“VAMPIRE STRIPPERS MUST DIE”— New Teaser Reveals What Happens When ‘Magic Mike’ Meets ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’

Vampire Strippers Poster

“Vampire Strippers Must Die!”

New Teaser Reveals What Happens When ‘Magic Mike’ Meets ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’

(LOS ANGELES – AUG. 12, 2015) – A new trailer has been released today for “Vampire Strippers Must Die!”, a hilarious and sexy horror-comedy set to star America’s Next Top Model’s Bryant Wood and underwear supermodel Pablo Hernandez, in their first feature film acting roles. The script for the film previously won the New York LGBT Film Fest’s Screenwriting competition in 2010.

Set to go into production in November 2015, the wacky comedy by award-winning filmmaker Keith Hartman follows a group of American male strippers on tour in Eastern Europe faced with having to battle the undead. With fantastic dance numbers, jaw-dropping epic fight scenes, fun plot twists, and funny, yet memorable character moments, Vampire Strippers Must Die! will feature more hot boys than you can shake a stick at, and then some. The film will also star famous fitness model John Suazo, and other exciting new talent.

While the men of Chippendales perform in London, Paris and Milan, the men of Overnight Male are stuck playing low rent dive bars in Bulgaria. After six weeks on tour, everyone is getting just a teeny bit cranky. The straight strippers and gay strippers are ready to kill each other, and the only thing holding the band of American male strippers together is their geeky and resourceful tour manager, Jake. No matter what Eastern Europe throws at them, Jake’s been able to handle it, whether it’s been aggressive fans, thieving bar owners, broken buses, or even the occasional need for bail money. Vampires, though, are a new one.

“Vampire Strippers Must Die!” will feature a lonely vampire hunter who has never gotten over his high school boyfriend, a female vampire who has been in a bad relationship for 300 years, before finally discovering the small screen wisdom of Dr. Phil and a pair of twin brothers who strip together but compete over everything.  

Hartman’s previous two films, You Should Meet My Son! and Real Heroes, have earned “Best Picture” awards at nine film festivals, as well as “Best Director,” “Best Screenplay,” and several “Best Actor” awards for members of the cast.

The trailer is being released as part of the film’s Indiegogo campaign, which is seeking to raise $125,000 in production funds in 30 days. A successful campaign will give Hartman the resources for an ideal 18-day shoot, which will allow them to shoot all of the stunts, fight scenes and dance numbers to make this film as fresh and as exciting as possible. Stay tuned for updates. 

Here’s the link to the Indiegogo campaign:


“Crossed” by Meredith Doench— Going Home


Doench, Meredith. “Crossed”, Bold Stokes Books, 2015.

Going Home

Amos Lassen

Agent Luce Hansen goes home to Willow’s Ridge, Ohio to try to catch the serial killer who has been murdering young women. She has been waiting for a case like this because it requires her to return to the town that she left some nineteen years ago and it will allow her to reach the FBI. It is also a case that will put her relationship with her lover, Rowan to the test. There is just one main problem and that is that this case will also bring up the unsolved murder case of her first girlfriend and she will have to face the

local ex-gay ministry that made her life such living hell. I must say that for a first novel, this will make you sit up and realize that we a new author that not only writes beautifully but also has quite a story to tell. Author Doench writes with and to emotions and she pulled me in with her first sentence. Even better it that we have a thriller and a love story rolled into one. Then there is her relationship with Rowan that is already on the rocks and spending time away might ensure the end of it. Since she knows her town, she also knows that she will have to deal with some very uncooperative people who are also not really honest in what they have to say. Add to that Luce’s own PTSD that will surely act up in the atmosphere where she is heading.

The story is related by Luce in the first person and then it moves back and forth between flashbacks and the present day. She understands that she not only has to deal with the case but also with her own issues one of which is losing Rowan. There is also a surprise as we near the end of the story. This is one you do not want to miss.

“A LIFE NOT TO FOLLOW”— Neo Noir in Boston

a life not to follow

“A Life Not to Follow”

Neo-Noir in Boston

Amos Lassen

Directed by Chris Di Nunzio , “A Life Not to Follow” is a neo-noir film in three self-contained chapters with each one being related to the other two. In the first chapter we get the story of unfortunate Eric (Fiore Leo)) a guy who has quite a rough life and who grew up behind bars. He no longer has any value to the local crime syndicate because of a fall he took for them and his attempt at revenge for being thrown out did not go as planned. He was determined to kill those responsible for his demise and feels this is the way to atone for his past sins and that no price is too high especially since he knows that his death is coming in the near future.


