burnt by the high sheriff…

Well, as the first post in the new digs, I feel I should start off with some good news… After all of these years the Second Season of Twin Peaks is finally coming out! They waited so long that the 1st Season is now a $150 rarity! Just another reason that the 2nd is a must by. Heck, I’ve never even seen it.

Since we’re on the subject of TV, how about The Sopranos? This week we finished the first six seasons of The Sopranos (officially to season 6, part 1) again. I swear I could watch these seasons over and over again, in fact, I have. I don’t know how many folks have read the cover story in the Vanity Fair, but it certainly is positive. I don’t know if the author is right in his claim that it’s the best written television drama in history, but if he’s wrong, I can’t imagine what show would be better (though I thought that Six Feet Under was quite strong). Anyway, now we only have two weeks until Season Six, part 2 starts… And no way to watch it! I know, it’s a trauma. We don’t know anyone who has Sopranos gatherings and I fear that I’d be hard pressed to hold out for the months before the DVD release without finding out anything I don’t want to know in advance… Hmmm…

yeah, and another one hits the table
the sopranos, sixth season, episode 11

Anyway, we took in some movies this week.
The Prestige.
I didn’t know what to expect here. The little I’ve heard I thought it could be pretty interesting, or pretty dumb. I also must admit that the first hour or so, I was quite dumb as to what was going on, the changes in time and trying to arrange the story line caused me a bit of … Then, after the cat and hat scene, it all started to make sense (though at the end of the film, there is a bit too much exposition, explaining everything that had happened, in case you didn’t get it). The Prestige is sort of a film about period magicians, but it is really a film about revenge. A life encompassing need for revenge. The story of two magicians in Olde London who are at odds as they both attempt to further their own careers while ending the others. They are quite relentless and harsh in their attempts to sabotage each others tricks and cause harm (both physically and in their reputation). The movie is actually quite good. It has some good characters, an intriguing and tricky mystery, some nice visuals and a bit of the fantastic… The engineering of the magic tricks is fun to see and I like how the Edwardian era was evident but muted and so it seemed more like the era that the story took place rather than part of the story. It’s also good that Tesla is back in vogue and I found Bowie’s Tesla to be just fine. And it was good to see him in a movie again.

sights and sounds and…
the prestige 1:42:36

The Resurrected.
Okay, first off, the bad 80’s snthy sound has to go… Next Chris Sarandon (a terrible pick to play Charles Dexter Ward). Some of the cinematography is good, just right for one of these kinds of films, but the direction and acting are second rate and it just doesn’t look good… Though it is a Dan O’Bannon movie, so for some it might be worth checking out just for that. It’s the story of a woman who has called on a private detective to investigate her husband’s activities. No, not that kind. His secret time seems to involve: a lab, the mysterious Doctor Ash, long boxes delivered that may contain old corpses and lots of study of his family tree. In fact, he becomes a bit centered on a dead relative and raw meat! It also stars Robert Romanus, who was giving me flashbacks of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The first half plays like a bad tv show, the second half picks up a bit, starting off with Chris Sarandon’s best scene (an actual good one) straightjacketed in the hospital and it also has some fun creature effects (albeit stop-motion) & some good sets. So it’s not really a good movie, but it is probably the strictest Lovecraft adaptation in all of the feature films based on his stories. So certainly worth watching for that reason alone.

the abomination…
the resurrected 56:42

Okay. I was a bit hesitant to see this. I thought “A western? With Kris Kristfferson?” But we gave it a chance and it was actually good. First off, it’s not a Western (well, it takes place in Texas, but in the last 40 years) and Kris Kristofferson plays a bad guy, which makes it easier to handle him. It’s a generation spanning small town police corruption murder mystery with a good bit of dealing with Texas racial issues. Chris Cooper is a present day sheriff who is trying to come to terms with who his father was (aside from a legendary past sheriff of the town) and his own past. The story circles around an old skeleton found in the desert and the obvious fact the people are hiding things from him. As he was warned, he does find out more than he would have expected. The movie spends quite a bit of time going back and forth between two time periods, but the transitions are very well done. Of course, like everything filmed in Texas it makes the state seem very unappealing (at least to those of us who like greenery).

And on a completely unrelated note… What is up with iTunes 7?
Yes, I was entranced by the coverflow. I had been happily using iTunes 6 and I read the warnings about iTunes 7, so I waited until 7.1 (warnings still) and I upgraded. Well, I do like the coverflow. B if I have the iPod selected in the source list and I click on anything else there, iTunes just vanishes. I tried upgrading to 7.1.1 but that didn’t help. So that was a little annoying but I lived with it. Until I realized that it wasn’t syncing anything to the iPod! So if I added new songs to the playlist, they wouldn’t ever make it over to the iPod! Well, well, well, not wanting to lose my precious coverflow, I am sticking with it for now (though if Songbird picks up something like coverflow I may fly to their coop). I’ve tried all the resetting/restoring/reinstalling… Nothing. But all of my online research has only lead to one other person who has this same problem. Anyway, I don’t know, I guess I’ll just wait until they give me another 30MB download to drag through my 56k. The point is… Coverflow is cute, but I’d watch out for iTunes & (or 7.1 or 7.1.1)

bigger and better things…

Here we are at day one of WordPress. Most people who are reading will be noticing that the penguindevil has moved across from Blogger. So here we are.

I will probably fuss around a bit with it… Of course, I have a little already… As always, once I started tinkering with the template, I started having problems.. All seems well now, and I tested it in all 12 of the browsers I have (yes, even “ie”). So hopefully nothing funky will appear.

Not to fret, all of the posts and comments have come along too. But there won’t be any more posts back there at penguindevil.blogspot.com, and in fact, maybe my other blog will come over too? Who knows.

Anyway, here I be know. Let’s see…

And more updates… I decided to bring my counter stats over from blogspot. After all, why let the trails of all those visitors get forgotten! To make up for it, I swicthed it from counter page loads to “unique visitors”… So there.

mindless self-discovery…

What filmic changes might be approaching? Though it is a most crass question, I will (for a few moments) ponder the notion of upcoming lifestyle changes. Will the baby lead to more films? Fewer? Honestly, I hope for more family time and fewer films, but I realize that I know not what lies ahead… In fact, how to we know what’s already here? I traversed the misinformation highway to that trite bastion of banality… Blogthings. Gosh, some of the quizzes sound entertaining, but they really aren’t. A little pondering and I decided that there wasn’t anything great going on there…

The sucker for multiple choice tests that I am though, I let the site work its magic. In a few too many minutes of examining the site, I learned the following about myself: I’m more of a visionary than a radical, I belong in 1962, my cynicism borders on paranoia, I’m 4% hypochondriac and 92% Socialist, I Passed 8th Grade Science & history, I’m 48% NYC and 16% Boston but I belong in the UK. I am Olive Green, I could be a vegetarian and I should rule Venus. I also am a Centaur who has experienced 56% of Life, is 50% Misanthropic, 24% brutally honest, 30% weird, 48% gentleman and my personality is shared by only 6% of all men. Oh yeah, and I would, on average, sell out for $1,118,111.

So for what it’s worth, there’s that.

Biding the time as the onset of parenthood approaches, the wife’s been trying to get me out and about more (for inebriational entertainments and such) and towards that end, I have attend two feature films in the last 3 days.

First off, my favorite comedy of errors, and just plain “one of my favorites” came to the big screen, albeit in a rather sad form. I know that I’ve seen it too many times but Aliens coming to a theater is a rare occasion. I doubt that I’ve seen it on the big screen since the year it was released… So here it was, and here I went. Well, the print was terribly scratched, which showed its age and let me know right off that it wasn’t the director’s cut (a boy has to hope), but it was worth every penny it costs to see it. First thoughts? Well, while it was a brilliantly constructed masterpiece on its release (and continues to thrill on dvd), watching a twenty year old sci-fi movie on the big screen and two things may become very apparent: blue screen and matte paintings… Scenes that I thought, at one time, to be wondrous were more like, um, “they’re just standing in front of a painting, even the props right next to them aren’t there?”. So with time, one must yield more of the disbelief. But the movie is still great fun. 20 times and, yes, none of the suspense remains, but it’s still worth it to see… and listen to, since one area that Aliens has always excelled at is its quoteability. It may be my favorite quote movie yet: “in the tube, five by five”, “Stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen!”, “yeah, but secreted from what?”, “Yeah…but it’s a dry heat…”. The hours of enrichment those lines have brought to my life are uncountable!

Sadly, of course, it also suffers from the worst last ten minutes of any film. As soon as they get back to the ship, not only does the story get ridiculous, it becomes most unacceptably corny for such an otherwise great action film.

Then just a few hours ago I went to see The Host. Well, I didn’t have any idea what to expect, but this wasn’t it! Basically a Korean comedy monster movie, it was easygoing, action-packed and fun. I really appreciated how they just got right down to business. It’s not far into the movie before the monster is full screen running amok everywhere, which I find to be perfectly acceptable for a monster movie. The lil’cgi monstrosity gets plenty of air time and, though the film is very lighthearted, it also includes: people chomping, the regurgitation of body parts, Agent Yellow, lots of running, some shooting and a greatly inept and irresponsible US Army. Chemicals dumped in the Han River lead to a big thing being created and kidnapping a young girl. Of course, the family sets off in pursuit of her. The CGI isn’t great, but it’s so out in the open that I can’t really have a problem with it, and I thought that the monster was a lot of fun. Anyway, not one for the “own it” pile, but certainly worth seeing if you like nutty monster movies. And as for the humorous parts? I’ve seen some terrible comedic moments in foreign films (Half a Loaf of Kung-Fu, anyone? A Better Tomorrow?), but this movie’s humor is nice, funny and low key.

a clean slate…

Well, those nasty knights are at it again… this time they are accompanied by the haunted seagulls of lost souls. Yes, it is time for La Noche de las Gaviotas (Night of the Seagulls) the final installment of the Blind Dead series! This one continues the trend of “each movie lamer than before” and is a plain old dud. The glorious rotted knights now live in a seaside castle near a frightened village, the folks of which leave out virginal daughters (seven nights every seven years) for the knights dinner. Some city slickers arrive (taking over for the old bejezzus-free doctor) with their fancy brown polyester Italian duds and decide that they know more than the unfriendly locals. Of course, they interfere with the good-natured nightly sacrifices and so the knights come a calling!

Some issues? Well, my two usual problems: the nighttime? They surely could have at least made the nighttime scenes look like they might have been at night, maybe just a thicker blue filter? And also, that damned, unavoidable dubbing. Not only is it irritating, but they’ve given these folks American names! Seeing folks in a Mediterranean village all having names like “Henry Stein” sits a bit funny on the nerves. Then, to top it off, the dead seem less blind and also less dead than before.

High points? Well, the movie starts off with more of the neer-do-well knights back when their clothes were still clean. So that’s good. And, well, the blood scenes at the end were good. Final thoughts? Watch the first and second films. If you like them, then you should have The Blind Dead Collection. Everyone needs a coffin on their shelf.

night of the seagulls 0:07:39

old habits die hard…
night of the seagulls 0:43:43

If you, like me, gain all the knowledge that you have of religion from film, you have maybe noticed that there is a line between that which is good and worthy (Prince of Darkness, the Devils, maybe even the Seventh Sign, for a Hollywood take) and the thousands that are mediocre and those others that will not further your education in any worthwhile fashion (including anything nunsploitation [excluding, of course, the above mentioned]). The Old Testament of all of these would have to be The Exorcist (no, not the version you (thankfully) haven’t seen… and not any of the sequels). Not only is it one of the scariest and creepiest films ever made (I can’t even imagine what it seemed like to theater goers 35 years ago), it is also just a brilliant and wonderful film… But the subject of Catholic Exorcism is is also very interesting. Not just for it’s own merits but because I believe that no matter how huge a percentage of folks claim some kind of Christian faith, I feel that most would also be wary of subscribing to any belief in possession or demons in any real sense. I find it interesting how much folks who subscribed to organized religion feel free to proclaim faith yet to ignore or disbelieve whichever tenets they feel like they can’t buy into. It seems that most churches (including the Roman Catholics and the Anglican Church) have rules, practices and holy men assigned to deal with possessions. Maybe it’s another one of those “Cafeteria Christian” things… Where they like the idea of a christ and a god, but demons? That’s too much, it’s just silly medieval stuff.

Anyway, why this digression on people having faith but only where it suits them? Well, we watched another great exorcism film, the Exorcism of Emily Rose. Based on an incident in the seventies where a German woman died after an exorcism attempt and the priests and her parents were found guilty (though not punished) of manslaughter, it is a rather interesting movie. It’s not particularly creepy or scary but it’s the story of a young woman who receives a visitor in the night while away at college and becomes a bit troubled. The movie takes place after the incident, around the trial of the priest (Tom Wilkinson is great in this role) so alot of it is focused on the limits of faith and the difficult aspects of covering an issue like this in a jury trial. The trial stuff isn’t particularly interesting, but the flashbacks to the exorcism scenes are great fun (and much more family friendly then the Exorcist) and the details of the ritual are good. My only real complaint is that the editing, or whatever, make it flow more like a TV movie or a long episode of some courtroom drama.

Next we have some more down-to-earth bad behavior. After some exposure to Jim Thompson, I have become a big (though not thorough) fan of his work. The Grifters is a wonderful film and after reading The Killer Inside Me, I find his take on the good facade plastered lightly over bad people to be very compelling. I have long been planning on reading Pop. 1280 but instead, I got the disc of Coup de Torchon, a French film that transplants the troubling sheriff of the American south into 1930’s French colonial Africa. It is interesting to see how well it works to takes a racist white minority in the USA and contrast them with colonial Africa. Of course, it works just fine.

Philippe Noiret plays Lucien, an almost unbelievably inept sheriff. He’s easily bribed, avoids confrontation, is frequently cuckolded (in his own house)… Basically a putzy laughing stock, he would be “bungling” but he doesn’t really do enough to earn that title. This reputation is known, not just in his little town, by the law in the nearby city, who also treat him like a joke. One day though, filled with frustration over the constant embarrassing harassment by the local pimps, he heads to the city to complain to his counterparts there… in the midst of them also publicly embarrassing him, he gets a notion to take a joke suggestion a bit too seriously and decides to go back to town and push back. Of course, what separates this from a million other similar stories is that he continues to hide behind his dopey persona as the bad guys fall and others take the blame. It becomes a case of will he get caught and does his remorseless reprisal know any limits?

coup de torchon 0:19:27

taking care of business…
coup de torchon 0:48:00

uncut… and…

So I know that Terry Gilliam is one of the finest filmmakers out there. Four of his films are among my favorites and I like the rest of them too! (well, there’s one that I haven’t seen), but I still must ask… Why does anyone finance his movies? Is he a tax write-off? Or do production companies put aside some of the money they get from the tripe they put out and use it to finance really good films? Well, that said… Somehow I manged to miss the 4 week, 9 theater release of Tideland last fall. In an attempt to rectify that slight, I pre-ordered the DVD and, as rare occurrence as any, I actually watched the movie the day I got it. It goes a little something like this…

Tideland was a great film. I found it very engrossing. From it’s nutty beginning with Jennifer “the fun sister” Tilly and Jeff Bridges as whacked out rock’n’roll junkie parents raising their daughter to lots of time spent showing the girl running through wheat fields, there is lots of fun stuff to look at in this movie. But it’s certainly not for everyone. If you find it boring, don’t say I didn’t warn you! It is much more sedate than the usual wondrous and fantastical extravaganza’s he supplies us with. To use producerspeak, it is sort of Pan’s Labyrinth in the setting of Northfork. A tale of a young girl in harsh circumstances who lives in her own little world of imagination. Not in fantastical way with special effects and nutty make believe characters, she’s just kind of here in the wheat field, talking to the doll heads on her fingers. In fact, that’s pretty much the majority of the film. There is another farm house nearby with some rather odd characters who live in it. Sometimes they seem to be a bit too much, but you get used to it. The little girl, as tragedies and odd circumstances befall her, rarely wavers out of her fantasy land. She seems thoroughly blind to the reality around her as she makes things fit into her comfort zone; not too plot driven, more sort of a “day in the life” kind of thing. But it’s really just a film for watching and listening to. A beautiful landscape, nice cinematography, and enough odd happenings to keep you involved and wondering what sights you’ll see next!

The only downside is that Gilliam does a rather pointless introduction at the beginning of the film, where he warns that some people might not like it. Um? Who wants to be warned by the director that they might not like the movie they’re sitting down to watch? It reminds me of those olden tricks where they announce medical personal will be onsite for those who can’t handle the movie… It’s all right as a joke, but this seemed a bit too serious… And rather unneeded.

Once upon a time in Michigan, there was an eccentric fellow named Kellogg. In his long life, spanning the civil war to the second world war, he invented corn flakes, advocated enemas & vegetarianism, fought against the perils of onanism and the loss of ones precious bodily fluids, exercised, wrote books and advocated eugenics. For a time he directed the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Many decades later, T C Boyle made a comedic novel based around this fellow, his methods and the sanitarium. I don’t know if you’ve read the novel, I haven’t, but I might suggest that if a movie were made out of it by a talented director/producer/screenwriter with an ensemble cast of quirky stars, that it might make a pretty entertaining film.

And, yes, it does. So we took a trip down The Road to Wellville. Alan Parker turns this story into an engaging and fun little comedy. A couple (Matthew Broderick & Bridget Fonda) go off to the sanitarium to improve the husband’s ailing stomach. Under the command of Anthony Hopkins as the brilliantly wonderful, inspiring and ridiculous Doctor Kellogg, they become immersed in an environment of enemas, electric baths, exercise, vegetarianism, onanism, adultery, the good Dr. Spitzvogel’s “therapeutic massage” and all sorts of strange devices. Into the mix comes cereal business chicanery (courtesy of John Cusack), a woman turning green and hallucinations of clothes vanishing off of the ladies and the police and the fire department and a good half-dozen or so deaths. Doctor Kellogg’s story is relayed in an involving, interesting and very entertaining fashion. And most of it is true! A wonderful comedy with some great casting (John Neville!), great set design and a stranger than fiction story.

I also have some paranoias about Mr Unpronounceable. The character was supposedly played by an “Alexander Slanksnis” How do I know this? Because I waited for his name in the credits… In one movie scene, I was convinced that he was Mandy Patinkin. Well, no, this Slaksnis name came up. Still not convinced, I looked up this name. And I was basically able to find nothing. IMDB only lists one other credit for him, and I couldn’t find any biographical references on the web… Well, then looking up old Mandy, I see that he acted in the first Kellogg’s mini wheats commercial? Hmmm… Mystery Mandy look-a-like in a movie about Kellogg, Mandy made a Kellogg advertisement? Slaksnis? If you’re real, stand up and be counted!

Then my big failure. One that I think I have failed before so I swear I’ll dump this disc and forget about it. So I watched Autopsy. Another of those Giallo films, the most over-rated genre I know of… Another badly dubbed (the Italian soundtrack seems to have no subtitles), dull, 1970’s bad dream. At first it’s hard to make out what it is, the credits start rolling with sound effects that make you wonder if you are about to watch a porno or a haunted house movie and then it moves straight to images of solar flares and a naked lady slashing her wrists and some guy pulling a plastic bag over his head… and they say the moon makes you crazy! People killing themselves with submachine guns, killing their children… Yes, it’s just another day in Rome. As with most of these, they lay the “craziness” on soo thick it seems just really dumb. I mean, shooting yourself with a machine gun? That might work in a comic book, but not a movie. Before the feature even starts, you have to think, “Give me a break.”. And then they just boringly, badspeakingly and baddressingly try to unfold this murder mystery. Of course, it features a priest who’s an ex-race car driver, a lecherous old man, a medical student, corpses who rise up and smile… Oh yes, one thing this does better than most is the gore. The early morgue scenes are fun (if a bit too high on the dreaminess factor) and there are some interesting “suicides”. These scenes are fun, well-goried, well-done and plentiful. But the rest? It’s just too much fluff.


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