Video Vault: Gravedancers

Before we take off for another flight around the Video Vault, we want very much to welcome our new sponsor, Uptown Videos & More, on State Street in Curwensville.

I was up to visit with Todd and Terri the other day and I got my membership card and rented one of the “8 Movies to Die For” (see review below) that are just hitting their shelves. Uptown has recently moved down by Errigo’s. The store is more roomy, the coffee bar is going up and you can even use their wi-fi hotspot if your connection at home is down.

If you wanna see what’s new this week at Uptown, click HERE.

If you want to buy a movie they don’t have on hand, place a special order with the clerk and presto! You’ll get it faster (way faster … and without the exorbitant shipping and handling) than you can say “Amazon.” Seriously, did you ever stop and look at your invoice and check out how much you pay Amazon to ship your stuff? Criminal, I tell ya.

Anyway, welcome aboard the Video Vault, Uptown! To all you Vaultkateers, stop in and tell them Vault sent ya.

We have a controversy. Well there you have it. Just the kind of discussion I enjoy.

When Shawn from Clearfield (a reader, not this writer) offered this summary judgment against Nicolas Cage’s recent “Ghost Rider” – “Piece of crap” was the quote in last week’s Vault Mail — I got more than a few ears-full.

We shall let Dan from Clearfield respond. To the Vault Mail!

Dear Video Vault,
I could not really tell where to send this, but I wanted to respond to a reference to the film, “Ghost Rider” as (I think.) “A piece of crap.”

Now, I can not really ascertain to which Shawn that quote should be attributed, but I find the comment overly dismissive. I know that from various comments, that the Video Vault is a fanboy of comics from way back. (And, by the way, I have not found anyone to play Marvel Trivia with. Might you be interested?) But I found “Ghost Rider” to be true to the original spirit of the series with some added delights. I, in particular, loved the scene of the two “ghost riders” riding their respective steeds in the night.

Realizing that comic adaptations are tricky for the uninitiated, I would recommend “Ghost Rider” and I think both Cage and Mendes do good work considering the roles are not the deepest Marvel has to offer.

Dan from Clearfield.

First, let me reiterate that the opinion presented was from one of the spies here in the Vault. Dan, you now qualify as such an agent. Shawn from Clearfield — we only use first names and hometowns around here out of a respect for privacy — is entitled to his opinions, as are we all. All of the fun we have in this corner of GantDaily is aimed at exactly these kind of conversations.

Now you’ve got me commenting on a movie I have never seen. I shall step carefully, Dan, into the muck.

First off, you’ve got it right that I’m a great fan of comics, especially the Golden Age of Marvel Comics, and I delight in the many efforts to craft them into films. You are also spot-on about how tricky it can be to pull off such a film.

For the uninitiated, there were two “ghost riders” in the Marvel Universe. The first, and oldest, was literally a ghost cowboy type of affair. I believe, and I could be wrong, the second, Johnny Blaze, was a musician who sold his soul to the devil and became at night a motorcycle riding hell-spawn with a wicked looking flaming skull. Very cool. I was stoked when I heard Nicolas Cage was doing this film. Now that two spies have crossed swords over it, I must get a look at it.

While we’re on the topic, we’ll spend a little time in the back aisles of the comic shop. Vault just loves comic books as film storyboards.

The best of the lot, clearly, is the Spider-Man series. The third installment will be in theaters this week and you can go and check out director Sam Raimi’s clear understanding of how to bring a comic book character to life. Raimi’s flashy visual style is a perfect match for Spider-Man, the best pure character in the Marvel Universe.

To get a full understanding of how much of a clue Raimi has, one need only look to the failing’s of director Ang Lee in his 2003 effort “Hulk.” Lee, a fine action director, stole the Hulk’s thunder by concentrating on back-story and on a clever bit of editing that allowed you to see several scenes from several angles at once. Both of these mistakes took away from a very simple story with a really good central theme of the man within the monster.

