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Octerror 2020 Event and Blog Updates [October 2020]

Welcome back to the Train, friend! Here to kick off the new month is a freshly baked update post for you. Hey, I just thought of something. Now, I love food. While it wouldn’t be my career choice, I do thoroughly enjoy cooking and such. I noticed that I tend to use food and its phrases metaphorically speaking many times on the Train. In light of this, I challenge you guys on a scavenger hunt type thing to hunt down and comment on this update post all the various times I bring up food throughout my reviews. Good luck to those who… actually desire to do so! Man, off to a great start, aren’t we?

Any who, on the topic of announcements! As it is the Halloween season, the entire month is going to be a marathon of spook-filled reviews and whatnot. Of course, one episode of Out of Order where I’ll share a few of my favorite Halloween themed Tv specials, including the classics and even one or two odd picks as well. Thankfully, there’s more Thursdays in October because of the first day being, you guessed it, that one day. We’ll kick things off with a review of Joe Dante’s Matinee this Thursday; don’t miss it!

The Train is additionally nearing 100 grand passengers soon, so keep spreading the word! I have something incredibly special indeed planned for that special post, trust me on that.

Otherwise, I wish you the best on your journey, whatever that may be. Stay stellar, and g’ night!

Featured

What is Lighttrain?

Welcome aboard friends and travellers alike to the LightTrain! I’m your conductor, but you can call me Gavin if you prefer. I am open to feedback on my features so I can improve upon it.

I have a fixation with film and cartooning, and those things combined with my great writing and a unconvincing backstory make Lighttrain! My favorite things include films and vintage adverts, a good slice of cornbread (or a pan for that matter!), people, book stores, comics, and writing for you guys! I’m a sucker for the blend of the whimsical and dark humour. I play games like X-wing and Dungeons and Dragons often, as well. For my taste in music, I adore such bands as: The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men, They Might Be Giants, Journey, Death Cab for Cutie, Foo Fighters, Mumford and Sons, and too much more to count.

The Lighttrain isn’t all film though. We also occasionally cover video games, magazines, television and such. Every Thursday is a new post, so stay tuned! Our shows include Reviews, which are exactly what they sound like; Out of Order, a monthly series usually counting down a top five list or covering lost media; add some updates every month, short stories, art and marathons like our annual Octerror, themed review blocks, and exploitation trailer trash and sprinkle those in there as well.

Thank you for reading and maybe check out a review if you would like to. And if you choose to follow the train by punching yourself a ticket then thank you once again for supporting my work. Have a excellent rest of your day and stay stellar!

*last edited by G.h Nowak on November 13, 2020*

Trailer Trash Vol. 4! Memories of 42nd Street | {Out of Order} Lighttrain

Welcome back! As before, this is your conductor speaking. Tonight on the show is our fourth volume of the notorious Trailer Trash, where we look back during a funky time in Hollywood history where cheap double features for the price of one ticket were very common. Nowadays, not so much, as studios have millions of dollars at their disposal to invest in projects, but drive-ins have certainly had a resurgence due to the Coronavirus pandemic. With that, let’s jump straight into the outlandish, grotesque, sewage-soaked, and endlessly captivating lineup of b-movie wonderment. Let’s get this show on the road (how comforting it is to write that again after so long…)!

Surf Ninjas (1993)

A strange melding of martial arts and the stereotypical surf culture, the story seems to follow these teenage boys who get tangled up with this cyborg crime boss. Yet what kind of villain is that compared to the likes of Rob Schneider… oh, the horror! But really though, why is this 30 year old man hanging out at the beach with two teenage boys? Really makes you think. I think that this movie encapsulates a lot of family films from the 1990s, many of which tried far too hard to be hip, were full of plot holes, and had a cast of bumbling idiots. Then again, you could go worse. You could be Space Jam. Don’t forget; claim your turf, make sure to moto-surf.

Death Promise (1977)

One of the many reasons I don’t like blockbusters all that much is they always seem to have very one-dimensional villains. So boring, unscrupulous sure, but substance and depth is pretty much nonexistent. Until now! Behold, landlords and bosses, the true scum of the earth. How can I possibly relate to having to stand up against a tyrannical megalomaniac with their own private army? On the contrary, obnoxious superiors are a nuisance for plenty of folks, I feel. Throw in their sidekick Rob Schneider and you finally have action movie antagonists I want to see taken down. You go, Charles Bonet!

The Company of Wolves (1984)

An unnerving retelling of the classic Red Riding Hood fairy tale, this trailer I think offers a pretty decent idea of what sort of horror flick this is going to be. For what it’s worth, The Company of Wolves doesn’t actually look all that terrible. The production design and practical effects still hold up today at the very least. Even though they are trying to frighten us as an audience, I can’t help but smile seeing all those dogs being good boys and running around the set. Truly a heartwarming sight. So the dreamy atmosphere, unique style, and overall moral to never trust anyone with a unibrow definitely make for a good sell.

National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982)

What? Explain yourself, Chevy Chase. You had something to do with this, didn’t you? Due to a decline in popularity of humor magazine National Lampoon after many of their alumni jumped ship to join the television sketch show Saturday Night Live (that I’m sure barely survived a single season), they began pumping out feature films. Their first attempt, Animal House, proved a massive success, so they continued forward. Obviously Class Reunion is attempting to recapture the magic from before, but it was quickly dumped on by critics and left to be forgotten in time. Oh well. You win some and you lose some. Although, this trailer is certainly very odd, cramming confusing chaos into a single minute without actually giving a premise. Unless the movie was just unhinged madness. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were so.


Don’t check out just yet, Lighttrain will return with more trailers after these messages…

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Now, on with the show!

Modesty Blaise (1966)

Hey, do you mind repeating that title once again; I didn’t catch it the first ten times you said it. A campy espionage comedy that’s base concept is probably “female James Bond” turned into nothing more than a baroque pop art showcase with some people talking now and then. It’s like if a gallery from 60s London was a movie. Part of the problem here is that the director, Joseph Losey, was known more for his serious dramatic works and not for a goofball spy parody like this. Step aside, Modesty, Diabolik and Barbarella will take it from here. Go back to your apartment complex and beat up your evil landlords or something.

