fans.

It was that feeling of excitement and comfort to see the shimmering Lucasfilm logo appear and “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” and to hear the familiar chords of the “Star Wars” overtures we have come to know and love.

TFA did better than blow me away the way “Mad Max: Fury Road” did.

It instead stirred deep inside me the emotions and memories of a 12-year-old boy turned middle-age man.

In many, many ways, TFA represents a passage of time and of the torch (or should I say light saber?) to a new generation of actors and fans.

Seeing Harrison Ford (73!) and Carrie Fisher (59!) with their wrinkles and hearing their throaty not-so-young voices was a reminder that I am not a kid myself anymore.

But God! There was such a great joy in seeing them!

(Having just watched “Return of the Jedi” and Fisher’s infamous slave girl bikini scene, it is hard to believe it’s the same person! Carrie’s has had a hard go of it but I’m still carrying a torch for her.)

So, yeah. I cried at some parts.

And laughed out loud at others.

And jumped in my seat at yet others.

J.J. Abrams delivered the anti-prequels. TFA is, to borrow a phrase from a one-time leading “Star Wars” character: “Impressive. Most impressive.”

Without giving anything away, I must say that Harrison Ford is flawless and I think turns in his best Han Solo performance ever. And the lead actors — largely unknowns — were enthralling. The movie’s sense of humor was a wonderful, unexpected touch.

TFA is filled throughout with nods to its predecessors (prequels excluded). For “Star Wars” cognoscenti, there are ample callbacks to the first three movies that my generation grew up with.

And that is not a criticism. Abrams did not do that as cheat or a crutch. Instead he expertly renews past known relationships and builds new ones.

“The Force Awakens” is a stirring movie-going experience that harkens to familiar themes while introducing a host of new characters.

And for this 12-year-old boy in a 51-year-old man’s body, I could not ask for anything better.

“Star Wars” Destroyed My Childhood Bed

Since it debuted not quite 40 years ago, “Star Wars” has held a special place in my childhood-stunted heart.

I can remember my mother, who was not exactly what you would call an avid fan of pop culture much less science fiction, telling me that she heard of this movie that I might like to go see.

I was 12.

I had grown up watching TV shows like “Thunderbirds,” “U.F.O.” and “Lost in Space.”

For a kid of the ‘60s and ‘70s, these shows represented the best that Hollywood had to offer in the way of production values and special effects.

So when I saw a clip of “Star Wars” on the morning news in 1977, I was gobsmacked.

The blasters! The droids! The Millennium Falcon!

My mom took me to the Loews movie theater on East 86th Street in Manhattan to see it.

I was mesmerized.

As childhood milestones go, seeing “Star Wars” for the first time ranked up there with getting a G.I. Joe Mobile Support Unit when I was 8.

In other words, this was a really, really big deal.

Overnight, I became a “Star Wars” geek.

Original movie program?

Got it.

Trading cards from both Topps AND Wonder Bread?

Yeah, got those too.

And posters?

About those posters…

I had many, many posters and I was hellbent to display all of them except that I quickly ran out of wall space on my side of the room, which I shared with my two sisters. And there was no convincing my sisters to part with some of their precious wall space.

But then inspiration struck.

My bed had a headboard. It was attached to the bed frame by two wooden uprights and the headboard itself was large, white and padded.

This headboard took up valuable real estate, aka wall space. So obviously, it had to go to make way for my “Star Wars” posters.

One night – I think my parents were out – I did what any enterprising 12-year-old would do: I got out a hand saw and cut the headboard off.

Voila! More wall space! Problem solved!

Except, of course, what I did not anticipate was that the headboard was, in fact, keeping the entire bed frame together.

Without it, the mattress rested on the equivalent of two stilts.

(I “solved” this problem by taking reams of rope and tying what remained of the two uprights together to keep the bed from rattling like a scene from “The Exorcist.”)

All of this comes to mind as “The Force Awakens” – the much-anticipated seventh installment in the “Star Wars” franchise – opens this week.

I am so stoked.

I’ve already bought my tickets in advance. I’ve got my “Star Wars” tie ready to wear and I’m looking to buy movie memorabilia and merchandise.

Pretty soon the house will be overrun with all kinds of “Star Wars” goodness.

Hmmm…

You know, the bedroom set I have now has a wooden headboard.

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A Recap of “Star Wars” With a Biblical Interpretive Twist

A co-worker said that she never saw any of the movies or cartoons. This conversation gave me an idea for this blog post.

So, a recap for all of you who haven’t seen any of the movies or cartoons or have read the books or played the Star Wars video games, you may have heard a similar story before: It’s as old as the Bible, good vs. evil.

It’s a story about a boy and his family.

We are introduced to a boy named Anakin Skywalker who was born to Shmi. Like Mary of Jesus, Shmi did not know man.

We later learn that there was a Sith Lord named Darth Plagueis the Wise who could use the Force (Holy Spirit for Mary) to influence the midichlorians (DNA building blocks for Mary) to create life.

He caused the impregnation of Shmi not unlike the Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:26-38).

Qui-Gon Jinn (a Jedi Master) encountered a tremor in the Force around Anakin.

His cells had the highest count of midichlorians he ever saw in a life form.

He wondered if it were possible that he was conceived by midichlorians.

He refers to the prophecy of the one who would bring balance to the force.

Shmi asks Qui-Gon if he was there to free the slaves. Was he the Messiah or was Anakin to be the savior?

Anakin had dreams about the future and returning to his home planet of Tatooine and freeing his mother from slavery. He met Padme and years later secretly married her and she told him of her pregnancy.

Chancellor Palpatine talks with Anakin about the Sith along with their powers to heal. He tells young Anakin a story of Darth Plagueis the Wise who could resurrect the dead and heal the suffering.

Anakin was plagued by dreams of his mother’s death and that of his wife, Padme during childbirth. He thought that if he could learn this Sith power that he could save them.

Anakin becomes Palpatine’s apprentice to obtain these powers as he is tempted by the dark side of the Force, which later led him away from his wife.

Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days tempted by Satan and he did not give in.

Chancellor Palpatine was elected through a vote of “no confidence” in Chancellor Valorum’s leadership.

Later, Palpatine becomes Emperor and dissolves the Senate.

Senator Palpatine told Anakin that in his anger, he had killed his wife Padme. This news made him very angry and Palpatine smiled at his pain.

