Friday, November 30, 2012

Dark Skies

Keri Russell in Dark Skies
I've been looking into movies beyond the holiday season and came across this rather intriguing trailer for Dark Skies starring Keri Russell ("Felicity") and directed by Scott Stewart (the almost good Legion and the absolutely terrible Priest). Scheduled for a February 22nd release (the traditional dumping ground for movies in which the studios have no faith), Dark Skies has an interesting premise, at least:

A suburban family find themselves under attack by aliens who apparently want to abduct them for nefarious reasons. Russell certainly has her fans, while Spider-Man, "The Closer" and "Law & Order: SVU" star J.K. Simmons appearance adds some legitimacy and attractive "Third Watch" veteran Josh Hamilton (NOT the baseball player) adds some over-40 eye-candy. 

The movie's trailer claims tenuous ties to the atrocious Paranormal Activity and the terrifying Insidious, but that really means nothing. February and March films have been improving lately, though not by much. I hope this Sci-Fi/Horror mashup proves me wrong. And maybe I can finally get D back into a cinema after the trauma of Insidious.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Redefining "Train Wreck"

LiLo as Elizabeth Taylor
I don't honestly don't understand the fascination with the downward spiral that is Lindsay Lohan's career. The Disney princess who fell from grace, Lohan showed promise as an adorable moppet in the remake of The Parent Trap and actual talent in Tina Fey's Mean Girls. Then, something awful happened. 

The product of two completely dysfunctional parents and a group of toadying sycophants who don't know how to say "No," Lohan has been reduced to a sad pop culture joke, which even she doesn't get.

Multiple arrests for drug and alcohol offenses; several traffic accidents; a failed lesbian relationship; a shoplifting scandal; a very public fight with her mother; a father who behaves like a child and her most recent arrest for a brawl in a New York nightclub are all signs of someone in desperate need of an intervention.

This past Sunday, Lifetime aired Liz and Dick, starring Lohan as the iconic Elizabeth Taylor. Universally panned and reduced to a drinking game, the TV movie may well be the nadir of Lohan's film career (though I Know Who Killed Me comes in at a close second). Not that anyone really expected a Lifetime movie to be good... 

Of course, Lindsay has yet another film on the horizon, The Canyons. Written by hack novelist Bret Easton Ellis; directed by Paul Schrader (Cat People) and co-starring porn star James Deen, The Canyons is supposedly a thriller set among life in modern L.A. The trailers have been nothing short of ridiculous, much like Lohan's life of late.

It seems to me, what Lohan really needs is someone to hold her hand and guide her away from all the negative influences in her life, including her ne'er-do-well parents. Fame is as dangerous and addictive a drug as meth or heroine and despite the many slaps in the face Lohan has had of late, I must admit that I won't be surprised when her premature death is announced in the next few months. What a sad waste of a life which showed so much early promise. A truly beautiful young woman with so much potential shouldn't end up as a comical footnote in Hollywood history.

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Yoko Is Out of Her Mind (Plus Bonus Hilarity)

Looking Fierce to Hide His Embarrassment
Well, we've always known Yoko was a little mad. Now she's proving it with a men's fashion line for Opening Ceremony (via). Featuring decidedly unmasculine colors, patterns and fabrics; tube tops; exposed shoulders and open-toed, thigh-high boots with pockets, I can't imagine any man (gay or straight) not being laughed out of a room when wearing any of these clothes. Hell, I can't even imagine any drag queen I know wearing this over-priced, nonsensical crap.

Yes, I get it. Haute Couture is never really meant to be worn anywhere but on a runway. Thierry Mugler, Jean-Claude Gautier and other designers create these things primarily to show how clever they are. But their pret a portier (ready-to-wear) lines are never quite as outrageous and usually more acceptably mainstream. But Opening Ceremony is actually offering Yoko's designs for sale. I can't wait to see what Joan Rivers and company have to say about these togs on her snarky (and occasionally hilarious) show "Fashion Police." If you have a couple of thousand dollars you don't know what to do with and no dignity, you can own a Yoko Ono original. But I'd bet you wouldn't be willing to admit that you do.

Just look at that boot. I don't think that even the Marquis de Sade would wear those boots, unless he wanted to inspire pain from looking at his gnarly, yellow toenails. And just what would one keep in the pocket? A pack of smokes? A couple of tabs of X? Oh, maybe the remaining shreds of one's dignity. 

This line has led to me three distinct conclusions about Ms. Ono:

1. She's seen Cirque du Soliel's The Beatles: Love one too many times.

2. She dropped a lot of acid in the '70's.

3. She's always been insane and is now going out of her way to prove it.

You can draw whatever conclusions, you like. I'm sticking with these.
On a completely different and totally unrelated note, I stumbled upon this little gem earlier today (though I completely forget where) and had to share. Zombies are everywhere these days, and this banned commercial from XXL Sports takes full advantage of their popularity:

Nonsense, fashion, insanity and zombies. What more can one ask from a single post?

