Monday, February 4, 2013

Romanzo Criminale aka Crime Novel: Italy finally responds to Godfather

Romanzo Criminale: Anyone that enjoys thick, cast heavy crime dramas bordering on soap operas that occasionally leaves you a bit confused as to who that guy was and who do they work for again sort of fare will find that this film is worth giving almost three hours of an evening too.
While I do feel there is a lot of subtext and history I didn't get through the bare bones subtitles and lack of Italy in my academic background (and no, 20 hours of Assassin's Creed 2 didn't help), my enjoyment of this film is sufficient enough for me to recommend it.
Not necessarily as boisterous as the bakers dozen Young and Dangerous films from Hong Kong, or regal and decade spanning epic as the Godfather trilogy, or as intensive a character portrait as Once Upon a Time in Americathis film does manage to strum many of the same chords while also standing on the shoulders of Italian political and social history through the 70's & 80's, much of that new to me making the ride all the richer. I couldn't get to Wikipedia quickly enough afterward to decipher some key points of the film's narrative.
And if you're like me and you like a sprawling crime epic with some fantastical twists, I recommend heading to Chinatown and tracking down the Japanese film trilogy adaptation of a manga of the same name called 20th Century Boys (it's delightful) and sprang to mind a few times during Romanzo Criminale, perhaps just from the way the adult dramas sit so squarely on the alliances and commitments made between lost boy children long ago.

When the Bad Guy Wins: Arrivederci Amore, Ciao

Rented Arrivederci Amore, Ciao aka "The Goodbye Kiss" and while there were many cinematographic elements I rather liked, clever gimmicks as they might've been, at the end of this I felt empty and a little cold. Perhaps because there were enough hooks in the narrative to successfully get me to empathize with the anti-hero protagonist Giorgio who appeared intermittently remorseful about his terrorist bombing gone bad.
However any hints towards remorse or compassion were really just there to demonstrate how utterly ruthless, self-centered, and boundlessly determined the protagonist actually is.
At times I couldn't help but feel the film deliberately echoed aspects of Brian DePalma's version of Scarface, if only to afford another mirror to help reflect the shape of the protagonist's character. In Scarface, Tony has a moral thread that contributes, or is a catalyst event to trigger, his ultimate downfall. He won't kill women or children, ok, so he's not a bad guy, other than his drug use, his ability to fuck over friends, and his incestuous preoccupation with his admittedly hot sister. Arrivederci's "hero" Giorgio makes a point of describing through inner monologue voice-over how much he enjoys overpowering a woman, both fiscally and physically. To indicate a failing for the hero, both films depict the protagonists effectively executing their so called best friends. Tony shoots his right hand man in the gut because Manny scored with Tony's sister. Never mind that Tony wouldn't even be rich & powerful if Manny hadn't wrangled those early deals. Ditto for Giorgio, though we don't appreciate that it's his best pal being executed until later. At least Tony had the balls to face Manny when he pulled the trigger. Giorgio gets a shave and hair cut from his best mate, then shoots the poor SOB through the back of the head when the guy turns away to fetch them each a fresh round of South American alligator beer.
The film puts the protagonist Giorgio through a few prat falls as well, which helps to further invoke feelings of empathy, or at least pity. They're not unlike the beat downs the hero of RocknRolla gets along the way, fallibility for the hero that makes him human, just like you or me. Same tricks that endear Indiana Jones or Officer John McClane over your run of the mill sorts of action heroes with general movie going audiences. Giorgio's coerced and scarred by a corrupt cop. He's beaten down by Armenian thugs, and you know how those cats love beating down poor ex-revolutionaries. He's tormented by a jealous and insecure fiance (if he were gay instead of a killer she could have been described as a "beard"). He's shot at by disgruntled mercenaries and fugitives. He's trapped under a half ton of man meat in a tiny food court bathroom.
The film tries to tell you that Giorgio's not a bad guy, he's just a victim of circumstance, right? A mislead idealist maybe. He tried to warn the cop about to stumble on their bomb before it blew. He stopped the snipers from killing the bystander bag lady. He split the proceeds of the robbery 50 / 50 with the corrupt cop. He bought the fiance a stellar flat with a double door fridge and a hot tub in the john. He had sweet accommodations for the otherwise doomed lobsters in his restaurant.
And then the film plays on this, reverses on audience expectation like a snake whipping back to bite the handler, through some really powerful and revealing beats. Giorgio whacked his best friend and compatriot to get a passport to France. He headbutts a dancing coke whore for questioning his unsanctioned cut from her paycheck. He lets a pair of mercenaries stroll away giggling merrily with a screaming Spanish female hostage, presumably to skin and eat her after stuffing her first.
He kills the former prison cellmate that declared Giorgio a one true friend so as not to have to share the upcoming robbery take. He kills an innocent bank guard for no real reason, then picks the dead man's pockets for a wallet and ogles a photograph that he pulls from it we don't get to see and are left to imagine. Could be the dead guard's wife, or newborn baby, or pet chinchilla, we'll never know, except that the thought of this dead man never returning to that which had been loved and / or would be missed by gave Giorgio a bit of an evident stiffy, as did his slow and deliberate disposal of his victims into the bog.
He watches, lies too, showers, dresses up, then stands and watches some more  as a woman he has poisoned suffers for hours and dies. A woman he could have continued to manipulate, could have poisoned then later rescued like some sadist prince charming, could have simply let go of and not bothered again like most break ups go. No, because in case you haven't picked up on this after two hours of filmic portrayal, ol' Giorgio is somewhat of a sociopath of an American Psycho magnitude. And at the dead girl's funeral, he maintains a facade of remorse and regret while his voice over inner monologue describes his victory. And as the camera pans across the dead woman's best friends and parents, you can see that they all know he's to blame, yet are powerless to do anything. In the tone of his narration, you can here how their seething glares only heighten his elation as he brags that his wreath is the largest on the grave site, his triumphant glow evident in his voice yet hidden from view as he pops open an umbrella and disappears into the crowd, his goal from day one of the film.
Just occurred to me the only times we hear Giorgio's inner monologue through voice over is when he's pleased with himself, effectively, when he's most willing to share with us who he actually is beneath the facade. A rare thing, and extremely telling. But I digress.
The film paints a multifaceted portrayal of a very evil person. The end outcome does bear some of the same speaking points as Doctor Horrible as both depict the dire consequences of selfish choices and self-centered ambitions; however, Doctor Horrible at the end of the piece has regret for how he achieved his goals, and a viewer can still empathize with him for his loss of love and nemesis. Giorgio, on the other hand, wraps up with such absolute clarity as to appear smugly gloating at each and any point during the film the viewer felt sympathy or empathy for Giorgio. Doctor Horrible had a goal yet evolves through his narrative, his prat falls, his encounters. Giorgio, for all his misadventures, really just drives forward doing anything he needs to do and wearing any face he needs to wear and screwing (over) anyone he needs to screw / kill / betray / poison / electrocute / shoot / beat with a table leg / bribe / feed lobster too / leave with cannibal rapist snipers to get his freedom back that he'd lost once upon a time when his bomb blew up a cop.
You might argue that his first misdeed lead to a cascade of consequences that made Giorgio into the monster he exits the film as, that his unrequited love for the shoe lady he black mails into being his love slave lead to his cruel disregard for all subsequent women in the film, or that the corrupt cop had that execution coming, or that a broken arm warrants betrayal and mall restroom theft. Maybe, and while I would hope a person would learn to be a better person from mistakes and failures, I could appreciate that Giorgio instead learned to be a better actor,  to better guise himself as a member of a society he preys on, and might have once felt oppressed or even victimized by. That said, I do thing Giorgio at base made the choice to put himself first at all costs, and that is what makes him seriously dangerous, and the ending of the film very cold and empty for me.
Tony yelled, "Take a look at the Bad Guy!" and died. Giorgio said nothing out loud, just opened his umbrella over the body of his freshly buried victim and disappeared into the crowd.
A good film for film students and arm chair critics like myself to dissect, I think. Not sure I'd recommend it much to anyone else, though.

