Tuesday, December 23, 2008

THE CHRISTMAS POST

It's time to throw down and discuss briefly my top five Christmas movies. I'll try to actually make these cohere to where I like them. In other words, if, for example, A Christmas Story were to show up on the list, and if I liked it more than The Santa Clause, then Ralphie would be discussed as #3 above Tim Allen at #4. But since neither of these are on my top five, this example is completely pointless.
You get what I'm saying. If you've been reading this site at all in the last year, you know that we don't always stick to the rules. But, since it's Christmas, and in celebration of the annual celebration of God coming to Earth to set things straight, I'll proceed in order of my preferences, without deviation. The tops are the tops, with no apologies.
***
NUMBER FIVE: DIE HARD


Why in the world is this on here? This is outrageous!

Calm yourself, loyal reader. You obviously haven't been paying attention while watching this gem. If you notice, it takes place during....a Christmas party. John McClane shows up in Los Angeles to win back his estranged wife, only to run into Alan Rickman in a German accent. The villans are totally stock, with the exception of Alan Rickman, who I like pretty much all the time. He'll make another appearance, so I won't go into too much detail here, except to say that Hans Gruber is more than just another thief. He's a thief with style.

Bruce Willis had a decent run in the 1980s, and I enjoy every installment of this particular series. But the first one is in its own category, I think, much like Rocky IV: you can talk about Ivan Drago with respect to the other Rocky flicks, but it's like talking about Willie Mays as just another baseball player. Bruce Willis, I love your smart mouth.Yippie-ki-yay, mofo. And a Happy New Year.

NUMBER FOUR: ELF

I didn't like this one nearly as much before dating Sarah, but after a year of her proclaiming its greatness, it has to make the list. Not only is this always a winner, but it's one of Will Farrell's finest. Of course, that's to say that it's Will Farrell playing a slightly loveable elf named Buddy who's really a human raised among elves, but throw in Zooey Daschanel, and you're good to go.
But what's really to like about this film is the narrative quality: it reads like a children's book, and isn't that what we really like in Christmas movies? A little conflict, not much ambiguity, and a clearly defined ending? Aside from rescuing elves from the realm of the 12-sided die and the creepy guys who show up for book signings in full Middle-Earth garb, it's a pretty good movie to snuggle up with a bowl of popcorn.
NUMBER THREE: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE

Jimmy Stewart is truly one of the last great actors of the 20th century, hands down. I still get chills when I see him climb on the desk in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. And say what you will about pap, this film deserves to be watched annually, if only because it is a really thick triumph of joy over despair, that riches are to be found not in where one's bank account is, but in where one's heart is. Where you treasure is, and all that stuff.


My favorite scene is, of course, the one at the end of the movie when George comes racing into the house to embrace his wife and children, with friends surrounding him, playing that song that no one knows the words to. It's an emblematic moment of the rich pageant of life, where all of the loved ones from all corners of life are gathered together, and the world is perfect for a minute or three. My engagement party felt this way; the wedding will be more so--when all the pockets of my friends can be in one place, if only for a few hours.


NUMBER TWO: LOVE ACTUALLY

I feel a small twinge in my gut putting this second, because truly, this is one of my favorite movies of all-time, and bears no season. The interwoven plot lines is fantastic, and the best job I've seen at drawing together broken story threads since Magnolia. That, and they managed to find a way to bring Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Colin Firth all together in one film. You've got stunt porn actors, neurotic ad execs, a hapless prime minister, a failed novelist, cheating spouses and brothers, and an incredible performance by Bill Nighy as Billy Mack. I love this performance better than his turn as a zombie in Sean of the Dead.

This film nails the story behind the postcard of Christmas, that families are messy and that people are grosy, stingy, and selfish all the way down. People, Augustine says, love badly, and this love is what we call 'sin': the right pursuits in all the wrong ways. It is hardly done in a more comical and perfect way than in this one. I watch this in the middle of June.

NUMBER ONE: NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION

THIS MOVIE above all other movies is the one that puts me in the Christmas spirit. I don't really care that much for the other National Lampoon flicks: Family Vacation is kind of worn, and European Vacation is just stupid. Don't get me going on Vegas Vacation. But this one hits all the right spots. You have Chevy Chase in the prime of his funny, Randy Quaid in all his dickie-wearing glory, burning cats, septic tanks, passive aggression, and snooty neighbors.

It. Is. Fantastic. Like Love Actually, I watch this one irrespective of season, but don't feel like I have to hide out for fear of someone thinking I'm watching a chick flick. If you're looking to win points with me, this is always a great suggestion with a mug of hot chocolate. There are a few movies that are always funny, no matter how many times I see them--Jackass, Grosse Point Blank, Bill Cosby Himself, Sean of the Dead, Tombstone--and this one. Chevy Chase is of the old school of comic timing, where it's about 15% what is being said, and about 99% how he's delivering the line.

Staple my head to the carpet, Martha. It's Christmas time.

See you in the New Year.

I'VE GOT ABOUT THREE FEET OF SMALL INTESTINES I'M NOT USING AT THE MOMENT


let's just get to the quick of this. i tend to enjoy films that the majority of my friends despise. also, i usually give thumbs-up to films that the professional reviewers poo-poo. it's a great relationship really: when they say nay, i run to the ticket window with unfolded bills; when they say yay, i turn to my growing cache of b-flicks (growing in thanks to john barber).

with this is mind, i will stage my argument against SEVEN POUNDS. i'm feeling rather listy these days. here's a smathering of what i did not like.
- predictable: the plot is spilled out in the first ten minutes
- woody harrellson: haven't loved him since CHEERS
- rosario dawson: she cat-fights well, that's the nicest thing i've even been able say
- the music: somebody should be punished for this much sappiness
- emotional manipulation: there were moments that pushed too hard
- gas: i felt a little bloated towards the end, maybe due to the french onion dip.

however, with all that said, i still easily give SEVEN POUNDS 4.7 dj jazzy jeff's out of 5, and all for the following reasons:
- predictions excused: the transparency of the plot is made up for by the sincerity of the performances. i believed these people. there stories resonated with something in me. particularly will smith, whose quest for redemption, though overly misguided, soundly remarkably familiar. sure, dostoevsky probably could have explored guilt on a deeper intellectual level, but SEVEN POUNDS dives into the humanity of remorse.
- will smith: the man can do no wrong. even when the screenplay sucks, he always makes me believe it. 
- rosario dawson: the lady plum blew me away. didn't see this coming. great. beautiful. pure lovely. i wanted to personally give her someone's internal organs. who knew rosario dawson was a heart attack waiting to happen? she convinced me.
- cinematography: regardless of what tito says (and i realize he's a professional), the film is visually stunning, shimmering on all edges with that carpe-diem flavored majesty - which i easily fall for at times.
- jellyfish: i just like them.

the official hamsterian verdict: the yays far outweigh the nays here. guilt and redemption are sticky, difficult themes to explore, and God forbid doing so without heavy doses of honest melodrama. anyone who has ever teetered on the edge of self-forgiveness or destruction knows the constant wash of tidal emotions that propel the process. the greatness of SEVEN POUNDS is not found in forms of literary genius or cinematic tricks; rather, it steeps from the deeply human conflict of man vs. self and the ways such a battle can possibly breathe life.   