Padme gave birth to twins named Luke and Leia. The twins were separated for their own protection as heirs to Anakin would have a higher midichlorian count.

Leia was adopted by Senator Organa and his wife. Luke was sent back to Tatooine to live with his aunt, Beru and uncle, Owen Lars. Padme still sensed good in Anakin on her deathbed.

Once Anakin turned to the dark side of the force, according to Obi-Wan, he essentially died and became Darth Vader. There are always two Sith, a master and apprentice.

There were many Jedi Knights in the Old Republic as they were the guardians of peace and justice. During the Clone Wars, the Jedi were killed.

The Emperor knew that any child with a high midichlorian count could be a weapon of the Force, so they were rounded up and killed — not unlike Pharaoh killing the first born male children in Israel for fear that a messiah or king may be born.

Leia grows up and contacts Obi-Wan Kenobi, an old friend of her father’s.  They fought together during the Clone Wars.

Princess Leia puts the plans for an ultimate weapon, a Death Star capable of destroying a planet, into a droid and jettisons it, R2D2 and another Protocol Droid, C3PO out of their ship as it is boarded by Darth Vader of the Galactic Empire.

The droids wind up on Tatooine with a young Luke Skywalker.  Luke retrieves the message that Leia needs help. R2D2 goes out in search for Obi-Wan Kenobi, while Luke and C3PO follow.

Trouble ensues and Obi-Wan comes to the rescue. Obi-Wan tells Luke that his father was killed by Darth Vader. The full message is played and Obi-Wan and Luke set off on an adventure to Alderaan.

Luke learns about the Force through Ben Kenobi’s teachings and later by Master Yoda’s.

Luke Skywalker along with Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2D2, and C3PO continue the adventures against the Empire.

They fight alongside the Rebels to destroy the Death Star and bring back peace to the galaxy. In the end, Padme was right about seeing good in Anakin.

Luke also saw that he was good and it gave Vader the chance for redemption in the end.

For Jesus, the cross symbolizes redemption for all of us. Has Kylo Ren picked up his cross fashioned into a light saber to provide redemption for us or to resurrect the evil that was gone for the past 30 years?

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will take place some 30 or so years later.

Perhaps Han Solo and Princess Leia marry and have children.

Perhaps Luke, the sole Jedi of the galaxy becomes a teacher, like Master Kenobi and Master Yoda.

Perhaps Luke learns the ways of the Sith as well. A New Jedi Order is created under Luke’s leadership.

Out of the Garden of Eden or Paradise came evil. The Force works because of a balance of good and evil.

Perhaps Kylo Ren is the embodiment of the evil.

“Star Wars” is about a family with an absent father who leaves to take over the universe. Is Luke’s father dead or has he changed his name and began a new life and a New Hope?

The names of the Movies gives you a breakdown of the events:

Star Wars Episode I- A Phantom Menace: The story about Anakin.

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Star Wars Episode II-Attack of the Clones: War breaks out between the Empire and the rebels. Anakin grows up and begins to form a relationship with Padme.

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Star Wars Episode III-Revenge of the Sith: Anakin turns to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader and wipes out most of the Jedi.

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Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope: Hope is restored through Luke Skywalker in the destruction of the Empires ultimate weapon, a Death Star.

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Star Wars Episode V-The Empire Strikes Back: The Empire, led by Darth Vader, fractures the Rebels. In the end Han Solo is encased in carbonite and everyone’s feelings are unsettling and unsure.

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Star Wars Episode VI-Return of the Jedi: Luke returns after rushing his training to rescue his friends and to restore order back to the galaxy. In this final fight, Darth Vader/Anakin kills the Emperor and dies upon seeing Luke with his own eyes. Luke brings his body back to Endor and burns it.

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The spirits of Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and a younger Anakin are now visible to him.

Young Anakin was added as George Lucas said that when he became Darth Vader, he ceased being Anakin.

Everyone in the universe ends the movie in celebration with fireworks and frivolity.

Star Wars Episode VII-The Force Awakens: Takes place some 30 years after the end of Return of the Jedi. The Sith return.

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In one of the trailers, Kylo holds the burnt mask of Darth Vader and says, “Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish what you started.”

Kylo picks up his cross which also appears to be a lightsaber.

Jesus said, pick up your cross and follow me.

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What holds for the future of Luke and the Skywalkers?

We shall all know on Friday.

 

 

Unbreak my Heart, J.J. Abrams

They aren’t just movies.

As Chris and I discuss on this episode of About Men Radio, the original Star Wars trilogy continues to be an important part of our lives and a cultural touchstone for the entire AMR posse.

While Chris has gone “all in” and is already set to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens multiple times over its opening weekend, my plan is to tread cautiously. 

The crushing disappointment of the prequels forced me to reconsider how much I would continue to emotionally invest in the Star Wars universe now that it appeared George Lucas was no longer in tune with his creation. Georgie-boy broke my heart.

J.J. Abrams did an amazing job with the Star Trek reboot so I hope he can make lightning strike twice. I miss Luke Skywalker. I miss Leia, Han and Chewie. I especially miss the Millennium Falcon.

I want nothing more than to be that 13-year-old kid watching Star Wars (minus the “New Hope”) for the first time, totally swept away by the epic adventure.

Please, J.J. Help me fall in love again.

A “Star Wars” Fan’s Dream Comes True!

When I read that a former colleague of mine, Germain Lussier, had interviewed Harrison Ford – among other leading lights from the new “Star Wars” movie – I could not think of a more worthy person to celebrate such a professional milestone.

Germain Lussier and Harrison Ford
Germain Lussier and Harrison Ford (Used with permission)

I knew Germain from my time as an editor at The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y. I was a news editor and he was an entertainment/features reporter.

He was quiet, diligent and dedicated. And above all, he was passionate about his craft and the beat he covered.

He pulled up stakes from his native New York to California for what he thought would be a career at a national magazine.

As you will read below, things took a different turn.

Germain graciously agreed to this Q/A for About Men Radio.

Apart from sharing in his reflective glory of rubbing elbows with Harrison friggin’ Ford (!), I wanted to tell his story because it is an excellent reminder to us all to pursue our passions with all our might.

There’s no telling the places you’ll go or the people you will meet.

Work does not have to be drudgery.

It can be a labor of love – something that Germain exemplifies here.

