Friday, April 29, 2011

Last Chance to Shrug

Attention objectivists, Randians, and lovers of cinema. This could be your final weekend to see Atlas Shrugged: Part I on the big screen. So hop to it! It's a thrilling tale of steel production and ungrateful relatives. Oh, don't believe me? Check out this clip, featuring the greatest dramatic tension this side of Dog Day Afternoon:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Handmaid's Tale

In the not-too-distant future, America has become a theocracy. The right wing has taken over and purged itself of the more unsavory elements, like blacks and homosexuals, sending them concentration camps. Women are removed from the workplace, all hints of feminism excised, and prayer made mandatory.

Years of abusing the environment has taken its toll, and poisoned water has left 99% of the population sterile. Fertile women are rounded up and sent to live as "handmaids" for the elite. Taking a cue from Genesis 30, these women are used as baby mills, providing offspring for the ruling class.

Caught trying to escape across the Canadian border, Kate (Natasha Richardson) is forced into servitude. She is sent to work for the Commander and his jealous wife (Faye Dunaway). Kate must provide them an heir, and soon. Unfortunately the Commander just might be sterile. Of course, in this patriarchal society, men aren't tested and failure to produce is always the handmaid's fault. By that same logic, rape victims are guilty of enticing men to assault them, and women caught fornicating are hanged.

All of this has the potential to make an interesting movie. The source novel is highly respected and themes are, perhaps more so now than when the film was made, timely enough to be almost prescient. But the film has two serious problems.

First off, Natasha Richardson is so uncharismatic, her performance so wooden, it hobbles whatever drama the film may have inspired.

The second problem is director Schlöndorff. He never manages to lift this production up higher than that of a Lifetime movie of the week. There is no sense that he is doing anything more than aiming the camera and letting his actors deliver their lines. A dystopian future requires a director to impart a certain feeling of catastrophe, of gritty desperation, that the world really has gone to hell. And a director certainly needs to pull performances from his actors that reflect the emotional gravity of the situation.

But the film remains, throughout, nothing more than a dull interpretation of its source material. That's a shame too, as this had the potential to be a great movie.

Directed by Volker Schlöndorff • R • 1990 • 109 minutes

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Going Galt

Yesterday I reported some very sad news about the free markets: the big screen adaptation of Ayn Rand's steaming pile of objectivist dogshit AKA Atlas Shrugged Part 1 is tanking at the box office. Sad face.

Now there's more bad news for Randians everywhere. First-time film producer John Aglialoro is taking his ball and going home going "on strike."

"I'm having deep second thoughts on why I should do Part 2," Aglialoro said. (Very sad face.)


"Why should I put up all of that money if the critics are coming in like lemmings?" Aglialoro said. "I'll make my money back and I'll make a profit, but do I wanna go and do two? Maybe I just wanna see my grandkids and go on strike."

Aglialoro is also pulling back on plans to have Atlas Shrugged Part 1 expand to 1000 theaters this weekend. As he noted, however, Aglialoro believes he'll recoup the $20M he flushed into this project, once TV, DVD and other ancillary rights are taken into account. So expect to see this at your local Redbox soon.

Oh, hey, speaking of Redbox: those machines do not come with a free pass to park in fire lanes when you use them. So stop that, okay? Ayn Rand didn't approve of parking in fire lanes. (It's in one of her books even.)

If you can't wait for Redbox, which probably won't even carry it because Liberal Conspiracy, there is always this (Plus, 68% off!) which stars Gary Cooper as a guy who likes to blow up waterfalls or something. I'm not sure, I've never seen it. But Gary Cooper, so, you know: manliness.

So... To recap: John Aglialoro, going Galt; parking in fire lanes, not good; Gary Cooper, manly.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Market Has Spoken

And the market has said "Thanks, but no thanks" to Atlas Shrugged: Part 1.

In its second week of release, the critically panned adaptation of Ayn Rand's objectivist wank fantasy expanded from 300 to 465 theaters. And saw a significant drop in per-screen averages. Opening weekend brought in an average of $5600 per screen, for about $1.5M in receipts. That, I am told, is respectable for an indie film.

This weekend saw $1900 per screen, landing in 18th place. (Down from 14th last week.) That's a drop of over 60%, while in about 50% more theaters. Whoops!

Now, Randians everywhere are going Battlefield Earth, blaming the liberal media for trying to torpedo the film. Because liberal film critics "can't stand free markets." Which doesn't really make any sense. I mean, I'm not Joe Hollywood, so maybe I'm wrong, but don't those liberal critics rely on that free market for their livelihood? Or are Roger Ebert and Peter Travers hoping that someday all movie admission will be free? I guess they'd still need film critics if all movies were free. I dunno. Personally I don't think anyone should have to pay to see Fast and Furious Five, because it looks like garbage. That's not really the same thing, is it?

No word yet on how many theaters Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 will be in next week, if any. I suspect though, that this will be in Red Box sooner rather than later. And while we're on the subject, just because you're using Red Box (and you know who you are) does not give you license to park in the fucking fire lane at the grocery store! Knock it off!

Also, failure to recoup its $15M budget puts the sequels in jeopardy. Maybe Glenn Beck can have some sort of pledge drive. Oh, wait, he's been cancelled. Sorry. p.s. Pledge drives are Socialist. Nevermind.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains

The Stains are a punk band fronted by Corrine Burns (Diane Lane). She's angry, she loud, she speaks her mind.

A chance encounter at a local club lands the band an opening spot on a nationwide tour with an English punk act (lead by Ray Winstone and backed by Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex pistols, and Paul Simenon of the Clash), and some aging American crotch rockers (featuring Fee Waybill of the Tubes in a spot-on performance as a has-been singer.)

The tour is something of a fiasco, but a fortuitous thing happens: The bass player for the rock act ODs, forcing the band to leave the tour. Corrine uses this opportunity to push herself into the limelight, portraying herself as the dead man's unrequited, and gaining plenty of free publicity in the process.

Corrine's brash, independent demeanor earns her a following of like-minded young girls. It's not before long that she's managed to woo Billy (the singer of the punk act, the aforementioned Winstone) steal his best song and his manager, and position herself as rising star.

Things don't go quite as planned, and the tenuous career Corrine's built comes crashing down.

The film as a little slow starting, but once it picks up, is actually rather enjoyable. The music ain't half bad and Winstone is, as usual, a likeable enough chap. And of course, Jones, Cook, and Simenon add some authenticity to the film.

The film's major failings are twofold: First, there's the somewhat unbelievable rise and fall of the Stains. They go from complete unknowns to stars to has-beens in about a week. Secondly: the obviously tacked-on happy ending. I guess the Stains actually went from unknowns to stars to has-beens and back to stars again. Which, I guess means the film's message is it's okay to be a completely unscrupulous shit, you'll win out in the end, karma be damned.

Directed by Lou Adler • R • 1981 • 87 minutes

RIP Phoebe Snow

Singer-songwriter Phoebe Snow, died today from complications from a recent brain hemorrhage. She was 58.

RIP Poly Styrene

Marion Elliott-Said, better known as Poly Styrene, lead singer of X-Ray Spex, has died Monday. Ms. Styrene had been battling cancer. She was 53.

Monday, April 25, 2011


Hot Butter: "Popcorn"


I'm not sure how Leprechaun ended up with five sequels. The leprechaun isn't scary, or even likeable in any way. He's just ugly and annoying. But he has magical powers which, apparently, allow him to jump through plot holes with ease.

The plot is thin. Very thin. An old man has stolen a leprechaun's gold, and now he wants it back. The thing is, that isn't a horrible idea for a movie, but it isn't exactly a good one either. The leprechaun (Warwick Davis) is trapped in a crate in the old man's basement, but when new tenants move into the house, the monster is freed.

Lots of stupidity follows. The leprechaun terrorizes a bunch of people, most of whom have nothing to do with his gold. There is even an extended sequence where the leprechaun pursues a cop through the woods before finally snapping his neck. It's all sort of pointless, and the shot of the cop eating a donut is, I think, supposed to be funny.

The leprechaun also kills a shop owner by pogo sticking him to death. It's one of many ridiculous scenes in the film. The shop owner ends up bloody-faced, despite only being pogoed on the chest. And really, if a maniacal leprechaun was bouncing his way to you on a pogo stick (which I am not convinced is actually fatal), wouldn't you maybe try to move?