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I AM . . . . FIERCELY HAMSTERIAN


i am . . . . how can i put this gently . . . . completely bonkers about beyonce's newest record, I AM .... SASHA FIERCE. heck, i'm listening to it right now, and i've got goosebumps. see, right there on my arms, all the little hairs sticking out like i just got struck with a major bolt of static electricity. see that? but i didn't just get struck with static electricity; no sir, i got struck with beyonce's "halo", track two on disc one. shazam! goosebumps everytime! 

I AM .... SASHA FIERCE is a double cd set, you see. two discs. and each disc has a theme. the first disc (I AM...) is all slow, dramatic ballads. like the "halo." or like my other favorite track "disappear." it's playing right now. wait, here it comes, the build, the chorus, "when i think about it", and there go the hairs again. see? right there? all of them standing up. they do that everytime.

and then the second disc (... SASHA FIERCE) is all real catchy dance tunes. you may be familiar with the "single ladies" song, which just happens to be, as of 7:36 this morning, my new cellular telephone ringtone. these tracks appeal to beyonce's on-stage alter ego, who she affectionately refers to as "sasha fierce." i've got one of those, too. an alter-ego, i mean. only my "hamster" can't do that little booty shuffle thing that put beyonce on the map back in the day.  but, with this new ... SASHA FIERCE disc on repeat, my hamster is working on it.

personally, i'm only a little bonkers about the ..... SASHA FIERCE disc, but i'm hella crazy nutso bonkers about the I AM.... disc. i mean, don't get me wrong, i love the dance tracks off beyonce's B-DAY as much as the next guy; however, this time around, i'm feeling the ballads a little more. i'm right there with beyonce on her personal exploration of her own diva-ness. i've been on those treks myself. they can be dirty at times, even dramatic, and i applaud the lady for laying down her trek on these I AM... tracks. i'm telling you: goosebumps. 

alright, alright. i realize that i'm way off base here. this is a film site, not a record site. john and myles and i built this site as a place to talk about the movies that have shaped or not shaped the midnight hours of our life. we did not build this site to talk about records. and so, with that in mind, i will review beyonce's newest music video: "if i were a boy."

(sorry about the quality here. all the better videos had disabled embedding, by request. here's a link to a higher quality version.)



this is a great music video. and what i love most about this music video is its return to the dramatic story-telling structure, like in some of the better music videos from yesteryear. listen, i'm a simple man. i live a simple existence. and i live simple stories. thus, i need music videos, like these, that tell the simple stories of my life. these videos resonate with me. the stories they tell ring a bell of truth in me that i can relate to. for instance, i deeply connect with the new beyonce video in major ways: i drink coffee; i wear hats; i ride in cars; i've shot guns; i've been arrested; i pull my shirt over my head just like beyonce did in the beginning of this video. see, me and beyonce are not so dissimilar. 

also, i do think that beyonce gives us some great acting in this video. there are moments where we actually believe, according to beyonce's performance, that this beautiful black woman could actually fall in love with this skinny white guy. (again, autobiographical resonation - shazam!) but then, flip the coin at the end, and beyonce's performance takes us to a deeper place of hurt and rejection, particularly in those very simple headshots where she looks into the camera and, with darkened eyes, mouths the words into the camera. after having seen the video, i cannot help but see those darkened eyes everytime i listen to this track in my car. it's a masterful performance that proves haunting in its simplicity and raw emotion.

and, okay, i'll traverse this ground here with all of you. the role reversals in this video are shocking. purely shocking. there's something unexpected and unsettling about a woman skeezing her man, especially a good man who sits around fantasizing about the jewelry that he wants to purchase for her (resonation again). this is a far cry from earlier beyonce videos where the skeezing was a blatant action of the man (also a masterful performance, particularly when she pushes his forehead). and this typical male skeezement is what we expect, what we are - shall i say - comfortable with in pop artistry. therefore, depictions of a woman holding her partner's gun, turning off her cell phone at dinner, and having the audacity to get up on her man when he just saw her backing up on that white dude is beyond shocking: it's borderline repulsive. of course, as we see in the end, the skeezing was not on the part of the lady (beyonce would never skeeze), but on the part of the man who laughs in the face of her suspicions. that dude be a bitch. 
 
the gratuitous bra shot in the locker room is totally unnecessary, but welcomed. 

i give beyonce's "if i were a boy" music video 5 black dereon dresses out of 5. with singles like this coming off of record like that, we can only expect bigger and better things from beyonce knowles in the future.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

CRAZIER THAN GUANO IN MY HAT: FTT, Pt. IV

This is my second time to watch Part IV from start to finish, and I have to say, this was a decidedly more satisfying film to watch than the last one: #3 was guano in my bowl of cereal. I mean, seriously. But if that one was the poop in my food, this one was crazier than pooping in my hat. Jason comes after teenagers who spend the whole time being naked and watching old-school strip shows? Nonetheless, I remain committed. As far as the watching goes, here's the set-up and circumstances of the crime:

I came home to watch this one after deciding last minute to pick this up at Hollywood on the way home, the coup-de-gras to a day characterized by editing some lectures for a book I'm helping edit, digging through material on Christianity in 1980s Poland, and reading part of one of Dorothy Day's autobiographies at the pub over a Two-Below and some chicken-and-barbeque pizza. All in all, an entirely peaceful, pacifist, and utterly pacific day: lots of coffee, reflection, reading, and intellectual stimulation.

And I finished it off with a tale of blood, vengance, boobs, and pre-teen angst and murder. Coherence? Discontinuity? Sure.

(Editorial Note: this post was begun on a couch, and completed Sunday morning on "the throne". Appropriate, n'est pas?)


There's a lot to love about this one. When I say, "love", I mean the way that Jesse Jackson Jr. is feeling about Rick Blagojevich right about now. In other words, there's a lot to feel proud, yet morally conflicted and utterly disturbed about. It's not fair to hold this one up to the Oscar lights to work like this: this is not a forrested version of No Country for Old Men. Although, the possibility is intriguing....another time, perhaps.

Loving a film like this involves finding the highlights and clinging to them. I love my fiancee for many reasons, but she's not perfect. I love her laugh and her smile and her eyes; I love the way she hates the mall and the way she loves justice; I love the way she kisses. I could go on. In other words, you hang on to the great stuff, and leave the other stuff for private discussion between you and them.

So, in celebration of one of the best portions of this cycle of films, some highlights:

Gordon the dog--finally, a canine plays a central role

Twins--it was just a matter of time before the franchise pulled this gag out.

Walkmen--I really miss mine. I miss cassettes, for that matter.

Crispin Glover--thank you, McFly. You are still awkward and gangly, and I have no idea how you sustained a Hollywood career, but more power to you.

Button-down shirts tucked into gym shorts--a fashion trend I missed, thankfully. I still tight-rolled my jeans for a year beyond their expiration date.

Skinny-dipping--I reference one afternoon in Purdy, MO.

Crispin Glover bringing back the Aardvark mating dance--ah, this is why Glover continues on...

Non-commital slow dances--God bless middle school.

Rampant teenage insecurity, which leads to rampant teenage hormones, which leads to rampant teenage murder.--pscyhologically, this was a nice twist on the formula: it spells out the roots of what causes Jason to draw near: it's not just sin, but fear, which leads to whatever.

Once again, premarital sex kills, and falling in love while doing it will not save you--Again, a nice twist on the paradigm. The girl's confession to falling in love in the shower only leads to her getting the axe.

Slo-mo throwing of self out a window--self-preservation! It's not just for serial killers anymore!

Til next time.



Monday, December 8, 2008

Insert Monkey Pun Here



Here's the main review of SPACE CHIMPS on IMDB:
I just took my 4 year old boy to see this movie and we left shortly before it was over. We were not the only ones to leave early either. Only once was there any laughter from the audience. I thought most of the punch lines were aimed at the adult audience, but no one was laughing. I was very disappointed that there wasn't any moral to the story - if there was, it was vague. The characters were not all that likable either. I didn't feel any connection to them at all, nor did my son. I left the theater thinking that this was the biggest waste of time and money. Space Chimps is no Shrek. This has to be the worst G-rated movie I have ever seen. My son thought it was very boring and he usually loves action/adventure movies. The only thing he liked about the whole experience was the pack of Twizzlers I bought him.

Dang, some people take their monkeys-in-space movies seriously.

Sam, Laney, and I sat down to watch SPACE CHIMPS last Friday night ('cause Friday night is Family Fun Night in the Barber house, dontcha know). A brief plot synopsis:

A wormhole in space is discovered, and because it's too dangerous to send humans through, they send the chimps. The chimps find a planet populated with with aliens that look strangely like the dude in EXPLORERS. There's an evil overlord, the chimps save the day, etc, etc.

I fully expected, as is my custom, to fall asleep at exactly seven minutes into the film. It was not to be so. Not only did I not fall asleep, I actually found myself laughing out loud at jokes about Axel Foley and David Bowie. So I started thinking about things I like in movies:

Monkeys... check.
Space... check.
David Bowie Jokes... check.

SPACE CHIMPS gets 4 Ziggy Stardusts out of 5.

Friday, December 5, 2008

BIGFOOT LOVES BOBBY: A HOCKEY MASK, INC. EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE BOGGY CREEK STAR: BOBBY FORD



Hamster: As a Hockey Mask, Inc. exclusive, I am very pleased to welcome to our Hockey Mask studios a man who I feel needs no introduction: Bobby Ford from The Legend of Boggy Creek. Bobby, on behalf of John, Myles and myself, thank you for taking time out of your busy fishing and squirrel skinning schedule to talk with me today.

Bobby: Mm, yes, sir. Glad to do 't.

H: Now, Bobby, according to the documentary by Charles Pierce, you were attacked by the Fouke Monster, a variety of the Bigfoot, twice. Is that right?

B: Mm, yes, sir. He grabb't on me twicet.

H: Remarkable, Bobby. I mean, for most Americans, the legend of Bigfoot is a tall tale, a campfire scare story to keep children from wondering into the woods. However, you not only saw a Bigfoot, you were actually accosted by one. You must feel pretty special, huh?

B: Mm, no, sir. I don't rightly feel special. Unless by special you mean that I can't pee standin' up no mo' cuz I still get the shivers real bad.

H: My gosh, Bobby, that is a special feeling. Could you tell us about the two Bigfoot attacks you survived?

B: Mmm, yes, sir. Well, you sees, firs' time he grabb't on me I was sittin' on my sister's couch over by the winder, had my arm up rest't on th' couch back, and he reach't right in that winder and grabb't my arm, right above th' wrist, you sees, like he's grabbin' fer my watch to check the time. That were th' firs' time he grabb't on me. Sec'nd time he grabb't on me I were out in the yard with my brother-in-law, he's married to my sister Sue, and he and his friend were tryin' to shoot that monster. I's holdin' the light fer 'em, you sees, and that monster reach'd up and slapp't me on th' back, just like momma did when I'd stick my fing'r in her apple pie fer it were done. Mm, yes, sir. That sec'nd time he grabb't on me, I woked up in Texarkana in th' hospital eatin' ice chips and banana puddin'.

H: My goodness, Bobby! That is quite a story! I bet you tell that story often, don't you?

B: Mm, no, sir. I don't tell it much. Gives me th' shivers when I do.

H: Speaking of the shivers, Bobby, there is something from the tape that I would like to ask you about.

B: Mmm, yes, sir?

H: Bobby, I noticed that Pierce included a very touching scene, a private scene of you in the bathroom. And I noticed that then, too, the Fouke Monster tried to, as you say, "grab on you." Is that right?



B: Well, yes, sir. That did happ'n. But, I's kinda hopin' you weren't....

H: And, Bobby, I noticed in the tape that when you came off the toilet that you already, in that one jumpking flash, had your long underpants pulled up?

B: Well, mmm, yes, sir.

H: It's as if, Bobby, you never actually pulled them down in the first place. As if you sat down on the toilet with your long underwear still pulled up around your waist. Is that right?

B: Mmm, well, sir, now I had just been grabb't on by that monster. I'm not rightly sure I's thinkin' straight.

H: Bobby, we at Hockey Mask, Inc. just need to know one way or the other: did you or did you not sit on the toilet with your pants up to your waist?

B: I nearly crapp't my own britches that firs' time he grabb't on me...

H: Didn't look like it to me, Bobby?

B: Well, now, sir! I'm not rightly sure I 'ppreciate...

H: Bobby, it just seems strange that with all those pretty South Arkansas women in that house, that Fouke Monster came only for you. Three times he came only for you. Once when you were on the couch. A second time in the bathroom. And a third time while your brother was shooting at him with a gun, which resulted in your hospitalization. I think it would behoove the Hockey Mask audience to know, Bobby: did you have relations with the Fouke Monster?

B: ....... Mm ........

H: Bobby, the question is simple: were you and Fouke Monster involved?

B: .......

H: Bobby, this is a community of friends. You can tell us.

B: Mmm, yes! Yes, sir! I did love that beast! He were burly and rugged! He could carry a hun'r'd pound hog on his shoulder. My sister made me leave him. My sister Sue, that I's stayin' with, she wanted me to meet that other girl that had her cat took by my Foukey, but Foukey took that girl's speech. And I couldn't have no girl I couldn't hollar at. He were my love!

H: Thank you, Bobby. Thank you so much for the truth. We at Hockey Mask, Inc. greatly appreciate your candor and strength.

B: He were my giant love squirrel! And I lost his watch! He were just lookin' fer his watch!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

WHEN E SUE ASKED IF I WAS GOING TO SEE TWILIGHT:




e -

you ask if am i going to see the teeny bopper vampire romance flick, TWILIGHT? the vampire romance flick that sold-out 18 consecutive screenings at one theatre here in bryan, texas last thursday night at the midnight showing? the vampire romance flick where they do all those cool ass CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON kissing in the treetop bits? the vampire romance flick that has grown women filing down their incisors in their vanity mirrors at home? the vampire romance flick that looks like a teenage goth girl's greatest sexual fantasy come true? the vampire romance flick that looks like HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL forgot it's prozac? am i going to see that vampire romance flick?


um, hell and no.
i'd rather sit at home and chew my own hands.
- ks

Monday, December 1, 2008

LESS AS MORE, AND HOW TO BE A BETTER FATHER AT THE WORST OF TIMES


consider this review a recommendation for the film RESERVATION ROAD

at the onset, i can say that this film is not for everyone. it's simple. it's literary. it's emotionally stark and closer to the human experience than most of the bumble tumbling out of hollywood. plus, it invites the viewer into the drama in ways that disturb those normally approaching film for an escape. thus, i say this film is not for everyone. 

however, with that said, i really liked this film. i liked that the purpose here was not to wow anyone with pyrotechnics and movie making magic; the purpose was to tell a story, to explore people, to dig into questions that the average viewer hopes to never need a solid answer to. such questions are a hallmark of good art: bringing participants in contact with issues and ideas that are so outside our own reality the portrayal causes us to pause, to reflect, to be dug into.

RESERVATION ROAD explores two fathers' varied reactions to the same tragedy, particularly how these reactions bring their lives first into a shared orbit and then to a massive collision. the film also explores the toil of tragedy on a healthy marriage, as the viewers witness husband and wife initially clinging to one another and then, as the grief sets in, drifting apart.

for all the grittiness of the film's griefs and fears, RESERVATION ROAD does lead to a believable climax and honest redemption. not to mention, performances by joaquin phoenix and jennifer connelly are nothing short of heartbreaking. they took me there. they made me feel more than i was ready or willing to feel. i applaud them both.

the hamster gives RESERVATION ROAD 3.5 red sox pennants out of 5. it's a really good film - not great - that left me wanting more. honestly, that could be a good thing. many films make the mistake of giving us far too much. perhaps RESERVATION ROAD is a prime example of the old adage: less is more. in the case of grief and suffering, that may be all too true.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

AS IF YOU'VE NEVER WANTED TO BUST KURT RUSSELL

I currently live in a house, until the first of year, with a couple who love television. I mean, LOVE: when they moved in, they brought with them their complete package of digital cable-expanded package-premium channels, and continue to pay an extra share for it to continue to be a reality in the house. I've never been much of a TV-watcher, but with literally 500 channels to choose from, it's hard not to find myself sitting on the couch with Die Hard going in the background while I mindlessly grade papers.

Die Hard post forthcoming. Don't think I won't post on that Christmas-time gem.

***

Tonight, as I sit down to crank out some notes from the evening pastor search committee, I see Kurt Russell driving a car like hell through a deserted backroad, with Rosario Dawson in close pursuit. Obviously, I am intrigued. It's a meeting of Overboard and Rent: what's not to hate about this trainwreck already?

A quick look at the information on the cable reveals that this is indeed Quentin Tarrantino's Grindhouse. For the next 30 minutes, I watch Russell drive with a bullet in his shoulder, pursued by three violent--yet mildly attractive--women until they run Russell off the road. And stomp on Russell's face with a stilleto.

There might have been a time when I liked the Tarrantino films. I still admire portions of Pulp Fiction, mostly because it's a highlight for both Samuel L and John Travolta, gems in an otherwise lackluster decade of films for both actors. I love the pontifications of Pulp Fiction; I enjoy the snazz of watching Uma Thurman kick ass; I really get tired of the gratuitous violence. A stilleto? To the face? Really?

One and a half Dodge Chargers out of five. Quentin, I am losing my patience.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

THE PATERNITY TEST OF THE CENTURY




my friend tim douglass (strapping young bloke, looks great in blazers) recently assigned our science-fiction bookclub robert heinlein's short story "all you zombies -". after reading this story twice today, detailing the margins with notes and doodles to help me follow the clusterscrew of heinlein's scattered chronology, i am utterly convinced - despite what james cameron might say - that this story by heinlein is the basis for the entire TERMINATOR saga. 

listen up here, people, as i convincingly convince you all of my speculations.

according to james cameron, he got the idea for the TERMINATOR story from two episodes of THE OUTER LIMITS written by harlan ellison: "demon with a glass hand", and "soldier."  however, one weird notion i've picked up about harlan ellison is that he's wicked paranoid of being plagiarized.(or, at least, he's way contentious). in fact, there's two stories floating around about whether or not cameron paid and credited ellison in advance for the TERMINATOR ideas, or if ellison had to sue cameron in court. i don't know, and, honestly, i don't really care. 

regardless, i will boldly say that people usually fear sins in others that they are most susceptible of committing themselves. meaning, ellison wrote THE OUTER LIMITS episodes in the early '60s, a few years after heinlein's 1959 publication of "all you zombies-". now, i think all of you know that i would rather step on my own tongue with dirty football cleats than to say something falsely accusatory of another person, but, really, somethings just force you into the pausing corner for a little sitting spell. and i think that if one were to carefully read this here heinlein story, which i so graciously linked in its entirety above, one might find a few unmistakable connections between heinlein's "... zombies -" and cameron's TERMINATOR, namely: 

- the time traveling protector
- the time traveling impregnator
- the cyclical timeline, as indicated by "The Worm Ouroboros" snake ring
- heinlein's mention of some catastrophic event in 1992, the same year as cameron's "judgement day"
- heinlein's lead "jane"; cameron's lead "john"
- the movement and protection of a boy that must be recruited at the right time in life for some crazy secretive special mission. 

seriously, sister leia, i am a burgeoning young padawan to the science-fiction literature, and i plan to earn my readerly keep in due time. jumping to conclusions like this about the connections between stories and films simply because they feature similar trends, trends that stretch over major sci-fi landscapes, might get me kicked off the millenium falcon at the next fuel stop. but, i'm telling you, the connections here are too tight to be ignored. 

if nothing else, heinlein's story, given through the hands of a trusted friend, offered me two really geeky hours in a coffee shop this afternoon. the story is linked above. please, do yourself a favor: print off the story, pour a big mug of joe, and sci-fi out for a bit. i'm sold. 

as always, cameron's TERMINATOR gets five linda hamilton's out of five. and i'll give heinlein's story five bent jukeboxes out of five. in conjunction, these two blow the roof off our regular scales.

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i also can't help but wonder if joss whedon named FIREFLY'S gunner male-macho "jayne" after heinlein's intersex hero/heroine "jane." just another tangent of a thought.

MAY THIS DAY FOREVER BE KNOWN AS "THE DAY OF THE HAMSTER"




i've been sitting on this review for a week and a half now, trying to think of something overly clever to say about this film. there was the gloating rodential letter review:

dear squirrels,

ha! we made it big in pictures before you did. you've laughed from your tree limbs at us in our cages long enough. we hamsters will rise! we will RISE!