— Chris Mele

Tell readers a little about yourself: Where you grew up and a little
about your career path.

I grew up in Monroe, N.Y.

And from as early as I can remember, I wanted to be a movie critic. I thought getting paid to watch movies would be the best job in the world.

As I got older, I realized that there were other ways to do that too. So I went to New York University and majored in Cinema Studies, where I just studied, analyzed and wrote about film and film history.

That led me to internships with magazines such as Premiere, Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly.

Eventually, I got a job as an entertainment reporter at my local newspaper, The Times Herald-Record. I worked there for six years before deciding I wanted to move away from where I grew up.

So I moved to Los Angeles and found a niche working on movie blogs.

For five years I worked on a site called Slashfilm and was able to write about movie news every single day, visit the sets of films like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “Anchorman 2,” “Ender’s Game” and so many more.

It was a dream come true.

After a few years though, I got an offer to move to a bigger site, io9.com, and that’s where I am now.

GLussier
Germain Lussier

Tell us about your passion for films: What are its roots and what is it about movies that fascinates you?

Honestly, I don’t know where my love for film comes from.

Neither of my parents love movies that much, but somehow by the age of 8 or so I already knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Now though, the passion comes from so many places.

First, the ability to go into a dark theater and be transported somewhere else emotionally never ever gets old.

Also, when you write about movies you have something new and exciting to look forward to every single week.

There are always new movies. Of course some are more highly anticipated than others but there’s always something exciting on the horizon.

Tell us about your current position at io9.com: How long have you been there, your title and duties.

I moved to California in June of 2009.

I started working at Slashfilm in September of 2010 and I started at io9 in June of 2015.

On the site, I’m the primary entertainment reporter, meaning if there’s news or an assignment having to do with movies or TV, I usually get first crack at it.

On a daily basis, I’m expected to write however many news stories are necessary and develop longer feature stories, which can be about almost anything.

Tell us about what led up to securing one-on-one interviews with the leading players connected to “The Force Awakens,” including Harrison Ford: How did that come about?

Everything lead up to it. Seriously.

I’ve been a “Star Wars” freak for as long as I can remember.

It was anticipation of Episode I that led me into the depths of the Internet and familiarized me with the websites that would become my livelihood a decade later.

It was those “Star Wars” websites that gave me my first opportunities as a college student to get a glimpse of the life of a Hollywood journalist.

As a college student, I interviewed the cast of the first two “Harry Potter” movies, as well as John Travolta, Halle Berry, Don Cheadle and Hugh Jackman for “Swordfish.”

My college graduation was in May 2002, the day Episode II was released in theaters and on that day, I set a goal for myself to be working somewhere I’d be able to write about the next movie, Episode III.

That happened in 2005 at The Times Herald-Record.

And ever since 2012, when Disney bought Lucasfilm and Star Wars, I had been developing relationships with people at that studio and in the industry not ONLY to prime myself for this event, but it was always on my mind.

So, as we got close to the release of the movie and I was invited to cover the press junket, I requested interviews with every single actor and filmmaker available.

I expected to maybe get one or two and I knew Harrison Ford was a long shot.

But, those relationships and my unrelenting passion for the franchise got me not just one interview, but five (four on the day as one got cancelled), including Ford.

And talking to Ford was a dream come true.

As long as I’ve been a “Star Wars” fan, I’ve been a bigger Han Solo fan. I also love Indiana Jones, so he’s always been my favorite actor and kind of an idol.

Plus, I collect Han Solo stuff so Harrison Ford is never too far from my face.

So actually getting to sit down with him was kind of a culmination of everything both in my personal and professional life, stuffed into eight short minutes.

Describe the interviews themselves. You openly expressed a certain disbelief that they were happening/did happen. What were those moments like for you?

These interviews are always extremely weird.

They take place in very sterile environments (hotels, offices, etc.) and are kind of an assembly line as a star sits in a room and then a string of journalists just walk in, talk to them, and leave.

For “Star Wars,” it was even odder as we were at a massive convention center and the interview rooms were bigger than most houses.

So you’d wait outside, walk in, sit on a white couch and talk for 8-10 minutes. And even more odd, with “Star Wars,” it’s the first press junket I’ve ever done without seeing the movie.

Sometimes there are “long lead” days where a company will show you a few minutes of a movie and then you do interviews but a week away from release, you always see the movie so you have something to talk to the actors about.

With “Star Wars,” you hadn’t seen anything and they were unable to talk about anything directly related to the movie.

It made for an interesting challenge.

Thankfully, I’ve been following this film since the second it was announced — literally — and I had plenty of questions for the likes of J.J. Abrams, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie and Mr. Ford.

Things only got weird on a few occasions with Isaac and Christie when they told me they weren’t allowed to answer a few questions.

I think my disbelief at being there was just kind of the resonance of feeling that so much of my life had led to this.

I’d finally arrived.

You have posted video of how you turned over your apartment to just about every piece of “Star Wars” memorabilia you own. As such a diehard fan and as a film critic, what are your expectations and hopes for the new movie?

My hopes are for something that makes me feel the way I do when I still watch the originals.

Those are my expectations too. I just want it to be something that’s worthy of “Star Wars,” that spawns conversation and answers questions I’ve had for decades about what happens next.

I mean I was ULTRA excited for the prequels.

I saw “The Phantom Menace” nine times in the theater I was so hyped for it. But with those movies, ultimately, you knew how they had to end.

Anakin becomes Darth Vader and his kids get separated.

But now, finally, after 32 years, we finally are going to find out what happens after “Return of the Jedi.”

We don’t know how it’s going to end, who the characters are, etc.

It’s all a mystery.

And that infinite possibility just gives me goosebumps.

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An Interview With Terence Michos, Vermin From “The Warriors”

Terence Michos walks from the parking lot wearing an aqua blue V-neck shirt, khaki pants and sunglasses.

From a distance, it’s hard to reconcile that the man headed toward you is, in fact, the actor who played Vermin in the hit 1979 movie “The Warriors.”

Gone is the baby fat in the face. The curly locks are missing. The shoulders are not quite as broad.

But when he gets closer, and he smiles, the disarming and mischievous face of the lothario that Michos once played is unmistakable.

At 61, Michos would be the envy of men half his age.

He’s fit and trim. His midriff is even more flat now than when he bared it while wearing the leather vest of the Warriors. And even with crow’s feet at play around his eyes, his face exudes a youthful vitality.

