Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Blood is prettier than water

Movie • A TALE OF TWO SISTERS • 2003
A Tale of Two Sisters is another Korean movie. They have a knack for confusing me, even with the simplest of plots. Story-telling is a cultural thing, and I'm just not used to seeing stories told this way. Gobs of it was plain weirdness for what seemed like the sake of weirdness. Then suddenly, one line is delivered that sent tingles down my spine. Su-mi’s father says something toward the end that puts everything into perspective… mostly.
Su-mi and Su-yeon are sisters forced to live with their new “mother.” She and their father seem like an unlikely couple, and she apparently has a problem with these children. There is a lot of high-pitched yelling between the girls and their dad and step-mom; so keep your finger on the volume control if you don’t want a headache.
A Tale of Two Sisters is beautifully filmed, and every frame would make it into a frame on my wall if I had the space. But it seems a lot of the images are confusing to the story. I was never certain, even at the end whether the time-line jumped around or was the story in her mind… or her mind… or her mind… or his mind… or was it an explanation? Either way, if I hadn’t have watched it alone it would have been one of those great movies to discuss. What did this mean? What did that mean?
I recommend it to people who fancy subtitles and plot confusion. Come on, you can handle it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Die it and Exorcise

I was invited to scary movie night by my friend, Betty Bones last week. One of the movies we watched was The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I never really thought I’d enjoy this particular movie because it seemed like one of those flicks that tries to capitalize on the recent popularity of scary movies. Turns out, I was right… and I was wrong. Though it’s obvious this was released at an opportune time, it seems this was a labor of love. It was a somewhat new way to tell the same old story.
The setting is modern day. We watch a court battle of who is responsible for the death of this young woman, Emily Rose. She was possessed according to her family and her clergyman. She died after a failed exorcism. According to the “people” and the prosecution her death was the result of the priest’s neglect for the maladies she supposedly suffered according to her doctor.
Just as the result of the court case, the movie allows you to decide what actually happened. They paint it both ways, but you are in for a few good startles and ghoulish images. It was worth the watch just for that.
Not as good as The Exorcist, but definitely better than most exorcism movies.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It’s Got Legs

Movie • TARANTULA • 1955
w00t!!! Got to see the newest Chiller Theater feature, Tarantula from 1955. A black and white classic, Tarantula is a wonderfully done giant buggy picture. This should be on your list of must see monster movies from the 5os if you haven’t already seen it eleventeen times!
You may have recognized Zacherly, the Cool Ghoul by his distinctive laugh if you saw this presented on Chiller Theater. I fell in love with this dreamy host a long time ago, and was glad to see his return. Chiller Theater ran first in 1961, but Zacherly hosted starting in 1963. My memory was wrong as I thought the six fingered hand was part of the opening. In reality the opening was snippets from some chiller classics. The six-fingered hand crawling from the pool of blood came on commercial breaks. You always knew the feature’s conclusion was coming up when the Chiller Hand “ate” the letters C-H-I-L-L-E-R. Something else I never could have noticed back in the day is that the voice you hear moaning, “Chiiiilll-eeeeeeer…” sounds a lot like Homer Simpson.

Tarantula opens in Desert Rock County as a disfigured man stumbles and croaks. The mystery around this man, soon identified as a Professor Jacobs, quickly unravels as we find he was part of a team experimenting on rodents and insects in the hopes they can find a solution to overpopulation. I can’t understand the logic in this, though. They were developing a serum that would act as a nutritional supplement, but the creatures grew to extremely large sizes, which I suspect would need more food or serum to survive. I guess that’s where scientists go mad in their passion to make a difference. They get exposed to they crazy chemicals, and inject themselves with their idiotic concoctions.
Needless to say, the lab is destroyed, and all the experiments are thought to be destroyed. All. But. One. The TARANTULA! It leaves the lab the size of a dog, but quickly grows to be so outrageously enormous that it dwarfs a three story house :)

We follow the shenanigans of Professor Dima, Dr. Matt Hastings (our hero), and Stephanie Clayton, aka Steve. We get to see the lovely creature several times in seamless overlays. You’ll love the effects, so grab some popcorn, and enjoy!

Tidbit relayed by Zacherly in this showing: Uncredited was a young Clint Eastwood as a fighter pilot. You can see him in the last sequence.

