With the collection already containing Cannibal: The Musical, Redneck Zombies, and the amazing Last Horror Film, Troma has announced the next three films in their Tromasterpiece series, and one is a truly forgotten gem. Along with The First Turn-On and Combat Shock, the true art house distributor will be offering Australian auteur Phillipe Mora’s 1976 epic Mad Dog Morgan. Starring a superb Dennis Hopper and dealing with an intriguing part of Aussie folklore, this beautiful and demanding movie is finally getting the digital polish it so richly deserves. The trailer below is just a taste of the treats Troma has in storm. Check out the Collection’s Official Website to find out more.
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Prison Break is over. Three seasons after Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) successfully broke his falsely accused brother Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) out of Fox River Penitentiary, and two seasons after creators originally intended the show to end, it’s done. Well, mostly. Word is that they’ve cooked up one more two-hour special that takes place between the end of the last episode and it’s “4 Years Later” epilogue. But for all intents and purposes, the show wrapped up on Friday night.
Some people have complained that the show lost its momentum in the second season, as the characters got out of prison and separated. Others thought it jumped the shark in the third season, when most of the characters ended up in another prison, this time in Panama. “It got completely ridiculous!” they shout. I submit that the show was always completely ridiculous and that they’re remembering season one through rose-colored glasses. Look, I’ll admit that the twist at the end of season two that put them back in prison was over-the-top silly, but that was the point where I decided to mostly stop worrying about the logic of the show and just enjoy the twisty thrills it provided on a week-to-week basis. Clearly they had to come up with something when Fox renewed the show past the second season, so they completely embraced the pulp fiction/1940s movie serial-style action that was always bubbling under the surface. Prison Break always packed in the thrills and suspense, and they always knew when to ratchet up the action. This kept the show as an exciting guilty pleasure even when it bent over backwards with the twists.
I’m not going to lie; I really enjoy historical fiction, provided it is well-written. Bonus points for an authentically antiquated setting, and careful treatment of racism, sexism and cultural clashes. I completely respect the amount of research that goes into describing the people of another time and place and the lives they may have led.
Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death (2007) is a work of historical fiction as well as a first class murder mystery, but not in the popular sense, with a grumpy and/or vengeful (possibly alcoholic) detective directing the action. Franklin’s investigator is a trained doctor imported to England from Sicily in 1171 after four children are gruesomely murdered in Cambridge.
King Henry has asked for a master of the art of death, a doctor who can ‘speak’ to the dead and find out who killed them. Mysterious as this all sounds, what the doctor in question really does is reason out the likely cause of death from the physical indications of violence, and try to puzzle together the pieces to find the killer. The doctor’s task is made much more difficult, however, when she is a woman and must disguise her abilities and quest to avoid being labeled a witch.
Franklin doesn’t shy away from shocking violence and perversion; this story is not meant for those who enjoy historical fiction merely to imagine themselves in another time and place, perhaps the object of devotion of some member of the aristocracy. Mistress of the Art of Death is fast-paced, gritty , and mesmerizing. And luckily for those of us who enjoy quality period fiction, the sequel to Mistress, The Serpent’s Tale (2008) is available, as well as the third in what has rapidly become a series, Grave Goods, released in March 2009.
As the Roots slowly adjust to their new day job accompanying Jimmy Fallon and New York-centric lifestyle, their bi-weekly residency at the Highline Ballroom, “The Jam”, has become an unpredictable yet approachable setting to see the group in its element… at least elements of the group. This evening found only Black Thought, ?uestlove—the mainstays of the group—and bass player Owen Biddle leading an open mic night of sorts.
The late night set consisted of dozens of young, fledgling musicians sharing the stage with their musical heroes (many gave personal shout outs to the group and/or ?uestlove). It was unclear whether they were all alumni of the same performing arts academy as the Roots themselves (Philadelphia’s High School for Creative and Performing Arts) or just an assortment of their favorite up and coming rappers, vocalists, guitarists, horn players, and percussionists. Regardless, the sell out crowd was supportive and encouraging of the raw talent making its rounds on stage.
