The King of the Sweaties

I remember years ago stumbling across AMC Movie Talk on YouTube. It blew my mind quite frankly. A show that talked exclusively about movies by movie fans. These were not just people doing a job; they were more like friends discussing and dissecting movies. AMC Movie Talk made me not feel so alone in my passions for film anymore. In the early days before they moved to Collider, you had John Campea, Dennis Tzeng, Amirose Eisenbach, and of course Jon Schnepp. I enjoy each personality for different reasons, but Schnepp was something else.

Jon Schnepp before movie talk was known for directing shows like Metalocalypse, The Venture Bros, and music videos. Outside of directing, he contributed to plenty of other things that he would sprinkle his flavour on. By the time he came to movie talk his resume could have probably led to further studio projects, but instead, he did what he wanted to do and the way he wanted to do it. So he joined movie talk where he could share his passion for comics, movies and the like. Before long there were pockets of Schnepp fans all over the world. Schnepp never appeared to be chasing fame, he just talked about his passions no matter how obscure or nerdy they may have seemed, and we loved him for it. Look at how obscure the documentary he made was in The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? It was a film he kickstarted essentially to answer the questions he always had about this bizarre Tim Burton Superman film that was never made. Nobody else would have ever made that documentary, but Schnepp did, and it’s great that we have that. Schnepp’s knowledge was endless in all things nerdy and geeky, allowing him to often tip his hat to an obscure reference or a sizable lecture on the fly. He created his with Sweaties as a term for people letting their geek flag fly without any fear. Schnepp was larger than life, larger than the average human being, a sasquatch if you will.

The days leading up to my grandad’s death I saw that Jon Schnepp had been hospitalized. Knowing my grandad was in his final days I dared not think of Schnepp meeting this fate too. Schnepp was also a guy that you couldn’t imagine being brought down, but seeing the photos of him being hospitalized hurt, they showed the great Schnepp powerless for the first time. Schnepp’s fiancé, Holly Payne revealed that on July 19th Jon Schnepp passed away after complications caused by a stroke. This was the same day as my grandad. I didn’t know what to do with the news. It hung over my thoughts second to my grandad. I never had the pleasure of meeting Schnepp. In all the years I had been watching, he had served me hundreds of hours of entertainment making him feel like apart of my life in some way. In saying that Twitter has also been full of people grieving for Jon as if they knew him because his presence was that powerful. Hell, he affected celebrities too. Kevin Smith had a moment of silence for Schnepp at comic con in Hall H. I saw Patton Oswalt and Aaron Paul tweeting about his loss. Even Henry Cavil, the current iteration of Superman, made a beautiful gesture on Instagram revealing himself to also be a fan of Schnepp. I was watching videos of people remembering him last night, and my girlfriend who watched Schneep passively through me was with tears telling me she always hoped to meet him. I echo that sentiment and wish maybe I had sent him a positive message on Twitter explaining to him how great he was. May we all live to be a little more positive and unabashedly let our inner geekdom out just like this man.

Rest In Peace Jon.

From one of your many many fans,



The Spaceman

My grandad passed away Thursday morning.

In the early hours, my family gathered before the bed that my grandad had been occupying for some weeks. His body was frozen in time, mouth gaping on his last breath. Nobody was home.

Later, we went to his house. Internally, I had always blamed grandad for living the simplest of lives. I thought he didn’t quite appreciate what else was outside his daily routine, and the house he rarely left. He was an introvert. He was most comfortable in the time after everyone else was asleep, staying up till three in the morning every night. We went through his workshop as a means of nostalgia but began to see another layer of the man that I had been unaware of. His brain always worked differently, and I started to see how exceptional it was by the organized chaos around. He was mechanically minded creating absurd items with next to nothing in the way of use, just to see if he could. I thought his mind was dulled to the wonders of life, but he was instead brilliant in his way. I will never fully understand the complexity of my grandad. Underneath it all, he was the most unique, strong, honest, and upstanding man I had ever met. I will carry him in my heart always.

Love Robert

The image of his body as it was made me ponder his last moment. Is death beautiful? And if not, how could it be? So, I wrote a little short conversation he might have had in that last moment with death. I call this The Spaceman.


I suspect he is exploring and tinkering away like a spaceman in the next place.