The film is full of dumb, dumb moments like this.

For example, at one point, the hero trips and falls into a bear trap, rendering him gimpy. Why was there a bear trap in the middle of the backyard? And how did he just happen to fall directly into it? And considering the house had been deserted for ten years, why had no one else stumbled into it before? And if it was deserted, why was the lawn mowed? And where did that shotgun come from?

But the most head-scratchingly moronic moment comes near the end. Tori (Jennifer Aniston) and company escape the house, and get to the car outside. Then Tori jumps in and speeds away. The plan is for her to go across town, alone, find out the secret to killing the leprechaun, and then return to her three friends at the house. What the fuck?

Seriously: What the fuck? Why didn't they all get in the car and just leave?


Okay, aside from being one of the stupidest things ever committed to celluloid, the film does, at least, have a few good things going for it. The leprechaun makeup is excellent throughout. And he's on screen often. This isn't one of those films that hides the monster until the final reel. No, this one is loaded with Warwick Davis, so if you're a fan, it's either this or an ewok movie. And Jennifer Aniston proves she can act shallow and selfish without David Schwimmer around, though, I think it would've been nice to see him fall into that bear trap.

Directed by Mark Jones • R • 1993 • 92 minutes

Hijackin' Love

My iPod shuffled up this awesomeness on the way to work today:

"Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass" by Buck Owens
"Hijackin' Love" by Johnnie Taylor
"Barbarism Begins At Home" by The Smiths
"Self Respect" by Redd Kross
"Feelin' Alright" by The Electronic Concept Orchestra
"Everyday Sunshine" by Fishbone
"Got Glint?" by The Chemical Brothers
"The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" by The Pogues
"Anarchy Burger (Hold the Government)" by The Vandals
"Jive Talkin'" by The Bee Gees

Excellent drive in, needless to say.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Because Bunnies Are Evil

Night of the Lepus trailer, 1972.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1951)

What if Raiders of the Lost Ark were a 1950s film serial?

The Crow: Wicked Prayer

If you're familiar with the Crow mythology, you won't find much new here, but maybe that’s the point. The films are all essentially the same: a young fellow and his girl are killed by Very Bad Men. But the Crow, an emissary between the land of the living and the land of the dead, brings the murdered man back so he can have his revenge.

The only real difference in these films is the locale and the cast of characters. In this case, the film is set on an Indian reservation in Utah, and our hero is named Jimmy Cuervo (cuervo being Spanish for crow, by the way). There is unrest on the reservation as the tribal leaders attempt to shut down the local mine and replace it with a casino.

Right into the middle of this steps Luc Crash (David Boreanaz), an escaped convict and satanic cult leader who is attempting to rile up the Indians, or the miners, or both, for some unknown reason. This will, eventually, help him become the Antichrist, or Satan, depending on the scene. Along with him are his henchmen War, Famine, and Pestilence, the latter being a Japanese cowboy with a Texas drawl (fun with stereotypes!)

After murdering Cuervo (Edward Furlong) and his girl, a ritual that involves the removal of her eyes and his heart, the henchmen and their moll scamper around the town causing trouble. It's all part of their intricate plan for revenge, and will somehow lead to Luc morphing into Satan. I'm not sure how one becomes Satan, and what becomes of the other Satan when that happens, but it doesn't much matter. The Crow has brought Cuervo back from the dead, and it's up to him to pick off the henchmen one by one, foiling their grand scheme.

As I said, there is nothing really new here that wasn't already covered in the first film (never mind its two sequels). The one exception being the idea of the Crow as spirit guide for the undead is presented as a bit of Native American lore. Some of the elements recycled from the first film aren't properly explained, and anyone not already familiar with the Crow mythos might be a tad confused by them. On the other hand, what appeal does a film like this have to a non-fan of the series? Probably very little.

David Boreanaz's performance adds up to little more than a reprise of the badboy persona of Angel from Buffy, though he doesn't seem to be having quite as much fun with it here. Edward Furlong proves once again he’s a fairly mediocre actor, and his career will likely continue on its downward trajectory.

Even to fans of the series, there is little to recommend about this one. To be fair, it's better than the previous two movies, but that isn't really saying much.

Directed by Lance Mungia • R • 2005 • 99 minutes

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Disco Fever

1978 Disco Fever trailer, starring Casey Kasem.

Tuff Turf

Oh, how I love 80s cinema. It's all joie de vivre dipped in nihilism, like a Reese's peanut butter cup of self-absorbed doom. As if we were just one Duran Duran song away from total nuclear annihilation. That's if you didn't get AIDS first. The best you could do is throw on some parachute pants and crank up some Thompson Twins and dance the night away.

Not that any of this has anything to do with Tuff Turf, mind you. Sure, the film is dark in its own way, the fashions are steeped in a lot of day-glo, and there is even a dance number at a new wave club. But the story itself is as old as dirt.

James Spader plays twenty-five year old high school student and new kid in town Morgan Hiller. Morgan is special; he has not one but two backstories: First, he was recently expelled from yet another expensive prep school. He's a bright kid, but something of a bad seed. Secondly, his father recently lost his business and has been forced to move the family from Connecticut to Reseda, California and take a job as a taxi driver to make ends meet. (I suppose technically that could be considered Morgan's father's backstory, but...)

Three things happen on Morgan's first day at his new school. 1.) He befriends Jimmy, a goofy kid who also happens to play drums for the Jim Carroll Band. 2.) He runs afoul of Nick and his gang of hooligans. 3.) He falls for Nick's girl, a vixen with crimped hair named Frankie.

Morgan tries to woo Frankie, first by staring penetratingly at her as the goons destroy his bike. That doesn't exactly work, but it does shake her just a bit. Later, at a Jim Carroll Band show in a warehouse, Morgan continues his seduction by forcing himself on her during the film's obligatory dance sequence. There was a time when every teen romance movie required a dance sequence. Nowadays teen romance movies require someone to hump a pie. Are we better or worse off here?

Anyway, through some convoluted plot points I'm not going to bother to explain, Morgan ends up behind the wheel of Nick's car. When he pulls up in front the local burger joint, Frankie and her best pal Ronnie (what is up with all the girls with the mannish names in this anyway?) jump inside, not knowing Nick isn't driving. Ronnie immediately begins to make out with Jimmy in the back seat, making her only slightly more impulsive than her friend. But Frankie, oh, she's pissed and wants out. Morgan refuses to pull over. So, I guess first being dry humped at a new wave concert then abducted against your will is what gets the girls hot back in Connecticut.

Unfortunately for us, this doesn't work on Frankie. But Morgan has one more trick up his sleeve. I say unfortunately because this leads us to one of those other fads from the 80s: mediocre actors singing mediocre love songs. But let me take a couple steps back. Morgan knows something the other kids don't. Every Friday is Teen Day at your average country club. (As far as I could tell this was the only reason Morgan had the used-to-be-a-rich-kid backstory. Now, if I could just figure why his dad is a cabbie.) He bluffs his way in and they feast on lobster and pâté and mingle oh so inelegantly with the rich kids. And, as I mentioned, this leads to the mediocre love song. Morgan sneaks his was up to the piano and serenades Frankie with a rather crappy tune titled "We Walk The Night." It's kind of like "She's Like The Wind" but worse, if you can fathom that.

Somehow, this works, and Frankie finally accepts an invitation to Morgan's for dinner.

Needless to say, Nick is pissed, and after dinner he abducts her. Always the victim, she is. They spend the night aimlessly driving around town, or so it seems. But Nick's been looking for something, or someone... And then he finds it: Morgan's dad! So, that's why he was a cabbie! Nick plugs a couple bullets into the old man.

So Nick calls Morgan and tells him to meet him at the warehouse for some sort of final showdown. Or something. I'm not sure what the idea was, but nonetheless Morgan shows up for some sort of final showdown. Or something. Morgan and Jimmy and some Dobermans (seriously) duke it out with Nick and his gang. Frankie is rescued, Jimmy is shot in the leg, and well, I don't know what happens to the rest of the cast. I'm not sure if dad died or not from his wounds, or if Nick did either for that matter. The film suddenly jumps to Morgan and Frankie at a Jack Mack and the Heart Attack concert, so I guess everything was fine.