Finola (Erica Derrickson) , his “girlfriend” who is really not as much into him as he would like think, feels for him and his pain. Luca (Michael Capozzi) is a menacing character who Eric meets before his world goes sour is pure evil.

In chapter two we meet Angelo (John Martellucci),  a guy who will do whatever it takes to get to a better place in the world. He thinks he has been given that chance when he is told to dispose of Luca. Luca has been his best friend but Angelo knows that either he kill him or be killed himself. Chapter three brings together the first two chapters. Here Tobias Kane (David Graziano), a former F.B.I. man turned private detective crosses paths with some of the most disgusting criminals of the time as he tries to find a missing girl. He knows that this case will either save him or end his life.


There is the story of quite a beautiful young woman that, at first, we know nothing about but brief snippets of her appear as if to bind the three chapters together. Set in Boston, we get three different perspectives of the same world and as the chapters come together, we get quite a film. There are two actors that really stand out— Fiore Leo as a gangster and loner is intense while David Graziano is brilliant as the detective Kane.


The mood of the film is immediately set by the cinematography by Nolan Yee. Di Nunzio’s direction and script are excellent all around. It is interesting that the gangster film never seems to become old hat. Every once in a while we get one that blows us away and given the proper distribution, this may be the one for this year. Everything about it gets an A plus rating. We are introduced to a group of characters that do not seem to be aware of the world they live in and if they do not wake up, they are then to be destroyed by it.

“The Ambassador” by Yehuda Avner and Matt Rees— Negotiating with Evil

the ambassador

Avner, Yehuda and Matt Rees. “The Ambassador”, Toby Press, 2015.

Negotiating With Evil

Amos Lassen

In 1937, the British Cabinet received the recommendations of the Peel Commission to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. David Ben Gurion who was then Israel’s prime minister sent young Dan Lavi to serve as Israel’s first ambassador to Berlin and entrusted him with the duty of getting exit visas for as many Jews as possible. The Third Reich was now entrenched in power in Germany and Dan found himself surrounded by both terror and Nazi atrocities.

Dan had to struggle to have good relations with protocol used by diplomats since so many wanted him dead and out of the way. Somehow he had to negotiate with the Nazis and the politics of their party as well as deal with the pressure from the Allies. On the personal side, he also had to reconcile his love for his family with the pressure of his loyalty and love for Israel. More important than everything was that he had to find a way to end the Final Solution and that could cost him everything.

Yehuda Avner is noted for this wonderful book “The Prime Ministers’ which has also been turned into a documentary film. With “The Ambassador” he teamed with Matt Rees who has brought us his successful Palestinian crime series. Avner died in March 2015 and this book will be released in September. It is the kind of book that is impossible to stop once begun—a thriller with dynamic characters and a carefully executed plot.

As he neared the end of his life, Avner wondered what might have happened if the State of Israel has come into being some ten years earlier than it did. He decided that he would write a novel that looked at just that. The main idea here is whether Israel’s existence a decade earlier might have changed the outcome of events. During the last six moths of his life, Avner and Rees worked on the idea. What we get is a wok of fiction that is filled with historical details and is the story of leadership at a time of crisis.

Basically, “The Ambassador” is about a world where Israel existed before the Second World War that indeed changes history and saves some six million lives. Because we experienced the Holocaust, even if not directly, we tend to understand the meaning of the word evil. Those today have to try a little harder to imagine something as evil as the attempt to exterminate an entire race of people. The racism and anti-Semitism of today is quite different from what was.

Set in 1937, “The Ambassador” is what we might call alternative history or what is popularly known as “What if”? When Lavi gets to Berlin he sees that he is among terror and atrocities. He struggles to uphold good relations and diplomatic protocol with those who want him dead, navigate Nazi party politics and Allied pressures, and to stop the final solution.

