Friday, December 30, 2011

Jim Caviezel, double feature

I'll recommend them both---one for a general sort of audience, the other for the exceedingly strong-stomached.

nice poster! 
The Count of Monte Cristo, 2002. Directed by Kevin Reynolds
starring: Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce.

"A young man, falsely imprisoned by his jealous "friends," escapes and uses a hidden treasure to exact his revenge." (IMDB).

Per Donald's recommendation I put this on my netflix list; the disk unfortunately came to me in horrible shape and hardly played at all on our stupid playstation without the screen dividing and turning black every six minutes. But I liked it, a lot. Maybe I am a closet sociopath because revenge themes seriously thrill me, and this one was a gem. It's fun seeing The Count play his little trickery business on his buddy, but beware---if you are a fan of Guy Pearce, even a little, you'll want to stay far, far away from this film; I have never seen a grosser, more nauseating character in my life. Buck from Kill Bill (my name is Buck, I came here to *&%$) may have been a little worse, or the fat ass rapist in Dragon Tattoo, but this guy was just awful. Yuck. Dumbledore (the first, played by Richard Harris) makes an appearance, as one GetGlue friend so gleefully put it, "Dumbledore taught Jesus everything he knows!" It's a good one.

The Passion of the Christ, 2004. Directed by Mel Gibson.
starring: Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci.

Is it a sin that I prefer my Jim C. in the form of
Mr. Reese?
"A film detailing the final hours and crucifixion of Jesus Christ." (IMDB).

Without getting too outspoken about the religion here, I'll just let you all know that I didn't know about this stuff----stations of the cross, whippings, thrashings, beatings, flayings----NONE. Maybe Methodists just don't talk about it or I was just incredibly checked out in confirmation or church sermons when the crucifixion was brought up, but I honestly had no idea. I saw this film in the theater when it was released, pregnant. It was difficult. I'm pretty sure I quit watching, like honestly just started looking away after that scene where Mary watches him fall and has a flashback to him falling as a little boy---I just couldn't handle anymore. So I watched it all the way through this time, cried again, but could at least appreciate some of the artistic elements of the film, too. For one thing, there were some nice, stylized scenes early in the garden; the driven-mad Judas Iscariot was well done, and sort of disturbing, not to mention that ghoulish Voldemort-y Satan thing that was creeping around the joint all the time. The violence obviously is what will stick with the viewer, and I honestly think Gibson could have toned it down a few clicks. The blood, oh man, the blood---it got to be too much, and I honestly can't believe I was the only one who had to look away. Probably wasn't the easiest thing to act, either, getting the holy (haha) hell whipped out of you, day after day on the set. It's worth seeing, to be sure. Just . . . be careful.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Roger Ebert: Life Itself

I don't normally read biographies, or autobiographies anymore, mostly because I don't really care about stars' personal lives. Of the few I have read, I've usually finished thinking, "I liked this person better before I read this," or "I really didn't need to know all that." Probably not fair of me, and obviously there are exceptions (Tina Fey comes to mind) but there it is. However. This memoir of Ebert's was fantastic. I can't gush over it enough.

This isn't simply a great story because of his success as a critic or emotional triumph over his many, many health problems (though these things are definitely impressive)---this guy can write. I strongly believe that Roger Ebert could have chosen any path in journalism or publishing and absolutely taken it to the top, he's that good. The chapters in this memoir were very specific, some dealing with his mother, some obviously with his experiences as a critic (THE critic, as it were), and more than a few about his wife Chaz, but honestly, the chapter about his love for his dog was every bit as interesting and emotionally charged as the one where he recounted his struggle with salivary cancer and the three failed surgeries that followed.

On Robert Altman: "There may not have been a director who liked actors more. He had a temper, and I saw him angry with cinematographers, Teamsters, prop men, lighting guys, critics, and people making noise during a shot, but actors were his darlings and they could do no wrong. When he asked for another take, there was the implication that he enjoyed the last one so much he wanted to see the actors do it again simply for his personal pleasure."

On Eyrie Mansion in London: "Fires, I decided, were a source of heat, not merely, like central heating, its presence. There must be something deep within our memory as a species that is pleased by being able to look at what is making us warm."

On losing the ability to eat and communicate verbally: "What's sad about not eating is the experience, whether at a family reunion or at midnight by yourself in a greasy spoon under the L tracks. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. Unless I'm alone, it doesn't involve dinner if it doesn't involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments, and memories I miss."

The above passage is actually incomplete; he ends it with what I found to be the most emotional bit in the entire book (and I'm not going to spoil it for you, you'll have to come upon it yourself). I don't know the man, have no connection to him, really, and yes I'm being overly sentimental, but the ending to that paragraph almost made me fall in love with him a little.


Monday, December 26, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: He said, She said.

We've been thinking of doing this for a while now, or at least I have, and finally I'm doing it. I give you two reviews of Dragon Tattoo, Donald's and mine. One of us loved it, one of us hated it. Enjoy, comment, and share, if you feel like it! For more of Donald, visit his blog: Blessed Are The Geeks

The Boy Who Didn't Like This Movie (Donald said)

Before I sat down in the theater last night to watch this movie, I knew only two things about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: The title, and that for the past two years or so I haven't been able to go anywhere without seeing somebody reading one of the novels. I saw the trailer once when it first come out months ago, and thought it was pretty neat but incomprehensible, but I'm a big fan of Daniel Craig (even since before he was James Bond!) and my friend wanted to see it, so I figured I'd check it out. After all, all those millions of people who read the books and saw the original Swedish films couldn't be wrong, right?

Wrong. Turns out, this movie was horrible.

I don't mean to say The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a bad movie, since the story was interesting and well plotted, the cast was exceptional, the cinematography was gorgeous, the score was wonderful, and the entire production undoubtedly turned out exactly as the filmmakers intended. All I'm saying is that those filmmakers intended to make a horrible film, that I'm assuming was based upon a horrible book. I haven't read the book so I can't really speak to whether or not it was as horrible as this film, but I'll never know since I'll never read it. I'll also never see this film again, and I'm hoping that after I finish this review I'll never even have to think about it again.