More, anon.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Blogger Comes Out

Dan Pearce - The 'Single Dad Laughing'
Dan Pearce writes several blogs. His most popular one is Single Dad Laughing, in which he discusses life with his son, Noah. Last year, Dan's blog exploded when he wrote a piece called "I'm Christian, unless you're gay." The responses to this insightful and well-written post were nothing less than astounding. Dan's post actually healed wounds and reconnected family members who thought they'd never see one another again. It was quite the phenomenon. Throughout it all, Dan maintained that he was straight. And I wanted to believe him. Afterall, I have many straight friends and acquaintances (both male and female) who not only love me for who I am, but fully support LGBT rights.

I, along with thousands of others, responded with a positive message. His post made me cry and the responses to it were nothing less than amazing. Dan continued to post about life with his son, his relationships with his ex-wives, dancing in a local 'Dancing with the Stars' competition and dating women. All well and good. 

Today, though, Dan did something amazing. He came out, publicly. Finally. Irrevocably. 

Bravo, Dan! I know from experience how difficult coming out to the world can be. It was only after a year of therapy that I came out to my immediate family in my mid-30's. While they were supportive and accepting, the dread of doing so was nearly as toxic as the years of lying to them. But the relief following it was simply amazing. I hope that Dan is experiencing that sense of relief, too. I'm out at work, out to all my friends and out to my contemporary cousins (though my very Catholic aunts and uncles are probably better off not knowing -- and I am probably better off without them knowing. They are in their late 70's and early 80's - why upset the cart?). And of course, my mother and sister both said "Yeah, and...?"

As a country, the U.S. continues to make strides in accepting LGBT people as equals. In the recent elections, four states approved same-sex marriage. It seems that more and more celebrities and politicians are coming out of their closets and the fear we once felt in declaring who we are is diminishing, daily. Make no mistake, we still have a long way to go. As I write this, there are still places in the world where being gay is punishable by death. Indeed, there are still states where it is legal to fire someone for being gay. Hopefully, I will see that change in my lifetime.

By adding his voice to the millions around the world only want to be able to love who and how we love; without fear of reprisal; without fear of discrimination and without fear of persecution, Dan has helped open hearts and minds to the cause of LGBT rights, which are really nothing more than Human Rights. Today, Dan Pearce was added to my list of Heroes. Congratulations, Dan. Welcome to the Light Side. It's so much better here.

If you are ready and are planning to come out yourself, here are a few tips on doing so:

Okay - that was a bit campy. Still, you should know that it really does get better:

If you have questions or fears; if you don't know how or if you should come out, please know that I (and many others) am here for you. Post a comment and I promise I will answer and reach out to help you. And you can always contact The Trevor Project. Come out, come out, whoever you are!

More, anon.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Be Part of a Truly Original Zombie Movie

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
The photo on your left has only a little bit to do with tonight's post. 

One of my daily haunts is the Science/Art/Maker/Sci-Fi/Steampunk/Zombie loving BoingBoing. Today, the Happy Mutants (specifically author and site founder Cory Doctorow)  at BoingBoing posted about an IndieGogo* project from two Australian brothers who want to make a mashup movie of Mad Max and Zombies. The 7 minute clip from Wyrmwood he included got me very excited. You all know by know how much Uncle P loves a good, original Zombie movie. After watching the clip below, I kicked in a few bucks and encourage you to do so, as well. Personally, I can't wait to see Wyrmwood as a feature film.

The nearly dialogless clip works brilliantly as a short and I can't wait to see where the rest of the story goes. Here are the brothers making their personal appeal for funding:

*IndieGogo is a crowd-funding site similar to KickStarter, which encourages donations for artistic and altruistic projects which might not find money through traditional resources. I've been thinking about starting an IndieGogo or Kickstarter account to fund a trailer for Army of the Dead, but I think I need to find an illustrator to do some storyboards, first. In the meantime, I hope you'll help make Wyrmwood a reality and chip in a few bucks. I'd be first in line to see it.

More. anon.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review: "Life of Pi"

Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi
I've never seen an Ang Lee film that was boring. From the delightful The Wedding Banquet to the gorgeous fairy tale Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; from the lamentable Hulk to the exquisitely heartbreaking Brokeback Mountain, Lee's films are always interesting and often politically controversial.

Such is the case with his latest film Life of Pi, an adaptation of Yann Martel's novel about a young Indian boy left adrift at sea for 227 days after a shipwreck. Pi (short for Piscene - the French word for "Swimming Pool"*) was born and raised in the zoo run by his parents in the French region of India. Raised by a Hindu mother and an atheist father, Pi develops a fascination with religion and embraces Hinduism, Christianity and Islam equally, much to the consternation of his father who explains that "...believing in everything is the same as believing in nothing." When a new tiger - named 'Richard Parker' due to a paperwork mix up - arrives at the zoo, a young Pi attempts to connect with the beast, though he is stopped before a tragedy ensues. When political discord affects the region, Pi's father decides to sell the zoo animals and move to Canada, much to the consternation of a now-teenaged Pi (Suraj Sharma), who has just met a girl he may well love. While crossing the Pacific, the ship carrying Pi's family and the animals is sunk by a horrific storm and Pi finds himself alone on a life boat with a broken-legged zebra; an orangutan named "Orange Juice;" a viscous hyena and the tiger, Richard Parker. What follows is a tale of survival and self-discovery as told through flashbacks by an adult Pi (Irrfan Khan) to a Canadian writer (Prometheus' biologist, Rafe Spall). While Pi's version of his survival may be suspect, it's certainly more inspirational than what may have really happened.

