Saturday, November 30, 2013

November Turkey of the Month

I couldn't let Turkey Month end without a true turkey, could I? Will Smith continues to ride the wave downwards with this 2008 stinker about the most unlikeable superhero, ever. Hancock may pose some interesting questions, but never bothers to answer them and it's hero ends up looking more like a dick, than anything else.

With no memories of his origins and lawsuits against him for the destruction he's caused, Smith's John Hancock is a cypher (if only). After his latest debacle, he his contacted by PR genius Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman),whose wife (Charlize Theron) just happens to be Hancock's immortal partner (or some such nonsense), doomed to immortal super powers (oh, boo-hoo!)

On a side note, no matter how adorable many of us may find Jason Bateman, there is little room in my imagination to allow Ms Theron to be his wife. 

"Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan may have come up with the concept for Hancock, but not every idea is a good one. Poorly written and loaded with bad CGI FX, Hancock serves as just another notch on Smith's increasingly large list of bad movies. I was 'lucky' enough to see this movie for free while on a business trip a few years ago. I almost felt guilty about billing it to my expense account. There are rumors of a Hancock 2. It is my fervent hope that they will remain just that.

Given Smith's most recent track record, which includes Wild, Wild West; I Am Legend; Hancock and M.Night Shamalamadingdong's After Earth, I'd say Will needs a new manager. And while I won't go into the rumors about Will and Jada and their supposed sexualities, I will say that Mr.Smith might want to consider going back into the music industry. At the very least, he should teach his son to keep his mouth shut when it comes to education

In the end, Hancock is a truly terrible movie and certainly deserves the title "Turkey."


More, anon.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Retro Review: "The Innkeepers"

Thanks again to Netflix, I was able to enjoy yet another movie I've been reading about for several years: director Ti West's 2011 haunted hotel movie, The Innkeepers. I recently saw West's debut House of the Devil and found it a bit tedious, but the he has upped his game here, creating compelling characters we actually care about (it may have helped that the young lead reminded me of a very talented young actress I've had the pleasure of directing twice - Yes, Sarah, I mean you!). 

It is the last weekend for the soon-to-be-closed Yankee Pedlar Inn leaving Claire (Sarah Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) in charge. Luke is a wannabe paranormal investigator who swears he's encountered the hotel's ghost, a woman who supposedly committed suicide after being left at the alter. The only guests are a single woman with her young son and a former TV star turned psychic (Kelly McGillis). As Claire investigates the story of Madeline O'Malley and McGillis warns about going to the basement, the tension rises toward a truly scary ending. Taking cues from The Shining and even The Sentinel, West manages to create a modern ghost story with a kick, using a single location with a likeable and talented cast (which includes an hilarious turn from "Girls" creator, Lena Dunham). I can imagine Dear D squirming in his seat through this one. It certainly got my blood pumping, especially in the third act! *** (Three Out of Four Stars).

Fans of smart, tension-building horror should be quite pleased by The Innkeepers. Rated "R" by the MPAA for bloody images and language.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

When Holidays Collide

"I'm not one of your faaaa-aaaa-aaans!!!"

I hope everyone had a delicious and filling meal with people you love.

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Retro Review: "The Bay"

Netflix is a wonder, y'all. Why didn't you tell me about it before? Now I know it's not your fault. I'm not the best at electronics and thankfully sis set up my Wii for me (after having for three years) and now I have the service that put Blockbuster out of business. And because I do, I have seen quite a few movies I'd been reading about but missed their first times around (House of the Devil; VHS - a few others). Tonight, Michael and I watched director Barry Levinson's (Diner; Rainman; Toys) take on the Found Footage Horror genre, The Bay.

