Testosterone-filled anime madness.

Mad Bull 34: The Complete Series


Pros: Completely shameless in what it wants to be.

Cons: Completely shameless in what it wants to be.

In the rough streets of New York where rape, prostitution, and murder run rampant. New officer on the force, Daisuburo “Eddie” Ban, is assigned to the 34th Precinct. His first day of duty sees him partnered up with officer John Estes aka Sleepy, but better known as Mad Bull. Daisuburo gets his first taste on what it means to be a cop working the 34th. But Sleepy’s excessive force has him wondering, what kind of cop is he? And how the hell did he make it to the force? –summary

Well… Mad Bull 34, I never thought the day would come when this 4 episode OVA hit DVD shelves, and it’s not because this series is some hard to find masterpiece. Instead, Mad Bull 34 embodied all of the negative clichés found in early 90’s anime. It’s over the top violent, exploitive, and gross. The series is totally shameless in what it wants to be, but to its credit though, the series does a fine job in setting out what it wanted to be. There are a small group of anime fans out there whom hold this high as some type of classic, but it’s definitely far and away from that.

Based on the manga written by Kazuo Koike, and directed by Satoshi Dezaki; the series follows the two cops as they combat muggers, rapist, gangsters, and eventually the mafia. The first volume is a plotless and sex-filled blood bath, with some type of story coming around towards the end. However, the last three stand alone episodes are story driven as the two cops go up against in-house corruption, a suicidal Japanese cult, and a robotic monster reminiscent of the Predator.

Unfortunately, Mad Bull 34 will hit you with so much profanity and violence that the stories become an after thought, and you’ll just be wondering how they’ll kill someone next or how the two cops and later on a third cop by the name of Perrine Valley are getting out of these jams. One moment stands out to me when Sleepy guns down two robbers leaving one terribly wounded and attempting to take a female hostage. He kills the guy in a way that needs to be seen to be believed. The girl goes in to shock and grabs a hold of his partner; Sleepy advises him to stick his finger up her ass ( in those exact words) for her to let go and come back to her senses. This doesn’t even scratch the surface on how mad this anime is; from the Predator monster’s antics to the hand grenade jock strap, there is usually something floating out of left field. Mad Bull 34 is hilariously sick and the cool thing is that it never takes itself seriously.

The blood-lusting action fiend will no doubt see their appetite for destruction satisfied. There is seriously tons of action with only the third episode being the weakest to me. My only issue is that I need more than this stuff in my anime, because after awhile a more mature audience will become numb to all of the killing, cursing, and sex.

I enjoy the English dub mainly because of those hilarious Boston-Italian accents. Daisuburo doesn’t sound even remotely close to a Japanese born American or New Yorker for that matter. I can almost swear that I ordered a pizza from this guy when I was in Massachusetts. The animation is hand drawn old school goodness, with the male designs looking quite brawny, and the females all looking sexy in some way. The violence isn’t the least bit tame; viewers will get it all from blown off heads to slit throats. One thing about the visuals that stood out to me, is how the artist must have visited New York because they did a well enough job on the landscape and subways. The 4,5, and 6 trains transfer to the 7 line in Grand Central station was detailed enough. The soundtrack isn’t anything truly gripping, but it does a good job working alongside the action.

Mad Bull 34 is a bad title that I mildly enjoy. I can’t exactly hate it because at the very least it’s tonally consistent, and just not meant to be taken seriously. However, this is something I would only recommend to the most serious otakus who must see everything. If this title sounds too out of control for you then skip it for sure. If you love loads of violence then this is for you.

Run time: 180 minutes


Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)

  Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)


Pros: Very interesting hero and villains, stories are still pretty strong

Cons: Artwork shows age

When high school teen Peter Parker attends a science exhibit, his life is soon forever changed. During a demonstration on radioactive rays, a spider accidentally absorbs some of the radiation. Parker is bitten by the spider and later learns he has obtained the spiders abilities.

Peter Parker can now stick to most surfaces, posseses beyond super human strength, speed, endurance, reflexes, and agility. He has obtained an early danger warning sense called “the spider sense”. He also creates devices called the “web shooters”, which fires a webbing solution created from his own formula in order to assist him in battle and travel at great speeds. Later, tragedy strikes and Parker realizes that with great power also comes great responsibility. He eventually becomes a costumed vigilante calling himself Spider-Man.-summary

In 1962 the legendary Stan Lee along with Steve Ditko would go on to not only create the most interesting comic book character of that era, but someone whom would also go on to become the most popular character for a very long time and in many people’s eyes the face of comic books: The Amazing Spider-Man. This character was an instant hit back then simply because he broke the rules on what a superhero should be. While teenage superheroes such as Robin and Bucky mainly stood in as side kicks to their older bosses (Batman and Captain America respectively). Spider-Man was a teenager with extraordinary powers whom had to teach himself the ropes. He had no one to take him under his wing, and he simply had to learn the life of being a superhero the hard way. This TPB collects Amazing Fantasy # 15 along with The Amazing Spider-Man issues 1-10.

While looking back at these earlier issues; I can see the beginnings of when comics began to change from funnies into something a bit more mature. Now don’t get me wrong, these stories are still light hearted fun anyone of any age can get into, but Stan Lee had more to deliver here than the superhero saving cats from trees.

Peter Parker isn’t exactly someone to look up to due to him being a geeky kid who’s constantly bullied and rejected at school; but there’s just something about him that one must admire. He constantly strives to do better, be responsible with his powers, and in some way provide for his Aunt May whom has helped as his guardian for years. There’s always something interesting taking place in Peter’s life, but his life as a superhero is clearly what stands above all, and this wouldn’t be possible if not for the many challenges he has to overcome.  This brings me to his colorful and notorious rogues gallery.

This TPB features various first appearances of villains whom would go on to become classics, and these confrontations are just so fun to read. The stakes feel so high against Dr. Octopus as he truly seems like an unstoppable foe; in fact, he hands Spider-Man his first crushing defeat. Many enemies put Spider-Man’s powers to the test, as he battles against Electro, Sandman, Dr. Doom and even the Fantastic Four. Stan Lee’s writing was very good here, and he would eventually step things up in later issues. The only small problem can be some of the artwork at times. It can feel dated, yet it still delivers the goods.