Gorgeous doesn't even begin to describe the imagery in Life of Pi. Surreal; hypnotic; colorful; fanciful; exotic and ethereal are just a few of the adjectives one could apply. From the title credits shots in the Indian zoo to the scenes adrift at sea, Lee fills the screen with exceptionally beautiful images that dazzle and enthrall. I deliberately chose to see the film in 2D to make sure the darkening effect of 3D glasses wouldn't interfere with the imagery. David Magee's (Finding Neverland) screenplay is just fine (though in full disclosure, I have not read Martell's novel) and the CGI effects are nothing short of remarkable. Though the centerpiece of the film is the exceptional performance from Sharma, who manages to create a character with whom we can both identify and care about. Pi's journey is expressed and experienced through his performance and I have to admit that the young man carries the film beyond its rather limited framework. I have no doubt that Sharma will be nominated for Best Actor at several award ceremonies.

While certainly a solid movie (albeit with a rather specific spiritual point of view), Life of Pi is not the movie the its commercials and trailers would have you believe. Never boring, often beautiful and occasionally inspirational, Life of Pi is a good way to start the Holiday Movie Season, though there are still several "must see" films on my list. And I can't imagine that the eye-fatiguing 3D version offers any better an experience.

While Life of Pi is not the best movie I have seen this year, it's certainly one them. *** (Three out of Four Stars)

*One of my very first French lessons in Middle School - when dinosaurs ruled the Earth - was: "Où est Sylvie? Ala piscene." or: "Where is Sylvia? At the pool."

More, anon.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Worst Music Videos You'll See This Week

Lexy and Stephany
If nothing else, Uncle P tries to be entertaining. Sometimes that means gorgeous, smart and inspiring. Other times it means hideous, stupid and just plain awful. From the reviews I've read, the Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor Lifetime Movie "Liz and Dick"* falls into the latter category. As do the videos I have posted below.

The lunatics at BoingBoing pointed me to the "Teen Sensation" duo of Lexy and Stephany, who have apparently been causing some sort of commotion on their YouTube channel. Longtime readers know that Prospero is a bit of a music aficionado and I love introducing people to new and interesting singers and musicians. They also know that I love to point out all sorts of terrible things, so my readers might avoid and/or seek them out. Make no bones about it, Lexy and Stephanie are terrible! And by terrible, I mean bottom of the barrel. I'd rather listen to Rebecca Black's "Friday" for a year than hear anything by these two. If given a choice by gunpoint, I'd rather see a Coldplay concert than Lexy and Stephanie. In fact, if given a choice, I'd rather swim in a pool full of snakes, scorpions and spiders...

See and hear for yourselves:

And then there is this:

Are your ears and eyes bleeding, yet? 

Mob mentalities and Black Friday riots at Walmart aside, I think I'd rather get punched in the face than listen to another song by Lexy and Stephany. How did this happen, people? How have two  untalented, prepubescent, braces-clad teens with rich Daddies infiltrated modern pop culture? One can only hope that their fifteen minutes will be mercifully short. And yes -- I can be a bitch, sometimes. But only when warranted.

*Full disclosure: John Elliot is a friend and I have no problem linking to his hilarious review.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Month Turkey of the Month

1970's Trog
By this time, the majority of my U.S. readers have either slipped into food comas from their Thanksgiving meals, or they're camping out in front of Best Buy waiting for Black Friday bargains at 5:00 AM. And here I sit, writing about a very bad movie.

At some point, I suppose one has to start feeling badly for Joan Crawford. I mean, here was a woman who, in the 30's, 40's and 50's was about as A-List as they came. By the late 60's, she was an alcoholic has-been, taking whatever work she could find. Her last film, the 1970 British Science Fiction stinker Trog, is a prime example of how low the mighty can fall. Crawford plays Dr. Brockton, an anthropologist with no first name. When an associate returns from a cave exploration with a tale of terror, Joanie puts on her gear and goes spelunking. She discovers a still-living troglodyte (which she imaginatively names "Trog") and brings him home in attempt to study and  domesticate the beast, though local businessman Micheal Gough (best known to US audiences as Alfred in Tim Burton's Batman films) objects when she plans to breed Trog. Wearing makeup rejected by The Planet of the Apes team, Trog is set free by Gough (who I suppose wants to prove a point, though what point that might be is never made clear) and the "half-man/half-ape" goes on a murderous rampage. Truly atrocious special effects, a dull and exceptionally stupid plot and some of the worst acting anyone has ever seen all help make Trog a true turkey. Critic Ned Daigle said: "Trog is truly ungodly. The performances are rotten, the Trog makeup is so bad it looks, at times, like it will slide right off the actor's face, and everything proceeds at a snail's pace to idiotic situations. It's really sad to see such a huge star be consigned to the Z-grade abyss of films like this. But, hey, a girl's gotta eat." He wasn't very far off the mark.