- the human hamster

then there was the haiku review:

nowhere near badassness of

and then i considered a limerick, but it just kept deconstructing itself:

There once was a hamster in a ball,
who used it as bed and bathroom stall
until the day
Bolt came his way
and made Rhino the most freakin' awesome hamster superhero in the entire hamsterian history of Rodentialdom! and all!

but none of this seemed to work. there's just no way to express how cool and fun and hilarious and great BOLT was on the big screen. two out of two stills agree this is the best thing disney has made since TOY STORY (pixar, of course, not included). 

people with kids - grab up the young-uns!

people without kids - grab up somebody!

as a hamster, speaking for all of the hamsterian race, i boldy give the film BOLT five crystal clear stealth balls out of five. it's about time the world gave hamsters their due.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

HOW VERY!


dear diary,

i finally got around to seeing that movie. ugh! what was i thinking?! not seeing this movie sooner! i mean, really, if i'm going to make it with the heathers i've got to keep up with their reindeer games. even heather douglass told me after heather urban's bridal shower that the movie HEATHERS was really very. and i totally believed her. i mean, why wouldn't i? even though J.D. said that it was as cool as puking on you own shoes at a college party, i still watched it and i still laughed. 

i mean, really, what's that kid's damage? seriously, there was a time when i thought i needed to stop the heathers, but now i realize: i've got to stop all the jason dean's murdering our movie going before we've even went! i've got some chaos that could really kill his dinosaur!

sure, i felt bad laughing at some of the parts. who didn't? like when heather drank the drain-o and gasped "CORN-NUTS!" and fell through the glass coffee table, i knew right then and there that this movie was going to be big fun. i mean, it's one thing to want someone out of your life, it's another to serve them a wake-up cup full of liquid drainer! 

this film was totally very in so many ways, but then it was way damaged in others. but i'm so afraid to tell heather that i didn't get it, and that it was like so '87, cause she told me that this movie was the big one and that if i blew it, it would be keggers with kids all next year. and i really like heather and all, but, seriously, i've had about enough of her and all her Swatch dog, Diet Coke heads. 

wait a minute! maybe heather and heather and heather deserve the likes of jason dean! before those brain tumor for breakfast hounds get any more weak ideas, i'm gonna spread my wings. i'm gonna teach other people to spread there wings and fly. like eagles! and then heather will say to me, you're beautiful! but this time, that girl scout cookie will really mean it!

okay, i'm done here. this film was really great, but i've got to motor if i'm going to unslush their slushies. i've got to think of something big here. something drastic. something as big as moby dick, and fast, before people realize that my teen-angst has a body count. 

i give heather's beloved HEATHERS film a ghastly 2.3 gentle chainsaws out of 5. honestly, it's all red ribbons and THE red croquet ball for me from here on out, heather. 

love, your best friend, your worst enemy - same difference,

- veronica 

Friday, November 7, 2008

The itching and THE BURNING


THE BURNING is a legendary slasher flick for a few reasons. It came out in '81, a year after FRIDAY THE 13TH. Naturally, it was called an imitator. It was the first real film for Jason Alexander, Holly Hunter, and Fisher Stevens. Also, it was the first big film that Harvey and Bob Weinstein made - this fact alone assures its place in history. More than any of that, though, is the fact that THE BURNING carries with it a cult following that's as rabid and intense as the Ft13th crowd. The good news is, there's a reason. THE BURNING is, quite simply, the best slasher film ever made (with the exception, of course, of HALLOWEEN, which really transcends the genre, so it doesn't quite count).

The simple story: You've got campers at a circa 1980s summer camp. The caretaker, Cropsy, is mean to all the kids, so they plan to exact their revenge. The plan goes awry and Cropsy ends up in the burn ward of a local hospital for the next few years. Upon exiting the hospital, Cropsy returns to the camp to get even. With garden shears as the weapon of choice, he raises the body count well past Jasonian levels. There's a final showdown in a copper mine - with Cropsy pitted against one of the boys who originally caused the burning.

THE BURNING includes a massacre on a raft, a skull with maggots, Jason Alexander in his finest role, blood by the bucket full, a violation of a MAJOR horror movie cliche, and 25 year old campers. What more does a horror fan need?

I'll say it again - best slasher film ever. I really don't want to say too much - I want you all to rent this one. It's lovely, in a horrible, horrible way. Watch it right now.

THE BURNING gets 5 fingers sliced off at the knuckles out of 5. Brilliant!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

AND JUSTICE FOR ALL or HOW HENRY FONDA DOUBTS

This past weekend, I went to the Baylor University library and checked out an exercise in cinematic discipline: Twelve Angry Men. It'd been a few years since I'd seen it, but seeing as Sarah did her major project last Spring on the death penalty in Texas, I thought that she might be interested in seeing another generation's exploration of justice and due process.

The whole of the film, minus three minutes, takes place in the confines of the jury room, with full-blown character development, conflict, tension, and redemption happening in a single room over an hour and a half. The film is littered with the A-list of the 1950s: Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, Jack Klugman, E. G. Marshall...with Henry Fonda as the fly in the ointment spoiling an otherwise open and closed murder case.


As the film unfolds, Fonda is no advocate against the death penalty, nor is he opposed to sending a guilty man to the electric chair. Rather, he recognizes that the deliberation of life and death is a serious task, and one that must start from the place of the benefit of the doubt. This is perhaps the most refreshing part of the movie, that Fonda has no axe to grind or ideology to defend, but rather the pursuit of the truth, or rather, the illumination of the not-truth: Fonda's concern is to allow doubt to do its de-centering work, and push a quick verdict off its pedestal.

Fonda's mantra throughout the entire movie, "But it's possible!", offering an alternate explanation to seemingly ironclad testimony: maybe the witness didn't lie outright, but rather made strong conjecture. Maybe the noises were inaudible; maybe the lights weren't as bright and our memory not as strong.

And maybe that's okay.

The life of faith works much the same way. In the words of Frederich Beuchner, "If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me." It is the space created by doubt which allows for idols to be shattered, pushing us towards lives of deep dependence, in a slow--but consistent--crawl towards life. If innocence is pushed for too quickly, what we find is not the truth; if innocence is sought too slowly, we grow tired and will settle for any truth at all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

MY GRANDMA IS MORE FEROCIOUS THAN MY DOG - AND SHE BITES HARDER, TOO



much more than feeling afraid during horror films, i love to feel tense. over time, i have found the films that exhaust me, that tie me up in knots and clench me tight enough to produce a diamond, far outweigh films that simply nauseate or creep me out. it's just a proven hamsterian fact. and for this reason, and this reason alone, i loved QUARANTINE.

allow me to digress in my review of QUARANTINE to discuss another film for a moment. the original ALIEN is one of my all-time favorite films, sitting right up there in my top ten. ALIEN is also in my top three favorite horror films, even though it is technically considered sci-fi. the thing i love most about ALIEN is the way it starts slowly, even innocently, and then suddenly thrusts into a maddening intensity that never lets up for a single second. even after dozens of ALIEN viewings, i still jump and squeal and clench up my butt cheeks something fiercely musical.