The Cove: The New Red Dead Sea

Ever mistaken Charlie the Tuna for a Dolphin? Apparently a village in Japan does. And by the way, guess what's almost as full of high concentrations of mercury as dolphin meat... Yup, tuna, but that's obvious. Did you know vaccinations have it too? Epic fail, FCC.
So, if you're feelings of blood lust and want of vengeance over the utterly reprehensible and wholeheartedly, cavalierly reckless way our elected international powers and authorities treat nature have begun to flag or wan, rent / download this documentary stat! Just remember watching this and Shark Water in the same evening might lead an irrepressible urge to take action and oppose the slings and arrows of industrialist profiteering enterprises.
Other words, these two films together might entice you lot to want to join a mercenary crew of able bodied, trained, aptly qualified, and environmentally conscience folks to  start forcibly shutting these wasteful assholes down, since clearly held hands, bake offs, and clever t-shirts aren't doing the trick.
Maybe it is time to set things right, cause we're bringing a baby into this and frankly, if Bacon doesn't get to live in a world with whales, dolphins, and sharks, in the words of Russel Peters, "Somebody gonna get a-hurt real bad." And I don't mean by me lifting a finger. If our world continues to trend towards melting and polluted, we're all screwed.

My first speech ever for a Wedding

June 19, 2010
Alex & David get Hitched on June 19, 2010
My friends Alex and David were wed this past Saturday. I stood as tall as I could next to David, quite honored to be his best man and get to carry & present the rings.
I agonized over the speech they trustingly / bravely asked me to write for one of the toasting lulls between courses of a quite fabulous dinner prepared by caterers I couldn't recommend higher. I'll post more pictures from the event shortly on my Flickr account.
For now though, I'd like to share with you my speech from the event. I can't explain how much different it is to write and perform a speech, to maintain character or personae if you will, in a room of close friends and family, versus an amphitheater of complete strangers you'll never need worry about encountering again at subsequent holiday meals. I have no idea how Steve Colbert does it, frankly. When a joke landed, my voice would pitch shift into a mixed, almost panicked giggle-squeal, a mix of relief that the joke didn't bomb and shock as I'd so expected it would.
Here is the speech, please enjoy as though you were there; though as with any live comedy, might help for you to have some wine or a cocktail first.
Before I start I’d like to afford a disclaimer of sorts:
I’m not an orator. I didn’t even know the word “orator” until yesterday when I heard it on MTV Cribs. I’ve certainly never given a speech at a wedding before. I hope you’ll forgive that I’ve turned to some famous speeches for inspiration; although seeing as how we’re in Canada, you probably won’t recognize any of ‘em anyway, which case, please applaud my wondrous way with words at your leisure.
Four score and seven years ago... Two men met and fell audaciously, inexplicably into what you white people call love. Upon this province; contrived from utter honesty, and thereby dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
They have a dream. Where all peoples gay or straight, rich or poor, interesting or boring, Prada or Tiffany’s, might live and play together with respect and appreciation and cross your heart twenty four hour support.
It would be fatal for this company to overlook or underestimate the urgency and significance of this moment. These many years of playful courting will not pass until there is an invigorating summer of commitment and matrimony! Two thousand and ten is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hoped a couple needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening when the sun also rises over a marriage ready to contend with much more than business as usual.
The marvellous new energy that has engulfed this couple must not lead us to feel neglected or cast aside. A new entity shall result from this union, and new terms must be drafted to contend with the resulting manifestation, wrought not from distrust or exclusion, but instead from a desire to uniformly love, respect, and moreover too include the lot of us into a collective body made far greater now as a whole than might be predicted summed up from all these wonderful collective parts.
We need only remain patient, arms outstretched, and if needed, raised up high to carry, to support, and most of all to willingly embrace this nearly unquantifiable miracle manifesting here before us. We are the village raising cheer to a union long in the making. They cannot walk alone, and frankly, I don’t think a one of us intended to let them. We all here now become family and we all now cheer this entity that is of two individuals yet stands merged into something far, far more.
I have a dream that my child will one day live in a situation where he is not judged by the orientation of his preferences, but by the strength of his character. I have a dream that his character will be in no small part shaped though the bountiful influences of these fine two individuals making such a brave commitment this very day.
I have a dream that someday those that preferred Madonna and those that preferred Cher might be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the bar with. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our collective into a beautiful symphony of family.
Let wedding bells ring! And when this happens, when we allow wedding bells ring – when we let it ring for every moment these two men impact our lives and their union makes those impacts all the more meaningful, we speed towards a day when everyone on of us, gay and straight, liberal and conservative, naive and jaded, consumerist and thrifty, sleepless and well rested, pink - blue and green, will be able to hold hands and sing in the words of the old night club spiritual, “You spin me round like a record baby. Right round. Round. Round. Right round.”
The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of loneliness, indifference, and apathy no matter his dispensation. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our primordial forbearers confront continue to perplex so many a fine folk these dates in chat forums and on talk shows, that of what is the true meaning of matrimony, of commitment, of union. The answer dwells within this very personification of love felt and declared; that the union of these two individuals comes not from the generosity of the state, but from the will of nature itself.
Ask not what your marriage can do for you. Ask instead what you can do for your marriage.
And so say we all.
While delivering the speech, I added an improvised clarification denoting when I was speaking to the couple specifically, or to everyone else, letting them know that a part pertained to them or that they were being held accountable for something in the speech.  Those small asides came from parts unknown yet seemed to work well for setting a cadence to and punching up the speech. Seriously, as though the famous people I'd plagiarized / mashed-up were giving me helpful nudges in the right direction to better deliver the speech with modest asides, so simple yet so affective.
Hope you enjoyed it, and I would like to give a shout of thanks out to Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy for their contributions to this speech, and my fine friends Alex and David for challenging me to stand up for them, and I wish them all the happiness in their marriage that I've found in all of mine. And yes, that is a Saddle Tramps joke, but I mean it all the same.
Good luck boys, you finally did it, and we're all very proud!