IMG_2502

Michos is going to need some of that energy on Sunday when he and other cast members gather for what promises to be a blowout reunion in Coney Island.

Expect to see a huge turnout of fans, many replicating the costumes of some of the colorful gangs featured in the movie.

Think of it as cosplay for hardcore junkies of “The Warriors.”

But what’s not to like about this gritty, of-its-era depiction of New York City at its nadir in the 1970s?

The movie, with its haunting nighttime footage set against a foot-tapping syntho soundtrack, was a safe way for non-New Yorkers to view the stew of the city’s graffiti-covered subways, runaway crime and the specter of street violence.

And for those who grew up in the city in that decade, it was a chance to glimpse real-life neighborhoods and subway stations on film while rooting for underdogs.

(The Warriors are falsely accused of fatally shooting a charismatic leader who, at a summit in the Bronx, seeks to unite all the city’s gangs. The Warriors then have to make their way from the Bronx to their home turf in Coney Island, all the while crossing through rival gang territory and being pursued by the cops.)

For Michos, the all-day appearance at “The Warriors: Back to Coney,” signing autographs and interacting with fans will be a throwback to the intense experience of what it was like to make the movie.

“It was a wild, wild grueling time,” he recalled of the filming, which took place at numerous New York City locales.

The crew filmed in the middle of the night and the physical demands on the actors were not for the faint of heart.

Those scenes of Michos and other members of the Warriors being chased by other gang members and running at a full-out sprint?

Scenes like those were shot over and over again, 20 or 30 times a night, to get it just right.

And the scene at the Lizzies’ hangout where a night of amorous adventure turns to gunfire and mayhem?

Michos was hurling himself over that couch 15 or 20 times – without the benefit of padding.

In fact, he said he did all of his own stunts, with the exception of when his character got thrown into the mirror in the subway station men’s room.

He recalled going with some of his co-stars, hat brims pulled low, to theaters where the movie was playing and watching as movie-goers erupted in cheers and excitement at the fisticuffs.

Laughing, Michos remembers seeing real-life gang members sitting in the theater and saying to their girlfriends: “I can fight, but I can’t fight like those guys do!”

Michos was relieved not to be recognized, lest real life imitate fiction and he and his co-stars be challenged to a brawl.

warrior2

Michos was 25 when the movie was shot. His co-stars were also young.

It was a time of heavy partying, Studio 54 and cocaine, he said.

But not for him.

“I was probably more boring than all the other guys on the set,” he said.

He would tell his movie mates: “‘I’m going home. You guys hold it together.’ I would be telling them about my relationship with God. They loved me. They wouldn’t bring me to their parties, but they loved me.”

But lest you think he was all a goody two-shoes, Michos was quick to note that he shared with his character a weakness for the ladies.

“That was always there,” he said with a grin.

For Michos, the role of Vermin was almost not to be. He’s got the hit TV show “Taxi” to thank with propelling him to “Warriors” fame.

Here’s what happened: The movie auditioned thousands and originally did not pick Michos.

The actor Tony Danza also tried out, and those doing the casting liked him, so he got the part.

Michos went home, had dinner with his girlfriend and cried.

While coming to terms with the rejection, he said he prayed. “I said, ‘Lord, I’m yours.’”

Danza got a starring role in “Taxi,” which pulled him out of “Warriors” and Michos was called back for a second audition.

The movie-makers settled on him for Vermin, who, while a lover, was also a fighter.

“I think it was a good role for me because I think the film was enhanced by that little comedic twist, those little jokes that lightened things up a little.”

He said it’s not unusual six times a day to hear fans recite their favorite pieces of his dialogue back to him:

“Those cats were some desperate dudes.”

“I got the big one.”

“I’m sick of waiting for trains.”

His sense of comedic timing was nowhere better on display than in the tense moments leading up to the brawl in the men’s room.

Mercy, played by Deborah Van Valkenburgh, objects to being led into the restroom by the Warriors’ warlord, Swan.

“Wait a minute,” she says. “I can’t go in there. It’s a men’s room.”

Vermin’s retort is “Are you kidding?” but Michos said the line lacked punch.

So he delivered the line but also improvised.

“I just reached out and grabbed her and she went flying and the house came down.”

He grew up in what was then a much more rural Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

He was interviewed at a playground and recreational field in the Town of Poughkeepsie in his old neighborhood.

He pointed to the field and recalled how he and his friends would play ball and use a beer can as first base, an empty beer case as second base “and, if we found one, a dead skunk for third base.”

It was a community of IBM and Central Hudson workers, professors and doctors. Growing up, he had no ambition to be a member of a gang much less exposure to one.

Still, Michos described himself as a punk.

“I had a chip on my shoulder. If people talked to me wrong, I hit them in the nose, hit them in the face. I hit teachers.”

He was raised Catholic but was less than observant. (He recalled being an altar boy and pilfering the sacramental wine to try to get a buzz.)

He said he had a spiritual awakening in the year that “The Exorcist” was released. Michos said he was fearful — “don’t ask me why or how” — of becoming demonically possessed.

“One night the presence of God came into my room and totally transformed me in a way I could never, ever imagine.”

He said he became a whole new person.

“I committed my life to Christ,” said Michos, who is a pastor at an evangelical church. “I tripped and fell a number of times but I picked myself up and I press on towards the mark.”

Michos, who enjoyed a career on stage and in TV, turned his attention from acting to being a husband and father. He and his wife have four children, including one who is developmentally disabled.

For 16 years, he served as a news director and anchor for a cable TV station that covered the Hudson Valley and then was communications director for former U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth in her Washington, D.C., and district offices.

Now, among other things, he does political consulting.

But for better or for worse, Michos will long be remembered as Vermin.

He said he remains close to his castmates and has appeared at numerous reunion events but none that have caught on like the one taking place on Sunday.

He described the first time they got together in more than 20 years: “The minute we saw each other, it was like nothing had passed, not a beat had passed. We get together and we just care about each other.”

And as for the movie’s appealing legacy?

“We were likeable bad guys,” he said, citing a comparison of “The Warriors” to “The Wizard of Oz”: It’s all about trying to get home.

Yeah, we can dig it.

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“The Warriors” Hit Close to Home Growing Up in the Bronx

Clink, clink, clink, clink. “Warriors come out and playyyyy.”