Movies in the Digital Age

I was a serious collector of DVDs from the mid-2000s. I amassed thousands of DVDs. I would buy more than I could watch, and to this day I still own much more than I have seen. The great thing about owning physical copies is the ability to view the title whenever I choose. By doing this I was able to grow my knowledge outside the norm of most. I own and re-watch nearly every television show from the 90s, making it feel as if I spent my teens during that time instead of my 1s and 2s. Then I would have no one to talk about my experiences with these shows because they had no idea what something like Northern Exposure or Twin Peaks is. Streaming has effectively started bringing people that were once like me to the front. I love streaming services for that fact. You get to have all these watercooler moments with people and share in your love for the latest season or movie that hits one of these services.

I rotate between Netflix, Stan, and Amazon. Amazon is the weakest. Stan is perhaps the one I use most, and I think its library of content is similar to Hulu. Netflix is like a made for tv cinema with new attractions debuting every week. Then there are times where I know what I want to watch and spend about twenty minutes looking for it. Alternatively, I search for the title on Just Watch, but usually, I think I remember which streaming service I saw it on, and find myself nearly always wrong. Other times you cannot find it at all. Then I’m forced to search online stores to see if it’s still in print. Even worse is when it’s not available in the country, and you need to order overseas. Look at Say Anything, and it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. You can’t buy it here, and I think you can only stream it on iTunes. I get why some titles are only available on specific streaming services, but why are some just straight out unavailable? Even streaming services only keep content on there for a certain amount of time. And it’s times like that when I’m happy with my collection of physical discs. Overall, it’s not all bad compared to the era of VHS, and at least we all kind of share the same film and television lexicon, while people like me need to help steer others to the stuff, not in the readily accessible content. I like where we are at, for now.

Robert Ring

The Evolution of the Zombie Film

Zombie films have been produced for almost one hundred years, but it wasn’t until 1968 that the low budgeted film Night of the Living Dead changed the scope of zombie films for modern audiences. The representation of the zombie in current cinema has transitioned from the aforementioned Night of the Living Dead to a more recent film like World War Z forty-five years later. The characteristics of zombies in these two films reveal a shift in the animation of the zombie and how it has culturally been changed to adjust for the more blockbuster inclined cinema goers of today. The human element of the zombie films show the necessity for human survival requires equality, however, a democracy between survivors usually produces an antagonist. By comparing the political situations of the time with each movie, it becomes apparent why Night of the Living Dead is set solely in a house, while World War Z is a zombie film that evolved with the times to take audiences across the globe. Night of the Living Dead created the modern zombie film with a minuscule budget whereas today it has become a profitable blockbuster genre where millions are spent to profit on the latest wave of zombie films. Zombie films are known for their disturbing and shock value endings since Night of the Living Dead, but in the prospects of hope for the future, the zombie outbreak is seen to be overcome with the protagonist surviving and having a happy ending.

Zombies were more characteristic to the human form and still functioned with some human capabilities, such as opening door handles in Night of the Living Dead. Their movements were also slurred and slow to allow for dramatic tension. The zombies can be outrun so the drama can unfold unexpectedly as the idle waiting places the audience at ease before a jump scare reintroduces the horror elements. This effect is utilised well in the scene where the woman is running from the cemetery until she comes across the house where she begins to feel slightly at ease before the zombies appear again. The zombies eat the flesh of the living, however, they are fearful of fire. The origin story depicts that the zombies are reanimated from radiation retrieved from space, although this plot element appears to vanish from any other source material containing zombies as a new age of technology can present this finding as complete science fiction. The zombies only seem to be localised to parts of the United States. Comparatively, World War Z presents zombies as creatures. They are seen to turn from human to zombie in a matter of seconds and the longer they are among the undead, the more their skin shows signs of deterioration and the less human they become. This frightening zombie creature in World War Z is made more so by the supernatural speed and strength they are given to make them work in sync for the common goal of flesh. These zombies work in unison with each other like ants, using each other as a ladder, to climb obstacles from walls to the comic height of a helicopter. The zombies in this recent film are frightening, especially frightening because of their speed and there is nowhere safe; not on land, air or sea, these zombies can tackle anything. The zombies in Night of the Living Dead were never really vocal, while in World War Z they are seen clicking and experiencing quick twitching in their head as they pace. The end of World War Z offers a cure by the discovery that zombies will not pursue those infected with a terminal virus or disease. Overall, zombies have been culturally slow and ineffective in their means to target man, now the tired formulas are being referenced as something from the past as the zombie rulebook is being rewritten for the next wave of zombie films. Zombies are without any real tension in a narrative without having the human element to work with.

The human element of every zombie movie is essential for grounding the story in a world close to this one. The main antagonists in these films are the people who clash with others over leadership qualities in a time of despair while the outside world is in ruins. The leading man in Night of the Living Dead is a simple man, an average man who was experiencing the zombie invasion just like everybody else. This gives the audience someone to be drawn to, and by being a black man in 1968 he was an unlikely hero, but that is as far as it goes. Racial qualities were an issue of considerable debate during the sixties with figures like Martin Luther King taking a stand, however by having a black hero who is not discriminated by other characters and treated not only as an equal and instead a leader, we see a common good around everyone working together to fight this supernatural force. His humbleness is seen as he reveals his initial encounter with the zombies through exposition when he drove through a mass of them, and they were unlike human beings. World War Z, on the other hand, has a protagonist who is a seasoned veteran and is efficient in dealing with the tactics associated with warfare combat. Brad Pitt’s character aside from his talents is an everyman, he is a father and a husband whose life is lived for them, and this is why he chooses to go into the danger. Pitt’s character is propositioned by the army to investigate the cause of the zombie outbreak for his family’s safety in return, and it is made clear that he is the only one who can do it. His character is clearly motivated to survive for his family, while the main character from Night of the Living Dead is motivated for surviving the night. The main antagonist in Night of the Living Dead was a father like Pitt’s character trying to protect his family and his actions worked against their survival as his love for his daughter became an end to him when she turned. As the antagonist diligently works to protect his family, his actions from our point of view show him to be clearly blinded by reason, and his actions are not so far from the protagonist in World War Z, but we are given more insight through his perspective to see why he wants to become a globetrotter against impossible odds. There is another layer to the protagonist in these zombie films, and it is by having the right political allegory to stand against.

Zombie films are a political allegory for the world at large. The zombie element is indeed a fictional element, although it is tactically feeding on a subconscious fear of the world heading for decay by the social constructs that are built around us. Night of the Living Dead seems to be playing on the safety of the American Dream and turning it into the American Nightmare by showing the audience how the security of a house can be an illusion. The zombies being undead also alludes to how a feeling of unrest can be stirred back up from ones past and cannot stay buried. They are a reflection of us at an animalistic level programmed to survive by eating. These zombies are a visual reminder of our mortality and show that we are just flesh and bone while the bodies in death become empty vessels. World War Z looks past the consumerism side of the American dream and creates a nightmarish vision of this world in chaos and how close to chaos the world actually is. Basically, World War Z is the allegory for the epidemic, yearly news stories flash over the screen informing the viewer of a new airborne virus that has been discovered and could potentially sweep across the globe taking the lives of many. By using the zombie film as an allegory for a virus, the viewer is given a physical embodiment of something that cannot be seen and something that will ultimately reach out for you and change your own disposition to that of the virus carrier.  Night of the Living Dead in 1968 proved to be a viable allegory of the failing American Dream, while in 2013 the zombie is an allegory for fear of a global epidemic. These allegories go from simple to complex as the budget changes dramatically between the two films.

Night of the Living Dead was one of the first low budget hits that revitalised horror films as a profitable venture after the studio films like the Universal Monster movies were run into the ground and became campy. Night of the Living Dead worked against the studio system and took a cast of unknowns to the spotlight and produced what is now a classic if not the quintessential zombie film. The film was shot on the cheap and managed to make its flaws manageable by presenting the film stylistically in black and white, this gave a feeling of realism to the makeup effects of the zombies, and a throwback to the black and white news broadcasts of the time.  Due to the majority of the film taking place in one house, most shots are close up on the characters faces to bring an intimacy to the few characters the film provides. These close up shots allow for the house to still feel fresh after an hour because the set is bland and borderline empty. While Night of the Living Dead is a low budget film, World War Z is the most expensive zombie film ever made, and one of the most expensive films ever produced with an estimated budget of one hundred and ninety million dollars. World War Z was subjected to a number of reshoots that had the film reshoot their whole third act, so the film was blown way over budget. Night of the Living Dead was made with a budget of one hundred thousand and grossed thirty million, so it made three hundred times its production budget and was a less risky move over studio influence, as World War Z only made back double its production costs. The increasing budgets show how much the zombie genre has been inflated to make a return on. There is also the case of The Night of the Living Dead being an R rated film by the classification board, which decreases the chances of being seen by most of the public and to further its appeal, it is a pure horror film. Since 1968 the horror genre has changed in the blockbuster film so they can have as many people as possible see the film. To do this they blend the genre with another genre to grab two different audiences, so World War Z can be sold as a horror film or as an action film, and it is successfully equal parts both. This means that common horror traits like nudity and gore are typically disregarded to meet rating boards in World War Z. World War Z used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create spectacularly different zombies that can move faster than any living organism. Is it more effective than the live action people playing zombies in Night of the Living Dead? No, but this generation of cinema-goers is spoilt with the evolution of the zombie on the screen so they must be more convinced of reasons to be scared. The zombies feel more real inside the film as crucial locations around the world show the same thing happening throughout and as an audience member we must regard this apocalypse as the end all of civilisation, and that reaches everyone, leaving all audiences terrified by the scenario. Style over substance shows the ending to be memorable in both films irrelevant to the budget.

Night of the Living Dead had an ending that was memorable for being so unexpected and the audience at the time was initially unsure of how to handle it as Roger Ebert recounts of an audience, “There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying.” (1969). There is something to be said about an ending of a film that can affect a viewer long after the film stops rolling. The ending of World War Z changes the typical ending of the zombie horror film. It gives the world a sense of hope whereas Night of the Living Dead and subsequent films like Dawn of the Dead show that the salvation they think they find is only irony. This irony will lead to their death, either by themselves or another unforeseen circumstance, which became a staple of the zombie film after the success of Night of the Living Dead. Not only are the people usually the antagonist in the zombie films, but there is always a tendency to explain the fault of the government or the army in bringing about the zombie invasion. World War Z doesn’t give up why the outbreak happened, and this gives the zombie film more longevity by not giving a science fiction theory that will become a low or campy point of the film when later years will render the plot weak. However, aside from the space radiation theory in Night of the Living Dead, you have the timeless zombie film that feels as if it could be set at any point in time, and because of this, it will outstay World War Z. World War Z has shaken up the zombie film formula for at least the next generation of zombie films.

The modern zombie film has developed over the last half a century to entertain and frighten new audiences as the technology, and social commentary has changed with it. After having deconstructed the Night of the Living Dead and World War Z, it can be observed that the zombie film has persevered to continue the mythology surrounding zombies and make new ones in the process. What started off as a simple spin on the dead being reanimated has influenced generations of new filmmakers to redefine the capabilities and the cosmetic look of the zombie to capture terror in the 21st century. The human element has always been the key to shaping these events by positioning the protagonist and the human antagonist counterpart in a battle for leadership as their ranks are stripped, and they are left with their own personal motivations. The political allegory for Night of the Living Dead simply and effectively reshaped the American Dream and later World War Z pushed the boundaries to include a crisis fitting of the world’s fears. Budgets influenced Night of the living dead to do more with the space and setting of 1968, while studio influence effectively split the horror genre to become an action film as well so more audiences would see the star-powered film World War Z. The shock value of the zombie film ending may have run its course from the beginnings of Night of the Living Dead as a more positive approach was the climax of World War Z. Zombie films have not changed much in regards to formula, but culturally the genre has been forced to see changes to keep it fresh, and the genre will continue to work if it can find a common thread with the world today rather than the world of yesterday.

Robert Ring

The Hollywood Blockbuster

Jaws is in many ways the first hollywood blockbuster. It changed the scope of everything before and everything that is seen today, and it proved to be successful as it was backed up by an even greater success shortly after with Star Wars. These blockbuster films have changed the power of the cinema going experience internationally, as nations all over the world share in the delight of this pop culture machine. The power and success of the blockbuster is contributed to high quality and heavily marketed films, to productions that are produced overseas and outside the home studio. There is also a power struggle that sees the independent film be overshadowed by these epic films that are more readily a language understood internationally.

The summer blockbuster, whether it is good or not proves to be successful from the marketing of a film. Each film is of the greatest production value at the time of its undertaking, with budgets that easily account for one hundred and up to two hundred million dollars. While money can perfect certain aesthetics of a film, it does not guarantee a great film, and for the most part a blockbuster must only be a good film to turn a profit. It is within the marketing that spans from billboards, to television spots, to merchandise at fast food outlets like McDonalds, and KFC that exhibit a film to be successful for studio executives who spend an undisclosed amount on the marketing campaigns, which can be estimated to be around fifty million per blockbuster. The power of the marketing pushed by executives is excessive to the point where anyone who hasn’t seen the film is at least familiar with the iconography of the film, and to some extent the plot through the tagline, or trailer. Most often these celebrated blockbusters are from a well known franchise with an audience who will see it because they have liked the set of characters in the past, and therefore are sold at the title alone. Not only is this marketing placed in the film’s national marketplace, but also internationally, and in the form of a runaway film.

