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Sunday, April 13, 2008

CBS' Moonves gets a 28% raise as ratings, ad sales drop

The network CEO received $36.8 million last year, including an $18.5-million cash bonus.

At a time when corporate chieftains are coming under fire for their outsize pay packages, here's another to add to the list: Leslie Moonves.

The CBS Corp. chief executive, whose network is suffering from ratings and ad declines, got a 28% boost in total compensation in 2007 to $36.8 million, outstripping peers at Time Warner, Walt Disney and News Corp., all of which are much bigger companies.

Moonves, 58, joins a club of top-tier CEOs whose personal incomes are drawing scrutiny while the economy is worsening and the performance of their companies is slackening. Disclosure of Moonves' pay package, in a proxy filing Friday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, also comes as the company is laying off employees.

"That goes against the trend. We are seeing no increases and even reductions in salary," said James F. Reda, a New York-based consultant on executive compensation. "To have a 28% increase is really unusual."

In 2007, Moonves collected $5.3 million in salary and $18.5 million in cash bonuses. He also received more than $12.5 million in stock and option awards, according to the proxy. Of that, nearly $4.5 million were stock awards made before 2007. In 2006, he earned $28.6 million in salary, stock and bonuses.

The disclosure comes at an awkward time for CBS, which has been pummeled by steep declines in prime-time television ratings and softness in advertising sales at its radio and TV stations. CBS revenue declined 2% in 2007 to $14 billion, and net income fell 24% to $1.25 billion.

CBS shares, meanwhile, fell 21% from their peak in July 2007 to the end of the year, and have tumbled another 21% since January.

To shave costs, CBS last week laid off more than 160 news anchors, reporters and technicians from its TV stations across the country. The move followed cuts last year in the radio division. And earlier this week it was revealed that CBS executives discussed a possible early exit for news anchor Katie Couric, whose highly promoted hiring at "CBS Evening News" has been a major disappointment both commercially and critically.

On top of that, Moonves just moved CBS' top West Coast executives from their longtime home at Television City in the Fairfax district into lavish, multimillion-dollar offices in Studio City.

Dan Pedrotty, director of investment for the AFL-CIO, said Moonves' pay reflected the chasm in compensation between CEOs and their rank-and-file workers.

"There is one set of rules for the working class of America and a different set of rules that apply in the corporate boardrooms," Pedrotty said. "Why would someone deserve an $8-million raise when the performance of the company has gone down?"

In the proxy, CBS explained the increases, saying that the company raised its dividend payment to stockholders by 25% to 25 cents. It also exceeded its targets for operating income and free cash flow.

Meanwhile, when the CBS board renegotiated Moonves' contract in October, it changed the mix of cash and equity it paid him. That still left 10 months of the year under the older formula, which carried a higher base salary.

The company's fortunes have slid this year, particularly during the first quarter when network prime-time ratings plunged 23%, in large part because of the writers strike. CBS had to rely on reruns of its most popular dramas and comedies to fill air time. With the strike over, the network has returned to original episodes and its ratings are expected to improve.

In a statement, CBS said that Moonves' future earnings might not be so high.

"The new deal lowered Mr. Moonves' cash salary and bonus target and shifted the vast majority of his pay into stock options that will have no value unless the stock price exceeds $28.70, and into stock awards which will not vest unless CBS meets objective financial criteria," the company said.

"A significant portion of his reported compensation in 2007 is related to stock that was given to him in past years and was required to be reported this year, as well as some overlapping reporting of stock-based compensation from his old deal and new deal," the company added. It noted that his bonus and salary payments were lower in 2007 than in 2006.

However, Reda said that CBS' statement that Moonves' compensation next year would likely be less "raises all sorts of red flags."

"That's just silly to try to explain it away by saying that something that might happen in the future will, in hindsight, make this not look so bad," Reda said.

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Why Is Coke Glamorous and Heroin Scary? Because of Halfwits Like Nikki Sixx


Bad books can still be important. This one, which is so bad it's unintentionally funny, still represents an epochal cultural moment: the final trickle-down of a formerly elitist narrative invented by Lord Byron, the wildly talented English 18th century poet, into a sleazy plotline used and abused by a man representing the very bottom of the demographic pyramid -- Nikki Sixx, bass guitarist of '80s rock band Mötley Crüe.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), was, among other things, the greatest English poet of the past two centuries, recognized as such everywhere except England and America. He was also the first and finest incarnation of the self-destructive superstar. In fact, stardom didn't just happen; it was invented by Byron. He showed the rest of the world how to be a star -- the whole storyline of early fame, wild decadence, bitter exile and a lonely, heroic death. Byron's death came in Greece, where he ended up after a lifetime of fleeing southward and eastward from his home in what he scornfully called "the moral North." Greece was in rebellion against the Ottoman Turks, and Byron died of fever while funding, training and trying to negotiate consensus among the rebel factions.

It didn't take long for that genuinely heroic death to be reduced to its lowest common denominator: "live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse." By our time, it's pretty much all you have to do -- as long as you are famous when you die. That goes without saying; there's no love lost when an anonymous loser dies, but if a celebrity dies young and pretty, the whole culture explodes in masturbatory frenzy officially presented as "grief."

Nikki Sixx, of course, may never have heard of Byron. The Byronic story came to him through more recent versions. There's a whole subgenre of Bohemian-druggie tales to borrow from, and Nikki (or his ghostwriter) borrows freely, starting with his title, a clear echo of The Basketball Diaries, Jim Carroll's 1987 record of his descent from star jock to hopeless junky. Carroll's book itself represented a clear point on the graph by which this elitist tale makes its way down toward the Wal-Mart crowd: Carroll was a protege/mascot of the NYC Beat scene whose greatest practicioner, William Burroughs, wrote the best American versions of druggie-in-purgatory, including Junkie (1953), which our own Nikki Sixx cites approvingly. Nikki sees it as his job to take this often-abused plotline further down the pop parade to where it has never gone before, and probably never should have gone at all: hair metal. And he manages to come back alive, in case you were worried.

Mötley Crüe is a band most people old enough to remember have tried hard to forget. Mötley was huge in the mid-1980s. I didn't realize how big until I read the diary entry in which Nikki whines that his manager sent his latest paycheck to his home while he was on tour. The check is for $650,000. I'd bet that that's more than really talented American bands of the 1980s like Husker Du made in their entire career.

The Mötley Crüe era was of course a low point in pop history. Nikki actually calls himself "a dreg." I've never heard that word used in the singular before, but it fits. This guy is the ultimate dreg. He does decadence strictly by the numbers. He even considers killing his girlfriend, because after all, the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious killed his girlfriend. And there's no pleasure in it. Part of that is the big lie in American culture that celebrity decadence always arises from and falls back into some private "pain." But Nikki really doesn't seem to like sex that much. The only part that he really seems to enjoy is the drugs, and since he's incapable of effective description, you have to infer his pleasure from the sheer doggedness with which he gets high.

And his drug stories are full of lies and bathos. The most interesting lie is the deflection of blame to heroin, when it's clear that Nikki was never a junky. He's a cokehead, a classic L.A. white-trash cokehead. So why is this called The Heroin Diaries? Because Nikki's publisher realized cocaine is too sleazy and too 1970s to interest anybody. Heroin, which only entered the middle-class California druggie's repertoire in the 1980s, still retains some of its exotic, forbidden appeal.

