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5 Questions for Jakob’s 500th Now Playing Podcast Review

Jakob Brewster celebrates his 500th episode of Now Playing Podcast

As Justice League limps out of theaters, anguished studio executives are lamenting the superhero flick’s failure to capture box office glory. Little do they know the arrival of DC’s team-up did capture one long-awaited milestone: Jakob Brewster’s 500th episode of Now Playing Podcast.

The host joined the show on November 6, 2009 during the Saw retrospective (a series that recently came back from the dead) and has since lent his perspective to some of Now Playing’s biggest retrospectives, including the Marvel, Children of the Corn, and Fast and the Furious films.

To mark the anniversary of his 500th show, Jakob took part in a Q&A with the Venganza Media Gazette.

Gazette: First, congratulations on 500 episodes of Now Playing Podcast. When you first signed on, did you ever think you’d get the chance to review the fifth sequel to Hellraiser?

Jakob: Thanks! I know it wouldn’t have been possible to make it to 500 if it weren’t from some great franchises out there like Children of the Corn and Leprechaun that churn out so many quality sequels to push Now Playing to keep going and mining these cinematic gems.

You always hope a franchise makes it to a fifth sequel, because that’s when the mythology is really developed and some rich stories can finally be told. Hellraiser: Hellseeker really completes the circle by bringing back Kirsty (played by the original Ashley Laurence) and finishing her story in such a way that even the best fanfic couldn’t achieve.

The shame is that not every franchise capitalizes on this opportunity. Like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, their sixth film in was The Avengers. Wow, what a misstep! They had set up such a great nemesis when hinting of The Leader (Tim Blake Nelson) in one of the only passable MCU films, The Incredible Hulk. And they do nothing with him! He’s the only villain that would require a whole team of heroes to defeat him. Also, that CGI model for Bruce Banner looked nothing like Edward Norton in The Avengers.  

Gazette: You recently celebrated your milestone with a review of Justice League, how has that movie raised the bar for superhero films?

Jakob: It accomplished so much! On a technical level, it proved that computers can create 1000 percent realistic humans. This is great because it will let actors really focus on perfecting their craft instead of having to spend all their time grooming and looking perfect. No longer exists the burden of wasting time getting your hair styled or shaving a beard when the magic of CGI can render you as perfect and real looking as Henry Cavill’s upper lip.

It also introduced a layer of subtext that has never been explored in the superhero genre (Halle Berry’s Catwoman came close). I mean, Batman dresses as a bat to scare bad guys. But he also has a giant robot spider to ride around in? That’s two animals, plus lots of people are afraid of robots. So Batman is two kinds of phobia plus both animals? Chris Nolan wishes his Dark Knight trilogy plumbed the depths of psychology like this.

I could go on for hours gushing about Justice League. It feels as pivotal as when people were first awed by the last great achievement in superhero cinema, Superman and the Mole Men.

Gazette: Now that he’s directed both the Avengers and Justice League, which superhero team should Joss Whedon tackle next?

Jakob: Honestly, it feels like Justice League has reinvigorated Whedon. The Avengers felt like a clip-show episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think Whedon’s real calling is to make sense of production disasters. He saved Justice League from [Zack] Snyder and created a front-runner for the Best Picture Oscar. I’d like to see him save a franchise cut from the same cloth as superheroes. Something with a history of cartoons, comic books, toys, a whole team of good guys fighting evil. I say give him Michael Bay’s Transfor — all of [his] released films. Have him reshoot some scenes with Shia LaBeouf and a few of the action scenes and I think everyone will understand how great that franchise could be.

Gazette: Your 500 episodes of Now Playing Podcast are longer than the combined runs of Knight RiderBaywatch, and Baywatch Nights. Besides Looking for Freedom, what’s your favorite David Hasselhoff album?

Jakob: I’m going with his latest album, 2012’s This Time Around. This was a redemption album for the drunken cheeseburger incident. It took a lot of courage to put himself out there again like that. His fans… and the world, really, have embraced him for being so brave.

Gazette: Lightning round: Three thoughts on that Avengers: Infinity War trailer?

