i live in the weak and the wounded

Like they say you have to do hard time to learn hard crime, I guess you have to go into a mental institution to become really insane. Spending a week doing hazmat cleanup in a gigantic old abandoned mental home and something is bound to go terribly wrong with you. And sometimes when wrong things happen, there is no going back, only forward into more and more wrongs.

I’ve always been fascinated by the late, great Danvers mental hospital so, when I heard that they made a movie there, I just had to see it. That movie is Session 9. A little movie about some hazmat guys who head to the abandoned hospital to do the environmental cleanup. Though Session 9 is a good and entertaining horror/suspense film, with a place like Danvers, the building is the real star. The hospital is so rundown and creepy that you almost just need to push a camera around to make a horror movie

 

Danvers Hospital

 

Water Torture

 

Featuring a cast of unknowns, Matt from Pecker and David Caruso, who I’ve always loathed (especially in his terrible current role on CSI) but who doesn’t really bother me in this one. The antics of the cast are rather secondary (well, until things really start to go wrong) but the plot is good and some of the characters can grow on you, though they are all kind of jerkies. Luckily, they do more than just push a camera around the dark, puddled hallways. They add a good level of human trauma, paranoia, jealousy and conflict to keep the story going. This is another one of those where you know that something is starting to go terribly wrong, but you don’t know the what or the who of it and it just seems that opening that box of tapes in the basement was a bad idea. Anyway, so these guys go into Danvers to clean it up and while fussing around in the basement, one of them finds a box of tapes labeled “evidence” and, of course, opens it up and starts listening to them. The tapes are the recordings of therapy sessions between a psychiatrist, a teenage girl and her three other personalities… These tapes form the backdrop of the movie and add an unpleasing tone to the emergence of something wrong and the rapid disintegration of the entire situation.

In addition to these unsettling tapes being played, they throw in: more creepy voices, unreliable power, the requisite wheelchair in the hallway, puddles and drips, basements at night, splitting the party up, multiple eyeball pokes, some insanity, some carnage, some betrayal (very violent and insane betrayal) and lots of great shots of the Hospital. Including a number of creepy spaces, and you can’t help but wonder how much of it was the actual condition of the hospital when they went in there.

 

Gorgoroth by Beste

 

Gorgoroth by Beste

Oh yeah, and there are some deaths, too…

 

All in all, I thought it was pretty good. The lead character is very well played and you can’t help but feel his desperation, the mystery is well presented and the movie is creepy and actually gets pretty tense towards the end.

Also, in case anyones excitement has waned from the landmark a month and a half ago of PD post #200, I believe that this is “Movie viewing #400” on this blog. So there, is that worthy of a beer? I still wish I would have started earlier, as 2003 was really my favorite (and most excessive) movie watching year.



a double shot of christmas spirits

Yes, it’s holiday time again and you know what that means! Christmas movies! Last night we hunkered down with our Christmas movie pals for the annual Christmas Evil showing! You know, I actually think I like this more each time I see it. Another one of those old classics brought back to life by the wonderful folks at Troma (of course), this is easily the best Christmas horror film out there. No competition. Brandon Maggert plays Harry, a young boy whose love of Christmas is upset buy witnessing his mother put out the stocking for Santa in a way much different then what he was used to. He grows up to be a manager at a toy factory where he remains obsessed with Santa Claus and toys for the kiddies and Christmas… So obsessed that he can’t stand any criticism of the holiday or bad boys and girls. He keeps watch on the kids in the neighborhood, noting their behaviors in great big “good” and “bad” books. Then, on Christmas Eve, he sets off to do the Santa thing. With a home-made suit, that is genuinely one of the best Santa costumes I’ve seen, and a white van with a sleigh painted on the side, he goes about his rounds: delivering toys to the good kids and treating the bad folks how they deserve to be treated.