Occasionally he slips up, admitting that he does much more coke than smack, admitting at one point, "I'm not having [my dealer] bring smack very often but my coke intake is up 1,000%." And since Nikki's typical binge ends in paranoia, with our hero locked in the walk-in closet of his mansion hearing voices outside, it's clear that it's the coke, not the smack, messing with him.

Yet heroin that gets the blame when Nikki's retarded band mates discuss his descent to what Tommy Lee calls "a dark fucking place." If you've spent any time in L.A. you've probably met guys like this. For them, cocaine is simply part of a normal healthy diet, whereas heroin is just plain evil. Odd, because among intelligent druggies opiates get a lot of respect, while coke is simply despised. For serious drug people there are two ways to go: up with some variety of speed, or down with some kind of opiate. Coke is scorned as a short-acting verbal emetic, a silly drug for moneyed trash. The only intellectuals who took it seriously were Freud and Sherlock Holmes -- one a half-baked intellectual who masqueraded his literary criticism as therapy, postponing effective treatment for schizophrenia and depression by generations, the other an apotheosized peeping tom, who of course never really existed. Indeed, both were nasty voyeurs; perhaps that's a feature of coke addiction too.

Sixx, the '80s hair rocking bassist for Motley Crue, offers to the public the memoirs of his drug-addled stardom -- if only he could admit he had fun.

Opiates, by contrast, have been the drug of choice for an astonishing number of the really talented people of the last few centuries: Coleridge, de Quincy, Poe, Donald Goines, Jean Cocteau, William Burroughs, Jimi Hendrix. And prescription opiates are still the choice of L.A.'s upper class, which is why when one of the stars is arrested, their glove compartments are always full of perfectly legal percodan or Demerol. (If you're a star, you see, you can get special prescriptions which are issued after your arrest but dated weeks before.)

Of course injected street heroin has a terrible potential for fatal overdoses, because you don't know the purity of the dose until it's already in your bloodstream. What no one seems to realize is that this too is a side effect of Prohibition. When you make a drug illegal, you are encouraging smugglers to import it in the most concentrated, potent form available, then charge insanely high prices for infinitesmal amounts. In the case of heroin, these quantities are so tiny that the drug must be injected to be effective. Without Prohibition, quantity and content would be clear, and people would be free to smoke opium in legal dens. In such conditions, accidental overdoses are rare. Conversely, in countries like Iran which prohibit that allegedly safe, mainstream drug, alcohol, many users die or go blind from ingesting street booze laced with the usual variety of poisons. Prohibition kills far more people than "drugs."

Alas, even educated Americans are too intimidated to point this out. In a provincial, Puritan society like ours, nothing is worse than your neighbors' disapproval, and speaking up against the drug laws can get you whispered about. And if Nikki's betters won't speak out honestly on the topic, we can hardly expect him and his idiot hessian friends to get it. So naturally, they're all eager to blame heroin, "the worst drug in the world." They're also in love with its notoriety -- hence the book's title.

A roadie explains that at first, nobody worried because everyone thought Nikki, like his hair twin Tommy Lee, "was just snorting coke and drinking." And after all, mixing cocaine with a fifth of Jack Daniels never hurt anybody. It's amazing how self-righteous these scum can get, as when a friend of Nikki's protests, "I used to do loads of pot and coke with Nikki, but I'd never do heroin." That's purity, huh? Perhaps the worst thing about coke is that it makes idiots think they're eloquent. They spew clichés, convinced they're the soul of wit. And they know, by now, exactly how to play the doomed celebrity. Every one of us, every single consumer/victim of American culture, shifts easily to celebrity-speak. You see this in interviews with momentarily famous nonentities who refer to themselves in the third person and clearly imagine themselves as the protagonists of a tragic, heroic narrative.

The trouble is that Mötley Crüe is not the stuff of tragedy. It's the stuff of Spinal Tap, and in fact this book reads like Hunter Thompson rewritten by Nigel Tufnel. Every rock cliché you ever heard can be found in its pages, even "Welcome to my nightmare." But Nikki and the friends interviewed for their recollections of his crisis are hopeless at depicting the nightmare, taking refuge in stale adjectives like "dark" and "pain." Tommy Lee explains that drugs "led us to this really dark fucking place," then, realizing he's onto a good adjectival thing, amplifies his remarks, stating that said place was, in fact, "dark as fuck."

This darkness amounts to shameless plagiarism of the works of Hunter Thompson, right down to the imitation-Ralph Steadman graphics splattered across this book's 400 glossy magazine-style pages. Except that Thompson was one of the funniest and least boastful druggies who ever wrote, while The Heroin Diaries are simply Spinal Tap without the jokes.

There isn't even any suspense or risk involved in all the drugging, because Mötley Crüe are stars, and stars are not subject to the drug laws. This is shown conclusively when a couple of Chicago cops come into Mötley Crüe's dressing room and see the band snorting lines off a mirror. Not only do the cops not arrest them but they give the boys their cards and tell them to call if any other cops give them trouble. Try that if you're not famous, and you'll have a very different experience.

So nothing much happens, until the overdose, and that's a long time coming. For the most part, Nikki sits in his mansion sulking in the dark. Burroughs made a good story out of sitting in the dark doing drugs, but Burroughs had two things Nikki lacks: a brain and a sense of humor. Thompson, a speedfreak rather than a junky, went out and did things while hideously twisted. Either way can work, but Nikki's catalogues of coke consumed in a closet are very dull.

I'm not using "dull" in the disingenuous way a lot of prudish reviewers do, using that word when they mean "offensive." Nikki's decadence isn't offensive, it's just secondhand. His prose style, yes -- that's offensive. To paraphrase Tommy Lee, it's bad as fuck. This book was supposedly co-written by a British rock journalist, but this fool, one Ian Gittins, can't write either. Let's play count-the-clichés in this passage from Ian's "Introduction," in which he explains his work on the book:

"[W]e were able to fill in the black holes and piece together the story of a man who, at the beating heart of an over-the-top rock band, was profoundly falling apart at the seams." Well, everybody knows that black holes are tough on seams, even if you're wearing leather pants. Ian is so clueless he can't tell the difference between the idiom of 1990's Britain and1980's L.A. Here's a quick tip, Ian: 1980s L.A. cokeheads didn't use "gear" to mean drugs.

Ah, drugs; these stories of "pain" and redemption do keep circling around the "black hole" of drugs, And hardly anyone will say the simple truth that people do drugs because drugs are fun. Whenever I hear about another celebrity's "battle with drugs," I have to laugh. What's the battle -- getting enough of them? Price dispute?

If somebody like Nikki could come out and say, "I did a lot of drugs and had a wonderful time!" he could redeem himself. That wouldn't take much talent or brains, just a little honesty. But there's no honesty here. Byron was blunt about why he left "the moral North" to die fighting in Greece; he was driven out by the moral disapproval of his own people:

When a man hath no freedom to fight for at home,

Let him combat for that of his neighbors;

Let him think of the glory of Greece and of Rome,

And get knock'd on the head for his labors.

Byron died without finding God or AA's "higher power" or groveling to the sanctimonious majority back home. In our time, perhaps only Hunter Thompson showed that sort of lifelong heretical courage. It certainly can't be found in Nikki's tale, which doggedly follows the Protestant tale of the Saved Sinner.

The elements of the story are simple: the hero has to dive deep into sin. This part of the story is always bragging disguised as confession: "My sins are bigger and gaudier than your sins." The gaudier and noisier the sin, the better. Nikki has done his best to check this item off the list, God knows. The sinner must then crash and burn, hitting bottom. Nikki fulfills this requirement on page 384. Anybody else could have managed it much sooner, but then that's the point: Byron's Progress has touched down on the very bottom of the demographic sea. So, naturally, God comes in when the lights go out, right there on page 384. Before he can even turn blue properly, Nikki is visited by Grace -- Grace the religious epiphany, not the groupie of the same name. His unintentionally hilarious reaction to the fact that he's been literally, physically saved is, "Maybe there is a God."

Many an observer would have come to the opposite conclusion: Cobain kills himself and Nikki lives? There is no god.

Nikki survives simply because he's famous; he's surrounded by adoring, masochistic women, one of whom revives him. Without the fame and fortune, not only would he have died but his "pain"
would interest no one at all. Suffering served up without these condiments is available all around you; just look into the cars stopped beside you at the next red light. But how many bestsellers do you see about the suffering of, say, a single mom working at Wal-Mart in Houston with chronic back pain and a broken air conditioner? That's true suffering. That's Hell on earth. But nobody wants to know about it. Nikki's suffering, by contrast, has spent a long time on Amazon's top thousand sellers.

The appeal of rock-star suffering is simple: it's not suffering at all. Here's an example of what Nikki calls suffering. Keep in mind that the ostensible point of this anecdote is to show how lonely our star is, deep inside:

"I've been thinking about last Christmas Eve when I picked up that girl in a strip club, brought her back here [to his mansion] on my bike, took her home the next day, then had Christmas dinner all by myself at McDonald's. I haven't made much progress I see."

If that's suffering, then there are millions of horny selfish guys who would love to suffer like that.

The only really radical, interesting thing a rock star could say would be what people dread hearing: "Ha ha, I'm famous and you're nobody! I drink your adulation like blood! You send me all your love and money and I give you nothing! And I'm the happiest man in the world!"

If Mark David Chapman's lawyer had made that argument the thesis of his defense: "My client killed Dracula! You should be giving him a medal!" we might have the beginning of an interesting discussion about celebrity as a new form of extortion, of oppression. Instead we get Spinal Tap's cover of "Amazing Grace."

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Alicia Keys has theory on Tupac-Biggie feud

Thinks the government and media fueled fued between the slain rappers

There's another side to Alicia Keys: conspiracy theorist. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter tells Blender magazine: "'Gangsta rap' was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other. 'Gangsta rap' didn't exist."

There’s another side to Alicia Keys: conspiracy theorist.

The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter tells Blender magazine: “‘Gangsta rap’ was a ploy to convince black people to kill each other. ‘Gangsta rap’ didn’t exist.”

Keys, 27, said she’s read several Black Panther autobiographies and wears a gold AK-47 pendant around her neck “to symbolize strength, power and killing ’em dead,” according to an interview in the magazine’s May issue, on newsstands Tuesday.

Another of her theories: That the bicoastal feud between slain rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. was fueled “by the government and the media, to stop another great black leader from existing.”

Keys’ AK-47 jewelry came as a surprise to her mother, who is quoted as telling Blender: “She wears what? That doesn’t sound like Alicia.” Keys’ publicist, Theola Borden, said Keys was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Though she’s known for her romantic tunes, she told Blender that she wants to write more political songs. If black leaders such as the late Black Panther Huey Newton “had the outlets our musicians have today, it’d be global. I have to figure out a way to do it myself,” she said.

The multiplatinum songstress behind the hits “Fallin”’ and “No One” most recently had success with her latest CD, “As I Am,” which sold millions.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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No sex please, Madonna - I'm on the Cookie Diet

She has indulged in on-stage lesbian kisses, raunchy music videos and erotic books.

But Madonna has revealed that her attempts to seduce husband Guy Ritchie were once defeated – by biscuits.

The pop icon – who last week gushed about her "incredible" love life – says her film director husband went off sex while trying to lose weight on Hollywood's latest craze, the Cookie Diet.

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Madonna and Guy Ritchie have been dogged by rumours that their marriage is in crisis

It involved the Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels director eating up to four biscuits instead of breakfast and lunch, but his 49-year-old wife was disappointed by the effects.

Fortunately for the Like A Virgin singer, Ritchie, 39, is now back to eating normally.

Followers of the diet, including singer Kelly Clarkson and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, eat 800 calories a day for three weeks.

Madonna told an American radio station yesterday: "My husband went on that Cookie Diet and it was such a turn-off because he didn't want to have sex. He's not on it at the moment, thank God.

"He did [lose weight] but he didn't really need to lose that much weight. I think he did it because all his friends were doing it and he wanted to see if he could do it."

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The singer shows off her lean physique in her latest video 4 Minutes

Her sex-life confession is at odds with a tribute to Ritchie on her forthcoming album Hard Candy in a song called Incredible.

In a magazine interview, she said: "Sex with Guy is incredible...and, surprise, surprise, it's his favourite song on the album. Actually, maybe it's not his favourite song but it's definitely his favourite line."

The singer has made sex the centre of her public image ever since her first No 1 hit, Like A Virgin, in 1984. Since then, she has published a book of erotic photographs of herself called Sex, had the explicit video for Justify My Love banned by MTV in 1990 and kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at a music awards ceremony in 2003.

In recent months, however, Madonna has been dogged by rumours that her marriage is in crisis. Last month, the couple were forced to issue a statement denying a split, which read: "Mr and Mrs Guy Ritchie remain happily married."

She said: "I had to marry a challenge because otherwise I would just get bored. Whatever else Guy is, he's never boring... We're both there to help each other and challenge each other."

But she added that she was the one left to tell off their children, Lourdes, 11, Rocco, seven, and David, two.

"Guy's a softie with our kids," she said. "Lola [Lourdes] rules the roost. She is extremely maternal towards David. He is the apple of everyone's eye."

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Madonna says daughter Lourdes, 11, 'rules the roost' in the house

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CBS weathers rough week in news

Katie Couric
Couric

It's been a tough week for the PR execs at Black Rock.

CBS News found itself in the crosshairs of a mini media frenzy in the last few days, fueled by speculative reports about what the Eye's top brass may or may not be planning to do with its newsgathering operations and with its high-priced "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric.

On Thursday, however, CBS got at least some positive news of its own with a partial win when a New York judge dismissed four of seven causes in the $70 million breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against the company by former "Evening News" anchor Dan Rather. Judge Ira Gammerman of New York Supreme Court also dismissed CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves, CBS and Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone and former CBS New prexy Andrew Heyward as defendants in the suit.

"With respect to the few remaining claims, relevant to his contract, there are no facts to support them, and we expect them to be dismissed when the discovery process is complete," CBS said in a statement.

The suit stems from Rather's forced exit from CBS in 2006 following his involvement in the scandal over the use of questionable documents to substantiate a 2004 "60 Minutes II" report critical of President George W. Bush's service in the National Guard in the 1970s.

Rather's lawyer, Martin Gold, was quick to point out that while the judge dismissed the allegations of fraud and defamation, the "essence" of Rather's breach-of-contract suit was allowed to proceed, along with the allegation that CBS failed to live up to its fiduciary duty to Rather, which could allow him to recover punitive damages at trial.

Settling old CBS News problems is likely to be much easier for the Eye in the coming months than grappling with the division's current headaches. On Wednesday evening, the Wall Street Journal posted a report on its website that Katie Couric is likely to leave the "Evening News" anchor chair before her contract expires in 2011, possibly as soon as early next year after the presidential inauguration.

CBS execs discredited the report as speculation with a tabloidy touch -- something Couric has drawn regularly since she arrived at CBS News with a five-year, $75 million contract after a storied run as co-anchor of NBC's "Today."

It's no secret that neither CBS nor Couric have been happy with the slumping perf of "Evening News" since she moved into the anchor's chair. Insiders deny that any formal plan for Couric's departure has been hammered out.

People familiar with the situation believe reports of her possible departure may have emerged as a result of a recent meeting between Couric, CBS supremo Moonves and other CBS News execs. The powwow was meant to plan a broad strategy for "Evening News" for the year ahead, but could have led outsiders to conclude that something more concrete was in the works.

Moreover, Couric had the unfortunate timing of moving into "Evening News" at a time of significantly eroding viewership for all three nightly newscasts. During the just-wrapped first quarter, all the broadcasts suffered notable ratings declines vs. the first quarter of 2006, before Couric took over "Evening News."

As for CBS' newsgathering operations, the perennial rumors about a tie-up between CBS and CNN were revived Monday evening with a report on the New York Times website.

CBS execs strongly denied the suggestion that the Eye would "outsource" its reporting to the all-news cabler. The two camps have had talks again in recent months about the possibility of pooling resources in far-flung hot spots like Baghdad.

The deal would seem to make sense for both companies, but impediments include such issues as rights to the footage -- both CNN and CBS sell news feeds to a range of domestic and international outlets -- and divergent union rules for broadcast news, a la CBS, and CNN's cable operation.

The Couric and CNN stories and the subsequent chatter had certain CBS execs spitting fire. But others were more sanguine about the unwanted attention, noting that it comes with the territory for the Tiffany net.

"Isn't there a way we can monetize all of this buzz?" one Eye insider quipped.

Wall Street may have felt a little empathy too, as CBS shares closed Thursday up 9¢ to 22.07.

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Never-before-seen Elvis photos revealed

NEW YORK (AP) -- Never-before-seen photos have surfaced of Elvis Presley rocking Madison Square Garden in all his jumpsuited glory.

Presley

Photographer George Kalinsky recently rediscovered photos he took of Elvis Presley in 1972.

The images were taken in 1972 by George Kalinsky, the official photographer of the famed arena, the singer's estate said Wednesday.

Kalinsky came across the photos while working on a campaign for a billboard company called "Great Moments in New York." Now one of them is on display as part of the campaign on a three-story billboard atop the Virgin Megastore in Times Square; it shows The King glancing up, his outstretched arms holding the cape of his glittering jumpsuit.

Kalinsky needed to get permission from Elvis Presley Enterprises, the business arm of the performer's estate, to reproduce Presley's image for the campaign. The estate asked if he had any more photos, and Kalinsky came back with about 40 unpublished images from Elvis' second-night performance at the Garden in 1972, said Kevin Kern, spokesman for Elvis Presley Enterprises.

Kern said a team of archivists well-acquainted with publicized images of Presley were quite impressed with Kalinsky's photos.

"What came from their mouths was 'Wow!' " Kern said. "These are very crisp, clear, professional photos of Elvis. It's such a rare find."

The collection will be displayed at Graceland starting Memorial Day weekend as part of "Elvis Jumpsuits: All Access," an exhibit that will also feature more than 50 of Elvis' famous jumpsuits.

Kalinsky said he didn't realize at the time that he had so many good shots.

"When I photographed the show, I thought I only had a few good ones," he said. "I just never really looked at the files until recently."

Kalinsky has been the official Garden photographer for more than 40 years. He's also the official photographer of Radio City Music Hall and a special photographer for the New York Mets.

He has photographed scores of celebrities and famous athletes, including Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Luciano Pavarotti and Pope John Paul II, and his images have appeared in Life, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Time and Newsweek. Kalinsky's images of Jimi Hendrix and Sinatra are also part of the Times Square billboard campaign.

Back in '72, he went backstage to meet Presley.

"He was electrifying in his white jumpsuit, with his cape on," Kalinsky remembered. "He was quite humble, but he had an aura. There are very few people who have triple-X charisma, and Elvis was one."

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Astley fans' rush hour 'flashmob'

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Flashmob begins to sing

Fans of pop star Rick Astley descended on London's Liverpool Street train station for a "flashmob" event.

The "flashmob" - where a group of people assemble in a public place for a brief period of time - happened just before 1800 BST.

Some of the fans donned Astley masks in honour of the 1980s hitmaker, before the crowd sang his trademark hit Never Gonna Give You Up.

Police said the incident passed peacefully - if not quietly.

'Really funny'

Witness Paras Barot, 22, from Golders Green in north London, said he heard about the event on social networking site Facebook and decided to head to the station.

"I got there with some friends just before 6pm, and there were lots of people there - the whole station was at a standstill."

He said he thought there were some 300 or 400 people taking part in the event.

Crowd at Liverpool Street station (Pic: Jamillah Knowles)
The crowd descended just before 1800 BST

"There was a countdown from 5.59 to 6pm. Some guys put their masks on, and a lot of them started singing the song.

"For those of us who knew what was going on it was really funny."

Mr Barot said he did not join in the singing. "I don't know the words."

A British Transport Police spokeswoman said: "We monitored the incident. There were no problems, no arrests. They did what they had to do and then left."

An estimated 13 million internet users have been tricked into watching the video for Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up in recent weeks.


Your comments:

As soon as I found out, I knew it was something I couldn't miss! I rushed from Canary Wharf where I work and it was most definitely worth it - 500 people sharing a common goal to entertain the nation - what can be better?
Rob, London

I was one of the flashmobbers. I was one of the people in masks singing along as loud as we could. Was a brilliant event, was a laugh. Shame it didn't last longer, hope we managed to entertain people. Have to say it was well organised. Thanks
Michael Baker Frost, London

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UMG extends copyright war to the trash can

Next time your favorite DJ tosses a promo CD from a UMG artist into the trash, he or she should be reminded that the music industry behemoth considers such disposal an "unauthorized distribution" that's tantamount to piracy.

This little nugget from the front lines of the copyright wars comes courtesy of Fred von Lohmann, an intellectual property attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Von Lohmann dug it out of the latest brief filed by UMG in an ongoing legal tussle between that company and Troy Augusto, proprietor of Roast Beast Music Collectibles on eBay.

As disputes involving the music industry and intellectual property rights go, this one appears on the surface to be trivial. In a nutshell: Augusto buys up promo CDs from the music insiders who get them free. UMG says he can't do this because it says he can't right on a label carried by all promo CDs. EFF says UMG is wrong because the possessors of the CDs have a "first sale right" to sell the discs, and it has been advocating Augusto's case.

Why should anyone other than UMG, Augusto, and would-be participants in the presumably burgeoning promo CD marketplace give a hoot?

I sent von Lohmann a few questions. Here's our exchange:

What's really at stake in this issue (aside from the financial interests of the principals)? Is it your concern that a UMG victory on the promo CD matter could lead to an erosion of consumer rights in other areas?

Exactly. If UMG can trump your first sale rights with a simple label, there is nothing to prevent book publishers from imposing "licensed for personal use, not for library lending" labels, or movie studios from adding "licensed for personal use, not for rental" labels, or laser printer cartridge vendors adding "licensed for single use only, not to be refilled" labels (that last one has already happened, in the patent context). Similar labels could be used to trump all of the rights that consumers enjoy under copyright law, including fair use.

It seems to my layman's reading of the briefs that the issue boils down to a distinction between "possession" and "ownership" of the promo CD, with UMG contending that the former does not constitute the latter here because it says so on the label. You're saying it does because UMG cannot transfer possession without ownership simply by stating that intent on the label. Is that an accurate reading?

What we're saying is that UMG, by its conduct, has clearly given up ownership here. They mail out millions of CDs, unsolicited, without any intention of their return, without even bothering to keep records of who has them, and then claim that these are just "loans" and that UMG continues to own every one. In the face of that conduct, the law shouldn't allow a simple label to prop up UMG's fiction of ownership.

Would your position be altered if UMG's promo CD distribution channel was more formal and specific, meaning the CDs were sent only to those recipients who affirmatively agreed to abide by the terms before receipt?

Yes, if UMG had actually treated these CDs as if they owned them, then the answer might be different. For example, everyone agrees that the first sale doctrine doesn't apply where a copy is rented. So if UMG wanted to enter into contracts with recipients before sending these CDs, and made a point of ensuring their return after a period of time (you could imagine each recipient getting a postage-paid envelope at the end of the year, saying "please return the CDs we sent you -- if you would like to keep some, we'll bill you"). The point here is not just creating overhead for UMG -- this is what prevents the first sale doctrine from turning into a dead letter in a world full of "label notices."

Finally, on the matter of "disposal equaling piracy": Is that just to protect against the "I found it in the trash and therefore can sell it" defense? If not, what do you believe their point is there?

To UMG's credit, it's good to see them owning up to the consequence that, if you accept their story of "eternal ownership," then any unauthorized disposition would implicated the distribution right. So I think they are just following the logic where it necessarily leads.

You can read UMG's 25-page rebuttal here, and find the section about unauthorized disposal on Page 12 of the .pdf.

I'm certain that station managers all across the country will be bringing it to the attention of their employees ... including the janitors.


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FEATURE: The 27 Greatest Horror Comedies Ever Made

Too often a horror movie fails so badly that the only redeeming qualities come from the few moments that make one laugh. That doesn't make it a good movie though, does it? Intent is the ultimate key, does a filmmaker deliberately set out to make a comedic horror film, or is the humor the mere residue of awkward mishaps and poor execution? If it's the latter; then a litany of films would extend out into infinity. Forget all that. We're more interested in movies that are not only meant to simultaneously scare and make a person laugh, but the ones that are most effective in their power to do so. Here's our list of the 27 all time best horror comedies.

#27: Fright Night
Year: 1985
As the apex of slasher horror struck the mid-80s, a refreshingly funny take on the vampire film called Fright Night came out. Director Tom Holland (Child's Play) bases his story around a teen who can't find anyone to believe that a vampire is living next door. He turns to a washed up horror film actor and vampire expert (Roddy McDowall) who now hosts a late night horror show called "Fright Night." The first half of the film is more like a teen comedy, the latter half slipping into more sinister subjects with some gnarly make up and FX work by the squad that did the same for Ghostbusters. Aside from William Ragsdale as the teen Charley, who looks exactly like Dallas QB Tony Romo, the film features Chris Sarandon, Stephen Geoffreys, and a pre-Marcy Darcy Amanda Bearse. You add all that with a painful '80s soundtrack and some smoked ham performances, Fright Night's a good time out!



#26: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Year: 1992
Okay, so the only scary thing here might be seeing an amputated Pee Wee Herman in long hair with a dirty goatee, but if for no other reason than its longevity, the film has to be mentioned. Joss Whedon's story of a valley girl chosen to, well slay vampires, put him at the forefront of pop culture kitsch as a mega spin-off series enjoyed a seven year stint on the air. It's interesting to note that the hit series was developed off of Whedon's original film script, not the finished film itself. If nothing else, the flicks serves as a who's who spotting game of up and coming talent where credits such as two time Oscar winner Hilary Swank's film debut, a young David Arquette, and a pre-Milton Stephen Root can be seen. Look even harder and you can spot tiny cameos by Ben Affleck, Ricki Lake and Thomas Jane.



#25: Arachnophobia
Year: 1990
Tapping into many a person's worst nightmare, Arachnophobia is extremely effective in combining horrific special FX with a brand of low key humor. The film, about a deadly strain of South American spider who hitches a ride to the U.S. in a coffin, does an admirable job of integrating real spiders with fake ones in undetectable fashion. The catcher's mitt sized spider (a type of bird eating tarantula with 8" leg span) nests in newly arrived doctor Ross Jennings'(Jeff Daniels) barn, mating until a nascent host of babies threatens their small California town. There's some legitimate shiver inducing moments that tap right into the heart of such a ubiquitous phobia. The movie works well because it doesn't have to try too hard to generate the scares, most of which handled with delicate humor and involving the always hilarious John Goodman as a local don't-take-no-shit exterminator.



#24: Night of the Creeps
Year: 1986
Perhaps the most satirical and self-reflexive flick on our list, the criminally underappreciated Night of the Creeps has yet to even see a DVD release. Actually perhaps because of it's esoteric nature, many people failed to realize the 2006 film Slither is shameless yet glorified remake, and not as funny. A breed of alien slugs slime their way into the mouth of human hosts, morphing them into mind altered zombies who know nothing but how to feed and reproduce. This lampoon has some solid FX and an even better sense of humor. The laconic Detective Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins) delivers well written lines with such little enthusiasm that you can't help but a laugh, and a lot. Many of the principal actors are literally named after genre greats like Romero, Carpenter, Hooper, Landis, Cameron, Cronenberg and Raimi; poking fun at the horror world and doing so with some nifty spine tingling gross out sequences. Find this movie, or petition Tri-Star for a release if they're still in business!



#23: The Lost Boys
Year: 1987
The '80s cheese factor was never more palpable than in hit or miss director Joel Shumacher's The Lost Boys. When a down trodden family moves to Santa Carla, a young clan of motorcycling blood suckers set out to consume the family and add them to their immortal way of life. But the oldest son Michael (Jason Patric), once semi-infected, bands his family together in a determined effort to rid the vampires for good. Along with funny turns by the two Coreys (Haim and Feldman), the film features Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann, Jamie Gertz, Kiefer Sutherland (in maybe his best film work), and a scene stealing performance by screen veteran Barnard Hughes as the crusty old hippy grandfather. While light on any substantial gore, the film struck a popular cord in audiences, catering to the MTV generation with its soundtrack and "in style" fashion sense.



#22: Basket Case
Year: 1982
With an ostensible wad of about 80 bucks, Basket Case is super low budget filmmaking at its most entertaining. With a perfectly pitch black comedy about a young country man named Duane who checks into a NY motel with a large basket and nothing else, this film is unquestionably one of the more outlandish on our list. For inside the basket lays the mutilated remains of his Siamese twin brother Belial, grossly bloodied, twisted, and still breathing. As revenge, Duane is hell bent on cutting down the doctors responsible for their separation. Directed by Frank Henelotter (Brain Damage, Frankenhooker, either of which could've also made the list), the film is sick and disturbing, completely off the wall in every way imaginable. The key is that a wry sense of humor is held intact throughout, never getting too extreme in its shock value. The film stars Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner and Robert Vogel. Not to be missed!



#21: Critters
Year: 1986
In what can be viewed as a b-side companion piece to Gremlins, director Stephen Herek (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead) takes the violent comic gore up a notch with his first feature, Critters. Here, a rural farm land is ravaged by a faction of grubby little space beasts out to eat any and everything they can. A team headed by a first rate drunk includes local bounty hunter types seeing to it that the little bastards don't overtake their land. You know for 1986, some decent puppet/animatronic work is on display. Silly, wild, full of energy, the film is a true joy to watch! Starring Dee Wallace, great character actor M. Emmett Walsh, B-movie stalwart Billy Zane and the always entertaining Lin Shaye, Critters is a worthy entry into the heart comic horror entertainment.



#20: Toxic Avenger
Year: 1985
The unequivocal banner Troma effort, Lloyd Kaufman gives us the geekiest-turned-badass-super-antihero in The Toxic Avenger. Melvin, an ultra-nerdy pool boy drools too hard over a hot blonde, and as a result is tossed out of a window, where he lands in a steaming vat of radioactive green sludge. He mutates, bulks up, and seeks revenge as a sort of demented alter ego to Bruce Banner's Incredible Hulk. With not only vengeance on his mind, Toxie is honestly out to eradicate all evil doers, from street hoods to corporate fat cats. Dark comedy with low budget grit, there's no wonder why this film spawned three sequels over two or so decades. Starring Mitch Cohen in the titular part, and Andree Maranda as the ditzy blinded blonde, and the hysterical Gary Schneider as a vehicular-man-slaughter-and-liking-it psychopath. Oh, and see if you can spot a young Marissa Tomei in a tiny cameo as she exits a shower. A must see all around!



#19: Tremors
Year: 1990
Tremors is a funny ass movie! Clearly an homage to 1950s sci-fi monster B-movies, the flick focuses on a band of tiny town desert natives who must ward off a host of gigantic worm-like creatures dwelling beneath the ground. It's a throwback flick where the main characters never question the origin or culprit of their assailants. As soon as Val and Earl's plans to leave town are foiled, and people begin mysteriously dying, they waste no time jumping right into combat with the "graboids." Kevon Bacon and Fred Ward mix chemistry with camp cult humor and when you combine that with Michael Gross (of Family Ties fame, who would appear in 3 following sequels) as the NRA bound arsenal addict really puts this one over the top. Fast paced, action crammed, bloody, this picture is the poor man's Jaws, only in the desert!



#18: The 'burbs
Year: 1989
Horror vet Joe Dante's twisted view of a paranoia plagued suburban neighborhood is nothing short of splendid. After the Klopecks, an oddly reclusive and despondent foreign family, take residence in the cryptic mansion at the end of their end of the block, a group of concerned friendlies band together to figure what the hell is going on. In the vein of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers, fear of the other is a breeding ground for hysteria, panic and horrific imagination. Before Tom Hanks was winning back to back Oscars, he co-starred in this film with Bruce Dern, Rick Ducommun, Corey Feldman and Cathy Fisher (Dern and Ducommun give indelible performances as a crude slob and an ex-military man out to prove the eerie family is indeed evil incarnate). One of my favorite all time films, it boasts some great dialogue and excellent casting with Henry Gibson, Dick Miller, Courtney Gains and Nicky Katt.



#17: Gremlins
Year: 1984
Easily Joe Dante's most successful film also happens to be another horror comedy, Gremlins. The movie's about a teen who as a gift receives an odd species of pet called a mogwai, and after neglecting the rules of its care, witnesses the spawning of a vicious litter of pint sized killer monsters that are out inhabit the quaint little town. Most of the humor is split between the cute looking but awkward mogwai, and the save brutality of the gremlins as they dispose all those in their path. Starring Zach Galligan, Hoyt Axton, Phoebe Cates, and a young Corey Feldman, it's hard to imagine a comic horror list without this flick. Although co-responsible (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) for the inception of the deplorable PG-13 rating system, it's not quite enough to keep Gremlins off our list.



#16: From Dusk Till Dawn
Year: 1996
Before Clooney was dropping girlies' satins, he was busy staking bloodsucking fiends in the heart. Rodriguez and Tarantino's "drive in" story of two bank robbing brothers on the run spins 180 degrees and lands in the vampire realm; where Seth (Clooney) and Ritchie (Tarantino) Gecko take a family hostage as way to sneak across the Mexican border. What awaits them is a violent, malicious, maddeningly funny take on a tired genre that's been around since the dawn of cinema. Keitel delivers an unrecognizable performance as a moral man of faith mustering what he can to protect his family. Great round out casting includes legendary FX man Tom Savini as Sex Machine (shooting bullets from his crotch, nice ay ladies!) Fred Williamson (Black Caesar himself) as a tough talking bar biker, and Cheech Marin playing tri-roles. We can't forget Juliette Lewis, or the smoke work of Salma Hayek as the exotic dancing vamp Satanico Pandemonium. Heat!



#15: Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Year: 1988
If this isn't a cult movie, I don't what is! While not particularly violent, Killer Klowns plays to that universal fear that haunt many across the globe, clowns. An unabashed B-movie with a paltry 2 million dollar budget mostly allocated to production costs, the directing Chiodo Brother's constructed many of the evil clowns themselves. The film follows an alien mother ship landing on Earth, where a gaggle of clown looking extra terrestrials capture and contain as many human beings as possible. They store the humans in giant cotton candy pods, sucking fresh blood fuel from their bodies. Oh, and they reproduce by shooting pop corn guns, where kernels propagate into new aliens. This flick is really something odd, way beyond camp humor and the typical bloody fare that comprises the better part of this list. And the Dickies theme song Fucking rules!



#14: The Frighteners
Year: 1996
Before Peter Jackson was making three hour epics about little furry hill dwellers; he was sharply cutting his teeth in the horror genre. The Frighteners, starring one Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) as a con man claiming he can see and capture ghosts, might have gone unnoticed upon initial release. When Fox's ruse backfires, strange supernatural dealings offer a little more than he bargained for (clients pay him to exorcise the ghosts he himself is in cahoots with). The flick is reminiscent of a live action cartoon chalked full of high energy and Fox's slap stick comic timing. With a nifty score by gothic impresario Danny Elfman and superb visual effects, it's pretty evident why Jackson's subsequently become an A-list Hollywood director. Co-starring John Astin, Jefferey Combs, Dee Wallace and R. Lee Ermey, The Frighteners is a must see!



#13: From Beyond
Year: 1986
Stuart Gordon goes back to horror/sci-fi writer H.P. Lovecraft for inspiration in his follow up to Re-Animator, a film called From Beyond. Akin to a hellish acid trip, Jeffrey Combs returns to the role of a scientist (this time, Dr. Tillinghast) set to stimulate the brain's pineal gland (the sixth sense). Foul ups ensue, and soon a dark otherworldly dimension is opened up, unleashing slimy little ghouls and an unmatched weirdness that stays with you long after its conclusion. The pace of the film races, never leaving you mired in dull moments; the splatter gore matched step for step by corny gross out humor that offers a funny look into the repressed desires of the characters. With Barbra Crampton back (Re-Animator), decked in some S&M leather, and first time Gordon collaborators Ken Foree, Ted Sorel, as well as the director's wife Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, From Beyond exemplifies the best of warped comic horror madness.



#12: Cemetery Man
Year: 1994
Sadly, this is our only true European effort on the list, but Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) is kick ass flick no less impressive than American counterparts. In fact, it's cruel to think to say that American film companies would only fund and distribute this film if Matt Dillon were to play the lead role. He didn't, Rupert Everett did, and thus the film remained for the most part Italian. It's no coincidence then that it's the closest thing resembling an art house film on our list. Cemetery Man is about a man named Francesco Dellamorte (the latter meaning love), who guards a grave yard in a town called Buffalora, where for no apparent reason, droves of undead beings rise from their tombs and threaten the living. Untamed and out of control, the film is pure comedy at its bloodiest. Italian splatter film actor Michele Soavi takes a turn on the other side of the camera, creating a beautiful color pallet and a moody atmosphere that shoots the film atop the all time zombie exports.



#11: Beetle Juice
Year: 1988
Tim Burton's highly original, offbeat gothic exorcist Betelgeuse (Michael keaton) is not only one of the funniest we've seen before, but one of the most enduring. Out of a 92 minute running time, Betelgeuse only appears on screen for roughly 17 of those, truly making a lasting impression. The movie revolves around a happily married couple living the rustic life, who after dying in a car accident, seek the help of a crude and creepy exorcist to rid the stuck up, nouveau riche family that just moved into their house. Plenty of laughs here, notably the scene where Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbra (Geena Davis) first meet Betelgeuse inside the town model, where the ghostly ghoul tries his best to ingratiate himself to the couple. Keaton's brilliant here, often citing this as his favorite of his own films. Sands worms, you hate 'em, I hate 'em myself!



#10: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Year: 1986
After just a filthily disturbing second effort, director Tobe Hooper made a bold move by taking one of the most storied horror films ever, and putting a humorous spin on it. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is an uproarious satire with a pearl of a performance by Dennis Hopper as a semi-psychotic, weapon wielding mad man out to exact revenge on the cannibalistic family. See, it was his niece and nephew that were butchered to death in the first installment, and now he's fu*king pissed! With a bloated budget this time around, Hooper adds almost surrealistic scenes with not only comic one liners, but ridiculous action sequences that can't help but make one laugh. Take the opening bridge/car chase scene, or the climactic chainsaw battle for examples. Classic! Co-starring Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow (in his last film role), Bill Johnson, and horror mainstay Bill Moseley (Rob Zombie films etc.), this is not only a worthy sequel, but truly one of the funniest horror films to grace the big screen.



#9: An American Werewolf in London
Year: 1981
John Landis, a man responsible for some of the funniest comedies ever (Animal House, Blues Brothers, Trading Places), lends his lycanthropic tale to the old country, setting two American tourists smack dab in the middle. Griffin Dunne and David Naughton play the fish out of water foreigners, who after being mauled by a savage werewolf; can't find any of the town folk to believe them. In fact, they won't even admit such a beast exists. Good laughs with even better gore, this film ranks right atop the often tepid werewolf subgenre. Legendary make up man Rick Baker was awarded the very first Oscar in the category of make up, as this film forced the Academy to recognize what ground breaking work was being achieved. Even more trivial, every song in the soundtrack has the word "moon" in the title. Check it out!



#8: Shaun of the Dead
Year: 2004
A god damn breath of fresh air! Hilarious British imports Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright pump new life into the over saturated zombie subgenre with the side splitter, Shaun of the Dead. In fact, it inspired the much imitated RomComZom micro-genre, also known as the romantic comedy zombie film. Here, a bumbling ne'er-do-well must bust the hell out of a zombie horde overtaking London. With his overweight idiotic pal Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun (Pegg) does all he can to save his beloved, recent ex-girlfriend from the flesh starved walking corpses. A very well crafted movie, whose humor equals the quality of graphic gore that's on display throughout. Multiple viewings are encouraged, as many many in jokes and references to horror icons like Romero, Landis, Bruce Campbell, etc. can go unnoticed the first time around. One of the best out there!



#7: Return of the Living Dead
Year: 1985
After an effluvial gas permeates a military canister and dissipates into the air, humans begin transmuting into brain hungry zombies. Far and away my own personal favorite zombie film of all time, it's a shame writer/director Dan O'Bannon, responsible for inking the scripts to all six Alien pictures, Dead and Buried, and Total Recall, only directed one other movie aside from this one; The Resurrection in 1992. Because Return is a comic horror masterpiece! The reason it's so funny is it never tries too hard to be so, most of the humor is played straight forward and dead pan. Not only has two of the best onscreen zombies ever (tarman and half a woman), but the flick has endless comic moments, from the nudist punk zombie chick named Trash, to the nasty Jheri curl mullet Miguel Nunez sports, or the half animated zombie dogs, you name it. Deliciously paced, and with over twenty years under it's belt, the film holds up extremely well. Brains, brains, more braaaaains! Damn I love this picture.



#6: Young Frankenstein
Year: 1974
How can we conduct a comedy list with out throwing a tip of the cap to arguably the greatest living comedic mind around, Mel Brooks? We can't, nor would we dream of it. Ingenious, irreverent, always re-inventive, Mel Brooks' send up to one of the earliest cases of cinematic reanimation is no less a masterwork than any of his celebrated others. Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) inherits his grandfather's castle and decides to retry the medical procedure of reviving of a laid out corpse. The process goes awry, and comedic hijinks ensue in one of the best spoof films of all time. Aside from Wilder, excellent turns by Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Terri Garr and a stolen scene by Gene Hackman make this one of the all time great horror comedies. We'll never hear "Puttin' on the Ritz" in the same way ever again!



#5: Army of Darkness
Year: 1992
Alright, depending on one's own taste, it's quite a toss up for superiority between Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Continuing Ash's story arc, Army catapults its hero into 1300 A.D. where in an attempt to seize the Necronomicon "Book of the Dead," must kick medieval "deadite" zombie ass. If you thought Evil Dead II was over the top, Army flares up the zany almost cartoon like humor, especially when Ash is pitted against his own evil mirror image. Co-written by Raimi's brother Ivan with a cameo by other brother Ted, the film is clearly one long fun in joke where everyone involved seems to be having the time of their lives, or deaths as it may appear. With appearances by Embeth Davidtz, Bridgette Fonda, Marcus Gilbert and Richard Grove, Army of Darkness is a sublime amalgam of blood, carnage and gut wrenching laughter that will keep crowds entertained for many a moon.



#4: Re-Animator
Year: 1985
No we're really getting somewhere, huh?!? Director Stuart Gordon's loose adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's wicked tale, originally slated to be a simple Frankenstein parody, is indeed among the most uniquely original horror comedies in that it would set the template for decades to come. Jeffery Combs' iconic role as nerdy Swiss physicist Herbert West, a man dedicated to the experimentation of bringing the dead back to life, is as funny a character as he is memorable. Re-Animator was unrated upon initial release, offering an ultra gory low brow sense of humor that would shock audiences beyond belief. I mean, when you see a severed head attempting to go down on a living female, your first inclination might be to check your water supply for some kind of hallucinogenic. Don't bother! That and an ass load of other crazy, eye bugging scenes make this flick virtually untouchable.



#3: Dead Alive (AKA Brain Dead)
Year: 1992
Peter Jackson's horror masterpiece is one of the most energetic, exorbitant, silly pieces of graphic gore ever committed to celluloid. In short, it's BAD ASS! The film is about a girl named Paquita who, after her mom dies, seeks the aide of her boyfriend to end a gruesome zombie takeover. With over 300 liters of fake blood for the final scene alone, it's no wonder why vomit bags were passed out with every Swedish rental of the film (additional countries as well, no doubt). Arguably the bloodiest flick ever, any hardcore genre enthusiast would be remiss if they didn't at least watch this film once, even if 6 showers are required after word. Seriously, there's a lawnmower scene that spewed 500 gallons of fake blood per minute. Fu*kin' gnarled! You mix that with a charming sense of absurdist slap stick, the result is a deserved top spot on our much revered compilation.



#2: Evil Dead II
Year: 1987
Sam Raimi's follow up to his ground breaking first feature, Evil Dead II raises the comic bar up several notches. Bruce Campbell's deified cult hero Ash has become an overwhelming favorite among horror fans across many generations. In this story, Ash continues to fight off flesh eating demons in the oddly mysterious and malevolent cabin in some of the most relentless, hyper kinetic action scenes ever witnessed in a horror film. With humor a first priority, Evil Dead II is a hilarious, high intensity blood bath that can be watched over and over again. Shot almost entirely in a junior high school gymnasium doubling for a forest, many cuts were necessary to ensure an R-rating, which explains the lot of black and green blood in certain scenes. Widely considered a remake of The Evil Dead, the opening scenes are mere re-creations of footage that could not be licensed as recapitulation of the first film. So no, it's not a remake but instead one of the most ingenious horror sequels we've seen.



#1: Ghostbusters
Year: 1984
Ivan Rietman's classic comic romp through the paranormal, Ghostbusters is easily one of the greater landmark films of this ilk. While tipping heavier on the side of comedy, there are certainly enough suspenseful scare tactics to keep the heart pumping. The opening apparition scene with librarian; or the refrigerator scenes with Zuul and Dana Barret come to immediate mind. With comic icons such as Billy Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis at the helm, this film is one of the few on our list that also garnered box office success, becoming one of the highest grossing films of 1984. Note that original roles were written for John Belushi (as Venkman), Eddie Murphy (as Winston) and John Candy (as Luis Tully). While it would've been interesting to see how those actors would have faired, this no doubt remains atop the heavyweight class of horror comedies. Shoot, I ain't fraid a no ghosts!

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Super High Me - Doug Benson Interview

Everyone who knows me, knows that Brown Bear loves to smoke the greens. It enhances pretty much every facet of my lifestyle. I like the taste, the smell, the ritual, and the benefits of smoking. Sure it's taken a toll on my brain cells but I combat that with reading, writing, exercise, Kumon, and putting it in the ladies on the regular basis.

You could imagine my surprise when I found out that Doug Benson (Comedy Central Presents, Curb Your Enthusiasm) was releasing a documentary about smoking cheeb everyday for 30 days. It's a spoof on Super Size Me and the idea is brilliant. For a second there I thought "well I've been smoking for 30 days straight", but then I talked to him and realized it was more complicated than that.

I like his stand up comedy, I like his SuperDeluxe stuff, and I love this trailer. He's a solid dude and a friend of Lets Get Tight. Also look for cameo appearances by Zach Galifianakis and Bob Odenkirk.

Here is the Trailer for Super High Me:

Here is an Interview with LGT's Brown Bear and comedian Doug Benson

What made you want to make Super High Me? Were you legitimately smoking everyday beforehand or was this actually something you set out to do? In other words, were you a pothead or did you challenge yourself to become one?


DB: Before making the movie I was what some would call a heavy pot smoker - most days, if not at 4:20, at least in the evening. I'd wake and bake on occasion, like on days that end in "ay." No, actually, I only wake and bake on days when I don't have much to do. Which as a stand-up comedian, is a lot of days. But I had never smoked all day, every day for 30 days, so I thought it might be tough. Turns out, it wasn't. And you can find out - first shamless plug alert! - when and where SUPER HIGH ME is playing near you by going to SuperHighMeMovie.com

What is your favorite thing to do when you are baked?

DB: Everything. But if I had to choose, I'd have to say going to Disneyland. I like to get ripped in the parking lot. But then at the end of the day, I don't remember if I parked in Daisy or Donald. I prefer to park it in Daisy, if you know what I mean.

What do you think of weed culture in America these days? Do you think it can be cheesy? Do you think it could use some improvement?

DB: People of all walks of life smoke weed, but the hippies are the most up front about it, so they call all the attention, much of it negative. Sure, you can get lazy and forget things if you smoke a ton of pot, but I know some pretty articulate and clever people who blaze up every day. The stereotype of stoners who wear hemp clothes and play hacky-sack and follow jam bands around the country doesn't apply to me or most of my pot smoking freinds. Not that I have a problem with those people - i like anyone who smokes, especially if they share. I just like showing in my stand-up and in The Marijuana-logues (potshow.com) and in Super High Me that there are lots of different types of potheads.

What is your favorite music to listen to when you're cooked?

DB: I can listen to anything when I'm ripped. But here's another stereotype that doesn't apply to me: I'm not that into reggae. It's cool sometimes, but I like stuff that's more aggresive.

What is your favorite weed related flick? (i.e. Half Baked, Cheech and Chong, etc)

DB: Dazed and Confused by a mile. Because it's not just about getting stoned, and most of the characters who smoke aren't dumb. But when it comes to playing a dopey doper, Sean Penn in Fast Times and Brad Pitt in True Romance are my favorites. For more of what I think about films, check out I Love Movies at: superdeluxe.com

What do you think of the laws surrounding the use and distribution of marijuana in America?


DB: It's a messed up situation, and you'll see just how messed up if you watch Super High Me. In California, state law says you can smoke marijuana for medicianl purposes, but federal law still says it's illegal. So the places that sell medical marijauna get busted by the feds all the time. You can see it happening twice in Super High Me and it's a real eye opener.

What is your most enjoyed strain of herb?

DB: Supposedly someone in Tennessee named a strain "Doug Benson." But I haven't had the opportunity to try that, so I have to go with a strain at last year's Cannabis Cup called Choco-lope. It was an award winner, I think. But usually my favorite strain is the last one I smoked.

What is the most potent herb you smoked in your 30 day quest? What was the result of smoking it?

super_high_me_poster


DB: I smoked so many different kinds every day, all day, I couldn't tell you what was the best and the strongest. I would be a shitty judge at Cannabis Cup - I don't know how they tell the difference after smoking five (or more) kinds in one day.

Did you ever get overcome by paranoia and go running through the streets or act a fool because you couldn't take your mind boggling high?

DB:
No. I keep waiting to have that one paranoid high that makes a person quit for life, but something tells me it's never gonna happen. I get a little paranoid sometimes, but I've never done something crazy and then blamed it on pot later. Alcohol is another story.

What is your favorite snack treat?

DB: There's too many to mention. I love to eat crap, and unfortunately, I love it even more when I'm high.

What was the weirdest concoction of food you ate after smoking?

DB: One time when I was high I discovered that I like the taste of having a fortune cookie and a piece of Mongolian beef in my mouth at the same time. Seriously, you should try it.

Who is your favorite known stoner and why?

DB: Tommy Chong. Because he's a nice guy and went to prison for the cause. I got to hang out with him quite a bit when he sat in with us in The Marijuana-logues, and he told us he did a lot of sleeping while he was incarcerated, because "you're never in jail in your dreams." That shit blew my mind.

What about the world blows your mind when you aren't stoned?

DB:
That anyone thinks a cancer patient or someone with AIDS shouldn't be allowed to smoke pot to feel better. Or that anyone thinks no one should be allowed to smoke pot for whatever reason they want. Especially if they do it in the privacy of their own homes, or in an empty parking lot.

When weed is available in vending machines throughout the nation (maybe someday), what would you like to see in the vending machines other than weed?

DB: Some sort of snack that makes you lose weight.

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