Dr. Sketchy in April at the Wallflower

Miss Molotov at Dr Sketchy
The model for this tribal theme is the fire dancer and multi-faceted performer
See the rest of the drawings from that night over here.

Bitch Slap!

Women are evil & this proves it. Well, OK, not really, just in this narrative construction.
An inconsistent, yet fairly lovable scatter-shot narrative that’s effectively an homage to Russ Meyer’s boobsploitation replete with stilted dialogue, posturing, cat fights, and the wanton emasculation of men good and bad. A lot of nods to cinematic stylings Tarantino has crafted, or aped, depending on your personal vantage. Bikini Bandits also come to mind, though I think I preferred the original BB shorts to this, and this over later, longer BB fare, when they started to take the notion of making money from the lowest common denominator more seriously, unfortunately.
If an absurd and over the top yet deliciously independent homage to legendary schlock coupled with the star power of Kevin Sorbo cameos, wet t-shirt cat fights, a Cinemax / USA Up All Night keep it above the waistline sunshine Katy Perry “I Kissed A Girl” make out session, end credits laid over dancing rump shakers to an Eagles of Death Metal score, and fight scenes choreographed by Zoe Bell from Death Proof keeps your universal remote in hand, give this one some rent sometime.
If at no point did the above paragraph draw your interest or bemusement, please give this a pass.

REC 2:

Can’t describe the delight I felt tracking a subtitled copy of this down. And then I watched it.
While I don’t feel devastated by what I watched last night, I don’t feel great about it either. Sure, it’s congruent to the first one, and demonstrates an admirable reuse of the same space, low budget filmmakers take note. However, somewhere along the way it pushed me out, pretty much in step with the exposition and reveals of the how and why things had gone to hell in this sequestered suburban walkup.
Felt sort of like a second date with a scrumptious parcel where you discover the secret of how they keep their slim figure and that they really can only discuss one piece of classic literature and refuse to let the conversation drift away to regard any others.
Remember the rant the film savvy Jamie Kennedy went on about in Scream 2, almost breaking the fourth wall like a Deadpool rant to inform the audience about what to expect from a sequel to a successful horror film? This one reminded me of that rant, perhaps the creators took heed that advice or expectations, I’m not sure.
[SPOILERS] What I do know is that the exorcism / possession angle for explaining fluid-transmitted zombie action pulled me out of the experience a bit. True, the end of the first film pointed towards a patient zero that was also a Linda Blair type, however having a soldier priest as one of the key protagonists in this installment really changed the tone, and I’m not sure I ever fully got back on board with the narrative after that reveal.
Doesn’t have the empathetic characters the first one did, though does have some great cameos of zombified versions of characters from the first one, most notably the bald fireman with the sledgehammer.
I liked that 2 has multiple camera vantage points, and wish this aspect had been explored more. Of course the designer in me began to see co-operative gameplay mechanics and IP potential with the SWAT guys, reporters, and thrill-seeker kids with their rocket propelled blow-up love dolls.  Speaking of, what happens to the two kids the SWAT thugs locked into a bedroom and abandoned? Will they thwart the Big Evil in the inevitable REC3? Will REC3 elect to go outside and play or remain indoors shying away from sunlight’s harmful rays?
And will the North American version made for the subtitle adverse get a sequel? If so, I have to wonder if, like Ring 2, the makers will take Quarantine 2 into a completely different direction that doesn’t implicate the Vatican of harvesting biological weapons out of the flammable blood of possessed little girls.
Summation, an adequate yet somewhat dissatisfying sequel that could still lead to a dynamic and exciting final chapter down the line. Some great moments, fun editing and storytelling techniques, and an excellent zombie kill with a bottle rocket, worth seeing really just for that bit.