If only Jack Mack and the Heart Attack really could make everything better. But hey, I guess we don't have to worry about the Russians nuking us anymore, so Jack Mack must have been doing something right.

Really, James Spader is too old to be believable as a high school student. Same with the rest of the cast. The story bounces from not-very-interesting to really-kind-of-dumb, and never manages to engage us. It certainly isn't saying anything new. It's probably not aiming for that, so maybe that's fine. Spader is always competent as the cynical, know-it-all type who's maybe a bit weary of it all under the surface. Even when he's playing a high school kid.

Directed by Fritz Kiersch • R • 1984 • 110 minutes

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Brady Bunch Hour

This clip from The Brady Bunch Hour featuring a medley of songs performed by The Bradys, Rick Dees, and the cast of What's Happening!!

Bonus: My commentary as I watched this morning. (Spoilers!):

I dig Mike's groovy outfit!

‎"Turn the Beat Around"? Oh, wow. This is awful. And wonderful.

Fake Jan!

Nice orange pants, Peter.

What is this song Carol is singing? "Those Were the Days"? Whatever.

Pink afro wigs!

Is that Cousin Oliver in the chicken outfit?

Oh, it's a duck, not a chicken. Whoops!

And why does Rick Dees look like Tony Orlando?


Dwayne can't dance. Sad face.

And being next to Rerun ain't doing him any favors either.

K.C. and the entire Sunshine Band are spinning in their graves right now.

Wow. Just wow. That was unbelievable.

Red Dawn

The Reagan years. Remember them? Overflowing with day-glo pants and Cold War paranoia. And man, what paranoia it was. Seriously, as a child I feared being nuked back to the Stone Age more than just about anything. And Hollywood was no help, churning out films like The Day After, or this thing: An NRA-fueled Brat-pack masturbation fantasy.

If you aren't familiar with the plot, allow me to sum it up. Soviets invade a small Colorado town, and a small group of high schoolers take up arms as a guerilla brigade to defeat them. The premise is, of course, completely absurd, but it might have been fun if the film didn't take itself so goddamned seriously. No, this isn't entertainment, it's a dire warning.

The dialogue is ridiculous throughout, delivered without a hint of self-consciousness or irony, all punctuated with an overly dramatic score. Take this choice bit of scripting, as Lea Thompson notes in the most maudlin tone imaginable "Things are different now." No shit, the Cubans have seized Colorado.

Or, after a particularly bloody battle Charlie Sheen ponders "It's kind of strange, isn't it? How the mountains pay us no attention at all. You laugh or you cry... The wind just keeps on blowing." Again, this schlock might be fun if everyone wasn't being so sincere.

The characters themselves are all pretty one dimensional, with only two having any sort of development. First off is Robert, played by C. Thomas Howell, who gradually goes from whiny momma's boy to bloodthirsty killer. And there's Col. Bella, disenchanted Cuban commander witnessing his beloved socialist revolution fade to a brutal fascist dictatorship.

The film is otherwise filled with Brat Packers and character actors (including Harry Dean Stanton, Ben Johnson, Ron O'Neal, Lane Smith, with Pepe Serna once again proving he'll appear in just about anything) with no more personality than their costumes dictate.

But really, what characterization does any of them beyond that? Commies are bad, everyone knows this. The Russians, Cubans, Nicaraguans understand nothing but brutality. And the American boys and girls, well, they're just as sweet as apple pie and Coca-Cola.

But how do these good little kids manage to defeat the well-trained armies of Mother Russia? I dunno, pure moxie, I guess. The film ticks off the months from September to February, chronicling defeat after defeat of invading forces at the hands of the high school football team and their prom dates. The kid's numbers do thin, little by little, until there are only two surviving, and yet the pair still somehow manages to invade the enemy encampment and lay it to waste.

I think the message here is train your kids well, as their marksmanship skills may be all that stands between them and a Sergei Eisenstein film fest.

It's ridiculous movie on all levels, which can be entertaining if done right. Unfortunately the film is so jingoistic and self-important, it's almost as if it's parodying itself, while completely unaware it's doing so. It sounds fun. It's not.

Directed by John Milius • PG-13 • 1984 • 114 minutes

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gary Busey Endorses Donald Trump

And we are through the looking glass:

It's A Fact!

Top five epic** pop songs:

1. Nina Simone "Sinnerman" 10:22

2. The Wild Swans "Sea Of Tranquility" 10:53

3. The Velvet Underground "Sister Ray" 17:27

4. Jeff Buckley: "Kanga-Roo" 14:09

5. Orbital "Out There Somewhere?" 24:08

Honorable mention: The Posies "Flood Of Sunshine" 8:22

** To qualify, songs must be at least 9:33 in length. This is known as the Jungleland Rule.

Injustice at Every Turn

Every day, transgender and gender non-conforming people are marginalized because of their gender identity and expression. In The Life Media features the personal stories of Ja'briel and Michelle, two trans women whose experiences highlight the findings of the first comprehensive transgender discrimination study completed by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force


Welcome to hell. Welcome to the Atlasphere: An Ayn Rand dating site.

"The Atlasphere's mission is to bring together admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, from around the globe, to network both personally and professionally. For many people, Ayn Rand's novels are more than just 'a good read'; they inspire us to become better human beings."

Or, as Rosie Gray puts it: "Rand's 'Objectivism,' a philosophy of 'rational self-interest,' has been enormously influential. From what I understand, it has something to do with being an asshole."

So, assholes, you have your own networking and dating site now. (Look out, DList!) Congrats, Atlasphere!

Introducing Boo Berry


Hannibal Lecter didn't enter the cinematic lexicon with a scream, but with something of a whimper. Lecter first appeared in Michael Mann's Manhunter in 1986. The film was a commercial failure, recouping less than half its cost on its initial release.

Your average viewer may be unaware that 2002's Silence of the Lambs prequel Red Dragon had been filmed 15 years earlier without Anthony Hopkins in the role that made him a household name. In the twenty-plus years since Silence of the Lambs Hopkins's portrayal of Lector has seen him voted the number one greatest villain of all time by the AFI. This while slipping into self parody, thanks to colossal overexposure and a string of increasingly ridiculous sequels.

In Manhunter Lecter is played by Brian Cox. It is, needless to say, an entirely different performance than what Hopkins delivered. Ask me to choose between the two, and I'll tell you Brian Cox is a finer actor, hands down. Lecter in this film is a decidedly small role, and played with subtlety and finesse. In Red Dragon Hopkins has more scenes, serving up the hammy portrayal of the filmdom's favourite cannibal, channeling what seems to be Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, not a brutal serial killer.

Cox's Lector is menacing for an entirely different set of reasons. His stark white cell is a huge contrast to spooky, dark confines of the later films. (That starkness too manages to set the character apart from the rest of the film, his barrier of harsh, bright white, isolating him from the rest of the film's oversaturated colors.) Cox's performance is one of calm nonchalance. Where Hopkins never lets you forgot he's a monster, Cox wants you to forget; that's his strength. That's what makes his performance all the greater. Hopkins is cruel, calculating, menacing. Cox takes the far more risky approach as an actor, keeping the killer just below the surface. His mannered, if slightly askew, performance might let you forget what a monster he really is.

It's only when he directs the film's villain to Agent Graham's home and commands him to slaughter the whole family that he reveals his true nature.

But even that is a small part of the plot. The story is about Graham and his pursuit of a murderer dubbed the Tooth Fairy. Graham is brought out of retirement by the FBI in the hopes he can find the Tooth Fairy. Graham is, as the cliché goes, the best at this sort of thing. He has a rather uncanny ability to get inside the heads of serial killers which gives him a decided edge. Unfortunately being in the mind of a serial killer isn't a pleasant place to be. The implication is, getting inside Lecter's brain so fried Grahams own psyche he damn near became a serial killer himself. Only by quitting the FBI and checking into the loony bin was Graham able to save himself.

The film is as much about Graham's walk on the proverbial tightrope as it is his pursuit of the killer. In fact, the Tooth Fairy himself doesn't even appear on screen until well after the film's halfway point. It's another risky move that pays off, and when the Tooth Fairy is finally revealed, he's pathetic lump, not a nightmare visage.