This was ostensibly a mystery story, although any fan of the genre will have figured out the major twists and revelations almost immediately upon learning what the actual mystery is. I won't spoil anything, but it was very predictable, albeit interesting and well done. I described it as "ostensibly a mystery story," since it took a long time for that plot to get going, spending way too much time setting the mood and personality of the titular girl with the dragon tattoo, who I will charitably refer to as an anti-hero. If I decided not to be charitable, I would simply say she was one of the most reprehensible, unlikable, and downright awful characters I've ever seen presented as a heroine in a major motion picture. This woman was a sociopath who should've been locked up in an institution, not presented as some kind of hero.

The rest of the characters didn't fair much better, since everybody seemed to be rude to everybody else, except for the people with whom they were having sex, but sometimes also both. Daniel Craig, our other hero, is shown to be a not that nice guy too, since he cheated on his wife, then goes ahead and cheats on his mistress too. Daniel Craig, at least, is a wonderful, charming actor who has the talent and ability to create a likeable, interesting character out of this mess of a story. (But I never managed to figure out why he was the only person in this movie who didn't speak in a Swedish accent, but whatever.) I have no idea what Rooney Mara was doing, but I didn't like it. She spent the entire movie looking and acting like a ghoul. She didn't act so much as just stand there sucking energy out of the room.

Then there was the the rape scene, and all that other nonsense that director David Fincher loves to put into his films. This was a film for the people who saw his earlier film Se7en and came away from it thinking, "You know, there wasn't enough rape..." I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying this movie contains one of the most brutal and off-putting rape scenes in movie history, but I also don't care since I wish somebody had spoiled it for me. Here's the thing: I don't need to watch people getting raped and I don't want to watch people raped. This kind of crime certainly has a place in both literary and cinematic fiction, but this scene was so graphic and so disturbing, and yet served no real purpose that I could understand. I think there was a brutal rape scene just for the sake of having a rape scene, and then for the sake of having a scene where the girl basically rapes the man who raped her. None of this came into play again, nor did it ever tie in with the main story or serve any logical purpose within the context of the film. It was just horrible, and it took a film that would've just been kind of boring and bland and made me hate it.

I think maybe these rape scenes were in the film (and make no mistake: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo raped and tortured that man, making her just as villainous and disgusting as he was) were to create the illusion of a world where everybody is a sexual predator and where everybody is capable of horrible things. Or maybe director David Fincher and author Stieg Larsson are just creepy, weird perverts.

The mystery elements of the story were a lot better, at least the parts following Daniel Craig as he attempts to research and solve a murder from 40 years in the past. One the Girl shows up as his research assistant, it gets kind of dumb and loses focus, since her computer hacking and research skills border on the supernatural. This is one of those movies where there is nothing a hacker isn't able to do or find out just by typing a couple keystrokes on her macbook. She even manages to hack into a steal account and password numbers from a few dozen Swiss bank accounts, which raises the question of why she even has a job in the first place. Oh, and then the slow-paced, dialogue-driven mystery story culminates in a ridiculously over the top motorcycle chase scene.

Except that didn't actually "culminate" anything, since the film went on for another half hour or so even after the mystery was solved and any interest any audience member could've possibly had in the film vanished. Seriously, did anybody who saw this film not think it could've ended twenty minutes sooner?

But don't take my word for it, since everybody who read the books and saw the original films loved them all. I didn't think it was a bad film, I just kind of hated it. I found it incredibly disturbing, but it never earned the right or proved to me that it served any purpose at all. I didn't like the characters and I found the entire world-view presented to be so nihilistic and depressing and cold that it bored on the ridiculous. In other words, it's your typical David Fincher film.

Skol, Lisbeth: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Anna said)

This is the most difficult review I've ever written.

I'm not a violent or rageful person, but there are situations in art and film where I think it's absolutely warranted. In school I took heat for being the only one who defended Kill Bill, volume one, protesting that The Bride's actions were justified given the way she had been wronged. This position may have been colored by the fact that I was myself five months pregnant at the time, but I still salute Tarantino (and Thurman) for the portrayal whether or not it was wrong, glorified, or sociopathic---and I think most other mothers will too, to varying degrees. This film, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, like Kill Bill, is a beautifully crafted, horribly violent masterpiece, that hides among investigative journalism, a Swedish family dynasty, Nazis, murder, and mystery, a serious tale of the most disturbing kind of violence possible. The two "R's" in this story are Rape and Retribution, words that make most people uncomfortable, but the girl in our story, Lisbeth Salander, isn't interested in your comfort (nor are director (s) David Fincher, Niels Arden Oplev, or It's a film very much worth seeing, but . . . be aware, you won't feel very good for a while afterwards.

The narrative is a little tricky (and will be exceedingly so for those who haven't read the novel or seen the previous film release)---is this the story of The Vangers, of Mikael Blomkvist's professional struggles, or of Lisbeth Salander? The audience immediately gravitates to Craig's Blomkvist, as he's commanding, deliciously handsome, and interesting, but Lisbeth is given equal screen time; whether it's her motorcycle, fingers flying over her computer keyboard, or her violent encounters, Lisbeth is just as much of a main character as Blomkvist. By focusing on Lisbeth's story, a dark, violent, withdrawn existance exemplified horrifically by one of the most disturbing rape scenes ever filmed (not to mention its later avengement), we are sickened and horrified, but in a small way adequately prepared for what eventually gets uncovered in the case of Harriet Vanger's disappearance. She's more than just a foreshadowing tool, though, because once we can look outside her issues it's clear that Lisbeth is a woman with many talents---intelligence, a photographic memory, and overall, a stubborn refusal to play the victim. This story isn't just about her, it's about what happened to her, what in fact happens to many women, and what she does about it.

Daniel Craig plays Mikael Blomkvist, a recently disgraced journalist who is recruited by Henrick Vanger, an aging Swedish entrepreneur desperate to solve the mystery of his disappeared niece. While attempting to untangle the facts (and the members of the estranged Vanger family themselves), Blomkvist uncovers in old family photographs something he believes is new evidence that may reveal insight into the girl's disappearance. At the same time Blomkvist is researching the peculiarities of the Vanger Family in northern Sweden, Lisbeth Salander (played by Rooney Mara), a pierced, tattoed, seemingly anti-social researcher becomes involved, first providing information on Blomkvist to Vanger's attorney, and later by becoming Blomkvist's assistant in solving the case (which turns out to be bigger and more ominous than anyone imagined).

Bearing in mind that Larsson's original title was "Man som hatar kvinnor" (Men Who Hate Women), the stories of the two very different women (Harriet Vanger, Lisbeth) are alike in what they suffered, but different in outcome. People don't like to hear about rape; in the film, even Blomkvist himself tries to hurry Lisbeth past graphic details of the rapes and murders they're researching, but Lisbeth would not be dissuaded; she's not letting him (or us) off the hook in knowing it just as she refuses to let her own abusers off the hook in perpetrating it, which honestly seems a bit toned down, compared to the novel. What was originally written as "I'm going to take him," became "May I kill him?" for the film, suggesting Lisbeth's subservience to Blomkvist or perhaps in general a culture which will always be controlled by men, but let's not fool ourselves---mercy for rapists is difficult (if not impossible) to come by, and Lisbeth's strength in facing Harriet's abuser as well as her own, is remarkable. Saying that as a viewer, I was out for blood is putting it mildly, but there it is. Am I sociopathic for feeling that way? I don't think so, I just really strongly believe in not raping, as I'm sure many others do, also. If the message people walk away from the film with is DON'T DO THAT, super.

Was David Fincher a fool to remake this film? Not at all. Foreign films are delightful to be sure, but many Americans just won't put in the subtitle time, which I'm sure Fincher knows. I've seen the Swedish version, enjoyed it, and thought that this project was a very close reissue, but there were wonderful "Fincher" moments----amazing opening credits, killer music, and a dark, twisted cleverness throughout that contrasted but also sort of leaked into the deceptive brightness, white snow, estate buildings, and whistling cold of the landscapes of Northern Sweden. Cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth; original music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, a group that obviously works well together.

Keep it up, Finch.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tales from the Crypt: Yellow

New favorite episode, ya'll. When I heard what it was about (thanks, Donald), I knew I would like it, but I didn't think I'd love it. I did, a lot; so will anyone who enjoyed Paths of Glory.

Yellow. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Gilbert Adler, A L Katz, Jim Thomas, and John Thomas (screenplay). Starring: Kirk Douglas, Dan Aykroyd, Eric Douglas.

So what they did, basically, was to take the most unappealing character from Paths of Glory (lieutenant Roget, the yellow drunk that gets his men either killed, or court-martialed, and then executed) and make him the main character here as the yellow (read: cowardly) son of the general, who was probably patterned after the awful Mireau from the film. Eric Douglas plays the son; Kirk Douglas plays the father/general.

I can't decide if we (the audience) are meant to have sympathy for the son, Martin, because it's hard to. No Man Left Behind? Not in this dude's case, he's pretty much all for himself, repeatedly. And each time you might start to feel a tiny bit of compassion for him, he just does something else selfish and you're back on the General's side again. Which becomes weird when you realize what he ends up having in store for his own son's punishment (after the court martial) . . . saw that coming a mile away, but it was so gloriously fitting, not only for the Tales From the Crypt Series but for the very kind of portrayal the general was given, the character/motivation taken from General Mireau from the film and the show's homage to it (and maybe to a lesser degree, the implications of the dynasty of the Douglas Family)---there was only one way to end this. Which sorry to sound insensitive, was genius.

When you think about it, these shows all sort of deal with what happens in varying situations of selfishness---gold-digging, infidelity, cowardice, etc.; I think the message really is DON'T DO THAT.
This episode was done brilliantly and not without a little light humor: e.g., Sgt Ripper (!)---Lance Henriksen, (Bishop from Alien) repeatedly seeks the lieutenant's whereabouts from unfortunately expired soldiers, saying "damn," each time. And huge, HUGE ups for that opening scene, not only the battle action but I can't help thinking there's little nod to All Quiet on the Western Front, with a yellow flower instead of a butterfly? Nice.


One of my favorite badass scenes of all time, Colonel Dax in PATHS OF GLORY (clip)

YELLOW (clip)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tales from the Crypt, Season 3, episodes 7-13

Inching along. You'd think it'd be easy to get through a series of half-hour shows, wouldn't you?

7. The Reluctant Vampire 

"A good natured vampire takes a more novel approach to satisfying his blood lust with his chosen undercover employment." (IMDB). 

Solid enough; Malcolm McDowell (from A Clockwork Orange) as "Longtooth" I think was vital, he just seemed really likable and kind of sweet. I think fans of modern vampires will find this one really old and stuffy: no hot lead, no glamouring, no sparkling, nothing---but if you were into vampires before Bon Temps and The Cullens, you'll probably dig it all right. George Wendt, Sandra Dickenson, and Michael Berryman (Weird Science, Star Trek, and the Crue's SMOKING IN THE BOYS ROOM video) co-star. Pretty interesting group.

8. Easel Kill Ya

"Painter Jack Craig gains himself a wealthy patron when he sells a morbid painting. He soon finds that in order to please his patron, he must continue to paint pictures of death - and this leads him down a murderous path." (IMDB). 

Kind of far-fetched, but again, a solidly entertaining episode. Tim Roth has never really done much for me before, but he was pretty hot in this as an angry, outburst-prone artist. I got a really creepy Christian Shephard vibe from the white-wearing benefactor, but it worked. The relationship with the chick didn't seem all that serious in the beginning, but I guess (after she finds out the truth behind his art) he decides he really loves her? Nice ending.

9. Undertaking Palor

"Four boys find out that the local undertaker and a pharmacist are in cahoots to murder rich locals and profit from their funerals." (IMDB). 

This was fun. I mean, at first those boys seemed really annoying and just a bunch of foul-mouthed jerks, but it came together well when that awful mortician popped in. Eating pizza and guzzling Pepsi as he embalms a woman (who he had also just bashed in the face with a sledgehammer?) . . . gross. He seemed really excited and gleeful to be doing what he was doing, and honestly, a good, creepy villain makes for a great episode, so I approve 100%.

10. Mournin' Mess

"There's a killer on the loose who preys on the homeless. Dale Sweeney is a recently fired reporter. He's approached by a homeless man named Robert who is accused of committing these murders. He tells Dale that he will give him the whole story with names to help prove his innocence if Dale will go the Grateful Homeless Cemetery and hang out until sunset then meet him after. Dale gets sidetracked by Jess Gilchrist, the spokesperson for the Grateful Homeless Society. By the time he meets up with Robert, he finds he has become the latest victim of the homeless killer. Dale is on his own to uncover the identity of the killer." (IMDB). 

Also fun. But like her husband (Tom Hanks), I just can't be okay with Rita Wilson in a sexual role---she just seems too . . . wholesome and good or something. Steven Weber does a great "all writers are drunks or assholes" bit; didn't see the ending coming, like, at all. John Woo would have been appropriately delighted by it, I think.

11. Split Second

"Liz is a beautiful, but loose, bar waitress who marries Steve Dixon, the rich owner of a lumber camp. It Isn't a difficult decision as he's able to offer her a fairly comfortable life. But Steve has a violent jealous streak, not liking the attention she get's from his 'salt of the earth' employees. Things begin to turn sour, particularly in the bedroom, and Liz get's bored very quickly. But when the handsome young Ted turns up at their door looking for a job, the promiscuous seductress sets her sights on relieving her boredom." (IMDB). 

Grotesque and enjoyable. And by grotesque, I'm including the fashion, the sick dialogue, and that MULLET-SPORTING LOGGER HUSBAND, too (not just the grisly ending, which is very Fargo-ish).
I tried forever to figure out who the female lead was---Michelle Johnson, who was none other than the faux-French stuttering Anna from the spa in Death Becomes Her. Anyway. Severely uncomfortable for most of the duration but still worth watching. Very 90s.

12. Deadline

"Charles McKenzie is a drunk out of work reporter who would do anything for a story. He meets Vicki in a bar who makes him feel like he can turn his life around. He quits drinking and can get his old job back as long as he can stay on the wagon and prove he can still bring in a good murder story. While reading a newspaper in Niko's Grill, he hears the owner kill his wife in the back. This is just the story he needs..." (IMDB).

Meh. Kinda lamesville; not a lot of flow and ridiculous ending. Skip it, unless you're interested in quick glimpses of Marg Helgenberger's breasts.

13. Spoiled

"Janet is married to a doctor who's married to his work. She wants to live her life with passion, danger, and romance like Fuchsia Monroe, a soap opera character she watches religiously. When her television goes haywire, her friend Louise convinces her to get cable. With her husband unresponsive to her "needs," she begins a steamy affair with the cable guy." (IMDB). 

Both funny and kind of annoying. Would have been better with Jim Carey as the cable guy as I don't know, a precursor to the film version. I just kept wanting Anthony LaPaglia to announce himself that way, or to just start getting all perv-y and weird immediately, but he almost seemed too polite? Come on. Polite cable guys don't bang doctor's wives on service calls. (Mein Supervisor sez there ist problem mit dein Cable?) Nice ending.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Skeleton Crew

You can skip this little "intro" if you want, but before I get to the book and stories, I just feel I need to go on record with something. I love Stephen King. LOVE the guy. I don't feel like I say it enough, so I'm doing it now---I love him so much, I'd read his grocery lists. There are three reasons I love him like I do:

1. I love his work. (The Shining, Misery, and the stories I'm about to wax on below, Skeleton Crew, topping the list just slightly behind my hands-down favorite book in the world, On Writing). Oh, and speaking of writing . . .

2. I love his openness in discussing the craft of writing. Every time I read something he's written that's personal, about himself or about how he writes, I damned near fucking *die* because it's so honest and true and it just resonates inside me . . . I obviously can't write as well as he does (yet?) but I find myself agreeing with how he describes the process and how writers in general are and think. I like him as a person and have come to think of him as an excellent teacher, as well.

3. He's a huge part of my history. Maybe even a guiding force in what I decided to do, before I even knew it. What does a elementary school girl who was into horror films at way too early an age do when she's not able to watch scary films? Read scary stories, of course. Once when I was about seven or eight and at some ridiculous card club party or something that my parents hauled me and my brother to, I was extremely bored because there were no other kids there, and started investigating the bookshelves for anything interesting. What I found was a paperback of The Shining, and what I thought was an extremely disturbing illustration (over there) on its cover. Ha! No more boredom, I paged through it trying to find scary moments and *begged* my mother to ask the friend (whose book it was) to let me bring it home. Later, I started rating the coolness of my mother's friends by how many King novels were on their bookshelves; Karen Sheehan won that honor; I think she had all of them.

I grew up on King. I grew up on horror and sci-fi stories, whether films or books didn't matter. I do what I do now (write about stories I love and try to make up my own) because of all this. I love stories so much it gives me a constant thrill knowing there are more in existence than I can ever imagine, and that a big part of my life is to dig into them. Like what Henry Bemis's life would have been like at the library, had he not broken his glasses----I am Henry Bemis with stacks and lists higher than I am tall.

LL's copy looked like this.
All right. Now that that's out of the way, here we go:

Skeleton Crew, 1985, by Stephen King.

For Scares: The Mist, The Monkey, The Raft, Gramma
For Shudders: Cain Rose Up, The Jaunt, Beachworld, Survivor Type
Clever as Hell: The Wedding Gig, Word Processor of the Gods, Uncle Otto's Truck

That covers almost all of them, which is to say the entire collection is great and fun to read. The three I'm choosing to write about in a bit more detail are (funny enough) three that I completely skipped over in my younger days, but ones I really dug this time around. A lot.

1. Mrs. Todd's Shortcut.

"David, friend of a caretaker named Homer, is an older man who is spending his later years hanging out at the local gas station in a small town. He narrates a tale about Mrs. Todd, who is obsessed with finding shortcuts. Homer admires her persistence but begins to have doubts, as there are only so many shortcuts someone can find. Mrs. Todd's habit of resetting her odometer shows remarkable evidence that something weird is going on." (Wikipedia). 

This is really a women's story. I project myself, my thoughts, my experiences and philosophy onto any character that I remotely identify with--- and I loved this little "journey." Unable to carry a child, always volunteering, racing around trying to get things done, husband seemed to be gone a lot; yeah, Ophelia Todd deserved a short cut. It's funny to read a male perspective of a woman sometimes, in this case, an older guy's, but the things he remembered about Mrs. Todd were kind of sentimental and sweet---hair in a "hoss-tail," calling the car the "go-devil," how her eyes and face changed and made her look younger when she smiled or got excited, and so on. My favorite passage gave me a happy, pro-woman kind of feeling . . . 

"Her eyes turned toward that little go-devil in the driveway, and narrowed. Then she smiled. 'Or to drive, Homer. A man will not see that. He thinks a goddess wants to loll on a slope somewhere on the foothills of Olympus and eat fruit, but there is no god or goddess in that. All a woman wants is what a man wants---a woman wants to drive.'" 

You got that right, babe. 

2. The Reaper's Image

"A museum curator, Mr. Carlin, ushers a man named Spangler through the building, recounting the storied history of a rare Elizabethan mirror, which has been plagued by incidents of attempted destruction. Carlin tells the skeptical Spangler the image of the Grim Reaper is rumored to appear in the mirror, standing close to the viewer. Spangler scoffs, but feels unnamable horror when he looks into it . . . " (Wikipedia)

The buildup was what got me in this one, almost like a condensed version of the same kind of scary in The Blair Witch project (wait, wait, wait---OH JESUS SHE'S MAKING HIM STAND IN THE CORNER) but for some reason mirrors are all the more terrifying, aren't they (Bloody Mary)? This was the most fun of all the stories to read, partly because it scared me but also because it was so to-the-point. I liked that. 

"Spangler took his hand away and looked into the glass. Everything in it seemed a little more distorted; the room's odd angles seemed to yaw crazily as if on the verge of sliding off into some unseen eternity. There was no dark spot in the mirror. It was flawless. He felt a sudden unhealthy dread rise in him and despised himself for feeling it. 
'It looked like him, didn't it?' Mr. Carlin asked. His face was very pale and he was looking directly at the floor. A muscle twitched spasmodically in his neck. 'Admit it, Spangler. It looked like a hooded figure standing behind you, didn't it?'"

3. The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet.  

"Henry, an magazine editor, receives an unsolicited short story from up-and-coming novelist Reg Thorpe, and considers the story to be very dark, but also a masterpiece. Through his correspondence with Thorpe, Henry learns of – and, due to his own alcoholism, eventually begins to believe in – Thorpe's various paranoid fantasies." (wikipedia). 

Do all writers love reading stories about other writers? Because I sure do. So many of King's characters are writers, and I think an ongoing theme for a lot of them is being trapped or thrust into the obscure, the fantastic, or the bizarre (which happens in his novels again and again) because for writers, these things are completely business-as-usual, together with an, I don't know, heightened sensitivity or tendency to over think and over-feel normal situations as well as the strange ones. Anything is fair game for a writer. I loved this one, a lot. 

"When you shoot yourself with a flexible bullet, you really don't know what the outcome is going to be."
Oh, Jesus Christ. On second thought . . .

"'Hello from Bellis. I am sorry for your problems, my friend, but would like to point out at the start that you are not the only one with problems. This is no easy job for me. I can dust your damned machine with fornus from now unto forever, but moving the KEYS is supposed to be your job. That's what God made big people FOR. So I sympathize, but that's all the sympathy you get." 

"The curse of serving writers is that they are all selfish." 

Yes, quite true. But you think I wouldn't want an elf-muse to FORNIT SOME FORNUS onto my typewriter? Be my guest! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mr. Reese

I don't like them, either.
But if someone is to have guns, I'd prefer it be me . . . 
People are really starting to get into this show, and I can't express how much that thrills me because it's pretty much my favorite thing, ever. I mean, even if the show was terrible (which it's not), LOOK AT THIS GUY! It takes a while to kind of adjust to his slow, deadpan deliveries and the way he just sort of soft-spokenly badasses his way in and out of crazy situations, but damn. It's not exactly an Eastwood scowl, but a constant, very serious, furrowed-brow sort of intensity and I just love it.

As I probably wrote before, there is a scene in the pilot episode (which I believe is still available on during a little stakeout next to an elevator where a man is about to be assassinated, together with his kid. Snatch/Go music starts in, the bad guy and his hostage on one side of the elevator doors, Mr. Reese and his hostage on the other----he doesn't do anything but shake his head but it's goddamned brilliant. Of course there's a standoff and a bunch of shooting after the guy and his kid safely leave the building, but it was the headshake that totally floored me this time around (together with the Marsha-the-Mannequin old school elevator dial just like the one in The Twilight Zone "The After Hours.") The bummer of course is that there are no clips of it, none, anywhere, otherwise I'd be sitting here, holing up for hours, watching it on a loop. So this one was the next best I could find: (oh, and can you spot the Tales From the Crypt-alum cameo?)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

LOST Finale: Lightsaber battle

I just needed this in my life today, and my kids request it every time LOST is mentioned, which is to say, often. Enjoy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

American Horror Story

I've held out as long as I can, but damn----this show is freaking AWESOME. If you like horror films and you're not watching this show, you should be. Here's why:

I'll get the mop . . .
1. It's well-acted. Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, Jessica Lange, and Denis O'Hare (RUSSEL EDGINGTON from True Blood) are great actors, but even the other secondary characters are solid.

2. It's the bastard son of a lot of other really excellent horror films, notably Psycho (the house, Bernard Hermann-esque score) and Rosemary's Baby (the pregnancy) but there are nods to many, many others. "You're gonna die in there," (Reagan from The Exorcist); creep hovering near close line looking up into window (Michael Myers in Halloween); credits and music very much reminiscent of Se7en and . . . I don't know, grotesque other stuff, maybe Alien Resurrection (experiments in jars?) or mad scientists in general. It's fun noticing these things. I half expected the crazy ass neighbor (Jessica Lange) to bring over a "chocolate mouse" for her to eat, but I suppose by then there really was no need---Rubber Man done got the job did, as it were.

3. It's scary. Well, creepy mostly (those credits!). Lots of scurrying around in the background and just strange, unexplained business that keeps popping up here and there. I've of course filed this under "things I will not watch when I am alone in the house . . . "

Don't make me kill you again . . . 

4. There is an underlying mother theme going on here that I may or may not explore for Examiner, but trust me, it's there. I have a very strong suspicion that this whole story got going because the doctor's wife lost her baby; taking a baby away from a mother is the one thing you just can't do (Kill Bill).

Dr. Ben: killer body but huge jerk

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tales From The Crypt, Season 3

Now *this* is what I'm talking about. These are the kinds of episodes I associate most (positively) with the show, this is what it's all about. Four of these six are honestly big favorites of mine; watching them all in a row was really fun.

1. The Trap 

"An abrasive husband comes home to tell his wife that he has lost his job again. She reminds him that they are behind on their bills and suggests she get a job. He refuses. Instead, he comes up with a scheme to make a lot of money quick. Calling his coroner brother over, he tells them his plan to fake his own death and collect his half a million dollar life insurance policy." (IMDB). 

This is entertaining because of the lead actor, Bruce McGill. ("I'm Lou Paloma. Blow me.") That, and the story is kind of funny, too. Michael J. Fox directs and has a cameo; I think it all comes together just fine. Also, I like Terri Garr, who played the wife.

2. Loved to Death.

"A classic "boy wants girl, girl is unresponsive to his attentions" storyline gets the Tales from the Crypt treatment, as a young man gets a Love Potion by his mysterious landlord, in an attempt to win over the girl of his dreams. But things soon get out of hand..." (IMDB). 

Clearly I'm no fan of Andrew McCarthy's, but this one is definitely in my top five, ever (adapted from The Twilight Zone's "The Chaser,"). I mean, be warned, it's extremely annoying (I don't know which is more so, the actors or the characters they're playing) but it's a good one. The twist is ridiculously fun; the original had the new Mrs. knitting some baby booties (to stop what ends up happening in this). Ha ha; be careful what you wish for . . . .

3. Carrion Death

"A sadistic serial killer has unforeseen complications when pursued by a determined motorcycle cop in a barren desert." (IMDB).

Not the strongest in the lineup, but worth watching. 1. Kyle McLaughlin, Agent Cooper in the bad boy role? Yes. 2. There are some silly bits of comedy in this crime story, dancing with and talking to corpse antics, etc. 3. The effects with the vulture are really terrible, but terrible enough for you to suffer through or someday show your kids to illustrate just how differently films and shows were made before computers did everything.

4. Abra Cadaver

"A former potential surgeon sets out to wreak revenge on the brother who's cruel practical joke prevented him from realizing his dream." (IMDB).

I always liked this one; it's just really unnerving. Tony Goldwyn had just come off the Swayze-assassinating character in Ghost---this will be cathartic for anyone who held a grudge (which is probably no one, or no one that reads this, anyway). This whole experience was like being buried alive, but above the ground, with people messing with him. Shudder.

No, no, NO! It's all WRONG!
5. Top Billing

"An unattractive and unlucky actor can't get a role because of his looks. His agent and girlfriend leave him. But he doesn't intend to give up - he wants the role of Hamlet." (IMDB). 

All right, here it is, y'all. MY FAVORITE EPISODE IN THE SERIES. I don't know how many times my brother and I watched this (since we recorded it on a beta tape somewhere, probably), but it was a lot. A little background----I had no interest in reading Hamlet (or Shakespeare) until after seeing this, and for those who think television has no intrinsic value to children or teenagers, I'll have you know that I quoted Hamlet's speech by Yorick's grave for Martinson (OPIE) in whatever literature class he taught junior year---just because I felt like throwing it into the essay question and because even then, I was probably laughing hysterically about this show and Biggs----the son of a bitch gave me like five bonus points for it (moving my score up to like 104%, thanks very much). God dammit, sometimes I'm fucking brilliant.

Anyway. This is damned near perfect, this is. It's well-written, well-cast (not only Lovitz, Boxleitner, and Astin, but Sandra Bernhard, Louise Fletcher, and Kimmy Robertson are all excellent), SARCASTIC as hell---"I especially love the last commercial you did, you know, that tango over the top of a disposable DOUCHE!" And the theater bit is perfect. On the characters---my favorite is Biggs (always calling the director "your vastness" or "your bloatedness,") along with his gestures and that lisp . . . I'm giggling now just thinking about it. Obviously John Astin steals the show, but the supporting characters (and how they were written) are brilliant and I think that's what really makes it. I'm not saying anything else because building it up too much would be a mistake, but just know that this is one of my very favorite things, ever in the universe. Myles Berkowtiz was the screenwriter on this . . . BRAVO, sir, BRAVO.

6. Dead Wait

"Red Buckley is a natural red head in search of a one-of-a-kind black pearl." (IMDB). 

This is another one I really like; Whoopi Goldberg, John Rys-Davies, James Remar, and yes, fricking VANITY (Nikki Sixx's heroin buddy) all star together. The way she says, "worm tracks," is actually pretty brilliant----but even though it's all really fake-looking, those worms are downright nasty. Ick, but great ending.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Everything's Eventual.

I first read this years ago on my breaks when I was still doing days at Sbux; I loved them all. I picked it up again hoping to enjoy them just as much the second time and did. I just think it's an extremely well-rounded collection and I don't know, just really pleasing. These stories are different from King's novels, obviously, in that they're shorter and more direct, but they're also pretty different from other collections of shorts that he's done in the past. It's not just subject matter (though many of them are a touch more light-hearted than something like The Monkey or Survivor Type) but many of the stories are also terrifying (I'm thinking specifically of 1408, which I've written about before). I think what I like best about this collection is the overall vibe or feeling of the stories that compose it; I'd finish each one and I don't know, just grin and reflect, sometimes wanting to start all over and read them again. They made me happy.

1. Autopsy Room Four. This is one of the more light-hearted ones; easy to read, clever, drops little hints nicely about what actually happened to the "patient," and so on. If you're a fan of the season 3 Tales From The Crypt episode "Abra Cadaver," you'll probably enjoy this, too. And for what it's worth, I myself also enjoy the word "boomslang," and seek it out in my son's various snake anthologies just so I can say it aloud.

2. The Man in the Black Suit. I liked this, and found it extremely frightening. I loved the details, the dog named Candy Bill, the Gordy Lachance sort of feeling to it, the man and how he looked, fire for eyes, all of it. Something bigger that I love about this story (and others like it, and there have been a few) is the idea of these characters who see or experience something awful, live their whole lives without forgetting it, and then spill it, detail for detail---as if nothing has faded. Folk-tale-y, scary campfire stories.