I suspect that if "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" had gone on to an 8th season, they might have gotten to Trog. The closest they got was 1962's equally stupidly titled Eegah which starred Richard Kiel in the title role of a caveman who goes on a rampage in Palm Springs.

Oh, how I miss that show!

I hope all my U.S. readers and friends had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Jack the Lumpy-Headed

Nicholas Hoult
I try really hard not to be mean about people. I do. And I am hardly a 10, myself (maybe a 5 -- a 6 on a really good day). Still -- there is something about Nicholas Hoult's head that disturbs me. I didn't notice it in About a Boy. He was just a kid; who knows how kids will turn out as adults. And I honestly didn't care for that rather treacly movie, anyway. 

I really didn't take notice until he played young Hank McCoy (AKA 'Beast') in X-Men First Class. I even mentioned his lopsided looks in my review of that movie though to be honest, I attributed it to the character's mutantism. I never saw the BBC series "Skins" or the remake of Clash of the Titans, though I did take note of him in the trailer for the Zombie RomCom Warm Bodies in which he plays a teenaged zombie with feelings.

Today, the full trailer for Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Slayer was released online, and Hoult's head once again struck me as weird. I don't know what it is that exactly bothers me about him. Is it the over-grown eyebrows? The beady eyes? The thin-lipped mouth? The five-head? Maybe it's the wonky ears or the almost-but-not-quite-square jaw. Or maybe it's just the combination of all of those things. Hoult may be a talented performer and I suppose many people find him attractive. But I just don't get it. There's just no aesthetic balance there. And while I am sure he is a perfectly wonderful human being and I certainly bear no ill-will against him, I find myself oddly repulsed by his physiognomy. 

Anyway, here's the trailer for Singer's entry into the recent Fairy Tale Movie craze:

It looks terrific (other than Hoult's weird head) and features two amazing actors: Ewan McGregor (who just gets hotter as he ages) and the always amazing Stanley Tucci (whom I have lusted after ever since seeing Big Night). Singer, who made the first two X-Men movies (and is scheduled to make perplexingly titled prequel sequel {!} X-Men: Days of Future Past), has rarely disappointed me (even with the highly underrated Superman Returns), so I am looking forward to seeing what he does with a Grimm classic.

For further reference, here's the trailer for Warm Bodies:

Warm Bodies comes out in February and Jack the Giant Slayer in March.

Uncle P has a real stinker lined up for tomorrow's Turkey Day Turkey post, so I hope you'll check it out.

More, anon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Very Sad 'Reality' TV Celebrity Meltdown

Soft Porn... er... "Reality'" star Tila Tequila
Regular readers know how I feel about most so-called "reality TV." Manipulated by writers and producers and edited to provide the most salacious content possible, it is about as far from reality as Grimm's Fairy Tales.

The increasingly stupid populace at large just eats this crap up, and since it's much cheaper to produce than scripted shows, the networks keep pumping it out, ad nauseum. I know what I know about reality shows mostly from reading entertainment blogs and watch "The Soup" on E!. The phenomenon only serves to produce temporary celebrities who will be forgotten as soon as they and their publicists have run out of ways to exploit them.

Tila "Tequila" Nguyen is a Eurasian Penthouse and Maxim model who became semi-famous because of her MTV 'reality' dating show "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila." A self-proclaimed bisexual, Tila has gone on to be a singer in two bands; the owner of now defunct dating website and the 'fiancee' of the late Johnson & Johnson heiress, Casey Johnson, who passed away from diabetic ketoacidocis in 2009. In an infamous 2010 incident, Tila was pelted with rocks, bottles and feces while appearing as an opener at an Insane Clown Posse concert.In March of this year, she went into rehab after attempting suicide by overdosing on pills.

Since then, she's kept a pretty low profile - until recently. Apparently, artificial fame has proven too much for the poor thing and she has taken to posting videos on YouTube in which she claims the Illuminati are conspiring to kill her for exposing their secrets. Yes, you read that correctly. The Illuminati. You know, the super secret society (a purported left-over of the Knights Templar) who supposedly run the world by manipulating governments, corporations, banks and the Free Masons.

Man, I love a good conspiracy theory. I love it even more when it is espoused by an obviously insane semi-celebrity desperate to remain relevant and in the news. The video below is almost as funny as the ones posted by the folks who believe the world is being run by reptilian aliens. Except none of these folks are really funny. Just sad. So very, very sad. You can skip around the clip without really missing anything - none of it makes any sense at all.

And that's just one of two videos she's posted on the subject. It's a shame, because she's actually adorable and could have a real career as a performer if she got her act together. I just want to bring her home and give a good home-cooked meal, administer some much-needed thorazine and rock her to sleep. Or slap the silly beotch about 30 or 40 times until she comes to her senses. 

Wow - that may well be what I need to snap me out of my recent funk.