However the real story of the night was the stellar rhythm section holding the jam session together—that the Roots are one of music’s best rhythm sections should surprise no one. Naturally de facto music director of the Roots, ?uestlove, was at the helm, micromanaging the shuffling list of musicians from behind his drum kit and also calling out changes and key signatures to the other players. His ambidexterity is awesome, but his real talent is his ability in seamlessly transitioning and transposing multiple musical epochs into one fluid jam. He does it every night and I suspect his work on Late Night is only improving this skill. Along with ?uestlove, the celebrated songwriter and keyboard player James Poyser played back up. Perfectly in sync with ?uestlove the presence of Biddle, on six-string bass, rounded out the extremely adaptable and agile rhythm section.
Given that the Lonely Island (Andy Samberg’s comedy group) had performed on Late Night the previous evening, I was holding out hope that their collaboration with the Roots would spill over into the Highline gig. The band’s ephemeral sets are just another reason to keep coming back for more.
Are you the type of gamer who needs to have things that other people don’t have? Are you the type for whom “console exclusive” is the magic pair of words which inspires either immense pride or extreme jealousy? Well then, for this generation, the Wii is your console. This week demonstrates as much as well as any—look at the release lists, and you’ll see the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 each with the four same releases, while the Wii? Seven console-exclusive releases, with the only cross-platform release being the Rock Band Classic Rock Track Pack. Given the similarity of the Xbox 360 and PS3 processors, it simply doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint for a third party to release exclusives on one or the other. The Wii, as a machine with a completely different reason for being (not to mention a far weaker set of specs), almost demands exclusives, given its emphasis on control and limited graphical capabilities; even when games aren’t exclusives, parts of them are far different than versions put out for the other systems.
Of course, a look at this week’s releases also demonstrates the drawback of such a philosophy—wow, does the Wii ever attract some shovelware.
In this space, we’d rather focus on the games that aren’t shovelware, and thankfully, there are plenty of those this week as well. At the top of the list is the Wiimake—oh…oh my…did I just write “Wiimake”? I’m kind of ashamed, actually. It’s the Wii remake of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (or the exponentially less cool Punch Out!! featuring Mr. Dream, if you got to it late), whose most promising announced feature so far is the return of the classic controls with the updated graphics. Sure, those controls won’t beat the visceral thrill of flailing about with the Wii remote and nunchuck while you try in vain to knock down the likes of Glass Joe, but we have Wii Sports’ boxing for that anyway, right? In any case, the art style of the new Punch-Out!! is pretty appealing, and old-school nintendo fans are almost guaranteed to have a good time with it!!
If you could care less about old-time gaming, Boom Blox Bash Party is a good way to support one of the new Wii franchises. The first Boom Blox, highly touted as Steven Spielberg’s entry into the gaming arena, was at first a victim of widespread disinterest, and it sold terribly out of the box. That said, it’s apparently been a consistent seller for the Wii, given that it’s almost hit seven-figure sales since that slow start. Bash Party tweaks the formula a bit with underwater and outer space levels (and all the gravity changes such environments would imply), and adds the ability to download new levels at no extra cost, which could potentially push the replay value of the game into the stratosphere. Here’s hoping the second entry in the series doesn’t take quite so long to catch on.
As for all of those non-exclusives on the other big consoles, I would be remiss to not mention Bionic Commando. As the modern-day update to what remains my favorite Nintendo game of all time, I’m excited and utterly skeptical at the same time. My skepticism is mostly borne from descriptions that compare the Bionic Commando swing mechanic to the modern Spider-Man games, but I’m hoping against hope that there’s more to it than that. If nothing else, it looks to be a fun hi-def adventure game, which is fine and all, but the Bionic Commando name deserves more.
...and how could I forget Imagine: Makeup Artist? Oh, right.
What are you playing this week? Is anyone else dreading the release of Bionic Commando just a little bit? Do you know anyone who you can hold at gunpoint and force to buy Boom Blox Bash Party? Let us know in the comments, and enjoy the atypically busy release week!!