This iconic line I will never forget from the 1979 movie “The Warriors.”

I was 15 years old when it hit theaters.

I was not able to see it during its original run as it was rated R and my parents would not take me, especially after the crazy events surrounding the screening of the movie were reported.

The local news was full of reports of violence and people being harassed by groups of youths that had seen the movie and left the theater all riled up and getting themselves into trouble.

What the hell was going on in this film? What was it all about?

The plot in a nutshell was that a prominent gang leader brings all the gangs in New York City together for a meeting in the Bronx to rally them to work together to take over the city.

During his rousing speech he is shot dead, and the Warriors are falsely blamed. The Warriors are a gang from Coney Island in Brooklyn, and now they must fight their way to their home turf as all the gangs are now out to get them.

It was not until 1980 that I finally watched the film in my living room on WHT, a rinky-dink pay-TV service that broadcast movies over UHF, a poor-man’s HBO that we had prior to our Bronx neighborhood being wired for cable.

My good friend and future AMR brother Silvio La Frossia watched the movie with me, and wow! What an impression it made on both of us! You can read his own recollections of the film over at The Mass Invasion.

The Warriors ruled. These guys were likeable, had great chemistry, were ethnically mixed, and of course, had cool leather vests as their uniform.

They were wrongfully accused of shooting Cyrus, the leader of the Gramercy Riffs, and they were the underdogs, having to fight their way through all the other gangs.

Who could ask for more to identify with these characters?

Although the movie played out like a comic book and seemed so much like fantasy, it probably was not far from the truth.

There were hundreds of gangs portrayed in this film, and at that time there were probably similar numbers of real gangs in New York City.

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I personally remember the Savage Skulls and the Black Spades in the neighborhoods I grew up in.

The gangs were real and caused a great deal of trouble and violence all around the city during the 1970s. My older brother was at that ripe age and he admitted to being actively recruited. Thankfully, he avoided making that commitment.

If being in a gang didn’t kill him, my Mom surely would have if he got involved in one.

The turf wars were real, but a lot of it had to do with protecting what was theirs.

The economic downturn of the ’70s had a lot to do with this. The police were non-existent and did not protect many of these neighborhoods, or maybe they were afraid to go into these areas.

The police in the movie had minimal impact on the outcome of the movie; they were faceless and ultimately inconsequential as the gangs took justice into their own hands at the end of the movie as the Warriors were exonerated and the Rogues paid for their misdeeds.

“The Warriors” was so much more than a movie; it was a history lesson that showed us what was really going on around us.

Silvio and I recognized that and to this day still hold that movie at a higher level than most movies we have seen. That movie rang true with us and continues to influence us in how we viewed the era when that movie was released.

The Warriors. The Cyclone. The Wonder Wheel. New York City icons forever.

Mission: Impossible — My Love Letter to Tom Cruise

If you are looking for a movie review of the fifth installment of the “Mission: Impossible” blockbuster movie series, “Rogue Nation,” this isn’t it.

No, instead this will be me delivering a sloppy wet kiss to Tom Cruise for what he demonstrated in MI5.

The dude just crushed it in this movie and yet, to borrow a phrase from my father, “He’s showing his age.”

And therein lies my admiration.

To watch Cruise at age 53 – 53! – carry out the stunts he did was jaw-dropping.

(Only a mild spoiler since it’s already revealed in the trailers and on the movie poster, but he hangs off the friggin’ side of an Airbus 400 as it takes off! And yeah, so what if he was harnessed in and had all kinds of other safety precautions in place? The guy still hangs off the friggin’ side of an airplane!)

I won’t give away some of the other breathtaking (literally) set pieces in MI5 that Cruise also performed. You will have to see – and appreciate – them for yourself.

But consider that Jon Voight, who starred in the first “Mission: Impossible” movie in 1996, was only five years older than Cruise is now.

And let’s be honest: Jon Voight even at Cruise’s current age did not exactly look athletic.

(I am two years younger than Cruise and get winded pulling on the refrigerator door handle.)

In the current movie, there is the obligatory shot of Cruise shirtless and he’s in stunning shape.

There’s an escape scene that demonstrates his incredible physical prowess. The guy runs, leaps, fights and performs all kinds of other daredevilry that absolutely earned my admiration.

All of that said, though, here’s the thing I think I appreciated the most about the movie: The movie doesn’t try to portray him as the aw-shucks heartthrob of Cruise movies past, such as “All the Right Moves” or “Top Gun” or even some of his more recent starring roles.

Nope, for the first time ever, I found myself going: Yep, he’s showing his age.

Close-ups of his face (to my eyes anyway) revealed some of the wrinkles and plain weariness that comes with being a guy in his 50s.

No Botox here.

What I also appreciated was how in some situations in the movie he either needed to be rescued or his best effort to get a job done (as in a perilous motorcycle chase) does not work out exactly as planned.

In other words, real life happens.

MI5

Cruise came across as vulnerable and susceptible to the kind of overreach that guys are known for: “Oh, I can do this” or “I can fix this” and suddenly you are Chevy Chase in a scene from a “National Lampoon” movie, falling off a ladder or recovering from some other act of first-degree knuckle-headedness.

If I had been watching this movie in my 30s, none of these insights would have occurred to me. But being older gave me a different perspective on some of these subtleties.

For what it’s worth, MI5 was a top-notch summer tent pole of a movie but, in my opinion, not as good as the previous one, “Ghost Protocol.”

But if for nothing else gentlemen (and ladies) go watch it to see how Tom Cruise is showing his age but doing it with such style!

 

 

 

Summer Movies and Memorable Flicks With Friends

It is summertime, which means it’s time for popcorn flicks and blockbuster entertainment.

When I look back, it is amazing how many times my friends and I shared bonding moments built around watching movies.

We can recall not only the movie, but where we watched it, scenes  and how we reacted to it.

The movies we have seen together run the gamut, from comedies to thrillers to horror to adult.

The first R-rated ones I saw were “Animal House” and a double-feature of “Kentucky Fried Movie” and “Groove Tube.”

If I recall correctly, we had Pedro’s older brother come with us as our “guardian” since we were 16 and worried about the Loew’s American in the Bronx enforcing the MPAA age restriction.

There are those movies that endure (“Airplane!” of course being one of them) and there are those dogs of a movie that are best forgotten.

