Saturday, October 10, 2009

Jesus for Halloween

Which is ironic, since Jesus grew up to be the world's most famous zombie. But he doesn't want your brains, the church does...

Still, this is right on. I've been seeing Christmas crap for sale since late August, and I don't even want to look at it yet. Long gone are the days of waiting until Thanksgiving for Christmas to start. One day, it will literally be a six-month Christmas season.

Yo, Joe! Episode 35


G.I. Joe is on the USS Flagg setting up something they call an "anti-Cobra radar system," which is really something the world's needed for a very long time. Cobra won't take this lying down, though, and a squadron of Rattlers attack with Destro, Storm Shadow, and Major Bludd in command. Duke leads a counterattack which, predictably, ends in a Cobra retreat. Apparently they're off the coast of England, because Storm Shadow's damaged Rattler crashes into a lake near a castle.

Freeing himself, the ninja sees a woman hovering near a stone table. He swims over and takes the sword off the table. We all know which sword this is.


Immediately, clouds move in and a freak storm breaks. The Joes aren't finished setting up the radar, so Duke decides to use the WHALE hovercrafts to deliver the system to a nearby village. (Don't ask me to explain how this whole radar system works, I'm sure there's a method but, and I know this will shock you, I'm not a radar technician.)

And anyway, it doesn't matter because Storm Shadow uses Excalibur to destroy the radar components.

And he slices the gun barrels of Footloose, Spirit, and Quick Kick when they try to stop him. Finally, an episode where Storm Shadow actually is a bad ass.

He even almost kills Footloose just for following him. As it is, Storm Shadow takes him prisoner and makes off to meet with Cobra Commander.

Spirit, ever the Native American pulp fiction stereotype, believes the storm is unnatural. Duke, shrugging off the past 34 episodes and The Revenge of Cobra, decides not to believe Spirit until his hypothesis is confirmed by a total stranger. This guy:

Beemish. That's his name. He says that the Lady of the Lake lives nearby and that Excalibur must have been stolen, forcing her to "raise her hands and drown the British Isles." And, in a flash of lightning, he disappears. Duke, I imagine, makes plans to never come to the British Isles again. He takes it out on Quick Kick and Spirit by ordering those two "mutton-heads" to go back out into the storm and not come back without Footloose.

Well, this is England, so Destro and Cobra Commander must be holed up inside of a castle. Storm Shadow shows up with an unconscious Footloose, who suddenly jumps up and starts fighting. He nearly takes out Destro and the Commander, too, until Storm Shadow uses Excalibur to cut down a stone pillar.

Because, as we all know, English castles always have at least one superfluous pillar which is not integral to the roof's support in any way.

Destro immediately begins scheming to steal the sword from Storm Shadow, worried that Cobra Commander will figure out the sword's power and want it for himself.

As if things weren't bad enough, the village's dam is fit to bust at any moment. Duke orders Lady Jaye to evacuate the village first and save the radar system second, but Beemish shows up again and tells Duke the only way to save the villagers is to return Excalibur to the lake.

Oh, and this little girl can't find her cat. Just in case you didn't get how desperate things are here.

Meanwhile, out on the Tactical Battle Platform, Cobra attacks G.I. Joe and forces them off. Cobra next attacks the village itself, where Destro tries to fire a rocket at Storm Shadow to gain Excalibur for himself. Catching a cold from the rain, though, he sneezes just as he squeezes the trigger, and sends the rocket sailing towards the village...

...where it hits a building and buries Mutt in debris. But hey, it's awesome to finally see Mutt again! And hey, he found the cat!

(Wow, there's really not much of Mutt after this at all, either. Too bad; I love that guy.)

Wild Bill arrives with the cavalry and manages to push back Cobra, and the Baroness orders a retreat. (Seriously, everyone is here somewhere.) Major Bludd, however, fires a missile into the dam and a flood heads straight towards the village. It's been evacuated, but Mutt and Junkyard are still there and Mutt's unconscious and Junkyard's trapped.

Aww, saved by the power of a kitten. Happy Caturday, everyone!

I love the look on off-model Shipwreck's face here. He's just like "Aw, shit, fine. I always knew I'd die this way, anyway. Let's get it over with."

How does Mutt escape the flood? By the power of surfing.

Because Mutt is just that awesome. And Junkyard... hey, when you've been parachuting, surfing ain't shit.


Spirit and Quick Kick, meanwhile, have walked away into the offscreen nether regions and no one cares. Well, not really, but... well, would you care?

Actually, they've found the castle, but they don't know Cobra's inside. Storm Shadow gets the drop on Quick Kick and knocks him over the edge of a battlement. The impact of the landing breaks Quick Kick's leg, which oughta shut him up for a little while. Wondering WWJWD--What Would John Wayne Do?--Quick Kick calls for the nearest Indian with an owl call. Spirit thinks he hears a wounded chicken. Eat it, Quick Kick.

Man, Spirit should change his codename to "Every Injun," because he is every stereotype of a Native American rolled into one. Not that I don't like Spirit, I just wish he could be a guy and not a stereotype. He wears an apron, for chrissakes. He has a healing power that he uses to heal Quick Kick's broken leg. Quick Kick, overjoyed, spins and jumps and leaps and does ballet moves and says he's singin' in the rain. We hear Quick Kick think: "Next time, I'll fix his brain."

Yes! Someone else gets it! Quick Kick sucks!

The two Joes rescue Footloose from the Crimson Guard, then try to escape. It leads to another confrontation between Storm Shadow and Quick Kick on the roof of the castle. Spirit signals Duke and Flint, then sends his eagle Freedom up after Excalibur.

And it works. I don't know, I believe the surfing dog, but an eagle flying off with a sword weighing it down...

Well, now G.I. Joe shows up and sends Cobra into a retreat. Excalibur is returned and the weather clears. The radar system is destroyed, but it can be rebuilt. Beemish is happy, the villagers are saved, Cobra is gone, and the little girl gets her cat back, and all's right with the world.

This episode is a bit of a trifle, but there are some really good moments here. Except for the two-parters, this is kind of the middling part of the first season.

Yo, Joe! Episode 34

Bazooka Saw a Sea Serpent

So, Bazooka sees a sea serpent.

And, of course, no one believes him because he's the retarded guy.

But it's really a Cobra plot. They've got a mechanical sea serpent. They're using it to extort money from shipping lines and control sea trade.

The episode doesn't really pick up, despite the presences of the always-entertaining Bazooka, Alpine, and Shipwreck, until nearly a third into it. That's when the sea serpent machine takes down a ship with some Cobra agents on it, including Cobra Commander. Idiot gets taken prisoner by his own machine. And he has to agree to work, or else the machine will automatically kill him. And worse than that, he's a prisoner with Quick Kick and has to listen to dopey impressions!

The sea serpent's mechanical immune system is the most interesting thing about it. The people taken captive by the serpent are forced to work inside of it in the Red Room, where they sort through loot acquired from captured ships. They work around the clock and are only allowed a two hour break. It fries people who don't work or try to escape.

Lady Jaye has made it inside some kind of observation room with the captive Professor Braxton, who looks like a gay, overweight Steven Spielberg. He designed the machine. He's yet another of those guys who was either forced into Cobra's service or figured designing a giant, mechanical death machine for the Commander would somehow not lead to evil. They have to watch as the serpent attacks another ship and repels a G.I. Joe attack.

This is part of the lame, almost charming dorkiness of having educational advisers on your children's show about a military response to terrorism: the Cobras are all sitting around snacking on fruit and juice. It just seems weirdly self-conscious; the Baroness is eating an apple, Destro is eating a banana (don't need to see that again), and the Crimson Twins are toasting with orange juice. Because no beverage says "to evil" like a towering mug of OJ. Oh, wait...

Maybe they're trying not to prevent scurvy on their leisure cruise.

Hey, I get it, man. Some days, all work seems like this.

Apparently, Professor Beardy drops a welding torch into the hunger drive and now the sea serpent will always be hungry, or some techno-bullshit. The serpent, in the great tradition of giant monsters, heads straight for New York.

Duke tries to stop it with a Skystriker, and manages to lead it into the firing line of some Joe tanks. Inside, Professor Spielberg causes an energy bleed to weaken the machine.