The Shining:

Better every time I see this, at least for the most part, and I always discover new things, always lament the decision to whack Scatman Crothers, and always host an internal debate about how much more satisfying the novel's ending is, though concede the films holds it's own regardless of the massive deviations.
Never noticed how the shots with Wendy chatting with the doctor early in the film have a sever angle to them that looks up into the corners of the ceiling, it’s as though suggesting that Wendy is caged, or small versus her environment, which is going to make that haunted hotel all the more daunting for her, isn’t it?
Never noticed the bloody hand print on the rump of the 20’s gowned woman passing Jack on the right just before Grady spills drinks down Jacks lapel in the 20’s party ballroom.
A couple things that I’d forgotten that don’t hold up as well. For instance, the overt mention of how the hotel had been built atop an Indian burial ground. Even in the late 70’s, no one would be insensitive to the plight of the first nations enough to boast about the sketchier elitist aspects of the hotel’s history. The passing nod to the native art and artifacts inside would’ve been enough to raise suspicions about how the property might’ve been procured.
Another aspect that doesn’t hold up so well is the lobby full of cobwebbed skeletons after Wendy has just seen the blood erupt around the elevator.
Not to sound jaded, as I love a cobweb skeleton horde or cadre as much as the next cinephile, however the sheer shocking audacity of the blood flood still has the brain reeling when a moment later Wendy finds the lobby of stiffs, which frankly, feels stiff as a contrasting setting or supernatural reveal. Remember the insert shots of the butchered twin daughters when Danny encountered them while motoring about on his mighty 3 wheeled plastic chariot? Similar to the theater full of chatting and uncomfortably cavalier corpses in American Werewolf in London, a lobby full of hotel patrons from various historical periods inter-cut with quick shots using the film’s established editing technique depicting how all those poor folks met their untimely ends would have been far more appropriate, not to mention unsettling.
For a film released in 1980, to an audience already familiar with the likes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre in ’74 and more mainstream high caliber (pardon the pun) Deer Hunter in ’78, and in the same year as The Changeling, a room full of cobwebbed skeletons seems as out of tone, stale, and underwhelming as the zombie baby scene in the remake of Dawn of the Dead, which frankly, should have remained in the original V television series wrap-up that originally birthed the aesthetic notion (pardon the second pun).

New Moly X Drawings

International Moly Exchange Project Portrait Group 5
Moly X Portrait 5 Josh Burggraf
International Moly Exchange Project x 58
Moly X 58 Thalia's Dream
International Moly Exchange Project Portrait Group 5
Moly X Portrait 5 Morissa Rothman Pierce

afternoon on the Fringe

After a jaunt to the dog beach with Boomer and a quick dally in the Comic Shoppe to pick up a collected Kyle Baker thing, I wondered up and west on Broadway to the Fringe for a quite table to draw, a pint or two of Dirty Girl, and an earful of Tom Waits on the Hi-Fi.
Here's a iPhone snap of the 1st pass pencils on the Molys I've had queued up for an embarrassingly long while now, part of the Portrait Exchange of the International Moly Exchange.
Great to get going on these again, long overdue.

What've I seen lately?