But half the fun of recalling some of those godawful flicks is the chance for my friends to break my chops that it was MY idea to go see them.

Two that come to mind: “Squeeze Play,” a pseudo sex romp brought to you by the high-caliber Troma Films company, and “Vice Squad,” a violent, dark film with few redeeming qualities.

But for memorable movie watching — as in like impossible to erase the imprint for your brain — the first-place trophy goes to AMR crew member Rich Rodriguez who a few years ago brought to the man cave “Requiem for a Dream” and “Human Centipede.”

We were crowded into a small room to watch “Requiem,” of which I knew nothing. It was an incredible movie about addiction but so dark and heavy that I needed a drink when it was over.

It is one of those movies, like “Schindler’s List” or “Saving Private Ryan” that you are glad you have seen but cannot imagine ever watching a second time.

And then, as if that did not harsh our mellow enough, Rich popped in the DVD for “Human Centipede,” which was so vile and disgusting and repulsive that we demanded we watch it on fast-forward! (For an idea of how bad it was, consider that its sequel was banned in Britain!)

On a more uplifting note, there was the time we gathered at Pedro’s to watch “Ted,” the story of the raunchy, foul-mouthed stuffed teddy bear who comes to life.

At points we were laughing so hard and loud that we had to stop the movie and replay scenes because we were missing dialogue. That was a good time!

The crowning glory of movie-going moments, though, belongs to troublemaker Pedro following our viewing of “Return of the Jedi.”

We caught an early showing of the much-anticipated third installment of the “Star Wars” trilogy.

We exited the theater and there was a line literally down the block for movie-goers waiting to get in.

So what does Pedro do?

Like the inmates in the Jimmy Cagney prison cafeteria scene where word is relayed that “Ma’s dead,” Pedro delivers a major spoiler by announcing up and down the line of those waiting for tickets: “Darth Vader dies! Darth Vader dies!”

It was a wonder that Darth Vader was not the only one who died that night!

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“Jaws” 40 Years Later Is Just as Spectacular

On June 20, 1975, movie entertainment changed forever.

I was 11 years old when “Jaws” was released, and my mom, a faithful moviegoer, took my friend and I to the Capri Theater on Fordham Road in the Bronx to see the movie everyone was talking about.

The theater was packed and it was like riding a rollercoaster, with the crowd screaming and shouting as we watched the masterpiece of cinema that Spielberg had created.

The one scene that to this day has still freaked me out was when Ben Gardener’s head popped out of the hole in the boat and surely made Hooper crap his wet suit. (Oops! Spoiler alert!)

We left the theater energized and spread the word that this was the movie to see.

Little did I know that 40 years later I would be sitting in a theater and watching this movie, now my personal all-time favorite film, with two of my kids and another packed theater of enthusiastic fans, enjoying every memorable line, the great performances, and of course, Bruce the shark.

This was not the first time my kids watched “Jaws.”

I made the mistake of showing them the movie on DVD when they were much too young and surely traumatized them. They all slept in my bed that night. Luckily we are not frequent beach goers.

I wonder why?

Over the years I drove everyone in my house crazy, watching “Jaws” every time it was on TV, during Shark Week and “Jaws” marathons. Always hated when I missed the original and got stuck watching “Jaws 2” or the even worse, “Jaws 3.”  I don’t think I ever saw “Jaws: The Revenge.”

One night I drove my daughter out of the room because I kept rewinding the movie playing the “That’s some bad hat Harry” scene, and laughing each time.

The movie is filled with classic quotable lines like this.

My favorite scene and line is when Brody is complaining about chumming and the shark rises up out of the water and shows itself for the first time, totally shocking him, and he goes to Quint and says “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

So many gems like Ellen Brody’s “Wanna get drunk and fool around?” and, of course, Brody’s “Smile, you son of a bitch!”

During this 40th anniversary screening, the theater was packed again and we had to sit in the second row.

Some ladies next to me also saw the movie in 1975, and we were shocked during the scene when the two kids were pretending to be a shark in the water with the cardboard fin.

The lifeguard was standing blowing his whistle and the camera angle was from below and you could see right up his shorts. I had to turn my face away, but boy those ladies next to me got a big kick out of it.

They exclaimed “I didn’t see that in 1975!” I had to laugh out loud!

The crowd had a fun time, laughed at the classic lines and cheered at the end.

We all clapped during the credits,which my kids thought was strange.

A great nostalgic evening was had by all, and maybe some newbies discovered something special.

I am looking forward to the 50th anniversary and reserving my tickets now.

 

MegaCon: The Family That CosPlays Together…

As I stroll down a hallway, an 8-foot mechanized cyborg passes by me.

Resting in a semi-seated position and staring into a smartphone is a unicorn-headed half human.

Further down I see a line of droids ambling away.

And wait! Was that Stan Lee?!

Did I just bring you into one of my alcohol-induced dreams?

Nope, that was just a small part of MegaCon 2015 in Orlando, Fla.

MegaCon is the annual younger cousin to the now-famous ComicCon of San Diego. But not that much smaller.

This year over 70,000 super-heroes, monsters, robots, geeks and freaks passed through its doors.

Batman_Group

For me, a lover of all things comics from the early 70s, a giant comic book convention should have been an annual event from way, way back.

But it wasn’t. Early on I viewed all conventions, comic, Star Trek, scifi and horror as the domain of not just geeks, but rather stuck-up, solitary, scary collector-type geeks.

And in a convention they found the one event where they could congregate and be all geeky about their collections together.

I was not a collector. I was a reader.

I devoured comics and pulp mags, scifi, super-heroes and horror. But I never kept my comics and mags in pristine, collectible condition.

I read the hell out of them. I rolled them over, shoved them into bags, creasing pages that reduced their monetary value but with every reading, they increased in spiritual value to me.

Many were lost or traded over time. Some were even damaged by Silly Putty overuse. But they were never forgotten.

Fast forward many, many, many years to my family that now includes some teenagers, who grew up reading fantasy book series, anime and comics.

Three years ago they convinced me to take them to our first MegaCon.

I thought I knew what I was in for.

I prepared myself to spend the day letting my kids explore and I would limit myself to looking through comics, mags and memorabilia that interested me, whiling away the time.

What I got was completely different.

Yes the exhibitors were there with the comics and accessories, and many of them looked and acted like the comic book collector geek from “The Simpsons.” But there was so much more.