QUARANTINE reminded me of ALIEN in this regard. the tension both films create for their viewers stems from a constant, itching promise that something - who knows what - is lurking around the next corner, and it wants to destroy somebody. the actors know it's there; we know it's there; the music and the movement and the camera work let us know that it's there; nevertheless, nobody knows when it's coming or what it will look like or what it will do when it jumps onto the screen. this causes the characters to move slowly, to tiptoe and peek around each bend. likewise, it caused me to fetally curl up, grip my arm rest, and shield my eyes.

and that right there, my friends, is what i love in a good horror film.

QUARANTINE, in my opinion, can boast three cinematic glories:

one is the ALIEN-like intensity i've already mentioned.

a second is the story. also like ALIEN, the story here is simple. authorities lock a group of people, including a two person news team, in a residential building with zero information concerning the nature or duration of the lock-down. as the pieces begin to fall into place, we learn, along with the characters, that some ridiculously fast-spreading disease has exploded among the resident's of this apartment building, turning its victims into vicious, animalistic cannibals - sorta like romero's zombies on speed. i will not reveal the disease here, but i will say this: it's a totally boss and believable concept for a contagion plot. also like ALIEN, the tension of the film revolves around entrapment in small environments (a space ship and an apartment building) while being hunted by nearly indestructible predators (mommy alien and, well, mommy).

lastly, QUARANTINE's production is pure genius. shot entirely on handheld camera by a lead character, the film's narrative is told in first person and real time. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT tried to do something similar a decade ago. more recently, george romero gave first person film narration a shot with his piss-poor 2008 release, DIARY OF THE DEAD. both films failed miserably at creating the remotest level of tension, let alone offering real scares to completely unconvinced audiences. this is where QUARANTINE trumps it's predecessors. whereas BLAIR WITCH only made me feel car sick in the theatre, QUARANTINE made me feel car sick and scared witless. whereas romero's DIARY melodramatically resembled mtv's the real world via to-the-camera confessionals, QUARANTINE remains relentlessly taut between brief, panicked journalistic updates and the coming onslaught of cannibalistic granny creatures. also, and i cannot for the life of me figure out how they did this, some camera shots in QUARANTINE go for at least ten minutes. i've rarely seen single camera shots last this long while containing this much constant, vicious action. absolutely brilliant.

so, for my overall verdict, i'm scoring QUARANTINE in two categories. i give the theatre experience of QUARANTINE 5 ferocious grannies out of 5. there is no way QUARANTINE could work half as effectively on dvd - even a really boss dvd system. this is must-must-must see in the theatre. however, i give QUARANTINE, as a film, 4 gnawed esophaguses out of 5. as much as i loved viewing the film in the theatre, i am not sure this is something i could return to repeatedly. QUARANTINE works better as a unique and refreshing cinematic experience than as a top shelf flick.

with that said, i'm considering seeing it again in the theatre. it's just that fun.

The Friday the 13th Movie That's Not a Friday the 13th Movie


Here's the deal. Take away the first couple of minutes (which is a recap of Part II), and the silliness of the final minute or so, and this isn't a Friday the 13th movie. There is no Jason mythology. There is no Camp Crystal Lake. There is a kinda deformed guy killing people. It's really like they had a script for a generic horror movie, bookended it with footage of Part II, and called it a Jason movie. This movie existed for one reason, and one reason only. To do 3-D effects. Part III was (like all Part IIIs in the 80s) filmed in 3-D. In this case, it means lots of eyeballs popping out at the audience, and a random yo-yo. Lame. At least Jaws 3-D had the freaking shark coming out of the screen. Yes there are some scenes at the end where the lumbering Jason's arms are flailing toward the screen, but it's about as scary as the opening credits of the movie - which are Superman-style 3-D text that look totally out of place in a Friday the 13th movie.

Can you tell I don't like this movie?

There is one a crazy Ralph wanna-be. He's got an eye (which is supposed to be Paul's, I guess). And he's sleeping in the middle of the street.

There are two stoners, who wear no shoes and die lame deaths. (I'm glad that you wouldn't actually fry like a catfish if you were pushed up against a fusebox)

There are three bikers who serve no purpose, other than jacking up the body count and stealing the gas from the van so that Final Girl would run out at the end (although, to be fair, it's nice to see an actual reason why the car wouldn't run, rather than the usual).

The one contribution this movie makes is the hockey mask. The hockey mask, which was introduced strictly as a plot device, somehow survived and became the icon of the series. Here, it exists only so that he can pull it off and show his face to the Final Girl (you can't dramatically show your face to the girl that you assaulted two years ago if you don't have something on your face to dramatically remove).

Anyway, the mythology picks back up in Part IV... And, we get Corey Feldman! So we got that going for us.

One crappy Pamela Voorhees jumping out of the water out of 5.

Monday, October 13, 2008

STAYING ALIVE AT CAMP BLOOD NEWSLETTER vol. 3






These rules especially apply to anyone nekkid, showering, screwing, or generally still alive at Camp Blood. But especially for the nekkid people. This guy can spot a shower scene an entire lake away. However, after reviewing the security tapes, we're not complaining.

Honestly, here's the crap that's throwing us off from this past Summer at Camp Blood:

- Shelly. Who invited that kid?
- The punk rockers. WTF? This is the country. This is redneck land, not some backstreet British Sex-Pistols club.
- Chris - the final girl. How you gonna knock a 7 foot 300 pound already-dead serial killer in the back of the head with a rotten two-by-four and then run off? Chris, you give white people in horror films a very bad name! Did you learn nothing from Ginny in part 2? We gave you that tape for a reason! Kick in the jimmy, then run. Kick in the jimmy, then run. And run until you find the killer's dead mother's baby blue sweater. We told you this, Chris. Now you've set white girls back in horror films for at least a decade. Filth. And after all that Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigorney Weaver have done for you, and you go acting like that running and falling white trick in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE! shame.
- When did Camp Blood get a barn? Is that an Extreme Home Makeover addition? Was Ty Pennington here? Did he use a sledge hammer with his shirt off? Did anyone get any pictures? I'm just asking.

Alright, alright. Enough already. Listen, Camp Blood is on hiatus for the time being. Like I said, go skate somewhere or something. Wear a lot of hair spray and eye liner - boys included. It's 1982, people. Live it up with all your clothes on somewhere. Camp Blood will reopen soon enough as a party ground for wayward drunken teenagers. At least Crispin Glover has scheduled a dance performance here soon enough. We have him - and him alone - to look forward to. He's the best thing we got going until part 6.

- Ginny

Saturday, October 4, 2008

PROM NIGHT II - The Paycheck


It's time we discussed on THinPB a phenomenon that's all too common these days in Hollywood. DeNiro is famous for it. Al Pacino has been a victim quite a lot these past few years, and somehow, Jack Nicholson has been immune. I speak, of course, of that happening known as The Paycheck Movie. The Paycheck Movie was made famous by DeNiro and his less than Oscar-worthy performances in dreck like THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE. It's the reason we get movies like RIGHTEOUS KILL (with both DeNiro and Pacino, incidentally) which scored a massive 36 on Metacritic. It's the phenomenon in which a real-deal, bankable actor or actress allows him or herself to appear in a film that has zero chance of being anything other than putrid. Perhaps the conversation goes like this:

Name-brand actor: "I want to make an artistic film about carpet salesmen in 18th Century France - I've got a great script. It's got Best Picture written all over it!"

Studio: "Of course, of course, we'll get right on it. We will gladly make your film. Of course, in return, you will make three films of our choosing - starting with a Michael Bay vehicle."

Name-brand actor: "Ok devil, I will make this deal with you. But if I hear the words Jerry and Bruckheimer, I'm out of here..."

Studio: "Umm... that brings us to film #2."

---------------------


I know that Idris Elba is not DeNiro or Pacino, but he is a burgeoning star. He was brilliant in "The Wire" and he's had some fantastic performances in good movies like 28 WEEKS LATER, THE GOSPEL, and AMERICAN GANGSTER. That's why it's particularly depressing that he made PROM NIGHT, a remake of a 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Neilson vehicle that's become somewhat of a minor cult classic. This updated version, suffice it to say, is no classic at all. Take out the middle three letters from that word, and you;ll have a clue as to the value of this film.

A quick synopsis: Brittany Snow plays Donna Keppel, a high school student who, three years previous, watched her mother murdered in front of her by her (Donna's) former teacher, who had become obsessed with her. The teacher (played in complete monotone by Jonathan Schaech) gets sent away for life to a loony bin. Meanwhile, Donna overcomes her issues and becomes a somewhat normal teenager. When she, her friends, and their dates all get ready for prom night, Donna's adoptive parents encourage the activity. Little do they know that crazy teacher guy has escaped and is coming for Donna. Enter Idris Elba, as the detective who put CTG away in the first place, and now puts his life on the line to save Donna. Typical teenie-horror antics ensue, the body count grows to about 10, and Idris saves Donna. The end.

So a message to Idris Elba: Come on, Idris. You are awesome. They talked about you being the first black James Bond, for cryin' out loud! You were in the greatest TV show of all time (and your character had the best name - Stringer Bell). You have had a string of great films. STOP DOING PROM NIGHT! Please. I understand that it's a paycheck - and probably a very nice one. I understand that you need to feed your family. But come on. PROM NIGHT? Come on. For the love of your fans, come on. You're better than this. Brittany Snow isn't, but you are.
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By the way, the movie was stupid. Don't watch it. 1 and a half paychecks out of 5.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

PAUL NEWMAN (1925-2008)

Forget the comparisons to Marlon Brando or James Dean. Paul Newman, you were a class act. In your roles as Henry Gondorff, or Luke Jackson, or Eddie Felson, you always inspired me to know that sometimes, when you're ensnared in a broken system, it's okay to do what you do, outcomes be damned.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An Homage to the Master


I love Tina Fey. I love Amy Poehler. I loved BABY MAMA. It was irreverent. It was fresh. It was funny.

But I come not only to praise BABY MAMA. I come also to praise the scene-stealer. I come to praise the ridiculous one. I come to praise the master. I come to praise the funniest man ever. Today, I'm here to praise Steve Martin.

Steve has a somewhat small part in BABY MAMA. He plays Barry, the Zen-Master President of a Fresh Market-ish grocery chain. He's Tina Fey's boss. And he's freaking awesome.

Steve Martin is classically zany and he's always been at his best when he's at his zaniest. I was on a big kick a few months ago where I listened to his comedy albums from the late '70s and they are genius. This was when I was doing landscaping. I would be walking around a yard spraying some dangerous chemical, listening to Steve and if anyone was watching, they would have seen me giggling uncontrollably (and probably spraying Round-Up all over somebody's yard). This stuff is ridiculous and silly and goofy and hilarious. An example:
I am so mad at my mother! She's 102 years old and she called me last week because she wanted to borrow 10 dollars for some food! I said, "Hey, I work for a living!" So I loan her the money, I have one of my secretaries take it down and yesterday she calls me and says she can't pay me back for awhile. I said "What is this bullspit?" So I worked it out with her - I'm having her work on my transmission. And if she can't fix that I'm having her move my barbells up to the attic.

Another:
"I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too."

Back to BABY MAMA for a minute. My favorite Steve Martin part comes when Tina Fey's character does something good for the company and Steve says "Congratulations, Kate. I want to reward you with five minutes of uninterrupted eye contact." It would be so stupid if anyone else did it, but Steve had me giggling like a schoolgirl.

Maybe that's what so great about BABY MAMA. Yes, Tina and Amy carry the movie and both are hilarious. But they also fill in the gaps that other comedies leave empty. Those small moments that could have been just plot devices, BABY MAMA cracks you up with. Watch it just for Steve Martin (Barry) telling Amy Poehler's character the secret to success. Watch it for the chocolate poop. Watch it for the best joke about PAM of all time. Watch it because it's funny.

BABY MAMA gets 4 farts in a purse out of 5.

I LEARN TO CUSS BETTER BY WATCHING CARTOONS


pepe guzman says: "I could have done without all the singing."

the hamster says: "I could have used a bit more racial humor. And swearing."

neither of us apologized for enjoying this.

3 cranial V-chips out of 5.

it's just f#&$*ng funny.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

WHICH ONE IS THAT? I GET THEM ALL CONFUSED.... - john barber's wife's husband


dear john,

i received your text message this morning concerning my text message this morning. because we designed this here website as a way to give back to the community, to restore hope to a consumeristic america hopelessly trapped in a filmatic foxhole of explosive blockbusters and romantic comedies and sundancely festive independent mumbo-jumbo jobs - because we have accepted the responsibility to reintroduce the goodness of bad movies - i decided to reply to your text message publicly on hockey mask inc.

to answer your question, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD ...

- is the one where the punk kid (thom mathews from FRIDAY THE 13TH VI) gets the job at the medical supply company that ships skeletons and half-dog carcasses to would-be doctors. oh, and they also have tanks full of zombies in the basement. seems that the government found a way to reanimate life back in the day, only it didn't work as the government planned. so instead of storing the tanks of preserved zombies in some arizona hangar 18 style secret compound, they just put then in the basement of this warehouse in louisville, kentucky, where, surely, they'll remain safe cause, face it, it's louisville.

- is the one that makes tons of references to george romero's films. these references are half complimentary and half "yeah-we-can-do-that-better." unlike romero's undeadlies, RETURN features zombies that run wicked fast, talk intelligently when strapped to tables, and represent zero social commentary. in fact, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD plays much more like a wicked step-brother of michael jackson's THRILLER video than anything closely related to romero. making deep connections between RETURN and romero would be like comparing TEEN WOLF and DANCES WITH WOLVES because they're both about dudes finding their mojo through canine like behaviors.