The Amazing Spider-Man Volume One is a wonderful collection of stories that I highly recommend to fans of the characters, and those just interested in his beginning. The stories aren’t totally over the top which can be a good thing, but they aren’t eye rolling campy either. Definitely give these stories a read some day.

“I REALLY HATE SHARKS!” Another Abomination from The Asylum: SHARKNADO



, or at Amazon


Pros: I’ve actually seen worse (Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus – I’m looking at you!)

Cons: So many…oh so many

Here it is: the movie that, following in the footsteps of cinematic masterpieces like Snakes on a Plane, ignited a social media firestorm and captured the imaginations of viewers around the world…

until they watched the thing and realized it was just another Syfy Channel P.o.S.


Continuing in the string of made-for-video creature feature trainwrecks that air continuously on Syfy Channel, 2013’s Sharknado (made – as is the case with many of the Syfy Channel moves – by The Asylum film studio) picks up a basic premise so outrageous, so unbelievably dumb that it nearly defies categorization. The story (which sort of resembles a typical zombie film in which the undead hordes are replaced with schools of sharks) concerns an aging surfer and bar-owner named (what else) Fin who, with the help of two patrons and the establishment’s plucky female bartender, goes on a quest to save his stereotypically estranged family when some rather freak weather events hit the California coast. When I say “freak weather events,” I mean a hurricane that has flooded most of the beach communities in Southern California, unleashing swarms of voracious sharks in the process. Inevitably, these sharks swimming through public streets are sucked up into waterspouts, creating the titular weather event in which cyclones of snapping shark jaws whip around through the greater Los Angeles area. Will anyone make it out of this storm unscathed, or can Fin, his (apparently) bi-polar ex-wife April, their two kids Matt and Claudia, and the shotgun-toting bartender named Nova come up with a plan stupid enough to work in a film as moronic as this one?

That is definitely a real shark. I would know.

Believe me: I get the point of a film like this. In the era of social media and viral marketing, a film as undeniably idiotic as this is designed firstly to create a stir, not necessarily to be a “good movie.” A brief perusal of IMDB.com’s message boards relating to this film quickly revealed the obligatory thread entitled “Best. Movie. Ever.” and that’s exactly the reaction I would expect from the crowd that would appreciate this movie in the first place. It’s loud, poorly-made by any standard, and obnoxious to the extreme aside from not making one lick of sense. Thus it may be the perfect movie for generation ADD, a group of entertainment consumers who seem have little regard for the actual quality of the “entertainment” they digest: these people simply desire something to talk about or make fun of. To say that Sharknado is a bad movie is redundant; obviously, this movie was never intended to be a masterwork. Still, to see ANY viewer commending a film that is this wholly uninterested in any of the technical aspects that to me, would show some basic level of competency on the part of the film makers is shocking and somewhat disturbing.

The infamous shark versus chainsaw moment. Classy stuff.

To put it simply, I’m not sure I could ever come up with another film that rivals Sharknado’s complete disregard for continuity or coherency: Thunder Levin’s unfocused mess of a script demonstrates that he has no mind for detail. Character motivations are extremely inconsistent: these people are focused on a single task or idea one minute which is completely forgotten the next. Story devices are highlighted and pushed to the forefront of a viewer’s attention, then abandoned right when one would think they’d be building towards some sort of climax. It’s really as if we’re watching a film that was invented on the fly based on what the visual effects crew could pump out in a few minutes time. Anthony C. Ferrante’s direction is equally abominable. There are glaring continuity errors present in this film: Southern California is a disaster area in one sequence, perfectly normal in the next. A lot of the problems here comes down to an editing scheme that’s disjointed and confusing: individual sequences have little connection to those around them. Additionally, Sharknado looks extremely drab throughout, dominated by dull, very unappealing grays. This seems an incredibly bad choice in a film that, considering the marketing scheme (and apparent target audience of young people who have low attention spans), one would hope would have been more colorful and lively.

Stormy with a chance of shark attack.

It’s almost absurd how reliant this production is on CGI effects – the sharks, many backgrounds, gore, most of the violent weather events and rain are all created digitally, but even worse than the sheer quantity of digital effects seen is the poor quality of these visuals. Given the sheer number of made-for-video “mockbusters” pumped out by The Asylum (who by this point have to be making a killing in licensing fees considering how damn many of their godawful productions wind up on Syfy Channel), one might think this studio would have come up with some better digital effects to feature in their effects-driven films – after all, people don’t see these movies for their bravura acting or powerful scripts. Sadly, this is quite clearly not the case – these effects would have looked bad in the mid-1990s; by 2013, they’re not only completely out-of-place, but positively atrocious.

SHARKNADO…an epic struggle for survival…

Another astounding feature of Sharknado is the complete lack of imagination that went into this film’s construction. Though I’ll give Thunder Levin credit for inventing the whole “sharks in a tornado” thing which is amusing in an “I can’t believe they did that” sort of way, this film explores precisely no new territory in terms of how the story plays out. Though the context is different, most everything seen and heard in this film has been done previously – we get various, completely unnecessary family squabbles including the most ludicrous father-daughter “moment” imaginable, a hasty romance that blossoms between Nova and Matt despite the fact that the pair just met, and even crude recreations of several scenes from Jaws – a groan-inducing retelling of the Indianapolis monologue and obligatory “we need a bigger boat” remark. One of this film’s major talking points was the finale, in which Fin and his companions square off against the sharks (and tornadoes) using homemade bombs (huh?) and various lawn maintenance tools.

I have to point this out, though it’s obviously just my opinion: the fact that this film includes a scene where a man cuts himself out from the gullet of a shark with a chainsaw (thank you Evil Dead) doesn’t mean it’s automatically a “good movie.”


The cast in this film, made up of (at best) actors of the “whatever happened to that guy” variety, includes Ian Ziering (doing a ridiculous “tough guy” impersonation as Fin), Tara Reid (looking half plowed playing Fin’s bimbo of an ex-wife), John Heard (as the shark fodder town drunk), and Australian actor Jaason Simmons (as Fin’s buddy Baz). As iffy as these performances from (somewhat) recognizable actors are, Chuck Hittinger and Aubrey Peeples as Ziering and Reid’s two children are even worse, with Peeples especially irritating as the daughter who “feels left out.” Gimme a break! The most (and perhaps only?) likable member of the cast by my count was Cassie Scerbo as Nova. Scerbo at least brings some spunk to the role and is believably rugged – I can’t say the same for the rest of these bozos.