Canadian green screen magic that satisfies my monster of the week sweet tooth while also having characters with enough personality and charisma to keep me hooked along. Recommend.
Rock solid man bonding that hit a bit close to home a few times. Recommend.
Total surprise,  and speaks to a lot of the issues my wife and I are debating and confronting as we enter the second trimester of our own precious bundle. Yes, I said that in my head the way Gollum might. Having a kid when you're well ensconced in your professional pursuits is like a mid-life crisis, or if you're my age, it's another layer of mid-life crisis. Like leveling up, except messier. And without the rest period Inns, Orgrimmar is my wife's favorite, bigger sized beds & scant humans. And for the record, I've only ever played WOW to make an undead character that can eat elves. I really don't like elves. They never put the seat up in the first place. Anyway, the film has no elves in it, though does travel to Montreal for a spell. Pardon the pun, lowest form of humor in the shire. Recommend.
Turns out this is Drew Barrymore's directorial debut. She had me at "Jammer." The film is a coming of age story for a teen girl, but don't let make you feel dirty. The film rocks, as does Roller Derby, so go out there and support your local league, buy some swag, cheers the teams, and most importantly, appreciate that not all sports have to be spoon fed to you through massive stadiums and ridiculous corporate endorsements, sometimes there is just a fun time waiting to be had, and if you can't come out and play, at least come out and share the experience with those who can! Recommend.
I'm surprised I liked this. Actually, I've liked all of Tony Scott's films, even the overly schizophrenically composed ones (looking at you, Domino). No, this isn't revolutionary or deep or insightful. It's a character driven piece, modern noir - although I think that expression is probably an oxymoron. Any rate, it's fluff, however it's well crafted and wholly entertaining fluff, if only for the utter implausibility of it all. Pleasant fluff.
I really didn't think I would enjoy this, the trailers were so heavy handed. However, I dig how the themes and plot lines are delivered quickly, how nods the the old show are there without slowing anything down, and how there were sidelong references to things like ID4 to embrace the giant ships over big cities archetype rather than attempt to reinvent it. Some great new touches, some fully adequate green screen composting, and I look forward to seeing the next episode when it drops in March. Have to wonder though with the Fifth Column being so cool if there will be an upsurge in reptilian cosplayers, and what would the scaled equivalent be to Furries, anyway? Recommend.
Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode 2
I've always been more partial to Robot Chicken's high speed absurdity over Family Guy's awkward repetition and intermittent shock effect gags. No different here. I do like that their respective approaches are different, though, and frankly the pair should be sold together as a joint venture for their parent companies. Robot Chicken hops all around the Star Wars universe with the bulk of their material rooted in Empire Strikes Back, no surprise there, and makes for a solid second installment and look forward to the next one. Recommend.
I think this one really hits a stride and meanders less than the last installment. I dig that the Family Guy episodes generally follow the plots of the originals, while setting up and delivering on their own gag threads, and of course paying tribute to long time fans of the show with cameos and familiar payoffs. I'm especially impressed with the 3D vehicle work, matching keynote moments shot for shot, and inadvertently demonstrating how far special effects technology has come since the original scenes were created and composited back in the 70's & 80's. I'm sad Meg isn't in this episode more, and wonder if casting her as the space worm means she'll turn up next episode as Jabba, or the Rancor, or a Gamorrean Guard. Maybe all three. Recommend almost as much as Robot Chicken's.
Generally solid art direction and cinematography though heavy handed with the desaturated and / or limited color pallets. Didn't need the me-too giant robot, especially such an unlikely and mechanically untenable one. The robots in War of the Worlds were stretching the whole humans as cattle notion, and those were tentacle-empowered. The Harvester in TS looks like something designed with what Legos were available, and I don't mean from the Expert Builder sets. The Tinker Toy stick arms lacked hydraulic equivalency versus the amount of weight that scale would entail, never mind how aesthetically unappetizing something so stringy and brittle-looking appears to mine eye. And while I liked the motorbikes, they also made no sense. Were they indended to infiltrate Harley-Davidson shops to better kill Hell's Angels that'd survived the nuclear Armageddon, as I'm confident most Hell's Angels undoubtedly will? Again, I think these we're very me-too. The real moment that pulled me out of the film, well, one of them, was when John Conner hijacks a bike and rides it like Mad Max's poorly fated pal into the enemy factory. I couldn't even ride my bicycle standing up after someone had stolen my seat for fear of an amateur colectomy, so how is it a two wheeled twin Gatling gun frocked death machine has a big ol' banana seat handy to sooth John's world weary cheeks? Is it some sort of femme-dom humiliation thing from back at the factory, "Know your place, bike, wear this banana seat of shame to remember that humans will just want to straddle you and ride you hard and probably put you up wet." Also, the whole 'Nam flashback lagoon full of heat seeking Screamers mecha-worms showdown scene left be baffled and wondering if I needed my 4-D goggles on; aka double-fists of local lagers like Blue Buck or Red Truck, what some men use for dating aids, I sometimes use for comprehending the incomprehensible. Disappointing.
Despite low expectations and an affinity for the license content  recollected from childhood, there weren't enough guffaws not already spoiled by the oft repeated trailers to make me wondr if the time might've been spent checking out the Cantina house band's new numbers over a couple pitchers of blue milk with Hammerhead, Neil Armstrong, and Snaggletooth. Blue though, not Red as Red suffers from little man syndrome and really can't hold his milk. Disappointing.
What have you done to Cobra Commander? I died a little inside after seeing this, though the recent discovery of Cobra: The Musical worked well as an impromptu defibrillator. Sure, there were some fun moments, and cameos, and destruction, and underwater space battles, and I'd kept my expectations exceedingly low, so I can't say I regret wasting my morning curled up in a quilt by the fire recovering from a bronchial infection watching this romp. I just don't understand how many key choices in this were made, seemingly offhandedly, and whomever made those should go away and let someone do some damage control before considering making another Joe adventure Go anywhere. And lips on Snake-Eyes costume? And those speed suits... sigh. Disappointing.
Not horrible. Not good either. Why snipe the old folks? Why butcher, quite literally, Deadpool? Why have Gambit in the film whatsoever? Disappointing.
A quiet, occasionally somber without getting needlessly morose, introspective, and generally well crafted short story turned road movie sort of pandemic fiction. Starts like a teens bound for the beach yarn with I Know What You Did Last Summer verisimilitude to set up some solid play with spectator expectation. On the whole, couldn't help but feel like this was the more downbeat prequel to Zombieland, which for the unlikely event anyone might be keeping score, is a damned fine piece of cinematic delight for this post-apocalyptic aficionado. While I would have liked to see more story progress with a faster clip to avoid dragging out a few of the more obvious beats, one the whole, this flick is pretty much rigor mortis solid. Not Doom Generation gut punch solid or 28 Days Later I peed a little solid, no, but solid nonetheless. Pleasant surprise.
This should be a pilot to a TV series. Maybe it is, who knows with the kids these days? All I know is that as a long standing fan of flicks like Ticks, Evolution, Eight Legged Freaks, and Big Buster, and of pretty much every other flick or series exploring the amply bestowed premise of nature versus nurture and the perils of man's wasteful follies, this film stands up like a termite mound and delivers with wit, style, and charm on par with the better Monster of the Week episodes of Buffy, or EurekaVery pleasant surprise.