Hercules in New York (1970)

As evident from the footage seen above, Hercules in New York is an autobiographical look at the humble beginnings of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who goes from Greek god to professional bodybuilder and finally the governor of California. Not one of the most well-made documentaries out there, but thoroughly investing all the way through. Seeing Arnold grow, adapt his human alias, fall in love with a pretzel cart owner, and cause countless acts of property damage is truly exquisite. I was also quite surprised to hear that a young Schwarz had such a different voice in his youth. Wonder what happened there. Otherwise, bravo.

Black Caesar (1973)

February is coming to a close, and with that the temporary passing of black history month. I genuinely mean without an ounce of sarcasm that it’s stellar to see African-American people getting the acknowledgment and support they deserve after generations of discrimination. Yet back in the 70s, these people were also encouraged on by a rising subgenre of grindhouse cinema: the blaxploitation film. These were your typical action-packed slam fest featuring criminal underbellies and kung fu powerhouses, but instead featuring a wide array of black actors. Of course, this is trailer trash, so these were not usually the best things out there, but there is no denying the positive influence it had on many local communities.

Tommy (1975)

Don’t do drugs, kids. Our final trailer of the evening is the psychedelic rock opera Tommy, featuring a soundtrack by The Who, and guest appearances from the likes of Ann-Margaret, Jack Nicholson, and Elton John. This wild advertisement was simply begging me to look further into the plot of this thing. Apparently, it stars a man who is deaf, dumb, and blind who becomes a master pinball player and gets tangled up in a cult. Normal stuff, no doubt. Having come across robo-Leslie Nielson and unibrow werewolves may have just desensitized me by now.

Thank you for reading and your continued patience! Look forward to more soon. Later.

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What’s This? Another Update! That Conductor Really Has It Coming For Him… | Lighttrain

Yo, how’s it going? For me, not so well. Right off the bat, I must clarify that the absence is entirely my fault and no one else’s. I was certainly busy, sure, but also incredibly lazy, and I apologize for that. Thank you so much for your patience too! I was honestly surprised that I hadn’t lost any subscribers since I vanished. Then again, this blog isn’t necessarily that vital to your lives, but just the mere fact that you’re reading this right now means a lot.

So, what’s next? Well, a few things. I’m going to need to ease my way back into posting regularly again because getting back into that flow again after so long will be difficult. Chances are, don’t expect it to be weekly, but I will always post when I can. A few other notes is that I will be having a trip in April and I’m moving to Illinois in August. Those things will likely mean no posts during those respective times. Otherwise, stay hopeful!

Upcoming posts haven’t changed much, but I do aspire to be more eclectic with it. Of course, movie reviews for Dune, Tick, Tick…Boom, Koyaanisqatsi, The Terminal, and Son of Rambow are all in the works. One of my favorite series on this blog, Trailer Trash, I’m hoping to give another episode or two because they really are a ton of fun to write. I was also planning for other retrospective throwbacks such as looking back at Saturday morning cartoons, the Satanic Panic brought upon by the rising popularity of VHS in the 80s, the indie film boom of the 90s, and a show called Eiga Meihemu that examines the colorful world of Japanese cinema. I also had a unique idea of a series where we can read and laugh at some ridiculous internet fanfiction. There’s some wild stories out there, trust me. I can’t give any guarantees for this though; I’m worried it may be a little too strange.

Anyways, I just wanted to keep this straightforward for you guys. Thank you once more for taking a few minutes out of your day to revisit the train. I will see you again very soon. Peace out!

Jurassic Park (1993) Retrospective | Lighttrain

Salutations, long time no see! I am your conductor. Sorry for any concern or bitterness involving my inactivity. You see, long story short, I have now been resurrected from the grave and got this train back up and running. Today let’s look at the Steven Spielberg classic Jurassic Park. Because, summer is the season of blockbusters, is it not? Let’s get this show on the road…

A wealthy mogul has done the impossible – creating living dinosaurs out of fossilized DNA samples. What do you do with such a technological brilliance? Well, cash in on it, of course. Obviously investors are rather nervous about the repercussions of a tourist destination filled with unpredictable carnivorous creatures walking about. In response, the billionaire invites over a small group to visit the island and assure its safety. However, unprecedented complications cause the dinosaurs to break loose, as the stranded tourists must now rush to survive.

I want to get the common checkpoints out of the way because, let’s be honest, no one wants to hear what they already know. The CGI graphics for the prehistoric reptiles are stunning, particularly for the early 1990s. The various moments that have since been etched into pop culture is many. And I mean, many! It may be cliche, but it’s that way for a reason. From the water in the glass to the t-rex in the rear view mirror, it’s all so iconic! Honestly my favorite line is when Jeff Goldblum’s character says in response to the creation of the dinosaurs…

Couldn’t have phrased it better if I tried!

Michael Crichton, the writer for both the original novel and this screen adaption, truly knows how to write tonal shifts. He absolutely nails it with tense scenes, but handles sentimental or intelligent ones just as well. The seminal director, Spielberg, gets a bunch of applause for his work on this film, and sure, he did excellently, but let’s not edge out the visionary behind the scenes.

Jurassic Park in general is overflowing with a myriad of details that I always seem to find with every viewing. For instance, did Hammond really spare no expense? Because he only hired a single guy to run computers for the whole park! Goldblum and Laura Dern have some kind of odd chemistry to them that I like a lot. They remind me of two goofballs that are sharing a brain cell together. It’s cute. A sentence in the film early on explaining the connections between common birds and these extinct reptiles indeed foreshadows the final shots of the film. As the survivors are on the helicopter, finally fleeing from the abandoned island, Alan Grant (played decently by Sam Neill) gazes outside to see a flock of birds, reminding the audience how they’ll “never see birds the same way again”.

Spared some expense.

By Hollywood standards, there is no ignoring that Spielberg and Crichton’s classic Jurassic Park is unrivaled. Hidden beneath breathtaking special effects and action that leaves us on the edge of our seats is a genuinely intelligent piece. No matter how many blockbusters keep getting churned out, I don’t feel that anything will ever connect with people the same way this movie did. What else is there to say, I highly recommend!