Terrible CGI is but one of this film’s problems.

Considering its reputation, it was alarming to me that this film wasn’t particularly fun to watch. Maybe I just couldn’t get over how awful the script, direction, acting, and effects were or how badly the overall production was handled – Sharknado truly appears to have been made by an untalented, amateur crew that was completely incapable of producing an effective feature film. This effort does have some enjoyable moments, but these seemed few and far between to me. Easily-amused viewers might experience different results than I, but in no way shape or form would this be a movie that I’d recommend. Even when taken as the outrageous trash it very much is, Sharknado is lowest common denominator entertainment. It’d probably be fun if you were piss drunk, but otherwise it seems pretty pathetic.

Widescreen DVD available from The Asylum contains no bonus features.

7/10 : A fair amount of rather extreme blood and gore, though it’s not quite the rigorous, violent assault that some films would offer.

1/10 : Some brief rough language and very minor profanity.

1/10 : Women in bikinis; brief, relatively harmless innuendo.

9/10 : A ready-made cult item that some people apparently liked; there’s already one sequel with another one in the works. Be afraid.

“We can’t just wait here for sharks to rain down on us..”

Hold on a second…SEVEN MILLION VIEWERS????

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

 at Amazon


Pros: Good special effects and some action

Cons: Very weak writing with various missteps

High School student Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) sneaks onto a science fair with hopes of meeting Dr. Curt Connors (Ryhs Ifans). He eventually breaks away from his group and begins snooping around until he comes into a lab filled with genetically altered spiders. He’s eventually bitten by one of them, and later learns that he has some how developed spider-like abilities. -summary

While many folks will credit Bryan Singer’s X-Men film (2000) as the actual film to jump start the superhero craze we now see today; I always saw Sam Raimi, whom brought the wall crawler to the big screen in 2002 as the true driving force behind it, and his first sequel Spider-Man 2 pretty much cemented this for me. Although the first two movies were very good and enjoyed great success, it was actually Sam Raimi’s second sequel Spider-Man 3 that pretty much sunk the franchise despite its success, and due to this Spider-Man 4 was scrapped. This lead to The Amazing Spider-Man directed by Marc Webb, which happens to be a complete reboot of the franchise. I’m among the group that felt starting from scratch was totally unnecessary because Raimi already laid out the ground work, and I felt no one else could have possibly pulled it off better. Webb did a damn good job proving me right with this lackluster effort. I found this film worse than Spider-Man 3; it’s so shallow, predictable, with some miserable characterization.

The only things about this film I enjoyed were the special effects and action; the CGI did a well enough job capturing Spider-Man’s lightening quick reflexes and movements. There were plenty of fun moments watching Parker learn how to use his athletic abilities, and the battles against the Lizard had its moments. For the most part, I think the fights delivered on the fisticuffs. If I have an issue with the fights then it lies in the lack of drama. There was a complete lack of urgency; they were all flash and didn’t really tell a good story. Comic fans will already know the reason why Spider-Man can’t always go toe to toe with the Lizard, but non fans will only believe the Lizard is that more powerful, when the truth is that they’re nearly equal in strength. Webb simply did a poor job at storytelling here.

I liked the designs for both characters though. Spider-Man felt like a cross between Spider-Man 2099 and the Scarlet Spider. While the Lizard had a half man, half reptile appearance and resembled the Dan Slott version of the character who’s very large and overly aggressive.

Had the action not delivered on some level I would totally hate this movie, and my aggravation is aimed directly towards the characterization. I get that this is a reimaging but there was too much altering of the source material. Peter Parker was brilliant enough to create his web shooters and webbing formula, yet he’s clumsy on an unbelievable level. He seemed too careless with his secret identity, by easily revealing it and removing his mask for no reason. It may seem like nitpicking but this is a character with 50 years of history behind him, and there’s just some things that really shouldn’t be tinkered with. On top of this, his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) couldn’t have felt anymore staged. The Lizard felt so 1963 with his mad scientist motivation; if you never read the comic then please take my word for it. He is not that one-dimensional. In addition, I couldn’t get into the plot at any point, which mainly followed Spider-Man trying to learn who the Lizard is and stop him. The plot was littered with unnecessary romance and interactions, and should have focused more on Spider-Man’s smarts.

It’s always nice to see these characters hit the big screen, and see material borrowed from Ultimate Marvel and Marvel 616; but solid acting and special effects aside, this movie is the reason I didn’t bother to see the recent sequel in theatres, and those who know me claim I made the right decision waiting for the DVD or Blu-Ray. I didn’t care for it much; however, I would still recommend it to fans of the character and the earlier movies. Plus the kids seem to love this movie a lot. The violence is pretty much on the tame side with nothing I would say to the be offensive. It’s definitely a family movie and that’s usually a good thing.

Wonder What It Is

300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles 5th Edition




Pros: information, information, information

Cons: print is pretty small for old eyes, but the book is almost a thousand pages, larger print and it would be even longer!



300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles 5th edition is a massive work of nearly a thousand pages, with thousands of listings, photos and recipes. It has, according to the front cover Completely updated pricing and an all new color section.

I am a collector of kitchen junque, mainly that of the depression era, but now and then I see something intriguing at the jumble shop for next to nothing as a cost and put it into my basket.

The comprehensive Table of Contents is a gem beginning with an introduction & How to collect online.

Offered in eight sections the book begins with Preparation the doo dads, gizmos and whingdings needed for coring and cutting stirring and churning, straining and sifting, shaping and decorating. And more. This section begins on page 11 ends on 405 and separated into 4 parts.

The next segment is Measuring, pages 406-440. Holding & Handling, 4 segments, is found on pages 440 -558, Cooking 5 sections begins on page 559 and ends at 737. Preserving runs, 2 segments, 738 – 784, Furnishing 778 – 802, Electrifying work 803 – 844.

Researching comprising 5 segments beginning 845 – 887 offer information regarding researching patents, patent numbers and dates, patent Tuesdays and perpetual calendar, bibliography, and a German English utensil glossary.