I want to apologize for the run-on sentences. I get that way when I get excited about great movies!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chiller Theater Returns!!!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but it gets very busy around here before Halloween. I have to let you know one of my favorite programs is coming back! If you are in the NY area, or get WPIX Channel 11, they are bringing back Chiller Theater! Remember that six fingered hand that emerged from a puddle of blood to eat the letters in “CHILLER?” Then it would sink back down with that eerie “Chiller,” voice. Ooooh I had such a crush. I just know the elbow had to be just as cute!
Here’s a link to the Channel 11 WPIX announcement:

Also, here’s a link to the original Chiller opening:
We all know all YouTube links don’t necessarily last, so here’s a search for more:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The heard world

Movie • THE LOST WORLD • 1995 Audio book • Original book publication - 1912
Having seen the movie for the first time, I decided to listen to the audio book while I baked some cookies. Wow! The audio was almost 9 hours long, but I was entirely engrossed for the duration. The old writing made it amusing at times, but old-school racist also. If you can get past that, and listen knowing the sensibilities are archaeic you may enjoy the in depth descriptions, and playful commentary.
The love story is completely different, and almost completely absent once it’s established. I understand why they played up the love story in the movie, but I expected that there would be better resolution in the book.
The pterodactyl was the main dinosaur, and the ape men were the antagonists virtually missing from the movie. I was disheartened to see that the explorers were more concerned with conquering the Lost World
and its inhabitants than preserving it. Still, though — it was a brilliant story everyone should “read.” You will hear all the inspirations for modern dinosaur movies.I downloaded this unabridged recording of The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and narrated by Paul Hecht. has a great selection of audio books. They don’t take up space on the shelf where you may rather display your bone collection.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Crafty music

Music • THE CRAFT • Soundtrack • 1996
Woosa, I’ve been in pieces lately. Sorry for the delay in posting. I haven’t been able to do much movie watching lately so, as a treat I’m going to talk music for a bit.
Music, when packaged well with a movie can be a way to experience the movie in small parts. Scenes can be recalled because of the perfect song. When you hear that song, the scene can pop up in your mind. My crush Quentin Tarrantino knows this.
The Craft soundtrack is really better than that. It serves to make me remember the movie more fondly. While it was a pretty cool movie, the music collection is a fantastic gift while the movie is just beautiful wrapping paper: enjoyable for the present, but not something to hold on to.
This soundtrack has some phenomenal cover songs. I hope you like covers the way I do. Updating or re-imagining music is a great compliment to the original artist as well as a refresh for us who appreciate the different takes.
All in all, I’d have liked a more spooky or haunting sound to the music like Mathew Sweet’s Dark Secret, but I understand how important it is to appeal to a wider audience. I do like that they stick with mostly outside the mainstream bands or independent artists like Juliana Hatfield (she happens to be one of our MySpace friends). Jewel is a bit out of place for my taste, but I like the song. Except for the rap part (she should lay off the rap) it reminds me of the 7o’s. That’s when my toesies are from, so they do some tapping.

Below is a track listing

1. Tomorrow Never Knows - Our Lady Peace
2. I Have the Touch - Heather Nova
3. All This and Nothing - Sponge
4. Dangerous Type - Letters to Cleo
5. How Soon Is Now? - Love Spit Love
6. Dark Secret - Matthew Sweet
7. Witches' Song - Juliana Hatfield
8. Jump into the Fire - Tripping Daisy
9. Under the Water - Jewel
10. Warning - All Too Much
11. Spastica - Elastica
12. Horror - Spacehog
13. Bells, Books and Candles - Graeme Revell

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Craftmatic adjustable morals

Movie • THE CRAFT • 1996
I didn’t realize until I looked up the date the The Craft was out in 1996. That seems like ages ago! I have a special affinity to The Craft and its characters because I, for one, am seduced by the powers of magic. I am often tempted to sprinkle a little magical sugar on my baked goods because I am secretly scared no one will like them. Power is a seductive mistress, and cookies aren’t always as delicious as you fancy they might turn out.
I certainly fancied The Craft. Sure it took witchcraft a little over the top. It seems all too easy for movies to play off magic as an easy to come by talent that you can master in an afternoon. This picture was guilty of that too, but it was important that it set a moral code. There are consequences to using hate and anger as your energy source when you dabble with the unknown. What comes around goes around, and what goes around comes around three-fold.
North, South, East, West, the Craft was good, but not the best. When you come around to it, take a listen to the soundtrack. It’s chock full of goodies :)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The found masterpiece

Movie • THE LOST WORLD • 1925
How was I to know that without seeing this movie, I’ve not seen one of the greatest pictures ever made? By today’s standards it would be laughed at, but snotty-nosed kiddies with no appreciation for the endeavor and effort that went into something this big think CGI has existed forever. In my opinion stop-motion was one of the best inventions related to film. It was what brought magic into the eyes and imaginations of children and adults alike. The original classic based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book, The Lost World was a milestone that stands as a masterpiece. Done long before King Kong, and other stop-motion favorites, The Lost World was silent, but resonated in film history.
Given our knowledge of the scary creatures from prehistory, I’d say that they came pretty close. Sure, they looked goofy at times. Sure, some of the dinosaurs depicted never actually existed. Never mind the Chaka type fellow and his monkey cohort. These were characters to bring personification to the lost place they found in the deep jungles of South America.
The Lost World includes a contrived and convenient love story, but I wasn't here for that. You could almost skip the narration and dialog cards, and still enjoy this picture for the brilliance!
I loved the overzealous Allosaurus and all the veggie-sauruses who fought like predators.
The only thing I didn’t like, but I guess was a sign of the time, was the black-face white actor who played the black man. That was a little weird. That, and the fact that the terrorizing dinosaur in the end is a brontosaurus!
I’ll enjoy this one again.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Eaten Alive needed spicing up

