by Kevin on

Nick Nadel invited me to watch PREDATOR for his podcast MOVIES MY FRIENDS HAVE NEVER SEEN. (Each episode Nick watches a well-known film with someone who’s seeing it for the first time.) 

I won’t spoil the movie (which, y’know, came out over 30 years ago) but I will spoil the podcast by telling you that I saw PREDATOR as a movie about Vietnam. 

Click HERE to listen for yourself. 

Image result for predator fright flicks

These are some of the trading cards I mention in the episode. (Thanks DinosaurDracula.com for the image.) 


***RELATED LINKS***

Podcast: Watching BATMAN RETURNS for MOVIES MY FRIENDS HAVE NEVER SEEN

IFC essay: 6 Movies that Are Secretly About Vietnam

Short list piece: NIXON Figures of my youth

Video from my old AMC series: 

Read more ...

by Kevin on

At the first-annual Brooklyn Brain Jam I had the pleasure of interviewing two inspiring nerds — Alex Robinson and Pete the Retailer. These guys have been podcasting daily about the Star Wars Saga for close to 3 years. (Visit StarWarsMinute for full episodes.)  

Now you can hear our interview below, taped live at the Bell House. 

Bonus: At the end of the segment we’re joined by  Noah Tarnow (host of The Big Quiz Thing) for a round of trivia, using the 1982 quiz book written by an 11-year-old boy. Play along and see if you know more than our expert panel. 

ALSO: This month, Alex and Pete are co-hosting Kevin Geeks Out About Space Operas, where we look at some of our favorite STAR WARS rip-offs, along with other favorites of the sub-genre. Get tickets here.


Kevin Geeks Out About Space Operas from Kevin Maher on Vimeo.

Note: The Brooklyn Brain Jam returns to Littlefield on Sunday March 6th.

Read more ...

by Kevin on


My Nerd Nite presentation on Super Villains is available in podcast form. Play it HERE

The voice matrix was created for KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT SUPER VILLAINS, co-curated by Tenebrous Kate. She wasn’t in this show, but I’ve included Kate’s contributions.

Here are some visuals to enhance your listening experience: 

Thanks for listening. 

RELATED: 

Villains on First Dates comics 


ALSO: 


The next show is KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT SPACE OPERAS, co-hosted by Pete the Retailer (from the STAR WARS MINUTE podcast.)

 Click here for details/tickets. 

Read more ...

by Kevin on


I was honored to be a guest on WNYC’S The Brian Lehrer Show. The topic was STAR WARS. (Fitting since my next Kevin Geeks Out show is all about Space Operas

You can listen to it HERE.

When I was booked I only knew we’d be talking about STAR WARS. Because of who I am, I thought of LOTS of talking points. Here are some stray thoughts I had prepared but didn’t get to use….

*** 

OPENING NIGHT

On the opening night of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS I was at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with my 8-year-old son seeing a retelling of THE NUTCRACKER. It was a modern update on the classic story, different and ironic but still driven by powerful music. 

THE FORCE AWAKENS is pretty much the same thing. A current retelling of a classic story. With powerful music. 

And there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Disney is playing a long con, they will release a new STAR WARS film every year. And each year the movie will be something you can bring the kids and the grandparents to — and everyone will have a nice time. 



*** 

THE FORCE AWAKENS – STAR WARS’ ECHO CHAMBER

People criticize the new film for following the story beats of A NEW HOPE. 

I’m reminded of a phrase repeated throughout BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: “All of this has happened before and will happen again.” 

Everyone is going through motions already repeated. (And that includes 40-year-olds complaining about a STAR WARS movie.) 


Here’s a fun game: when someone criticizes THE FORCE AWAKENS for going all JURASSIC WORLD by being a beat-for-beat remake of the first film, ask if they would make the same complaint about EVIL DEAD 2. (I knew this talking point wouldn’t play on NPR.) 