- is the one where the zombies come to life because of an acid rain created by dudes cremating reanimated dog parts and cadavers at the medical supply place. and those bits came back to life because one of the bozo employees leaked the zombie preservation gas out of the government holding tanks in the basement. of all the zombie films i've seen, this is the most likely story of reanimation yet. in fact, i thought i was watching C-SPAN for a minute there.

- is the one with the punk kids who party in the cemetery. i freaking love the punk kids. you've got everyone in this clique from the hardcore british punk rocker to the flock of seagulls new waver. you've got an annie lennox wannabe and a bangles reject. and, of course, you've got the token black punkster with long jerry curl locks. but the one thing all these kids have in common is that they want to party.... even if it kills them. (that's a good tag line!)

- is the one with the legendary tar man - who might be the coolest monster creation in all of film history. for the life of me, i can't imagine how they pulled this dude off so well in 1985 on a small budget. they'll never make another tar man this good.

- is the one i watched with my dad when i was, like, eight years old, and it gave me nightmares for nearly two years. i think i finally stopped sleeping with my lamp on at the age of 14.

- is the one where the annie lennox wannabe with the bright orange hair says - right before she vegas showgirl dances on a gravestone - that being surrounded by a group of ugly old men who eat her alive would be the most horrible way to die. and then it happens! this is the power of positive self-talk.

- is one i would buy on the clearance rack at half priced books in a heart beat. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD is the most fun zombie film i've ever seen, probably because it makes zero effort to work as a horror or suspense film - it's just pure punk rock and ridiculous special effects.

- is definitely a 5 brain buffets out of 5 kinda film. forget ever making a remake of ROTLD - this is classic monster cinema at its finest. 

let me know what you think. i'm chomping at the skully bits for your thoughts.

- hamster

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FRIDAY THE 13TH 2: EVERYWHERE AT ONCE


With all due apologies to my popcorn bag brethren....

In watching Part 2, I felt like in some ways I was watching the student film version of Part 1. The shots were choppier; the build-up was far less terrifying; the entrapment of the various counselors was way more predictible. Case in point: I never saw Kevin Bacon's demise coming, but when Ralph leaned up against the tree, it was just a waiting game. The fact that Jason is running around with a bag over his head didn't help matters--there's an interesting analysis to be done about why Jason feels compelled to cover his head at all times...but another time perhaps.

In the last set of explorations of FTT, the point was made about the first-person POV of the killer, that it produced the effect of having the audience view the world through the killer's eyes. In this way, the audience was unable to maintain a truly critical distance from the movie; I could never fully pull away from the movie and remind myself, "Yep, there's a camera operater back there, and Jed's probably drinking a beer while holding the boom mike." By giving us the killer's eyes to look through in Part 1, the audience becomes a complicit party to the violence that ensues.

At first glance, I thought the filming was just sloppy with regards to this technique's use in Pt. 2: there are times when it's unmistakably Jason, but there are times when the audience winds up looking through the eyes of Ralph. But then I realized there may be something more going on: the first-person POV is preserved on occasion for Jason, but in truth, other people's gazes become in this film the first-person POV. For example, instead of only entering the picture through our vision, Jason enters the picture and becomes visible to the viewer through reflections on the side of the screen, through the gasps in his victims' recognitions, through glimpses in panes of glass. In other words, the first-person POV becomes everywhere: instead of simply the audience's direction vision being Jason's POV, all directions become Jason's POV. Multiple points of vision in the movie becomes co-opted by Jason, and reveals Jason's power and terror.

I have to confess that this one wasn't nearly as scary for me. I kept thinking of The Elephant Man while watching this, or waiting for Cher to come in and put her arms around Jason and tell him that it really was going to be okay. I'll be eternally grateful to get this hour and half of my life back at some point.

One and a half Oedipal transferrences out of 5.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Top Ten Things About Friday the 13th 2



10. The Gross – Made for only a million or so bucks, Part Deux earned well over 21 million. Not a bad margin, eh? This paved the way for all of the crappy slasher wanna-bes from the last twenty years. Yay for ‘Gross’ puns!

9. The Severed Head – There are lots of them here, but the one we see most often is Mama Voorhees, first in a refrigerator in suburbia, then as the centerpiece to a shrine in the woods. That Pamela really gets around.

8. The Mask – Again, as with Part 1, we’ve got no hockey mask yet. No, young Jason has chosen a burlap sack for a mask this time. How do you get the eye holes to stay lined up all the time? Seems like it would slip too much. Should have gone with a slice of bologna with eye holes cut out.

7. The Skinny Carrot Top – The comic relief is usually the first to go. This loser gets off easy. He gets to spend the night pounding brewskies in a local dive getting rejected by 40-year old drunk chicks. There are worse ways to pass the time, I guess.

6. Crazy Ralph (again) – Nobody deserves a garroting. Especially not Crazy Ralph – all the guy did was warn folks that they were gonna get butchered. Who’s Crazy now, huh?

5. The Nonsense – So let me get this straight. Jason, who’s never left the woods in his entire life, somehow finds out where Alice lives, breaks into her house without her noticing, stows his mom’s noggin in her fridge, and jabs an ice pick into her temple. All while he’s, what, 12? No car, no clothes, no command of the English language – how did he find her house? Did he look her up in the White Pages – he can’t read! Did he follow her car from the hospital? On foot? Then he found his way back to Camp Crystal Lake to erect his little mommy-shrine? Come on.

4. The Final Girl – Ginny is far superior to Alice (from Part 1) for many reasons. She’s resourceful, she’s intelligent, she’s blond, and she’s not afraid of sharp objects. Poor Alice was forever trying to whack Pamela Voorhees with sticks and poles and whatnot, whereas Ginny goes for the machetes and pitchforks pretty quickly. She ends the film pretty much the same way as Alice, but I’m way more confident that Ginny will thrive in the outside world.

3. The Disguise – Ginny is feeling from Jason, and (miracle of miracles) just happens to run right into Jason’s Ziggurat to Mama. She stumbles in and processes what’s happening pretty darn fast. Then, donning Pam’s sweater (that thing HAS to be crawling with nastiness) and assuming Mom’s identity, she begins to bark at Jason “Jason, mama is talking to you!” It works. For a minute. I bet that sweater would sell for a small fortune on ebay…

2. The Face – We get a good look at Jason’s mug as he jumps though a window at Ginny. He’s deformed, demented, and just plain ugly. Now, let’s review what we know about Jason. He was a camper at Camp Crystal Lake and, while his counselors were breaking a couple of the commandments, he drowned in the lake. So how did his face get deformed anyway? Did he have an encounter in the forest with a surly bear? Maybe he was born that way and the counselors wanted him to croak…

1. The Ending – The mysterious, mysterious ending. “WHERE IS PAUL?” I don’t know Ginny, I don’t know where Paul is. For that matter, where’s the last hour and a half of my life? Have you seen that, Ginny? WHERE IS MY LIFE?