"Even before he reached me, I recognized the aroma baking up from the skin under the suit---the smell of burned matches. The smell of sulfur. The man in the black suit was the Devil. He had walked out of the deep woods between Motton and Kashwakamak, and now he was standing here beside me. From the corner of one eye I could see a hand as pale as the hand of a store window dummy. The fingers were hideously long."

3. All That You Love Will Be Carried Away. Melancholy, random, and very detailed, this one is. The graffiti made me laugh; the loneliness of the character made me sad. I really loved the way he (King) chose to end it, though. Occasionally ambiguous endings annoy me but this one was perfect.

4. The Death of Jack Hamilton. Forgive me, but I didn't read this one this time around; I inadvertently skipped it because I think it reminded me of having dizzy pregnant spins in the break room at work (in 2009). Bad memories. And honestly, if I can make a polite criticism, I usually require my gangster stories to involve someone hot (Ray Liotta, De Niro, Johnny Depp, etc.) with a lively soundtrack. No offense.

5. In The Deathroom. This was enjoyable, short and direct, but in terms of endings it was a small letdown because it kind of cheated. The overall story worked for me, the descriptions of characters and the setting of the death room were properly sinister (you'd never catch me in *any* country south of the border for these specific reasons), and I was interested. At the risk of sounding ungrateful though, I wanted to know how he busted out of there.

6.  The Little Sisters of Eluria. Yeah, skipped this one, too, but only because I wanted some perspective from The Dark Tower series, which I haven't read any of yet. I'll come back to it once I have and then we'll talk.

7. Everything's Eventual. I LOVED this. I just find it so clever and brilliant, the details, especially. What a setup. This story is really one of my favorites, ever.

"I fished the chalk out of my pocket and dropped down on one knee. For one second I thought the whole works had gone out of my head, and that was bad. I felt despair and sadness trying to fill me up and I thought, No, don't let it, don't let it, Dinky, fight it. Write anything, even if it's FUCK MRS. BUKOWSKI'S DOG.

But I didn't write that. I drew this shape, I think it was a sankofite, instead. Some weird shape, but the right shape, because it unlocked everything else. My head flooded with stuff. It was wonderful, but at the same time it was really scary because there was so fucking much of it . . . If someone had come along, I would have ignored him. Shit, if Mrs. Bukowski's dog had finally broken its rope, jumped the fence, and clamped down on my ass, I probably would have ignored that.

It was eventual, man. It was so fucking eventual I can't even tell you."

8. L.T.'s Theory of Pets. I giggled a lot at this one; calling the cat "Screw-Lucy" was probably my favorite. I don't actually think the violent bit at the end (wife's demise) was the best, but the story had so much heart and ridiculous silliness that won me over, I still dug it.
Tom Berenger played the writer? No way! 

9. The Road Virus Heads North. I liked this one a lot; I think everyone has a framed picture in their past that they're scared of----my mother told me that once when she was little, her sister told her that the woman in the picture in their bathroom (Sylvia) was watching her. And after she said this, my mother thought the eyes really were watching, seemed to move with you across the room, etc. The thing about this story that got me were the subtle changes in the photo at first (fangs a bit longer, arm extended differently, tattoo, no tattoo? etc.) but then after he realizes that it's indeed happening, the picture just goes off the hook. Nice.

10. Lunch at the Gotham Cafe. Wow; this was another one I really loved. I don't know what I liked most about it, the crazed French dude (Guy the Demon Waiter) or King's little explanation before the story and knowing that this entire creepy story was born from such a seemingly minuscule little interaction between King and a waiter. Genius.

"'Forgetful of me you shouldn't have been!' Guy screamed, sounding like Yoda in the Star Wars movies. 'Your hateful dog! . . . Your loud music, so disharmonious! . . . Eeeeee! . . . How you ever---'

There was a large pot on one of the front burners of the lefthand stove. I reached out for it and slapped it at him. It was over an hour before I realized how badly I'd burned my hand doing that; I had a palmful of blisters like little buns, and more blisters on my three little fingers. The pot skidded off its burner and tipped over in midair, dousing Guy from the waist down with what looked like corn, rice, and maybe two gallons of boiling water."

11. That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French. This is my normal kind of story; reminded me very much of The Twilight Zone episode, "Shadow Play," or even LOST, without the changes in characters or you know, time travel and stuff. Any time a Crown Victoria (Crown Vic!) is used in a story it thrills me. Grand Marquis or Caprices too, for that matter. Precognition might seem like a cool trick to some, but I think the story captures a really disturbing and ominous aspect to it, pairing it with being caught in an endless loop like they were . . . yee.

12. 1408. Yes, yes, YES! Another absolute winner. I'll tell you in all honesty that I first read this at work in the break room (and had to constantly glance behind me while doing so), then read it for the second time in the bath last year (and got extremely shivery and uncomfortable) and then earlier this week, had to put it off for a day because the night it came up on the rotation, Matt was out that night for a concert. I was not willing to read it alone in the house at night because I knew it would completely mess my shit up (and bad), despite having read it two other times before. This one terrifies me; I think it's the scariest of anything in King's collected works. I just find it so . . . unsettling and well done. This is so wonderfully crafted and subtle in its evil that I think it might be the most goddamned genius thing I've ever read, or close to it, anyway. In the link up above, I mentioned my favorite bits of writing, here are a few different ones:

"In the picture where the fruit had been, there was now a severed human head. Yellow-orange light now swam off the sunken cheeks, the sagging lips, the upturned, glazing eyes, the cigarette parked behind the right ear."

"The thought of Olin smirking (in his deferential New York hotel manager way) and saying I told you so didn't bother him, and the idea that Olin had somehow induced these strange perceptions and horrible fear by chemical means had entirely left his mind. It was the room. It was the goddamned room."

13. Riding The Bullet. I was fooled by this in that I assumed for sure that the old piss-smelling guy was the monster, but you know how I feel about the elderly by now, I suppose. It had a lot of heart (mother/son experiences, memories, devotion, etc.) and it's pretty clear that King felt very strongly about his own mother from many of his stories, but this one definitely stands out.