RATING: 10/10


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JULY UPDATES

Now that I have returned from my visit up to Washington, I am now returning full time to blogging! Next Thursday I will posting the finale of the series Out of Order discussing the terrible 90s television show The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. It’s going to be a fun one. After that review however, I’ll be starting to upload a new post every two weeks instead. I mean to be completely honest with you here; my blogging hobby has evolved from a passion of mine to something of a chore. I do still enjoy making reviews and fun retrospectives and stuff like that, but I find it difficult to pressure myself into writing every week. Essentially I need some more air to breathe. But, you can still check my Instagram (@g.nowak_art) and Letterboxd (@Kraken Nowak) to keep up to date with my additional projects. Future posts here on the Lighttrain will be a two-part ranking of the Marvel short films, a review of Galaxy Quest, As You Like It, and Koyaanisquatsi, as well as “Son of Octerror” returning for the Halloween season. Thank you so much for tuning in this far and I hope you have a wonderful rest of the month. See you next Thursday!

Raiders of the Lost Ark/Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade Duel Review | Lighttrain

Hello and thank you for stopping by. To both new faces and frequents, allow me to introduce myself as your conductor for this evening. Since we are approaching blockbuster season (or lack thereof!), it was about time I revisited Indiana Jones in all of his whip-cracking glory. Leading a life foiling the dastardly plots of Nazis and hunting down various relics, the series taught students to never underestimate their archaeology professor, Harrison Ford or not. Although the others are mostly flawed films, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade are, in my opinion, two of the best action-adventures that Hollywood has ever produced. But which is better? Let’s get this show on the road and face a danger almost as risky as the Third Reich; determining my favorite Indiana Jones!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Review

Daring adventurer Indiana Jones is recruited by the U.S government to help unearth the renowned Ark of the Covenant, a casket said to contain the biblical Ten Commandments. On a globetrotting search from Cairo to Nepal, Indy and his former sweetheart Marion find themselves hunted down by the nefarious Rene Belloq and his German brigade. Will they stop the Nazis from obtaining the Ark’s insurmountable powers?

Ah yes, the one that started the whole thing. Let us pause for a moment of respect… anyways, this movie is amazing! Sure, it may not go down in history as an intellectual masterpiece, nor is that what the film is trying to accomplish. It is what I have dubbed a “popcorn movie” (noun. a motion picture intended to be easy-to-digest entertainment, often times being a Summer blockbuster or having a charismatic hero in the main role).

Keep in mind that I don’t necessarily feel that these popcorn movies are below others just because they are simply to give crowds a good time. Even when done wrong, it’s still respectable. But on the certain occasions when the formula is done remarkably well, you come out with Raiders of the Lost Ark. There are a couple of issues scattered throughout; nothing is perfect, after all. But when your flick is this polished, funny, and has Nazis heads exploding like balloons, then how can I possibly be too critical. Now if the movie was called Indiana Smith like the concept instead, we’ll have an entirely different story on our hands.

An entertaining and fun film that, like Gene Siskel once said, might even inspire younger generations to borrow a camera and make movies themselves. I know I was surely one of them! Ignore all the Fellini and the Godard, the Hitchcock or Tati. Sometimes a popcorn flick done with excellency is enough to satisfy me.

RATING: 10/10


Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (1989) Review

An archaeologist has recently gone missing on his pursuit of the Holy Grail, a goblet said to grant eternal life. Upon discovering that it was his own father, Indiana Jones continues in his expedition, teaming up with Marcus Brody, Sallah, Elsa Schneider, and of course, Professor Henry Jones Sr. It is a race against the clock once more for Indiana and his allies to thwart the unscrupulous aspirations of the Nazis. Will they be pure at heart, and what will happen to those who aren’t?

Let’s be real here, this gives Raiders a run for its money. Following the darkly violent Temple of Doom, this installment comes full circle and readopts the more light-hearted tone. Arguably the freshest element added here is the estranged relationship between father and son. This outing earnestly is the first of the trilogy (let’s just ignore the fourth one…) where Indy feels like he grew as a character from the beginning to the end. What can this be attributed to? You guessed right, that would be the bond with his dad. In addition, the adventure has more of a personal aspect to it. Dare I say that this may be my favorite feature to watch on Father’s Day. Hey, the holiday is on June 20 this year, just saying.

Furthermore, the action sequences are as stellar as they have ever been; the tank and rotating wall scenes were highlights. Marcus Brody, Indiana’s likeable and buffoonish academic mentor, is among the great ensemble of characters too. Similar to Raiders though, the villains aren’t exactly the most compelling, but c’mon… they’re just Nazis on the highway to get their flesh melted off their bones. Not much of a spoiler, really. A nice touch of Indiana Jones’ humanity is also displayed near the end when he offers to save a secondary antagonist, but the demise of the latter can only be blamed on their own greed. Chef’s kiss, right there.

Nearly everything in this film is pitch-perfect, from the acting to the fights and even the unexpected emotional weight. You want a quintessential “popcorn movie”? My recommendation would definitely be either of these two Indiana Jones entries, no doubt about it. There was never a dull moment, from the second it began until the perfect final shot of Indy and his pals riding off into the sunset.

RATING: 10/10


So yeah, two remarkably superb films yet again. I sat on whether Raiders of the Lost Ark or Last Crusade was the winner overall, but I killed two birds with one stone and just made both of them the best. What can I say, I guess I’m a man of culture. Thank you bunches for tuning in and I wish you a good Memorial Day. Later!

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TOMORROW | Updates for June… Don’t Miss It!

7 More Bonkers Brand Mascots {Out of Order} | Plus Updates

Welcome folks! I’m your conductor here tonight ready to look back on seven over-the-top mascots here on our show Out of Order. This is a second batch focusing on the topic, which has proved to be something of a favorite among my passengers. And I aim to cook up that same charm again. Back by popular demand, here’s volume 2 of bizarre brand marketing mascots… let’s get this show started!