Of course, this being a Michael Mann film and this also being 1986 the film is awash in skinny neckties, sea-foam green color-schemes and a healthy dose of Shriekback tunes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, mind you. (I loved Shriekback as a kid and there are more than enough embarrassing photos hidden up in my mother's attic somewhere of me wearing pastel shirts.) There is just no mistaking that this film was made at the height of Mann's success with Miami Vice.

Does this detract from the film? Not really. It dates it, certainly. But the film is strong enough to overcome the design, and features outstanding performance across the board. Of course, there's Cox, proving brilliantly why he's a better actor than Hopkins, and William Peterson shows how he ended up TV's favourite cop. There's no missing Tom Noonan's performance as the Tooth Fairy, but look for Mann regulars Dennis Farina, and, in perhaps my personal favourite performance, Stephen Lang as a super-sleazy tabloid reporter.

Directed by Michael Mann • R • 1986 • 119 minutes

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mother Sky

Can: "Mother Sky"

Hannibal Rising

There was a point while watching Batman Begins that I said to myself, "I didn't know Batman trained as a ninja." The very same thing happened while I watched Hannibal Rising, a film very similar in that it attempts to explore the early years of an established and well-known character.

Unfortunately Hannibal Rising is a rather pedestrian film that does little to shed any light on the Hannibal Lecter mythos, and frankly, leaves more questions than it does answers.

After a CGI Stukka kills their parents, young Hannibal and Mischa Lecter are taken captive by a small band of Lithuanian collaborators. The unforgiving Baltic winter forces the group to cannibalism and little Mischa ends up on the stove.

Years later Hannibal escapes to France, where he trains in the Japanese martial arts with his aunt and eventually accepts a scholarship to medical school. But Hannibal is haunted by nightmares of his sister and her murder. The only way to make things right is to get revenge on her killers.

This isn't a dark, psychological thriller, but a cheap Death Wish knock-off. The plot here is nothing that hasn't been covered in half a dozen Steven Seagal films. Hannibal does, a couple times, eat his victims' flesh, though no real explanation as to why is really offered. Perhaps the audience is supposed to accept that it's just what Hannibal the Cannibal does.

By the end of the film Hannibal's aunt is taken prisoner by the Lithuanians and it's up to him to rescue her, making this just like 9000 other movies ever made. Of course, Hannibal ultimately saves her and gets his revenge, chewing off Rhys Ifans's face and destroying his white-slavery operation (don't ask) before escaping into the night.

If it sounds silly, that’s because it is.

Hannibal Rising is a not very good film, an unnecessary prequel that asks us to sympathize with a character that is, in the context of the rest of the series, intended to be wholly unsympathetic. Turning the villain into a hero only works if the character is able to redeem his or herself, which is clearly not possible in a prequel. There are three Star Wars films that prove that.

Directed by Peter Webber • R • 2007 • 117 minutes

Friday, April 15, 2011

Opening Day!

Good news, libertarians! Your long national nightmare is finally over: Objectivist wank fantasy Atlas Shrugged (Part 1) opens in theaters today!

"They are not getting my metal!" It's a story about trains and steel and white people and the vast deserts of Wisconsin. Of course, there's stuff about the evils of taxation and unionization and how the world doesn't appreciate people who work hard creating steel that is just too good or something. I'm unclear, really, having never read anything by Ayn Rand. I have read some George Will and he says trains are Socialist, so I think that makes sense.

Anyway, every teabagger with an SUV will be at the movies this weekend, and I am projecting an opening weekend box office of $10 Billion (USD). Which is awesome and guarantees all three movies in the series will hit the big screen. I am especially looking forward to Atlas Shrugged Part 3: The Musical. No, I am not joking. "You know, part three could be a musical... like a Les Miserables kind of a musical," says John Aglialoro, the film's producer. Also, I am very serious about looking forward to that. I hope Elton John writes the songs. I'll totally buy the soundtrack album. Okay, I'd illegally download it. But you should buy it. Support the artist!

So, who's going? You're all going, right? Because how else will we be able to discuss it on Monday. We're discussing it on Monday. Ayn Rand Movie Open Thread! I'm taking the bus to the theater, because irony. It's a free bus too! (Dagny: "Boo!")

Also opening today:

Rio. (Animated.) Features the voice of Jesse Eisenberg as the titular capybara, and Michael Cena as his wise-cracking best pal and tamarin. (Wacky accents!) It's a story of wonder and discovery and the importance of family. Features seven new songs by Phil Collins!

Scream 4. (Or SCRE4M; typography!) It's about Courteney Cox collecting a paycheck. Good for her! Free markets! Probably features no trains.

The Conspirator. (Limited release.) And "art film" about a woman; set in the 1860s; should have some trains.

See ya in the popcorn line, kids!


Convoy is a film that's part of a larger trend, one that started back in 1976 when Robbie Benson starred in Ode to Billy Joe, a movie based on a half-assed, yet exceedingly popular song. The trend continued with Harper Valley P.T.A. (and Convoy) a few years later, and ran on into the 80s with Copacobana (starring Barry Manilow), perhaps reaching its nadir in 1988 with Born in East L.A., from a parody tune based on Springsteen's ubiquitous late-eighties rocker.

Of course, the most successful of these was probably The Gambler and its four (four!) sequels, starring Kenny Rogers. As you've no doubt gathered, most of these films are based on "story songs." These are tunes that eschew poetry and lyricism in favor of an easy to follow narrative.

It's a style prevalent in country music in particular, though not exclusive to the genre. Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman" became a dark and brooding film by Sean Penn in the nineties. And, inexplicably, someone turned Sheb Wooly's "Purple People Eater" into a movie thirty years after it topped the charts. That this film starred Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shelly Winters probably says all you need to know about it.

In 1975 "Convoy" was a number one hit for C.W. McCall, a pseudonym for Bill Fries and Chip Davis. Davis would later go in to release approximately 650 tacky Moog-filled/Wendy Carlos-inspired Christmas albums under the name Mannheim Steamroller, thereby ruining Christmas music forever. On a certain level that doesn't bother me too much, but Davis seems particularly smug in his achievement, which I can't stomach.

Convoy is far better than any film with this pedigree has any right to be. This is due in large part to director Sam Peckinpah. I'm not sure what kind of deal with the devil led him to helming Convoy, but it is the only thing the film has going for it. Peckinpah's trademark blend of dusty cinematography, grizzled actors and slow motion violence redeems the ridiculous plot and hokey dialogue.

The story, such as it is, involves a trucker named Rubber Duck (Kris Kristofferson) and his bitter feud with a crooked sheriff named Dirty Lyle (Ernest Borgnine). Things get out of hand when a fight erupts in a diner between the two and Duck and his fellow truckers have to make a getaway to the Arizona/New Mexico border.

Duck's convoy of trucks grows, as he becomes some sort of folk hero. But when Spider Mike gets pinched by Sherrif Alvarez down in Trucker's Hell, it's up to the Duck to bust him out. In a way, this is a lot like The Wild Bunch, except with diesels instead of cowboys. That, and this one pretty much sucks.

I am going to assume Sam Peckinpah was seriously broke and took this job solely for the money. Either that or his drinking had so alienated him from the Hollywood establishment that this was the only work he could get. It's sad to see a true auteur reduced to this dreck.

Directed by Sam Peckinpah • PG • 1978 • 106 minutes

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Things aren't right in the old Ashby house.

Poor, distraught Eleanor has been seeing her brother Tony around lately. That wouldn't be a very big deal if Tony hadn't died eight years ago. So, then, is Eleanor insane? Is Tony just a figment of her broken psyche? Or, perhaps, is Tony a ghost, come back to haunt her?

Ghosts usually don't come sniffing around for their inheritances.

Tony (Alexander Davion) certainly seems to be flesh and blood, but he hasn’t convinced all the Ashbys he’s really who he says he is. Sure, Eleanor is falling in love with him, but her sanity is questionable. Obviously. Younger brother Simon (Oliver Reed), on the other hand, doesn't believe Tony at all. "Why not?" Tony asks. "Just call it a hunch," he says glibly.

But how is Simon so sure? Tony died in an apparent suicide, his body never found. And if Tony is a fraud, how does he know so much about the family's past? Simon is certain of another thing, with Tony back there's less inheritance to go around. He’ll need to get rid of Tony, Eleanor too while he's at it, if he wants to keep himself in brandy and fast cars.