I anticipated very little from this, and actually, I'm glad I caught this. Basically, it's a mash up of Buffy and Heathers with a simple story delivered pretty well if a little lightly at times (cavalier lightly). The action-horror-scary-boo is handled with restraint that gore hounds will probably be disappointed by. And perhaps it's the gay in me, but the jean skirt Jennifer sports much of her initial murder spree period scared me more than how she handled the emo or athletic set. What really purses my coins is the ending. Love this, from the framing story end cap to the Lance Henriksen cameo to the Details magazine style suggestion of rock star glitz and glamor party boy shots to the wonderful looking up the lens end shot where karmic justice has been super sized served. Love this, and would like to see this IP explored as a TV series as well, because a demon-rabies infected damsel hitchhiking her way from adventure to adventure down the lonely highway like the end of an Incredible Hulk or Kung-Fu episode has appetizing merit. Pleasant surprise.
Noah's arc meets Titan AE meets Eden Log meets  the cut of Dennis Quaid's jib. Pacing suffered from dragging the narrative out to a full film length from what could've been a great 45 minute installments of some newly reborn incarnation of Twilight Zone or other short story stand alone episodic program, something slightly higher caliber than Outer Limits' last stint. If you endured, er- enjoyed Sunshine from Dany Boyle, you'll already be familiar with the tone. Oh, and let's not forget those wacky egghead needleteeth from The Descent, as those pesky drop-frame sprinting feral cannibalistic cave dwellers make an industrially upgraded appearance ala the Borderlands' crazies, thought this time with kids and one scene that seemed like a reinactment of the final duel between Danny Glover & the Predator in P2. While I liked the idea that space radiation had negatively affected accidentally released and subsequently compromised would be space settlers, and I'm a big a fan of Red Dwarf's Cat as anyone, color me skeptical that during the 140 year ship's journey those affected travelers would turn into what the film depicts. Or did I miss something and the trip took longer? I did like that the ferals had sorted out when flight crews would be released to replace preceding crews lest the crews go bat crazy from isolation, and had adapted their schedules to always be around for a buffet when unsuspecting, likely disoriented flight crw staff popped out of their capsules. One question here though, if flight crew teams of about four people get released every two years, what are the ferals eating the rest of the time? One another, I suppose, however with a nine month incubation time per feral, still seems like the swarms the film depicts need alternative sustenance, and the only bit the film shows is a stash of bugs in the agricultural section which is fully feral proof tucked away behind key code locked blast doors.  Basically, despite what I like about the ideas the feral concepts are trying to explore, a sort of mutated Lord of the Flys 140 years later, I think the end product is distacting, derivative, and unnecessarily coulds the film's otherwise pretty compelling narrative circumstances, that of characters trying to remember who they are, what they've done, where they are going, and what they should be doing, or preventing from being done. On that note, I really liked the narrative device of having deep sleep travelers lose their memories for the most part, albeit temporarily, as that serves to give the narrative mystery and discovery as the audience learns in lockstep to the protagonist. Despite the distracting and unnecessary ferals, the narrative otherwise is pretty compelling, from the death of Earth, the gut wrenchingly beautiful scene depicting how space madness leads a historic pilot to eject five thousand sleeping colonists into the void, a morbid and quite literal "Death Blossom." Had to rewind that scene a couple times, to tragic, great sci-fi! And the ending pays off, something that is really hit of miss generally with either sci-fi or horror, and especially a film attempting to do both. Worth a 7 Day Rent or PVR.
So I didn't know Corbin Bernsen is directing films now, albeit straight to DVD ones (better than I'm doing, right?).  I mean, considering his spread as shown in One Red Paperclip, figures he's back filling his income with more than royalties from LA Law, the Major League franchise, or comicons recounting battling wits with Q? I mean, did you know he directed The Dentist 2? Did you know there was a Dentist 2? Anyway, Corbin directed this, and while I would dissuade gore fans from bothering since the extent of the red spread is equivalent to a batch of kids discovering how much messy fun explosive foil packs of ketchup can be at a McDonald's birthday bash, especially when leapt down on from table tops or playground platforms. Note to Corbin's makeup department: corn syrup, instant hot chocolate powder mix, and red dye make ok fake blood; however, to really sell the idea of ruptured flesh, put that fake blood over something non-uniform and rendered looking, rather than the silky smooth and clearly unbroken flesh of the whitest extras known to mankind. Worst case, just spray fake blood all over their clothes and keep the camera at a distance. Close ups on meagerly sauces subjects breaks the suspension of disbelief. Likewise, note to the cinematographer and camera man: if you're rolling on a scene where your protagonist is walking through post outbreak streets or in front of windows where said streets might be visable, cut the shot if normal, non-panicked cars drive by outside or in the background. Failing that, the editor should've cut around such breaks in continuity. The world has gone to hell, but apparently some drivers are listening to iPods and wondering why they can't find any drive-thrus open. Realistic? Possibly. Compelling? Not so much. Funny? Absolutely. What's worth seeing this film for? Two things. First, the premise, the outbreak starts as a terrorist attack in a major sports stadium. Color me a little sensitive to this idea as Vancouver locks down to "host" the Olympics in a couple weeks. And not just one stadium, rather, terrorist cells coordinate to release a super-rabies sort of 28 Days Later blight across numerous major sporting events around the US. Apparently hockey fans are safe, then. I mean, there are hockey stadiums in the States, too, but who goes to those? Of course this is a budget product so much of this occurance is communicated through dialogue and TV samples, just like back in Romero's classic, nothing wrong with that, though I'd like to see Tony Scott make a big budget version exploring this more, perhaps with a release on a plane too, just to bring that notion back into play. Anyway, the other thing I enjoyed more than not was the shock jock radio host played by Bill Moseley, who did well enough I thought he must be some B-String real life radio jock making his big break into films, instead of the well established character actor IMDB proved ol' Bill to actually be. And poor Patricia Tallman, she used to read minds on Babylon 5. I wish I could've read her mind when Corbin's company handed her this script. Worth a PVR as a fiiller in a marathon of 2nd tier zombie fare and a couple flats of Fat Tire.
With the zombie genre's recent resurgence (snicker) with pop culture appetites (snicker again), no surprise there's been a tidal wave of straight to DVD / Cable / Dial-Up content. This is a drop in that bucket. While I like the basic premise, what if an international flight became infected? How might the drama unfold? Anyone that has flown on one of the Cathay-Pacific red-eye flights across the pond to HK has surely wondered the same thing, wondering if this is the flight where a contagion gets into the air recycling system and starts killing people and reanimating their corpses? Perhaps somewhere between dinner service and the second of a four film John Travolta or Jackie Chan marathon? Only those cramming complimentary cups of ramen and cans of San Miguel back and down respectively would be immune. Eat, drink, be merry, for next meal service will be your last! Anyway, this film tries to either capitalize on this obvious irrational fear that besets many a beleaguered international traveler, and does so pretty poorly, meaning, there is plenty of room to do this notion justice, perhaps get a PAL or Cathay-Pacific or KLM endorsement too boot, win-win. What airline wouldn't want to better demonstrate their inherent zombie-outbreak preparedness?Stocking defibrillators De Facto aboard planes is only a first step, after all. Win hearts and minds slowly, start with restarting hearts. I digress. This film at best and through the lens of a healthy stupor marries elements of Executive Decision and Airplane with the TV safe version of Sleepaway Camp 2 and the aftertaste of USA Up All NightDisappointing.

