Friday, December 28, 2012

One A Week Reviews #52: Event Horizon

This is one of my wallowing, walk-through reviews but what else does one have time for on a holiday weekend? Many, many spoilers ahead, along with some wisecracking. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

My memories of seeing Event Horizon when it first came out on VHS are pretty hazy, so I was curious to see what my opinion would be catching it 14 years later and on Blu-Ray.

First off, 14 years of evolving CGI means even a fairly luxe, big-budget flick like this doesn't age well for the eye. That said, the effects here get points for creativity. The vertiginous, twirling pull-back from the Daylight Space Station remains a marvel. Sam Neill's Dr. Weir(d) joins the crew of the Lewis and Clark, whose Captain Miller is Laurence Fishburne. Maybe not A-list actors, but the film has a bunch of A-list talent. Kathleen Quinlan, Joley Richardson, Jason Isaacs, and Sean Pertwee also bring perhaps more skill than this Sci-Fi gore-fest really deserves.

Dr. Weir, a man plagued by hallucinations and grief over his wife's death, joins the L&C's crew in a mission to meet the Event Horizon, a secret test vessel that could travel faster-than-light by "folding space/time." It was lost seven years ago (an occurrence kept on the down-low) only to reappear now sans-crew near Neptune. First, there's 57 days of suspended animation travel time, which I've always thought an obviously painless diet opportunity. When they do awaken, they find out the ship they're saving sent one last shriek-filled message. At this point, it's pretty damn clear they've made a HUGE mistake heading out to meet this ship.

(Gory Pictures and Muddled Opinions on "Hellraiser in Space" are dead ahead!)

Looking for Charlie

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The Angels (and other Christmas decorations) will probably get put away this weekend. Perhaps this one is  looking for Charlie?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #51: 247°F

Four young people, alone out in the woods, wind up locked into a sweltering sauna that becomes an oven in 247°F, a film based on an event in Georgia (not the state, the country). In reality, the trapped friends did not die. Will their fictional counterparts face so good a fate? What do you think?

Judging from the initial idea,, you'd expect claustrophobia to play into the story, but 247°F squanders that right off the bat. By setting the story in a hot box larger than my living room, you have practical film making, but no sense of being "trapped." It turns out that the special effect of wavy heat lines and actors panting while repeating "it's hot" doesn't really turn up the anxiety. "Hot" and "drunk" lose some effectiveness in medium-to-wide shots. (That said, with proper staging, this could be a very effective stage thriller.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #50: Dark Shadows (2012)

Barnabas Collins: What is your age?
Carolyn Stoddard: Fifteen.
Barnabas Collins: Fifteen, and no husband? You must put those child-bearing hips to good use, lest your womb shrivel up and die.

The Dark Shadows phenomenon was lightning in the pop culture bottle, something remembered and revisited by fans, acquiring occasional new ones, but never truly recaptured. Tim Burton's 1972-set camp creation plays gothic fantasy for deadpan laughs, with Johnny Depp's Barnabas Collins a prim, loquacious fish out of water. The core story is the same: the spurned Angelique is secretly a witch who turns Barnabas into a vampire who is promptly imprisoned for 200 years. Upon his return, he sets out to return the family to glory and woo his old love, reincarnated as the governess. This go-round features Angelique as a power-suited business woman who has happily driven the Collins family into a genteel, aristocratic poverty over two centuries.

Depp is terrific, and clearly having a wonderful time. His look is incredibly respectful to Jonathan Frid's, while also seeming to invoke Michael Jackson; as if his Willy Wonka was anemic. Perhaps surprisingly, he's constantly blown off the screen by Eva Green. Her Angelique is a hoot, and very physical. All eyes and limbs (and teeth), she nails every move and moment of comic camp villainy; a delicate, tiny china doll somehow filled with enormous insanity and voracious need. You literally can not look away when she's in a scene. Her performance? C'est vraiment manifique. I don't often focus in on individual actors, but many here stand out. It's an impressive feat considering the overpowering set and aesthetics.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #49: Private Parts (1972)

The standards for a residential hotel in 1972 couldn't have been very high, judging by how filthy one is in 1972's Private Parts. Before teaming up with Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel's first film casts a jaded, perverse eye on a group of very unusual hotel residents in the first of what would be a long career of films about the sexually repressed acting out (Eating Raoul, Scenes From a Class Struggle in Beverly Hills). Young runaway Cheryl (Ann Ruymen) gets thrown out by her roommate after she's caught peeping on the roomie getting her 70's free-love groove on and winds up at Aunt Martha's (Lucille Benson) skid-row flophouse. This endearing Auntie keeps a pet rat and takes pictures at funerals (and, of course, much more). Bartel fills the rest of the hotel with freaky residents like a naughty priest (Laurie Main) and George (John Ventantonio), a mysterious photographer who intrigues Cheryl.

When the young and impulsive Cheryl finds presents like a dirty potboiler manuscript and an incredibly tacky negligee, she should've run screaming. Instead, she's a romantic teenager with a bent towards the perverse. Neither creaking floors nor lurking neighbors are going to stop her from creating a mysterious adventure out of an environment that would terrify anyone old enough to know better. She also meets a nice boy in Jeff (Stanley Livingston, famous as "My Three Son's" Chip Douglas), who really isn't equipped for a girl like Cheryl, who is more into the tall, dark pornographer George. While all this is going on, someone is also killing off the hotel's visitors and residents, though that dread is almost secondary to finding out where Chery's sexual awakenings are going to lead her...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #48: The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)

This movie lives up to it's vile billing. I'll give it that much. Originally reviewed for dvdsnapshot, and now being actively scrubbed from my memory.

Official Synopsis:

The wait is over for the most controversial movie of the year: The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), Tom Six's follow-up to his original cult horror smash!

The opening night selection of Fantastic Fest 2011, the film ups the ante with a brute force unparalleled in motion pictures today. The iconic Dr. Heiter has inspired a real-life protégé, the sickly, disturbed security guard Martin – who takes his gory inspiration from the original film to horrific new extremes...and one-ups the doctor with his pièce de résistance, a 12-person human centipede of his own. Ashlyn Yennie, star of TheHuman Centipede (First Sequence), returns in this no-holds-barred assault on the senses, presented here totally uncut and uncensored!

Our Take:

Similar to Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence) starts with the conceit that the first film is “just a movie” within the story. The ending of the first film was hopeless, but implied the survivor just might get saved in the end. Here, that minimal, stylish first film has inspired a dark, dingy, black and white “by necessity” neo-realist gorefest completely lacking in redeeming qualities or hope for humanity. You don't watch The Human Centipede films to be entertained so much as to recognize the fact that someone made them at all.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #47: The Highest Pass

The more I thought about this one, the hokier it got - what's your take? (Originally reviewed for DVDsnapshot)

Our Take:

Adam is an amateur motorcyclist with less than a month's experience under his belt. Therefore, it makes perfect sense he should tackle an over 1200 mile trip through the Himalayas on a single-cylinder, 350cc street bike. There are accidents and altitude sickness to contend with. Will the guardian angels of the ignorant idiot protect him? What could possibly possess someone to think that's a good idea?

Murky motivations aside, The Highest Pass is presented as the story of a group seeking enlightenment by taking an incredibly dangerous, self-indulgent motorcycle trek on the world's highest and most dangerous roads; all under the guise of a “spiritual journey.” Considering there's a film crew and hired snowplow, they sure come off like “entitled yahoos with money getting irresponsibly out of their element.”

It's hard to be open to someone's story when (from, yes, perhaps a place of Western cynicism) you start by questioning why they so badly need an external validation of their spirituality from someone with the “other culture” seal of approval, in this case Eastern. The wisdom everyone attributes to poor Guru Anand, supposedly cursed with a prophesy of an early death, looks like nothing so much as bad judgment to the viewer. Yet once you invest in the idea that you're going to attain enlightenment, everything must be channeled through that lens. The riders almost fetishize this guru, who boasts a vanity practice named Sattva Yoga and YouTube videos (that underline how much the impression a documentary subject makes is through good editing), along with every elderly non-English-speaker they encounter.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Universe with the blonde Uhura

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"Uhura in an old Power Records Star Trek book- what's wrong with this picture? Evidently Power didn't secure all the likeness rights. (I was so distracted I didn't even notice Sulu was black...)"

Friday, November 16, 2012

One A Week Reviews #46: Shredder

I know I saw a trailer for this in the theater but I don't recall it ever actually coming out. After finally watching Shredder, I'm surprised even that trailer didn't go straight to video. Evidently, there must've been some culture war of skiers versus snowboarders going on a decade ago, and this is it's ugly byproduct.

Starring the voice of Aladdin, a gal from Guiding Light, and a buncha kids I've never heard of, this is a slasher for the snowboarding set. At least the killer has a decent motive for a change: bad manners. Right from the beginning, he's taking people out because they show bad etiquette on the slopes. We even get cutaways to the posted rules and regs to let us know what's a no-no. This sort of moralizing is more Serial Mom and Student Bodies than it is the basis for a real slasher flick.

We follow up a decapitated snowboarder with a nudity-free shower scene with a "killer's perspective" angle. Stealing from Halloween, The Funhouse, and Psycho, at five minutes in this film is stating "I am derivative crap." Our aforementioned "buncha" head up to a closed ski resort to shtup, drink, and "Shred." By 9 minutes in, even with a moment of "Girls Gone Wild"-type behavior that, while wasted on me, should still spark things up a bit, I had pretty much checked out. As these kids, who make the random counselors in a Friday the 13th seem like fully-fleshed out character studies, continue to drive through some admittedly beautiful Pacific northwest-type environs, I decided I wasn't going to bother to learn anyone's names.

This is one of those tongue-in-cheek "humorous" slasher flicks. Shovel-foreheaded Scott Weinger grew up to vaguely resemble Wings Hauser, and when they arrive at the camp has to go through a bunch of comic methods to get the chain off the gates (including torching it with a road flare). This is intercut with scenes of the pouty, unfaithful girlfriend in the front seat, and a couple of snowboarders, all scored to a song with the recognizable chorus "I wanna get laid."

(More reasons why you can read this review and never watch this flick, after the break...)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #45: Darling Companion

A movie so horrifying it should have come along for Halloween, the disastrous Darling Companion was originally reviewed for DVDsnapshot.

Our Take:

The Baby Boomer audience has found itself aged out of those prime demographics all advertisers and movie studios love to reach and, as such, is woefully under-served by today's film market. Lawrence and Meg Kasdan's independent feature Darling Companion seems targeted to reach the same share of this audience perhaps only currently served by Nancy Meyers. Here a group of characters - accomplished, successful, and thankfully more realistic than Meyers tend to be - gather for a weekend of short, supposedly heart-warming character story-arcs that, in the end, add up to little.

Baby Boomers Beth and Joseph (Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline) spar over an adopted stray dog (twee-ly named “Freeway”) that fills Beths's empty nest while also bringing their gratingly germaphobic daughter Grace (the usually wonderful Elizabeth Moss) together with the kind of dashing single Vet (hey, he's still a doctor) who mostly seems to only exist in movies and, one would assume, romance novels.

After Grace's wedding at their sumptuously-appointed vacation home, the remaining guests wind up looking for the runway plot-device... I mean, “dog,” while also dealing with their own issues. Beth and Joseph have to work on both their marriage and her obsessive attachment to the dog; an animal so worried about you'll want turn his name into a drinking game. Joseph's sister Penny (Dianne Wiest) and her new boyfriend Russell (Richard Jenkins) have to come to terms with, seemingly, the downward mobility that comes with a later-in-life change of career. Meanwhile, Penny's son Bryan (Mark Duplass) grow up and work on his new father figure issues with the help of Carmen the caretaker (Ayelet Zurer). She's a mystical gypsy so filled with folksy wisdom she was probably that stereotypical old chestnut, the “magical old black man,” in the script's first draft. Though she claims to have psychic visions of the dog, you suspect she might just like making rich people jump through hoops.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #44: 9/11: Day That Changed The World & 9/11: Stories In Fragments

Slightly belated, but here's a double feature of documentaries originally reviewed for Dvdsnapshot

Our Take:

Like every American, I vividly remember my 9/11/01. Seeing CNN footage of the first burning tower on television at my new part-time job, in a cafeteria at Universal Studios theme park decorated with Dr. Seuss characters, and not grasping the catastrophe that was starting. I didn't grasp, and it wasn't mentioned, that it was a 747. I also wasn't familiar with just how big those buildings were, so I made an assumption about flight plans and figured a prop plane, at most a small commuter jet, had collided with the building. Hearing news about a second plane while training for my new job. Finally being told the park would be closing, an unprecedented decision of caution, at noon so we could all head home. Going first to the television to see the churn of rerun footage while newscasters tried to grasp the events. Towers constantly, repeatedly falling. Jumping online to the now archaic message board where all my dear college friends touched base and worried about Ali getting home to Jersey, and Liz's cousins based in the same area of Manhattan. The growing dread of knowing profound change is happening, the future is uncertain (and moving to a tourism based economy the month prior was, in retrospect, a bad idea). My story of that day is small. My mundane details seared into memory by large, tragic world events. These documentaries share the big stories.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #43: The Blood Beast Terror

Originally reviewed for dvdsnapshot, this is some old-fashioned fun for the Halloween holiday!

Our Take:

While not a Hammer or Amicus production, The Blood Beast Terror is a close-enough replica. With a vaguely 1890s setting, character types, and Peter Cushing as the star, this is a fun double-bill B-movie night monster mystery. Its just missing the touch those studios had for making successful pictures.

Cushing's detective, a vaguely annoyed man more concerned with his tea than his suspects is investigating a series of unusual murders which lead him to Robert Flemyng's stuffy, suspicious mad scientist. There are a few nice touches. The story makes for a nice detective procedural for Cushing and the victims are, for a change, a string of hapless men. Some comic relief and a cheesy grand guignol theater break also add life. They can't overcome the supposedly-dashing adventurer who's every expression is a sneer, nor the pair of ingénue daughters, including one who devours every man she encounters with her eyes during fits of overacting.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #42: Ghost Ship (2002)

A triumph of good set design and applying gore with a ladle, Ghost Ship is a fun little number I dismissed after seeing in the theater and thought worth revisiting a decade later. Following the remakes of House on Haunted Hill and Thirteen Ghosts, this was the first original movie produced under the Dark Castle brand.

An ocean salvage crew, each saddled with a horribly blunt handles like Murphy, Epps, Santos, and Dodge are offered the gold-mine of a lifetime,brought in by Ferriman to claim the derelict Antonia Graza. Exploring the ship to salvage what they can, they wind up finding crates filled with beautiful bars of gold. Unfortunately, the ship has an agenda of its own. They also wind up meeting ghosts and their own bloody, painful demises while slowly piecing together the tragic mystery of what befell the passengers and crew on the final outing of the Garza.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #41 American Experience: Death and the Civil War

An "American Experience" produciton from PBS, originally reviewed for dvdsnapshot.

Our Take

Photographs of dead soldiers on the battlefield, even when archival, are jarring to America's younger generations, unaccustomed to seeing what war costs. In a world filled with wall-to-wall, immediately available news, many remain unaware and unexposed to the realities. My own cosseted existence may be why I found the American Experience documentary Death and the Civil War so compelling. Through interviews, thoughtfully read letters from the battlefield, and a rich supply of wartime photos you may never have seen before, this is an exhaustive exploration of the cultural changes surrounding America's relationship with death during the 1860s.

A country familiar to the “Good Death” at home and surrounded by loved ones was in no way prepared for the toll of over 750,000 taken by the Civil War in just a few years (this was 2.5% of the population, which would be 7 million people today), sometimes more than 20,000 in a day. “Improvements” in weaponry made killing easier and more efficient, while the now-primitive medical techniques of the day did the rest. Everyone in the nation lost someone they knew, and explored here are the records of how they grappled with this seismic shift in the world.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #40: Burke & Hare (1972)

Welcome to October. No 31 reviews for the month this year, but at least one horror movie a week! This first one though has real horror in the watching, not the story. Originally reviewed for

Burke & Hare (1972)

Our Take:

The worry of what might be done to your body after you die is a fairly universal fear, which may explain the popularity of the legendary grave robbers, Burke & Hare. Their story has been told many times on film, and frequently in both fiction and non-fiction books, and they've held a steady place in the public imagination since their 1828 arrest. This uneven 1972 film is not the best telling of their tale.

While aspiring to the high gloss of Hammer's horror heyday, the aesthetic of here is pretty much “Sixties television show.” The costumes and sets always blare their artificiality. From the awful, catchy theme song (which will be in your head for hours afterwards) to the forced broad comedy, this film's tone is always off. It's like a period horror remake of Porky's.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Where Would You Hang This Sign?

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I love this great, old fashioned sign. It's perfect for customer service - but I could see it at home in the Kitchen or Guest Room as well (but would you hang it in a bedroom?)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #39: Black Magic Rites

Black Magic Rites
Now this was a nice surprise. A twisted, loony Seventies madhouse of a movie - originally reviewed for dvdsnapshot.
Our Take:

Black Magic Rites
was originally titled Riti, Magie Nere E Segrete Orge Nel Trecento... (which translates to “Rites, Black Magic and Secret Orgies in the Fourteenth Century...” and also sometimes called The Reincarnation of Isabel. All in all, a collection of names as loopy and vague as its plot. This is not a bad thing. One character towards the end says “Don't try to understand it,” and this is very good advice indeed.

In short, our plot has walking beefslab Jack Nelson (Micky Hargitay) buying a share of a castle already occupied by a vampiric cult of devil-worshipping men in red long underwear (with rear flaps, no doubt) who are murdering women in order to bring back Isabella, their long-dead mistress of bad body makeup. The fact that she burned to death in no way impacts the opportunities to show her topless with a painted ragged hole below her breasts. As in all horror stories involving reincarnation, everyone has a past life involving poor old Miss Issy, so we're asked to care that the cult targets Hargitay's wooden niece (Rita Calderoni) to be the next piece of kindling on their bonfire.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Your Deathstar is Fully Operational

Monday night I made a quick jaunt to Athens to hang out with Chris, since he was there to attend an event this next morning. We popped into the Union to find they'd given it a makeover - paint, new lights, removal of pipes and the drop ceiling in the back half (which I don't really recall but according to Chris it was there). It looks good, but it now far more "Hipster" than "Dive." Written on a sign was "Your Deathstar is Fully Operational," which we took to mean they were re-opened for business after the rehab. On the whole, we liked it. (We're also weighing a trip next month since Mike Watt is playing...)

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"With Chris at the revamped Union- it feels like a different place..." 

""Your Deathstar is fully operational." - at the remodeled all-bright-and-shiny Union..." 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #38: Unholy (2007)

Unholy is a science fiction mind-bender with a dash of horror which bursts at the seams with ideas. A mad mix of pending insanity, Nazis, necromancy, and grief. Lead character Martha (Adrienne Barbeau) has already lost her husband and witnesses the suicide of her daughter, Hope. In dealing with the loss, Martha and her somewhat estranged, pothead son Lucas (Nicholas Brendon) try to chase down what drove Hope to kill herself. It's not a difficult journey, since the next door neighbor happens to be married to a conspiracy-minded madwoman who sends them down a conspiracy rabbit-hole.

Encountering nightmares and time-bending craziness, Martha and Lucas get into situations that quickly begin to defy all suspended belief and require Olympian leaps of logic. While low budget, Unholy is stuffed to the gills with plot and ideas. The execution suffers from the budget, but it wins some audience favor for the effort. Choppy story structure and dream logic don't help the story make sense, but effectively keep audience and characters off-balance. You just have to assume it'll all come together... but does it?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #37: Adua e le Compagne (Adua and Her Friends)

Winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival and starring to international, honest to goodness movie icons, Antonio Pietrangelli's ADUA E LE COMPAGNE (ADUA AND HER FRIENDS) is a slice of Italian neo-realist goodness.

The film starts when as the 1959 Merlin Law has shut down Italy's legal brothels, forcing many prostitutes to figure out how to change careers. If made now, this would probably be about four internet marketers forced into prostitution by the dot-com bust or economic collapse. (Evidently, this law is still in effect banning organized prostitution. The more you know, eh?) As the film opens, the girls are having the same conversation set to “Hard Candy Christmas” in THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS. They've just finished their last night and tomorrow start new lives. Ringleader Adua (Simone Signoret, fresh from winning an Oscar) brings some old associates together to turn a run-down old country building into a restaurant. While catty to one another, they get down to the dirty work or rehabbing their new home and business. For all the flaring tempers they should probably name the place “Over Our Heads.”

When obstacles prevent opening their restaurant, they turn to Dr. Ercoli, a local “fixer” who'll make the license happen, but only for a price. His caveat, of course, is they return to their old line of work upstairs, while the restaurant runs downstairs. I've no idea what a million Lira amounted to in 1960, but they'll owe him that every month. Judging by Adua's expression, she's a bit daunted. They carry on, but know the past will eventually come knocking.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #36: Dreamscape

If you had the power to see the future and read people's minds, you would probably do the same thing Alex Gardner does: make easy money gambling and get laid a lot. There's no challenge when you know which horse will win and exactly what someone needs to hear. You may well also wind up being a target as well. Everyone from cheap gangsters to doctors to the government want a piece of a real life psychic.

Dreamscape is one of those big holes in my Sci-Fi/Horror film education, and I was glad to finally rectify that with a viewing. A young Dennis Quaid plays a cocky Alex, brought back into an experimental sleep clinic under the wing of his mentor, played by a surprisingly scrawny Max Von Sydow. Also working with comely sleep specialist, Jane (Kate Capshaw, an actress I like in everything but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), he's soon being sent into dreams to stop nightmares that caused other psychics to lose their minds. Between a young boy menaced by a snake monster and a US President plagued by crippling night terrors (Eddie Albert), Alex finds himself racing to prevent an "imaginary" murder that would have very real results.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #35: Rasputin: The Mad Monk

Crazy Eyes.

Christopher Lee uses his great height and magnificent, stentorian voice to great effect in Rasputin: The Mad Monk, but it's his crazy eyes you walk away remembering. Popped, slitted, yet always blazing in many close-ups, Lee's orbs cuts through thick makeup, a bad wig, and enormous beard. You always watch his face when he's on the screen, no matter what else is happening. (That if nothing else, is the signature of a true movie star.) This loose biopic of the dangerous and influential Russian priest is another lush-yet-mannered Hammer Films monster movie, except this time the evil creature was real. Also, it's a showpiece for Lee's acting ability. He's a bold, confident actor giving his all, with real verve, to interpreting this historical figure of great strengths and appetites.

What's really well-conveyed here is the sheer overwhelming force of personality a man like Rasputin would need to barrel his way from the hinterlands to the Czar's palace. A bully, a thug, delusional; Lee's Rasputin is all of these. Starting out as a priest who somehow can either heal the sick or, more likely, convince them of wellness through the same sheer force of will that seemingly explains his preternatural ability to put away four bottles of wine before wenching, Rasputin quickly draws the ire of the locals in what is the film's first assassination attempt. The monk neither fights fair nor takes a lady's "no" for an answer.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #34: Hindsight (2011)

HindsightThis week I take a look at a well-done, quite glossy action flick from Korea. I wonder if my affection for this film might not flag, but for now I'm a big fan. Originally reviewed for

Our Take: 

When a movie opens with a girl, a boy, and a gun, you know it'll be a sweet, swooning musical romance... or not. Hindsight is a visually tasty Korean crime thriller plotted with some action film clichés, but built around a central relationship that's well-developed enough to feel authentic.

Midlife career change is never easy, though going from mob enforcer to culinary student seems a greater leap than those some people make (especially as the reverse seems more likely in today's economy). Aspiring chef Doo-heon is slowly romancing his cooking class partner Se-bin by day, not knowing she secretly keeps tabs on him for a crime cartel that wants him back. Se-bin has big debts, big scars, and excellent aim with a rifle. When the old boss dies and Doo-heon is dragged back in to sit on the throne, he instead sparks a gang war. Guess who gets hired to knock him off?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #33: Madame Bovary (2000)

We're gettin' both swooningly romantic and "all classy up in here" this week, with the 2000 BBC production of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, originally reviewed for dvdsnapshot.

Our Take:

Having never read the classic novel, nor seen the man film productions (including the legendary 1991 Claude Chabrol production with Isabelle Huppert), I can only evaluate the famous story through this version. The main takeaway: Emma Bovary has trouble managing her passions.

Tragedy strikes at the beginning of Madame Bovary, and seems to always hang over the few happy moments in the life of the multi-dimensional main character. The youthful, emotional Emma (a dynamic Frances O'Connor) finds herself out of the convent and back on the farm, marrying Charles, the first dashing man who comes along (Hugh Bonneville, sympathetic and quietly strong even as a cuckold). Bored by the day-to-day realities of marriage to an older, settled man-especially after finding she enjoys the conjugal side of life-romantic Emma finds herself entertaining flights fancy and delusions of grandeur. The young bride married in haste and repents in leisure, suffering beautifully all the while.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Garden Keeps Getting Better

August 9th's garden haul. I'm so glad we're actually getting something out of the effort. 

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"Today's garden haul"

Friday, August 10, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #32: The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister

If you ever feel like you should be journaling, this story of a woman who committed four MILLION words to paper, many in code, should get you motivated. Not only a fascinating movie, but when paired with the documentary also on the disc, it becomes a very well-rounded presentation on a dynamic, difficult historical figure. Originally reviewed for dvdsnapshot.

Tell me, Miss Walker, do you like Byron?”

Our Take:

Oh, BBC, how we love your period pieces. With their meticulous attention to maintaining plot and historical details (sometimes to the sacrifice of pace), they're always delightfully rewarding, low-key delights. In this case, instead of a Dickens or Austen adaptation, we have a well-appointed biopic of a fascinating real woman and the important legacy of her coded diaries.

In a time before any acceptance or possibility of a public gay identity, Anne Lister worked hard to live true to herself. The highly regulated society of Regency England had no role for an independent, out lesbian, and would never discuss it in polite society. She also turned herself into an accomplished businesswoman at a time when most women couldn't even inherit property. Admittedly, the security of her wealth and station in life eased the path, but Lister made the most of it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Movie of the Week #31: Turkey Shoot (Escape 2000)

I first became aware of Turkey Shoot (called Escape 2000 in the US) when it was featured in Not Quite Hollywood, that brilliant documentary about Australian cinema that's an absolute must for any film fan. I was lucky enough to find it was eventually added to Netflix, and it became my last DVD rental before I suspended my subscription for the summer.

Cashing out with a genre flick? Why not?

Franco Zeffirelli never made her do this crap.
Opening with footage of riots, we find ourselves in your typically simple-minded movie-style "oppressive, totalitarian future" where "life is cheap." We find our jump-suited captive protagonists; Rita, Chris, and Paul, on the "Re Ed B-Mod" bus. They're being lugged to a re-education camp where, as "deviants," they'll be offered a chance for freedom if they can survive one day as prey for the idle rich ruling-class hunters. While Paul is a rebellious rable-rouser, Chris and Rita seem to have just been pretty girls caught up in an evil system. At "Blood Camp Thatcher," (another alternate title for the film) torture and slave-labor rule the day. Thankfully, so do co-ed group showers, so it can't be too bad.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Movie of the Week #30: The Witches of Oz

This week's review is the family-friendly (though rather long-winded) TV movie, The Witches of Oz, originally reviewed for DVDsnapshot.

My Take:

I was never that comforted by Oz. It didn't seem so much a land of whimsy and magic as a place of capricious death and a “kill-or-be-killed” ethos, where you could be trapped forever if you didn't please the right people. In one book, “The Marvelous Land of Oz,” after using “The Power of Life” to animate imaginary friends, a boy learns he isn't real. Rather, he's simply the shell carrier for the more important Ozma, and must be erased because his usefulness is over. Needless to say, I never again picked up on Oz book after reading this at age seven. Perhaps it appeals to the childhood fantasy that we're secretly royalty or aliens, somehow greater and more special than our humdrum lives suggest, but that book would take weeks of Freudian analysis to unpack.

While the MGM Wizard of Oz has charmed for generations, no other crack at the books has been that successful. The Witches of Oz, like some adaptations, turns on the tempting idea of revisiting OZ with a grown-up Dorothy. Usually, she's offered as a sexed up version, a concept skewered here to nice effect. This SyFy miniseries prefers to ask “what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #29: Primitive London and London In The Raw (Double Feature)

An odd double-feature of documentaries reviewed for DVDsnapshot. When I republish those reviews here, I'll now be altering the format slightly, moving my review above the "Official Synopsis." 
...and, yes, it is a purely ego-driven choice. Thank you for noticing! (Heh, heh)

Our Take:

This double feature from the mid-sixties collects what must be the most polite Mondo-style “documentaries” ever made. London in the Raw and the more polished Primitive London are an unusual time capsule. Bound up by the manners, appearances, and class structure they hark from, the filmmakers still aspire to illustrate a “seedier” underside of London life... without offending. Some Mondo films featured shockers like sex-change surgeries and animal mutiliation These show a live birth, a hair transplant, and a chicken processing plant; but all with inoffensive jazz accompaniment.

Clearly filmed on the cheap, both films collect a rambling series of ponderously slow scenes bridged with prim, vaguely tut-tutting narration and bouncy music. One of the few scenes with live audio in Raw is a rather patronizing visit to a Jewish theater. Primitive features musical numbers, along with interviews and a series of odd sketches about a coffee commercial. (Most scenes in both films are obviously staged.)

The films “sensationalize” things like Baccarat, pinball “addiction,” belly dancers, and lots of bland Burlesque. But it turns out that even the management of drug addiction is handled in a polite, orderly manner. Odd moments of hat-blocking, middle-aged ladies at the gym, and a staged Key Party are so mundane they become surreal compliments to all the genteel attempts at salaciousness.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Zucchini Soup

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Garden flooded under area of gutter the cleaners didn't do. Been trying for month for them to fix it. While they finally came out this morning, the Zucchini and Cucumber plants haven't recovered...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #28: Worried About The Boy

Traditionally, this is the weekend I go to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, but the budget made that a no go. I'll still be having a great weekend, celebrating my anniversary. But in the spirit of a musical weekend, I found the perfect movie of the week. You never expect a TV movie to be as good as this one is. Reviewed for DVD Snapshot, and a real treat.

Official Synopsis:

George O'Dowd (Douglas Booth) leaves home to join the new fashion movement in London and has his world turned upside down when his dreams of music success become a reality. Now, with all the drugs, love, fashion, and glamour that accompany his celebrity lifestyle, can Boy George really find the happiness he so desperately craves?

Our Take:

I'm not a drug addict, I'm a drag addict.”

When Culture Club released their first album, mainstream England (much less America) wasn't ready
for its gender-bending lead singer, Boy George. Coyly unwilling to hide his sexuality behind his outrageous drag, he was one of the most transgressive celebrities of the Eighties. The songs weren't bad either.

Worried About the Boy tells the story of Boy George's youth up to the band's formation paired with his experience of its disintegration. Moving out of his parents house, he befriends the equally stylish Marilyn and they become part of the fabled 1980 nightclub scene. Success quickly followed once he caught the eye of Malcom McLaren, leading to both super-stardom and a drug habit that ultimately blew the the band apart at their height.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #27: The Evictors

Cursed and haunted houses will always be a storytelling staple. Wanting to feel safe where you shelter is a primal instinct, so threatening that is a great way to get under the skin. This 1979 Swamp-saga is essentially part of a "Southern Gothic Documentary Trilogy" including The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Town that Dreaded Sundown by swamp-set B-movie legend Charles B. Pierce. The Evictors is also a little-seen classic that deserves attention.

Set in Northern Louisiana circa 1942, The Evictors focuses on a rural farmhouse with a tragic history. Young marrieds Ruth and Ben Watkins (Jessica Harper and Michael Parks) make an offer on it, ready to start life together in their first home. They're new to town, and the neighbors seem friendly enough, at least until Ruth finds a note in the mailbox that says "I want you to move." Soon enough, the junk man and an eccentric, wheelchair-bound neighbor (Sue Ann Langdon playing 20 years older in a bad wig) are filling her in with important plot exposition about the house's history. There are two sides to every story. On the one hand, unfortunate events happen. On the other, perhaps someone is chasing owners off in the most final way possible? In 1934, the lady of the manor was seemingly kicked in the head by a mule... or did someone make it look that way? When another couple met their fates there in 1939, was it a tragedy of bad wiring, or murder?

Monday, July 2, 2012


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"Psychodots on Fountain Square"

The Psychodots playing Fountain Square on 6/29 - we're starting to think they're making a comeback!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #26: Kawa

Perfect for pride month is this coming out story I reviewed for DVDsnapshot. Also, the occasional glimpses of New Zealand remind me I'd love to travel there one day. It just looks beautiful.

Official Synopsis:

When successful businessman Kawa (Calvin Tuteao, Once Were Warriors) finds the courage to tell his wife and kids, his parents and his traditional Maori community that he's gay, the struggle he endures is not an easy one. A powerful coming out movie, Kawa is a gorgeously cinematic drama that tells the transcendent tale of bravery, love, family and pride.

Our Take:

Witi Ihimaera's semi-autobiographical 1995 novel “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” reflected his experiences coming out as gay in 1984. This is worth nothing in regards to Kawa, the filmed version, because the supporting characters' reactions to it seem outdated and melodramatic in 2010.

When the story starts, Kawa has already begun a process of embracing his gay identity. Devoted to family and obligated by birth to be a leader in the Maori community, he's rebelling against the life he feels he's “supposed” to lead. Having moved out, he's also started moving on from a very confused wife by exploring both bathhouse trysts and courtship with a local actor. Kawa is keeping a safe foot in his old life to avoid drama, but slowly self-sabotaging his way out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #25: The Conquest (La Conquête) (2011)

THE CONQUEST is excellent and timely biopic - which is shaping up to be a theme for my movie watching lately. Originally reviewed for dvdsnapshot.

Official Synopsis:

The Conquest is that rare specimen produced while its political subject is still in power. Denis Podalydès delivers a witty yet commanding portrayal of Nicolas Sarkozy and his rise to the French presidency through the lens of his unraveling marriage to wife Cecilia (Florence Pernel). This vivid film depicts the future president of France as a bold and unashamed virtuoso of political combat. Brilliantly etching sharp characterizations of living politicians, The Conquest never veers too far from reality, even while deploying a larger-than-life sense of humor and a buoyant, Fellini-esque score that giddily evokes a circus-like atmosphere of modern politics.

Our Take:

Films about politics are always a strange breed, taking you behind the headlines while usually positing that their subjects are amoral monsters behind those shellacked, calculated smiles. Power and celebrity are sexy, but fame derived from elected authority always seems suspect. Perhaps because of the hunger required to throw your had into the ring? We always assume the best man for an office is the one too smart and decent to run. The best political stories also emphasize those pulling strings and smoothing feathers to keep the political machine on track. It's the wives and advisers (Eve Carringtons and Iagos?), usually far more Machiavellian than the candidate himself. This film isn't a political fiction, though dramatic license was taken.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #24: Carol Channing: Larger Than Life

A few weeks ago, I reviewed a documentary about an actress who seemed to hide as much as she gave. Now I got to take a look at one about an actress who, while she doesn't let us in on everything, kindly shares her story complete with big, over-the-top musical numbers. Originally reviewed for
Official Synopsis:

Carol Channing's life is as colorful as the lipstick on her big, bright smile. Carol Channing: Larger Than Life captures the magic and vivacity of the 90-year-old icon, onstage and off... past and present. It is both a rarefied journey inside Broadway's most glamorous era, and a whimsical look at an inspiring, incomparable and always entertaining American legend.

Our Take:

The Tony Awards recently aired on television, a quaint throwback of a big awards show paying tribute to an art form that's unique in still being mostly geographically-specific. Some see it as the hopelessly retro province of Midwestern tourists and “show queens,” but in a world of digital streaming, you still have to go to Broadway (or hope it comes to you) to attend over-the-top, show-stopping live performances by occasionally legendary talents.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Agonies and Ecstasies of a Neophyte Gardener

The repository of all my hopes, dreams, and salad fixings...
...or, "How I Blew Over $50 Tuesday at Home Depot Because of a Damn Raccoon."

For as long as I've lived here I've stared out at the raised garden plot out back and thought "I really should try putting in a garden." My neighbor speaks with rapt wonderment about the tomatoes the previous owner could coax out of the only sunny patch on the whole yard..

Well, what a difference psyching yourself up for eight years can make!

Instead of just sitting inside all summer on the internet (like you're probably doing), this year I'm taking a chunk of that time to be"The Farmer on His Dell."  Since I was determined to put up or shut up, and Chris is a "doer," we have started out what I'm calling "Garden 1.0." (That we're not on the road every other weekend for once helps, too.) Previously an annual tangle of weeds I'd apathetically chop down either once a Summer or when it got to be ten feet tall (whichever came first), it's now fulfilling it's destiny as an honest-to-goodness "food-growing-place-thingy."

We decided together what to plant. I dreamed big, picturing crops of such yield I'd have to kvetch about learning how to can things. Meanwhile the Sensible One figured out just how few plants we'd actually need. It turns out that if you garden in a manner that's even marginally correct they thrive to the point where a 6'x24' plot of land can quickly choke on its own bounty.

First came the job I would have given up on if done solo: we weeded. Once done, it depressed me to realize that the maintenance yanking was going to be an open-ended affair. (Right now there's some weird succulent volunteers threatening to take over like Triffids.) I started some seedlings as further commitment to the cause. Going a step beyond, I even sent off a soil sample for analysis. The plot of dirt was ruled fairly fertile, though mostly clay. Evidently low on potassium, it also completely lacks the archaeological treasures or victims of Mob hits I always daydreamed we'd dig up back there as soon as we started digging. Seriously, it was such a running fantasy that I admit to being let down to only find more dirt under all that dirt.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Three Is Awful Young To Enter A Life of Piracy

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"At age 3, my nephew decided to enter the pirates' life... We took him to Disney World and got him made up to resemble Jack of Never, Never Land. My niece got the full Mermaid treatment."

Space Mountain Or Somewhere On Bespin?

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""It reminds me of Cloud City...""

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Saturday at New Smyrna Beach

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"A slanty beach and canted clouds made for a perfect Saturday walk... I have a souvenir shell to remember what was a very special day." 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #23: Queen of Blood

The Year: 1990

In the far-flung future of stock footage and quilted coats, Mars proves to be a planet of matte paintings, miniatures, and deedleboppers. Queen of Blood is a great lousy movie, perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon. Frequently (and always unintentionally) funny, this is the finest in inventive low-budget film-making from the Roger Corman school. Curtis Using plenty of stock special effects footage from some Russian Sci-Fi films and (from the looks of it) almost no money except "paper moon money," this is a heaven of cardboard sets and lousy science.

Basil Rathbone sends Dennis Hopper and the helmet-haired Judi Meredith to investigate an SOS from outer space. Having a ride so bumpy they need "oxygenator tablets" to perk themselves up at arrival, they find a crashed alien ship with a dead alien. Our hero, John Saxon, leads a second mission to follow his girlfriend (Meredith), in an oddly convoluted scenario seemingly designed to make the most use out of all the borrowed effects footage, and pad for time. Saxon lands on Mars' moon, Phobos, and finds a second ship, this one with a very alive passenger. Saxon brings along this unconscious alien girl ti rendezvous with first ship, where she quickly becomes a bad influence over the menfolk.

Florence Marley's green-skinned "Queen" smiles like the Cheshire cat, regally and silently seducing Hopper then leaving him for dead. This immediately begs the question: "Why don't they toss her ass into space?"