And Bazooka does this, which is pretty cool. When the machine tries to bite Bazooka, it bites its own tail and sinks itself.

Cobra Commander tries to escape, but he (and Lady Jaye and Professor Baseball Cap and Quick Kick) are attacked by enforcer tentacles, but they live. The Commander is rescued by Cobra Eels and everyone gets rescued, and it's over.

Not much of an episode. Cool concept, but not exciting.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Halloween Trailer Mash-Up

I love this almost as much as I love the Gremlins 2/Where the Wild Things Are trailer mash-up I posted a couple of days ago. This is Halloween with scenes from The Office, and it works amazingly well. This is like some kind of messed up David Lynch version of The Office. And there's even a Prison Mike moment, which makes me smile.

Bell Burlesque

Kristen Bell has just been cast in Burlesque, which is supposed to be the acting debut of Christina Aguilera. Aguilera plays "an ambitious small-town girl with a big-town voice who finds love and success in a Los Angeles neo-burlesque club." K. Bell is going to play Nikki, the "loose-cannon lead dancer and main attraction at the club who spirals out of control when Aguilera’s character suddenly gets the spotlight."

I think this has the makings of one epically stupid movie. Like, Showgirls bad. (I know that Showgirls has achieved cult status, but I've always just thought of it as a failure; it's not quite stupid-but-fun enough to be enjoyable.) The writer and director credits on this are pretty terrible. They make it sound like Aguilera--who I do like as a singer, anyway--is playing some kind of teenager. Cher is in the movie. And, frankly, movies about strippers suck, like 98% of the time.

But I really want to see Kristen Bell singing and dancing again, and I find her hilarious, so even if it's an epic disaster--and I can see that happening--I hope she'll be very entertaining. I'd rather see her in something like this than see her keep languishing, underused, in mediocre romantic comedies.

The Dumbest Non-Controversy This Morning

I thought it was amusing that Marge Simpson is going to be in the new issue of Playboy. Lots of other people laughed it off, too. And then there are a surprising number of bloggers who seem to think this is the sickest thing they've ever heard of. It's really, really weird to me. It's just Playboy making yet another attempt to play to the Maxim audience. (Although, if they really wanted to do that, they should have put Lois Griffin on the cover, instead. Does The Simpsons really have that gigantic a cultural cache with the 18-to-34 crowd anymore? It doesn't with me, but it hasn't been a very good show for about the last decade.)

What's funny about that is that Marge was already in Maxim five years ago, which was my first thought when I read about this. I guess no one remembers. And besides, look up "Marge Simpson nude" on the internet. She's been giving the hardcore stuff away online for years. It's about time she did something a little classier.

Comment on the Nobel Prize, Plus Political Links

I was surprised this morning to see that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. The standard response on the far right has been to compare Obama to Carter and talk about how this is a slap in the face to Bush and try to tear down the Nobel Committee for making the choice. The standard response on the far left has been to get pissed off about what the far right is saying.

My own response was: why? Obama's been president for less than a year. What has he done that's worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize? The Beer Summit?

The Nobel Committee said something about how the mere fact of Obama being president has changed the international political mood and calmed things down. But is that alone really worth the Nobel? They also made a statement that, it seemed to me, sort of implied that there was nobody else really worthy of the damn thing, so why not give it to someone popular, eh?

So, I understand that he's been trying to make strides in international relations and in trying to make peace talks and toning down the anti-Muslim rhetoric the Bush administration was known for. But from a domestic viewpoint, I still think Obama's been pretty disappointing: he's given up on his most progressive ideas, he's failed to frame the health care debate in a way that makes it sound as important as it is, and he's extended the USA PATRIOT Act. That's just for starters.

The guy doesn't even have the fortitude to just look America in the eye and say "You know what? Fuck this, it's not the 10th Century any more, gays are going to get married and you're either going to like it or you're going to fucking ignore it, but either way you're going to shut up." Instead his answer, depressing from the first black POTUS, is "separate but equal is fine."

So, I don't know. I don't think the leader of a country involved in two endless Middle Eastern wars really needs a Peace Prize. I guess what I'm saying is that while I don't think this is some kind of travesty, I do think it's weirdly frivolous. Just my two cents.

Some Political (and Social) Links:

:: The bigger problem is that “balance” assumes equivalence for all issues, and that’s just nonsense. Yesterday I used the example of newsmedia asking the KKK to comment about civil rights for African Americans—no real journalist would ever contemplate doing anything so stupid because they know there’s no equivalence between civil rights for African Americans and white supremacy. (The media did this today when they went right to Hamas to comment on Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, as if that's really balance.)

:: It ain't censorship to not give a platform to maniacs. (Amen; you don't engage crazies, or you just legitimize the crazy.)

:: There is zero actual thought coming from the right these days. It's all just a bunch of knee-jerk reaction to them: Find out what Obama wants, and then oppose it. No matter what it is. I swear, these people would cheer if Obama ordered a pepperoni pizza and the pizzeria sent him a mushroom pizza by mistake.

:: The only real question remaining before any of this convoluted, alienating nonsense is passed is if Democrats will realize that the majority of the people in this country want a straightforward government-run health plan, a, yes, "public option." (What they really want is nationalized health care, but, shhh, Obama says we're not allowed to bring that up.) The electoral implications are simple: if a bill with any kind of watered-down, bullshit public option is passed, be it a trigger or state-run or co-ops, Republicans will attack it as socialism and government intervention in blah, blah, blah. It could be a slightly lower cost on aspirin, and conservatives will make it seem like Josef Stalin is shooting Grandma and tossing her in a mass grave. That's what August and everything after should have taught us.

So why not just pass the real thing?
(Because everyone's hurt feelings must be taken into account, otherwise it's not democracy, apparently.)

:: It isn't the "Department of Food Safety" or "Consumer Protection." It is the "Department of Agriculture". If the agricultural processors can make a bucks out of selling possibly poisoned stuff, the USDA is not going to stand in their way. At least, that is, until people start asking inconvenient questions. (This is just like the health care debate: sure, it's an issue of public safety, but it might impede business to try and fix it. After all, money is the most important thing, then property, and somewhere way down on the list is human safety.)

:: Too many kids have tuned out. They nurture a dull resentment against those who know more. Feeling disenfranchised, they blame those who seem to have more information and more words. Some of these victims may in fact be quite intelligent. Some of them may grow up to become fringers. Read the web sites of conspiracy zealots and you will find articulate people who can write well. Their handicap is that they missed the boat when it sailed toward intellectual maturity, and now they're rowing furiously in pursuit, waving a pirate flag. Their screeds are a facsimile of reasoned, sensical arguments. They don't know the words, but hum a few bars and they'll fake it.

:: Nuclear weapons keep us safe. Removing nuclear weapons from the world will destabilize the world. It is a really bad idea to try and do so. (I'm not really sure if I agree with this, but I'm not really sure I don't, either.)

:: What Facebook has done (other than destroy productivity with its endless quizzes, lists and games) is to allow a sizable segment of the adult population to revert to the same kind of behavior most commonly seen in overly dramatic teenage girls.

:: Oklahoma Students Fail (When people cry about school standards falling, I have to ask, what standards are you talking about?)

:: What Future History Textbooks Will Say About the Obama Presidency (It's on Cracked, but it captures exactly one of my major frustrations with this presidency: the fact that they treat all of the conspiracy bullshit as though it were legitimate political discourse.)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

So Good, You'll Roar

Like yesterday's video, it's not quite Halloween, but it does remind me of being a kid. This is, for whatever reason, the one Kit Kat ad that stayed with me forever. I think I was just young enough for it to seem weird and almost kind of magical. For some reason, I associate it with Halloween. I think there were others in this same campaign, too. (Boy, Kit Kat had a LOT of ad campaigns.) I kind of remember this scaring my sister for some reason.

Yeah, Right

Adrien Brody and Topher Grace are going to play soldiers in Predators? Once the Predator gets done picking his teeth with those two human twigs, what are the filmmakers going to do with the remaining 118 minutes of movie?

Miss Brant, Where Are My Links?

Comic Book Character Facebook Status Updates

:: Most of us in the US are familiar with the cryptid Sasquatch (or Bigfoot) and its Asian counterpart the Yeti (or Abominable Snowman). Those are far from the only mysterious giant apes or hominids lurking in either deep forests or our imagination. In fact, such rarely-seen animals are reported all over the world.

:: We are a pretty forgiving society when it's convenient. So what if Halle Berry has a habit of hit and run mayhem? She showed her rack in Swordfish. If we're fond enough of your music, movies or boobs, you can get busted committing what's known as an "atrocity" when done by someone who isn't cool. If we like you, all you have to do is sit back and wait for our short attention spans to take over, and the good will to return. (In the USA, it works like this: rape a kid and you're a monster; rape a kid, record Thriller, and die when you're still young, you're a damn saint.)

:: The 6 Most Frequently Quoted Bullshit Animal Statistics (Damn you, cartoons, for giving me the wrong impressions.)

:: Be Nice: Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned from Patrick Swayze (Maybe I should finally see Road House.)

:: At midnight on Monday evening, copies of the latest book by Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol, went on sale to interested consumers of fast paced bullshit. A direct sequel to The Da Vinci Code, the new novel features Brown’s go-to protagonist Robert Langdon, performing all manner of breathtaking off-the-cuff art appreciation while on the run from shadowy forces. More than that, Brown’s latest is a stirring gong clash for the publishing world: proof that you don’t need wizards or vampires to make your book a bestseller, so long as you write for a fifth grade audience. (My wife's Borders stayed open past midnight for the release of this book; no one showed up to buy it. I think the day of the "event novel" has recessed again.)

:: Final Notice: Big Trouble in Little China Sequel

:: 15 Companies That Originally Sold Something Else

:: And Cobra Commander is going to end up being the scrawny kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun?

:: I would love to think that at the very least, the poor ratings will eat away at Leno – but let’s be honest, if he actually cared about anything besides the money, his show wouldn’t be a giant pile of mediocrity in the first place. (I avoid Leno like a nasty case of Montezuma's Revenge.)

:: 11 Famous Actors and the Big TV Roles They Turned Down

:: 10 Film Set Tragedies

:: Lesser Known Documentaries by Ken Burns

:: 6 Beloved TV Shows That Traumatized Cast Members for Life (Just watching Kirk Cameron on Growing Pains traumatized me for life.)

:: Brinke Stevens! (I hugged her once. I've been in love with her since I was 12.)

:: By the 10s: Marvel Premiere (I'm so glad Jon is done with Harvey Comics. The endless Richie Rich spin-offs were crazy! I'm hoping for some more Disney comics some day, he hinted broadly like an obnoxious trog.)

:: Pics from the Upcoming Clash of the Titans Remake (Maybe it'll be fun, like the original was, but right now it looks like Troy crossed with Dune, and that's just not a good thing.)

Hey, remember when Mr. Rogers went to the crayon factory? Is that a touchstone for you, too? Well, here it is:

Happy 70th Birthday, Harvey Pekar

I've found solace and reflection and understanding in many of his works, and I thank him for it.

Happy 60th Birthday, Sigourney Weaver!

One of my all time favorite actresses.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Where the Mogwais Are

I'm not sure if this counts as Halloween or not, but I came across the most wonderful trailer mash-up ever and had to post it here. It's trailer for Gremlins 2: The New Batch crossed with Where the Wild Things Are. I love this so much. Inside all of us is a Gizmo. Or, well, me, anyway.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

A letdown. I'd heard all kinds of stories over the years about how bizarre this movie is, but I think it's only bizarre if you're one of those weirdos who gets all creeped out and scared at the mere sight of little people. Grow up. It's a Western where the entire cast is made up of little people. Otherwise, it's just as turgid, melodramatic, and boring as a lot of Westerns of the 1930s. And there's no terror whatsoever, unless you're scared of losing an hour of your life realizing there's nothing gonzo coming at all. * star.

This should be a lot more relevant today; kids in a rural town kill all of the adults and start worshiping a religious leader--seems tailored for today's kids, who just get weirder and more conservative. And while some of the horror works in the beginning, the couple driving through town who become targets of the children--Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton--are just boring, and the film kind of drags on and on without being very engaging. ** stars.

AKA "The Dakota Fanning Gets Raped Movie." Fanning, in one of her better performances (and I've always thought she was more talented than your average child actor), is ill-used as a lust object. Even before the rape occurs, the camera and the director keep putting her in set-ups where we're supposed to, you know, notice her, and it's really uncomfortable. She's a backwoods girl in the fifties who is obsessed with Elvis and has an alcoholic father (David Morse) who gets struck by lightning. Fanning is very good, but the movie around her is cruel and bleak for no good reason. There's nothing to really say here, and putting a rape in the middle of it just seems like a desperate move on the part of the writer. It's kind of a juvenile, amateurish movie that tries to shock just to be shocking. * star for Dakota's performance.

Boring. There's no other word for it. Oh, wait, here are some more: slow, ponderous, and dull. Great cast, good idea, but it's a very, very dull movie. The film has fantastic cinematography by Roger Deakins, but after a while my eyes glazed over and I just couldn't pay attention to it any more. See The Long Riders or the underrated Frank and Jesse instead. ** stars.

Bullshit movie about bullshit teenagers starring bullshit-meister Nikki Reed. Anything with this chick after the movie Thirteen seems to be guaranteed bullshit. No stars.

After a great, bloody, creepy opening, the film becomes both tired (seen the stalker-killer before) and silly (it's a psychological thriller, not a slasher film). Not terrible, really, but not worth paying attention to, either. ** stars.

One of Luis Bunuel's more straightforward films, but no less interesting for that (and dig the cryptic ending). Jeanne Moreau plays a chambermaid from Paris who comes to work at a country estate. She's urbane; her employers are repressed bourgeoisie. Though the morals are all pretty ambiguous, Moreau keeps deflecting the advances of every man who comes into contact with her. Morality among the unprincipled seems to be part of the point, but I like the way the story touches on all manner of politics--sexual, domestic, even national. Very subtle, a real work of art. Bunuel is astounding. **** stars.

This Canadian film reminded me a lot of Bergman with its minimalism. It takes place in a Quebec mining town that is frigid and barren, and so white with snowfall that somehow the brightness becomes a darkness. The overbearing cold is met with the warmth of the people who live there, and the film is a series of vignettes painted with nostalgia about a time in childhood when real learning begins. Very poignant, but also very meandering; there's no real dramatic tension, and it takes a while to get to its real story. Patience is required, but it is rewarded. Slow-moving, but very nice. ***1/2 stars.

THE MIST (2007)
It's nearly a great film. A bunch of townspeople in smalltown Maine are trapped in a grocery story when a mist descends. There are strange things in the mist, things which kill anyone they can find. The townspeople are a metaphor for modern society, basically divided into those with the drive to survive, the skeptics (and you know what always happens to those people in a Stephen King story), and those who grow more desperately religious as things get more hopeless. It takes its time, but except for one or two dull spots I didn't mind the deliberate pacing. It's gory enough, too. And some of the performances--especially Marcia Gay Hardin and Toby Jones--are very good. What bugs me, though, is the ending. I think if the movie had ended just about four minutes earlier than it does (ending on Thomas Jane's scream), it would've been the bleak mindfuck it sets out to be. Unfortunately, the ending cops out to reassure the audience (to an extent), even though it's already made a great point about how society only works as long as the machines are running. It's King's Cthulhu story, and for the most part, it really works. ***1/2 stars.

This movie took me by surprise. I have to admit, for the longest time, I thought this movie was a joke. I'd never heard of Anvil, and it looked like a This Is Spinal Tap repeat to me; the drummer is even named Robb Reiner. But as the show went on, I found myself really moved by it at times. It's a documentary about the heavy metal band Anvil, who made a brief splash in 1982 and never stopped playing, despite the lack of fame and fortune and financial success. That's what's so fascinating about these guys; we follow them on a European tour that's a financial wash and watch them play venues where less than 100--sometimes even less than 50--people show up. But then they go back to their day jobs and look for another opportunity to record or play or keep living their dream. It's an amazing thing; two guys in their fifties who have a love of music and love being in a band and refuse to give it up even though they haven't become massive stars. What's important is not money or fame, but their friendship and their shared dream of playing in arenas to hundreds of metal lovers. It's powerful and touching. **** stars.

Mia Farrow plays a British woman who has recently gone blind in a riding accident. She goes to the country to stay with relatives, unaware that someone has murdered them and left their bodies in the home around her. Great concept, but it meanders a bit, and Farrow isn't quite up to the challenge of playing a blind woman--she's too aware of her surroundings and too aware of people around her. There are some genuine scares, though, and ultimately it comes off. It would've come off better with a tighter running time, though; perhaps as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. But I did like it. *** stars.

Love Bela Lugosi, but this movie was dull. * star.

Jean Renoir made this movie about a train engineer (Jean Gabin, whom I always like) who falls in love with the station master's wife (Simone Simon, who could blame him?). Apparently this is based on a novel from a 20-volume series by Emile Zola, which explains why this movie is a little bit harder to grasp; the characters are treated as though they are firmly established already, so you're sort of left catching up with it. Certain character traits are taken for granted without being established. That said, Renoir is an amazing filmmaker, and Gabin and Simone are two very talented actors, and the film is never boring. ***1/2 stars.

Historical epic about the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in 16th Century France. It's touched off by the marriage of Catholic Margot, sister of King Charles IX, to Protestant Henri de Navarre for political reasons. Amidst the bloodshed, there is a lot of deliberate treachery going on, while Margot falls in love with the Protestant La Mole. It's a beautiful-looking film, and I like the way the French tend to make their historical epics with an eye towards humanity and not pomp or spectacle, but it's just incoherent at times and often difficult. Isabelle Adjani is very good in the title role, and the cast is great, but it just threw me. **1/2 stars.

I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I expected I would. A group of kids on a family vacation in the country try to repel an attack by small aliens. One of the kids (the oldest) is Ashley Tisdale, to whom I remain devoted, and I really thought she was full of shit when she compared this movie to The Goonies and Gremlins. It's not as good as either of those films (which I consider classics), but it reminded me particularly of Joe Dante's movies, and I like Joe Dante movies. If this movie had come out when I was 8, I'd have been all over it. As it is, I still really enjoyed the hell out of it; it takes the time to pay attention to quality and entertainment as opposed to a great deal of other movies aimed at kids, which seem to feel they don't have to try too hard because their target audience is less sophisticated. It's not for everyone, maybe, but I'm going to ***1/2 stars just because I had so much silly and engrossing fun with it. And partially because, well, Tis wears a bikini. (Also, I liked the original title, They Came from Upstairs, better than the one they went with.)

9 (2009)
The character design and animation on this science fiction film is stunning. The script, however, is not. It's just not a compelling film, which is too bad, because I was really hoping for some interesting postapocalyptic science fiction. The only real bright spot is John C. Reilly's vocal performance as one of 9 robots at the end of civilization. ** stars.

Creepy Carrot Top Jesus Wants to Know...

...Carl, did you get SamuraiFrog's email last month about getting another copy of that "Chuckmates" mp3? He really misses it and I'll totally leave you alone if you can make this happen.

UPDATE: Thanks, Carl! I promise to keep this and not just plunk it on a crappy CD-R again!

Also, I promise that Carrot Top won't appear on this blog again, as you've repeatedly requested in the past. Unless it's funny. Because I'm obnoxious.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Halloween Heineken Ads

Star Wars with an Inappropriate Soundtrack


One More Word About the Polanski Case

What's especially interesting about Polanski's arrest is the sheer number of blog entries I've read in the past week by people who "weren't going to comment on this" but felt they just couldn't let it go any longer. I've been especially cynical about this arrest, and it has nothing to do with the crimes committed or how I feel about Polanski's films.

What has been bothering me is the way people have sort of jumped on this case as though it's some kind of clear line in the sand. I'm not sure what exactly this case really means to people who aren't involved and, in many cases, weren't even alive when it happened (or, like myself, were too young to know anything at all about it). I mean, what exactly is the symbolism of this for people?

I don't get it.

And this is not to minimize the crime, something I have to keep saying because, judging by the discourse, if you don't constantly say that rape is a crime then you're blaming the victim. This is an appearances-based country, and if you don't look enough like you're against something, people will think there's something wrong with you.

But what does the prosecution of Roman Polanski do for you, exactly? You know what it does for me? Nothing. You know why? Because I'm not Roman Polanski, I wasn't raped by Roman Polanski, it's not my job to prosecute Roman Polanski, and I'm not related to anyone involved, nor do I know anyone involved. So, this having no effect on me, I don't really give a shit.

But he raped a child, I keep hearing. You know what's really depressing? That the federal authorities, three decades later, will finally arrest Polanski because he's foreign and he had sex with a young girl. If he'd had sex with a young boy, or even just tortured the girl, they wouldn't bother. But because a foreigner had sex with a young American teenager, this makes it an even bigger crime.

Where do I get off saying this? Because Michael Jackson had inappropriate relationships with a lot of young boys, and the media and a bunch of morons have deified the man. So, Michael Jackson is a saint, but Roman Polanski is a monster. If this shows anything, it's that Roman Polanski made the wrong kinds of movies. Maybe if he'd directed E.T., there would be more people jumping out of the woodwork to declare him innocent and misunderstood.

Where is the standard, exactly?

Do you get what I'm saying here?

The man committed a crime, one crime, 30 years ago, and everyone's still so goddamn angry about it. Presidential assassins get forgotten more quickly in America. People are acting like the arrest of Roman Polanski is somehow the equivalent of capturing Osama bin Laden. Christ, we should be much more angry that Karl Rove is walking around free than worried about what Polanski is doing. We should be more worried about the Catholic Church's system of condoning and protecting priests who rape children than Polanski.

If he hadn't had anal sex with that girl, I don't think anyone would care anymore. But in a country as puritanical as America, people just won't let it go. Sex in the butt! Christ, no!

I've been reading a lot on this theory that Polanski's arrest has something to do with a backdoor political deal, and I can't say that surprises me. There has to be more to it than this, because there have been plenty of chances to catch Polanski in Switzerland before now. He's there every year. He has a house there.

Federal prosecutors here are going after offshore bank accounts where Americans have been hiding money to avoid paying their taxes. The biggest bank in Switzerland, UBS AG, has been setting up a lot of offshore accounts for American citizens. UBS has already given up over 4400 names of US citizens with Swiss bank accounts; they even paid a $780 million fine to the Justice Department. Now it looks like UBS may be hiding 13,000 more customers with $20 billion in assets. All of it hidden from the IRS. This could have a domino effect, revealing tax evasion practices at other banks, and take out most of the Swiss banking system.

That would be a disaster for Switzerland. How to get back in the Justice Department's good graces?

So much for Swiss neutrality.

What I'm saying here is not that Polanski is innocent or deserves to be forgiven. What I'm saying is that things like this don't just happen, because there really wasn't any concerted effort to catch Polanski for the three decades he was living in Europe. If there was, this would have happened a long time ago.

What I'm saying is, Polanski is being made an example of for political reasons, and that's not justice. That's not justice at all. And while it annoys me to see righteous outrage being misplaced, it just plain pisses me off to see once again how eagerly people line up to be misled.

In short, if there weren't a political reason to grab Polanski, neither the American nor Swiss government would care.

Origin of Stupidity

I've been meaning to post this for a while. This young Romanian woman is angry about Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron trying to push their doctrine in the pages of an important work of science. I share her anger.

Monday, October 05, 2009

40 Years of Monty Python!

Today in 1969, Monty Python's Flying Circus debuted. And I'm just marking it--like many folks who were similarly influenced by Python--with my favorite clip. It's from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and, surprise of all surprises, it's political humor. But it makes me laugh.

Halloween LEGO!

I just get way too enthusiastic over various minifigs, and these are just too awesome. I actually have a ghost, but I haven't bought any LEGO stuff since I was in high school. I've always thought that was a shame... Especially since I could have been celebrating Halloween with them!

What a Horrifying Difference Five Years Can Make

Kristen Bell Mondays