***

THE NOSTALGIA TRADITION

The institution of STAR WARS is based in nostalgia. In the 1970s, following his own nostalgia story AMERICAN GRAFFITI, George Lucas had wanted to make a big-screen version of a childhood favorite: FLASH GORDON

Ironically he couldn’t get the rights, because another producer beat him to it. Dino DeLaurentiis had staked a claim in FLASH GORDON. (Dino had already remade another childhood favorite, the 1976 KING KONG, and was planning to produce a film version of another kiddie classic: MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN starring Jack Nicholson.)

So Lucas created his own space opera. Despite all the spaceships and laser guns, the film was a “gee-whiz” throwback to a simpler time; decidedly unlike the morally ambiguous genre-benders of New American Cinema. While movies like ROCKY and THE BAD NEWS BEARS featured humble victories where underdogs lose but still win, STAR WARS showed the good guys winning in no uncertain terms — by blowing up the Death Star! (Luke pretty much has an orgasm when he fires.) 

*** 

A LONG TIME AGO…

At the KEVIN GEEKS OUT show we love looking at rip-offs. For every E.T. or JAWS there are anywhere from 3 to 30 copycat movies. What’s most interesting to me is how many of those knock-off films copy the wrong elements. For example: JAWS rip-offs will include a big aquatic monster, without realizing that the shark is the least compelling thing about JAWS. (It’s the dynamic between Hooper and Quint, or Brody’s inability to fit in with the islanders, or the Mayor as a Nixon figure.) 

Along those same lines, most of the STAR WARS knock-offs are set in the distant future. 

But STAR WARS is decidedly part of the past. The film’s political landscape is not the result of any 20th century conflicts. So we can watch and feel good that whatever’s taking place happened a long time ago. Whatever disagreements they had were all worked out by now. Phew! 

***

SPACE NAZIS

The first STAR WARS movie was released exactly 32 years after World War II. 

The new STAR WARS movie was released exactly 32 years after the first STAR WARS movie. 

I mention this because of the Space Nazis. 


In 1977 plenty of movie-goers who recognized the symbols of Fascism because they lived through the second world war. 

In 2015 movie-goers recognize Nazi iconography because they’ve seen SCHINDLER’S LIST

Nazi imagery is a copy of a copy of a copy. 

While making of the third Indiana Jones film, Harrison Ford told Entertainment Tonight that the villains would once again be the Nazis. Adding that they’re “the best bad guys.” 

***

BRITISH NAZIS

The 1977 STAR WARS features bad guys with Nazi uniforms and British accents. 

My friend Jeff says those are the perfect villains for an American movie, because the American identity is about being scrappy revolutionaries who fought against an evil British Empire. 

Again, part of the nostalgia for the Revolutionary War is that Americans are underdogs. 

We’re cowboys and freedom fighters, not a global superpower. (See also: Roland Emmerich’s INDEPENDENCE DAY. To make America the underdog you have to introduce an intergalactic mega-power.) 

***

DON’T FEEL BAD ABOUT KILLING THEM

Another recurring theme at KEVIN GEEKS OUT show is that Hollywood loves to hates Nazis. (Especially Nazi Zombies!) In Zach Snyder’s 2011 fantasy film SUCKER PUNCH a General leads his rag-tag team of sexy freedom fighters into battle against Nazi Zombies and the commander notes that 
you don’t have to feel bad about killing them, they’re already dead. (And, y’know, they were Nazis.) 


(RELATED: I just re-watched Disney’s 1979 STAR WARS knock-off THE BLACK HOLE and noticed something uniquely Disney about the villains. The evil robot henchmen are revealed to be former humans who are now living as slaves of the villain. One of the good guys announces that they have to “save” them. But the know-it-all scientist declares, “It’s too late. The only way to help them is to release them from their tortured state.” In other words, the robot-like henchmen can’t be saved. They can be killed — but please note: killing them is releasing them from their misery, so you’re doing them a favor. Only in a Disney movie can you murder the bad guys and feel good about it.) 