Set up like a documentary expose, The Bay tells the tale of a small Maryland town which is hit with an outbreak of a devastating parasites on July Fourth, 2009. Anchored by the account of TV news intern (Kether Donahue) and footage supposedly pieced together from surveillance cameras; cell phone cameras; video recorders; police dash-cams and Skype sessions, Levinson's film is both an indictment of corporate malfeasance and ecological indifference, with plenty of gross-outs along the way. Amidst the the Independence Day celebrations, the people of a small Maryland town along the Chesapeake bay are suddenly struck down by rashes, boils and other horrific symptoms which soon overwhelm the local hospital's ER and have the CDC at a loss. 

Unlike most 'Found Footage' films, Levinson doesn't rely on only one or two cameras to tell his story (Michael Wallach's screenplay is based on Levinson's original story), but uses a variety of digital cameras to capture the horrific events, lending an air of veracity often missing from many such movies. The performances from the mostly unknown cast (particularly Stephen Kinken as the confounded but dedicated ER doctor) are effective while the special effects are often quite cringe-worthy (in a good way). Levinson is a truly hit-or-miss director (I'm one of the few who actually likes the underrated Robin Williams fantasy Toys) but I think I have to count The Bay among his hits. Smart, effective and perfectly plausible, The Bay is almost reminiscent of The Ruins in its simple concept and execution. **1/2 (Two and a Half Stars Out of Four)

More, anon.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Boop Boop Bi Doop! (A 'Forgetten Gems' Post)

Bimbo's Initiation
I posted Bimbo's Initiation and commented briefly on Facebook, but I had to expand on it and the work of producer and animator Max Fleischer. The ever Happy Mutants at BoingBoing posted the video earlier today, describing it as Fleischer's 'darkest short' or something to that effect. Go to BoingBoing to see exactly what they said. Anyway, it ended up inspiring tonight's Forgotten Gems post.

Fleischer was a contemporary of Walt Disney and released his own animated feature Gulliver's Travels in 1939, two years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs proved an animated feature could be successful. To be perfectly honest, Fleischer's film is technically superior to Disney's, using rotoscoping techniques that wouldn't surface in quite the same way again until Richard Linklater's 2006 adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly (albeit in an entirely different artistic interpretation).

Fleischer and his team were certainly more experimental in their animated films than Disney, catering to a more adult (if not exactly more sophisticated) audience. Most famous for producing the original Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons, the writers and animators at Fleischer's studio were undoubtedly influential on any number of animators to come after, including Friz Freleng; Tex Avery; Ralph Bakshi and modern animators like John Krikfalusi and director Joe Dante for his segment of the notorious Twilight Zone: The Movie.

So here's the bizarre, surreal and rather nightmarish Bimbo's Initiation in all it's weird glory:

And here is Dante's take on the style:

"Run, Ethel! Run!" Indeed.

Of course, Fleischer's Popeye cartoons could be just as dark (Sea Hag, anyone?). He also produced a series of simply gorgeous Superman shorts:

Still, I think Fleischer's masterpiece and a true forgotten gem is Gulliver's Travels. If you've never seen it, you should seek it out. Gorgeously rendered with a message of tolerance and forgiveness and a very clever score, every animation fan (or film fan) owes it him or herself to see it. The full movie is available on YouTube. The trailer is below:

Animated films aren't just for children. I promise. And while Fleischer's movie is hardly a definitive version of Swift's satirical novel, it is a good start in introducing kids to a classic while enjoying the artistry of the piece, itself. Hell, I've even referenced Fleischer's work in my screenplay 'Comatose Joe.' And there's no doubt in my mind that his creative team was a bunch of stoners and trippers, long before it was cool.I'm just sayin'...

More, anon.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Gayest Things You'll See This Week

While tonight's post may seem to some that I am just piggy-backing off another blog, which I suppose I might be, I have a few points about that to make before I actually get to  tonight's topics.

First, yes, I look at other sites and blogs for topics. All bloggers do. The trick is to not only give credit to where you found it, but put your own spin on it. Which is exactly what I hope I do. I also suspect that the majority of my readers (readers, not followers) are not regular readers of Towleroad; JoeMyGodWickedGayBlog; Kennthinthe212 or JustAJeepguy (links may be NSFW). Regular readers also know I can never pass up almost anything gay and/or hilarious, both of which I think apply here.

First is the demo/intro for a new video game claiming to the be the first gay video game, ever (I doubt that claim, but then I haven't played a video or RP computer game since "Leisure Suit Larry"). And to perfectly honest, having seen the clip I'm about to share, I'm not sure how I feel about "Ultimate Gay Fighter." Part of me wants to say 'Cool' while another part says 'Dude, are you crazy? Promoting stereotypes is so offensive.' One step forward, two steps back, I suppose. PocketGamer makes "UGF," though reviews of the game have been less than positive. Watch the game's trailer and make up your own mind:

Second, I follow The Onion on Facebook and probably would have seen this item there, but saw it on Towleroad first and found it hilariously gay and had to share. The satirical site's movie critic reviews The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with a decidedly 'Cougay' point of view:

Yes, I am a politically liberal gay man who advocates for Marriage Equality and ENDA; governmental transparency and Obamacare.

But I am also a human being who understands the humor in satire and irony. I hate political correctness. Some of the funniest jokes I know are horribly racist; sexist; antisemitic; homophobic or otherwise offensive to some group, somewhere.

Y'all need to get over it, already. To quote Robin Williams: "Joke 'em if they can't take a f*ck!"

More, anon.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Half a Century On

November 22, 1963
I was 28 months old (do the math) when JFK was assassinated in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963. I have no memory of where I was (Trenton, NJ) or what I was doing (probably dancing in my playpen to a Cheer detergent commercial, according to what my mother has told me). When I started elementary school, Lyndon Johnson was serving his second term as POTUS, soon to be followed by Richard Nixon. I wasn't really all that into politics back then. I was more interested in monster movies, playground games and any number of other things important to any kid under the age of 10. I have a vague recollection of a playground conversation with a classmate about who I would vote for if I was old enough to vote, but I don't really remember who either of us chose. 

Of course, Kennedy's murder was a major turning point in mid-century American history. The American 'Camelot' was gone and a decade or more of political and social turmoil was about to begin. The post-Kennedy era was time of massive change in the States. People were turning on ad tripping out; hippies and yippies were everywhere; women were suddenly burning their bras and men were landing on the moon. Woodstock shocked the country and the Chicago 7 outraged conservatives; Hair dared to expose naked people on a Broadway stage and the Feminist movement was taking hold. In New York, gay people had finally had enough and fought back against persecution and Martin Luther King, Jr. was fighting peacefully for justice and tolerance. 

Meanwhile, my suburban parents were far more concerned with making their $56.00 per month mortgage payment on the house that cost them $10,250 and which I have just had appraised at $175K. My mother, far more intent on raising her family than paying attention to the political/social climate, would much later talk about how she missed 'all the fuss' because she was too busy caring my sister and myself. 

And while I certainly don't begrudge Mom's insular life at the time (she undoubtedly lived the life she wanted to live), I can't help but think about all the changes she (and I) saw in the past half century.

To be honest, I feel sort of bad for those born in the 70's, 80's, 90's and Aughts. They have been totally insulated from the kind of sociopolitical turmoil with which I grew up. Stonewall is a buzzword to them. Rosa Parks and MLK are simply historical notes from an era they will never fully understand and appreciate the importance of the two-term election of an LGBT-friendly African-American POTUS. Yes, they will have their own moments of historical precedence. One day they will look back and laugh at those who opposed Marriage Equality; the idea that corporations can be people; the lack of health-care for the poor and the enslavement of minimum-wage workers (I'm talking about you, Walmart). But they won't have the sense of wonder and amazement of technological advancements that my mother and her generation experienced in the past 50 years. And that's a shame. Personally, I'm looking forward to what the next 50 years will bring. I can only imagine that advancements in health care will most likely insure that I and my contemporaries will be around to see them. 

All Americans should reflect on that terrible day when JFK was shot in the head by a man whose motives will probably never be understood. But we should all be focusing on the future and ways to make better for those yet to come. Uncle P will probably never have children to carry on my bloodline, but that doesn't mean I don't care about those who will be entrusted with the planet after I'm gone. 

Remember the past, but look forward to the future. Honor those who have gone before and live for those who mean the most in the present while leaving behind a world those who have yet to come can be proud to call home.

The past may well be prologue though I, for one, hope that future generations will actually use those lessons to make the world a better place. 

More, anon.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A November Cornucopia

Turn Off the Show
I'm still recovering from and dealing with the aftermath of Mom's passing (ugh - who knew there was so much to do after someone passes?), so I've been rather absent. But there is so much I want to talk about today that I had to post. So let's get started, shall we?

First, news from Broadway: In a scenario right out of a Mel Brooks movie, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (a show I've railed against since it was announced) will close on January 4th after having lost $60 million dollars. reports that the problem-plagued show (which cost $75M to mount and nearly ruined the career of director Julie Taymor) will leave many investors without seeing a dime in revenues. Taymor directed Disney's still-running biggest Broadway hit, The Lion King, but on-set injuries and a disjointed second act led producers to fire her (Taymor sued but the case was settled out of court). It got to the point where people were going to see the show in hopes of witnessing one of its many epic fails. Apparently, no one was going just to hear the rather lame score by Bono and The Edge. The show is so infamous, it even inspired and episode of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent." Still, it will live on in future Las Vegas and German productions, as well as a touring stadium show where some investors may recoup some of their losses. Good riddance to bad theatre, I say.

Next up, a story my sister, Dear D and sweet Mia will hate (sorry kids). Thanks to a video link on Towelroad, I have discovered one of the most interesting performers I've seen in quite some time. Puddles is a 7' tall sad clown with a rather amazing voice and range of styles. The video from revisionist cover band Postmodern Jukebox features Puddles as lead vocalist in a haunting cover of Lorde's "Royals:"

Intrigued. I looked up Puddles Pity Party, which led me to additional YouTube videos and this rather hilariously disturbing death-metal cover of Celine Dion's insipid Titanic theme, "My Heart Will Go On:"

Puddles has several other rather fascinating videos on YouTube, which I highly recommend to those among you who are decidedly not coulrophobic. While I truly admire his work, I can't help but feel a slight pang of jealousy at not being clever enough to come up with a character like that of my own. 

And finally, though hardly last, the still amazing gay icon Cher has given us what may well be the gayest music video ever, outside of an Adam Lambert song. The video for her latest single "Take It Like a Man," features some very hot guys in teeny-tiny Speedos, washing cars; diving off of sailboats and generally acting like they're in a soft-core gay porno. Muscles; tatts; twerking and bulges abound (not that I'm complaining):

Whew! I'm spent.

More, anon.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Forgotten Gems: "The Bad Seed"

Patty McCormack as Rhoda Penmark
Talk about obsessions... I don't exactly remember the first time I saw Mervyn LeRoy's 1956 thriller The Bad Seed, but I know it was Mom who introduced me to it. (Oh, yes. She had a dark side, too ). Based on the stage play by Maxwell Anderson and the novel by William March, the film explores mid-20th Century ideas about DNA and Nature Vs Nurture.

Young Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack, left)  is the perfect child. Smart, neat and loving, she hides a dark secret. When Rhoda's classmate, Claude Daigle is drowned at Rhoda's private school annual Spring picnic, Rhoda is suspected of killing him because he won the school's penmanship medal over her.

As Rhoda's mother Christine (Nancy Kelly) delves into her past, she comes to learn that she is the child of the infamous murderess Bessie Denker and may have passed her mother's psychopathy onto Rhoda. Henry Jones; William Hopper; Paul Fix; Elizabeth Varden and the amazing Eileen Heckart round out the stellar cast as Rhoda's family and victims, most of whom reprise their original Broadway stage roles. Jones, as the half-witted handyman Leroy and Heckart as the grieving alcoholic mother of the murdered Claude are especially good, but this is McCormack's movie and she owns every scene she's in.

Yes, it has a mid-50's camp feel about it, but The Bad Seed still has the power to be creepy and awful. Of course, having been produced under the Hayes Code, the movie couldn't be released with the  play and novel's original ending (SPOILER ALERT) and young Rhoda is struck by retributional lightning at the end, though she survives in the original versions.

I have wanted to direct a production of Anderson's play for almost 30 years, but have yet to come across a young actress capable of convincingly pulling off the role of Rhoda, while trying to justify the play's mid-century values and still holding relevance, today (though gun violence-related events in the past few years have made me rethink that).

The 1985 TV remake starring Blair Brown; Lynn Redgrave; Richard Kiley; David Ogden Stiers and openly gay actor Chad Allen doesn't hold a candle to the original.

If you are a genre film fan and have never seen this movie, you should. If you have seen it, then you know why it deserves to be seen,

Again, give me the money and I'll make a version of this story that will make you poop you pants!


More, anon.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Genre TV Will Never Go Away

Karl Urban and Michael Ealy in "Almost Human"

Yes, that's right. I had a perfectly wonderful post that I loved all ready to go about this very topic and then my clumsy sausage fingers grazed the wrong keys and it was gone... So I am working on an even better version of it. Hang tight.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Remember, Remember: Don't Shave in MOvember.

"Eets just so ree-dic-u-lous!"
November isn't just about Thanksgiving and Turkeys. Just as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (pink ribbons everywhere you look), November has been dubbed "Movember" for Men's Health Awareness Month (the Mo comes from Mustache, which men aren't supposed to shave instead of wearing a pink ribbon). 

Uncle P is a traditionalist and wears the goatee he's worn for twenty years because a) I look ridiculous without it and b) it helps define my face. The only time I shave it is if I have to for a show. The last time it came off was last for three weeks in April 2012 to play Edna is Hairspray. And that was the first time in a very long time. 

Unlike my Dear D and a few other hirsute gentlemen like myself, I don't have a magically regenerating beard (D get's an 11:30 AM shadow), nor nearly the thickness of facial hair to engage in anything fancy, like the Batstaches below:

Of course, some men have made their mustaches their trademarks:

And while some guys can really rock facial hair:

Other guys fail really well at it:

This Guy is the Real Dracula?

If Theodore Geisel had Been a Barber

Prince Justin D'Bague of Douchylvania

Of course, if you're really good at it, you might end up as a contestant in a beard and mustache competition like these weirdos:

Whether or not you shave this month is really irrelevant to me. What's not is our health. Yes, I said ours. Without you, I have no one to write for. Without me... well, who am I kidding? You'll find another blogger... or whatever is going to replace the format, eventually. Anyway...

Gentlemen, check yourselves for testicular, prostate and breast cancer (yes, men get breast cancer) regularly. If you are over 40 get a regular prostate exam and regular colonoscopies should start at 50. You get one body, guys. You should know it well enough to know when something's wrong. For more information, visit Movember United States. You can also donate money there towards men's health initiatives, including mental health groups. I'm not one to talk, but eat right (I really try and am getting better at it); sleep well (always an issue for me); move - if you can't outright exercise, just get up and walk around; stretch; wiggle; chair-dance; whatever - move!; stay in touch with friends and family and make time for them more often than you think you can. 

Just promise you won't try to grow a 'stache if it's going to look like the douche canoe in that last photo.

More, anon.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Channeling Bruce

I can't believe that I haven't written about this season's version of "American Horror Story: Coven" before now. Because holy hot hell, this show is on fire (literally) this season. 

I suppose because they are the most visible, I should start by talking about the cast. I don't know a director who wouldn't gladly give up a yank of hair or a few drops of blood to work with any and all of the amazing actors who've ever been a part of this show, but this cast in particular is... well, a director's wet dream. 

First off, there's the returning ensemble, headed by the astonishing Jessica Lange as the 'Supreme' Salem witch, Fiona and last season's star, Sarah Paulson as her daughter, Cordelia. Season one's burn victim (the highly underrated character actor Denis O'Hare) is back, this time as a cross-dressing, tongueless, necrophiliac version of Riff-Raff along with Taissa Farmiga as Zoe, the obvious 'Supreme-in-Waiting;' Lily Rabe as the Stevie Nicks-obsessed healer Misty; Jamie Brewer as a telepath with Downs; Evan Peters as the Teenage Frankenstein Frat Boy with rage issues and the glorious Frances Conroy in crazy flowing costumes, cat's eye spectacles and a crimped-to-death ginger fright-wig, as Fiona's mortal enemy Myrtle

As if that wasn't enough, add Academy Award winner Kathy Bates as the most vile woman in the history of New Orleans who has been cursed with eternal life by Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett!); Academy Award nominee Gabourey Sidibe as a 'Human Voodoo Doll;' Emma Roberts as a Pyrokenetic; gay imp Leslie Jordan as a member of the coven's High Council and Patti Freakin' Lupone as the holier-than-thou Uber-Christian new neighbor... Every director in Hollywood should be pounding on Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck's door, begging on their knees and offering up blood sacrifices to direct an episode of this show.

Of course, the best cast and director in the world mean little if the writing isn't up to snuff. Season One was daring and amazing and creepy and sexy and fairly linear, with glimpses into the past to fill in the gaps while maintaining a fairly singular plot. Season two, on the other hand -- while still amazing -- was a bit all over the place, taking on too many subjects for one story. There was alien abduction; sadistic nuns; demonic possession; Nazi experiments; lesbian empowerment and two serial killers!

'Coven' marks a return to the more focused story line of season one, this time telling the story of an old rivalry between witches forced to move south from Salem and the Voodoo witches who followed, soon after. Fiona is the headmistress of a witch boarding school, run in her long absence by Cordelia. When Zoe (Farmiga) is brought to the school after killing her boyfriend with sex, Fiona returns and all sorts of hell breaks loose. This season's writing team has just amped it up again, giving these incredible actors some powerful scenes and unironic (unless it needs to be) genre dialog.

Which brings me to why this post is titled "Channeling Bruce."  


Last week's Halloween episode ended with Cordelia having acid thrown in her eyes at a bar while the school was surrounded by zombies raised by Marie in revenge for the death of the minotaur Bastian.  This week, while Fiona waited at the hospital for word on Cordelia, Zoe stepped up and took control at the school. And as Fiona was wandering the hospital and resurrecting a dead child for another grieving mother, Zoe took up a chainsaw and went nuts on the zombies, channeling Bruce Campbell in his most gloriously blood-covered glee and all I could think was "Zoe went Ash on AHS!" Too much?

Holy crap, I almost forgot about Danny Huston! Keep the brilliance coming, boys! So glad that FX has already announced Season 4!  I can think of a certain East Coast legend they could explore...

If you aren't watching "American Horror Story: Coven," you're missing some truly extraordinary television. Forgive me for repeating myself, but I really want to see what happens when other genres take up AHS' 'repertory' format. And I really can't wait to see what other powerhouse actors show up for Season 4!

More, anon.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Hottest Str8 Ally You'll See This Week

Ben Cohen
Regular readers know how I feel about 'reality' shows, in general. I mean, I get it. Everyone loves a competition and if it's not sports than it's animals, cars, film, dance or whatever. As long as it's not 'Real' Housewives; fake mediums; drunken New Yorkers pretending to be from NJ or children's beauty pageants (among a few others), I can stomach a few moments here and there. And I readily admit to loving "America's Got Talent" (I'll miss watching that one with Mom, who also loved it).

Here in the U.S. we have a show called "Dancing with the Stars," a ballroom dance competition in which D, C and the occasional B-list 'celebrities' partner with professional dancers in a competition not unlike the thousands that go on world-wide, all the time. The first film in director Baz Luhrman's "Red Curtain Trilogy" deals with just just that subject in an Ugly Duckling turned Swan tale of love and dedication. His 1992 film Strictly Ballroom is exactly the kind of Romantic Comedy that proves Romantic Comedies don't have to be terrible:

If you've never seen it, you should. I adore it.

Now, I suppose some of you want to know what a gorgeous, retired rugby player has to do with any of that. Well, Great Britain's most famous Str8 Gay Ally has been competing this season on Britain's version of "Dancing with the Stars," "Strictly Come Dancing." The hot muscle-bear founder of  the anti-bullying Stand Up Foundation started out a bit stiff and scared, but has actually come along quite nicely. I'm not ashamed to admit I've been following his performances on line, mostly via Towleroad, which is where the below video comes from. I have been a fan of Mr. Cohen for a very long time  and while there are jokes about him never not being shirtless, he can be shirtless, pantsless and clothesless all he wants to be, as far as I am concerned. And to be honest, if I had his body, I'd be naked as often as possible! Enjoy:


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Retro Review: "Battle Royale"

Over the years, several friends and fellow cinephiles have been telling me I had to see Kinji Fukasaku's 2000 Sci-Fi-Action-Splatter mashup, Battle Royale. Obviously an influence on Suzanne Collins' hugely successful YA novel "The Hunger Games" and its sequels, the tale is set in a dystopian future Japan where crime is at an all-time high, committed by bored and dangerous teenagers. The government passes the "BR Act" which calls for a class of 42 ninth-graders to be randomly selected each year and then taken to to a deserted island and made to fight one another to death, until only one is left standing. If by dawn on the third day, more than one is left alive then all are killed via the explosive monitor necklaces around their necks. 

They are each given basic supplies and a 'weapon' of some kind, not all of which are particularly useful (a pot lid and a set of binoculars, for example), or are they? Some are much deadlier; sharp and/or explosive. Some kids vow to find a way out without fighting and a few immediately bail and take their own lives. Pacifist Nanahara vows to protect sweet Noriko and they soon make an unlikely alliance with "exchange student" Kawada, who is surprisingly well-versed in all sorts of things, including emergency first-aid, weapons and survival techniques, claiming his father was both a doctor and a sailor. Other alliances form and fall apart and the number quickly dwindles from the original 42. The violence is brutal and unforgiving, though as in many Japanese splatter movies, the blood sprays often seem a bit Pythonesque. And while it's not always easy to judge the acting in a foreign language film, it seemed to me the young cast did a fine job with dialog that often translated quite hilariously, which unsurprisingly is part of what made it work so well. I only hope it's as funny in Japanese as it is in the subtitled version I saw tonight.

While hardly a Turkey, it was also loads of fun to riff MST3K-style with my sweet, Elvin friend Joel* (who I haven't seen in ages and who came down from NYC just to see me and spend time with me today and I love him very much for doing so!), who is one of the people who has been telling me I should see it for 13 years... D'oh!

Hilarious; sick; violent and an undeniable comment on the Human Condition and the power of the survival instinct, Battle Royale is a must-see for my regular readers who haven't done so, yet. I'm just sorry I waited so long. Composer Masamichi Amano brilliantly augments his score with well-known and ironic passages of European Classic music. The effect is often quite stunning.  It was almost immediately apparent why this film is a modern cult classic and I now must seek out it's sequel. ***1/2 (Three and a Half Out of Four Stars).

*I picked Joel up at the Hamilton Train station after working one of my two mandatory Saturdays a year at the Day Job and he accompanied me on a few errands and then home where I made us lunch (Vodka Penne); he tried to convince me to take up Vikram yoga -- Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! --  and we watched movies on Netflix (thanks for helping me set that up, Sis!). We later ordered Chinese delivery for dinner. When it arrived, the very familiar owner was delivering and he could see the TV. "Oh! You're watching an Asian movie?" he asked, surprised.

"Yes. 'Battle Royale,'" Joel and I both said.

"Oh. I don't know. I don't watch that crap!"

I haven't grinned so hardily in several weeks. Thanks again, Joel! Love you! And I promise to be in NYC soon!

More, anon.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Turkey Month Thursday on Friday

Click to Embiggen
Since Turkey Month starts on a Friday, I thought I'd start with a bonus Turkey! I mean, why the hell not? And it's time I started getting back to what serves as 'normal' for me, anyway. (Did I hear somebody say "...Abbie something..." or did someone slip me a tab of Windowpane). What?

Forget that you read that. And don't share it. I don't want any filthy hippies reading this. 


Oh, you're right. I DO want filthy hippies to read me. I want everyone weird and wonderful to read me. Hippies; stoners; cinephiles; horror fans; theatre geeks; MST3K fans; bad movie fans; playwrights; screenwriters; actors; directors; LGBTQ people; free and forward thinking people; loving people; kind people; ecologically aware people... the list goes on and on. In fact, it might be easier to write a list of those I really don't want to read me. It's much shorter: Asshats; haters; bigots; bullies; religious nut-jobs; old Mormons; old Catholics; Neo-Nazis; Orson Scott Card and associates; people without a sense of humor and anyone remotely associated with a 'reality' TV show. That's it. So if you don't fall into one of the categories on the shorter list, please read on. Though, on second thought, those on the short list just might learn a thing or two... Oh, who am I kidding?

Sorry. Rant over. Let's get to this week's Turkey, then.

I have briefly mentioned this movie back in 2008, calling it My Favorite MST3K Episode. But it's crapulence was evident to me even as a child... 1964's Santa Claus Conquers the Martians could very well serve as a monument to truly terrible kids' movies. What makes this movie especially delicious to Turkey connoisseurs is that it marks the first film appearance by future Golden Globe "winner" and future spousal abuser, Pia Zadora, as the Martian child Girmar. 

So here's the plot: The Martians have been monitoring TV signals from Earth and have become jealous that there is no Santa Claus on Mars to give toys to the Martian children. The obvious solution? Kidnap Santa, of course. Meanwhile, two American brats on their way to meet Santa (I forget and don't care why) get wind of the plot and stow-away on the Martians' flying saucer. They and Santa are forced to make toys for Martian kids, but the machines breakdown or something and then the really stupid alien (i.e. most child-like) becomes the Martian Santa and the kids and the real Santa get home just in time to deliver toys on Christmas Eve. 

Terribly written, horribly acted and ineptly directed by Nicholas Webster (best known for his TV work in the 60's and 70's), Santa Claus Conquers... has become a high-camp classic, skewered beautifully by the folks at MST3K and even more fun with a group of smart, quick-witted friends. The production values practically scream "CHEAP!!!" and the acting is more painful than a root-canal without Novocaine. If you love bad movies and have never seen it, make it a point to do so. If you love bad movies and you have seen it, then you know exactly why it's such a wonderfully awful thing. And honestly, it's nice to see Ms Zadora as an innocent, before she married a rich old coot who bought her a Golden Globe (in a category which no longer exists) or a beater of her later, younger new husband. And don't be surprised to see her pop up at least once more this month (anyone remember Butterfly, 18 years later? Poor, poor Orson... ).

Here are both the trailer and highlights from the MST3K version:

Dig that groovy soundtrack, Baby!

"Pills for breakfast? Who are we, Judy Garland?" Man, I miss this show so very much!

Well, that's better! I can see the inklings of my old self coming back. And it feels nice. Hope I got a smile out of you, too (I know a certain someone in Chicago enjoyed this post, at the very least - he knows who he is).

More, anon.