Movie • EATEN ALIVE • 1976
The 70’s were a time when films were being made that could offend you with the title alone. Then, if you bothered to watch you’d either see something so cheesy and poorly acted, any gore that might be present looks like camp.
Eaten Alive (from the director of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre) begins with a naughty scene the boys might enjoy. It’s accompanied with some cheap synthesizer music. A Louisiana hotel owner is the reddest neck hick with a taste for watching his croc fill his belly. Having been attacked in the past, I’m guessing he sees his thrill as justified.
This movie is grotesquely violent, and crosses the line between campy gore and cheap shock. The killer is out of his mind! I just know this picture was one of Rob Zombie’s influences.
Everyone is crazy in Eaten Alive, including the victims and heroes. I had to check the credits to be sure, but an interesting hunky surprise is that the dreamy boy, Freddy Krueger has a role. Actually it’s Robert Englund looking surprisingly buff and pretty. He plays a sassy mouth local who is too tough to let the hotel manager scare him.
If you decide to watch this one keep the remote in your hand. You’ll be turning it down pretty often when the screechy screams take over the poor sound quality.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jump around, jump around!

Movie • JUMPER • 2008
Hayden Christensen is a delicious peach pie in Jumper. I ate up the whole thing. There were a few small holes in the plot, but that was to let steam out so the pie doesn’t explode while baking. Who wants baked peach puree all over the walls of their oven, anyway?
I was pleased to watch this, and had a great time. The bad reviews Jumper got when it was in theaters are just backlash, projection, and displaced anger about the ruination of the once feared and respected Darth Vader. Christensen makes up for this in Jumper, and we can all refocus our disdain at George Lucas.
Hayden Christensen’s character finds himself with a new amazing talent when his life is in danger, and he quickly masters his “jumping” ability to fulfill fantasies of independence and luxury. Nothing teaches like travel, and we all know that while journeys are often fulfilling, who wouldn’t want to cut out the 20 hour flight to get to the other side of the planet? Some kids backpack through Europe, but we’d see it all, and appreciate so much more if we could eliminate the train ride between the Tate Museum and the Louvre.
Of course there are other jumpers, and with all the yins there are yangs. Samuel Jackson heads up an ancient team of people who want to make the jumpers extinct. They represent a religious right who make self-righteous assertions without realizing that they themselves are the ones at odds with nature. By trying to destroy the jumpers, they are the ones playing God as they accuse the jumpers of doing the same thing.
Jumpers is short enough to be heart-stopping action for the duration, so enjoy the ride! And the sequel (or series) implications are enough to make me hope for more!

Pack it up, pack it in
Let me begin
I came to win
Battle me that's a sin
I won't tear the sack up
Punk you'd better back up
Try and play the role and the whole crew will act up
Get up, stand up, come on!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ΩMega Bomb

Movie • THE OMEGA MAN • 1971
I have to admit, I’ve only seen this for the first time. These old cult classics should have been seen many times. I also have to admit, I will likely not be seeing The Omega Man many times. Maybe I’ll watch a scene here and there, but jeepers, it seemed like Omega Man should be watched at nap-time. Charleton Heston looked bored playing his role, and the plague surviving zombie/vampire people were more like jive-talking albino druids that mated with the Morlocks from The Time Machine.
I knew I was in for a really boring treat when Robert Neville goes into a theater to watch a Woodstock film… and we are subjected to several minutes of it as if we’d be given insight to the vibe. I get that what we see in this theater with Neville is a symbolic foreshadowing to the new night-dweller society. After a worldwide biological war, there are a few survivors who are a homogenized, socialist twisted version of the hippie peace ideology. These are the vampire/zombie people that were originally conceived by Richard Matheson in his book, I Am Legend.
I see now where the new I Am Legend movie drew most of its inspiration from. The urban setting, the basic plot line with Robert Neville saving the world with his blood just before dying a martyr’s death, the halfway love interest with a child, etc.
The Omega Man and the recent I Am Legend simply weren’t successful in telling the story of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend the way Last Man On Earth starring Vincent Price did.
Stay away from Charlton Heston in this one. About the only thing I found entertaining was the inappropriately happy music that played as the soundtrack.
If you insist on watching, look for these three things:

• Listen to what Lisa says to Robert when they first meet. It’s a hint to his end.
• Look for the Alanis Morissette look-alike in the surviving human clan.
• The Ω in The ΩMega Man looks like headphones