A visual glossary with parts and handles 888-890 and index 891 round out the work with a color photo section following chapter XV, regarding preserving of foods and the things used in doing so.

I find this work to be fascinating for the collector of stuff, historian or docent for local museum, antique and jumble shop proprietor as well as the collectors who haunt those shops.

Many photos as well as some drawings appearing to have been taken from original works are scattered all through the book. From apple corers page 11, to cherry stoners and green bean slicers and stringers ending on p 31 it appears our forebears did up a lot of fruit and canned beans for winter.

Chopping knives, corn graters, egg slicers, and scales for weighing eggs, grinders and graters can all be found on these pages. Some I have seen, some I have not. Some I have. For a time I collected orange squeezers, both glass reamers and metal handled affairs that is have on the shelf and see on these pages. After a time you begin to run out of room.

Page after page of kitchen tools, implements and things to aid the cooks in the kitchen of yore, and some still in use today are described, often pictured and often available at the local jumble shop. The pages filled with old time hand held egg beaters I find fascinating, and yes, I do have a number of the ones I see, they were hard to use when I was growing up and Mama sent one sister or another to whip egg whites for meringue, or whatever needed beating. Today mine adorn the walls of the breakfast nook, or hang suspended from the ceiling …. On the points of corn driers originally used for drying ears of corn. I use a blender or mixer today.

On page 145 I see my mayonnaise maker, I admire those ladies who were our grandmothers, they must have had wonderful arms, and well behaved children to help make the spread for sandwiches.

It is a thrill for those of us who enjoy the old treasures we see in dusty boxes to find so many widgets, whatchamacallits and doo hickeys all gathered in one book.

I have several of the old can openers, and in a pinch get one down to use, stab the pointy blade into the can, hold handle securely, work the blade around the top of the can, careful, don’t but it all the way across… makes the lid hard to pick out of the green beans. Use spoon, pry lid up and DON’T touch the rim of lid or the can, those jagged edges cause a nasty cut, not good for dripping into the beans. Thank goodness for electric or even those hand held ones we have today that do not leave a slice your fingers to the bone border.

150 years ago not only did cooks prepare the meals, but if a holiday was near there was no go to the store for a bag of chocolate eggs and a bunny for the babies’ basket. Candy molds and other apparatus for making candy of every type are shown on these pages. I have not found any of these in jumble shops, but perhaps it was because I did not what to look for before reading these pages.

Cooky cutters, butter molds for prettying up the butter to set on the table, and cooky molds were all a staple in the kitchen in days long gone. Doughnut cutters and wheels and things are not ones we use today, there was a day when doughnuts were truly a treat as the whole family gathered to stir and knead, roll and cut, drop and sugar and then feast on the delicacies not made on a regular basis.

Churns and ice cream molds, pie crimpers and jelly molds as well as rolling pins plain and fancy, garnishing cutters to pretty up the veggies and make them appealing to children, waffle irons some electric and some not, every kind of pan you can imagine, measuring tools from spoons to clocks to hanging thermometers to … you name it, it is likely to be found.

Even pot holders have their place in this book, from the cloth type my granny made to crocheted… I didn’t make them but 2 of mine are on page 444!

Flue covers, cook stoves, stovetop ovens and lifting gizmos for getting the fried potatoes or the pancakes out of the pan or off the griddle are featured. One of mine is on page 666, it hangs with others from more of the corn driers in the nook.

I’m glad I got this book!

I especially like the asides, post cards, recipes, hints, and cautions scattered throughout the work. Hints for research, patents and trade marks are all included. All in all a wonderful work for the serious collector, or for reading on a rainy day for a step back in time.

 Happy to recommend 300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles 5th edition

and to submit to the   words to the July – August contest.



Book title:  300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles 5th edition

Author: Linda Campbell Franklin

Series: 300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles

Paperback: 896 pages

Publisher: Krause Publ; Fifth Edition edition (April 2003)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0873493656

ISBN-13: 978-0873493659

Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 8.5 x 1.8 inches



It’s Absurd! It’s Very Lame! It’s MEGA SHARK VERSUS GIANT OCTOPUS!



or at Amazon


Pros: I chuckled a few times

Cons: Dumb-duh-dumb-dumb-DUMB! Zero creativity, obnoxious CGI effects, atrocious acting performances, asinine dialogue; the list goes on and on…

You ready for this dose of pure genius in storytelling?

As might be suggested by its oh-so-subtle titling, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus revolves around a pair of absurdly gigantic sea creatures and humanity’s efforts to stop their reign of terror on the open seas. Following (DUH!) a secret government test involving sonar, the two titular creatures are released from a glacier after being trapped millions of years ago in the middle of a fight to the death. Now, after the octopus destroys a Japanese oil rig and the shark not only snatches a jet airliner out of midair (!), but also takes a bite out of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge (!!), it’s up to a trio of marine biologists who’ve been accosted by a bigoted, snake-like government agent to try and devise a way to kill the beasts before they cause even more destruction. Their solution seems to suggest they’ve seen a few of the old Godzilla movies since they attempt to lure the creatures back together so they can continue their epic battle and effectively wipe each other out.

Yeah…about that…

Though this film garnered some attention (mainly due to its outrageous and completely preposterous storyline) and a reputation of being a film that’s “so bad, it’s good,” I’d have to seriously question the taste of anyone who actually enjoyed this piece of cinematic refuse. It’s yet one more example of modern film makers mistakenly believing that they can recreate the genuinely fun atmosphere in schlocky monster/sci-fi/horror movies of yesteryear. What today’s genre writers and directors don’t seem to comprehend is that purposely bad films seldom are as amusing or entertaining as straight-faced films that simply turned out badly. Typically, intentionally-made schlock turns out to be pathetic, suggestive of the fact that the people behind the camera knew they couldn’t possibly do anything interesting with the script and resources they were offered due simply to their own ineptitude, so they just went after creating the lowest form of entertainment they could. Obviously, the makers of Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus are simply trying to make an entertainment picture; they don’t have any grand aspirations. Still, one would have hoped the final product would actually be entertaining or at least watchable, and that simply isn’t the case here.

bad enough
It’s bad enough the special effects are awful, but then the visuals are muddy on top of it.

Any way one looks at it, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus is a bottom-of-the-barrel effort. Loaded to the brim with terrible-looking, cheap Charlie computer graphics that are re-used throughout the picture thus making it look even more cheap, this film demonstrates that not one iota of imagination, creativity, or (God forbid) inspiration went into its production. It’s really not a good sign when writer/director Jack Perez (whose “highpoint” as a film maker may be Wild Things 2, an atrocious nearly scene-by-scene remake of the fairly decent original thriller) has his name removed from the credits in favor of a pseudonym. Everything here operates on a painfully cliched, “I’ve seen that five hundred times before” level, with stereotypical characters (portrayed by actors who can’t inject one smidgen of life into them) and a plot-line that will have a viewer yawning in seconds. If that’s not enough, the film is plain unexciting: Chris Ridenhour’s downright boring music score doesn’t help, but I’m not sure even Hans Zimmer could have done much with these lethargic, supposed action sequences. The climactic final battle of the titans amounts to nothing in the bigger scheme of the film – hell, the title creatures aren’t intimidating in the least.


And then we have this cast: typical for a production of this nature (MSvGO was produced by The Asylum, a studio that specializes in frequently outrageous, low-budget “mockbuster” type films that attempt to capitalize on big-budget mainstream films; looking through their list of credits is enough to make one lose faith in the movie industry as a whole) the actors here are has-beens at best and never-shoulda-beens at worst. “Deborah” Gibson (yes, the ‘80s music sensation) stars as marine biologist Emma MacNiel and proceeds to turn in one of the most emotionless, cardboard performances I’ve seen in quite a while. Watch as she conducts a tremendously awkward romance with Japanese scientist Dr. Seiji Shimada (played by Vic Chao, who may turn in the best performance in the film), and attempts to convey distress during several “tense” scenes. Sean Lawlor appears as the stereotypically gruff Irishman who helps Shimada and MacNiel devise a plan to get rid of the creatures, while a slimy Lorenzo Lamas collects a paycheck sleepwalking through the role of an abrasive and racist government official in command of the operation.

Perhaps the only decent special effect in the film, created through forced perspective.

Writer/director Perez’s script hands these characters the most soul-destroying lines of dialogue imaginable: I realize we’re dealing with a lousy, made-for-video monster flick here, but Perez really doesn’t have to treat the viewers like kindergarteners. Several instances of harsh profanity are thrown into the picture simply to achieve an R-rating – a notion that not only seems positively absurd considering that this film would be perfect for younger audiences rather than older ones, but also indicates the level of thought process that went into the script – i.e. it’s moronic. Exhausted all your options for continued story development? Why not drop a few F-bombs into the film – that’ll grab the viewer’s attention…or not. By far the most frustrating thing for me though was Perez’s use of flash-edits and black and white throwaway shots to end most scenes in the picture – a very awkward, incredibly ill-advised way to transition from one scene to the next. Honestly, this man never deserves to work in Hollywood again after his catastrophically bad handling of this project from top to bottom.

’80s superstar Debbie Gibson gets her moment to shine…or something like that.

Though I’ve never been a fan of CGI effects in the first place, the visuals presented in MSvGO look horrendous. As rubbery, unrealistic, and ridiculous as Bruce the shark in Jaws looked, a viewer of that film can instantly tell that there was something there and the way the creature was handled (and hidden) by director Steven Spielberg made the beast not only believable, but downright threatening. Looking at wave after wave of unsubstantial digital artifacts being used to represent supposedly threatening creatures in Perez’s film rapidly grows tiresome: this film flaunts its goofy visuals in the viewers’ face and the overload of trash-level digital effects on display made me nauseous. Bear in mind this film was made in 2009 – digital effects had come a long way since the Tron era, but you wouldn’t know it judging from what we see here.  Mega Shark’s effects resemble 1990s-era computer-game graphics unceremoniously dumped into a feature film – they seem out of place and woefully unimpressive.  It’s kind of a wonder given that nearly every visual in MSvGO was created digitally that the entire picture wasn’t filmed in front of a green screen, but lo and behold, The Asylum actually constructs a few extremely lousy (we’re talking 1950s low-budget bad) submarine sets. The mind-bogglingly bad effects work is just the icing on the cake though in a film that’s a complete disaster through and through.

Not a scene from the film, but it would be cool if it was…

I’ll admit it: I laughed a few times during this film at just how absurd the whole thing was getting. The acting alone would inspire a few guffaws, and instances where in-camera shaking and/or Debbie Gibson dry humping a table are used to create the illusion of a monster attack just about made my jaw hit the floor. Unfortunately, this film is nowhere near as clever, amusing, or enjoyable as it would have (or like) a viewer to believe. It winds up being a chore to get through this mess, and if the fact that this abomination of a movie led to a(n ongoing?) series of sequels (Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus; Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark) doesn’t speak to the level of creative bankruptcy that’s ruining the movie business, I simply don’t know what does. Do yourself a favor: avoid Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus anyway you can and save your braincells and time for something more important.

Original DVD release from The Asylum features an near-worthless 8-minute “making of” segment which is little more than dull interviews with the actors, and a three-minute blooper reel. A pretty lousy disc, and none of the other home video releases are any better.

3/10 : Some “creature violence,” but minimal onscreen gore or carnage. Honestly, this is more disaster movie than creature flick.

4/10 : Completely gratuitous profanity thrown in just to secure an R-rating; Debbie Gibson does drop an angry F-bomb.

1/10 : Out of the blue, Gibson has a brief sex scene with her Asian lover in a broom closet, but unfortunately, no nudity.

5/10 : Undoubtedly, there’s a crowd out there that would like this movie. I feel sincerely sorry for them and their utter lack of taste.

The movie in a nutshell: “Point is, if we have a sense of humor about this thing, everything’s going to work out – I promise.” Um, you sure bro?

4 Million Viewers Can’t Be Wrong, Right?…RIGHT?

Seven-foot bookcase works well in “music library” foyer

Safeco BOOKCASE pic

Safco® Square-Edge Veneer Bookcase, Adjustable Shelves, 84″H x 36″W x 12″D, Walnut



Pros: This seven-foot-tall bookcase satisfies me in my finished basement’s foyer.

Cons: Lacks some of the cachet of custom-made or solid-wood cabinetry. Price seems a bit high. Requires a fair amount of assembly (but a mere screwdriver – plus a hammer or rubber mallet – is all that’s needed).



“Vertically speaking,” there are four levels to my suburban Kansas City house, with two of my three “man caves” being upstairs (on the second and third floors). But the finished half of the basement became particularly compelling once I finished converting it into a “classical music library and theater” in 2012. Whenever I’m about to enter the main room (whose expansive media shelving generally lies within built-in, glass-doored cabinetry), I’m initially greeted – in the little foyer – by my favorite category of “music” tomes, i.e., classical composer biographies.

Speaking here strictly of conventional, printed books (excluding my sundry “digitized” media), and counting neither my 20-volume New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians nor my roughly 120 miscellaneous reference volumes on “classical music” generally, my classical-composer-biographies collection encompasses about 260 titles – 206 of which reside within the subject of this review:


As of this writing, this Safco product remains available via various vendors, including OfficeDepot.com – via which I ordered my specimen in 2012 for $264.99 (including shipping, and factoring a “$25-off” coupon code). That price seemed steep to me, considering that this was, after all, a “veneered” bookcase (albeit an above-average one). Even so, since its color, configuration and dimensions (84″H x 36″W x 12″D) were ideal for my purpose, I reckoned its cost tolerable.

This bookcase has seven shelves (not counting the top panel), and each shelf measures 34.75 by 12 by 0.75 inches. Five of the shelves are adjustable, meaning that there are many wee holes predrilled partway into the inner sides of the upright panels.

Note that Safco has also marketed this product in different veneer colors than “walnut” (e.g., “cherry,” “mahogany,” “medium oak” and “light oak”). Also note that this “walnut” version’s actual hue isn’t exactly the traditional “dull/medium brown” that you might expect; instead, there’s not only a tasteful degree of glossiness but also an agreeable trace of reddishness almost suggesting a “mahogany” aesthetic; nonetheless, my specimen’s level of reddishness is subdued enough to be aptly termed “walnut” (not “mahogany,” much less “cherry”). However, it is significantly darker than what the above product image conveys. [This unexpected outcome actually delighted me, because my foyer’s adjacent décor dictates – ideally – just such a dark-walnut hue (instead of the merely “medium” walnut shown above).]

It could be easily argued that this affordable bookcase is a big step down from my music library’s other (mostly built-in or specialized) cabinetry, much of which was fashioned of solid, walnut-stained oak. Even so, I remain satisfied with this Safco product [whose uncomplicated style is dubbed “Traditional”], which still makes for an appealing display of the bulk of my composer biographies.

Since such (mostly hardbound) volumes are collectively quite weighty, I needed this three-foot-wide bookcase’s shelves to incorporate not the cheapest grade of “composite” wood but rather a suitably stout grade not prone to warping. And I’m pleased to report that all seven shelves – after two full years of constant use – still look precisely horizontal.

To assemble this bookcase you’ll need merely a Philips screwdriver and perhaps a rubber mallet (for tapping 18 wee wooden dowels into predrilled holes).

Assembly involved the following hardware: 12 cams; 18 wood dowels; 24 little screws (to attach the large, single-piece back panel); and eight screw posts. Since I disdain rushing such work, it took me at least an hour to finish the chore.

I never discovered the exact weight of this bookcase from any provided documentation, but it’s certainly rather heavy and bulky for a single person to move. So, I placed four furniture-moving “sliders” (available at hardware stores) beneath its bottom corners prior to scooting it across the main room’s carpeting to the adjoining foyer.

I arranged the adjustable shelves such that all seven of this bookcase’s tiers ended up appearing about equally tall (with actual heights ranging from 9.75 to 11 inches). And since the depth of this bookcase is 12 inches, any of its shelves could house any but my most oversized tomes.

Safco states that each shelf has a weight-bearing capacity of 100 pounds. Each board’s internal “composite wood” appears to be appropriately high-quality and extremely strongly compressed. The outer, veneered surface looks to be a suitably hard, durable, moisture-resistant, thin layer whose exact nature I couldn’t discover. In any case, I like the slightly glossy look and feel of it.

The upshot is that I remain content with the overall aesthetic and functionality of this “walnut” bookcase in my music library’s foyer. After two full years I’ve encountered no problems whatsoever with this product’s durability.

Strange but True! Science Channel’s THE UNEXPLAINED FILES



Pros: Based on fact; fascinating subject matter; level-headed presentation

Cons: Not as flashy or exciting as other similar shows

Following a six-episode first season that premiered in 2013, Science Channel’s The Unexplained Files returned on July 29, 2014 for a second season. This program probably has more in common with the classic Unsolved Mysteries series than with most of the more recent shows dealing with mysterious happenings, although it somewhat reminds me in its basic set-up of the outstanding Dark Matters: Twisted but True that also airs on Science Channel. One of the best things about The Unexplained Files is that the subjects discussed in this program, like those covered in Dark Matters, are both factual and compelling – it’s possible to do follow-up research on anything featured in this show if desired. Episodes in the first season dealt with a wide range of fascinating subjects including examination of the enigmatic , the under bizarre circumstances (i.e. aliens are involved), the in the American Southwest, and even the . Like many programs dealing with such subjects as the Loch Ness Monster, UFO’s or even Bigfoot, The Unexplained Files would be one of those shows that a viewer would be likely to keep watching if he stumbled upon it while channel surfing – there’s something inherently captivating about TV programing of this nature.

“Chupacabras” stalking rural Texas? One of many intriguing UNEXPLAINED FILES segments.

Episode one of the second season actually stood in my mind as being a little “blah” compared with some of the previous episodes – not necessarily a bad episode, but not quite as interesting to me as some of the others. This episode featured two stories, the first of which is a fairly lengthy investigation into the real-life story that inspired the novel and hence, classic horror film The Exorcist. In this segment, researcher and author Troy Taylor heads to St. Louis, MO to uncover the truth behind a that involved demonic possession. Amazingly, Taylor was able to track down one of the Catholic monks who actually was present during the exorcism ritual as performed on a young man and the elderly man was able to recount the unbelievable events that took place during the possession and exorcism. This entire segment is fairly well executed, providing a well-rounded investigation into the case which, aside from detailing the nature of demonic possession cases, also examines the possibility of mental illness or religious fervor having been the root cause of the incident.

