Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Terror Trivia Tuesday for Post-Trivia 41!

You would think that, after spending a goodly chunk of the last weekend answering over 430 trivia questions spread out over a 54 hour period that I would be plain Trivia'd out.

You would be wrong.

Promotional materials for this big-screen character's film debut were sent with a cover letter. The letter was written in the form of a "Last Will and Testament," in which the character bequeathed a number of the props seen in the film, and closed with him exhorting theater managers to "do him proud." According to the title of the movie, what is the name of this character?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Very Special Tuesday Terror Trivia

We are just a few days away from the start of the World's Largest Trivia Contest, in which I will be playing as much as I possibly can. These days leading up to the Friday night kick-off are consumed in searching the identities behind two dozen photos made available to teams once they register. Questions are then asked based upon these photos, and wise teams try to glean all the possibly info they can out of each picture. Now, as The Jar goes to press, there are still some of these photos that remain unidentified by our team. I cannot post them here - that would be in violation of contest rules - but I can make them available to any Jarhead who emails me at chicagocaker@yahoo.com and requests them. They're not horror-related (well, one may be), but they are challenging. You wanna play along? Drop me a line...

Here's an example from last year's contest; can you identify the rock group that featured this sketch as part of the jacket / sleeve art for one of their albums?

They're not easy, Jarheads!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

As coroner I must aver I thoroughly examined her

"And she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead!"

One of the few Munchkins remaining on this mortal coil has left us, and since he was born just a few miles down the road from where I am typing this, a moment for tribute. Meinhardt Raabe (pronounced "ROBB-ee") spent the last 24 years in a Florida retirement community, and his recent death at the age of 94 brought an end to a life that was nothing if not fascinatingly original. At the time he appeared in The Wizard of Oz, he was all of 23 years old and two years out of the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a degree in accounting. When he answered Hollywood's call for the vertically-challenged of Oz, he was actually one of the tallest Munchkins, topping out at four feet. (He would continue to grow in his 30s, adding another seven inches to his stature.) But after the success of the film, the corporate world shunned him, until Oscar Meyer hired him as a salesman, bestowing upon him the title "The World's Smallest Chef," and he spent three decades trundling across the country in the Wiener Mobile (which, oddly enough, was involved in a bizarre accident just a few years ago, crashing into a house, just miles from Raabe's hometown of Watertown, WI). He also found a secondary career as a motivational speaker, and made frequent appearances at Oz conventions. But these are the 13 seconds of Meinhardt Raabe's life that will live forever; just another of the uncountable examples of why we will never fall out of love with the movies...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Unwanted Heart

For those Jarheads who are also Facebook friends, this will be redundant, so my apologies. Yesterday I was informed that, after June 30, my services would no longer be required at my place of employment. Thus begins the nightmare scenario for those of us over the age of 40. As of now, I'm confident that I will land on my feet, and do so at a place that is a great improvement over current conditions. Professionally, the last 9 months of my life have been most unpleasant, and The Jar has been a welcome haven, my Sanctum Sanctorum, as Dr. Strange would say. But it is the first time in my life that I have been dismissed from a job, and I'm finding that, no matter how crummy the situation I'll be leaving, it still stings. My hope is that The Jar postings will not suffer, my good humor will remain with me, and the only fears I encounter will be on the screen or within the pages of a book. Please hang tight and stay true, Jarheads. 2010 continues to be a more interesting, dramatic year than I could have ever anticipated...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Grecian Formula

Film Review - CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010)
Screenplay by Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Based on a 1981 screenplay by Beverley Cross
Directed by Louis Leterrier

As much of a Ray Harryhausen fan as I am, I hold no special place in my heart for the 1981 Clash of the Titans; if anything, the memory brings more heartsickness than anything else, as I recall the hostile reviews that labeled the FX master's work as "dated" and "jerky." But let's ask the detractors - In 1981 pre-CGI Hollywood, how would you have brought the Kraken to life? A guy in a rubber suit? We were almost a decade away from a simple water tentacle, and rubberized in-camera effects were the only other game in town. So if someone wants to fire up the laptop and bring the Medusa to stupefying life, I say show me what ya got.

And truly, what is Greek mythology if not a series of Spielbergian set pieces? Quests are episodic, battles have a beginning and an end, and as long as there is an Olympus, there will always be a need for flowing robes and dry ice. In this respect, our 2010 version of Clash of the Titans nails its mark, as each scene calls out not so much for a review as for a judges' score, giving new meaning to the term Olympic Competition. Anyone looking for great depth of message and character development should probably keep walking down the hall of the cineplex -- although this CotT pares its characters right down to the bone, and that always
means some muscle is sacrificed. And trust me, Perseus - you're gonna need that muscle.