14. Luckey Quarter. I loved this, and loved that it was the last one in the book. Light, wonderfully random, and entertaining. Wasn't there a Twilight Zone with Dick York dealing with something similar?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tales From The Crypt, Season Two, the final seven.

1. Fitting Punishment.

"Mean and stingy cheapskate funeral home director Ezra Thornberry treats his deceased clients with an appalling lack of respect. Following the death of his mother, Ezra's naive teenage nephew Bobby is forced to live with the nasty old coot. Complications arise when Bobby disapproves of Ezra's unscrupulous business practices." (IMDB).

Horrible and mean. Not even worth watching or discussing.

2. Korman's Kalamity.

"Jim Korman (Anderson) is a comic book artist for the popular comic, "Tales From the Crypt." His overbearing and ruthlessly mean wife (Camp) is constantly nagging him and bothering him at work. While taking some experimental fertility pills, the side effects start to take hold. Strange things begin to happen all over the city, strange creatures start to appear... creatures that Jim has drawn." (IMDB).

I have a little tenderness toward Colleen Camp, everyone's favorite T&A French maid from Clue, so this one wasn't the worst, but her character is really awful. Comic nerds might like it just because of the subject matter, but probably not.

3. Lower Berth.

"Enoch, the two-faced man, an attraction at a sideshow, falls in love with a 2,000 year old mummy, eventually leading up to the conception of their bastard child, The Crypt Keeper." (IMDB).

Horrible and mean. Baby Crypt Keeper's "history" is kind of fun though, in an extremely creepy sort of way.

4. Mute Witness to Murder.

"Young woman Suzy looks out of the window of her apartment and witnesses a man murdering a woman in the apartment directly across from hers. Suzy is so traumatized by what she sees that she's rendered mute. Suzy is placed in the care of Dr. Trask, who alas turns out to be the man who committed the murder she witnessed." (IMDB). 

Horrible and boring. Tries unsuccessfully to adapt Rear Window to some twisted, creepy updated 90s version but is really blunt and uninteresting.

5. Television Terror.

"A TV shock journalist gives an on-air tour of an eerie haunted house." (IMDB). 

This was scary to me; old people are scary even without chainsaws. There was a lot of creepy lurking, and not just ghosts that want to scare, but to *harm* and like, dismember. Very 1408.

6. My Brother's Keeper.

"The reckless Eddie and the correct Frank are Siamese brothers connected by their waists. Eddie wants to convince Frank to be submitted to a surgery with 50% of chances of success, but Frank is afraid. When Frank meets Marie in a bar, he falls in love for her and decides to risk. But a secret is disclosed with fatal consequences, affecting the relationship of the brothers." (IMDB).

Semi-entertaining. But still pretty obnoxious. Nice sex scene with the pro.

7. The Secret.

"Orphan boy Theodore is adopted by the Colbys, who are an eccentric rich couple with a very dark secret." (IMDB).

This is the very first episode I ever saw; it's not great, but it will always be nostalgic. Grace Zabriskie as the vampire mother seems perfect to me now, she looked really good. You'd think that kid would start having horrible bouts of diarrhea from all that junk food, wouldn't you? Larry Drake (Dr. Giggles or Crazy Santa from "All Through the House") makes an appearance. But still not all that interesting.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tales From The Crypt, Season Two

Yes, I know it's been far too long. Would you believe that I've been working on this for nearly a week? I had a post started and saved that actually OMITTED these following episodes as they were so incredibly lame, but I'm trying to stay true to my word here. So fair warning, these really won't be anything close to official "reviews," more just like a list of reasons to stay away from them . . .

1. The Sacrifice. "Hotshot insurance salesman James becomes involved with the beautiful and seductive Gloria Fleming, who's the wife of crude tycoon Sebastian Fleming. James and Gloria decide to bump Sebastian off for his considerable money. They succeed with killing Sebastian, but things go awry when the meddlesome Jerry enters the picture claiming he has photographic evidence of the murder." (IMDB).

 The best thing about this was Jester (Michael Ironside) from Top Gun as the scheming ex. I really can't remember much, other than an old dude getting pitched over a balcony and then someone having videotaped it from across the way. I thought the femme fatale lead was Jennifer Beals but it was actually Kim Delaney. Meh.

2. For Cryin' Out Loud. "A greedy rock promoter tries to steal the money raised at a benefit concert when his conscience intervenes." (IMDB). 

 This one was sort of all right. Katey Sagal (Miss Killbasser? and what was with that French Tickler thing?) was a nice touch, but she's in it only briefly before getting stuffed into the luggage. It's just silly and fun but still kind of weak, with an extremely weak premise. I think he may have stabbed himself in the ear, though, and ear damage really makes me squirm.

3. Four Sided Triangle. "Farmer George is attracted to Mary Jo, the nubile young woman who helps out with the chores. The problem is... she's in love with a scarecrow." (IMDB) 

On this one I'm just kind of speechless. Patricia Arquette is in it, without a bra (as Donald pointed out to me while we discussed it earlier) but I was just really disturbed by it and its very rape-y theme. Eddie from Major League ("Jo-Boo needs a refill") plays the icky farmer who seems to have a problem keeping his hands and dick to himself. The wife is Missy Dandrige from Pet Semetary, so casting is all right, the story is just extremely ridiculous. Nice scarecrow. And can someone explain the title to me?

4. The Ventriloquist's Dummy. "Wanting to improve his craft, a ventriloquist seeks out his long retired idol and discovers a shocking secret." (IMDB). 

This one is the diamond in the rough; if you see any episodes from the second season, see this one. I won't spoil anything, because it's seriously worth being surprised by the "twist," if you can call it that, but this one works due to, 1. Don Rickles, and 2. the actions of the "twist," after it's revealed. I laughed hard, and a lot. I kind of want to watch it again, actually.

5. Judy, You're Not Yourself Today. "A housewife stressed out by her husbands reckless behavior welcomes an elderly cosmetics saleswoman in to her home. Only to discover that the old hag has another more devious motive." (IMDB). 

Um, quite possibly the weakest one I've ever seen. Carole Kane and the grandmother from Happy Gilmore were decent, but the story is super bad. Super bad.