Other successes include the X-Men franchise, although by the third installment, I was getting a little weary of it. Over at D.C. Comics, one cannot leave out the Superman and Batman franchises as unqualified successes. Vault very much prefers Tim Burton’s atmospheric 1989 take on Batman. And his star, Michael Keaton, for my tastes, was the only one who came close to the real “dark knight.”

Keaton and Burton realized that Bruce Wayne was a deeply troubled individual, possibly a psychopath or even a schizophrenic. There is a scene in this film where Batman is holding a scoundrel by the throat off the edge of a high rooftop and you just aren’t sure whether or not he’s going to throw him to his death.

One of the better hero movies, and less noticed, is Ben Affleck’s 2003 turn as “Daredevil.” Daredevil, a blind lawyer by day, is one of the more evocative of Marvel’s heroes. He can hear heartbeats and his other senses compensate, radar-like, for his lack of vision. Not only this, but his choreographed battle with Jennifer Garner as the evil Elektra is killer for the leather lovers out there.

Another one that bears looking at, and zombie-like, seems never to die, is the smaller “Creepshow” franchise. Beginning in 1982, George Romero and Steven King teamed up in homage to the old E.C. Comics chillers which featured ghouls and witches who hosted a ramble through various tales of the macabre in each issue.

The first one, as is usually the case, was better than the second (1987) and third (2006) installments, but all featured involvement by Romero and King, who are truly operating in their element. You may be pleased to know that a “Creepshow” is in pre-production now for a release in 2008.

A couple of ideas I would like to see include getting Quentin Tarantino to take up a project like this. I happen to think the Avengers / Defenders cross-over story line from the mid-1970s would make a dandy two part movie. Plus, I’d get to see a re-match of the Incredible Hulk vs. the Mighty Thor! Okay. I’m getting carried away.

I was going to tell you all today about how wonderful “The Last King of Scotland” is and that “Freedom Writers” is just another stock story about a caring teacher (Hilary Swank) who turns around a ghetto classroom, but I’ll get to those Friday.

Meanwhile, I took in a pretty good horror movie the other day. “Gravedancers” is one of the “8 Movies to Die For” that were released to theaters en mass last Halloween. They are now hitting the new release racks at Uptown and, judging by the first one, they look to be good bets for the scare crowd.

“Gravedancers” is the story of a group of friends who unwittingly unleash a curse by partying a little too overzealously at a friend’s grave site. You wanna be careful about that sort of behavior. Nice movie, well executed … no pun intended. I do think the 8 Movies to Die For look like they’re a solid cut above the regular B-title slasher crap-heap. Here’s hoping that After Dark Films, which distributed the 2006 Horrorfest, is up for similar shenanigans this Halloween season. 


If you want to put your two cents in this space like Dan did above, you can become a member of the Video Vault by dropping me a line at Just include your first name and a hometown and let ‘er rip. Be funny. Be savage. Be yourself. And most of all, have fun thinking about really great movies.

On the small screen this week, I want to bring to your attention the return of a giant of a news man to Public Television. Bill Moyers Journal returns on Friday nights from 9-10 on PBS with the kind of journalism that’s been forgotten in this country since Walter Cronkite told it like it was.
Over on IFC, you also need to be aware of an edgy new program featuring Henry Rollins, the former lead singer of Black Flag and the Rollins Band. Featuring commentary, humor and wicked music, Rollins fits much into a tiny half hour.

Musical guests have included Peaches, Ryan Adams & the Cardinals and The Mars Volta. THIS Friday, no joke, you get a live performance by The Stooges. Interviews have been with Marilyn Manson, shock movie director John Waters and Ben Stiller. Check your listings, because it’s a late-night type show that can be a little frank. For me, it puts the M back in TV.

And until I finally get a chance to see “Dreamgirls” (new release this week!) … Enjoy!

Video Vault: The Last King of Scotland
Video Vault: Volver

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