***

FEEL LIKE A KID AGAIN

Friends of mine have praised the new STAR WARS film because it makes them “feel like a kid again.” 

Strange that this is the yardstick to measure art. 

Not “how does it make you feel?” but “how young does it make you feel?

Is that a recent phenomena or have adult men and women always longed to feel like a child? 

Hey, know who else wants to feel like a kid again? 

THIS GUY!

(But seriously, who benefits from a society full of adults who need to feel like a pre-pubescent?) 


***

George, Walt & Ron 

It’s fitting that Disney bought the franchise, because Walt Disney and George Lucas have a lot in common. Tom Carson contributed to the book A GALAXY NOT SO FAR AWAY, connecting the dots between Lucas, Disney and Ronald Reagan. (Carson made this comparison 10 years before Disney bought STAR WARS.) 

“(Lucas) is the most successful businessman-artist since Disney. Very little really matters to him except his own product, and like a good salesman, he believes in it absolutely.
 Whether Lucas would find the kinship grating or gratifying (and who knows?), it’s this combined know-nothingism and faith that gives him common ground with another great salesman, Ronald Reagan — who was also, of course, a fellow storyteller. Both, in their way, urged us to become children again, and invested the condition with a moral superiority that more than made up for being uninformed. Melding tomorrow with a yesterday that never was, Lucas’s invitation to the audience to return to the comforting simplicities of an earlier era of entertainment that was ideologically loaded as Reagan’s summons to hark back to an earlier state of historical ignorance-as-bliss, because you can’t uncritically revive the pulp narratives of another age without also replicating their values. Famously, Reagan once spoke wistfully of a time when “Americans didn’t even know they had a racial problem” — meaning, of course, white Americans, since those of color had presumably been well posted on its existence since 1492. With the possible exception of David Lynch, who’s like his twin brother gone bad, Lucas may be about the whitest — and most goyish — American filmmaker alive, and he’s always balked at admitting that the fairy tales he loves have a racial problem, too.”

Still with me? I’m almost done. 

***


A FAMILY AFFAIR

I invited my wife, my parents and my kids to see THE FORCE AWAKENS

3 generations going on Christmas night. Just like when I was a kid and we’d go to Church once a year. 

Seemed fitting though, since space operas aren’t just spaceships and lasers, they’re about fathers and sons. (Sorry Moms. Maybe next trilogy.) 

***

FEELINGS BEFORE THE NEW MOVIE STARTED

Moments before the opening titles, I felt three things very strongly: 

I hope it doesn’t suck.  I’m glad I avoided major spoilers.  I hope we don’t have a mass shooting in the theater. 

I doubt kids felt those things when they saw JEDI in ’83.

***


SCIENCE IN STAR WARS

Seeing a STAR WARS movie and complaining about the science is like going to MEDIEVAL TIMES and complaining about the food. 

***


STAR WARS IS LIKE THE DRESS


Remember that 2015 trending topic “What color is this dress?” Media analysts called it the perfect social media item because it asked YOU to weigh-in and become part of the story. 

STAR WARS is similar, since you’re expected to bring so much of yourself to the picture. 

A lot of people preface their STAR WARS review (or anticipation) by telling you how old they were when they first saw it. They make themselves and their expectations part of the story. They don’t separate their own childhood from the movie.

Is there any other franchise where that happens? Does anyone talk about the new James Bond movie by noting “I was 5 years old when I saw MOONRAKER at a Drive-In.” Nope. Totally un-necessary information. 

But STAR WARS is an exception. STAR WARS is part of your childhood, and now your childhood is part of STAR WARS

***


I MUST BE AN ADULT

Walking out of THE FORCE AWAKENS I didn’t feel strongly one way or another. 

I didn’t want to gush about it as the “Best. Movie. Ever.” 

I didn’t hate, loathe or resent it. 

I was surprised that I didn’t feel much one way or another. 

And that’s when I knew I’m an adult. 