The 1949 exorcism case discussed in this episode served as the basis for this award-winning 1973 film.

The second story here seems quite a bit more frankly inconsequential – it’s a tale about a New Mexico Fish and Game officer named Kerry Mower who in August 2013 discovered a herd of 113 wild elk who had suddenly and mysteriously died. First suspecting a sort of poisoning, Mower’s examination of the bodies eventually revealed that no known toxic agent had killed the animals, though the game commission is quick to declare that a toxic algae bloom had infected the creatures’ drinking water which led to the mass die-off. Officials jumping to this conclusion without any substantial evidence leads to – you guessed it! – notions of some sort of conspiracy, and an ex-sheriff starts his own investigation into the case, one which mainly revolves around the possibility of a connection to UFOs and cattle mutilations. Much as I could roll with the story about the deaths of this group of elk, this segment started to lose me a bit when it really pushed the alien angle. Even to my rather open mind, an outdoorsman’s story about elk being more or less abducted by an alien craft seems positively ludicrous. To each his own I guess…

dead elk
Dead elk everywhere, but what is the cause?

Narrated by Bruce Greenwood, this episode mainly kept on the straight and narrow, simply offering up the known facts in each case using interviews with experts and eyewitnesses to describe and analyze the scenarios and brief dramatized sequences to reinforce the stories. While I might have hoped for more actual evidence, the program does makes a pretty strong case based mostly on the testimony of those involved. It’s pretty hard for instance to argue with the 90-year-old former monk who’s about to die of cancer – what possible motivation would this guy have to lie about his recollections of the exorcism event? Though The Unexplained Files does seem to push certain agendas (the conspiracy angle relating to the deaths of the elk for example), it’s commendable that this show at least attempts to exhaust possible scientific explanations. To this end, not only were weather experts consulted to determine whether or not a lightning strike may have been responsible for the deaths, but the elk carcasses were also tested for anthrax, the deadly EHD contagion, and for contamination by toxic algae. It’s only after these potential causes were ruled out that the show pursues the more outrageous explanation dealing with flying saucers, crop circles, and alien experimentation, but ultimately, it’s left in the hands of the viewer to make sense of the information provided and come to his own conclusion.

On the downside, it’s apparent to me that this program is produced quickly and inexpensively. It isn’t nearly as flashy and attention-grabbing as other, vaguely similar shows, though in some ways, I think this is to the program’s credit. The Unexplained Files mostly allows the information it contains to speak for itself instead of impressing a viewer with graphics, flashy camerawork, or overblown and phony suspense sequences. It’s rather refreshing that this program neither rams its opinions and conclusions down a viewer’s throat nor assumes that its viewers are complete morons. In my mind then, The Unexplained Files is easily one of the more recommendable of the current wave of speculative documentaries airing on television, and for the viewer interested in these sorts of subjects, this would be one to check out.



Pendleton Plaid Blanket with Leather Carrier

Pendleton Camping Blankets


Pros: Extremely well-made, lasts for years

Cons: Pricey, and not easy to find the blanket dimensions on their website

I’ve written reviews lately on camping gear, such as my Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner Stove, and Coleman Chest Cooler. I’ve even mentioned sleeping bags I own, but ironically, never use.

First let me say, I am not claustrophobic – elevators, vehicles, small rooms, etc. don’t bother me a bit – however, being encased in a sleeping bag inside a tent, RV, or vehicle, unable to bolt or react immediately to an emergency, definitely gives me the weemies.

After several years of aggravating  wrestling- matches with uncooperative sleeping- bag zippers, bulky, uneven roll-ups, and the feeling of being overly restricted, I determined there had to be a better option – and of course, there was/is – blankets. But not any old blanket – 100% Virgin Wool Pendleton Blankets.

I confess to a little bias as Pendleton Woolen Mills are located, and their superb woolen blankets and garments are  manufactured, right here in Oregon – coincidentally in the city of Pendleton.

Pendleton Woolen Mills have been a family owned business for over one-hundred-fifty years. Founded by Thomas Kay in 1863, Pendleton Woolen Mills is what is known as a “Vertically Integrated Company”, meaning they begin with the very basics – A thru Z, to create their end  product.

The process starts with the purchase of  raw wool from sheep ranchers. Next, processing the wool, including cleaning, carding and weaving the fibers to create an absolutely mind-boggling array of brilliant colors and designs. On to manufacturing the many different woolen fabrics, fourteen of them, in fact. Finally, worldwide sales and distribution to the hundreds of shops and outlets where their products are sold.

So, what makes Pendleton blankets and garments so special and (almost) immediately recognizable?

  • Made exclusively from 100% Virgin wool
  • The items are easy to care for. Because they’re low-static and have a “hairy’ surface, they repel dirt better than most fabrics.
  • Comfort. Wool is a natural insulator that lets skin breathe. It keeps the wearer cool(er) in summer, and warm in the winter.
  • Beauty. Pendleton Blankets and garments are known for their intricate colors, interesting, authentic designs, and quality construction.
  • Durability. I can personally attest to this feature having one Pendleton blanket in particular that has lasted more than forty years.

The blanket on the bottom row (right) is very close to mine in design and colors. I just looked at it and after all this time there are still no snags, pulled threads, nor flaws of any kind.  I call that durable!

As previously mentioned, Pendleton uses fourteen different types of wool to create their blankets and garments – Boiled, Doubleface, Jacquard, Tricotone, Tropical Weight Wool, Virgin and Umatilla to mention a few. Some are even machine washable.

I was unable to find the exact dimensions and prices for the blankets pictured at the top of the review, but one very similar measures 54×66″ – $149.00

So, getting back to my original point – I love crawling into (camp) bed – whether I’m tent, or ‘tramp-camping’, as I call sleeping in my rig.  I’m comfortable and feel less anxious using blankets instead of a bag. And best of all, since camping is usually done in the warmer months, it’s much easier kicking off a blanket, then a few hours later, when the temperature has dropped, covering up. That just doesn’t work with a bag, Which brings about one final universal dilemma:  The 2:00 A.M. ‘Why did I drink that last soda?’  issue?  Anyone, but I’m thinking especially of us ladies who are familiar with camping, know all about that time-sensitive  issue – ‘nuf said?

Pendleton Woolen Mills

P.O. Box 3030

Portland, Oregon 97208


Mills operating in Pendleton, Ore – open for tours

Giorgio Tsoukalos Explains Everything (Hint – It’s Aliens!): IN SEARCH OF ALIENS

IN SEARCH OF ALIENS on History Channel



Pros: Interesting subjects; more focused approach; Giorgio Tsoukalos!

Cons: Aliens – explanation for everything…


If nothing else, History Channel’s In Search of Aliens confirms the status of the internet meme relating to charismatic and wild-haired “ancient astronaut theorist” Giorgio A. Tsoukalos: no matter what, no matter how, aliens are the ultimate explanation for EVERYTHING. Debuting in July 2014, In Search of Aliens combines the basic premise behind History’s long-running Ancient Aliens show (which explores the possibility that extraterrestrials visited Earth in the distant path and provided knowledge and guidance for our human ancestors) with that of America Unearthed, a show that follows forensic geologist Scott Wolter on a quest to prove that American history “isn’t what we’ve been told in schools.” Basically, America Unearthed attempts to dispel the notion that Columbus first discovered America, and In Search of Aliens’ opening declaration that “…what we’ve been taught by mainstream scholars is not the whole picture…” is an almost word-for-word recreation of the thesis of Wolter’s program.


Any way one looks at it, it’s pretty clear that what we’re dealing with here is yet one more speculative documentary being passed off as hard fact. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that: I’m a big fan of Ancient Aliens not because I necessarily believe every damn thing the show says, but because the program promotes thought about the topics it examines. It’s automatically then several (giant) steps above the mindless entertainment that plays on History Channel nearly around the clock in the form of various positively asinine reality shows (Cajun Pawn Starsreally??!?). Unlike that reality show bunk, Ancient Aliens certainly challenges a viewer to examine his own perspective on different, usually fascinating subjects (the underlying themes of the show often focus on ancient civilizations, religious notions, ideas of genetic engineering, and technological discoveries) and think outside the box.

Tsoukalos in Portugal, discussing the possibility that Atlantis actually was located here “beyond the pillars of Hercules.”

In Search of Aliens
, hosted by Tsoukalos (long-time contributor to and producer of Ancient Aliens) seems to be doing much the same thing, although each individual episode of this program is much more specific in its focus. Episode one followed Tsoukalos around the Mediterranean in search of the lost city of Atlantis. Described in detail by the Greek philosopher and mathematician Plato in a pair of early works, the Atlantis civilization supposedly was enormously wealthy and extremely technologically advanced, but it disappeared virtually overnight and its exact location has never convincingly been pinpointed. Tsoukalos’ quest for the truth behind the Atlantis legend takes him from Greece (where the story originated) to a potential location in and back to the Greek island of . During this journey, Tsoukalos interviews several experts who offer up their explanations of where Atlantis actually was located and what happened to it, and he also examines some interesting relics – including a so-called “” in Portugal. This huge stone was carved thousands of years ago, and may feature the design of a double-helix DNA strand on it – but if so, how did ancient people know about genetics at all? Questions like this lead Tsoukalos to an obvious explanation of Atlantis: the civilization was actually an alien craft that was misinterpreted as a city by ancient humans unaware of alien technology.


Aliensthey explain everything.

Probably the biggest difference between In Search of Aliens and its obvious inspiration Ancient Aliens is that In Search of… plays more like a travelogue at times than a more wide-reaching documentary. This opening episode literally followed Tsoukalos on a zigzag course across the Mediterranean, and the somewhat flashier production afforded to this show ensures that the program had some breathtaking landscape photography including a few awe-inspiring aerial shots. I rather liked the history and explanation of various legends relating to Atlantis that were provided in the show, and to some extent was surprised that this program almost used the whole alien connection as a sort of afterthought. As might be expected, Tsoukalos made a few fleeting, ominous references to the (mysterious Sumerian deities) and the , but In Search of Aliens surprisingly seemed a bit more rooted in reality or at least plausibility rather than wild conjecture. Will this tendency last as the series goes along? Only time will tell, but given the track record established by Ancient Aliens, I’d expect this new program to eventually descend into a fantasy land itself. Hopefully, when it does do this we won’t have to witness the spastic movements of author David Hatcher Childress getting himself all hot and bothered while discussing these type of subjects…

Childress; per usual, maniacally gesticulating.

Speaking of fantasy land, possibly the most dumb moment in this opening episode was where the “student” (i.e. Tsoukalos) went to Switzerland to meet the “teacher” (i.e. Chariot of the Gods author Erich von Däniken, who’s largely responsible for the popularity of the ancient astronaut theory) at the positively goofy amusement park built by von Däniken in order to promote his theories. To me, this sequence of the show seemed very cheesy, as if Tsoukalos had to receive “the master’s blessing” as it were to make his statements throughout the program seem more credible. von Däniken’s brief appearance adds nothing of value to the program – essentially, he just spouts out his thoughts on the mystery of Atlantis, yet Tsoukalos is quick to point out that the discussion he had with the Swiss author was “mind blowing.” Could have fooled me – it seemed very inconsequential and mostly irrelevant when compared to what the more established, mainstream scientists featured in the program had to say. But again…ALIENS

Yes, von Däniken’s “Mystery Park,” does actually exist.

Considering that episode two of In Search of Aliens deals with the (rather fascinating) story of the perplexing Nazi experiment known as , I guess an audience can assume there’s going to be some overlap between subjects discussed in Tsoukalos’ new show and those featured at one point or other on Ancient Aliens. Honestly, if you’ve seen one of these shows, you know what to expect from the other, and I can almost see this new show as an attempt to give the undeniably enthusiastic and popular Tsoukalos his own gig. In Search of Aliens seems entertaining and interesting enough though, and I’d probably recommend it to those who enjoy this type of program in the first place. As with all speculative documentaries, it’s best to take this one with a grain of salt, but its ability to get a viewer thinking is, in my opinion, most commendable.