We do not find comfort in reading this book and in that, I think, is the real beauty. Our minds are kicked into overdrive as we realize that there is no comfort here. In fact the book is quite disturbing as it tears apart good and evil. The idea of an alternate history at first seems to enliven us until we feel the tension and problems that edge their way in. I have always felt that the sign of a good book is one that the reader loses himself in and the outside world ceases to exist during the read. Can we conceive of the State of Israel dealing with the Third Reich as it rises to power? At the same time she must protect herself from the Arab nations around her borders. The Reich has programs of not just overt persecution but deportation, intimidation and leading up to genocide and annihilation. Can we even imagine what Lavi is thinking as the first Israeli diplomat to a country that is dedicated to ridding the world of Jews? Can he find the way to serve his country and the Jewish people at the same time? The other problem that both and he and Israel face is whether Israel can fight against the Reich as a regime of hate and murder without that very same hate and evil impacting it?

I had a few interesting discussions today by asking people I know what they thought would have happened if the State of Israel and had coming being before the Holocaust and we realize that is the question that we have here. Would it have been any different? Would Israel have been able to stop the tyranny even though it already begun? We won’t necessarily get answers here but what we do get is a lot to think about concerning the natures of good and evil. Let me cite an example here. Last year I taught a graduate seminar on Hannah Arendt. On the very first day of class I asked my students to give me their definitions of evil. We actually spent the entire course trying to find a definition of the word without using its opposite. I found it extremely hard to define evil without the Holocaust being the supreme example. I am not sure that my students and myself have a better understanding of evil now that we spent a semester on it. Not everything can be answered and the answer, to me, at least, is not as important as the thought processes used to find an answer.

Like the definition of evil this book has no easy answers but it provokes us to deal with the questions. The questions we have here deal with issues of power and morality, which like evil are not so easily defined, and for which I am not sure there are cut-and-dry definitions. Add to that that this book was partially written and conceived by a man who had been a respected and loved diplomat who has brought much of his own diplomatic experience into his novel. What is so frightening is how realistic the story is.

This is certainly not a book that everyone can and will enjoy. However for those of who care about humanity, power, freedom and morality, this s a must read.

“Oklahomo: Lessons in ‘Unqueering’ America” by Carol Mason— “Unqueering” America


Mason, Carol. “Oklahomo: Lessons in ‘Unqueering’ America”, SUNY Press, 2015.

“Unqueering” America

Amos Lassen

Carol Mason in her book, “Oklahomo” uses the state of Oklahoma as a case study for how US conservatives have attempted to unqueer America since the 1950s. She looks at the lives of four Oklahomans to show how the process of “unqueering” works in a conservative American state. We Mason presents to us is a story about how homogenizing, antigay ideas evolve from generation to generation “so that they achieve particular economic, imperial, racial, and gendered goals”. The four people we look at here are antigay crusaders Sally Kern and Anita Bryant and Billy James Hargis and Bruce Goff who were two queer teachers dismissed from their positions. We see how the lives of these figures represent “paradigmatic moments in conservative confrontations with queers”. They aid us in understanding the conflation of terrorism with homosexuality that goes as far back as the McCarthy era with its witch-hunts. This book adds to the studies of rural life and sexual norms as we see how terrorism has come into being right next to the cultures of sexuality in this country. Many us forget today with all of the freedoms that the LGBT community has that we are still part of a very conservative country. Below is the table of contents as it appears in the book:

List of Illustrations


1.“Unqueering America”: An Introduction

2. Sally Kern: The Queer Terrorist in Middle America

3. Anita Bryant: Oklahoma Roots and National Fruits

4. Billy James Hargis: Sinister, Satanic Sex

5. Bruce Goff: How to Stop Enjoying and Learn to Fear Queer Art

6. Queer Times in Wal Mart Country: A Meandering Conclusion


Works Cited and Collections





“Foucault Against Himself” by Francis Caillat— Reframing Foucault


Caillat, Francis. “Foucault Against Himself”, translated by David Homel, Arsenal Pulp, 2015.

Reframing Foucault

Amos Lassen

One of my great philosophical and literary heroes is Michel Foucault with whom I was lucky enough to have studied. “Foucault Against Himself” is collection of essays that re-examines him and then reframes the legacy he gave to us. He was a man of many contradictions in his private, political and his academic life. He often found himself battling the very institutions with which he worked. We see here in this collection that is based upon the documentary film of the same name how contemporary critics and philosophers try to find new ways of thinking about his struggle against what he considered to be domination by society. To do so they demonstrate how internal conflict is at the core of Foucault’s philosophy as well as his life and work.