When Tony meets a menacing choirboy in the hall late one night, things start to unravel. Bloodied and rattled, Tony isn't sure who is playing who now, and he sure as hell doesn't know what the fuck that kid in the mask is doing there trying to stab people.

This isn't your typical Hammer production. There are no monsters, no shrieking virgins, hardly any blood at all. Instead we have a good, solid thriller, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.

Directed by Freddie Francis • Unrated • 1963 • 80 minutes

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Corks, Federal Hill. Fine steaks. (See below.)

Erica Limón Beats the Odds

Tombs of the Blind Dead

Whatever you do, don't go to Portugal. The place is crawling with zombies. It's like Haiti, but these guys have swords.

When old friends Virginia and Betty run into each other at the public pool, Virginia's "boyfriend" Roger (César Burner) invites the two along for a weekend at a seaside resort. I'm no advice columnist, but when the guy you're trying to put the make on invites another girl along on your romantic getaway, you may want to think twice about going. It's not too long before Betty (Lone Fleming) and Roger's flirting gets to poor Virginia and she decides to jump ship, so to speak.

Okay, Mussolini never ran Portugal. If he had, maybe this film would have ended differently. But the trains out of Lisbon run slow. Very slow. Slow, like the little trains at Traveltown in Griffith Park. Slow enough for Virginia to safely hop off to her doom.

And to her doom she goes. Well, to Berzano actually, but it's the same thing really. "She doesn't know what she's in for," mumbles the conductor as he watches Virginia (María Elena Arpón) stroll away from the train towards the deserted monastery. No, she doesn't know what she's in for, but it seems everyone else in the neighborhood is. Too bad the locals keep the important info from the tourists.

Berzano is home to a murderous order of ancient Templars, once practitioners of the black arts, now immortal, and thanks to some crows, blind. That doesn't stop them from hunting. No, rotting flesh notwithstanding, they've developed their hearing quite keenly.

And the sound of Virginia's transistor radio awakens them from their slumber.

After much mayhem, after interference from the local cops, and after Virginia's corpse disappears from the morgue, Roger and Betty camp out at Berzano, to investigate. And they're not alone. They've brought along a local smuggler and his coquettish girlfriend, I guess for backup. The two prove a liability in short order.

There's a rape (these are supposed to be the good guys?), a catfight, lots and lots of name calling. And that's all before the Templars return. Now you'd think the Templars would be easy to escape from: They're blind, and they're dead, and they're on horseback. And if you scream too much, and everybody does, they'll find you no matter how dark it is.

Tombs of the Blind Dead is a fun film, mostly, in that early Seventies Euro-horror kind of way. If you can get past the rape scene. (There is, I think, a whole book waiting to be written on the subject of rape in horror films and how that relates to sexism and misogyny in Western culture. But alas, that will have to be written by someone much smarter than myself.) The Blind Dead are pretty neat. Seriously, they're zombies. With swords. How badass is that? And there is some interesting things happening in the morgue, and the set design is pretty cool. Check the scene with all the mannequins. What the hell is that all about? Who cares? They're spooky as all hell, and that's what matters.

Directed by Amando de Ossorio • Unrated • 1971 • 102 minutes

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pink Narcissus

James Bidgood's Pink Narcissus, 1971. 65 mins.

Charlie Crist Sincerely Apologizes To David Byrne


Anyone Got $2,000,000 They Can Loan* Me?

Last summer, amid the crashing economy, the Bethesda Theatre went belly up. The art deco movie house had recently undergone a $12 million renovation, but was unable to make it into the black. So the owners defaulted on the mortgage and the building was shuttered. An auction in June failed to attract any bidders, and the bank bought the venue back for a measly two million.

So, if you've $2 million you want to give me, I'm going to head down to BB&T and purchase a nicely refurbished, 700-seat theater (with concession stand!) and start Dr. Deeky's International Film Series. First up: "Cinema of the Weimar Republic"!

We'd open with Robert Wiene's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, because: duh. And obviously, there'd be a showing of F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu. Maybe the festival could close with latest restoration of Metropolis. If I could swing live accompaniment by a Weimar-era styled cabaret, that would be cool too. Or, (though less historically accurate (on many levels)) maybe a steampunk Theremin band.

A personal favourite of mine, Wegener's The Golem: How He Came Into the World would be included too, as would The Man Who Laughs starring Conrad Veidt. And Pandora's Box with Louise Brooks, too. Anyway, that's all just off the top of my head.

And somewhere in this, I'll figure out a way to get Nutriaman up on the screen. Probably after nunsploitation week.

Anyone with $2,000,000 please contact me ASAP.

* By which I mean "give."

Patterson Park

Bullhead frieze in a wall at Patterson Park. I dunno. Weird and unexplained. Like the Bermuda Triangle, but less ominous.

The Return of the Living Dead

According to Frank, the guy who runs the stockroom at Uneeda Medical Supply, Night of the Living Dead was based on a true story. Apparently, up in Pittsburgh somewhere, a chemical spill at a hospital caused a bunch of corpses down in the morgue to twitch and jump around, as if alive. But the government cleaned up the mess and hushed it all up. So how does Frank know about it then, asks new hire Freddy. In a "typical Army fuck up" the corpses were shipped to Uneeda by mistake and are sitting down in the basement right now.

While showing Freddy the canisters, Frank somehow manages to crack one open, spraying them both with a thick cloud of toxic zombie gas. The two stumble upstairs to find the gas has reanimated not only the split dogs ("for veterinarian schools") but the cadaver in the freezer. This doesn't sit well with Burt, Uneeda's owner. Taking the lead from the original film, Frank is pretty sure if they can destroy the cadaver's brain, that'll put the cadaver back down.

Unfortunately, George Romero fudged on some of the facts, and braining a zombie doesn't have any effect.

Meanwhile, across the street... Freddy's friends wait patiently for him to get off work so they can go party. In fact, they get a jump start on things by breaking into a conveniently located cemetery; convenient for the plot, if a bit unlikely to be centered in an industrial area. These kids, with clever names like Scuz, Suicide, Spider, and Tina, while away the evening watching their friend Trash give an impromptu strip show atop a crypt. (She spends the remainder of the movie nude, by the way, because, well, duh.)

Okay, so, braining the cadaver and even decapitating it does nothing. The thing still runs around like... well... like a cadaver with its head cut off. Chopping it up does no good either and all they can think to do is destroy it completely. Good thing Burt's friend Ernie is a mortician right across the street and has a crematorium they can use.

But when the smoke from the oven mixes with the falling rain, all hell breaks loose: the cemetery is soaked and suddenly corpses are rising from mud.

Now it's Scuz, Suicide, Burt, Ernie, and the rest of the cast against an army of zombies. And these aren't your ordinary shambling, brainless flesh eaters. No, these zombies are spry, intelligent, capable of strategy. Plus there's the sheer volume of their numbers. Paramedics, cops, anyone who gets near the cemetery is quickly pulled asunder by the mob of undead.

Scuz, Burt, et al, have barricaded themselves in the mortuary, but the mass of undead outside has left them with no escape route. Worse yet, it's becoming apparent Freddy and Frank may be dead themselves, if not keenly aware of it yet. So, even if they can stave off the hungry corpses outside, there's a growing problem inside to deal with.

This film is a true classic of the zombie genre. It's smartly directed, there's blood and guts, a great soundtrack (Stacy Q song notwithstanding). And it manages to poke fun at itself and the genre without being disrespectful to its origins. Worth seeing again and again.

Directed by Dan O'Bannon • R • 1985 • 91 minutes

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Have No Idea

What's going on here?

Maryland Senate Fails To Pass Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act

The Maryland Senate failed to pass the Gender Identity Anti-Discrimination Act today, which would have prohibited discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and credit. In a move similar to last month's marriage equality vote, the Senate today voted to recommit the bill to committee. The House previously passed the bill in an 86-52 vote.

Transgender Marylanders experienced poverty (making under $10,000 per year) nearly three times the national average; 12 percent reported experiencing homelessness; 17 percent said they were denied a home/apartment due to being transgender; and 22 percent reported having to find temporary spaces to stay in an attempt to avoid homelessness.

Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued this statement:

"The Maryland Senate today turned its back on an opportunity to recognize and affirm our common humanity. As the startling statistics and heart-wrenching personal stories found in our national survey on transgender discrimination show, this bill would literally save lives. Income from employment is critical to paying for shelter, food, health care — critical to quality of life and even to survival. No one should fear being jobless, homeless and going hungry because of discrimination. Without legal protections, transgender people are made particularly vulnerable to this neglect, bias and abuse. Despite this setback, we are confident that Maryland will eventually join the many states that currently extend the essential security and nondiscrimination protections to transgender people. We will continue to stand with Equality Maryland until equality is achieved."

The Free State isn't feeling so free at the moment.

Check this out too, if you've a moment.

Fell Family Cemetery

Fell Family Cemetery, Fells Point. Baltimore's smallest graveyard?

Hold Onto Your Floppy Disks, Nerdz!

The Commodore 64 is coming back! You heard me right, the C-64 is back in production. And it's no April Fool's joke. (I don't think?) It's even better now, with more than double the 64kb of RAM that the original had! Woot! Other upgrades include USB ports, Intel Atom D525 1.8Gz Dual Core CPU, a DVD drive (unless you upgrade to the Blu-Ray™ option), and up to 1TB of storage space.

Preorders are now being taken at the manufacturer's website with anticipated delivery between mid-May and early June. Pricing ranges between $250 and $900, depending on options.

Let's just hope it also comes with an Atari-style joystick.

The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy

This movie may be one of a kind. The authenticity of the facts here have been sworn to before a notary public. It isn't often a producer is willing to go out on a limb like this for a movie. Not that you'd be able to prove any facts to the contrary, the film being about as incomprehensible as they come.

I'll explain it as best I can. A disgraced psychiatrist, Dr. Eduardo Almadan (Ramón Gay), attempts to prove his past-life regression theories by hypnotizing his wife. He discovers she was once an Aztec princess named Xochi. Bad thing for Xochi she was having a secret affair with Popoca, a lowly warrior. The two are discovered and punished dearly: Popoca is buried alive while Xochi has her heart cut out upon the sacred altar.

After she's slaughtered, Xochi is adorned with a sacred breastplate and bracelet. But this is no ordinary jewelry, it contains code that tells where the Aztecs buried their treasure. And Popoca has been cursed to guard it for all eternity.

I don't know what it is about horror movies where some evil shithead is cursed with immortality. It's a stupid idea, all things considered. It only makes the monster harder to kill, which I guess is good if one wants a sequel. Not so good for for our heroes who have to battle an unstoppable beast.

Intent on proving his theories correct Dr. Almadan treks off to Mexico to find the altar and retrieve the breastplate. He figures it'll be a cinch since his wife has the inside scoop on its location thanks to his past-life regression therapy. And actually, it is a cinch, all things considered, except stealing the breastplate awakens Popoca (Ángel Di Stefani), who’s looking rather bedraggled now.

Are you following all this? Because it starts to get a little complicated now. See, all these goings are being spied upon by Dr. Krupp, AKA The Bat, an evil genius of sorts. He wants the Aztec treasure for himself, and figures if he can steal the breastplate it'll be all his. Back in Los Angeles, Krupp (Luis Aceves Castañeda) and his henchmen kidnap the Almadan family and force the good doctor to translate the breastplate.

But before The Bat succeeds in his dastardly plot, Popoca shows up and makes hay of the gang. He then scurries off into the darkness once more, taking the sacred relic with him.

This is all told in flashback, with Almadan narrating the events as we see them. Well, sort of. A lot of time, what he describes isn't exactly what happens on screen. It makes me wonder if the American distributor paid any attention to the original script, or if they just threw together a whole new movie based around the existing footage. Certainly the Spanish language version can't be this hard to follow. Can it? Anyway, we learn this all took place five years ago.

All that time, no one has heard a peep from Popoca, and The Bat has been on the lam. Or so everyone thought. It turns out The Bat has been developing an indestructible robot who will be able to wrest away the mummy's treasure. And well... yeah, this does eventually lead to a battle between Popoca and the robot, justifying the title of the film.

In the meantime, there are more kidnappings, detective work, trips to the cemetery, hypnosis, and another half dozen plot points crammed into this movie. Like a piñata on your nephew's sixth birthday, this one is jam packed with stale Mexican treats. And like that piñata you'd like to beat the crap out of this movie if you could.

Directed by Rafael Portillo and Manuel San Fernando • Unrated • 1958 • 65 minutes

Friday, April 08, 2011

When Will We Be Paid

The Staple Singers "When Will We Be Paid"

Fire Escape

Kind of makes my building look like the set of Serpico.

For Sale

An email i received this morning, that appears to be, maybe, selling something. Clothes, I think? Or tanning services. Maybe tanning. Maybe.

The Haunted Palace

The women of Arkham have been behaving strangely. In the wee hours of the night, they wander to Joseph Curwen’s house. They slink home hours later, dazed, with no memory of their visits. The men of the village don't know what's going, but they're sure it's the work of the devil. So they storm his house and drag Curwen (Vincent Price) out to his doom. But before he’s burned at the stake, he curses Arkham, vowing he’ll someday return and exact his revenge.

110 years later Charles Dexter Ward (also played by Price) arrives to lay claim to his uncle's house. The townsfolk are none too happy to see him: they’re convinced Ward is the reincarnation of Curwen. Things around Arkham haven’t been so pleasant since Curwen's time. The birth defect rate has gone through the roof. Everyone in town suffers some sort of affliction, or is kin to someone who does.

The town is crawling with the mutated offspring of Curwen's visitors. Some born without eyes, or mouths, they shamble through the foggy streets, a reminder of Curwen’s evil deeds. The only person willing to befriend Ward and his wife is Dr. Willett, but he doesn’t put much stock in the whispered rumors about the Necronomicon, Cthulhu, or the weird experiments Curwen performed.

That is until he notices a change in Ward. His kindly and gentle manner slowly gives way to violent, wild-eyed demeanor, one like that of old Curwen himself. Is Ward really losing himself to Curwen’s spirit, or merely suffering delusions brought on by the mood of Arkham’s citizens, and the strange new house?

This movie certainly owes much to the Hammer films of the same era. Arkham is awash in thick fog, and the Curwen Mansion is a Gothic beauty rivaling anything Christopher Lee ever slept in. But Corman throws a definite American spin on the genre, casting Vincent Price and Lon Chaney Jr. in the leads, and basing the story on stateside author H.P. Lovecraft's book. This may look like London, but it's pure Rhode Island; the English may have Dracula but we have Yog-Sothoth.

Directed by Roger Corman • Unrated • 1963 • 87 minutes

Thursday, April 07, 2011

What The Hell?!

Being Boiled

The Human League: "Being Boiled"

The Smiths Mojo Cover

April 2011, issue #209

The Call of Cthulhu

A lot of love went into this film. You can tell that The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, who produced the film, really cared about their subject matter. The Call of Cthulhu is an interesting and well-made film, and that is something of a surprise considering the very fanboy nature of the project.

The producers have managed to overcome the obvious shortcomings of the budget in creative ways, especially with a story that bounces from Rhode Island, to St. Louis to New Orleans, and Greenland, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, the South Pacific and back again.

As the director states, this isn't a dialogue driven story, it is largely a tale of mood, of the very idea of horror. The decision to shoot this as a silent film, in black and white, as it would have been done at the time the original story was published certainly serves the director well.

When a young man working to settle his uncle's estate discovers a mysterious lockbox among his belongings, what starts out as mere curiosity becomes a full blown obsession. The notebooks inside detail the uncle’s dream studies with a deranged young man, and a detective's investigation of a devilish cult. Our storyteller reads through them all, including hundreds of newspaper clippings of bizarre occurrences around the globe.

The film flashes back and shows us, first, the meetings between the uncle and his client, including his dreams of the nightmarish city of R'lyeh. We also see Detective Legrasse's raid on a murderous cult deep in the Louisiana bayou. Both Vignettes are put together quite effectively.

The highlight of the film comes with the final vignette, a recount of the crew of the Alert and her investigation of an uncharted island in the South Pacific. Their visit to R'lyeh is disastrous, as the sailors unwittingly stumble into Cthulhu’s home and wake him. Only one survives the encounter with the great beast.

