Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

This review spoils the entire movie, but this movie is 16 years old.

On March 1, 1999 legendary filmmaker held a screening for his fourteenth feature film, Eyes Wide Shut, for its stars Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, along with executives at Warner Bros. Kubrick had declared it the best film he ever made, the result of an over 400 day production, requiring some key roles to be recast and holding Cruise and Kidman in London for the entirety of the shoot. Six days after the screening, Kubrick died of a heart attack at the age of 70. [Read more…]

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Bound (1996)

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Bound (1996)

Well, folks, we wrap up Pride Month this week. I handled it like I handle so many other things in this life – poorly and at the last minute. My plan to review 30 films for this month failed. In my defense it was an incredibly busy month for me, so the plan became pretty impossible. Had I started maybe in mid May I could have pulled it off. So what I’m going to do is squeeze in one more film for tomorrow and then as my schedule permits I’m going to continue the Project Pride series and committing to cover at least two LGBT related films a month. Sound good? (Doesn’t matter how you answer, I’m doing it anyway.)

But for the purposes of this review, I’m just gonna ask you one question. Do you know these Wachowskis? [Read more…]

Composer James Horner, Dead at 61

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Oscar-winning composer James Horner, best known for his Academy Award winning score for the film Titanic, including the song “My Heart Will Go On,” has died. He was 61.

james-horner-dead

Horner passed away in a crash involving his privately owned plane in Los Padres National Forrest on June 22. He was the only person on board. [Read more…]

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Edge of Seventeen (1998)

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie Pride Month Edition: Edge of Seventeen

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Growing up is hard, which is why the coming of age film is so important to cinema. Films like The Breakfast Club, The Perks of Being a Wallflower (I know it’s a book), and the upcoming Dope help teenage audiences find characters to identify with and older audiences a fond look back on what it was like to grow up. So in this edition of my Pride Month articles I’m taking on a film that deals with the pains of growing up and realizing you’re gay, the 1998 comedy Edge of Seventeen. [Read more…]

Trevor Mueller’s Albert The Alien Goes Back To School

Albert the Alien is back for another round.

Trevor Mueller’s character, the first exchange student from another planet, debuted in an educational anthology before getting spun off into a popular webcomic in 2013. The webcomic was collected into Albert’s first trade paperback, “Albert the Alien Vol. 1: New In School,” in 2014. Now Mueller is taking Albert back to Kickstarter for the second volume of his adventures, “The Substitute Teacher From Planet X,” and joined Project Shanks.com to talk about the book, Kickstarter, and cartoons.

Reid Kerr: Thanks for taking a couple of minutes for Project Shanks.com, you’ve already had one successful Kickstarter for the first volume of Albert the Alien, now you’re coming back for the second round. Is this Kickstarter less nerve-wracking than the first one?
Trevor Mueller: I thought this second Kickstarter effort would be less stress (and hopefully, a little less work) than the previous. Nope, I was wrong there. But perhaps that’s more aligned with my own nature and expectations than the reality of how the platform works.

My experience with Kickstarter, funding comes in fits and spurts. Typiclaly the first and final week are your strongest. During our first week this year, we made about 33% of our total goal. There’s a lot of hype and you get the loyal fanbase to jump right in and try to get the rewards that have a limited volume first.

Albert The AlienDuring weeks 2-3, you get a lot of what I call “the trickling effect.” People come in because they hear about it from somewhere, and they like the project. These weeks tend to be the new fans or people who heard about the project through someone else, and they want to check it out.

The final week will be filled with people who were waiting to see if it could get funded, or who wanted to be the person that puts it over the top. We had that last year, too, and it was awesome when it happened. But the whole time we were waiting for it to happen, I was on the edge of my seat.

Reid: How great was the feeling when the first volume’s Kickstarter came through, and you were able to take this character you’ve written in several forms of media all the way into print? Was it a dream to be able to hold the book in your hand after seeing it on the screen for so long?
Trevor: It was one of the greatest feelings ever when volume 1 got funded. We had put so much effort into the book, into the video, and into the Kickstarter that by the time we reached the end, it was a huge weight lifted. Kickstarter is a project that you put out there, so it’s a little nerve wracking to see if it will find a loyal following. You hope that there are enough interested people to help support and fund the project. And when that happens – man, it’s awesome. But there is a better feeling.

I do a lot of self-publishing. When I had just printed my first book and was holding it in my hands, I asked a good friend and fellow comic creator friend of mine, “Is there any better feeling than holding a book you made in your hands?” And he said, “Yes there is. Seeing someone else with a copy of your book in their hands while they wait in line to buy it.” He wasn’t wrong. And that’s what Kickstarter provides – an opportunity to put the book in the hands of people who love and support the project. And that’s probably the best feeling in the world.

Reid: Albert the Alien is a wonderful webcomic. It’s funny, it’s warm, and it seems like there’s something in there for everybody. Is it a challenge writing for kids and adults, and crafting something that’s interesting to both?
Trevor: Awww, thanks. Albert is a ton of fun to write and work on. Writing an all-ages book is a unique challenge because you want to tell a story that appeals to adults, but that’s also appropriate for younger readers. However, I’ve found that writing stories for kids is also quite liberating. Kids tend to be more open to the fantastic, and so my imagination can come up with fun and wacky scenarios for the characters to deal with.

In volume 2, for example, Albert takes his first field trip on Earth and has to do battle with an evil mummy king. I’ve found that telling stories like this tends to be very nostalgic for the adult readers we have, since it reminds them of watching cartoons when they were growing up. And the kids love it because you get a story about an alien trying to defeat an evil mummy king!

Reid: You’ve said before that you really loved Saturday morning cartoons. Were there any of your favorites that you can see influenced Albert the Alien?
Trevor: I don’t know that any one show influenced Albert the Alien. I remember back in the day that cartoons told a fun adventure story, and they had a moral or a public service announcement (PSA) at the end. Some kind of lesson that was important for kids to learn. I try to do a little of that with Albert.

Albert has strong themes around friendship and anti-bullying messages, so it’s important to me to include a little message in there with the adventure. The message is usually related to the theme of the tale – be it around peer pressure, sticking up for your friends, or dealing with conflict. But our focus is always on telling a fun story, first and foremost.

If I had to compare Albert to any cartoons, I’d say he’s like Phineas and Ferb meets Jimmy Netron. It’s wacky alien adventures at school and at home, that are fun and funny and warm your heart.

Reid: Was there a comic book or a strip that you read when you were younger that made you think, “I want to do this?”
Trevor: I read a lot of comics growing up, and all of them helped influence me. I loved the action of X-Men, the intrigue of Batman, the hilarity and wit of Calvin and Hobbes, and the inginuity and style of the Image books.

I read just about any comic I could get my hands on when I was younger, but the first series I remember collecting was the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. I loved the cartoon, but this comic series was so different. It still had the crazy stories and the characters I enjoyed, but it was stylistically and tonally very different. This was fascinating to me to see the differences between the cartoon (which I admit to having discovered before the comic), and this darker edgier comic series.

Basically, I fell in love with storytelling and visual narrative, and I’ve been making comics ever since.

Reid: When you’re doing a webcomic and you only release a page every Wednesday and Friday, does it affect the way you pace your story?
Trevor: It does. I always try to end my pages on a joke or a cliffhanger. With a print comic, you typically try to make a cliffhanger every odd numbered page. The reason for this is because odd numbered pages are the pages you have to turn, and your job as a writer is to get the reader to want to turn the page. But in the web it’s a little different. You have readers returning weekly or monthly or whenever they get the chance, and you want to entice them to read more. Either going back to the beginning, or coming back next time the story updates.

Doing it this way definitely makes for a more exciting story overall, especially when it is finally collected in print. The readers have really enjoyed it.

Reid: What’s next for you and Albert after Volume 2 of Albert the Alien? More Albert? Are there any other projects in the works?
Trevor:  Definitely more Albert! I’ve already started work on volume 3 (which will be called “Homelife,” and will show Albert’s life on Earth outside of school for a bit). We’re going to have some fun adventures, like:

— “Bring your kids to work day,” where Albert and his friend Gerty get launched into space!
— Albert’s first sleepover, where he gets his friends stuck inside a video game!
— And also Albert’s first Halloween, where he accidentally turns his friends into the monsters they’re dressed up as!

In fact, we have some rewards to get drawn into some of these stories in our current Kickstarter.
Other than Albert, I have a couple of older reader titles I’m also working on that will be out later this year. I’m doing an older readers story called “Los Ojos,” which is about a hitman who doesn’t see people when he looks his targets in their eyes – he sees angels or demons.

I try to produce a handful of self-published work every year, and also a few stories that are published by other people. I did a short story earlier this year called “The Fan,” which is about a woman with supernatural powers and an unhealthy obsession with the lead singer of a band. We made the story intentionally short so we could include a bit of a “how to make comics” in the back. It includes all of my notes, beat sheets, outlines, and script pages. As well as my artist’s layouts, pencils, and inks. This way, readers can see how a comic book gets made.

I have a few short stories coming out later this year as well, and hopefully some bigger projects I can’t talk about just yet. But soon!

Thanks to Trevor Mueller for sitting down with Project Shanks.com. Trevor can be found online at www.AlbertTheAlien.com, and the second volume of Albert’s adventures is currently up on Kickstarter.

— Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife likes to remind him. He is also an award-losing writer whose first book, “The Great Texas Trailer Park Escape” is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Okay, before I get into this week’s review I have to acknowledge a couple of things. The first is that June is Pride Month. The second is that I had planned to do something special for this month, by doing 30 reviews of LGBT related cinema. I even went so far as asking my LGBT friends for movie selections, compiling a list of well over thirty films. And as you can see, now that it’s eight days into the month I have done nothing. Why? Because I’m a terrible, no good, very bad person who asked for all of this help and before I could even start I screamed, “Oh, fuck! Homework!” and then I passed out on the couch in the fetal position. Sorry, LGBT friends and allies, but I did the exact same thing three years ago declaring twice I was going to read all of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels before season three of Game of Thrones, but in my defense those books are really heavy. [Read more…]

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Zombeavers (2014)

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. Now, when I planned this week’s column I thought maybe I could do some sort of list of great military films in honor of the ones that gave their lives for our country. I also thought about just reviewing a classic American film. Or something about families and cookouts. Then I thought, “To hell with that! Let’s do Zombeavers!” [Read more…]

PSDC Movie Review: The Human Centipede III: Final Sequence

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Rating: ** (out of 5)

*sigh*

Okay, let’s do this.

In 2009, Dutch writer/director/possible sociopath Tom Six made a splash with his The Human Centipede: First Sequence, a darkly comic body horror film in which a mad scientist (Dieter Laser) sews three people together so they share a single digestive track. The film was pretty tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) and was not even remotely as gross and disgusting as one might expect. Other than a couple of surgical shots and that feeding scene the film is honestly not what people think it is and was actually a pretty enjoyable film. Seriously. The film became a pop culture phenomenon, even its own South Park parody. [Read more…]

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: The Voices (2015)

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

So, this week I am back to my suggestions from friends and this week I chose a movie that has been repeatedly recommended to me by my friend Anne Payne. This week I’m picking the horror-tinged black comedy, The Voices.

In the film we follow Jerry (Ryan Reynolds), a perpetually cheery worker in the shipping department of a bathtub factory. His boss asks him since he is the new guy in department and is asked to be part of the planning committee for the office party. When he’s reluctant, Jerry is told the cute British chick from accounting, Fiona (Gemma Arterton – Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters) will be there, so naturally Jerry accepts. [Read more…]

10 Most Embarrassing Songs I Like

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

10. “Turn Down For What?” by Upon a Burning Body featuring Ice-T

There’s a series of albums called Punk Goes…which feature the latest and greatest in punk, hardcore, and whatnot doing covers of hit songs in a particular genre. Lately, they’ve mostly been doing the Punks Goes Pop compilations. The latest of which has metalcore (or whatever) band Upon a Burning Body teaming up with rap/metal/rap metal god Ice-T on a cover of DJ Snake’s collaboration with Lil’ Jon “Turn Down for What,” which is neither an awful song nor a great song. Yet, the UABB version is so embarrassingly awful it has charm to it. And with an added bonus, they wrote new lyrics for this song. The original song has two or three lines to it, most of which were “turn down for what.” Here we are, I guess, treated to some additional lyrics and Ice-T threatening to beat up a bouncer or someone in the club. The song is so goofy I can’t help but find some enjoyment, though that enjoyment is way more ironic than genuine but in the end it’s kind of fun and mostly harmless. [Read more…]

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Four Rooms (1995)

By John Baggett
PSDC Pop Culture Guru

Project Shanks Monday Night Movie: Four Rooms (1995)

Rating: *** (out of 5)

I have always been a film fan but I really came into a new level obsession in the mid-90s when the rise of the independent film was pretty much at its peak. Directors like Jim Jarmusch, Kevin Smith, the Coen Brothers, Richard Linklater, and Atom Egoyan entered my world. Now some of them had been making movies for years but I was just a kid. I was stepping into a whole new world. [Read more…]

Dodgin’ The Draft 2015: The Official Unofficial NFL Draft Timeline

By Reid Kerr
PSDC Offensive Coordinator 

Draft Week, Monday, April 27, 2015: ESPN announces that Philadelphia is interested in trading up to Tennessee’s number two draft pick, but since they’ve already traded away their leading rusher and starting quarterback, all they have left to offer is this year’s twentieth pick, a quarterback with no knees, and a case of mismatched Nike shirts left over from Chip Kelly’s Oregon days.

Wednesday: News breaks that the Cleveland Browns have offered Tennessee both of their first round picks, since they weren’t going to be using them anyway. [Read more…]