Michel Foucault was an intellectual who was never content to rest with what the found or wrote about at from one moment to the next. His work and thoughts always seem to fall back on themselves— with Foucault, there was no such thing as start or finish. He would review and re-review, add and subtract, correct and amend. It seemed that he was transforming himself as he transformed his work. If we do the same today we would avoid the holes of “intellectual complacency”.

This collection includes a foreword by Paul Rabinow, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California (Berkeley) and an influential writer on the works of Foucault; he is the co-editor of The Essential Foucault.

The essays and interviews include:

Leo Bersani, American Professor Emeritus of French at the University of California (Berkeley) and the author of Homos

Georges Didi-Huberman, French philosopher and art historian; his most recent book is Gerhard Richter: Pictures/Series

Arlette Farge, French historian and the author of The Allure of the Archives

Geoffroy de Lagasnerie, French philosopher and the author of La derniere lecon de Michel Foucault



“Labyrinth of Lies” (“Im Labyrinth des Schweigens”)

Cover Ups

Amos Lassen

In 1958, the Second World War had been over for thirteen years and the Federal Republic of Germany was not only recovering but was booming. It seems that there were no more Nazis and no one had ever heard of the death and concentration camps. However, that all changed when journalist Thomas Gnielka (André Szymanski) recognized, in the person of a teacher, the former commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling), a young prosecutor, decided to investigate this.


Now almost 70 years after the end of war, the poisoning of German society by Nazism remains an understandably troubling subject for Germans to address and acknowledge openly. Director Giulio Ricciarelli’s debut feature “Labyrinth Of Lies” looks at how a society that was supposedly and rightfully ashamed of its horrible transgressions went too far in burying its shame and this allowed the guilty to escape punishment for their crimes.

In the immediate years after the end of the war, the German establishment worked to erase the grim specter of the past that hovered over the country. Very few people (especially the young) were aware of the scope of the Final Solution and the reality of the concentration camps. Radmann learned that an Auschwitz SS guard was working as a schoolteacher and this was forbidden under German law. His immediate superior wants nothing to do with pursuing the man, and when Radmann informs the Ministry of Education of the teacher’s past, they take no action to remove him from his position.

However, Radmann refused to let the Nazi dark past of those who had not been punished to stay secret and with the help and support of the Attorney General of the German Republic, began a search for the both powerful and humble former Nazis who suffered no consequences for their actions. Radmann was dissuaded by many individuals and organizations and these included the U.S. Military.

I understand that the character of Radmann is a fictional composite of three prosecutors who participated in the Auschwitz trials. Prosecutor General Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss) was well aware of the Nazi plague, and he encouraged his young associate to pursue the matter. Working with Gnielka and concentration camp survivor Simon Kirsch (Johannes Krisch), Johann is shocked and stunned when he learns the vast dimensions of the Nazis’ machinery of extermination at Auschwitz and that many of those who ran the camp had comfortable careers in public service.

Alexander Fehling (Rolle: Johann Radmann)

Alexander Fehling (Rolle: Johann Radmann)

As he went through the chaotic records of 600,000 individuals stored at the U.S. Army Document Center, Radmann discovered that thousands of former Nazis had returned to their pre-war lives with no problems. He was aided by the testimony of Auschwitz survivors, his endearing and principled secretary Schmittchen (Hansi Jochmann), and a fellow prosecutor, who initially ridiculed Johann about the project.

One of the film’s most powerful moments is when Auschwitz survivors entered Radmann’s office, one after the other, to provide testimony. There are no words in the sequence— just a series of headshots of people with resolute, determined expressions and horror stories to recount. Schmittchen cannot contain her grief and shock.

In the beginning, Johann was exclusively focused on capturing Dr. Josef Mengele at the expense of lesser targets. After discovering that his girl friend Marlene’s father was a Nazi, Johann began to wonder about his own now-deceased father whom he had idolized and still idealizes. One of his superiors asked him if it was his goal to show that every young man in Germany was to wonder whether his father was a murderer.