Eyes Have It: Day of the Triffids 2009 ep. 1 of 2s

Back when I occupied a spot on the Tates Creek Senior High School's rather illustrious competitive Speech Team,  I did a couple stints of dramatic monologue. Trying to differentiate myself from the usual fare, I had the audacity / vanity to adapt my own pieces from the goofy sorts of books I read then. The first script I built came from the scene in Myth Adventures when the kid conjures the demon and botches the spell, hilarity ensues. Still surprised no one has made a TV series out of the Myth books, lot of great Teen rated stuff in there.
Any rate, after several sessions trotting that beast through the paces before several dispassionate judges, I decided a new piece was needed to get more than a few polite chuckles, and  turned to John Wyndham's novel The Day of the Triffids and adapted the scene when the protagonist wakes, hears all the panic, takes off the bandages from his eyes and discovers a real world demonstration of the proverb about the one eyed cat being king in the land of the blind. I managed to place in state finals and in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee hosted Southern Regional competition with that piece, though I never won more than the satisfaction of getting to final rounds. I as much blame the inability for judges to take man-eating plants seriously versus the tried and true Neil Simon staples as I do my inability to convince them to feel the passion of the plants, the peril of the protagonist, the panic of the peoples.
Received the only back-rub-with-bare-breasts of my entire lifetime from a concerned female teammate during that Gatlinburg competition, and perhaps that's what gave me the confidence to best depict a man waking to a world utterly different to the one he'd briefly had to close his eyes to, to confront an alien situation that held as much morbid fascination as fearful hesitation, and to take my shtick all the way to finals. Other words, I learned the merit of a cold shower on that away trip.
Funny how writing these reviews really incites some interesting and largely extraneous recollections. But I digress.
For a better sense of the tone of my era of high school years, watch Better Off DeadWeird ScienceHeathersBack to the Future 2, or Hot Tub Time MachineYou can get some sense of the pop culture late 80's vibe, though in my circles with way, way less illegal substances and way, way more illegal fashions and day glow colors.
This quick flashback is simply to explain my gut reaction of giddy, giggly glee to discovering this new adaptation had hit the small screen, especially after learning Eddie Izzard is in it. If only it had Tim Curry, too...
I've just finished the first half of the two-parter and suffice to say I'd like to see the rest. Sure, this might be my completionist streak, the same one that prohibited me from turning off Murder World or as I call it "Murder World: The Worst Film Ever Made & So Bad as Not to Come Round Again to Schlocky Goodness, the Absolutely Irrehensibly Worst Bucket of Sick Except Maybe for Feast 3". Could be I'm a glutton for heavy handed drama and fairly threadbare plot devices. Perhaps I just have a real soft spot for the combination of end of days scenarios and snaking grabbing carnivorous vines like chocolate eloping with peanut butter chunky style.
Most likely I'm just enjoying the twists Eddie Izzard's character is introducing, color me curious about his Napoleon meets Heath Ledger does Joker sort of compulsive liar passive=aggressive power plays as well as a Best Fan Forever because its Eddie freakin' Izzard and no one can fill a bathroom with self-inflating life vests like he can.
Overall, or at least, so far the adaptation could be less heavy handed, the protagonist more empathetic, the military forces less offhandedly dismissed, and the plot twist at the end of part one far less contrived.
Spoiler Alert... Let me afford an alternative ending to episode one for your consideration. The villain apparent of the piece would seem far craftier if he lead the heroes to harm's way with them thinking they'd had free will and choices in their actions instead of forcing them there through thuggish manipulation or even more needlessly at gunpoint.
To further the point, I'll refer to the plot. The villains have had first hand experience with how dangerous the Triffids are, and have decided a couple men need to disappear. While feeding them to the Triffids might seem like a good idea if you could drop them outside a wall or into a pit, driving the men as hostages out into the middle of the woods at night into the midst of a Triffid infestation they knew awaited them everywhere outside the city makes no sense. If you want someone gone in a city where most people are blind or dead, wouldn't there be an ample number of places the persons might be dispatched without putting yourself needlessly at risk? Elevator shaft would do the trick, not like there'd be a queue for it.
I'm not saying I wanted the heroes killed, I'm suggesting that instead of taking the men hostage and driving them out into the woods to have a needless and frankly underwhelming showdown just to set up a cliffhanger for episode 2, the plot instead could have twisted with one news anchor, guilt ridden over not saving the woman she'd been involuntarily hand-cuffed to, staying behind while the other two men, of their own volition, taking a truck and trying to brave the wilds to reach the protagonist's father's place, only to be thwarted by shoddy road conditions and overwhelmed by corpse craving carnivorous cambium containers.
Also, continuity person keeping the editing staff in check, did you not notice all the close ups of our hero shooting plants point blank with a shot gun, or that there next to him is the bad guy sprawled and writhing on the ground, the one that earlier shot our hero in the shoulder and took him hostage? A ruthless anti-hero sort of protagonist might pause to offhandedly put some buckshot into the bad guy, both as payback and as insurance, perhaps with a snappy macho line like, "Now lets see if the plants can get you before the worms do." Or, "Here, let me help you stay down." Our hero this day isn't so petty, however I'm still unable to buy that he's suddenly without shotgun when the bad guy stands up, waves a pistol around, and demands the keys to the truck. Maybe if you'd showed me a shot of the hero running out of shells or having the weapon wrested from his clammy grasp by a thick Triffid tentacle. Maybe. This turn of events when the baddie again gets the upper hand while a forest of Triffids closes in, including the drippy ones that can apparently climb trees, caused me to say out loud incredulously, "Aw, come on, he's not dead yet?" Startling my very pregnant wife and causing our 100 pound dog to sleepily get up and move to a different room.
That said, the big dying urban landscape scenes, the man-eating plants, the buffed up narrative elements about how the Triffids cured global warming through weening the masses off of the oil tit (however no one can know the terrible secret that the Triffids live off of blood and bone and like Japanese businessmen in love hotels they always aim for the eyes). And didn't the Triffids come from space in the novel?
Doesn't matter, aliens or bio-engineered, the Triffids are purple blossomed bad asses, and while I often felt Torchwood might show up at any moment, the show is worth a watch through, especially if you've some quilting or knitting to do, or gardening if you like a bit of irony with your boob tube.

Isabella Rossellini's Glass Legs: Dancing Fellini-style with a Kid from the Hall

Bridled with a beautiful score and a tone similarly playful to The American Astronaut, this eye popping film-stock disloyal romp blows performance anxiety and the fans that empower same into absurdest proportions with delightful art school justifying results.
While perhaps not as revolutionary as Green Porno, as MILF laden as Death Becomes Her, anyone that might feel empathy towards films that transcend yet remain loyal to the trappings of film school grad projects with apparently blackmailed A grade B list talent and / or has a healthy regard for full sized real womanly scaled glass legs filled with sudsy lager should check out this film for at least an offhanded inspiration to Google up some jpgs of Isabella back in her days working for the news, or with David Lynch, or just being awesome in general as an alternative weekend break from the usual lightness of being into unhealthy Juliette Binoche obsessions.
Nothing to do with anything, but She's Having a Baby is riding the rails on the next channel I surf too after Saddest Music in the World slithers into credits. Couple scenes before the part I remember most, Kevin Bacon's character getting called out for not knowing what he wants, whether the wife and child and domestic compliance, or wild coke fueled rides on monthly models of the mean. Haunted... When the Minutes Drag. I should feel chills, I remember in 1988 reacting to that scene while having no desire to follow Kevin's lead, to apply his situations or choices to my own life. And now here I am, balanced on my own glass legs wherein beer swills like golden promise and foamy fun, trying to dance and beginning to feel my heels crack against the hard, gritty surface of the reality that in a day or three I will be a father, I will be holding a newborn to my chest trying to bond as a father and as a care giver and as a worthwhile person instead of the indecisive, self-obsessed, neurotic and narcissistic putz I've perfected playing at most of these past 40 years.
And suddenly I fiercely miss John Hughes. Of all the cats in the world I respect or admire, few spring to mind this very instant as the person I might most like a big old sloppy hug from, and maybe a few words of reality check. I'm sad he's gone, his work gave image and voice to far more of my high school years than I should probably publicly admit. Sure, there was loads of content I didn't get until years later, doesn't change the fact that I took it all in, and when it mattered, heeded the cautionary elements quite well, thank you.
And speaking of feeling lost and in need of direction, the next film to traipse across the screen is Anna Paquin and Jeff Daniels in Fly Away Home. No wonder I got so emo while talking to my Mom on the phone, clarifying questions about my birth, my brother's; trying to contextualize my held dear slivers of memory, where and when, a high stakes game where bits I've potentially made up to fill in the gaps and subsequently held true for decades can be debunked within seconds by a witness that'd been on the scene.