 

Christmas Evil

standing too close to the chimney

 

 

Christmas Evil

ho ho ho

 

Maggert gives an inspired performance as the crazy-man, everyman, Santa-man who fights for the spirit of Christmas on his own terms. Knowing that Christmas is more important than, well, anything else, he leaves behind such outdated topics as laws and he brings cheer or havoc wherever he goes!

And we also watched the 1984 TV version of A Christmas Carol starring George C Scott as Scrooge and David Warner as Bob Crachit. I thought this was a great version. Richly told, with great actors, and a level of depth to the story greater than I remember in other versions, this seems flawless. In addition to the above well-played and involving story, Scott is great as Scrooge and it features some great ghosts (especially Edward Woodward as Christmas Present).

 

Edward Woodward

christmas present

 



better dead than red

Okay, I admit I have as many issues with Michael Moore as the next guy. He has an unpleasant personality, he can rely on a mind-numbing slamming of his message home over and over, he uses tactics that are corny and, well, over played and melodramatic. In Sicko, his display in front of Guantanamo Bay was as irrational and silly as when he put the photograph of the murdered girl on Chuckie Heston’s driveway, lame and ill thought-out attempts at making some kind of emotional statement directed at the absurdly incorrect people…. But through all the hogwash and humor, his message is a strong one, a message that has remained the same message through his career. No matter what the subject matter of the movie (or his seeming obsession with Canada or his “anti-Americanism”), when you get down to it, they all have one focus. Which is that in this country, it is acceptable and expected for organizations to pursue profit above all else, with little (if any) concern for anyone else. And, of course, this message doesn’t really mean much unless it is packaged with examples showing that things don’t have to be like this. All of this really comes to the forefront in his newest, Sicko. Like most of his movies, watching how things work here and then how things work in the rest of the DemoCapitalistic first world makes one feel gullible and lame to be an American and to not be either leaving or actually changing things here.

Sicko is the story of how the US medical system has no concern with making anyone better, instead it is all consumed with profit. In fact, the public is stuck between a two-way battle for profits! From the HMO’s side, doing the most billable treatment with the least effort (in cahoots with the pharmaceutical companies who want to sell as many overpriced and unneeded drugs to everyone, even if it kills them and even if they don’t need them) and, from the insurances companies side, finding any excuse to pay for as little treatment as possible, even if it leads to the death of your patients. Unlike Moore and a lot of other people, I don’t really blame the insurance and health companies for this. The American obsession with profit, wealth and power coupled with politicians who are paid by big business to do their billing, and, well, what else would you expect. Our view of business and the strange fear of anything that could be misconstrued as socialism is the reason that this stuff happens. There would need to be an enormous shift in the way that the people in this country think and act before any of this stuff will improve. But watching Moore’s movies and seeing how other countries do things, it is a bit wrenching how everyone and everything is sold out for profits under a big blanket of lies. The most intriguing part of the film was the tape recording of President Nixon when he bascially approved changing the American medical system to an all-profit, minimal treatment system. Great. I would say that it all makes me want to emigrate to another country, but I’ve always wanted to do that anyway. New Zealand anyone?

Yes, regardless of what you might say about his ethics, or the particular examples that he uses of situations that he takes advantage of, he has a well-documented and pretty obvious point that communities and people in this country mean little to the powers that be except for their role as a profit-base to organize their methods around. It was a telling point that the old Member of Parliament made when he said that “keeping people poor makes them hopeless and when people are hopeless, they don’t vote. It the people would vote for someone who actually supported them, it would be an economic revolution”

And then, a fellow at work turned me onto this site (yes, another quiz) Glassboth.org, where you enter your views on various issues and they show you which presidential candidate you are the most similar to. I ended up with someone that I hadn’t even heard of… Mike Gravel… But after looking into his shtick (sadly, on youtube), I do think he’s a pretty good guy, even if he is a democrat.

How you compare

 

  • 1 Mike Gravel 93% similarity
  • 2 Dennis Kucinich 90% similarity
  • 3 Christopher Dodd 81% similarity
  • Mike Gravel shares a 93% similarity with your beliefs

    former Senator, (D-AK)

    Mike Gravel was born on May 13, 1930. He is a Democrat from Alaska. He served the state of Alaska as a Senator in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1981. He is primarily known for his efforts in ending the draft following the Vietnam War. While a Senator, Gravel spoke the Pentagon Papers into public record.

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    Social Security very similar find out why
    Taxes and Budget very similar find out why
    Abortion and Birth Control very similar find out why
    Iraq and Foreign Policy very similar find out why
    Trade and Economics very similar find out why
    Health Care very similar find out why
    Civil Liberties and Domestic Security very similar find out why
    Environment and Energy very similar find out why
    Education very similar find out why
    Gun Control similar find out why

     



to click? no?

Okay, so I see how lots of folks want to make a living with their blogs and websites, more power to them I say. So I understand the use of things like Adsense to put little ad’s on their blogs, and funny little things like what us Amazon Associates do with all the movies having links to (generally) Amazon… But I am a bit put off by this Contentlink thing. When I see a link, especially one that is both underlined and a different color, I assume that the page author put it there to tie in with their subject (see this picture, check this website, buy this movie). Now though, I am finding more and more links that are just ad’s in the blog content. Not only that, but they are hard to ignore because 1) the words linked tend to be subjects (which throws me a bit, “why is Mac a link?” and then it’s not even a link to Apple or to a Macintosh dealer, but one of those crappy generic link collection pages), and 2) they have big balloons that pop up when you mouse over them. Having a subject linked leads me to believe that I am about to click to a definition or wiki page on the matter, not some vaguely related advertisement… For instance, a link on the term “desktop publishing” that brings up an ad window for Microsoft office?

Anyway, I don’t like it. And while I’m on the subject, I can’t stand those sort of websites (like findstuff.com, which I found a contentlink to) that are “original content free”, nothing but sucked in links to other sites… I guess it had to happen once people realized that you really could make money online, but the proliferation of sites that have no content except for automatically trawled content from other sites really bugs me. It’s the WWW version of spam. As I said, I think it’s great if someone has product or content that they would like to generate some money off of, but these spam e-mails and directory sites are just annoying and lame ways for people to try and generate money in any effortless way that they can and it’s sad that they have to fill the internet with this stuff, like billboards cluttering up the highway.



gummy gummy hey

What do you get when you mix a seasonal town, a business-minded mayor, a new sheriff, a silver spoon marine biologist, an old sea dog and twenty five feet of killing machine? You get, of course, Jaws! Another visual treat from the past. A fun filled monster movie with a trio of determined heroes, a stubborn bureaucrat, and the biggest darned shark head you’ll ever lay eyes on!

 

Jaws

no, not this one…

 

Though it’s not as scary as in the days of yore, it is still a great movie. Sure, the effects maybe aren’t what they used to be, but its only really noticeable during the close-up’s and during those scenes, you’ve got other stuff to think about! Roy Scheider is a small town sheriff on Amity Island (the late 70’s were a bad time for Amity’s) when a man-eating shark makes its appearance on the eve of the towns big 4th of July festival. Of course, the mayor doesn’t want to make a big deal and scare away the tourists, so Roy, soon joined by a marine biologist (Richard Dreyfuss, looking oddly young), goes about trying to make people listen. Of course, no one does…

 

Jaws

is that water turning to wine?

 

Inspired by the reward a women offers for the shark after it eats her son, the movie perks up when grizzled and grumpy, shark hunting old mercenary sea dog Quint joins the effort. Robert Shaw really takes the movie as Quint, a charming character, in a very uncharming fashion, and the three of them spent the second half of the movie rolling about on the sea, drinking, singing old drinking songs and trying to get this damned shark!

 

Jaws

yes, it is quality male-bonding…

 

What I had remembered most from my original viewing was being quite moved by their rendition of “Show me the way to go home”, but aside from that, the John Williams score is a bit much for this film, way too dramatic, as is his usual style. But of course, there is drama and there is action a-plenty, but it is just a great film. There are nice quiet scenes that aren’t dull and do a good job building the characters and the story, great cinematography and directions and, as mentioned, a great starring cast!

 

Jaws

but we know where it is headed…

 



we’re all hurtin’, man…

but especially after watching this mediocre movie, The Cave. Strangely, it arrived the same year as the vastly better, The Descent, which is well worth watching (feel free to read about my three viewings of that). This one starts out ok: a nice title sequence, some gruff fellows locating and going through a creepy old church in Romania, then getting dumped into a cave below it. But then? Well, we cut to the present and things head a bit south. We are introduced to our dull batch of buff Hollywood actors, with their bad dialogue, flat characters and dorky machismo. It was just like I remember the preview being.

Of course, it’s not all bad… Anything that involves caves is good for just that reason and the caves here are nice, though strangely bright for being a “mile below the surface”. The rest is a bit of a mixed-bag: the creatures are creepy, but too overdone for one to be able to suspend any disbelief, leading to “the twist”, which, while it is sort of clever, suffers from being too preposterous to even give a nod towards. And, as a horror-type movie, well… It’s not tense, scary or suspenseful. There is some action, but it’s just moderate and predictable. The only part I liked took place on a terribly high underground cliff, and that was entertaining, but the movie is just hard to buy into, and it doesn’t really compel you to want to try. It was fine as something to play in the background while feeding the baby.



an egyptian feast

Blood FeastI braved the out of doors for another film at the Clinton Street. It seems to be the only theater that I go to anymore… I mean, yes, they have beer, but it’s not the best, and the sound is guaranteed to be quite bad, and I got the largest hunk of old gum that I’ve ever seen stuck to my shoe (at least a cubic inch!), but it’s a great place. For as long as I can remember and through a stream of owners, they have continued to play obscure, unusual and cult films, frequently for very small audiences (I’ve seen as small as 3). I imagine that they have stayed afloat due to nearly 30 years of continual Rocky Horror Picture Show playings, but I’m glad that they have continued to play whatever they feel like. I dare you, go ahead and click their name to check out their offerings!

This week it was another old classic, Blood Feast! From 1963, its an early classic ‘gore” film from Herschell Gordon Lewis and David Friedman, The story of a woman looking to have an exotic party for her daughter when she comes into contact with a odd fellow who is a exotic caterer who also seems to be looking for the opportunity to stage an Egyptian feast (the sort that hasn’t been served for 5000 years!) to bring his beloved goddess Ishtar back to life. Of course, this feast involves body parts from numerous young ladies (including a friend of Suzette, the guest of honor)… So the path to this party is littered with bloody dismembered corpses.

The killings are quite fun and gory in a terribly fake sort of way, but entertaining none-the-less. The overacting by Mal Arnold as Faud Ramses the evil caterer, is quite entertaining, but he is a bit ridiculous as an Egyptian (certainly no Omar Sharif), and his statue of Ishtar seems to be a mannequin covered in gold spray paint, but he is certainly quite naughty and remorseless in his focus on Ishtar. Of course, the police come along, following the trail of bodies, and here is one of the high points of the film. While the terrible acting of the police captain is moderately entertaining, William Kerwin does a great job as Detective Pete, who is working hard on the case, and who conveniently is dating Suzette. All leading to a not too dramatic climax, but one that is well worth seeing!

Lewis and Friedman pack a lot into barely over an hour and manage to be fun the whole time. While it is quite campy by our standards, I can’t help but think that in 1963 is was intended as a serious scary gore film, rather than the corny movie it is by our standards.



not quite so splendid

Well, for sure my region free player has given up the ghost. We watched The Magnificent Amberson’s and this French disc gave my Malata a final chance. Sometimes you just have to give up, which I think is what RKO did with this movie. We had been pondering it due to watching Citizen Kane and this is supposed to be one of Welles big classics, after all, it is the film he followed Kane with. Caitlin just read the novel and really liked it, so we had to see it. Of course, we had to opt for the 1942 version rather than the 2002 TV movie… Sadly this classic version of The Magnificent Amberson’s had about an hour of it removed, it seems to lighten up the story. I don’t think I know anyone (except my mother) who would be in support of taking out stuff so that movies aren’t such downers. The thought that they just destroy these films and that studio executives can been so short-sighted about the value of these movies is weird and disturbing. As it stands, this is still pretty good. It was nicely cast, well shot and had the bones of a good historical family drama.

 

Magnificent Amberson

sweet little george

 

Joseph Cotton stars as Eugene, and does another great job. He is a young fellow in love. But he makes one mistake too many and his girl, Isabel Amberson, hooks up with another fellow instead. Eventually Eugene moves away and Isabel and her husband have a child… George, a terrible little boy at that, elitist and arrogant. Many years later, Eugene comes back to town with his daughter and attends a ball at the Amberson’s mansion. Of course, Eugene and Isabel are still in love and the boy and Eugene’s daughter are in love, but the boy just can’t seem to get over his overwhelming dislike of Eugene and the pain of the attention his mother gives him, as he feels that Eugene (though now a successful inventor of horseless carriages) is far beneath the Amberson’s level. This leads to all sorts of troubles for everyone, especially the Amberson’s.

I imagine with what is on display here, that this may well have been another great classic film. Alas, too much is lost here (and actually burned, apparently), but it is still quite worth seeing. As you can witness a severe example of what studios can do if left alone. If the lost footage turns out to still exist, it would be great to see it all reassembled.



eight is enough

Though you wouldn’t think it from my lack of posting, I have actually managed to get some movies into this rather strange feeling week.

First of, we watched The Last Winter. An intriguing supernatural/crazypeople story played out in a desolate arctic landscape, brought to you by the folks behind Wendigo… It’s one of those where they are isolated and they aren’t sure if someone is going insane, is possessed or if there is something else out there in the dark. As such, it’s hard to not compare it to The Thing. But they really aren’t that similar. Ron Perlman heads up a crew of oil exploration folks who are slowed down by the weather and hoping to get a green light from their environmental guy to go ahead with their work. But James LeGros is the environmental impact guy and he is intent that something is wrong out there… And not just the temperature. Maybe there are reasons to keep the permafrost frozen… Or is it just bigeye? Soon one of them starts acting strange and seeing things, and then people start dying and then there’s more seeing things. Are people hallucinating ghostly beasts out there in the dark? Are they going crazy? Then more people die. There is even some “end pollution” message stuff in there, played out against the continual strife between Perlman and LeGros. All in all, I thought it was entertaining and worth watching for a sort-of subtle horror-type movie. I liked it quite well. I love the environment of the ant/arctic and it’s got some nice corpse and gruesome effects.

 

The Last Winter

what’s under that box out there?

 

 

The Last Winter

clothes are strongly recommended

 

We also watched Doctor Zhivago. Something that I vaguely remembered from watching on tv as a kid. It is quite the classic! Epic in scope and surrounded by historical events. The story of a young man from a good background who becomes a doctor and falls in love with a woman. The trouble is that, though he is Russian and is from a wealthy family, the revolution begins he becomes a bit persecuted. Oh, and the other trouble is that the woman he loves is not his intended bride. Of course, he marries his intended, but he and this other woman seem to conveniently turn up in the same places. So it’s bascially the story of a love that won’t die played out in the background of an upper-class doctor becoming a comrade doctor, but he doesn’t seem to mind at all. Doctor Zhivago himself seems a bit dulled to all of the political struggle going on around him. He just happily continues on, through poverty and persecution, carrying on this affair whenever it works out. At times he seems almost simple minded. But it is Omar Sharif, and with his good looks and the easy going charm and goodnaturedness he shows in this, you just can’t help but like him, even though it’s really an adultery story.

There is some wonderful cinematography, great sets and a top-notch cast, including Julie Christie, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and, yes, Klaus Kinski!



 

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