“Labyrinth of Lies” very successfully dramatizes the events leading up to hearings that helped illuminate the truth about the death camps and had a strong impact in particular on a younger generation of Germans.

While the political aspects of the movie work well but unfortunately the more personal stuff doesn’t. The movie would have been so much more effective without it. Fehling does a fine job and he gives a brilliant performance. The rest of the cast is good as well.

“Eight Questions of Faith: Biblical Challenges That Guide and Ground Our Lives” by Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein— Life’s Biggest Questions

eight questions of faith

Goldstein, Rabbi Niles Elliot. “Eight Questions of Faith: Biblical Challenges That Guide and Ground Our Lives”, The Jewish Publication Society, 2015.

Life’s Biggest Questions

Amos Lassen

I feel certain that the moment we enter an organized religion we are met with questions and that we have many questions. For me, that is one of the beauties of being Jewish—I spend a lot of time pondering and even less time arriving at answers but the time I spend thinking is my most valuable time of day. What makes it all so interesting is that, as the Torah says, there is nothing new beneath the sun. The same questions have been asked for generations and that just goes to show that there are no easy answers. These same questions that I ask have been asked by kings and prophets, leaders and followers, sinners and holy men.

Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein boils these down to eight questions that are found in the Bible and they explore the human journey from birth to death. These questions often deal with “existential experiences and themes as mortality, responsibility, forbidden knowledge, sin, and the afterlife”. Rabbi Goldstein brings together texts from the Bible, commentaries, philosophy, psychology, and literature and his own life experiences and then writes about them as meditation. While what he writes is somewhat universal, it is also very personal as we read it and apply it to our own lives.

Reading the introduction I learned about Goldstein’s three questions that brought him to write this book and I was stuck by how much they resemble my own. His first question deals with his marriage and while I am not married, I can understand that question to be about my relationship with others and whether these are honest relationships that will stand the test of time. The second question has to do with my relationship with my synagogue or temple. I love it but it indeed gets on my nerves once in a while. I have returned to the faith after years of living a secular life while helping to build the state of Israel. It took my return to America and the experience of Hurricane Katrina to make me understand that I needed to return to my religion and therefore to my temple. Goldstein was in the big city but I was in Little Rock, Arkansas having been evacuated there after the storm. I became active but as a reform Jew not as the Orthodox Jew that I had been raised. I rarely missed a Sabbath service but the temple seemed so unreal and there were so few that took it seriously. Moving to Boston changed everything. I was in a community of intellectuals who loved their faith and who participated regularly…or so I thought. Soon I realized that even with the few regulars, sincerity was missing. I hated those who pretended to be good Jews when in reality they had come to be seen by others. I tried to move on but I was tied to the temple and soon my worries passed and the sincerity that I looked for seemed to return. The third question answered itself when I moved from Arkansas to Massachusetts. Intellectually now I am somewhat satisfied but I know that these questions will return. With them will undoubtedly come the eight questions of faith that Goldstein gives us here and they are so simple and so much the kind of questions that we all have that there are no surprises:

“How do we live when we know we are going to die?”

“Why is humility so important?”

“Are we responsible for other people?”

“What is the purpose of human life?”

“Is some knowledge too dangerous to possess?

“Has God abandoned us?”
“How do we return when we have lost our way?”

“What happens to us after we die?”

Now that I am older and aging every day, I realize that the road home is a lot shorter than the road that brought me here and these questions always seem to be part of me. I search for the answers to them knowing that I will never find them yet I also know that many other people are asking the same questions. Rabbi Goldstein does not have the answers just as none of us do. But just as we are not alone asking these questions, neither are we alone looking for answers. The bible will not give us answers either but it will give us a sense of belonging and fellowship. Believe me when I say that it can be fun to try to find the answers. One of the things I do everyday is study Torah in Hebrew for at least an hour. It keeps my knowledge of the language fresh and satisfies my intellectual curiosity. With fifty years of graduate and undergraduate instruction under my belt, I find I still am intellectually curious.

