Friday, November 27, 2020

Review: 'The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian'

We fans have a notoriously tough time rallying around any live action Star Wars product that isn’t the original trilogy. Who can blame us? The prequel trilogy was a turgid gasbag. The sequel trilogy got off to a lively and well received start with The Force Awakens, but it began to divide fans as it became clear that the filmmakers were just winging it, and the whole thing ended on a fatuous note with The Rise of Skywalker. Rogue One was a good yarn but too dour to truly love. Solo was dumb. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Review: 'Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection'

 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog post. The opinions I share are my own.)

The Flintstones and Tom and Jerry are fine for a dose of nostalgia, but there’s a reason that Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies are timeless: they are still really, really funny. No other cartoons of their era packed such a wallop of anarchy, imagination, and wild one liners. 

The most memorable lines spewed from the buck-toothed grin of Bugs Bunny. Bugs could be sarcastic, salacious, or just plain screwy, but he was always hilarious. There was tremendous variety in the situations and the ways Tex Avery, Robert McKimson, Friz Freling, Bob Clampett, or Chuck Jones depicted him, but the wabbit was invariably puncturing pomposity and annihilating authority. I started showing Bugs Bunny cartoons to my son when he was still in diapers to help him develop a healthy spirit of rebellion and an unhealthy sense of humor. His hankering for carrots was an unintended side effect.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Review: 'The Jimi Hendrix Experience-Live in Maui'

On August 1, 1970, Jimi Hendrix played a spur-of-the-moment free concert on a slapped together stage on a cattle ranch in Maui so filmmaker Chuck Wein could shoot some live footage to insert into an awful sounding Easy Rider rip-off called Rainbow Bridge. This was just four weeks before Hendrix’s infamously disappointing performance as the headliner of the Isle of Wight Festival— just seven weeks before his death. Under such circumstances, it’s natural to expect little of Hendrix’s Maui gig. Yet, recordings prove it was a spectacular testament to how in charge of his powers he still was so close to the end of his life.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Review: 'Drawn to the Dark: Explorations in Scare Tourism Around the World'

In 2013, Chris Kullstroem was fresh out of graduate school and primed to pursue her next project: she would travel the world and experience its various horrific traditions and attractions first hand. She’d hang out in an Oaxaca cemetery on Dia de los Muertos. She’d get whipped by part-time sadists in Krampus masks in Salzburg. She’d visit Kyoto during Japan’s demon-centric celebration, Setsubun. She’d check out the Transylvanian castle that inspired Dracula’s digs and do Walpurgisnacht in Berlin.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Review: 'Punk Post Punk New Wave'

From the late seventies through the eighties, Michael Grecco photographed nearly every artist that mattered: The Clash, The Ramones, Talking Heads, The B-52s, Devo, Joan Jett, Billy Idol, Dead Kennedys, Lene Lovich, Elvis Costello, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joe Jackson, Buzzcocks, Nick Lowe, Madness, Adam Ant, and on and on. A new collection of his work, Punk Post Punk New Wave, is as much a testament to Grecco’s great taste in music as it is a display of his talent behind the lens.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Review: 'Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night'

A week into November, Halloween is not exactly the number one thing on my mind, and I tend to have Halloween on my mind more than most people. However, reading the new edition of Lesley Pratt Bannatyne’s Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America’s Fright Night helped me catch that spooky wave again. 

Playing the ever affable tour guide, Bannatyne focuses on the people who make Halloween an all-year obsession by devoting their lives to growing monstrous pumpkins, building their own elaborate decorations, running haunted attractions, prepping for costume parades, performing in creepy burlesque shows, playing trick-or-treat pranks, participating in zombie-invasion recreation societies, and crafting installments of The Simpsons annual Treehouse of Horror (hiya, Mike Reiss!). They’re the people who really draw every oozing bit of fun out of the funnest holiday. And I thought I was obsessed because I start decorating my apartment in September and spend the days leading up to October 31 watching several monster movies a day. I’m a rank amateur compared to the cat who collected so much jack-o’-lantern paraphernalia that he was able to put a down payment open a house by selling $200,000 worth of his stuff. And, yes, he still owned thousands of dollars worth of leftovers as of the book’s original publication in 2011 (the new edition features a fresh introduction by the author).


Bannatyne also covers people who identify as real-life ghost conjurers and spell-casting witches. I found that stuff less interesting because those people are not necessarily enamored with Halloween and because it isn’t 2011 anymore. Back then, I might have found folks who believe they have magical powers charmingly kooky. Today, when people who believe Democrats are baby-eating lizard people from outer space can actually win seats in Congress, I have a lot less tolerance for fantasy.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Review: 'Holly Jolly: Celebrating Christmas Past in Pop Culture'

John Waters once said, “If you don’t have yourself a merry little Christmas, you might as well kill yourself.” While I wouldn’t go quite that far, I do agree that there’s something pointlessly self-spiting about refusing the tinsely, tacky joys of Christmas. After all, are you really living if you deny yourself the pleasure of yucking it up when Ralphie nearly shoots his eye out with a Red Ryder BB gun? Are you really living if you don’t get a lump in your throat when Darlene Love wails “They’re singing ‘Deck the Halls,’ but it’s not like Christmas at all” or the Monkees harmonize like angels on “Riu Chiu”? Are you really living if you don’t ensconce yourself in pine and fairy lights every December?

I’ve been a stalwart atheist since my teens, and Christmas is the one vestige of a Catholic upbringing I still enjoy. Actually, I agree with seasonal-icon Charles Schulz, who once said, “I doubt very much that Christmas was ever a religious holiday in the first place.” The holiday was always more about the cartoon specials and very special episodes, pop songs and Scrooge movies, Coke and toy ads anyone can dig than magical mangers.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Review: 'Harry Dean Stanton: Hollywood’s Zen Rebel'

Harry Dean Stanton was a mass of contradictions. He was the quintessential character actor who saw himself as a leading man. He was an unshakable atheist who sometimes identified himself as a Buddhist. He was a loner who often found himself at the center of hard carousing. He was the bitter product of a mother who abandoned him but would not acknowledge a man who claimed to be his son. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Review: 'Ready Steady Go!: The Weekend Starts Here'

The most tragic consequence of the shortsightedness of the early television era is the fact that scant footage from the 173 episodes of Ready Steady Go! survives. Only nine complete episodes, one Motown special, and a handful of clips remain. That anyone would have wipe 120-or-so hours of The Beatles, The Supremes, the Stones, The Kinks, The Animals, Martha and the Vandellas, The Zombies, Dusty Springfield, The Ronettes, The Four Tops, Small Faces, or series mascots The Who performing at the height of their powers is criminal, and the pain only stings harder when you read Andy Neill’s new book Ready Steady Go!: The Weekend Starts Here.

All written content of is the property of Mike Segretto and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.