Spuds Mackenzie (Bud Light, 80s)

How could you go wrong with this party animal? Debuting during the 1987 Super Bowl, Spuds soon became a smash hit seemingly overnight. He was a life-of-the-party bull terrier, rode about in limousines, and was swarmed by a crowd of gorgeous “Spudettes”. His impact certainly benefited the beer company, approximately improving average sales by 20% between 1987 and 1988. It’s a shame that his controversial idealization of alcohol to an audience of impressionable teenagers eventually led to the mascot’s retirement by 1989, only serving a 3 year run. It seems Spud’s legacy hasn’t faded in modern times, so could the mascot make its deserved comeback? I hope so, and even if that won’t be the case, he will always be up there in the stars, partying the night away.

Crash Test Dummies (Safety Administration, 1986-1999)

The other day I buckled up in a parking lot and my friends in the back ridiculed me for it. Clearly neither of them have seen these adverts before. They were featured heavily in public service announcements, or PSA’s, broadcast in part by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to encourage the use of seat belts. In these ads, two crash dummies named Vince and Larry often got into slapstick situations, egged on by the slogan “You Could Learn a Lot from a Dummy”. The practice of car safety was indeed boosted by these characters, who would later get a line of children’s toys. Hmm, that’s cool I guess… wait, the entire point of the action figures was to mutilate and purposefully smash them? Oh, irony, where art thou!

Speedy (Alka-Seltzer, 1951 – 1964)

I never would’ve thought that a pain-medication product needed a mascot, yet here we are! This little guy is named Speedy, named after the company’s introduction of “Speedy Relief”. For whatever reason, his body is an Alka-Seltzer tablet, but his head is human? I mean, plastic, but still human nonetheless. And he’s also wearing one on his head? Unless that is some sort of costume, isn’t that sort of like wearing your torso as a hat? Well, despite the horrifying implications, Speedy was a decent spokesman for selling antacids.

Sir Grapefellow (General Mills, 1972)

Last time we covered this we looked at another cereal mascot named King Vitamin. Or Vitaman… anyways, I decided to continue this tradition and pay my respects to the king. Awakening sour memories of World War 1 was a British military pilot named Sir Grapefellow. The breakfast supposedly had the flavor of grape-tasting oats combined with berry marshmallows. It even had a rivalry with another cereal under the same theme, Baron Von Redberry, to mixed reactions. Maybe next time it’s best that we don’t name a cereal character after a German war criminal. Kellogg’s, take notes.


Hang in there, Out of Order will be right back!

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MAY UPDATES

Not much exciting announcements are really in the works for this month, but there are definitely posts to look forward to. We’ll be comparing two of the greatest adventure films of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade to determine the best. And the finale of Out of Order season 1 will come to a head with a retrospective of arguably the worst shows ever made. Place your guesses on what you think it is down in the comments. Besides that, I am deeply sorry to say that I will have to take another two-week break from posting this June. It’s not because of burnout again, rather I am visiting distant family during that time and my reviews would interfere. But hey, still got all this month. Now, on with the show!


Bart Simpson (Butterfinger, 1988 – 2001)

“Nobody Better Lay a Finger on My Butterfinger”, was a line frequently stated by the mascot for this crispity, crunchity, peanut-buttery candy bar. The Simpsons had a monopoly on pop culture during the 1990s, and this is no different. Essentially in all these adverts it was Bart vs. The World, as everybody around him would go to questionable lengths to steal the Butterfinger for themselves. Revenge, betrayal, and elaborate set-ups, this week on Game of Butterfingers. Eh, doesn’t have that much of a ring to it really… but this was a peculiar tie-in for sure. However, I wonder how it would’ve been if HBO had a marketing campaign with Nestle. I can see it now; the Soprano Nesquick!

Sylvester Smythe (Cracked magazine)

The next character lives under the domineering shadow of Alfred E. Neumann, the dopey face often associated with Mad magazine. Which is a shame, because Cracked is an equally solid satire publication. Sylvester was a janitor for the zine, and appeared inside the parodies from time to time. Cracked does however compose of a fanbase of people who bought this when Mad had been sold out, so Sylvester has a unique place in pop culture.

Max Headroom (Coca-Cola, 1986 – 1987)

Who actually remembers Max Headroom besides me? He was a wisecracking artificial intelligence who’s voice was often sped up, slowed down, and plagued by stutters. The guy was a one-hit-wonder for a little while, starring in his own television program, an unsolved hijacking, and served as Coca-Cola’s salesman too. For whatever reason though, the character never made any sort of sense to me; he’s genuinely more uncanny then he is witty. Maybe I should give him a break… all he ever did was promote soda.

Well, that’s all folks! Catch you later.


TOMORROW | Raiders of the Lost Ark Review starring Indiana Jones

From THE GOOD DINOSAUR to INCREDIBLES II: Every Pixar Film Reviewed Vol. 4 | Lighttrain

Hi, how’s things! Welcome back to the fourth volume of our review of every single Pixar film. If for any reason you desire to read my thoughts on any of the previous 15 movies from the studio, here are the links:

Pixar Vol. 1 >> https://lighttrainreviews.com/2020/06/20/from-toy-story-to-finding-nemo-every-pixar-film-reviewed-vol-1-lighttrain/

Pixar Vol. 2 >> https://lighttrainreviews.com/2020/08/14/from-the-incredibles-to-up-every-pixar-film-reviewed-vol-2-lighttrain/

Pixar Vol. 3 >> https://lighttrainreviews.com/2021/01/14/from-toy-story-3-to-inside-out-every-pixar-film-reviewed-vol-3-lighttrain/

The groundbreaking animators have touched the hearts of many and connected audiences with a plethora of sympathetic characters by taking old tropes and adding a drop of their own unique spin. Although heir creative genius shines in their earliest features, a sudden influx of tripe sequels throughout the 2010s have staled the studio’s influence. Diving into the duds, the masterpieces, and everything in-between, here’s 5 more Pixar movies reviewed to keep your quarantined life entertaining. Let’s get this show on the road!

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

After the death of his father, a timid Apatosaurus is now wandering aimlessly throughout a dangerous landscape. You see, the meteor that virtually eliminated the dinosaurs never really happened, so they have since adapted and started agriculture. All our protagonist has is a young and rugged caveman for company, but overtime the two develop a bond. Will they return to their homes?