A relatively new trend in blockbusters since the nineties is the runaway film production, which sees a blockbuster film produced internationally for tax incentive reasons. The primary reason may be money, but as attributed in the marketing of a film, filming in a foreign country is in itself marketing to that nation. Nations can find pride in a big budget blockbuster that will see major film distribution in their own country through a feeling of locations and being separated by less degrees of separation than a production shot nationally. Ironically, the most notable negative is for the crews who rely on the blockbusters to be shot in their own national vicinity for jobs, whereas a runaway production will impact positively on a country elsewhere in their economy with job creation and tourism. Ultimately it creates these great networks between international studio houses with places for example as Hollywood and Australia, and most recently Hollywood and South Korea.

While the blockbuster film has the power of strong marketing campaigns and star power, the independent film is crushed by this sort of stronghold on the industry. There are thousands of movies produced each year and a large percent of these cannot compete or recuperate costs because of the blockbusters that dominate the widespread release. This includes countries such as Australia, with a struggling film industry that sees its own box office dominated by hollywood films that take the money of the theatre going audience. These films of an independent nature are more of a niche marketplace and have their own audience and award seasons that propel it into the cinematic stratosphere that any average movie going audience would have knowledge on. Studio executives will also make predictions as to what the film going audiences will want to see within a five year track, which they in hand can create with the marketing of a film and make genre flicks for a set number of years, as “Zombie Apocalypse” has seen a saturation in the marketplace to now be taken over by the comic book film, which feels as if it is at least fifty percent of blockbusters produced today. Studios have spent time changing what an audience perceived as simply film and changed it into the blockbuster, something they can differentiate and know as a grand spectacle or a bang for your buck. This popular culture phenomenon is going to influence the audience in these years through social media, and idle talk to moderate fandom, where people will commit to costumes and exhibitions, living and breathing for updates on these films, but most of all to be included as international symbols.

These blockbusters create a shared commonplace of films that transcend the language barrier, while dubbed, they differ ever so slightly, but ultimately a man from Japan can see an image or poster from a blockbuster and has the knowledge of the popular culture behind it to communicate with western audiences whom have these characters that embody a certain celebrity element, for example the superman crest. This process of globalisation of the blockbuster is undeniably relevant at creating a social conscience in the entertainment industry over any other forms internationally. A science teacher I once had exclaimed that you could take only the periodic table to a martian planet and communicate with those figures alone that are at their base exactly the same wherever you go and this is the same as these blockbuster films. They transcend nationality, and come down to relatable stories of people like you and I, who strive to be better or see a prosperous new world from the ashes of everything bad. The blockbuster is not exclusive of any particular class, nor should it. If you look at a blockbuster film you can have every age bracket, every race all laugh, shriek and awe at the same things. The audience becomes one to the blockbuster that caters to all.

Robert Ring

2017, Say No More

2017 was a year that movie news and journalism really pissed me off.

Every movie news outlet is spending most of it’s time producing content surrounding DC, Marvel and Star Wars news. No joke, this appears to be eighty percent of the content on such sites as Screenrant. The content is mostly rumours and speculation for clicks. On top of that once the film comes out the backlash is unparalleled because all these fanboys have built up a comic book movie they don’t get in the final product. I cannot stand people defending the bad superhero movies for being “true” to the comics, or despising the good ones for deviating from the comics. Any excitement for comic book films now comes from the director helming the project, and even then I would rather their talents used elsewhere.

For now The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Rolling Stone are about the best you can find for movie news, although this year Hollywood has been shaped by an actual movement and that is quite something indeed. Starting with Harvey Weinstein it became apparent that the untouchable hollywood echelon could indeed fall. Weinstein was always a bad guy and nobody would dispute it, however the shockwave that followed unveiled Kevin Spacey, John Lasseter, and Louis C.K., to name a few in a long and growing list of sexual assault perpetrators.

Not all was bad in 2017. Women have finally been given more of a stage on the long road to equality. On the screen people were cheering for the first superhero blockbuster starring a woman, and directed by a woman with Wonder Woman, while the indie film scene saw another female lead and director potentially looking to win Best Picture with Ladybird. Did I mention Mildred Hayes from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? I wouldn’t pick a fight with her.

I hope 2018 does a better job at celebrating film and film culture over the constant naysayers.

Happy New Year,

Robert Ring

Welcome to KissTheMovies!

Here at KissTheMovies we will talk about the latest from film news, movie reviews, film lists and a little bit on the television side as well. This website is the start of what I hope to be a wondrous venture for myself and hopefully it translates to others as well.

I look forward to growing and communicating with many of you.

Robert Ring