Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review – Batman: Under the Red Hood

After a college roommate did a thorough job of exposing me to high-quality animation from Japan, I've never been able to go back to the produced-on-the-cheap stuff made for the American market. As this picture is no exception, I mostly just turned it on for background noise while I worked on something else. Oh, and I initially thought it was a different movie. Still, taking it for what it is and not expecting it to be anything else, I guess it wasn't too bad. Batman runs up against a new enemy – the mysterious Red Hood – who appears to simultaneously be killing off Gotham's drug criminals and setting himself up as their overlord. Mildly amusing

Review – The Burning Bed

Farah Fawcett turns in one of the first "if I de-glamor myself will you take me seriously as an actress?" performances in this at-the-time-groundbreaking drama about domestic violence. She plays Francine Hughes, a lower-class woman from Mississippi stuck in a long-term relationship with an abusive man (Paul Le Mat). When family, friends and authorities all fail to help her escape the rising tide of violence in her home, she takes matters into her own hands and sets fire to the guy while he's asleep. Her subsequent murder trial (not to mention this movie and the book it's based on) did a lot to draw national attention to a serious problem. Unfortunately, that makes it a bit of a creature of its own time, important in 1984 but now at least a little dated. Mildly amusing

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review – Dead of Night (1977)

Awhile back we watched a 1945 English movie of the same name based on the recommendations of respected film folk (including Martin Scorcese). I put this one in the Netflix queue based on the chance (the hope!) that they actually meant this picture rather than the older stinker. Nope. This one was even worse than the English production. Screenwriter Richard Matheson cooks up a good Twilight-Zone-esque intro speech, but the three stories that follow are little more than an obvious attempt by Dan Curtis to pilot another horror TV series. The first is some time travel nonsense about an old car, twaddle that even Ray Bradbury would have found excessively sentimental. The remaining two – a vampire whodunit and a monkey's paw – are a little better but still not anything that would ever have become a going concern. And to make the attempt even more pathetic, the disc's special features include a shot-on-video episode of a DOA TV series that looked like it was supposed to turn into some kind of half-assed live action Scooby Doo (minus Shaggy and Scooby). See if desperate

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review – Clonus

Clones of the power elite live on a clone farm unwittingly awaiting the opportunity to become organ donors for their wealthy originals. Most of them have been lobotomized, so they don't make much trouble. But their scientist creators – suffering from Scientist's Syndrome (the pathological inability to avoid tinkering with things) – leave a few of them un-pithed. And of course one of them wises up to the operation, escapes from the farm and journeys into the real world in search of his progenitor. Despite the dated look-and-feel and a few plot holes here and there, this is a reasonably entertaining tale. As a compromise between director and distributor, it was originally released as Parts: The Clonus Horror. Mildly amusing

Review – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2005)

Though this picture is way more concept than actual movie, it's still an intriguing concept. Working exclusively on a green screen set, the cast and crew recreate Robert Wiene 's silent classic only this time with sound. They even use some of the backdrops digitally captured and directly imported from the original. Needless to say, this doesn't exactly break much new ground. But it is fun to watch (not to mention listen to). Mildly amusing

Review – Cold Heaven

Director Nicolas Roeg manages to muster all the dullness of productions such as The Man Who Fell to Earth without including any of the stylish visuals or occasional interesting twists. A woman (Theresa Russell) contemplates killing her husband (Mark Harmon) so she doesn't have to sneak around behind his back anymore. But then he dies all on his own in a boating accident. But then the body disappears from the morgue, and things just turn into a boring parade of what's-really-going-on dreams and hallucinations from there. See if desperate

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tommy's Holiday Camp

Once again I've a small bone to pick with Mental Floss. The last time I got a whole column out of it, but this time the gripe is a bit smaller.

Just about every issue the magazine includes the latest entry in its list of "101 Masterpieces." In the July-August issue the masterpiece being celebrated is The Who's Tommy.

I don't begrudge it a spot on the list. Though the work is a little uneven, it stands on its own as a legitimate work of art. The problem is the notion that it spawned other art works that contributed significantly to the world.

Here's the list of albums and shows that, according to writer Bill DeMain, owe a huge debt to Tommy:

  • Pink Floyd's The Wall
  • Green Day's American Idiot
  • Evita
  • Jesus Christ Superstar
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch 

To which let me add at least two more:

  • Kilroy Was Here
  • Trapped in the Closet

Yeah, thanks guys. Western civilization marches on.


---


As does computer repair. I've got Dreamweaver reinstalled and the site downloaded. So now I just need to busy myself with getting caught up.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review – Edge of Sanity

The next time I fall for the Anthony-Perkins-is-in-this-so-maybe-it-will-be-good trap, I need to remember Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion. Here we get yet another twist on the Jekyll and Hyde tale. This time around the good doctor is accidentally exposed to an experimental, cocaine-based anesthetic that brings out his childhood sexual trauma, but otherwise the only difference between this go-around and most of the earlier versions is that the rough sex is a bit more explicit. See if desperate

Bean there, done that

A few days ago I was watching Black Death, a singularly non-entertaining piece of crud about misery in the Middle Ages. So sort of like making a movie about white people in coffee shops or wheat in Kansas.

Bored and in need of distraction, I noted that one of the stars was Sean Bean. Though I'm sure he's a perfectly good actor, I've had trouble taking him seriously ever since his appearance in Patriot Games many years ago. The problem didn't arise from the movie itself or his performance in it. Rather, it cropped up during the opening credits.

While we were watching the credits, Bean's name appeared (naturally enough, as he's the lead bad guy in the movie). Someone in the group (I'm looking at you, Ms. Rauber) was temporarily puzzled by the spellings of his first and last names. "Sean Bean?" she asked.