Hot Tub Time Machine: How to Laugh at Discovering How Old You Actually Are

Hot Tub Time Machine,of course the unrated version, did not disappoint, and further, it entertained. However, I have to pause and wonder who, besides me, the target market for this film might have been, and whether that helped or ultimately hurts the potential this film had to have been Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure most excellent instead of Blues Brothers 2000 should've been a contender.
Let me clarify my perspective, I grew up with John Cusack leading the way. He's a touch older than me and via cable access to R-rated cinema he's always been something of a handy role model, more than Kevin Bacon or Christian Slater even. He, or I should say the characters he portrayed, unwittingly set a bar I never really managed to leap over, though those Savage Steve,  Rob Reiner sorts of films did manage to inform a sort of moral compass I generally tried to adhere to.
John Cusack had my attention from the skillful way he hid a toke without gagging in Classinspired me to get limber with his athletic skills becoming useful versus a Godzilla costume in One Crazy Summer, and most of all seemed to get my left-handed perspectives  his artistic aspirations in many movies, looking at you, Better Off Dead. We won't get into my two decade plush man-crush on his sister Joan right now, thank you.
I don't remember whether I first saw any of his work on Steve's cable, or Sean's, my parents hadn't gotten a color TV yet so probably was Steve's. Doesn't matter much except to point out that what made life meaningful during those trepidations teenage years came from friends, peers, social groups, cliques even.  Kids trying to define themselves, maybe they had clear directives from their folks or institutions, or maybe they were simply given room to explore and self-manifest against a solid set of unwavering yet flexibly firm ground rules. I may have spent more time making surrogate families out of friends and clubs and teams and theater groups than I did building solid tiers of infrastructure within my own genetically bound brethren, perhaps because I had them already as solid foundation, perhaps because I took them for granted, perhaps because I'd been a witness to a nasty divorce and decided not to get that close to people obliged to love me so readily again, maybe just because I was doing what all kids must do at some point, ween from the parents and define the cut of their own jib.
All of the above and more I suspect.  Realizing now for not the first time that I owe large debts of gratitude to my peeps from those days, people that could tolerate my myriad brands of bullshit, people I could've dropped more concern for, reciprocated some compassion once in a while, afforded some emotional and social support instead of getting so mired with wanting to be liked, be popular, envied maybe, asked out once in a while would be nice. Strangely and at often at odds with my more vanity driven aspirations, I also spent a lot of time preoccupied with not ever wanting to be hated, to be disliked, to the point to cowering like a kicked puppy trying to suck up and compromise repeatedly to win some faux love from the strong types that might've felt offended, or threatened, or impatient, or perhaps, worst of all took no notice at all whatsoever.
Much of  my love to give to the cats that indulged me, informed me, rallied me, reality checked me. All my love as well for the cats I didn't do as much as I could've, the ones I took for granted, or used, or kept distance from for fear of negative associations from A crowd I so wanted to be a part of, envied until I could cry, the same cats I largely could give nary a chocolate malt ball about now, all that sell-out stupid compromise for what, so dodge some proverbial Glee slushies? To minimize my silhouette as a viable target with the jock types? Or just because I was so up my own ass with self-doubt, self-loathing, and what all amounts really to an inability to gauge self-worth or to set and pursue and commit too viable goals with confidence, humility, and an earnest will to learn as much from failure as success? Irrelevant now at best, rhetorical at worst.
What does any of this have to do with Hot Tube Time Machine? Effectively everything, as I feel the film could've gone further, done more than homage Cusack's early days with references to 2 dollars and costume cameos, have really dug into the premise that if you could take what you know now and take the helm of who you were back then, you might be able to right wrongs, avoid wrecks, and make good things infinitely better. Its the premise that makes films like Back to the Future, another staple of my formative years, so fetching. Or how about that flick about the dirt biker that somehow ends up being his own grand dad, or something. Maybe that one was just playing in the South. I digress.
Hot Tub Time Machine seems conflicted to me because I grew up with the protagonist, or at least, the actor the character seems specifically written for, and like the protagonist, I'm confronting an adulthood I think could have been different, albeit for radically different reasons. I'm not saying I'm unhappy with where the mid-life milestone passes by outside the Flintstone RV window, however do I think I could've wasted far less time, maintained relationships better and more fairly, and maybe have done a few dozen hundred other things differently to make lives better, starting with everyone I care about and ending with my sad sack.
The film is light, glib, occasionally schoolyard gross, and I think that's playing to the cheap seats, and by cheap seats, I mean kids too young to fully appreciate the magnitude of what this event would actually mean to a trio of middle-aged men, to travel back to what might be subjectively described as your prime years to effectively play your life like a replay with cheat codes written on the inside of your forearm.
I dig the flim, just wish it'd been deeper, more thoughtful, and more inquisitive. Perhaps that sort of breadth and depth might have been possible if the target audience had been more specific, 30-40 somethings welcome and teen to 20 somethings can bugger off, go watch Olsen twins or discover beer and make new TFLNs or something.
PS Mighty huge thanks to Lara Shannon for a couple of those 80's snaps, hopefully you'll not mind my reuse of them for a goofy film review!