The movie suffers greatest from being a bit too short. Just when things start to really get moving, the story comes to an abrupt end. And while the decision to shoot on digital video may have made sense economically, it falls a bit short in faithfully reproducing the look of a 20s-era production.

But otherwise, this film is worth seeing. The score is excellent, the acting top notch, and, so I am told, this is one the most faithful Lovecraft adaptations out there.

Directed by Andrew Leman • Unrated • 2005 • 47 minutes

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Machine Civilization

Genki Sudo: "Machine Civilization"

Glenn Beck To Leave Fox News

Since I am an expert on all things Glenn Beck (straight scoop: he likes piña coladas and walks in the rain!) it is with a heavy heart I bring some sad, sad news: Glenn Beck is leaving Fox News. Oh, whoops! I lied! No, he's really leaving Fox, the lie is it is sad, sad news. I mean, someone will be sad, just no one I know.

Not even his advertisers. Not that he had any other than gold hoarders and the Slap Chop™ guy. Okay, maybe the Slap Chop™ guy will be a little sad. I bet he's the sensitive type who likes to cuddle. Or not. Nevermind. No one wants to talk about Slap Chop™ guy. Not even me!

In a statement issued by Beck's company GRA (Garbage Radio Arts) faithful viewers were reassured that Fox and Beck will continue to work together, kind of like Laverne & Shirley, but full of lies and hatred instead. Which, thinking about it, isn't all that different from Laverne & Shirley at all. Poor Laverne, drink some milk and Pepsi, it'll be okay.

There has been some speculation that Beck is leaving to form his own network, like the Oprah Winfrey Network, but full of lies and hatred. (What? It was a good joke.) I'm not sure how that would work, since Beck seems to have trouble attracting advertisers. Plus he can't be on 24 hours a day. (Can he?) I guess he'd hire a bunch of other racist white guys to have their own shows too? Is Stephen Baldwin busy? (He's not busy. (Duh.))

Bye-bye, Beck. I'm sure, though, soon enough you'll be back with another book espousing your dogshit political philosophy and another TV show full of lies and garbage and chalkboards. See ya then! Or not.

Two Things I Learned on Facebook Today

First, one (1) girl messaged me. So, woo hoo for me! All the sexy ladies like the Deeky. (No doy.)

Secondly, I too can work in counter terrorism and cyber security, with a Homeland Security Degree. Also, I get to be the Bat-Man if I go to Homeland Security College. Because, that's the Batmobile, right? Looks like the Batmobile to me. Did Bruce Wayne get his Bat-Man degree from Homeland Security College? Is that accredited? It's accredited. Definitely accredited. Also, financial aid is availble, which is good. Do you think Dick Grayson got a Pell Grant? And will Pell Grants be suspended if the government shuts down?

And what the fuck is going on with this country when we've allowed a bunch of teabagging assholes to shut down the government? That doesn't seem right. Maybe the Bat-Man can go throw his boomerang at them until they get their shit together. Also, this was sooo not supposed to be a post about politics, but about education.

And girls.

So, nevermind.

p.s. This is my favourite Batmobile, just in case you were wondering. You were wondering.

Yo Moficky

We all do dumb things as kids, right? This is a whoops moment if there ever was one. But the internet is forever. So, again: Whoops! Also, children, please don't tell us about your penises, okay? Thanks. Especially on the internet. It's just not safe. Also, go to Health class and learn how sex works before throwing down some rhymes about it.


iPod Facts!

Songs on my iPod that begin with the word sex:

"Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" by Ian Dury & The Blockheads
"Sex (I'm A...)" by Berlin
"Sex And Dying In High Society" by X
"Sex And the Church" by David Bowie
"Sex And Violence" by Scissor Sisters
"Sex Bomb" by Lords of Acid
"Sex Bomb Boogie" by Sigue Sigue Sputnik
"Sex Born Poison" by Air
"Sex Boy" by The Germs
"Sex Crime" by Eurythmics
"Sex Dwarf" by Soft Cell
"Sex Farm" by Spinal Tap
"Sex Kick" by Transvision Vamp
"Sex Machine" by The Flying Lizards
"Sex Me, Baby" by Die Ärzte
"Sex On the Flag" by KMFDM
"Sex On Wheelz" by My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult
"Sex With Sun Ra" by Coil
"Sex with the Devil" by Ann Magnuson
"Sexbomb" by Tom Jones
"Sexplosion" by My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult
"Sextown USA" by Sparks
"Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye
"The Sexual Politics of Meat" by Consolidated
"Sexuality" by Billy Bragg
"Sexualized" by Relaxed Muscle
"Sexx Laws" by Beck
"Sexy Boy" by Air
"Sexy Boy" by Holly Knight
"Sexy Dancer" by Prince
"Sexy Ladies" by Justin Timberlake
"Sexy Motherfucker" by Prince
"Sexy Sadie" by The Beatles
"Sexy Sultry" by J.G. Thirlwell
"Sexy Terrorist" by F. Machine
"SexyBack" by Justin Timberlake


Caravaggio by Derek Jarman, 1986. 89 mins.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?

"Does this turn your stomach?" Reverend Estus W. Pirkle asks. Yes, it does, but not for the reason you think it does. What Pirkle is referring to is the bloody, bullet-riddled corpses of children strewn across the altar of a church.

Yep, there's nothing quite like a sermon with body count. And boy, does this film have one. Christians are mowed down left and right, like pious bowling pins under Communism's ten-pound balls.

You see, America has a problem. Communists will invade the U.S. within the next 24 months unless there is a Great Revival in this country. Why? If I understood Pirkle correctly, God only has time to save one country from the Red Menace, and if America doesn't get its shit together God is heading to Brazil.

And when the Commies arrive, brother, are you in trouble. They'll take over in just 15 minutes. That's how well they've thought out this plan. And once they’re here, things will be dire. Everyone will work sixteen-hour days, 363 days a year, under armed guard. That is, if you're not being tortured (e.g. having salt shoved down your throat, forced to stare at blank walls, sitting on uncushioned benches) or murdered. And chances are you'll be murdered. The invading hordes plan to kill 67 million Americans.

This film isn't much more than Pirkle's infamous sermon intercut with small vignettes dramatizing the events he describes. This may sound boring, and in a more capable director's hands, it might have been. But not so with Ron Ormond behind the lens, he of Mesa of Lost Women and The Monster and the Stripper fame.

As we all know, Commies want nothing more than to kill Christians. And this is exactly what they'll do when they invade. So Ormond pours on the carnage. Scene after scene of Christians being gunned down, tortured, and brutalized fills the screen. (I tell ya, if more sermons were this gruesome, I’d attend church regularly.) Ormond pays special care to the suffering of children. If you prefer kids young, dead, and Christian, this may be the movie for you.

Of course, if you just prefer them deaf, you're in the right place too. The film's oft mentioned highlight being the young boy who is punished for listening to a bible lesson. A gruff and badly-accented Commie thug rams bamboo in the lad's ears, puncturing them so he may never hear a sermon again. The child's reaction is to violently puke and sulk dejectedly, blood dripping from the bamboo piercing his head.

But the topper has to be boy who refuses blaspheme. He's given a choice: dig his heel into a picture of Jesus or get beheaded. The good Christian boy does the right thing. His head is flung into a field by a swarthy, sweaty Communist.

Footmen is scarevangelism at its finest. It holds almost zero relevance today, except as a curious look at Christian paranoia during the Cold War. Still, it’s great fun, in its own twisted way.

Directed by Ron Ormond • Unrated • 1972 • 50 minutes

The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm

The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm: "Jump Children"

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were the first integrated all women's band in the United States. They have been labeled "the most prominent and probably best female aggregation of the Big Band era."

The group made two national tours. As a racially mixed band, their performances defied the Jim Crow laws of the South. Despite being stars, when the band traveled in the South they ate and slept on their bus because segregation laws prevented them from using restaurants and hotels.

Sadly, most of their recordings are now lost. Some surviving tracks are available here.

New Music!

Tuesday: New release day! What's out on April 5th, 2011:

Ha Ha Tonka: Death of a Decade
These guys are from Missouri (hence the name) and are pretty cool. So, yay, not a complete disaster this week. Then again:

Piano Tribute To Avril Lavigne
You're fucking kidding me, right?

Kingdom Come: Rendered Waters
Because Led Zeppelin are still broken up. They're still broken up, right? Tell me they're still broken up.

Ray Davies: See My Friends
If anyone can get away with putting together a tribute album to themselves, it's Ray Davies. Features Alex Chilton (yay!) and Metallica (barf!).

David McCallum: Music: A Bit More of Me
Huh. Really? Cool. I like David McCallum. This is a re-issue of a light classical pop album from 1966.

Freddie Cruger: Cookie Dough
That's just a stupid name to record under. Tell me I am wrong. You can't. I'm not.

Daft Punk: Tron: Legacy Reconfigured
Yeah, okay, if you were gonna have someone make a Tron album, it'd have to be Daft Punk, right? So that makes sense.

Jonathan Winters: Final Approach
Not to be cruel or anything, but I honestly had no idea he was still alive. Good for him! That being said, I am not sure I care to hear a new comedy album from him.

The Smithereens: 2011
This will sound exactly like you imagine it will.

Sure, Why Not?!

Because, I guess, we live in a culture so obsessed with celebrity and the mind-numbingly silly minutia of famous people's lives, there exist photographs of one of TV's most celebrated actors picking up dog shit. Is this something we want? (We all know it is not something we need.) A person can't even take his dog for a walk without some paparazzo snapping his every movement. Or his dog's movement, as the case may be. Go to hell, America.

Monday, April 04, 2011

This Almost Makes Up For My Lomo Being Stolen In Prague

I've downloaded an app called FxCamera for my Android. I don't own an iPhone because who needs an iPhone? I sure don't. Though, I guess they have better apps? I dunno. Hipstamatic isn't available for Android because I don't know why. Anyway, FxCamera is pretty cool, I like it better than Retro Camera. It has a better interface and takes better photos. Like the above.

It's not perfect. I'd like to be able to turn of the fake ass Polaroid white border. A zoom feature would be nice, as would the ability to use the frontside camera. Are you listening, FxCamera guys? Or girls? Could be girls! (Girl Power!)


The White City Rippers: "Misirlou"


George Tatum is nuts. Actually he used to be nuts, according to his doctors. But he's been cured. They've given him pills and therapy and let him know that even though he still has bad dreams, real bad dreams, he's free to live and work among the citizens of New York City.

The dreams themselves are always the same: A young boy watches two adults engage in some light S&M before he pounces on them with an axe. The dream is what got George locked up in the first place. His attempt to re-enact it ended up committing a psycho-sexual murder in Brooklyn.

But George is cured now. The doctor's have released him, found him a job, and told him to check in every once in a while. Needless to say, things don't go quite as planned.

George immediately skips town, heads to Florida and begins stalking a preteen boy named C.J. (What is it with lunatics and Florida, anyway?) C.J. is a mischievous little prankster, the kind of boy who likes to fake his own death and otherwise torment his babysitter. Ah, youth.

C.J. notices George hanging around wherever he goes, but when he tries to tell his mother, she scoffs. C.J.'s constant tall tales and gruesome jokes have ruined his credibility. And when C.J.'s best friend ends up dead at the hands of George everyone assumes C.J. is the culprit.

All the while, George busies himself murdering women, though he seems conflicted about it. He tearfully apologizes while slitting their throats, but still pauses to lick the blood from his fingers. The murders are violent and bloody, and entirely phony looking. And they're all inter-cut with flashes from the dream that haunts him.

Meanwhile, the MDs have finally figured out the significance of the nightmare tormenting George. (Maybe something they should have done before letting him loose.) As it turns out, it's no dream at all. When George was a boy, he discovered Dad getting it on with a slightly kinky girlfriend. Dad was tied up, the woman straddling him and blissfully slapping his face. None too happy about what he witnessed, George grabbed an axe and chopped the two to bits. How the doctors did not know this is beyond me.

This all leads to the final showdown between George and C.J. Interestingly, nine-year-old C.J. is much better armed than George, who doesn't fare too well. As George lies mortally wounded, the nightmare that began it all, his original murder, finally plays out in his mind. We see blow by blow how little George and his big axe did them in.

There follows one surprising twist and we're left to wonder what exactly will become of C.J.

Directed by Romano Scavolini • R • 1981 • 97 minutes

Not-Quite Headline of the Day

Misleading headline and lede of the day: "Bel Ami Producers Worried About Alienating Audiences: Robert Pattinson admits that the film is still in editing because studio honchos are worried about alienating audiences used to his goody-two-shoes persona in the Twilight franchise." Oof!

Heathers Trailer

A Heathers trailer (which was apparently released somewhere under the title Lethal Attraction, zuh?) for Renee and her Christian-Slater-as-Jack-Nicholson fetish.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Exclusive Video From the Senate Floor

Courtesy of C-SPAN:

Class of 1984

This film was made in 1981, but is titled Class of 1984. I think this means one of two things. Either, A, this film is set in the future, or B, the kids in this movie are sophomores. Setting a movie just three years in the future is kind of stupid. On the other hand, there is no way these "kids" are young enough to have three more years of school ahead of them.

Or maybe director Mark L. Lester was trying to warn us, the way Orwell was trying to warn us with his novel 1984. Well, if I've learned one thing, if we've all learned one thing, it's that Timothy Van Patten is just not believable as a villain. Let that be a warning to movie producers everywhere.

Mr. Norris (Perry King, he of Riptide fame) is the newest teacher at Toronto's Abraham Lincoln High. I had no idea they were such a fan of Abe up in Canada, but good for them. On his first day he runs afoul of Peter (Van Patten) and his band of hooligans. Now, they're not a scary bunch really, the gang is made up of a couple swishy guys including The Big Gay Antichrist from Fear No Evil, a lumbering oaf, and girl with absolutely no characterization. (That is unless we're counting pink hair as characterization.)

Peter runs the school's drug trade and prostitution rackets. All Norris wants to do is get his band class to the city finals. Or something. I was never sure what they were doing, but it seemed important to the class.

Unfortunately Norris and Peter's gang are on a collision course. Or something. The story is pretty standard issue 80s exploitation fare (or any decade for that matter). Norris and the gang have a series of run-ins, their drug dealing thinning Norris' band one woodwind at a time. Norris's attempts to have the kids expelled goes nowhere, as there are no witnesses to any of their crimes.

But Norris is clever enough to know what is really going on. Or something. Things escalate when the gang knifes a ruddy-faced little Michael J. Fox. But what really pisses Norris off is when they blow up Roddy McDowall. Though, that isn't entirely the gang's fault. McDowell had one of those cars that randomly flip over and burst into flames without provocation.

The night of the big concert, Peter and company attack Norris's wife. (If you've ever seen a horror movie from that era, you know what what entails.) They then kidnap her and take her to the roof of the auditorium. If Norris wants her back he'll have to fight his way through the gang. From then on it's a game of cat and mouse, with Norris being the cat and the gang being a bunch of really stupid mice. Or something.

Norris does in one of the guys on the table saw in the shop class: First he saws off the kid's arm then splays him out on the spinning blade. The only thing better would have been if Norris had used the dismembered arm to beat him a bit first. Norris sets another on fire with a blow torch in bodyshop (Flame on, Antichrist!) The other two get smooshed under a falling car, but not after Norris beats one about the head with a crowbar first.

It's mano-a-mano up on the roof as Norris tries to rescue his wife. But it's just bloody revenge at this point. The big concert is ruined, or maybe not, depending on your point of view, as Norris pushes Peter through the skylight, splashing him down in the middle of the auditorium. I guess the 1812 Overture never had such an exciting finale. Or something.

Class of 1984 is a dumb movie, from the title on down to the ridiculous villains to the postscript that informs us no charges were brought against Norris because there were "no witnesses."

Directed by Mark L. Lester • R • 1981 • 98 minutes

Sing, Abby, Sing!

Pauley Perrette, better known as über-goth lab geek Abby Sciuto on NCIS (check your local listings!), is back in the recording studio. This May she will release "Fire in Your Eyes," an R&B-pop duet with B. Taylor, whoever that is.

Previously, Perrette's band Stop Making Friends appeared on NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack. Series co-star Cote de Pablo (assassin and idiom-challenged Mossad agent Ziva David) also appeared on the album. Yay for crossovers! (Boo for Crossing Over with John Edward. Just because.)

The single is set to debut on iTunes on May 3rd. So get your iPods out.

And your dog collars.