Full booths dedicated to the likes of the Southern R2 Builders Group, the Greater Florida LEGO® Users Group and the 501st Legion or as they are better known, “Vader’s Fist”.

Sure these were middle-aged folks spending thousands of dollars on building the most incredible replica of a fully functioning R2D2 droid.

But it felt right and not geeky.

Maybe it felt that way because these full-sized, fully functioning and moving droids are definitely the ones I was looking for.

It was my childhood brought to life. And the storm troopers, mercenaries, Wookies and Jedis of the well-known galactic fantasy tale were all there.

That was just the Star Wars stuff. There were exhibits from “Star Trek,” “Battlestar Glactica,” “RoboCop” and… “Plan Nine From Outer Space.”

Yes, there was the well-known and the obscure.

But what about comic book characters? If I were to guess I would say they were all well represented by the thousands of cosplayers.

From the bizarre, to the sublime, from the expensive and elaborate to the cheap and last-minute creation.

Wolverine, Supergirl, Thor, Spiderman, Rick Grimes…and Powdered Toast Man.

2013-03-16 14.49.47

There were so many anime characters I did not recognize that I had to constantly stop and ask my kids, “Who’s that?”

But the most interesting part was seeing that this was not a culture of geek exclusivity or freak elitism.

From what I saw in a day, every cosplayer was very gracious to every request for a picture or to engage in conversation. And so many poses — from heroic to horrific to hysterical.

Did I mention Powdered Toast Man?

Powdered_Toast_Man_01

Some cosplayers were surrounded by fans of all ages. And everyone wanted a picture.

I saw an 8-foot Groot, splendidly re-created, down to the slow difficult walk in that costume.

He wouldn’t have walked fast even if his tree-stumped legs allowed, because every half a step there was another photo request.

And when a fantastically accurate Star-Lord crossed his path, it was a true Kodak moment.

Groot_Star_Lord

MegaCon has now become an annual thing in our family. My kids take it to an extreme and I love it.

This year my oldest daughter went to all three days and dressed as two different characters.

In fact, we have started a budget for MegaCon 2016 for all of us, including my wife, to attend all three days and we will all be costumed.

The family that cosplays together stays together.

May the Force be with you.

Memorable Movie Quotes: Why They Matter To Men

Get a few guys together and there will be at least 10 memorable movie quotes battered about and at least one classic guy movie scene clumsily reenacted.

We can’t help it. It is deeply engrained in our nature.

Many times, guys will overlook it if the quote referenced doesn’t quite fit the mood or the conversation as long as it was masterfully delivered.

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

There are a few unwritten rules, though.

The quote has to be correct. One hundred percent!

“I’m here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I ain’t got no more bubble gum.”

Arrrahh! No go. Go to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

Real guys reading this can immediately correct this quote. And the unlucky goop that attempted it is usually relegated to less than sidekick duty.

Until the day he launches a good one.

“You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder!”

Bang! Nailed it!

We guys, including my About Men Radio brothers, subconsciously crave that special moment when we transcend mere mortals and not only nail the quote to the moment but organically live it or make it larger than life.

Although none of us will ever have a “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli” moment after gunning down a rival. (At least I hope none of us will!)

A few years back I had a moment. And there wasn’t another guy around, just my lovely wife. And although I love her very much, she can’t help but squash those little guy moments.

She will always roll her eyes whenever I watch/quote “Star Wars” or “The Hunt for Red October” or “Goodfellas.”

She will get up off the couch abandoning me if I stop the remote on “Gladiator” for more than two seconds.

So here I am rolling up to my moment in a minivan with my wife riding shotgun.

I pull up to the toll booth attendant and hand him my $2 waiting for a couple of quarters in change. I had absent-mindedly done this a hundred times.

Then the attendant dropped the coins.

As he dropped to a knee to pick them up, disappearing from view behind the half door it was my Sonny Corleone moment and I wasn’t going to let it go!

I bolted up in my seat swiveled my head from side to side almost hoping to see some fedora-wearing hit men leveling their Tommy guns.

I felt my wife’s hand on my forearm but instead of squashing my moment she whispered, “Relax Sonny.”

YES!!!

She recognized the scene without any prompting and added her own line to complete my moment! Typically a second guy completes a guy moment by delivering the final line, but unless my wife started going, RAT-A-TAT-TAT-TAT and then kicked me in the face for good measure, she couldn’t complete the actual scene.

But she recognized my moment, added her own line and made it memorable. She completed me.

I didn’t think I could love her more, but I was wrong.

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“Fifty Shades of Grey”: A Review From A Guy’s Point of View

​As my wife and I sat in the movie theater waiting for “Fifty Shades of Grey” to begin, she squeezed my hand and said:

“Are you excited?”

“I’m going to be open-minded,” I replied.

“Careful,” she teased, “or your brains might fall out.”

If only they had. Then my head would have been as vacuous as this movie.

To be clear, I am no prude when it comes to sex or nudity.

As part of a misspent youth, I visited many theaters worthy of the trench-coat crowd and have seen some pretty far-out stuff, sexually speaking.

What goes on between two consenting adults? Get your freak on, folks.

Clown make-up, scuba suits, dripping candle wax: Whatever curls your toes, have at it.

But this movie did almost the impossible: It made sex scenes that were antiseptic, turgid and utterly lacking in heat.

In sum, it made for boring boning.

Christian Grey makes Anastasia Steele go through what amounts to some kinky “Simon Says” exercises. (The difference being that when she failed to follow the specific instructions, she got spanked.)

But there was zero spark or chemistry between the lead characters. It was like they were acting in two different movies, each shot separately against a blue screen and then spliced together.

My problems with the movie ranged from irritation (ridiculous over-the-top product placements for Apple) to disbelief (Anastasia is a modern-day college senior and she is using a flip-phone, plus she’s a virgin?) to exasperating (she is supposed to be falling in love with this creepy borderline stalker-abuser but she seems mostly uncomfortable in his company).

But most of all, I found “Fifty” demeaning to women to the point that it made my blood boil.

Anastasia is on the cusp of graduating college but she appears not to have a brain cell in her head and is painted as a total dolt, following Christian around like some hapless puppy.

Add to that a paddling scene that looks more like a vicious beating by an abusive spouse or boyfriend and a sex scene bordering on rape.

It felt like two hours and five minutes of “torture porn” masquerading as mainstream movie-making.

At one point, Christian says: “I don’t make love…I fuck. Hard.”

I *get* dirty talk, and I’m all for it, but in the context of this movie, it sounded silly, at best, and like an excuse for engaging in misogyny at worst.

My wife and I debated the attraction of “Fifty” to women, who made up nearly two-thirds of the ticket-buyers in the movie’s opening weekend.

I don’t understand it, though there is no denying that actor Jamie Dornan is a hunka-hunk of burning love.

What I do know is that, as a man who is open-minded about sex and who likes a hot depiction of it as much as the next guy, I found this movie degrading and insulting.

There is a scene in which Christian says: “I’m 50 shades of fucked-up.”

Yep. So is this movie.

Do yourself a favor and just say “Laters, baby” to “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

book

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AMR 06: About Men and Horror TV

It’s a Christmas miracle!

Just when you thought we’d never foist another one of our knuckleheaded escapades onto the unsuspecting public we unleash the sixth episode of our addictive little gabfest.

This time around Silvio joins us from AMR headquarters in Florida while we check in from the AMR Compound deep in the Pennsylvania forest to discuss horror movies, television, and horror television.

As always, it’s not about all men. Just us men.

Movies of Yesteryear Are Family Viewing Time of Today

“Get to the choppa!”

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”

“Game over man, game over!”

Classic movie quotes. Together with my good friends from About Men Radio, we quote our favorites frequently. We are all of the same era, most of us the same age, hitting the mid-century milepost in the same year.

We love these movies. We watch them over and over, but we unknowingly view them with the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. With these specs on, our heroes and our movies can do no wrong. They are perfection. And boy, do we love to quote them.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

But the true test of time for our beloved classics is the scrutiny of today’s teenagers. In the La Frossia household, I put up my classics to the viscious, modern critical eye of my kids.

All three of them teenagers, ranging from 13 to 18. Will they revel in the satirical violence of “RoboCop”? Or will they cut it down to size for the terrible sins of cheesy dialogue, phony sets or non-convincing FX?

“Your move, creep.”

What ends up being the most fun for each movie viewing is delighting in the reactions of my kids.

If the time is right, I will announce to the family that it is “Retro Movie Night.” It is sometimes received with a groan.

For them, they have to be in the “right mood” for a Dad classic. I usually win and I present a title for the evening.

I typically get bombarded with questions, especially when I mention a title and tell them to trust me and I do not give them a preview description.

Sometimes I get the most genuine reaction because they never heard of the movie, such as the original “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3.” My kids have never visited the Big Apple, so they have never experienced a subway, much less one from the 1970s.

And they didn’t need to. The expertly crafted movie that is TToP123 quickly engrossed them and they bought into the suspense and drama.

“We had a bomb scare in the Bronx yesterday, but it turned out to be a cantaloupe.”

But that was an easy one because it is considered by many movie experts as a timeless classic. How will they react to a Dad classic such as “Westworld”? With its ’70s special effects, ’60s computers and Yul Brynner?

“Your move. Draw!”

They overall liked the movie. Of course, the snickering at the hovercraft effects, the comments about the computer command control — they informed me that they held more power in their iPhone than was in that control center — and the comments about Yul’s accent for a western U S of A gunslinger were intense.

The banter though added another layer of fun to my classics and gives me a chance to enjoy them all over again, almost as if seeing it for the first time as I live it through their eyes and join in their commenting.

“Get your stinkin’ hands off of me you damn, dirty ape!”

Thanks to an extensive VHS and DVD collection as well as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon I have a wealth of classics to unleash on them. If they are to enjoy today’s future classics like “The Hobbit,” “Lord of the Rings” or the Harry Potter franchise, they need to see “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad.”

To love “Pacific Rim” they have to experience “Destroy All Monsters.”

It’s my duty as a dad that they get that.

“I’ll be back.”

 

About Movies: And on That Day, a New Horror Fiend Was Born

“Take your brother with you.”

That one line uttered by my mother absolved me from all guilt in the events that transpired on that summer weekend in 1981. It was not my fault but my brother Pablo still points the finger at me. I was forced by that order from Mom to have him come along to the double feature, at the Palace Theater in The Bronx, that I had planned to see with fellow AMR host and childhood friend Rich.

Rich and I shared a taste for the macabre. We read, traded, and re-read every Stephen King novel, Famous Monsters or Fangoria magazines plus anything we could devour that was horrific in nature and certain to provide, if not nightmares, at least a sleepless night or two.

horror_covers

By this point in time both Rich and I had watched the seminal Night of the Living Dead, originally released in 1968.  But honestly,  what self-respecting horror buff hasn’t?

That masterpiece of horror from George Romero predated another classic of the genre, The Exorcistby five years and was the first major horror film I caught in the theater.

I was 9 years old.

Exorcist

I somehow convinced my Mom back then to take me to see what has been called, “the scariest film ever made.” And I loved it. It horrified me yet also solidified my love for the genre. And I hadn’t yet completed my first decade.

On that summer weekend Rich and I planned on taking in a horror double feature—that’s two movies for the price of one kiddies. On the bill was a slasher film, Mother’s Day and the headlining flick, Dawn of the Dead. The sequel to Night of the Living Dead was released 10 years after the original.

dawn-of-the-dead-1978-posterIn order to attract an audience of horror and not porn lovers, the movie poster and newspaper ads had the full MPAA rating as “There is no explicit sex in this picture; however, there are scenes of violence which may be considered shocking. No one under 17 will be admitted.”

No one?

Well, in the summer of 1981 I had not yet reached 17 years of age and I don’t think Rich had either. Not only were we technically sneaking ourselves in but we were attempting to smuggle someone in who was a full seven years younger than the intimidating “No one under 17 will be admitted” warning allowed.

No one batted an eye.

Rich and I stayed cool walking my baby brother in between us to our seats for the opener.

Mother’s Day was a blast of early 80s gore and hillbilly nonsense but it freaked my brother out. To his credit, he didn’t show it …much. Rich turned to him and told him, “You think that was bad, wait until you see Dawn”.

Dawn of the Dead scarred my young brother, giving him nightmares for days but Pablo went on to love the horror genre and I was wholly responsible for that. In an interview conducted outside of a horror convention, he both blames me (not Mom) and thanks me for his introduction to (and eventual love of) horror.

Bro, you’re welcome.