But I recommend curling up with a cup of tea and some cookies, and reading Richard Matheson’s book instead.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hellish to watch, and not golden

Movie • HELLBOY II: The Golden Army • 2008
As cute as this Hellboy guy is, and as cute as Ron Perlman is, I’m not getting this. How a sequel happened after the first snoozer is beyond me, but I’ve seen it happen. There are die-hard fans, and there’s serious potential behind an interesting set of characters and premise. So they had their chance to make it better (kind of like the Hulk), and they did indeed make it better; but they only made it slightly better than the first bad one (kind of like the Hulk).
While the set designs, costumes, CGI, make-up, and scenes were all brilliantly painted, and the patchwork of images and creatures were dazzling to watch, the story was plain and boring. Betty Bones was with me, and she actually fell asleep! She even had a bucket of brains to munch on!
I give Guillermo del Toro kudos for beautiful imagery, but please stick with non-franchise stuff. You probably lost control, and had to make the best with what you had. There is camp value. I guarantee I'll love this picture in about 20 years.
Nice tooth fairies, though. They were pretty close to the real thing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The dark is brilliant

Movie • THE DARK KNIGHT • 2008
After so many tries, I am surprised I even bothered hoping the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight would be any good. Most people were very pleased with the first new Batman movie that starred Christian Bale, but I thought even that one (though it was the best to date) left something to be desired. Batman was not the tortured soul to the level he should have been…
Well THANK HEATH LEDGER for a brill Joker performance! Christian Bale was a decent Batman again, but I wish his gravely voice didn’t seem so over the top. Heath Ledger managed to make this picture a dark, scary nightmare I never wanted to wake up from. This lovely creature was a pleasure to watch. From the first minute, The Joker was my hero. I wasn’t necessarily sold on his psychotic personality just because of his murderous plan that played out early; but then The Joker introduces himself to the cast of criminals… DREAMY! I love magic (I wish I was better at it). The Joker makes a pencil disappear in jaw-dropping fashion. I was glad there was some cinemuck and popcorn on the floor, or my jaw hit the floor with no reward.
As it should be, the hero (Batman) may have had more screen time, but Joker was the star of The Dark Knight. His insane rants and antics were the center of gravity of this new Batmen movie.

Highlight for spoilers:
Hopefully this text won’t be found to be a spoiler for very long… Two-Face/Harvey Dent was a surprise for me. I never expected him to look so creepy, and wasn’t even certain he’d play such a big role. I hope he’s not really dead because I would love to see Aaron Eckhart continue to explore that role. Joker played him like a pawn, and I want to see him act more independently. Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) was pretty good. I was blown away to see her role in the transition of the Two-Face character. This dark element in the film was only part of what sold me on Batman’s torment.

In the end, the picture seemed to last about 15 minutes too long. I’m not sure what I would have cut, though because the A.I. trick endings were very important. Get an extra large popcorn, and have a bathroom break before you go in. This is THE batman movie.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Nightmare to wake up from

Movie • WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (part 7 in the series) • 1994
Ten years after the first one, after Freddy Krueger movies saturated the cinemascape of horror, Wes Craven decided to breath new life into his most famous character. This is the 7th in the series, but the first since the original to take itself so seriously it really paints itself as a Wes Craven diary entry:

Dear diary,
My Freddy Krueger franchise has made me rich beyond my dreams. I’ve exploited the character to his limits. Freddy Krueger is a household name. I feel now is the time to break the fourth wall down and try a new concept with him. We can rehash old scenes with several nods to my original masterpiece, A Nightmare On Elm Street. We’ll throw in a few references to some of my favorite scenes from the sequel too. It’ll be great. The audience will eat it up. I’ve run out of ideas, so this time I think we’ll use some of the actors from the original including the main character, Nancy. We’ll pretend they are these well-known actors who now have to face Freddy Krueger in real life!
We can have Robert Englund show up (I know he wants to be taken seriously as a real actor who can play other roles). We can rework Freddy Krueger’s make-up to look like a cheap Halloween mask. Less money on make-up = more money for profit! There’s no reason to bother having to fall asleep for Freddy to get you. This time we’ll use a creepy kid. He’ll be Freddy’s barrier. Creepy kids are scary, right? Right?
Gosh, I wish we could get Johnny Depp to reprise his role! Oooh, instead, I’ll play a part as Wes Craven myself. Now I’ll be well known for my good looks and acting ability as well as my films.
Wes Craven

So there you have it. No reason for me to review it. It’s all right there in my pretend Wes Craven diary entry. It actually wasn’t terrible. It was fairly entertaining, but nothing more than a self-aggrandizing sequel.
I do agree with Wes on this: It would have been delicious if Johnny Depp could have reprised his role.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Carpenter nailed it

Movie • THE THING • 1982
John Carpenter’s The Thing was based more on the original short story “Who Goes There” by John W. Campbell, Jr. than the 1951’s The Thing From Another World which was based on the same story. I recently read and reviewed the adaptation by Alan Dean Foster from the screenplay (click here). Though the details were significantly different, and I did like the book much more, the movie still stands up to the test of time. It’s not yet a cheesy 80’s horror/sci-fi movie, and probably never will be. The special effects are a bit much in their gross factor, and maybe we see too much too early, but they still look good.
Kurt Russell’s beautiful blue eyes called me to rewind several times. He was a dreamboat, wasn’t he? I wish he wasn’t wearing that bushy beard; but he had to keep his pretty face warm, I guess.

Extra bonus: All men in this movie.
Not so bonus: Only two are eye-candy.
Return to bonus: The two beautiful men are all that survive.
Not so bonus: They will either off each other or freeze to death, or both.

True to the screenplay we are left at the end with no doubt what the immediate future will bring. I was glad to remember (since I hadn’t seen this picture since the 80’s) that not all stories end with the US Army marching in to save the day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Favorite movies POLL RESULTS

What are your favorite movies?

29% • B Horror
24% • Classic Monsters
18% • Giant Monsters
10% • Cheesy Horror
8% • Slasher Gore
8% • None of these!

Monday, July 7, 2008

H. G. Well done

Book • THE INVISIBLE MAN • H. G. Wells • 1897
The copy I have is from 1970, and it’s in pretty bad shape. It almost feels like a crime opening it, but I had to read this again. One of my favorite themes is invisibility. That brings me to the term invisible. I’m wondering if the title meant the same to a reader from 1897 as it does to today’s reader. To us The Invisible Man is obviously about a man who is there, but cannot be seen. It’s very likely that H. G. Wells was teasing the reader with the idea that the story was about a man who was not seen in public situations. Griffin was a man who kept to himself, and wanted to remain “invisible.”
Several chapters go by before Wells reveals the nature of Griffin’s secret. Even then, we are only exposed to hints, and it is left to us to decide what his words actually mean. At some point it becomes expected that you must have figured it out. At that point the invisible man is already on the road to insanity. For the modern reader, we all know the basic story, so the fact that he is more than transparent is clear before we crack the binding.
H. G. Wells does an amazing job bringing us into the mind of an obsessed man with a single goal. He’s reached his goal, but now sees that with the wish of being invisible comes restrictions that go beyond what he expected. Griffin is confused, betrayed and frustrated. The Invisible Man is a terribly sad story. I’m not sure if you are supposed to feel sorry for the man, but I certainly did. It’s an easy read that apparently was first published as a serial in a periodical before being collected as a novel.
If you haven’t read it yet you better get to it. It’s a must read no matter what kind of book you like. See for yourself!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Thing One and Thing Zero

Book • THE THING • Alan Dean Foster • 1982
This is one of those books that has sat on my shelf for years. I've read it a couple of times, but I always seem to forget The Thing the novelization by Alan Dean Foster is based on a screenplay by Bill Lancaster which was in turn based on the story “Who Goes There” by John W. Campbell, Jr. I feel half ashamed, like what I read was not really a book at all. A novelization of a screenplay could be thought of as a printed version of scenes that have already been imagined for you. That’s why I’m glad my corpse brain can only remember for a short time. And, as luck would have it, novelizations usually come from the first draft. Screenplays go through re-writes and films get edited. The Thing by Alan Dean Foster is significantly different from the movie The Thing by John Carpenter. Insight into the thoughts of the characters is only the obvious benefit from reading the novelization.
The Thing is a great adventure exploring the minds of men, and a lesson on the effects of pressure and paranoia. Monsters and aliens from space always give me the heebie-jeebies. After all, these are not local residents from Dread Falls or members of Jitterbutter. These are creepy critters who can survive for hundreds of thousands of years entombed in ice waiting for the day they can invade your body on a cellular level… then break out of your body like it was nothing more than a cocoon.
What I’d really love to see is a prequel that depicts what the Norwegian scientists went through to get to the point where they were chasing down the sled dog. Needless to say, the Americans could have no idea that the dog was harboring a terrible alien inside. There’s so much mystery to the Norwegians’ story even though we know their end. How about it. Is somebody doing a prequel to The Thing?

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Vampire, Bill

Book • DEAD UNTIL DARK• Charlaine Harris • 2001
At first I wasn’t sure what to make of Sookie Stockhouse and the vampire fellow named Bill, but despite recommendations against reading this novel I think I’ve found a series of books to read. I didn’t realize it was a series when I first picked it up, so I’m glad the story is not over.
Dead Until Dark explores vampires and their lives in a way that is much closer to the real life they lead than any of the pretentious series that try to introduce new laws into their lore. Vampires, just like people come in many shapes, sizes, and personalities. Just like people, they are not all killers. Just like people they have to deal with their peers. Vampirism deals with generations gaps beyond human mortal comprehension, and Charlaine Harris seems to understand that. Vampires can have remorse, and they can be cold as a corpse.
Dead Until Dark is a love story and a mystery that just happens to involve vampires. The progression of the characters’ relationships is believable and compelling. I highly recommend this book as a stand-alone. Give it a try. I’ll be picking up the next in the series when I get to the store again. Maybe I’ll just order it online. Everyone seems to freak out when they see an adorable little reanimated quilted corpse walking through the book store.

Dead Until Dark is also approved as a good book by my good friend, LilyBat (who happens to be a vampire).

PS. There is a great surprise that will come up so unexpectedly toward the end, I am anticipating the Sookie Stockhouse series to bowl me over every time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Know what I mean, Verne?

I’m not sure how closely the story resembles The Mysterious Island, the book it’s based on by Jules Verne, but this picture was a great endeavor for its time. It begins with spectacular matte painting of establishing shots set off the ocean. The movie was so visual, I almost didn’t notice that it’s mostly a silent film. They did manage to work in some dialog, though. It must have been an extra cost because sound was used sparingly.
The story takes a long time to get going. People must have had much more patience in 1929. After some time you will be rewarded with brilliant effects, miniatures and camera tricks. The sets and costumes had me believing in under-water baby sleestaks.
It was nice to see that in 1929 the damsel in distress was capable of taking the initiative in her own rescue. The story is very basic, but The Mysterious Island makes up for it in its amazing visuals. I’m not sure if the creatures the people meet are played by children or little people, but they didn’t have CGI, and there were what looked like thousands.
This is a must see classic. Now I have to go find the book to read Jules Vernes’ descriptions.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fred Krueger is dreamy

With such an unassuming title, you’d never expect this to turn into a franchise that spans the decades; but if you were around in the 80’s you’d have seen that Freddy Krueger would turn into a new generation monster with real staying power. I suppose Freddy Krueger will one day be as popular a reference as Frankenstein’s Monster.
His impact as a scary character are still there despite the bad 80’s keyboard music, and the over-done gravely voice. You decide whether the early glove-building montage is lent from action films or just a threat of what’s to come.
I admit I didn’t love this movie back in the day, but having not seen it for twenty-odd years or so has fermented it into a tasty vino. 1984 was a good year. A Nightmare On Elm Street as seen in the 80’s was 80’s garbage, but now I see it as classic. Funny what time does. Could have something to do with my ears. The ones I had back then were more cynical.
The opening credits include, “Introducing Johnny Depp.” I’m guessing he did something before that or they wouldn’t have been compelled to “introduce” him, but they certainly had great foresight! Johnny Depp would become a favorite for all of us. His dreamy eyes, and manly cheeks make me melt. His hair was a little poofy, and his clothes were boring, but we can blame that on costumes and make-up. We’ll blame cheesy writing for his poorly delivered lines. Boy was the teenage interaction awkward and contrived.
Watch for the scene when Nancy leaps from her window. She’s supposed to be landing in or behind some hedges, but the inflated stunt cushion is plain as day. She lands on it, and you see it pop up from behind the bushes. I had to laugh at that.
Aside from goofy awkward acting here and there, and a few film mistakes, I had a great time watching this movie again. The dream sequences were well thought-out, and cleverly executed. We’ve all seen ‘how they do it’ special effects shows, but the camera tricks in A Nightmare On Elm Street still measure up. See? We don’t need no stinkin’ CGI!

“1, 2, Freddy’s coming for you; 3, 4, better lock your door; 5, 6, grab a crucifix; 7, 8, better stay up late; 9, 10, never sleep again…”
That’s the only time they refer to Krueger as “Freddy.” The parents refer to the child-killer as Fred Krueger, and Fred Krueger is what is written inside his hat.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More incredible bunk

Is this a Levis ad or movie poster?

I’m not the type to get on line early for too many pictures these days, so forgive me for this Hulk review so many days after the opening. I was not very impressed with the Ang Lee endeavor, so I didn’t put too much hope into the new movie starring the big, cute and angry monster.
To put it simply, improvement does not make this a good movie. I mean it was mildly entertaining, but the standard has dropped so far, we all think mediocrity is excellence. There were still some very awkward moments during the transformations from Bruce Banner into the Hulk. They looked better when they showed only hints of the change, but they got cocky, and tried full on bright light changes. Hulk bubbles? I always thought he grew evenly. He bubbled like he had giant maggots under his skin.
I can suspend my beliefs as well as the next movie fan, but how come tank missiles barely stun him, but knocking his head on the ceiling of a cave make him reach painfully for his bruised noggin saying, “Oooh,” (as in “ouchy”)? Liv Tyler was poorly cast here. Sorry. She was no Betty Ross. She should stick with roles where she doesn’t have to speak too much. And, Liv! Lay off the lip injections. It looks like allergies.
I was actually bothered by the lame cameos, and how awkwardly they were placed. The sequel implications bothered me too. The movie was peppered with them. Isn’t that a bit presumptuous considering the previous fiasco?
Abomination was crazy cool looking, but didn’t look like the comic character. He looked more like the alien/Ripley hybrid from Alien: Resurrection, but all grown up and stacked from taking too much HGH.
I can’t even complain that The Incredible Hulk was a testosterone frenzy because there wasn’t really that much action. I always thought I’d love a CGI Hulk because he would be so cute, but there were more scenes where he looked wrong than right. He looked good in the rain, but even Jurassic Park did better in sunlight. I’m going to stick with the old Lou Ferrigno Hulk. My heart was raised in the seventies along with at least one of my eyes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wolfen stinkin’