Rabbi Goldstein tells us that we are on a journey and these questions become signposts on the way. They are the basis of human inquiry and the conversations and thoughts that come with them are far from easy. But Rabbi Goldstein is a good traveling companion and knowing he is there with me makes this journey less arduous. I do not need answers to be uplifted—I need to know that I am in good company and with the good rabbi and all of you I can tell that it is a good journey. The rabbi is here to give insights from his personal experiences be they philosophical or religious; it only matters that they are provocative and thoughtful. We are here to listen and contribute.

I sat down with this book this afternoon and I was determined to read it through without stopping and I did. I also realize that tomorrow I will have to reread it and stop and think about all that it says— to me that is what makes a book important and worth having in my library.

“Strong As Death Is Love: The Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, and Daniel, A Translation with Commentary” by Robert Alter— The Poetry of Translation

strong as death

Alter, Robert. “Strong As Death Is Love: The Song of Songs, Ruth, Esther, Jonah, and Daniel, A Translation with Commentary”, W.W. Norton, 2015.

The Poetry of Translation

Amos Lassen

I have loved Robert Alter’s translation and commentary of “The Five Books of Moses” and so I naturally looked forward to reading his translations of the rest of the Hebrew bible. It is fair to say that he does not disappoint and I found this volume containing The Song of Songs; Ruth; Esther; Jonah; and Daniel to be sublime in that it provides readers with a range of pleasures and beauties not usually associated with the Bible. These later Biblical books are innovative, entertaining literary works in which unlike other biblical writings women take center stage often. The Song of Songs is a celebration of young love, frankly sensuous, with no reference to God or covenant (directly but certainly open to interpretation). In it are some of the most beautiful love poems of the ancient world. In the story of Queen Esther’s we see that shrewd triumph is also a secular entertainment, with clear traces of farce and sly sexual comedy. The character of Ruth embodies those “virtues of loyalty, love, and charity in a harmonious world” and in the book of Daniel we see that mystery and enigma replace harmony in the feverish dreams of the main character. We hear of the strangeness of the apocalypse that is later repeated in the Christian bible in the Book of Revelations and what we read carries over to the modern world in the lyrics of many songs, Jonah’s story of a giant fish who swallows and imprisons him inside of him for three days was by the command of God and it ends with questions not answered so that we can think about human limitations.

Alter’s translation and commentary are wonderful reads in that he adds his own special touch. We do not have to agree with what he says in order to enjoy what he writes and I can tell you that I do not always agree. However, I can deny Alter’s skill and his way with language. As he translates he explains things in such a way that we not only enjoy the text more but also actively learn while reading. We must keep in mind that every translation is a commentary. Alter’s literary themes are clear and he tells us about them early on in his preface.

This is a literary approach to the Bible that is excellent for study. Even for traditionalists, Alter provides a way to help us understand the literary characteristics of the different books of the Bible.

“Beyond Clueless” by Linas Alsenas— Marty, Jimmy, Felix and the Gang

beyond clueless

Alsenas, Linas. “Beyond Clueless”, Amulet Books, 2015.

Marty, Jimmy, Felix and the Gang

Amos Lassen

When Marty Sullivan’s parents send her to a private school, she feels that her life has ended. The school is Catholic and all-girls and she has to leave her best friend, Jimmy, who comes out of the closet, finds a boyfriend in Derek and a whole new group of friends. Marty feels left out and lonely but then she lands a part in the school musical, “Into the Woods”, and Jimmy and his new gang are in it, too. Things begin to look a but better when Marty develops a crush on Felix who is in the play with her. It is even better when she thinks that Felix seems to like her too. But the drama is not just it the play—it is just beginning in real life. What we see here is an honest look at the cluelessness of early high schoolers and a comedy of errors about modern adolescence.

Marty and Felix kiss in private and keep their relationship very secret. But Marty senses that there is something wrong, and Felix seems to be moving too quickly for her. Marty’s isn’t able to see the truth about Felix and some of the others in her circle.

There are some very funny moments but I had a problem with the stereotypes presented in the book. By this I mean the supposed new trend of females requiring gay best friends in order to complete themselves.

This is a quick read but the characters just seem to baa a bit shallow and not well developed. I liked the diversity in the story but it was all too predictable. Marty came across as way too gullible and it was easy enough to see early on that Felix was using her. Yet she turned out to be strong enough to deal with it. I am so glad that young adult fiction has begun tacking real ideas and situations and that kids today do not have to be as sheltered as my generation was.