To be clear, I don’t have much to say about The Good Dinosaur. It’s simply a bore to get through. While the photorealistic backgrounds are indeed impressive, it is plain to see that loads more effort was put into the visuals instead of a great story. Pixar is known for their creativity, and watching something so derivative… agh, not a fan. The story is so inconsistent, almost as if somebody took the backbone of this movie ad chopped it up. Beyond that, the climax is so punch-in-the-gut out of nowhere that it’s appalling. Did the writers just forcibly stick in one because they felt is was necessary? My answer is probably yes.

What else can I say besides you can definitely spend your 97 minutes a lot wiser. It isn’t terrible mind you, but I don’t envision myself rewatching this at all in my lifetime. Just typing about this film is slowly making me want to fall asleep. Either that, or I’m genuinely tired. Maybe a blend of both… believe me, these next reviews will be a bit longer.

RATING: 4/10


Finding Dory (2016)

Well, good thing Pixar picked itself up again! A continuation of the classic Finding Nemo, our bubbly blue tank sidekick Dory suddenly recalls buried away memories of her parents. She becomes determined to locate them, which leads to a SeaWorld doppelganger. Meeting old friends and developing new ones, will Dory finally reunite with her long lost family, or will she reach a dead end?

Now, if you read Volume 1, you’ll know that I am quite fond of the original film. I have put that worn-out disc into the DVD player more times then I can count. So obviously the sequel had a lot to live up to. Did it reach my expectations? Yes, and also no. Finding Dory is nowhere near to its predecessor in my books, but it tries its hardest. If you disqualified the entire Toy Story franchise out of the competition, I’d go as far as to say that this stands above all the other Pixar sequels. The shining elements are apparent the more you examine the whole. Let’s do that, shall we…

First, the pros. The fresh additions to the cast are all decent additions, with a standout being the cynical octopus Hank. And he has the most screen time out of the minor cast? Bonus points there. A neat detail that I didn’t even catch initially was how a lot of them have disabilities, similarly to how Dory suffers from short-term memory loss. For instance, Hank lost an arm, Destiny is near-sighted (I think, correct me if I’m wrong), and Bailey for a brief period has his echolocation muted. That’s a smart idea to include here. The animation is stellar per usual, the writing is on-point, and those emotional moments hit a home run. Not to spoil the destination of Dory’s journey, but you’re sure to get a little teary-eyed when a certain image appears on screen. Hopefully if you have seen the movie yourself you are aware of what I mean.

Shifting right along to the cons, I must admit, this outing still falls victim to the trap of modern Pixar films wherein the middle act feels rather disjointed. It always melds together by the finale, but in the moment it feels incoherent to the main plotline. Speaking of that finale, boy is it off the rails. Following such an emotional powerhouse in the scenes prior, the ending we got was a weird choice, without a doubt.

A solid movie overall that is very much one that you will enjoy while viewing, but will fade from your mind that next week. Hah, ironic isn’t it? The works are all present and executed well. Finding Nemo will likely hold a place in my heart forever, but the fact that the sequel didn’t utterly fall flat and impressed even me is nothing to sneeze at. I recommend to all who are interested.

RATING: 6.5/10


Cars 3 (2017)

Pushed out of racing by a generation of new zealous competitors, Lightning McQueen has been down on his luck. Opportunities arise with an enthusiastic young coach, a handful of surprises, and a lesson or two from the legendary Hudson Hornet. Will Lightning successfully rejoin the sport and prove that even seasoned folks still have the spirit?

Oh boy, Cars 3… the film absolutely nobody asked for. Except for the Disney executives who wanted to dump out the rest of their leftover merchandise, I suppose. The teaser trailer even tried baiting audiences by framing it like Lightning McQueen was possibly going to die, which clearly couldn’t happen in a family movie. However, this installment of the franchise is at least a step above Cars 2. So there’s something to be thankful for. The themes of old vs. new and the value of mentors support the movie rather nicely. This may just be me here, but I can spot a ton of ties and influences from Rocky Balboa. Unlike the additional entries in the series, it tackles more serious ideas then of nostalgia, companionship, and otherwise. While that is all dandy, the plot takes a bit to get the gas pedal going (pun intended…I have no shame).

While this trilogy didn’t exactly have the right footing after a disastrous sequel, Cars 3 still had some steam to end on a satisfying note. It’s nowhere near the studio’s strongest works, that’s practically a given at this point, but it’s got a lighthearted yet intelligent script and I had an enjoyable viewing experience. Ultimately I still have stronger roots with the original, but this handles the job just fine.

RATING: 5/10

Don’t tune out yet, we’ll return with two more reviews in a moment…

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Coco (2017)

I know many folks who really enjoy Coco, and I understand where they’re coming from. It’s an emotionally rich, colorfully drawn, and totally competent animated feature, but for some reason I never felt as if it were a masterpiece. How is that? Before we transition to that, the premise deserves to be brought up. A young boy named Miguel is passionate about playing music, inspired by what he theorizes to be his long deceased musician great-great-grandfather. However, Miguel is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead and befriends a charismatic trickster to help him return to the Living World and end his family’s restraint on music.

I’m going to throw out, having seen each Pixar film after this one, that Coco was the company’s last truly great picture as of now. Sure, Toy Story 4 excelled over everybody’s admittedly low expectations, but it had it’s fair share of problems. Don’t you fret, we’ll get to that one eventually. The animation deserves my recognition here in my review for its lively and faithful depiction of the Land of the Dead, as well as creating skeleton characters that are appealing to young children. Speaking of such, Miguel and Hector are an entertaining duo to follow throughout the story too. A bit of plot issues such as a couple of inconvenient tangents and a third-act twist villain are less then stellar though…

Spoilers are always lurking, aren’t they? If you have not yet seen this movie, which I recommend without a doubt, I please urge you to skip over this paragraph. There’s your warning. The reveal that so-and-so was related to you-know-who didn’t bother me that much, despite how the chances of them meeting by chance is kind of opportune. And Ernesto actually poisoned what’s-his-face the whole time? Okay, that was one heck of a turnaround. I mean, something did feel off when Miguel at long last completed his goal and the movie kept going. So, you can’t say I didn’t see it coming.

I don’t know if I’ll be capable of offering an answer that’s set in stone regarding why I don’t think Coco is among Pixar’s best works. Perhaps the best bet I could make is against the story issues. Emotional effectiveness are a powerful enough to soften my critical heart however, aided in part by the rest of the filmmaking department contributing its all. It is, for the most part, a breezily charming love letter to Mexican culture as a whole. I can respect that.

RATING: 7.5/10

Incredibles 2 (2018)

Our final film this evening is the long-awaited sequel of 2004’s The Incredibles, written and directed by the phenomenal Brad Bird. It picks up after the first with the superhero family the Parr’s, who are recruited by an optimistic businessman to rehabilitate the public’s trust in heroics such as themselves. Bob, aka Mr. Incredible, is challenged when he must take on domestic duties, further jealous that his wife Helen is out saving the world from threats. Unfortunately, a new villain named the Screenslaver arises, who begins using brainwashing techniques to decimate the legal status of superheros once more. Can the family reunite as a unit to solve this mystery?

There is something recognizably wrong with this, and it took a bunch of digging — as well as a good amount of common sense — to piece together why. Because I know that Bird is an creative genius and usually has very smart screenplays. The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and even possibly Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol all work rather nicely. However, to delve into this investigation, I’m going to have to rope Toy Story 4 back for the argument. The latter was intended to be released in 2018, while this film was meant to hit theaters a year later. When the executives noticed that Incredibles 2 was more ahead in production, the release dates were swapped. So therefore, the quadruple installment of Woody and Buzz’s adventures had more time for it’s crew to breathe. On the other hand, Brad Bird was rushed into churning out his movie sooner.

Case closed? Maybe not. The action scenes featuring Mrs. Incredible, particularly the monorail sequence, are choreographed smoothly. Michael Giacchino provides another astounding score that, while mirroring music from the first, is still fast paced and jazzy. I’m not for calling it better then the original, primarily due to its repeated flavors rather then new ones. But that’s the thing; Incredibles 2 is a difficult sequel to analyze without drawing some comparisons to its predecessor. Like how the villain here has no competition against Syndrome’s stage presence, for example. Edna Mode continues to steal every scene she’s apart of, so that’s a plus.

A feature whose high expectations fundamentally ignites disappointment, the return of Brad Bird’s superhero family simply had both too little and too much time to work on. 14 years have definitely changed when all is said and done, as comic book blockbusters are now on the rage more then ever. I only this film’s production had more time in the oven to build a more refined script, because shimmers of clever dialogue appear occasionally here. In conclusion, Incredibles 2 had potential, though came out sadly half-baked.

RATING: 5.5/10


Thanks for tuning in, friends! Apologies on my massive two week delay; I’m immensely disappointed in my laziness. If you’ve read until here, I hope you have a great day. Later…

NEXT THURSDAY | Viewer’s Choice of More Bonkers Brand Mascots

Blog Updates and Happy Easter [April 2021]

Hi, how’s it rolling? Hope you enjoyed your Easter weekend. This is just another rapid-fire updates post for the up and coming month. For one thing, I will not be having a review this Thursday. Believe me, I’m disappointed as well. We were going to look at the documentary film The King of Kong, but it’s already Monday and I don’t have anything done. Stress is the last thing I need right now. Plus, Easter and a family gathering tomorrow on Tuesday have also clogged up my schedule. If you haven’t already, I have a new Trailer Trash and a Ray Harryhausen retrospective you can read to tide you over.

But what do we have after that? Well, I’m very glad you asked! We have volume 4 of our Pixar review package, where I will score 5 more movies from their catalog. Out of Order will feature with its penultimate episode, as the season will go on to conclude in May. I’ll keep the episode incognito, but know that it is a continuation of a major fan favorite. And of course, The King of Kong. All those are this month in the same order I listed them.

Honestly, to much else to add. Thank you for tuning in week by week. I’ve been busy with many of my other projects and passions (*cough* my novel *cough*) and thus haven’t made time to check out my passengers blogs. I genuinely aspire to change that notion. Sorry for the absence, but the Conductor is back! Later, for now…

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Trailer Trash Vol. 3… April Fool’s Edition {Out of Order} | Lighttrain

Heya, Daddy-O! Welcome back for this very special April Fools episode of Out of Order. Are you guys are all set to go dumpster diving tonight? Ah yes, digging up all kinds of ultra-violent rock ’em sock ’em’s, Technicolor wonders, moldy oldies, bizarre Italian imports, and exotic off-color panoramas. It’s our third volume of Trailer Trash, heated up for your appetite (and don’t forget about our snack bar, presented solely by Dr. Pepper)!

Mars Attacks! (1996)

What is there to say? A truly chaotic trailer, Mars Attacks! is overfull with freakish images and characters being dissipated by lasers left and right. Even wilder, the abundance of recognizable faces. Danny DeVito, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J. Fox, Glenn Close, Martin Short, Tom Jones as himself, believe it or not. The president is portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the film as well; his character does have a name, but I just call him President Nicholson. It just feels more empowering. Mine as well mention that he plays a duel role as some random casino tycoon for no reason. Except to be killed, of course. Now that I sit on it, maybe Mars Attacks! is the only movie where Nicholson dies at the hands of the aliens (if you’ve seen the movie you’ll get where I’m coming at) on two different occasions. So every time you think your life sucks, just remember that Jack Nicholson died in a motion picture twice. Feel sorry, huh?

Red Roses for the Fuhrer (1968)

Luckily not a German romantic comedy starring Hitler as the lead role. Being the April Fools special, this trailer could’ve been so much more aggravating than what I selected. This is what they call a Macaroni Combat, which is essentially an Italian war flick in the same manner in how Spaghetti Westerns like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are the Italian version of westerns. The lip-syncing is hilariously rushed out and our setting is rather bland. For a Macaroni Combat, there is a surprising lack of cheese. I expected more exploitation schlock that makes these trailers so entertaining, but the film on display doesn’t genuinely look half-bad. Although, a romantic comedy does have potential…

Dixie Dynamite (1976)

This trailer as well as the next were both suggested by Max from https://powerpop.blog; thank you very much for the recommendations! Personally, I think Dixie Dynamite is a film more Kentucky fried than The Kentucky Fried Movie. Sorry Landis. It features two young women who seek revenge after their father, a moonshiner, is fatally shot by the town sheriff. Interesting movie tidbit: this was among one of the final roles of actor and professed “King of Cool” Steve McQueen, who has a nonspeaking appearance as a motorcyclist.

Beyond Atlantis (1973)

Easily my biggest gripe with Beyond Atlantis is its shoestring budget. The film doesn’t even take place in the underwater province of Atlantis! I normally would call this false advertising, though exploitation features are moderately notorious for having lurid titles to draw audiences into the theaters. The director actually urged the rating of Beyond Atlantis to be a family-friendly PG, which is uncommon for pulpy stuff such as this. I’m also bored to tears whenever they swim in the ocean… essentially it feels like it is on slow motion. Although despite these things, thanks once again for the trailers, Max.

Polyester (1981)

Of course, how could I forget the satire of Douglas Sirk melodramas directed by the trashy John Waters? An early production from New Line Cinema, Polyester was a suburban tale of foot-stomping and a suicidal dog (this is real, I assure you). What it has in its hilariously offbeat and black plot points it makes up for with Odorama, creating a “scentsational” experience. The gimmick was a quaint scratch-and-sniff card. At various intervals during the runtime, the movie would beckon you to take a whiff of one of the numbered spots. The scents included that of roses, flatulence, glue, pizza, a skunk, dirty shoes, and gasoline. It was generally a prank on the audience, much like moments on tonight’s show. Thank you for that, John Waters.

Don’t move a muscle, Out of Order will return in a moment…

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The Groove Tube (1974)

“1974’s most hilarious wildest movie is here!”, is one of the claims made by this trailer for The Groove Tube. It was a sketch comedy directed by and starring Ken Shapiro, who I’ve never heard of before, and Chevy Chase. Not aware who that guy is either… He’d never make it big in Hollywood, that’s for sure. But this movie just sounds uncomfortable all round, ranging from a PSA with a rude awakening to Brown 25, an industrial space-age mush that suspiciously resembles excrement. Doesn’t help that it’s produced in part by the Uranus Corporation!

Bee Movie (2007)

Remember this? I’m guessing that your answer is no. Though thankfully Bee Movie would later be a full-length animated feature made by Dreamworks, it was originally intended for a live-action approach with lead role Jerry Seinfeld walking around with a gigantic bumblebee outfit. In a second teaser trailer, the technical difficulties persist and Steven Spielberg recommends making it a cartoon to Seinfeld. In some ways, it may have been interesting to see a real-life cut of Bee Movie. And in case you may have been wondering, yes, the director cameo is Eddie Izzard. Wikipedia is a pathway to many abilities some would consider to be unnatural… anyways, onto the next.

The Three Supermen in the Jungle (1970)

Uomo, io sono non un grande fan di crema formaggio. Suo viscido e grumoso, appena perche fa esiste? Chi anche usi crema formaggio? Su ricerca, tu poteva propagazione alcuni sopra crostini con marmallata o forse nel maccheroni e formaggio… ew, espettare che cosa? Quello e anche peggio! O si, Che fanno i nostri supermen tra le vergini della jungla? sembra strano.

Mars Attacks! (1996)

Deja vu, we’ve just been in this place before! For the martians in this film, they made all their lines of dialogue “ack, ack, ack, ack”, as at the time the screenwriters were unsure what they would actually sound like. But in the end, that’s what they made their dialogue. To do this, they reversed the quack sound associated with ducks. Tim Burton was hoping to create his own tribute to Ed Wood movies, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, and Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion works, which we discussed last week. Moral of the story: always remember that Jack Nicholson had to die twice in a film.

Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? (1969)

This was voted by readers of the Chicago Tribune in 2006 the worst movie title of all time. Need I say more?


NEXT WEEK | The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

A Tribute to Ray Harryhausen: Creatures of Clay | Lighttrain

Hello, great to see you! Newcomers and longtime passengers alike, welcome to the Train; I’m your conductor this evening. If you went to any cinema lover and questioned why they have such an adoration for film, many would probably pinpoint specific directors, visionaries, and scenes that left that person enchantingly spellbound. The greats such as Scorsese, Spielberg, Allen, Tarantino, Kurosawa, and Kubrick are commonly upon these lists, but I feel that another creator deserves his name in this category as well: the great Ray Harryhausen.

Who was this fellow, and what kind of legacy did he leave behind? Ray was a stop-motion animator, meaning that he designed clay figures and animated their movements. In this case, they were whimsical beasts unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Living skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts, a cyclops and two-headed vulture (insert a shameless reference to my novel here) in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, a colossal crustacean in Mysterious Island, and rampaging dinosaurs in The Valley of Gwangi. Oh, and Harryhausen never called his projects “monsters”, but instead the more respectful “creatures”. Hence why this post’s subtitle is “Creatures of Clay”.

Now that I have informed you on Harryhausen’s background in practical effects, let’s get this how on the road and take a closer look at one of his most acclaimed works, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. The swashbuckling adventure was released in 1958; isn’t that a blast from the past! Even a duo of sequels, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger — to my dismay, not a nod to the Survivor song — came from the springboard though neither fared as successfully.

Though Harryhausen’s stunning creatures would have been enticing enough, 7th Voyage was implemented with yet another gimmick to magnetize audiences to their local theater. The technique was called Dynamation, the so-called “new miracle of the screen”. Call it what you will, either way it still encapsulated Harryhausen’s trademark style. A decent promotional short subject, shown above, declared that using new technological advances and color they opened “vast new vistas in motion picture entertainment”. Dynamation was used all the way until 1981 with Clash of the Titans, then afterwards Ray retired from the profession. In a original review by Time magazine for Clash of the Titans, they quipped that “The real titan is Ray Harryhausen”.

On May 7, 2013, it was announced publicly that Ray has passed away at the age of 92. Many statements from filmmakers who were inspired by his work were made; Edgar Wright (the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy, Baby Driver) said that “He was the man who made me believe in monsters”, Peter Lord (Aardman Animations) wrote that Harryhausen was “a one-man industry and a one-man genre”, and even George Lucas admitted that “Without Harryhausen, there would have likely been no Star Wars“. Wow. Allow that to sink in for a second.

We’ll return to review 7th Voyage after these messages…

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THE TRAILER TRASH APRIL FOOLS’ SPECIAL on {Out of Order}

We now return!

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad Review

The daring seafarer Sinbad is soon to be newlywed to Princess Parisa and bind together two kingdoms. However, the princess is shrunken to miniature stature by a dastardly sorcerer in search for a lost genie lamp. This encourages Sinbad to return to the island of Colassa to retrieve a shell, which is needed to return the princess to her regular size. The sorcerer only comes along so he can take the lamp back for himself, battling against the intrepid sailor when he finds it in his possession. Can Sinbad defeat the sorcerer and his monsters, while in the process saving his bride?

Perhaps where this movie’s personality most shines through is in its stop-motion magic. Computer generated graphics, or CGI, is practically omnipresent in Hollywood films today, but it always feels a bit lifeless. Simply put, not a single time has CGI in a live-action blockbuster ever felt like it had genuine heart and soul poured into the work. I applaud you if you do love working on CGI in films, if any folks like that are reading this post in the first place. Despite how rudimentary and uncouth it can be by modern standards, Harryhausen’s work literally was made by hand.

Of course, not every film is without its flaws. For 7th Voyage, at times the story can become bogged down as it drags its feet, particularly with overlong scenes without any creatures. The childlike fantasy of the whole thing, comparable to that of a bedtime story of sorts, connotes that the acting and overall storyline is very tedious. An antagonistic magician, the one-dimensional princess, a hazardous journey. I’m sure we’ve all seen this before in other media, perhaps slightly better. Thankfully, the creatures on display elevate this Sinbad film into more recognizable esteem.

Although The 7th Voyage of Sinbad can tread rough waters in some moments, it might be Ray’s most important movie. This was the very first feature he worked on that was filmed in color, and it influenced a bunch of young kids at the time who would grow into phenomenal filmmakers. With sword and sandal swordfights and a bombastic score by Bernard Herrmann, this iconic motion picture won’t impress today’s moviegoers, but you cannot deny the footprint left by the magnificent Ray Harryhausen. I recommend viewing it for yourself, if only to see the magnificent effects of the time!

RATING: 6.5/10


R.I.P Ray Harryhausen

Lupin the 3rd in ‘The Castle of Cagliostro’ Review | Lighttrain

Konnichiwa! I’m your conductor, and tonight we’ll be looking back on the first directorial work by the legendary Japanese visionary Hayao Miyazaki: The Castle of Cagliostro from 1979. The film was among the tens of hundreds of adaptations of the Monkey Punch manga starring the eponymous Lupin, although it was still early on in the character’s long-lasting history. Furthermore, the immense shadow of Miyazaki’s beloved later movies (such as the acclaimed Spirited Away, the heartwarming My Neighbor Totoro, and the epic Princess Mononoke) was a rather mammoth expectation to live up to. Now that I’ve actually watched Castle of Cagliostro for myself (twice no less!), let’s get this show on the road and determine whether or not it lives up.

A cache of apparent counterfeit casino money draws the charming gentleman thief Arsene Lupin III to the province of Cagliostro. He soon unravels a scheme by the Count, the mastermind behind the counterfeit manufacturing, who arranges a forced marriage to the princess Clarisse. Along with his comrades — the chain-smoking sharpshooter Jigen, impassive swordsman Goemon, maverick Fujiko, and on-and-off nemesis Inspector Zenigata — Lupin takes it upon himself to help rescue Clarisse from the Count’s unscrupulous clutches.

It’s been openly stated that Steven Spielberg was influenced by Castle of Cagliostro during the production of his own action-adventure film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. Ring a bell? And this film’s effect on Indiana Jones is clear in the zippy action sequences, including a fast-paced car chase in the first 15 minutes or so, and witty banter exchanged by Lupin and his allies. This as well, with some competition, is the most recognized and savored slice of Lupin media, despite the criticism targeted at the sugar-coated characterization. So, what’s up with that?

The original manga iteration of Lupin was far from the well-meaning and clumsy goofball many people know. So, a challenge was entailed to Miyazaki to create an amiable hero out of a formerly salacious, remorseless crook that drove a Mercedes-Benz thanks to it being “Hitler’s favorite”. No simple feat, I may remind you. The final product is solid considering the predicament though, in where he goes out of his way to aid someone in worse circumstances then himself and rides a tarnished yellow Fiat 500 instead (thank goodness for that). Some fans who have been around from the very start aren’t typically applauding Lupin’s brave, bumbling deeds; they would rather see him as he was intended by the creator… as a ruthless criminal! Even Monkey Punch says he thinks the film is “excellent” on its own merit, though he cannot deny that the character changed drastically.

Since I saw this film twice on back-to-back days, there were a handful of qualities that stood out more on second viewing. The backgrounds and color palette are all rather magnificent on their own, but some of the movements and expressions are a bit janky overall. The buildup leading to the finale, which is a very good one mind you, is somewhat slow as Lupin is bedridden from an injury and an ensemble is migrating towards the castle for the wedding. However, there was something that notably delighted me second time around: the action sequences!

The aforementioned mountainside car chase to rescue Clarisse from the Count’s goons, a mix-up between the castle guards and Interpol agents, a rooftop scene, and the battle in the clock tower are all standouts in this consistently fun escapade. It will manage to entertain you as long as you are unwavering in the largely kinetic slapstick.

The Castle of Cagliostro is a rollicking time, Lupin fan or not. Obviously Miyazaki would flourish later in his career, but the genial and light-hearted caper is a perfect appetizer. I generally find it intriguing to explore where a filmmaker began before they become a staple of cinema treasures, so this proved a memorable experience. Hmm? You haven’t seen it yet? Well, go watch it on Netflix afterwards! You will thank me… maybe, I don’t know.

RATING: 7.5/10 “Highly Recommended”


Also, why did the butler look like Beetlejuice with broccoli for hair? So many questions…

Transmission disconnected…

NEXT THURSDAY | A Tribute to the Great Ray Harryhausen