Jakob:

  1. Disney has destroyed the Marvel movies. They used to be edgy and, while never achieving the greatness of, say, Return of Swamp Thing, they felt like they had something to say about our lives. Now because Disney needs a new Disney Princess to market to little girls, they’ve created this new princess… The Anos, or something, who goes around collecting jewelry?
  2. Again, Disney is now putting its own characters in these films?! At the end, Thor asks some people who they are and I swear Mickey Mouse is standing there. Though the CGI model is waaaay off. He looks like a raccoon, not a mouse.
  3. A group of heroes come together to fight hoards of aliens and a being from another dimension who is powered by a magic box? I’ve already seen this in Justice League. It was first, it was better, and it just has better characters. For example: Cyborg vs. Iron Man. One is made of space metal and the other iron (which I think is getting rusty because it is so red from oxidation). No contest.

Hear Jakob in Now Playing Podcast’s current Death Wish retrospective, and read his thoughts on underrated movies in the podcast’s first book, Underrated Movies We Recommend

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Now Playing Podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment

Make the ‘Corn Connection’ with ‘Now Playing Podcast’

Let’s be honest. None of us really expect to see row after row of green arrows once the Now Playing Podcast hosts emerge from their nine-part Children of the Corn Retrospective Series.

If it weren’t for their commitment to reviewing every movie spawned by the works of Stephen King, we wouldn’t, for example, be circling Sept. 23 on the calendar for the release of Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Revenge.

But Arnie, Stuart and Jakob are taking the plunge, and so we will join them on this epic binge of bad sequels. Only this time, we’re going to have some fun with it.

With our hosts seated in front of their microphones, those of us behind the scenes will be playing Six Degrees of Now Playing.

It’s The Corn Connection.

Every week we’ll run down the list of players from each of the nine Corn films, and direct an arrow toward their place in the Now Playing Podcast archives.

When you IMDB the casts of Hollywood horror franchises, you’ll often see familiar faces. Some are names that will soon become household (see Hellraiser: Hellworld), and some once were (Isaac’s Revenge).

So come back to the Venganza Media Gazette each week and take a trip around the Now Playing Podcast archives. And if you spot an actor or actress that’s made an appearance in another film reviewed by Now Playing, leave a comment and help a fellow listener discover what they might be missing.

We’ll start Tuesday following the release of 1984’s Children of the Corn over at the Now Playing Podcast website.

NP

How many connections can you make?

 

 

August 19, 2014 Posted by | News, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Make the ‘Corn Connection’ with ‘Now Playing Podcast’

40 Year-Old-Critic: Hellbound – Hellraiser II (1988)

HELLBOUND-HELLRAISER-IIIn The 40-Year-Old Critic, Venganza Media creator and host Arnie Carvalho recalls a memorable film for each year of his life. This series appears daily on the Venganza Media Gazette.

See a list of all reviews

When I was young I was scared of horror. Not horror films, mind you, but the actual concept of horror petrified me. I mentioned in my earlier article discussing 1979’s Love at First Bite that even watching Dracula on television required an adult be home to protect me.

Yet, I was curious… I wanted to see it while I was frightened of what I might find.

The best analogy I can use for my view of horror is, indeed, the Lament Configuration puzzle box featured in the Hellraiser movies. I was a voyager seeking forbidden knowledge, but once the box was opened the pleasures, and terrors, inside would forever be unleashed. If I watched a horror film the hooks would be in my flesh, and what I would see were images relegated to the domain of nightmare.

I wanted to go there, but I took tentative steps over several years. As a very young child I stuck mostly to the safe horrors of Scooby-Doo ghosts and the seemingly supernatural mysteries in The Three Investigators young adult novels. At age 7 I tried to stretch my own limits by leaving the safety nets of kiddie fare behind and attempting to endure adult horror.

I saw The Shining on television in the early 1980s and was petrified by the decaying woman in the bathtub. I watched Frank Langella in Dracula around the same time. I would see ads for horror films like Return of the Living Dead, Friday the 13th, and Psycho III, read the reviews, and talk endlessly about them with classmates.

Like the cenobites I too wanted to explore the further regions of horror.

Like the cenobites I too wanted to explore the further regions of horror.

Finally, when I was 8 years old, I tried to face horror. I came home from school one day to find our hosted teenage exchange students were watching Friday the 13th on the VCR. My afterschool ritual was to watch a movie, often Star Wars or Grease, but these Brazilians had monopolized the machine. I was not going to change my routine, so if I could not pick the movie then I would just watch theirs. Not five minutes passed before I saw Mrs. Voorhees decapitated and I fled the room.

That image haunted me for years.