It isn't odd at all if you pronounce his first name "Shawn." But because of the similarity to his last name, she read his first as sounding like "Scene." And of course that made it funny.

What made it even funnier is when we started coming up with relatives for him, such as his grumpy grandpa Mean Bean. His creepy uncle Obscene Bean. His eco-friendly niece Green Bean (try making it through grade school with that one).

Did I mention that this was years ago?

---

In site news, guess what? Another massive hard drive crash! This time it was the desktop computer from which I do almost all my work.

Thus this crash took just about everything I've created for my classes for the past 13 years. Oh, and a big chunk of the preliminary work for my sabbatical project. At the moment the dead hard drive awaits more expert attention than I can give it.

Sigh.

Fortunately just about all the content for 8sails was already uploaded to the ISP. And having at least partially learned my lesson from the laptop crash a few months ago, I've been doing a lot of my work "in the cloud" using the 8sails wiki.

So if you absolutely can't stand to wait a couple of days for me to set things right, you can toddle off to the wiki and read the drafts before they're officially made part of the site. Otherwise just give me a bit and I'll recover from this mess and get back on track.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Abandoned – Witch's Sabbath

Because "Stripper's Sabbath" would have made less sense, though it would have been more honest. This was shaping up to be the most spectacularly boring use of bare boobs since Orgy of the Dead. Ten minutes

Review – Bloodlock

This is one of those movies that I forget almost literally as soon as they're over. It's a guy-with-a-video-camera-and-some-friends-who-can-kinda-act production about a not-happily-married young couple who move into a house with a vampire locked in the basement. See if desperate

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review – Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia

It came from the crappy action movie box and went straight to video. American commandos are abandoned in Columbia (so it isn't just a catchy title), framed for an assassination attempt on drug lords and military officials. If you find yourself entertained by plot-free gunfights in the 4:3 aspect ratio, then prepare to be entertained. See if desperate

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review – Eight Men Out

John Sayles turns his ever-so-slightly-too-artistic eye on the notorious "Black Sox" scandal from the 1919 World Series. He works with a solid cast of familiar faces to tell the no-winners tale of how desperately underpayed ballplayers fell under the sway of petty crooks bankrolled by a big-time mobster looking to fix the White Sox's looks-like-a-sure-thing win over the Reds. Though I could have done with a trifle less filter work, the production does a solid job both as a crime movie and a baseball picture. Oh, and a quick side-note to Pete Rose (whom I'm sure reads 8sails all the time): if it was up to me, you'd go into the Hall of Fame right after Shoeless Joe (i.e. never). Worth seeing

Friday, June 10, 2011

Review – Black Death

This is one of those movies that left me wondering why they even bothered to make it. I watched it because it looked like they spent some money on it and the Netflix description identified it as a horror movie. The former was correct. The latter, on the other hand ... maybe it's just that "horror" and "horrible" sound alike. The central thesis here seems to be that life sucked during the Middle Ages, especially after the Bubonic Plague broke out in the 14th century. Sean Bean heads an ensemble of grimy witchfinders in search of a village that has magically been spared from the disease ravaging the rest of the peasantry. Before the end everyone (witchfinders, peasants, innocent young protagonist, etc.) manages to deftly avoid either a literal or a moral victory. So thanks, people who made this, for bringing a little pointless misery into my life. See if desperate

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review – Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde

In this bizarre twist on Stephenson's classic, the good doctor turns into an attractive-yet-evil woman rather than a brute. Oh, and s/he is also Jack the Ripper. Oh, and s/he is also in league with Burke and Hare. It almost goes without saying that the errors in chronology and geography aren't exactly the worst part of the production. That distinction belongs to the complete lack of context or purpose for the gender-swapping variation. We get a brief (and somewhat less than plausible) explanation for why the Hyde formula turns its drinker into a woman. But beyond that, she might just as well have been any other Hyde. Oh, well. Any excuse for building some female partial frontal nudity into a Hammer production. Mildly amusing

Review – Deranged

As movie versions of the Ed Gein story go, this one isn't too terrible. They play a little fast and loose with the facts. And the production is also saddled with some annoying conventions, such as changing the killer's name to "Ezra Cobb" and plugging in a journalist narrator who infests the first half of the movie at oddly awkward moments and then vanishes almost entirely once the murders get underway. And of course the victims are young, attractive women rather than the middle-aged "mother" types Gein actually preferred. But the parts that show a little respect for the true story are entertaining enough. Mildly amusing

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Abandoned – Bram Stoker's: To Die For

Because if Dracula was a woman and she lived in Los Angeles, that would definitely be original. Definitely. I made it 20 minutes or so before determining that the oddly-placed colon in the title wasn't going to be the movie's worst trespass against intelligence. And I should note that both this one and The Lost City were "quit" for us by Netflix, which took them off the instant view list before we could get around to finishing them.

Abandoned – The Lost City

Oh, Andy Garcia. The world barely needs the David Mamet we already have. We don't need you to ape his "style" with a star-infested version of the fall of Havana. 60 minutes

Review – De Sade

This movie has no excuse for being as terrible as it is. The cast is solid enough, with Keir Dullea and John Huston heading a squad of capable actors. Richard Matheson's script isn't his finest hour, but it's passable. The big problem is that this movie came along at the exact wrong moment in film history to make a picture about the title pervert. Mores in 1969 allowed enough nudity to excuse the filmmakers from clever innuendo, but depravity on the Marquis's level was still a bit too much. The result is awkward at best, employing camera tricks such as bad focus and red filters whenever the action gets heavy. And worst of all, this is the umpteenth production to seize on De Sade's flair for theatre as an excuse to make something stiff and over-arty. Mildly amusing