***


WHAT THE KID SAID

I’d brought my 8 and 10-year-old sons to the movie. Here’s my 10-year-old’s assessment of THE FORCE AWAKENS:


“It was better than GHOSTBUSTERS. But not as good as STAND BY ME.” 

Read more ...

by Kevin on

Bruce Campbell says “Movies that are easy to make are hard to watch.”

Maybe so, but this is the most fun I’ve had taping a podcast AND it’s damn good listening.

Comedian/long-time friend Liam McEneaney hosts a conversation with TV’s Frank (Frank Conniff of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame), Musician Cat Popper and me.

Listen to the episode HERE

Liam’s regular podcast, titled TELL YOUR FRIENDS, is a mix of interviews and comedy and storytelling. The concept of TOP 3 is simple: Liam and his guests name their top 3 favorites in a given area.

Topics include Top 3 Favorite Stephen King works (Non-Novels)

Top 3 Science-Fiction TV shows

Top 3 Bassists

Plus some nice tangents about houseboat owners in New York City and a personal anecdote about Duke Ellington. 

Listen to it all right HERE

*** 

Read more ...

by Kevin on

(NOTE: a version of this essay appeared as part of KEVIN GEEKS OUT a monthly video-variety show at Nitehawk Cinema; October’s theme was Stephen King.) 

Like any prolific author, Stephen King has his recurring themes: psychic children, working writers, religious fanatics, even blue overalls. But there’s also the laundry. 
 
Laundry shows up in the adaptations of IT, THE STAND, THE MANGLER, STAND BY ME, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, NEEDFUL THINGS and PET SEMETARY.  (See video below)

  Stephen King Hates Laundry from Kevin Maher on Vimeo.

In each instance laundry is associated with dread. There’s more than just the mundane work of cleaning clothes — it’s seeing your working life stretched out in front of you or confronting something awful between the sheets. 

The use of spooky, ghostly laundry appears in other horror series, including HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th.

But the theme seems more personal for King. 

Historically speaking, there’s something quaint about laundry lines instead of electric dryers. Clothespins belong to a yesteryear that King revisits in his stories. 

Practically, we see people taking down their laundry before the rain arrives. “A storm’s a’comin!” Indeed.


Or maybe it’s that the wash is being done by honest workin’ folk. Good Maine residents with big back yahds for hangin’ sheets. The starched white fabrics reflect their innocence or purity perhaps. 


But here’s the big one: Stephen King worked at an industrial laundry and called it “the worst job he ever had.” The author spent summers at the New Franklin laundry in the early 1970s. (Earning $1.60 an hour, $60 a week.) During his stint at the New Franklin King got for the idea for “The Mangler” (a short story in NIGHT SHIFT, later made into a film by Tobe Hooper.) 
The New Franklin Laundry, 125 Fern Street, Bangor Maine (no longer there)

King told Suspense Magazine:

“twice a week (in summer) we used to get the table linen from Testa’s of Bar Harbor. Testa’s is a famous seafood restaurant, where the elite meet. But the elite never saw those napkins and tablecloths after a hot summer day in the back of a laundry pick-up truck. They stank, which was bad, and they were squirming with maggots. But I washed em, and by God they came out clean.”

Read more ...

by Kevin on

The next KGO show promises to “scare the hell outta you.”

KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT STEPHEN KING
a Horror video variety show just days before Halloween


WHEN: Thursday October 29th, 9:30pm
WHERE: Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn
HOW MUCH: $15

Click HERE for tickets. 

Trailer: KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT STEPHEN KING from Nitehawk Cinema on Vimeo.


Covering 40 years of film and TV projects, with close readings of the famous and infamous Stephen King adaptations: the good, the bad, the good-bad and the bad-bad.

Special guests include:

    Jenn Wexler (Producer, Glass Eye Pix)  Ritch Duncan (author, The Werewolf’s Guide to Life)  Carolyn Symons (writer, Susan Vaginahands: Attorney at Law)  Matt Glasson (Editor, Filmmaker)  Edwin Samuelson (DVD/Blu-ray Special Features producer) Jon Abrams (Editor-in-Chief, Daily Grindhouse
Without giving too much away, here’s some more details of what’s in the show: 

A look at literary themes in Stephen King’s IT. 

Compare and Contrast of the 3 adaptations of CARRIE. 

The Stephen King “Echo Chamber” 

5 Lessons from CREEPSHOW

Annie Wilkes: an appreciation

Why Kevin’s Mom will never read another Stephen King book. 
The show will sell-out, so click HERE for advanced tickets. 

Read more ...

by Kevin on

I saw these on Facebook and had to put them together. 


First is a 1962 quote about the Mets from Jimmy Breslin. 

Second is a photo that says the same thing with fewer words. 

Read more ...

by Kevin on

NOTE: Recently I was invited back to my alma mater to talk about working in the Entertainment Industry. 


This is the speech I was too chicken to give. 

Please enjoy and share with young people or anyone interested in learning more about film. 

*      *      * 


Good afternoon, Film Students. 

You know, if I had to choose between making an independent feature or killing a man, I would choose murder. Because the killing wouldn’t take 9 years of my life. Or a Kickstarter campaign. (Doing another Kickstarter campaign would kill me.)
Seriously though, my message to new college graduates is: if you have to choose between becoming a filmmaker or becoming a murderer, go with murder. Your parents will be relieved that you’re not making a movie. Hate-based murder is something everyone understands. Especially married people.
If you want to become a murderer, you can just do it. From day one, you’re the boss. You don’t have to spend the first few years paying your dues, fetching coffee for more successful murderers who you don’t even like. You’re not required to stand on a corner asking people, “Could you walk on the other side of the street? We’re about to start murdering.”
Here’s another reason being a murderer is better than being a filmmaker: If you work hard planning and pulling off a really difficult murder, your friends won’t say “Hmm, it was just okay.” Your best friend would never tell you, “It was good, but… I would’ve have murdered that woman differently…”
When a murderer goes to a cocktail party people might treat him like a filmmaker, at first.  They’ll ask “But how do you make a living?”
Or they’ll just assume you’re a lousy murderer. “Well, I’ve never heard of any of your murders…”  
And the real assholes will give you advice about how to make it as a Murderer. “You should move to Detroit. That’s a big murder city.”  Oh, apparently there was a story on CBS Sunday Morning and now you’re an expert on my craft?!
But those people are being defensive. One, because they fear they are going to be murdered by you. And two, because you make them realize what a boring life they live.
Before the night is over, at least one drunk party-guest will pull you aside and admit, “You know I’ve always wanted to feel the rush that comes with committing a murder. But I’ve been so intimidated by the social norms and legal ramifications.”  In other words: everyone wishes they could be you.
  
Films schools say they encourage people to think outside the box. “Ohh this independent drama really says a lot about gender.”
Hey, serial killer Ed Gein murdered people while dressed up like a woman.  How’s that for subverting gender roles?
Aspiring movie-makers act like their job is something special. “Oh I’m following that new screenwriter on twitter, he’s really killing it.”
No, murderers – THEY are really killing it.
  
Indie filmmakers brag that they made a movie on a “shoe-string” budget.  But creative murderers have killed people with nothing more than a shoestring.
Filmmakers are always giving each other some bullshit awards. If there were a red carpet gala for murder, all the guests would be like, “Man, this carpet would be great for disposing of a murdered body.”

Thankfully, the mainstream media still treats murderers with respect. When someone in New York City is murdered, the newspapers describe it with fear and terror. You never get into the back of a taxi and hear Sandy Kenyon say, “Here’s a murder that was uninspired and condescending.”
Because if he said that, Sandy Kenyon knows he’d get murdered.

I guess at the end of the day, some people just don’t have what it takes to be murderers, so they settle for filmmaking instead. 

* * *  

(Save time for Q&A. Answer several questions about living in New York vs. L.A.)



***RELATED***

Two Killer Jokes

Read more ...