But as I grew into adolescence I wanted to stretch my boundaries further, and I did, starting with horror novels. I found the page safer than the screen, as the written word was always limited by the boundaries of my own imagination. I went further at age 12 and had my first horror movie marathon with the A Nightmare on Elm Street 1 and 2. While I did have a few nightmares of my own I loved every minute of it. I immediately started to consume all the horror I could, reading Fangoria magazine and watching more Stephen King films, the Friday the 13th series, Child’s Play, The Lost Boys, and more.

Within a year I was still captivated, but also starting to bore of the same routine. The vast majority of horror films I watched were slashers, each starring a new group of stereotypical teen characters taken to the slaughter. I had entered the realm of horror to stretch my boundaries, but I just found the same stories again and again. I had faced those fears and I wanted more. I wanted to be tested anew.

Then came Hellbound: Hellraiser II. I had known about the original Hellraiser from the ads. Stephen King’s words were put on the movie screen in a giant font: “I have seen the future of horror and his name is Clive Barker.” Trailers for the first Hellraiser raised my curiosity but the film never came to my town. In 1988, before I’d even had a chance to see Hellraiser on video, its sequel Hellbound came to theaters. The monstrous-looking Cenobites graced the poster. In the movie these creatures described themselves as, “Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others.” They were just what I wanted.

Being only 13, I couldn’t find any adult foolish enough to take me to see Hellbound. My parents were lax and would buy me tickets to A Nightmare on Elm Street films, but something about the Hellraiser series made them nervous. I had to wait for video, but the day Hellbound hit VHS I rented it and its predecessor.

I don’t know what I expected the movie to be, but my memory was of fevered excitement. I was going to see something forbidden; I expected something akin to a snuff film. I expected to be changed.

I wanted extreme...I got it.  This was one of the first frames I saw of Hellraiser.

I wanted extreme…I got it. This was one of the first frames I saw of Hellraiser.

By complete accident I put Hellbound in the VCR first and it opened with a montage of the goriest, scariest scenes from the first film. I saw Larry (Andrew Robinson), his flesh stretched by hooks on chains. His distended face leaked more than just blood, and he slurred a blasphemous “Jesus… wept” before exploding into chunks of flesh.

Just these opening frames of Hellbound were an orgy of death and carnage. I was scared. I was nauseated. I was excited. I couldn’t bear to watch, yet I couldn’t turn away.

I had found exactly what I wanted in that damned puzzle box.

Eventually the opening credits started and I hit “stop” so I could watch the films in the correct order. I realized that this was not a Faces of Death-type snuff film but rather a mostly conventional horror film with a crazy woman seducing men and then killing them. Still, I had found a horror more pure, and more imaginative, than even Freddy. Pinhead and his varied demonic cohorts were immortal evil incarnate.

The first film had the better gore, but the second expanded the world further. In Hellbound we got to see the creation of a cenobite and travel to their labyrinthine realm; all taking place in an insane asylum — the heart of madness.

Yet the entire mad experience was accompanied by an amazing orchestral score by Christopher Young.  From the disarming lullaby that played when the box was opened to the crescendos that sound like the soundtrack for the end of days, Young’s score stuck with me every bit as much as the latex work.  I was no fan of Young’s given his “whale song” music for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge but he redeemed by Hellraiser.  I’ve still not heard a score he’s done better.

In the years since seeing Hellbound I have encountered many horror fans who claim the original Hellraiser is the only one worth watching. I disagree. Perhaps it was because I experienced them as a double-feature, prompted by the marketing for Hellbound, but I see the first two Hellraiser films as parts of a whole.

The matte work may not be cutting edge but Hellbound expanded the mythology of the Hellraiser franchise.

The matte work may not be cutting edge but Hellbound expanded the mythology of the Hellraiser franchise.

Yes, the first movie had a more visceral feel, but it also had long scenes of Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Lawrence) walking the streets of London. The sequel truly fulfilled Kirsty’s character arc and allowed her to escape the madness forever, or at least until the direct-to-video Hellraiser VI.

After seeing Hellraiser and Hellbound I felt I had gone to the limits of horror. I tried to explore further by reading Clive Barker’s books and seeing his follow-up films Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions. They couldn’t live up to the horrors of Hellraiser.

Repeatedly I’ve felt that Barker is the man who comes closest to taking the terror of nightmares and putting it on the page or screen, but he always falls just short.

For more than a decade the Hellraiser duology would be my bar for terror and horror, and they are both films I appreciate to this day.

I continue to try and find new boundaries to push in every aspect of life. I find contentment to be equal to death and I want to be pushed further. In the 25 years since first seeing Hellbound I’ve discovered films that grossed me out more (Human Centipede comes to mind), but none that felt as forbidden as the first two Hellraiser films.