Call me, Tila. I can help you. All you need is a dose of real reality.

More, anon.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Holiday Ennui

Thanksgiving at the Romneys'
I'm not sure what's going on this year, but with Thanksgiving just a few days away, I'm just not feeling it. I don't know if it was Sandy or my recent trip to L.A. or the fact that I'm getting older, but I have absolutely no Holiday Spirit whatsoever. Maybe it's because there is no one particular someone in my life. Maybe because I haven't done any theatre for nearly five months. Maybe it's a combination of things. 

I have all the stuff. I bought the turkey (breast) and the cranberry sauce; the stuffing ingredients and the side dishes; the wine and everything else that goes into the caloric overload. The dishwasher is practically empty and the linens are all cleaned and ready to go.

Still, I seem to have absolutely no desire to celebrate. Ad yes, I am thankful for many things. Mom is still with us. I have an amazing sister and brother-in-law. My favorite aunt is cranky, but relatively well. I have a well-paying job with an outstanding company. I have several very dear friends without whom I couldn't imagine my life. I get to travel often and just saw an exceptionally awesome production from a company I absolutely adore. I have an audition coming up for a show I really want to be part of and I have a long weekend ahead of me. So what's the problem? I wish I knew.

Sorry to be such a downer, tonight. This week is the start of the End of Year Holidays. I'm looking forward to seeing lots of movies and spending time with people I love. Still... something is... not quite right.

It must be my Seasonal Affective Disorder kicking in, despite the extra Vitamin D I've been taking. Ignore this post. We'll talk again in March.

Ugh! Such a downer. I'm sorry. Maybe I'll feel better after the weekend.

More, anon.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Gayest Thing You'll See This Week

William Belli and Drake Jensen
In general, I hate Country Music. Oh, there are a few classics: Pasty Cline's "Crazy;" Dolly Parton's "Jolene" and "I Will Always Love You;" Shania Twain's "Man! I Feel like a Woman." Maybe one or two more. 

Part of my problem with Country is its mostly homophobic fanbase. I say "mostly," because I know plenty of gay boys who adore the stuff. Some of them even go line dancing. For the record, Uncle P doesn't do any kind of line dancing and I'll punch any wedding DJ who plays the "Electric Slide" in the side of his or her head until he or she falls over and I can take over with real dance music - same thing goes for the GD "Chicken Dance." If I ever meet the a-hole who came up with that monstrosity, I cannot promise that I won't commit a felony of some kind. And don't even get me started on the Macarena...

Anyway, there are strides being made, even in Nashville. Canadian Bear Drake Jensen has literally been singing singing the praises of hairy men since his cover of Anne Murray's "A Little Good News" in 2001. His latest album Outlaw, is scheduled for release this coming February. The first single, a cover of Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man" (another Country classic I can actually listen to without vomiting) features drag impresario William Belli. Here's the video (via - link may be NSFW):

That version is even better than this one:

Drake married his manager, Sean Morin in 2008 in Ottawa, where the two live. Jensen joins k.d. lang, Doug Stevens and Cheli Wright as one of the few out Country singers. Honestly, I'm looking forward to the day when no one's sexuality is an issue and being "out" is no longer a thing of importance. Until then, I'll continue to (you should pardon the expression) sing the praises of public figures and celebrities who openly embrace and bravely exclaim who they are.

More, anon,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turkey Thursday on Saturday: Shark Bait

I can't believe that Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday and I've only done one Turkey of the Week post. I'm blaming Sandy, which screwed things up for so many of us in the Central Atlantic states these past few weeks. Thankfully, Uncle P received an unexpectedly expedient (say that 3 times, fast) check from my homeowner's insurance and I was able to start restocking my empty fridge and freezers today with the largest grocery order I've purchased in a very long time. I know there are folks within driving distance who don't even have a fridge to fill, so I am exceptionally grateful that I do. I urge you to continue to provide support to the American Red Cross and other local charities who are helping those most in need. Food, baby formula and warm clothing are still desperately needed by thousands affected by the storm.

Now I'll hope you'll allow me a moment or two of levity. Last night, Uncle P posted about my personal Top Ten Spielberg films, among them: Jaws. Universal made three sequels to Jaws, none of which included Spielberg and each of which is more ridiculous than the one before. Jaws II was okay at best, while Jaws 3D was just plain silly, despite the presence of the hotness known as Dennis Quaid as the adult Micheal Brody. Most egregious of all, 1987's Jaws: The Revenge delves very deep into the waters of ridiculousness, appearing on more "Worst Movie Ever Made" lists than anything directed by Ed Wood, Jr.