Movie • WOLFEN • 1981
Based on the novel The Wolfen by Whitley Strieber. So, it wasn’t good enough for him to have a moving picture made from his book, he had to be abducted by aliens to sell more books? I’m not accusing. I’m just pointing out that it’s either an awful coincidence that a sci-fi/horror writer would face alien abduction, a horrifying experience; or Whitley Strieber had to be a genius in marketing. I bet it was an awful coincidence.
Well, on to the movie. Awful. Oops, there’s that word again. I’m okay with horror being done with wolves… sorry, wolfen; but seriously, it may have been better off werewolves (Please note the labels for this post include werewolves only for category purposes. Only wolves are in this picture). Sure, the werewolves in the city thing was done several times, but here was a chance to make them smart. Instead they are the leftover refugees from 300 years past when the North American native was driven back and wiped out… along with the wolfen. In case you haven’t picked it up, when I type one of these… I’m smirking, tilting my noggin, and thinking the words in a mocking tone.
So, the “wolfen” are protecting their hunting ground, which happens to be the South Bronx. They hunt our homeless, and diseased, and those who won’t be missed… because we all know they all live in the South Bronx. Give me a break. Talk about stereotypes. Want more stereotypes? Edward James Olmos, who looked deliciously fit you’d never recognize him played a native American Indian who danced around naked, acting like an animal after a night at the pub drinking with the tribal chiefs. Ridiculous.
There were a few corny moments that I admit I chuckled at. Eating chocolate chips in the morgue seemed distasteful, but it made my tummy grumble. There was a hot dog scene where one character was biting while the other was describing the dismemberment of, well… a member. Classy prop placement, mister director.
My advice. Stay away. You’ll be bored. You’re better off watching Ewok cartoons.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The house carries a morte gauge

Movie • BURNT OFFERINGS • 1976
With a title like Burnt Offerings I expected Creme Brulee, and I was not disappointed. Truth be told, I’ve seen this movie three times now, and I still get a kick. I want to run around like a ranting raven to tell everyone to see it just for the Bette Davis character. Karen Black has certainly played better roles. but this seems to be Bette Davis hitting rock bottom. It really brings out the self-pity in the character… unless she was really that good! Burgess Meredith wasn’t bad either. He was so creepy. I never would have trusted him. Seems like he’s always a creepy character, even when he’s not supposed to be.
Auntie, mummy and daddy, and their little brat boy rent a remote mansion for the summer; but there’s a catch. They have to take care of the old woman on the top floor. She never comes out, and she doesn’t want to be bothered seeing people; so food must be left for her like a bowl of milk for a stray cat. Mom (Marian), played by Karen Black takes on this chore; and it seems she makes an odd connection to the woman and the house.
As most 70’s movies go, dad seems to devolve into a nasty, abusive man who can’t be trusted. That’s the great decoy. I wouldn’t want to spoil that further, so I’ll say no more than to look closely at the photo collection.
Is the house alive? I’m not sure, but it sure looks like a nice place to live. The place is good for spookies, and children are good for the place. Never did find out the burnt part of Burnt Offerings though.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Reading Vincent Price’s Diary

Movie • DIARY OF A MADMAN • 1963
I don’t know much about “The Horla,” but it was apparently the inspiration for Diary of a Madman. The Horla by Guy de Maupassant is an 1887 short story written in the style of a journal. I wonder if the studio had to pay the estate of Maupassant for the rights since the premise is so similar?
In Diary of a Madman, a judge, played by Vincent Price acquires the urge to kill. The Horla is the urge, and is given a physical presence, though he cannot be seen. Vincent Price, as always does a remarkable job, but is it my imagination? Is he always a widower in his roles?
Classic horror and mystery fans alone should watch this picture. Anyone else would feel like they are wasting their time. I hate to put it that way, but it has to be said. Most modern fans would think it was silly, but not campy enough to enjoy for that value. The costumes and sets take themselves seriously enough, but there is the sense of a stage. Set details were superb, but bullocks, if I didn't snap out of it when the did a close-up of a trial testament title written in felt-tip marker, and the body written in ball-point pen. Mind you, this was supposed to be in the 1800’s.
I seem to remember seeing this picture a long time ago, but lucky for me, my memory is poor due to slow decomposition, so I can enjoy the same film over and over. The story is relatively simple, so I won’t go into too many details on the plot. There was less murder than I expected, but then again with modern day Sweeney Todd type gore, I’ve become jaded. I was still pleasantly shocked with death of a central character, and the way it was handled. Even more so with the way in which the “evidence” was disposed. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s Joker, murder is an art; and indeed he was right.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Tarsem shows’em