French director Louis Leterrier - who never got enough credit for producing a watchable Hulk - keeps the comic book pages flipping quickly, and you'd better play close attention to Io (Gemma Arterton), Demigoddess of Exposition, whose role is to follow young Perseus' (Sam Worthington) path upon this earth and be there when the time comes to, eh, ease his storm. Perseus is also a demigod, sprung forth from the loins of Zeus (Liam Neeson, who could have shot all his footage within a day or two), destined to serve as the man in the middle when those aforementioned Titans clash. Adopted by Pete Postlethwaite and Elizabeth McGovern when the sea gives up the tiny infant, a grown Perseus later seeks to avenge their deaths - collateral damage at the hands of Hades (Ralph Fiennes, sounding in need of a good multi-vitamin). This leads to all the encounters we anticipate from mythology - the Pegasus, the Stygian witches, giant scorpions springing up from the blood of Calibos. (There's also a funny Bubo gag that is, literally, a throwaway.) Pity that we no longer advertise movies with such exclamations as "SEE! The Medusa, whose lethal gaze turns brave warriors to stone!" That's what CotT does...and not a whole hell of a lot more.

I like Sam Worthington. I like that he projects this "I'm just showing up and doing my job here" attitude that feels right for a project like this. Blessed with impeccable bone structure and a stubble that neither ebbs nor grows, he's an unassuming presence that never feels as self-inflated as, say, Brad Pitt in Troy. (He also can't be bothered masking his Aussie accent for the length of a complete sentence, but the film is such a polyglot of dialects that it's not that glaring.) While I really wanted to see him tame the Pegasus and take him out for an initial test run, Worthington has probably played that Breaking a Beast that's Not Really There card for the once-a-decade that he's allowed. Let me go on record as saying what many others have - Time to ditch the blue-screen, Sam. I have a sneaking suspicion we won't be disappointed.

But I'll close this review with one great disappointment; seldom have the beautiful isles of the Aegean looked so drab, so uninviting. Were I a member of Greece's tourism board, I would be writing a very strongly worded letter to Warner Brothers - Tenerife may be lovely, but it's not Greece. And that is the sad fact of contemporary FX - they read better in a haze of gray. For whatever limitations Harryhausen's creations may have exhibited, they were often seen in pure, crisp sunlight (except for Medusa, whose shadowy chills in the original remain unsurpassed by the remake's overly-complicated, overwrought execution). And I also - apparently wisely - bypassed the opportunity to see Clash of the Titans in now-infamously shabby 3-D. The Kraken's attack on Argos was impressive enough without the added dimension, thank you, and if there's anything I learned by watching Sam and CGI in 3-D this past winter, I get a thunderstorm of a migraine that even Io can't ease. Could it be grander? Yes. Could it be more glorious? Yes. Could it be more colorful? Hell yes. But in an era when FX epics go off the rails more frequently than not, praised be Zeus that Clash of the Titans, like Perseus / Sam, gets the job done.

Tuesday Terror Trivia for 4/6!

In the music video for this Billboard Top Twenty 80s duet, one of the vocalists encounters a line of towering, lookalike Brides of Frankenstein, catching one of them in a back-breaking swoon. What is the name of this hit single?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Humanity, our hours upon this earth are numbered

I could not have been happier when Craig Ferguson won a Peabody, but I think Craig will be more thrilled when he gets his robot-skeleton sidekick tonight.

Calling for Horror Trivia!

If you notice over at my Facebook badge, there is a rather unusual logo that will remain in place for the next few weeks. That is the majestic emblem of The Cakers*, longtime participants in the annual World's Largest Trivia Contest, originating out of Stevens Point, Wisconsin courtesy of the fine folks at the University of Wisconsin / Stevens Point's own radio station, WWSP. It draws over 10,000 players from around the globe, and I've been involved in this yearly extravaganza in one way or another since 1983: I'll be playing with the Cakers again this year (although, due to work commitments, my time spent with the team will be woefully truncated). It's that involvement which inspired the weekly Tuesday Terror Trivia Challenges here at the Jar; yes, even my team bitches at me for coming up with ?s that are just too freakin' hard.

But what I'd like to do is open this posting up to my fellow Horror bloggers with a question - what is you favorite bit of Horror Trivia? What is the one factoid that you know, and might well be the sole possessor of this magnificent truth? Movies, TV, comics, radio -- it's all fair game. As I mentioned once before, you can play the contest for years without getting a Horror question offered up to you, but it also should be said that one of the most famous questions in the contest - and one that gets asked every year during the final hour - is, "What is the player's name on the baseball bat that Wendy Torrence uses to hit her husband Jack in the movie The Shining?" You all know, of course, that it's Carl Yastrzemski, right? Yeah, that's kinda the level we're looking for. And if you want to pose it (or them, if you have multiples) in the form of a question, go ahead. Zombies and Trivia Players - they both need brains, so go ahead and strut your stuff, Jarheads!

* I could explain what it represents, but you'd have to be drunk to understand it, and then you'd just forget it anyway.

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's the sugar that'll kill ya

Jarheads, Yours Truly is in the thick of the five busiest days of the year for the biz that I'm in, so while I truly intended to entertain you with some appropriately-themed holiday postings - and they may yet appear - you'll have to make do with this. If someone had told me one year ago that I would be creating a blog, only to feature a posting with Tom Arnold as protagonist, well, I would have beaten them silly. And I am nothing if not a gentle man. But, since Easter Horror is at a premium, I give you...Peeps: The Movie.

Yep, crap like this is why I didn't get a Rondo nom.