Convinced that her husband's fatal heart-attack was prompted by his fear of sharks, Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) knows that the shark which quickly kills her son Sean has a personal vendetta against her family and flies Micheal (now played by the decidedly less-hot Lance Guest) and his family to the Bahamas in an attempt to escape it (though why she doesn't go somewhere land-locked like Kansas, remains a mystery). Pilot 'Hoagie' ( Oscar winner Michael Caine) and his pal Jake (Mario Van Peebles) also happen to be marine biologists (?) who decide to track the shark (which has apparently followed Ellen from NY to the Bahamas) with a device that monitors its heartbeat. Ellen has flashbacks to events she didn't witness, while experiencing some sort of psychic connection to the shark that wants to eat her family because her husband killed it's brother or father or something. Eventually, Ellen decides to sacrifice herself to the shark to save Michael and his family, but Hoagie and Jake save her by impaling the Great White on the prow of the their boat, after driving it crazy with electrical impulses from the device they attached to its heart. What? Yes. That's really what happens in this epic PoS sequel to one of the best movies ever made. Most of those involved in the making of Jaws: The Revenge disavow it as the garbage it is. In full disclosure, Gary was married to the head of Universal at the time. I hope she has divorced him, since.

Here's what the late Gene Siskel and the now-silent Roger Ebert had to say about the movie upon its release:

More, anon.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Ranking Spielberg

Jurassic Park
Since Lincoln is opening this weekend (against Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 - good luck with that, prestige picture), Vulture's Will Leicht and Tim Grierson took it upon themselves to rank all 28 of Steven Spielberg's previous films. I mostly agree with their lower rankings (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes in dead last and deservedly so), though I had a few quibbles with their Top 10, so I decided to create my own list of the Top Ten Spielberg Films of All Time. And here it it is:

10. War of the Worlds - 2005 (Vulture's #6): As much as this movie has against it (Tom Cruise simply cannot play the 'Everyman' and Dakota Fanning spends far too much time screaming), it has an awful lot going for it. Josh Friedman and David Keopp's adaptation of H.G. Welles' classic is perfectly modernized for a Post-9/11 America and the effects are quite stunning. The only thing that keeps it from being higher on my list is the treacly, feel-good ending which ranks among the director's sappiest of sappy happy endings.

9. Jurassic Park - 1993 (Vulture's #12): David Keopp's adaptation of Micheal Crichton's mostly preposterous novel is spot on, as is just about every performance from its remarkable cast. A roller-coaster thrill-ride movie of the highest caliber, Jurassic Park holds up much better than many of Spielberg's other Sci-Fi Adventures nearly 20 years after it was made. And it is totally worth the price of admission just to hear Jeff Goldblum say "Think they'll have that on the tour?"

8. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - 1984 (Vulture's #11): This prequel (along with Joe Dante's Gremlins) inspired the mostly useless MPAA to create the PG13 Rating. Kate Capshaw may not be Karen Allen and Jonathan Ke Quan's borderline racist Short Round may be annoying, but Harrison Ford is at the peak of his hotness; the chamber full of insects is exceptionally creepy; Amrish Puri's Mola Ram is particularly villainous and that coal car chase sequence is nothing short of pure adrenaline.

7. The Color Purple - 1985 (Vulture's #20): Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's novel had skeptics wagging their tongues. What did a White Jewish man know about the Black experience in the South of the 1920's and 30's? Assembling a top-notch cast which included Whoopi Goldberg (in a performance that should have won her an Oscar); Oprah Winfrey (what I just said about Whoopi); Danny Glover and the always amazing Dana Ivey, Spielberg's film is emotionally manipulative and probably 15 minutes too long, but it never fails to set me sobbing like the sentimental old fool I am. 

6. Saving Private Ryan - 1998 (Vulture's #5): I hate war films. I hated this movie. But I hated it because it brought home the horrors of WWII unlike any film had before. Grim and harsh with a rather amazing performance from Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan also suffers from a treacly Spielbergian ending, but it runs the audience through the wringer before it gets there.

5. Jaws - 1975 (Vulture's #4): Making lemonade from lemons turned Spielberg's first major motion picture into the first "Summer Blockbuster." If 'Bruce' the Shark had worked the way it was intended, Jaws would have been a very different movie and people might not have spent the latter half of the 1970's afraid to swim in the ocean. Terrific performances from Roy Schieder, Richard Dreyfus and Robert Shaw didn't hurt, and John Williams' score only added to the tension. A decidedly 'happy accident' movie, Jaws still can still inspire fear, nearly 40 years after it was first released. 

4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind - 1977 (Vulture's #8): Mysterious, exciting, fanciful and often beautiful, Close Encounters is a movie about wonder, awe and obesession. Richard Dreyfus gives one of his best performances as Roy Neary, an 'everyman' invited by extraterrestrial beings to join them on a trip to who knows where. After I saw this movie, I spent several weeks looking up at the night skies.

3. E.T. The Extraterrestrial - 1982 (Vulures's #2): Not the first or last time Spielberg would explore the themes of parental abandonment; peer exclusion; childhood wonder and distrust of authority, E.T. is still effective today in part because there has been no sequel to sully the experience of seeing for the first (or 20th) time, but also because it taps into so many universal childhood experiences. Christian allegories aside, E.T. manages to inspire hope that children know what's best for both humans and non-humans alike. It's also the prime example of the director's signature camera angles and close-ups.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1981 (Vulture's #1): Inspired by the serials of Spielberg and George Lucas' youth, Raiders is a nearly perfect adventure movie. Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones is a practically archetypical hero, brave; handsome; cocky (but not too cocky); sexy; resourceful and intrepid, Jones is the man every woman wants and every man wants to be. He fights Nazis; he travels the world; he finds exotic treasures... who wouldn't want to be Indy? Add a spunky heroine (was there ever an actress more perfectly cast as Marion Ravenwood than Karen Allen?), another exciting John Williams score, snakes, the Hand of God and officious government officials and you have one hell of a movie. I saw this movie with my sister on opening day and while we had no idea what we were about to see, we knew it was going to be special. And we were so very right.

1. A.I. Artificial Intelligence - 2001 (Vulture's #13): Stanley Kubrick intended to make this film, based on a short story by Brian Aldiss, but passed it on to Spielberg. Released two years after Kubrick's death, A.I. remains the director's most hotly contested film. With remarkable performances from Haley Joel Osment as David; Jude Law as Gigolo Joe; Frances O'Connor; William Hurt; Clark Gregg; Enrico Colantonio; Robin Williams; Ken Leung; Ben Kingsley; Meryl Streep and Chris Rock (among others), A.I. is most certainly Spielberg's masterpiece. Love it or hate it, A.I. is a heavy meditation on life; parental love; existentialism; reality; time and any other number of other subjects. It was my personal choice for Best Film of 2001; my choice for the Best Spielberg Film and my Number 2 choice for Best Science Fiction Film of All Time. Misunderstood by many when it was first released, A.I. continues to gain the support of film critics and cinephiles as time goes by.

What are your favorite Spielberg films?

More, anon.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

We're Not in Omaha Anymore, James

A few months ago, Disney released a rather impressive trailer for director Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful, a prequel to the most beloved fantasy film of all time, The Wizard of Oz. Unlike Gregory Maguire's political satire Wicked, which explores the relationship between the the witches of Oz before the arrival of Dorothy, Raimi's film delves into the arrival of the Wizard into the land of Oz. 

The sexually ambiguous James Franco is Kansas magician Oscar Diggs who finds himself transported to Oz where he meets  the witches Theodora (Mila Kunis); Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams) who draw him into a power play for control of Oz. Today, Disney released the full trailer, and it looks nothing less than magnificent.

Raimi (despite Spider-Man 3) remains one of my all-time favorite modern directors. He has a very distinctive visual style and a rather twisted sense of humor (which is quite apparent in his brilliant horror movies Evil Dead II and  Drag Me to Hell). Personally, I can't wait for his take on L. Frank Baum's iconic characters. 

Of course, I'm one of the few people who loved Disney's 1985 film Return to Oz, a rather dark sequel to the original, which stuck much closer to Baum's novels than the 1939 classic and introduced audiences to a young Fairuza Balk, who would later go on to become a Goth film icon.

Disney is banking on Raimi to create an Oz franchise with this new film, though I'm guessing that the film version of the Steampunk-inspired musical based on Maguire's novel will be the movie to move the story forward given Maguire's two sequels to his original novel.

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Gayest Things You'll See This Week

Garrett Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva and Alan Cumming in Any Day Now
It's been a while since I've done a "Gayest Thing" post, hasn't it? But I came across these two clips today and had to share. 

First, Writer/Director/Pilot (?) Travis Fine has made a rather unusual film in Any Day Now, the story of a gay couple in the 1970's  ("Raising Hope" hottie Garrett Dillahunt and gay icon Alan Cumming) who take in a mentally challenged neighbor (newcomer Isaac Leyva) after his mother abandons him. Featuring tons of highly respected supporting players including Francis Fisher; Gregg Henry; Chris Mulchy; Alan Rachins Mindy Sterling and Michael Nouri, Any Day Now is the story of a 'chosen' family and it has Oscar-bait written all over it. I'm not sure I buy I buy Cummings' faux-Brooklyn accent, but the trailer alone is a tear-jerker. It's also a story of the early LGBT rights movement of the 70's and should be seen by young LGBT audiences as a lesson of our history and struggles for recognition. It probably won't play here in the wilds of Philadelphian suburbia, though I'm planning on making an effort to see it (via).

And not to make light of important LGBT issues, tonight's second gayest things is via the happy mutants at Io9, who have provided a list of the most disturbing Twilight tie-ins and merchandise they could find. Most disturbing of them all is this trailer (probably SFW) for the gay porn movie Twinklight:

Given the 'adult entertainment' industry's proclivity for exploiting popular film titles, I'm actually surprised that I haven't come across this title before now. Given those same proclivities, I am hardly surprised that it eventually ended up appearing on one of the many sites I visit regularly. While I hardly consider myself a prude, I'll let you guess which one of these two films I'm more likely to see.

More, anon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Be It Ever So Humble...

So, my whirlwind trip to Los Angeles has finally come to end and except for a fairly miserable flight home (more on that, in a bit), it was actually quite good. The Day-Job event was quite successful and Uncle P found himself quite busy during it (unlike my last business trip to Miami, where I spent most of the event twiddling my thumbs). 

We stayed (and held the event) at the famous Millennium Biltmore Hotel, the sight of many Academy Awards ceremonies in the 1930's and 1940's, a history of which the hotel is rightfully proud. Alfred Hitchcock shot scenes from Vertigo there and it has been used in plenty of other Hollywood classics, including Ghostbusters. I found the place a bit reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, with its maze-like layout and decidedly creepy basement Regency Room, where our event took place. One the bartenders told me that the hotel's "Gold Room" still had a secret passage left over from the Prohibition era and I couldn't help but wonder who might have stayed in my room (828) in the past. 

Of course, the highlight of my weekend was something I've been blathering on about for weeks, now: Cirque du Soliel's Iris at the Dolby (formerly the Kodak) Theatre. Simply put, the show is nothing less than breathtaking. A stunning riot of color; Steampunk aesthetics; plays on light and shadow; astounding feats of strength; graceful physical prowess, acrobatic thrills and technical genius, Iris is most certainly the best of the many Cirque shows I've seen, and that's saying a lot. I found myself with my mouth agape in awe, grinning like an idiot and even crying at it's often stunning beauty. 

Trying to describe the show in mere words is an exercise in futility. It is something that must be seen and experienced to be fully appreciated. The young woman seated to my right often exclaimed "So pretty!" which doesn't even come close. From the opening aerial act featuring two perfect young men (who later spend the 2nd half of the show as half-naked Gladiators) to the finale, Iris (pronounced in the French - "ear-REESE") is the kind of show one never forgets. From the hysterical 'clowns' (don't worry D, these aren't 'evil-you-know-whats') to the astonishing set pieces that seemingly appear from nowhere; from Danny Elfman's amazing score to the slightly disturbing Steampunk robots; from the gorgeous costumes to the outrageous lighting and projections, Iris is the perfect example of Cirque du Soleil's 'Circus as Theatre' philosophy. I cannot recommend this show highly enough. If you are a Cirque fan or just a lover of movies; if you love (as I did) Martin Scorsese's Hugo or any of the surviving films of Georges Melies, you owe it to yourself to see Iris, if you can. 

On a side note, while waiting for the Metro back to my hotel after the show, I found myself face-to-face with the young man who played the show's lead 'Buster," sitting on a skateboard, his sweat-run makeup still on, waiting for his own ride home. I couldn't help but approach him and tell him how wonderful I found both the show and his performance. He looked rather surprised, but shook my hand and thanked me. Personally, I was more excited to meet him, than any "star" in Hollywood.

For now, I'm just glad to be home and to get to sleep in my own bed tonight.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Jury's Still Out

Brad Pitt in World War Z
I won't be posting Friday or Saturday because I'll be in L.A. on a business trip (as well as meeting up with my cousin; having drinks with an old college buddy and seeing Cirque du Soleil's "Iris") and will have limited Internet access through my phone. I'll be Tweeting (@Caliban761) and posting on Facebook, though. But none of that really has anything to do with tonight's post.

The first trailer for World War Z, director Marc Forster's (A Quantum of Silence; Monster's Ball) adaptation of Max Brooks' novel. I must admit, I wasn't really a fan of Brooks' novel. Modeled after Studs Terkel's "The Good War" (a book of interviews with people who lived through World War II), "World War Z" had no real narrative structure but is simply a series of interviews by a U.N. employee of people from around the world who were there when the zombie apocalypse went down. In the book, the plague begins in China, where the government does everything it can to suppress information. As the outbreak takes over the world, it is soon clear that humanity is on the brink of extinction. Personally, I found the novel rather boring. Without any clear protagonists to care about, the book failed to hold my interest more than halfway through. Even viewed as a series of short stories, the stories themselves were fairly repetitive and not all that exciting, relying on facts and figures rather than dramatic narrative.

With a script by "Lost" writer  Damon Lindelof and The Kingdom's Matthew Michael Carnahan. World War Z  is the first real big-budget zombie movie out of Hollywood. Most zombie movies (even 2009's Zombieland) until now have been small, independent films with mostly unknown casts directed by 'outsider' directors. World War Z, starring Brad Pitt; Eric West ("Smash"); Matthew Fox ("Lost;" "Party of Five"); David Morse (The Green Mile) and Marielle Enos (the U.S.version of "The Killing") has a big budget and even bigger expectations. I hope Lindelof and Carnahan have found  a way to overcome the problems inherent in Brooks' account of the 10 year-long zombie war.

The movie is also fanning the debate over "slow" vs. "fast" zombies, since the release of this trailer. While Brooks never really specifies in the book, my friend Peter and I agree that the "fast" zombies in the trailer look like swarming ants, much like the 'Marabunta' in 1954's The Naked Jungle (a rather interesting film I recommend, if you've never seen it. You can see the whole move here, though it occasionally shows up on TCM or AMC). 

Of course, I'll hold final judgment until I've actually seen World War Z, which is scheduled for release on June 21, 2013. But reports of reshoots and rewrites (never a good sign) and shooting scenes set in Philadelphia in Glasgow and Prague, have me skeptical. You can be sure I'll be seeing and reviewing it, though.

More, anon.