Movie • THE FALL • 2008
Edited Monday, June 9. See Below***
I’m a fan of pictures. Moving pictures move me. It’s my favorite thing aside from a moist, creamy chocolate brownie with mint chocolate chip ice cream on top. That’s why I have to take a step aside and tell you about a movie that doesn’t necessarily fit snuggly with the other movies I like to tell you about. This picture may not be only the best film of 2008. I nominate the Tarsem film The Fall as a top ten picture of all time! It’s today’s Wizard of Oz.
I went to the Sunshine Cinema Landmark Theater in NYC Friday evening to see The Fall directed by Tarsem, the same visual artist who spewed out The Cell with Jennifer Lopez. I now see that the Cell was a Hollywood monstrosity puppet show with studio execs pulling all the strings. The Fall is obviously the comeback. It’s Tarsem’s return with a vengeance.
We begin in Los Angeles in the 1920s or so. A little immigrant girl named Alexandria is in the hospital recovering from a tumble. She befriends a young man named Roy Walker who is bed-bound. The two hit it off far too easily — almost in child-like fashion, and it seems believable until you understand the true reason for their friendship. Roy, played by Lee Pace spends days telling a long-winded, made up tale of adventure to Alexandria, magnificently played by Catinca Untaru. I’m not even sure I can believe she was really acting. She was far too convincing in all her nuances and gestures. The adult actors around her must have done a lot of ad-libbing to play off her adorable role. If not, she must win the oscar for best actress. I don’t care if she’s still just a tot.
Roy’s fairy tale of Indians, pirates, and adventurers is masterfully presented to us through the imagination of Alexandria. She places the people she sees every day in the roles of the avengers who seek to bring down the evil Governor Odious. What Roy is telling is not always what Alexandria sees, and we get to witness her worldly perceptions illustrating what slowly progresses into a self-realization for both of them.
If you have an appreciation for cinema, The Fall will have you spinning. What the film is really about will not be divulged to you until each of the two main characters realize what they’ve really been doing while getting to know each other. We are left with an ending that leaves us guessing if we are being told the truth, and I love it for that very reason. I cried for three reasons at the end, and I never even thought about the third before. I’m so happy that I’ve had another chance to see the world through an innocent child’s eyes. I’m not really sure where my eyes are from.
Perhaps I’ll return to this review in the future and say more, but for now let me just say that there is an element to early film I never had an appreciation for, and now I feel guilty for that neglect. I realize now that film is the metaphor for the points of view we are witness to throughout our lives. My inner child will forever believe that film makes us immortal. That and a good shot of electricity from a Tesla coil ;)

***Here is something that was a splendid surprise. At the end of The Fall I stayed to watch the credits as I always do (this is an important step to being a true fan of pictures). I noticed the credit for titles going to Stephan Bucher. You may notice his link to the right for his Daily Monster. <<< click there if you don’t see it. As a blog friend I had to email him to ask, and indeed it was him. It’s either a small world or true synchronicity (why does spell check still not like that word?). He was the same Stefan Bucher! So many of you have found me through a link on his site I feel it’s the least I can do to ask you to take a look-see at his work.
His design. Fun!
His Daily Monster (highly recommended).
His typography work on The Fall. You can also read Stefan’s synopsis of the story here. He reveals a little more than I wanted to in my review, so be careful. There are slight spoilers.

Thanks again to Stefan and all the hits from his monster friends!

Friday, June 6, 2008


Ooooooooh, guess what!!! I’m running a secret monster club. JITTERBUTTER™ has accepted LilyBat, Betty Bones, and reluctantly, DeMonica. Hopefully the cheeky little monkey behaves.
We’ll be meeting secretly to discuss pride in our monster heritage. Probably, we’ll pig out on Eel Pie and Brain Cookies. It’s the only secret monster club that I know of, so if you want to join just knock me up. You don’t even have to be a resident of Dread Falls.

Aaaaand, I’m in a portrait on deviantArt. It’d be smashing if you would go there and buy a print! If I was only so lollipopular ;)

Clickity click for my portrait.
Also, the other Jitterbutter girl monsters are there. Clickity for them!

We’ve all had sniffles, so I’ve been watching lots of flicks, but haven’t had a chance to write reviews. I haven’t been totally skyvin’ though. My pile of notes should keep me busy, so I’ll write my next review ASAP, and be back to regular posting as well.

Hugs and grrrowls!
Abby Cadaver