I will continue to find the next cinematic puzzle box, and when I find it I’ll open it without hesitation.

Tomorrow:  1989!

 

Arnie is a movie critic for Now Playing Podcast, a book reviewer for the Books & Nachos podcast, and co-host of the collecting podcasts Star Wars Action News and Marvelicious Toys.  You can follow him on Twitter @thearniec

August 18, 2014 Posted by | 40-Year-Old Critic, Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The 40-Year-Old Critic – Introduction

 

40-Year-Old-Arnie-Master-working-CloseUp-2In exactly 40 days I turn 40 years old.

That milestone is not one without heft.  If the actuarial tables for American males are to be believed, I’m likely at least halfway through my time on this planet.  Each day I am probably closer to my death than to my birth.  Now is the time to start measuring life by the things I’ll never do instead of the things I could do.  It’s a time to reflect on what has been and determine what will be for the rest of my days.

The usual things come to mind when I ponder my life thus far:  My loving, supportive, smart, and funny wife, Marjorie.  My long-time best friend, Stuart.  My godparents, who helped raise me and taught me to be analytical.  My sister, who exposed me to literature and deconstructionist themes.  My father, who gave me a cynical view, a strange sense of humor, and a love of classical music.

But what all these people have in common is a strong memory of watching films together; sitting in a dimly lit cinema, absorbed by the images on the screen.

Marjorie and I have seen so many films together that I doubt I could compile a comprehensive list. but a few stand out.  Our first film as a married couple, watched in a midnight release on our honeymoon, was Star Wars:  Attack of the Clones.  The projector broke.  We sat for 3 hours past the planned midnight start time before the movie began.  I can still sing that New Orleans’ theater’s jingle for popcorn and candy, which played on a loop the entire time.

Another memorable movie trip was to see Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset. It was a limited release so we had to drive 4 hours each way just to watch the film, and I was so tired on the return trip we had to get a hotel.

I remember Ocean’s 11 — a movie with such a strong feel-good vibe that it saved our Sunday.  We walked into the theater in the most sour of moods, and left extremely happy.

I remember watching Fight Club on video.  Marjorie was tired so she went to sleep, and the next day all I could talk about was how she had to see that film–the first movie that I felt she and I had to share as a couple versus being able to experience on my own.

Stuart and I have seen films together since 1982.  I remember going with him to see E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and Return of the Jedi.  Many more movies followed, but there are standouts. Charlie Sheen’s The Wraith, which we saw hoping for horror but got car races and heavy metal instead.  We hated it at the time, but I later came to love this film for what it was (and the Sherilyn Fenn waterfall scene).  We saw The Gate the weekend it opened, and bemoaned our choice for days.  Not all the movies we watched were terrible — I first saw The Godfather trilogy in Stuart’s Chicago apartment, and he introduced me to Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner as part of a film noir marathon we had together as teens.

For years Stuart and I had a standing Christmas night movie appointment.  He was in town to spend the holiday with family, and so a dinner of Chinese food and a movie viewing was had. Jackie Brown was the most memorable of those Christmas viewings, and we had wildly different reactions to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction follow-up.

 

But from European Vacation to Jaws 3-D to The Devil’s Rejects, Explorers, JFK, The Lawnmower Man and hundreds more, Stuart and I are still going to movies together.

My sister Susan took me to see my first R-rated film, Beverly Hills Cop.  She also exposed me to many movies I’d have not seen in my youth without her influence, including Ghostbusters and Lady and the Tramp.  She is much older than I, so our movie time together has been sparse, but always memorable, including E.T., Return of the Jedi, and Bridget Jones’ Diary.  (Though she staunchly refused to join me for a Hellraiser marathon.)

Yes, throughout the years my romantic, familial, and friend relationships have all involved, and in some ways been shaped by, movies.  Sometimes there is no quicker way to look into a person’s soul than to ask what films they cherish.  So it seems appropriate that to celebrate my 40th birthday I look back at 40 years of cinema.

Each day, from now until my birthday on September 12th, I will post an article looking back at the one film from each year of my life that impacted me most.  This may not be my favorite film, it may not even be a film I like, but the one that had the longest-lasting impact on me and helped shape my view of the world.

I hope you’ll join me each day as I reflect on my lifetime of cinema.

 

 

 

August 3, 2014 Posted by | 40-Year-Old Critic, Movies, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments