Venganza Media Gazette

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Film Fans of All Types Can Enjoy Days of the Dead

Nightmare on Elm Street star Wilcox poses with the man of her dreams. (Photo by Jeff Flynn)

Nightmare on Elm Street star Wilcox poses with the man of her dreams. (Photo by Jeff Flynn)

To someone who’s never been to a horror convention the thought could be as frightening as the blood-soaked splatter fests that appear on screen.  One could imagine pale, pierced social misfits and psychopaths standing in line to meet their favorite serial killer.  Many may feel if they aren’t into the gory or the grotesque then a horror convention is not for them.

That impression is totally false as shown last weekend at the Days of the Dead horror convention in Indianapolis. Of course it was a blast for those into fright films, but it also had entertainment to offer any movie lover!

One of the big draws of the convention were the large number of celebrity guests in attendance.  The stereotype of a celebrity on the autograph circuit is an actor with his career on the decline, clinging to former fame.  Days of the Dead proved that image wrong by bringing in several A-list celebrities promoting current films.  Some of the headlining guests have big movies out soon included Danny Trejo (Machete Kills in October), Keith David (recently in Cloud Atlas and a dozen more films in production), and Academy Award Nominee Gary Busey (Behaving Badly due out this year).  This is an amazing roster for a con only in its third year, besting some of the other national companies who host conventions in the Midwest.

Access to the celebrities was incredibly easy.  At many conventions fans have to wait in line for four hours or more to meet their idols.  At Days of the Dead my wait time to see Trejo was 10 minutes, and only 15 minutes for Busey.

More, the prices were very reasonable.  At conventions such as Dragon*Con or San Diego Comic-Con I’ve paid over $100 for signatures from actors who have not worked in several decades.  At Days of the Dead the majority of autographs were $20 and headliners Busey and Trejo were just $40.  Trejo would take a picture free with an autograph, while Busey charged only $10 additional for a photo; at some conventions photo opportunities start at $20 and can be as high as $150.

While all of the celebrities have horror films on their resumes, Trejo would sign a copy of the comedy Bubble Boy as rapidly as the vampire film From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, and Busey had available photographs of his roles in Lethal Weapon and Point Break.  I did not see anyone asking Keith David to sign their copy of Requiem for a Dream but I doubt he’d have declined.

All the guests were not just polite but completely engaged with the fans, having short conversations and truly making the con attendee feel appreciated.  This is far better than the assembly-line like atmosphere found by some guests at Wizard World or New York Comic Con.  In fact, the longest line to see a celebrity seemed to be A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 star Lisa Wilcox who would spend up to 5 minutes talking with her fans while signing their items.  (Unfortunately for Wilcox one of those fans I observed was a socially awkward male in his twenties regaling her with a story about a specially lit photo he had of Wilcox in his bedroom…so while some of the stereotypes were present at the con most of the attendees were overwhelmingly normal).

Even the guests whose primary work was in horror had non-horror items available.  For example, Wilcox is best known for starring in A Nightmare on Elm Street  but the actress also had available a wide selection of photos from her single-episode guest-starring role in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  As she rarely appears in the Midwest, Wilcox was a draw for Trekkers and horror fans alike.  Original Nightmare on Elm Street star Heather Langenkamp also had a minor role in this summer’s Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Of course, the horror fan had much to celebrate.  Icons of the genre including Tony Todd (Final Destination, Candyman, Wishmaster), Derek Mears (the Friday the 13th reboot, 2007’s The Hills Have Eyes II), Tyler Mane (Michael Myers in both Rob Zombie’s Halloween films), Leslie Easterbrook (Zombie’s Halloween and The Devil’s Rejects), several stars of Cabin Fever, and over a dozen more horror film character actors were also there.

The vendor areas of the convention were a shopper’s delight.  While the non-horror fan would find less that appeals to them in the vendor booths, there were plenty of superhero toys and Star Wars collectibles to choose from.  I bought an original painting based on the Howard the Duck movie!

Many booths catered to all children of the 80’s, including Don’t Eat the Gum – a company that sells trading cards from the 1980s and 1990s (and my wife should have listened to the company name as she almost broke her tooth on a stick of gum from Howard the Duck trading cards…the gum was made in 1986).  Also there was Adjust Your Tracking selling movies on VHS that were never officially available on DVD.

Of course, being a horror convention, slasher-film fans could buy items not found anywhere else.  Many booths offered DVDs of horror movies, including bootlegs of some incredibly rare films like Fright Night 2 and Silent Night, Deadly Night:  Initiation.


“They’re coming to get you, Leia!” – a custom zombie stormtrooper by vendor Curious Goods

There were also custom T-Shirts, paintings, and other original expressions of creative horror.  At one booth Curious Goods offered custom action figures, including Rob Zombie, and Deathtroopers–Star Wars Stormtroopers turned zombies.

The exhibit floor was split into two small ballrooms, a sign that Days of the Dead is quickly outgrowing the space offered by the Wyndham Indianapolis West hotel.  Having Days of the Dead split among several walled-off areas did make the convention feel smaller than it was.  While it were ever too crowded, as is often found at larger conventions, the lines often crossed and merged, making celebrity areas hard to navigate.  This is likely the product of becoming incredibly popular in only three years, and something I’m sure will be corrected at future conventions.

Overall Days of the Dead Indianapolis was an incredible experience, and I will certainly be attending their Chicago convention this November.  While the only guests announced thus far are stars of the Return of the Living Dead and The Blair Witch Project it’s sure to be fun!


When not attending conventions across the globe Arnie can be found hosting the movie review podcast Now Playing, which has reviewed hundreds of movies of all genres, as well as the toy collecting podcasts Star Wars Action News and Marvelicious Toys.  He also reviews books on the Books & Nachos podcast.



July 12, 2013 Posted by | Comic Books, Conventions, Marvelicious Toys, Movies, News, Now Playing Podcast, Podcasts, Reviews, Star Wars Action News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Film Fans of All Types Can Enjoy Days of the Dead

How to throw a Cougar Town Party (and why you should)


Busy Phillips MCs the Cougar Town Viewing Party

January 11, 2012

Last Saturday night Chi-town became Cougar Town for an evening at the Racine Plumbing Bar and Grill in Lincoln Park.  No, older women were not out prowling for young men, but rather a bunch of fans of the low-rated critically-acclaimed TV series Cougar Town showed up for free drinks and the chance to meet some of the talent behind the show.

Cougar Town is a show from Bill Lawrence, who also created Spin City and Scrubs.  Plagued by a title that Lawrence regularly mocks on the show itself, Cougar Town has struggled in the ratings.  When ABC did not include Cougar Town in its fall 2011 schedule, fans became concerned despite ABC’s assurances that it would return to the air as a mid-season replacement.  A low-rated show going on hiatus is often the death knell of that series.

As we now enter the second half of the 2011-2012 television season, Cougar Town still has not had a return announced.  But that is not stopping Lawrence and the rest of the cul-de-sac crew from using social media and local gatherings to mobilize Cougar Town fans and fight for the show to continue.

The creators of Cougar Town have had a greater level of interaction with viewers than most shows.  In Season 2 they put a telephone number in the show.  If you called the number in real life, you’d sometimes be greeted by a voice mail, but some lucky callers could find themselves talking to some of the show’s creators or stars.

Now Lawrence is taking this interactivity on tour to major cities like Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  Through Lawrence’s Twitter and Facebook pages fans were invited to come out, watch some as-yet-unaired episodes of Cougar Town, and mix and mingle with the show’s stars and creators.  And drink for free on Lawrence’s dime.

The Chicago party was hosted by Busy Phillips (Dawson’s Creek, White Chicks) who plays party-girl Laurie Keller, and series writer Melody Derloshon.  Derloshon worked the room well, introducing herself to attendees and sharing anecdotes about the behind-the-scenes goings on of a sitcom.  Phillips was also gracious to fans, stopping several times to pose for photos, and sharing stories about her co-stars  (In Season 3 when Dan Byrd, who plays Travis on the show, wears a helmet it’s due to the actor’s real-life aversion to washing his hair).  Phillips even showed grace when a somewhat creepy fan (also named Travis) seemed unable to separate fact from fiction, repeatedly pulling his shirt down to expose his chest and openly hit on the married actress.

Busy Phillips Poses with Cougar Town Fans

Busy Phillips Poses with Cougar Town Fans

Phillips also provided a running commentary during two episodes of Cougar Town shown to the partiers. The first episode shown was the Season 3 premiere which promises a surprise change in the show’s status quo.  The second episode of the evening will be the fifth episode of Season 3, one no Scrubs fan should miss.  That episode guest starred Sarah Chalke (Scrubs, Roseanne) as well as Sam Lloyd reprising his Scrubs role of Ted.  While hard to hear all the dialogue of the episodes, it seems like Cougar Town’s strongest episodes may be those yet to air.


Ted and his band from Scrubs


Phillips and Derloshon encouraged Cougar Town fans to be vocal with their support, and to use social media to spread the word about the show.  And, perhaps, have their own Cougar Town viewing parties when the show does return to the air.  And the Chicago party provided the perfect template for your own Cougar Town viewing party:

  • Start with plenty of alcohol.  The characters on the show are borderline alcoholics with the amount of wine they consume.  (Sadly the Racine Plumbing Bar and Grill did not have Big Carls for us to drink from, and our wine was sipped from mason jars)
  • Put out a Penny Can or two for people to test their aim on.  Don’t have a Penny Can?  You can buy the limited edition Blue Penny Can at Cafepress.  (The Green Penny Can is now sold out)
  • When people start to tire of Penny Can, have some Cougar Town trivia, such as the name of the town in which Cougar Town takes place.
  • Watch an episode of Cougar Town.
  • Continue to drink

The Cougar Town tour is set to continue with dates announced in Austin, TX as well as New York.  If in the area, it’s a unique opportunity to interact with television stars and creators, as well as get free drinks, and support the best show that’s not currently on television.

For future dates on the Cougar Town tour, follow the cul-de-sac crew on Twitter:

Bill Lawrence (series creator)

Kevin Biegel (series producer)

Nicki Maron (Lawrence’s assistant)

Melody Derloshon (series writer)

Cougar Town Writers

Busy Phillips (series actress)

Laruie Keller (the Twitter account of Phillips’ character on Cougar Town)


January 12, 2012 Posted by | Conventions, News, Reviews, Television | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SOPA – The Death Knell for Podcasters? (updated 1-20-2012)

Update:  On January 18, 2012 all Venganza Media sites joined thousands of others in going dark to protest the SOPA/PIPA laws.  On January 20th the sponsors of SOPA and PIPA withdrew their support, leaving the bills effectively dead in the water. 

I applaud all the brave souls who risked revenue and popularity to stand against these bills, but the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  New laws will be proposed, and the US government will continue to stretch the reaches of their jurisdiction as they did with the January 19th, 2012 takedown of Megaupload.  

This article was originally written to raise awareness.  I am glad people became aware of these bills.  Please stay informed.  

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing — Edmund Burke 


Perhaps you’ve already heard of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.  Then again, perhaps you haven’t.  It’s very telling that the mass-media corporations that back the bill, who’s lobbyists caused the bill to happen, are the same mass-media corporations that report the news.  So it’s very likely you’ve not heard of this bill which has been called the Death of the Internet, legalized internet censorship, and even a threat to human rights.

Perhaps you believe those statements to be hyperbole, and perhaps you think that a new internet law won’t really change your internet experience.  But if you are reading this article, you are wrong, because if SOPA passes this article may cease to be published.  And if you are here, you likely listen to one of the many podcasts I host and produce, and SOPA could end all of them as well.

The key to SOPA is that it allows private companies to order a “takedown” of any web site that infringes on that company’s intellectual property.  There would be no due process, no review by any law enforcement agency.  The private company, be it a movie studio, RIAA, or any other large firm, would issue a request and by law the following would happen:

  • Google would be forced to remove all search results to that site.
  • Google, Amazon, and all other advertisers would be forced to cease business with that site.
  • Paypal would be forced to halt any payments to the site.
and much more.  Worse, once a site has been reported for violating SOPA, it is up to the site’s owners to litigate and prove they did not infringe on any intellectual property.
In short — small sites will be closed by large corporations with large legal teams.  Only sites that can afford drawn out litigation will be able to survive.
How does this impact my podcasts and Venganza Media?  The language in the bill is exceedingly vague.  While we may all agree that the intent behind the bill, to stop the online piracy of movies and music, is a just cause the language in SOPA fails to define what is really infringement.  More, without any review, it is conceivable that sites which do not infringe on intellectual property could be shut down and simply not have the financial resources to litigate and bring themselves back online.
Imagine any of the following scenarios:
  • Star Wars Action News, a podcast I have hosted and produced since 2005, has used Star Wars music and sound effects in its opening and closing (as do many other Star Wars podcasts).  This is done with Lucasfilm’s approval, as we have discussed what is and isn’t “fair use” with Steve Sansweet when he was head of Head of Fan Relations for Lucasfilm.  However, while Lucasfilm may approve of our use, we could still be entirely shut down.  If 20th Century Fox (who distributes the Star Wars films), Time Warner (owners of Cartoon Network which airs the Clone Wars TV Series), Sony or RIAA (who would regulate any use of the music from the Star Wars soundtracks) submitted a claim that our show infringes on their intellectual property, our site would be shut down immediately.
  • Now Playing, a podcast we have run since 2007, is devoted to discussing movies.  Our use of movie clips and music and movie imagery would be considered fair use in court; however SOPA does not require a trial.  If we published a review that a movie studio, production company, or director doesn’t like, they could retaliate by claiming we are infringing on their intellectual property.  As the language in SOPA is so vague, the simple discussion of plot details could be considered infringement.  Now Playing operates on listener donations through Paypal; donations that would be seized if a single complaint is filed.
  • Marvelicious Toys is my youngest podcast, started in 2010.  It uses original music scored by Joe Harrison, and photos of toys we take ourselves.  But again, because the language in SOPA is so vague, even showing a photograph of a toy based on a Marvel comic could be considered intellectual property infringement by The Disney Company or any of it’s various subsidiaries.  Again, a single complaint and without any due process our site would be shuttered.
  • The Venganza Media Gazette, the site which you’re reading right now, has been host to my reviews of the Blade TV series, a review of Duran Duran in concert, as well as a review of Dan Slott’s Spider-Island comic event.  As articles with images are more visually appealing, we have used publicity shots, photos taken ourselves, or screen shots to enhance these reviews (again, an act covered by fair use).  Any of those organizations could claim use of these images is infringement of their property, and the entire site would be shut down.
  • Worse, we could be shut down through no action of our own.  We have forums for our listeners to come and talk about our podcasts.  The content in these forums is regulated by volunteer forum administrators, but we are not omnipresent.  If a single person, be it a regular user or a spammer, comes and posts a link to pirated content, our entire forum community could be shut down.
We are a very small group of podcasters who operate thanks to a few affiliate sites (very few thanks to IL Governor Pat Quinn), a couple of sponsors, and mostly by listener donations through Paypal.  We do not have the resources to litigate; if a SOPA complaint is filed against us it is simply the end of our podcasts and our articles.
And we are not alone.  The advent of the “blogger” has created thousands of news and entertainment sites just like mine.  The internet is built on small entrepreneurs who start these ventures, and large corporations will have the power to shut all of us down without first having to prove we did anything wrong.  This bill could kill our podcasts, and could kill the livelihoods of bloggers across the world.
So what can you do to stop SOPA?  Likely, nothing.  It’s perhaps the cynical answer, but it seems that the campaign contributions of media lobbyists matter more than the rights of the American citizen.  Unfortunately, I have no answers, and if you do please share them with me.  I don’t write this article to rally you to action, or to tell you who to vote for or against.  I just hope that by reading this you have been made aware that this bill is dangerous, and truly can kill the internet as we know it.  Watch the progression of this bill, and pray it doesn’t pass.

December 25, 2011 Posted by | News, Tech | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Duran Duran Rocks Chicago

When I found out Duran Duran was touring in support of their new CD, I returned to my fangirl roots and literally squealed with delight.  Duran Duran was coming to Chicago! I roped my husband into going along, regaling him with useless Duran Duran trivia.Opening for Duran Duran was the Neon Trees.  I can’t decide if I was disappointed or respected them for not wearing a stitch of neon clothing.  A lot of their songs sounded similar but I think that is a hazard of being a relatively unknown opening band.  Their music sounded like retro pop – they would have fit in well during the New Wave explosion in the 80’s.  It’s hard to judge an opening band on one show alone.  I didn’t hate them but I’m not running out to buy their CD.

After a brief intermission, it was time for my childhood fantasies to be played out.  I had no idea what to expect.  Previous concerts by 80’s bands have been let downs.  Given that I paid higher than average for the ticket and that they were still selling out shows, I felt there was only a slight chance at disappointment.  By the time they finished their first song, Before The Rain, any doubts I had were gone. These guys were good.  They played well and they sounded great.

The set list was a mixture of their well known hits like A View To A Kill, The Reflex, Careless Memories, and some newer songs such as All You Need Is Now.   Throughout the years, they have kept the same sound – something to be said for a band that formed in 1978.  New songs blended in perfectly with their classics.

The first song to really get the crowd going was View To A Kill.  That song seriously rocked live.  While Duran Duran’s original guitarist Andy Taylor no longer tours with the band, his current replacement Dom Brown filled the vacancy well.  He played every note like it was his own.  After this point, the concert only got better.  The Reflex was played to an astounding sing a long as was Hungry Like The Wolf.

Simon LeBon really knows how to work a crowd.  He was engaging and all eyes were on him.   Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor appeared to be mostly behind the scenes.  I think the only time I saw both of them look engaged with the audience was when Simon announced the band individually. They looked serious, but not like they were having a bad time.  The clear cut stage leaders are John Taylor and Simon.  Both worked the crowd and spent time on both sides of the stage appeasing fans.

Their stage was not the elaborate sets of the 80’s.  This was simple, with three video screens, lots of lights and four weird video screen faces.  We might have been too close for the full effect but the video screen faces made Simon look like Terrance Stamp in Superman 2.

All in all, Duran Duran’s music, as well as themselves, have held up well in the thirty-something years since they formed.  Their music is solid and they play one hell of a live show.

Watch Duran Duran perform Notorious

October 25, 2011 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment