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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SHOOT 'EM UP (2008)

If you’re reading this blog in general and the FLICK YOU! section in particular, I’d wager you’re more or less on my cinematic wavelength and are able to appreciate highbrow fare like SOPHIE’S CHOICE while getting your grindhouse on and merrily wallowing in flicks loaded to the gills with gore, monsters, titties, ass-whuppin’, rock ‘n’ roll, and plain old rampaging pandemonium. Moviegoers of our more or less open-minded ilk can readily enjoy a picture that has nothing on its mind other than wanting to entertain the living shit out of us, and to hell with any delusions of grandeur.

Which brings me to SHOOT ‘EM UP.

When this flick came out a few months back, I’d heard from several people who’d seen it that it was offensive in its “irresponsible” violence and almost total lack of a plot, and that assessment intrigued me for two reasons:

1. Irresponsible violence and an almost total lack of plot are two elements that can sometimes spell an entertaining viewing experience for an action movie junkie.

2. The people who told me they hated it are folks that in no uncertain terms I consider to be complete and utter douchebags across the board, and a film that smacks of anything less than tony aspirations is anathema to their snooty sensibilities.

With those points taken into consideration I finally got around to checking out SHOOT ‘EM UP for myself, and was very pleasantly surprised by its simplicity and Jack-Russell-Terrier-on-Benzedrine action.

What passes as a plot involves a mysterious carrot-eating badass named Smith (my man Clive Owen) who steps in when he sees an extremely pregnant woman being pursued by a horde of heavily armed nasties in black couture (their look is kind of mid-eighties tacky, as opposed to our hero’s stylish leather trench coat). Coming to her rescue, carrot-guy proves to be a marksman of such talent that it’d make both Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo put on frilly dresses and shriek “Jesus H. Christ!!!,” plus he’s such a mensch that he even delivers the woman’s baby in the middle of a hellacious firefight. Sadly, the mother catches a stray bullet in the cranium, so our hero makes off with the newborn baby boy, having zero clue as to why the bad guys wanted the mother dead in the first place or why their sights are now set on a kid who’s been out of the womb for about three minutes. Enlisting the aid of lactating dominatrix “D.Q.” (Eye-talian deity who walks the earth among us mere mortals, Monica Bellucci) as a wet nurse, Smith embarks on an odyssey of mayhem with uber-asshole villain Paul Giamatti hot on his heels. As bullets fly all over the place and CGI blood bukkakes the camera’s lens, there remains one simple question: exactly why the fuck is all this going on? The answers to that question work strictly on a comic book level, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun getting to them.

SHOOT ‘EM UP is basically a live-action cartoon played with a completely straight face, and if you approach it with that in mind you’ll probably find it to be a hoot. Owen rocks as an improbable badass, Bellucci reigns as a literal Madonna/whore (my god, those big brown eyes!), Giamatti chews the scenery with shameless gusto, and the whole thing was just so over-the-top that I had to giggle along with the feature-length joke. In fact, there were a couple of moments when I actually exclaimed “Oh, gimme a fucking break!” while laughing my ass off, so TRUST YER BUNCHE and check this one out.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

RAMBO (2008)

So I’ve seen the new Rambo flick, and it’s quite different from what I expected.

Twenty years after his Afghanistan adventure in RAMBO III, Rambo’s old, bloated, and hanging around in Thailand, eking out a living catching enormous cobras. This idyllic existence is interrupted when a bunch of Christian missionaries and doctors show up and ask him to take them upriver into Burma — read “Myanmar” —, where an evil warlord is driving around the place blowing up villages, allowing his soldiers to violate and dismember innocent people, and enslaving boys for his army (and his creepy pedophilic lusts). Rambo refuses their request. Think about it: the guy’s a killing machine who survived unspeakable shit in Viet Nam, and even he won’t go to Burma, so what does that tell you? But even Rambo’s resolve can be swayed by the mystical power of pussy, so the dumbass takes this squad of suicidal morons on their journey after exchanging some incomprehensible and slurred “deep” dialogue with a blonde missionary (Julie Benz, better know as Darla from TV's BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL).

The wannabe-APOCALYPSE NOW river journey moves like molasses on a cold day, and the audience is roused back to attention by a brief bit involving Burmese river pirates getting offed by Rambo. After witnessing the slaughter, the head missionary launches into the predictable “violence is never justified” speech, solely so we can see him eat his words later in the story, after which Rambo dumps them at their destination and fucks off for home. But then surprise, surprise, the missionaries end up in the hands of the sadistic bad guys and Rambo is called in by some official-type guy to guide a team of mercenaries to where he dropped off the missionary idiots. That narrative move once more forces us along for a boring river journey, but this second trip is at least spiced up with a bunch of mercenaries straight out of central casting and ostensibly lead by a bald Brit whose over-the-top “hard” histrionics and accent caused the opening night audience to erupt with laughter the second he opened his mouth, his semi-paraphrasing of Robert DeNiro’s “You talkin’ ta me?” bit from TAXI DRIVER being a particular crowd-pleaser.

Oh, and did I mention that before this epic voyage gets underway Rambo brings the proceedings to a dead halt by stopping to hand-forge a sword/machete?

When Rambo and the lads finally arrive, the mercenaries reject our hero’s intent to aid them, spurning him and his folded compound bow, so of course they immediately run into some of the bad guys and Rambo comes to the rescue, handing out arrows through the head like Halloween candy. Usurping the leadership role, Rambo leads the mercs into the enemy stronghold where they rescue the missionaries — while the bulk of the Burmese villains take part in a rave-as-prelude-to-gang-rape-of-native-girls, complete with purple smoke grenades for ambience, and their leader pooches an underage boy — and make their way back to the boat, just a wee bit ahead of heavily armed pursuers. It all ends in an ultra-violent firefight in which the head missionary kills a guy with a rock, thereby learning that violence can indeed by justified and proving once and for all that foreshadowing is a bitch. THE END.

This all may sound like a typical Rambo outing, but it’s significantly different from its predecessors in its listlessness when the violence isn’t occurring. Back in the days when he wasn’t seventy-five years old Stallone could provide entertainment just by standing there, keeping the audience’s attention with endless shots of his ripped-to-the-point-of-being-disturbing physique, but now he’s draped in a shapeless caftan and meanders from scene to scene like he’s half-asleep. And if I had to endure one more closeup of his hungover bloodhound stare and pursed lips…

The lack of “Yoo-Ess-Ay” jingoism was refreshing, but it was tough to give a fuck about the missionaries because they were just so balls-out stupid, proceeding upriver despite witnessing Rambo kill a boatload of pirates who intended them all manner of harm, as well as knowing full well they’re wandering into a hell on earth. Altruism is great, but there comes a point when the self-preservation instinct overrides one’s desire to preach the gospel while having a bayonet shoved through one’s forehead.

Which brings me to the gore.

I love ultra-violent, gory entertainment. I always have, but I was genuinely shocked by just how totally out of control the carnage on display in RAMBO was, a display of exploding bodies, dismemberments, beheadings, people being blasted into chopped meat by heavy artillery, rape (thankfully not as graphic as it could have been), murder of children, and literal showers of offal. Usually these elements are part and parcel for acton/exploitation films, but thanks to how tight the MPAA has kept the reigns on such content I have to admit I wasn’t ready for it. I’d liken it to a fusion of the most excessive moments of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and SOLDIER BLUE , with a drop of APOCALYPSE NOW-style acid surrealism, and if the audience’s giddy, giggling response to it is any indication I’d say that it’s just what they were looking for.

The audience I saw it with was composed largely of twenty-somethings who’d grown up with repeated airings of Rambo movies on cable, VHS or DVD, and engaged in their own shoot ‘em up fantasies with video games, and as such they reacted to the carnage with the glee one sees while watching someone impressively rack up point after point on an arcade shooter game. While the previous Rambo movies admittedly trivialized war into entertainment, those films date back twenty years; the public’s access to graphic violence now includes simulated digital battlefields of myriad types that allow the user to, in effect, be armchair Rambos and rain grisly devastation upon their CG foes. That’s all well and good — better that than those same people getting their hands on firearms and shooting up high schools — but the audience’s reaction to the violence made me question just how desensitized the moviegoing public has become, and it certainly isn’t due to a surfeit of Hollywood-produced, hyper-violent movies. Sure, there are the SAW torture porn flicks, but those are the exception rather than the rule, and even action films, once the genre absolutely guaranteed to provide vicious mayhem, have pussied out in pursuit of the potentially more lucrative PG-13 dollar (just look at the last DIE HARD movie to see what I mean). And even R-rated action films seem far more tame than what was allowed to rampage across the screen from the early 1970’s through the early 1990’s, with only rare exceptions like STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) and KILL BILL VOL. 1 (2003) keeping hope alive. So if you’re not too discriminating when it comes to such considerations as a decent script, brisk pacing, believable characters — or characters at all — some kind of point to all of it, RAMBO provides a concentrated blast of outright carnage that is quite dazzling in its sheer gratuity and bloodshed.

But the thing that most got to me about all of this was the number of parents who brought their very little kids to see RAMBO. I long ago realized that I’d be a rather lenient parent when it came to what I would allow my theoretical kids to see, having seen R-rated fare since I was six years old and turning out relatively okay, but in now way would I have brought any kid under twelve to see this one. Which is why it broke my heart to see an adorable little girl of perhaps four on line with her folks. When the film ended I noticed the kid and her parents had been seated a few rows in back of myself and Suzi, and after witnessing the hour-and-a-half of slaughter and the audience’s laughter at it, the adorable child held her father’s hand and observed, “That was a funny movie, daddy!”

Make of that what you will.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!-THE FONZ IN BRONZE???


All I have to say on this one is that if the Fonz is getting a statue, I demand a thirty-foot marble likeness of Captain Kirk be erected in Iowa. From the Associated Press:

Fonzie to Get Bronze Statue in Milwaukee
By CARRIE ANTLFINGER

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Aaaaaaay! The ultra-cool Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli is coming to Milwaukee — permanently. A bronze statue of the leather-jacketed biker from "Happy Days" will be erected in Milwaukee, where the TV sitcom was set, now that local groups have raised the $85,000 needed to do it.

"Holy mackerel!" said actor Henry Winkler, who played Fonzie during the show's run from 1974 to 1984, when he first heard about the effort to immortalize the character. "The second thing that hit me was, 'What a phenomenal compliment,'" he told The Associated Press in a phone interview this week from his home in California. "I mean it's not often you have a dream when you're 7 lying in your bed, you get to live your dream out and then someone is going to erect a life-size statue of your creation. "I don't take it lightly, that's for sure."

Winkler planned to be in Milwaukee Friday morning for the announcement that money needed for the project has been raised.

Dave Fantle, spokesman for VISIT Milwaukee, which markets the area, said the idea for the statue came from his group and Spirit Milwaukee, a civic booster group, about a year ago. They had learned that the TV Land icon statue program was planning a statue of Fonzie and soon learned it was interested in putting it in Milwaukee. The effort was responsible for a Mary Tyler Moore statue in Minneapolis and one of Bob Newhart in Chicago, among others, but the cable network later ended the program. So the two Milwaukee groups took it upon themselves to get donors who gave $2,000 or more, including TV Land, to raise more than $85,000. In addition, funds were raised from nearly 300 T-shirts and "Bronze the Fonz" thumbs-up cookies sold at a Jefferson, Wis., bakery.

Steven Palchinski, 22, of Martensville, Saskatchewan in Canada, said he would like to take a trip to Milwaukee to see the Fonz statue. He said he's been watching "Happy Days" since the early 1990s and liked how the show used Fonz to help prompt kids to read or show emotion. In one episode Richie Cunningham almost dies in a bike accident and the Fonz started to cry at his bedside. "This was put in because some teachers wanted to show their autistic students that emotion was OK and they used the Fonz in all his ... awesomeness to prove that to them," Palchinski said in an e-mail. "It was sheer genius in my opinion."

In November, he even started a group on the social networking site Facebook called "Bronze the Fonz." It has four members so far and Palchinski expects to get more soon.

Beauty, or in this place cool, is in the eye of the beholder. Mike Brenner, who started Hotcakes Gallery four years ago, said the statue — which he called a monstrosity — was originally billed as art but after some in the art community complained, it was called a "trinket." He plans to close his gallery permanently, partly because of the statue. Brenner already wasn't doing well financially and blames it on the lack of local interest in the arts and city leaders' lack of vision. The few pieces of public art in the city are poorly maintained, Brenner said. He said he wouldn't have a problem with the statue if city leaders did more to promote the local arts. The statue perpetuates the perception that Wisconsin doesn't have more to offer than the Packers, serial killer Jeffery Dahmer and the show "Happy Days," Brenner said. "Can we just try to move forward, a little bit?" he said. "It's a publicity stunt that has dramatic effects about our perception."

Winkler said everyone has a right to his or her own opinion. He personally loves the Fonz. "He introduced me to the world," Winkler said. "He put a roof over my head. He put my children through college. He was fun to play and he introduced me to a second family who I love to this day."

Fantle said he's spoken with Brenner and another disenchanted gallery owner and hopes everyone can "live harmoniously with the Fonz." "We can either run and hide from our traditions — beer, brat, fish fries, custard, "Happy Days," etc. or realize that they all embody good times and we should celebrate this," Fantle said in an e-mail.

Plans call for dedicating the statue around Labor Day, which coincides with Harley-Davidson Inc.'s 105th anniversary celebration. That's set for Aug. 28-31. An exact spot hasn't been chosen, but it will likely be along the Milwaukee River.

Winkler, who's also a producer and director, just finished 12 performances as Captain Hook in "Peter Pan" in London. He has also written a series of best-selling children's books called, "Hank Zipzer: The World's Greatest Underachiever."

Friday, January 25, 2008

RAMBO SPRINGS ETERNAL


Today marks the release of RAMBO, the fourth in the Stallone-driven franchise and the first series entry in two decades, and I can't wait for the work day to end so I can see it this evening among the foaming-at-the-mouth Brooklyn multiplex throng.

John Rambo was probably the number one action hero icon of the Reagan-era 1980's, a one-man army who meted out martial payback to the enemies of both himself and his country in various inventive and ultra-violent ways. A physically and mentally-scarred veteran of the Viet Nam conflict, Rambo could be summed up as sort of a modern Zen warrior who lost himself in the "now" of combat, a mostly stoic state of being well suited to Sylvester Stallone's melancholy, hangdog expression and monosyllabic acting chops, as well as being just what audiences at the time needed by way of a hero every bit as hollow as the times that spawned him.

Debuting in 1982's FIRST BLOOD, Rambo innocently finds himself on the wrong side of a mountain town's hard-assed sheriff (played to perfection by Brian Dennehy) and, after enduring one abuse too many and recalling his torture at the hands of the Viet Cong, escapes into the hills to agonizingly kick the asses of anyone ill-advised enough to try and hunt him. His pursuers quickly discovered his guerilla combat and survival skills far outstripped their own and consequently simmered in a heady broth of their own relative impotence. By the time Col. Trautman (Richard Crenna), the officer who trained and commanded Rambo back in Viet Nam shows up to more or less talk him down from his destructive rampage, most of the police force are seriously injured or (unintentionally) dead and much of the town's main thoroughfare is a flaming ruin. It all ends with Rambo's arrest, and we, the viewers, feel saddened at the sorry fate of a man who had been one of his country's finest soldiers and returned home to find his kind unappreciated and labeled "baby killers." Rambo was not some mindless engine of sadistic destruction; he was quiet and thoughtful, and despite his mad skills it all amounted to a case of "don't start none, won't be none," with the sheriff going out of his way to make sure that there was "some." Rambo's predicament was that of the returned and rejected PTSD-suffering veteran writ large as pop entertainment and, in FIRST BLOOD anyway, handled somewhat believably.

Then came RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985), the film I consider to be the textbook example of "action figure cinema."


No, it's not a toy ad. It's a movie poster!

In this first sequel, Rambo — looking more fit and ripped than Stallone ever had up to that point — is sprung from his military prison sentence to get photographic proof that there are no more P.O.W.'s left behind in Viet Nam, and in no time flat he finds out that such is not the case. Going wildly off-mission and armed to the teeth with an array of weaponry that would have made G.I. Joe turn green with envy, Rambo becomes a shirtless '80's fusion of Mack Bolan, Captain America, and Tarzan of the Apes, totally at home in the jungle and kicking ass like a motherfucker.


The new, improved Rambo; more superhero than war hero.

With a "script" co-authored by Sylvester Stallone and John (CONAN THE BARBARIAN) Milius, there was no way the film wasn't going to be a balls-out Warrior-with-a-capital-W movie. There's the requisite explosions and graphic violence that would later come to be par for the course in the genre, both directed with equal fury against the Viet Cong and an evil Russian commander, and there's even a hot native chick who serves as Rambo's comrade-in-arms, a rare feminine presence in this type of flick who "gets" where Rambo's coming from and is in essence the warrior goddess counterpart to his god of war persona.


Julia Nickson as Co Bao, Rambo's distaff analog. If you think she looks appealing all sweaty and dirty, check out Nickson out of character:


All together, now: WOW.

There is a noticable attraction between the two and even a "sacred marriage" of sorts, involving the gift of a bauble on a bit of leather thong, but since this is the big-screen version of a backyard action figure scenario there's little time for tenderness and none whatsoever for any Osh-Osh as that would get in the way of all the violence, sadism, and stuff getting blowed up real good. Sadly, it comes as no surprise that Co Bao doesn't survive the film. I guess they had to off her, what with her being a girl and all kind of taking away from the eruption of unbridled testosterone found is scenes like this homoerotic uniform/authority figure fetishism S/M moment:


And is it just me, or does Sly have a sort of crucified J.C. thing going on here, an element that only adds to the Tom of Finland effect?

Whatever the reason, our '80's Tarzan was denied his Jane, and once she was gone he moved on and saved the day, just like my small platoon of backyard G.I. Joe's did when my capeless Mego Supergirl bought the farm after being eaten by a rogue Tyrannosaurus during an Adventure Team campaign went horribly wrong (Y'see, Kara was one of many casualties when the A.T. disturbed the Mummy's tomb and were catapulted into the distant past for no apparent reason; her keen eye and skills with an M-16 were sorely missed once the big lizard swallowed both her and her rifle).

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II made little sense, but it certainly was exciting and entertaining — something that ruffled my stoner-hippie feathers and turned it into a very guilty pleasure for me at the time — and it made a ton of cash at the box office, thereby ensuring a sequel, as well as spawning the ill-advised RAMBO: THE FORCE OF FREEDOM cartoon show in 1986. Seriously, how the fuck do you make a daily kiddie show about an ultra-violent Viet Nam vet with PTSD?


1988's RAMBO III had something to do with our hero on the loose and kicking ass in Afghanistan against the Russians or some shit, but other than a brief exhibition of stick fighting near the beginning there was nothing in the film that held my interest. It's now twenty years after the fact and I remember virtually nothing about it, so I'll just leave that one alone.

And now John Rambo's back, smack dab toward the ass-end of the Dubya era, and when one considers the crippling excesses of the current American regime, er, administration, I suppose his return was kind of inevitable. But what strikes me as interesting about it is the character's own stance as a warrior and a believer in the ideals of his country; from what we've seen of Rambo he's got a lot in common with the highly skilled protagonists found in countless chambara, western, and martial arts flicks, but unlike them he has a "master," namely Uncle Sam (in a more broad sense since Trautman's probably long dead). Rambo would rather exist in some remote and somewhat inhospitable wilderness with only his own brooding thoughts to keep him company, but he'd dump it all in the name of the U. S. of A, provided the cause didn't go against his own deeply held warrior's code. A warrior is trained to kill in defense of his nation, but he is not a "killer" in the murderous sense. Would you call Steve Rogers, Captain America, a killer? If you answered "yes" to that, I'm gonna slap the taste outta yer mouth, and I feel the same way about Rambo. It's quite telling that in the new movie he's not pitted against a bunch of ravening, evil, towel-headed terrorist types, since that would have probably not gone over too well in a climate that isn't necessarily down with what's occurring in the Middle East, and in terms of the character's motivations I very much doubt that Rambo would be on board for such shenanigans either. Nossir, this time he's up against that old Hollywood standby: a bunch of ravening, evil, slanty-eyed yellow peril types who menace some Americans in Myanmar and threaten some pretty white chick with Asian befoulment.

In other words, pure, adolescent action figure cinema, just like it was back in the days.

And as I've aged I've come to rather like Rambo, especially after having absorbed more samurai flicks than I can count, and would love to see someone pen a script worthy of his mythic chops. Maybe John Milius will get off of his ass and send Rambo through time to fight alongside such stalwarts as Achilles, Perseus, and Heracles, or perhaps a jaunt back to the dinosaur era with the 1980's G.I. Joe characters to thwart Cobra's fiendish plan to have Homo Sapiens descend from the DNA of Hitler mixed the dust found left over at the bottom of a bag of Cheez Doodles. Now THAT would be some real action figure cinema for your ass!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

BAT PUSSY (1973)

You know the scenario: You’ve had a shit-ass day at work. You’re flat broke. There’s no beer in the fridge. Your cable TV is suffering technical difficulties that only afford clear reception to a sixteen hour FARM REPORT marathon on Lifetime. Dubya is still in office. Your only hope of momentary happiness is to “relax the gentleman’s way.” “Shake hands with the unemployed.” “Have one off the wrist.” “Rub one out.”

I’m talking about the time-honored hobby of jackin’ off. Oh, yeah.

You drop trou, your manly gristle falling victim to gravity and dangling like obscene Christmas ornaments, and you peruse your stash of well-watched porno. What shall aid in the draining of the wank-tanks today? INSIDE VANESSA Del RIO? VAGINAPALOOZA? BIG WET SLOPPY HOLES Vol. 37? AMAZING PENETRATIONS WITH AMAZON WOMEN? The Bangkok backroom live eel excesses of IMPETUS FIRE 2?

No, none of those will do; it’s time to check out the DVD a friend gave you, a seventies-era tenderloin rarity. All you know is that it’s a parody of the old Adam West BATMAN show with some horny chick in the cape and cowl, so, aching Johnson in hand, you decide to let DNA fly fast and furious to images of a distaff Caped Crusader getting drilled and milking man-poles.

Well, just when you thought your day couldn’t get any worse, you realize you’ve discovered the colossal hard-off that is 1973’s BAT PUSSY, frequently cited on the internet as “anti-porn,” and widely hailed as the worst porno film ever made. By the end of its running time your would-be boner is well and truly extinguished, but you sit there all by your lonesome, utterly gobsmacked by a carved-in-stone example of exactly how NOT to make a skin flick. But be that as it may BAT PUSSY's Chernobyl-level porn awfulness has unexpectedly turned it into a must-see chunk of bad cinema that actually inspired the following letter to SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO, the company that resurrected this horror on VHS back in 1996:

To: Mike Vraney/Something Weird Video

As a vanguard in the preservation and continued promotion of exploitation films, Something Weird Video holds the fate of many key works in its hands. Many of the better regarded films from the Golden Age of Exploitation have been given "Special Edition" treatment by Something Weird. Movies such as Blood Feast, House on Bare Mountain, and The Godmonster of Indian Flats have been remastered and released on DVD in the past, boosting their profile among a wide range of film enthusiasts and providing fans an opportunity to own a copy of these films that they can view again and again. 

It is this treatment that we feel should be bestowed upon a little film that would benefit greatly from the exposure. This film is BAT PUSSY, arguably the world’s worst adult film. It is not often that one comes across a film that fails as miserably at attaining the goals implied by its genre status. BAT PUSSY is without a doubt the most unappealing XXX film in the history of adult cinema and has been referred to by some as “anti porn”. It is because of it’s uniqueness that we feel BAT PUSSY deserves to be given a full, “Special Edition” DVD treatment from the good folks at Something Weird Video.

Sincerely,
The Undersigned

What could possibly be so difficult about making a viable stroke movie? All you need is are two “actors,” maybe some interesting props for possible closeup insertion into a chosen orifice, a script with a line like “Gosh, Mister pizza delivery guy! I have no money. How will I pay for this tasty, four-topping large pizza?” as a preamble to the action, a relatively comfortable location for the participants to fuck on, and a camera (video or film, it’s your call). That’s pretty much it. BAT PUSSY has all of these elements in place, so how does it earn its rep as “anti-porn?” Allow me to explain.

The SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO print of the movie opens abruptly with no titles, no credits, no music, no nothing, just a grainy closeup of a fat, freckled, ginger-beehived, drawling and naked example of the most HEE-HAWed-out trailer park slag imaginable, kind of like a trashy Kate Pierson from the B-52's, but far less appealing.

Trust me, this still is a lot more flattering than what we get in the actual movie.

Before we’re given more than a second or two to process that image the camera cuts to a nude, out-of-shape blonde redneck sitting at a table perusing the latest issue of SCREW magazine.

This gurk-gurk whoops and hollers over the things he sees in the tabloid, amazed and titillated, but allegedly reluctant to inflict such “degradations” as blowjobs and pussy-eating upon his corpulent concubine. But, since this is allegedly a skin flick, the Jerry Lee Lewis lookalike ends up in bed pawing his wife anyway in a display certain to make the viewer lose all interest in BAT PUSSY as a fuck movie and just stare open-mouthed at this rutting pair of hillbillies.

Their pork rind-flavored groping is staggering to behold, and at one point there’s even a tight shot Jerry Lee’s hand probing what at first appears to be the space between a pair of seat cushions but is soon revealed to be his partner’s lady-parts. The beehived behemoth then administers the first in a series of the sorriest B.J.’s I’ve ever seen, and her technique certainly isn’t helped by Jerry Lee’s complete and utter lack of anything resembling an erection for the entirety of the film.

Nope, that ain’t a Vienna sausage…

Jerry Lee reciprocates with some out-of-focus lapping at the gal’s flappy bits, along with some awkward fumbling about with her goat-like udders, all while the two of them drone on and on, trading amateurishly-delivered insults, unintentionally turning the whole mess into some sort of live sex show revival of Edward Albee’s WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINA WOOLFE?, only minus any trace of a script, artistic value, or talent.

This goes on for about twenty solid minutes (at least it felt like it did) and then we’re suddenly in the cinder block-walled headquarters of one “Dora Dildo,” aka stalwart crime fighter Bat Pussy.

We know this because of the crudely-drawn HQ sign and an embarrassed who narrator clues us in on it, as well as the vital fact that “her twat begins to twitch” at the first sign of trouble.

"Dora Dildo" in repose with a can of air freshener and a tall-boy of brewski.

Dora’s easily the hottest thing in the whole sordid work, but even as such she’s about on par with a skank you might find in a bar such as Jackie’s Fifth Amendment, an infamous Park Slope alky bar that caters to hardcore rummies and coffin-dodgers.

After muttering about how “There’s somebody gittin’ ready to make fuck movie in mah holy Gotham City, gaw-dammit!”, Dora Dons her superhero gear and ventures forth as Bat Pussy to deal with the redneck humping that has so irked her.

Tremble at the awesome sight of... BAT PUSSY!!!

But there’s no Bat Pussymobile for our bargain basement heroine; instead she bounces along the interstate perched atop one of those inflatable “Hoppity Hop” balls that I so fondly remember from my early years.


I swear you can’t make this shit up.

When Bat Pussy finally arrives to confront the inbred lovers, she rips off her Bat-gear and dives into the fray. There’s no trace of actual sex, a hard-on, or even a gooey cooter, but B.P. and Jerry Lee gamely (and probably gamily) roll around, even up flopping off the bed once or twice, while the redheaded pork princess takes care of herself with a convenient, unworn strap-on. Bat Pussy then exits, and that’s it.

By this point your brain has been utterly roasted and your penis has retreated into your lower abdominal cavity, in effect becoming a “man-gina.” Even the most hard-up desperado on death row couldn’t “raise the flag” for BAT PUSSY, and I urge all of you reading this to witness this hilarious abomination for yourself. It’s even suitable for mixed audiences — a sure sign that it’s a failure as a garden-variety chicken-choker — and is one hell of a crowd pleaser at parties. The groans of horror and disbelief are worth the price of the DVD — I bought it the second it became available, replacing the VHS tape I'd had for the past twelve years — so TRUST YER BUNCHE and order yours today!

007 NEWS: 22nd BOND FLICK GETS A TITLE

The title for the twenty-second james Bond film was announced today, and I was surprised to see that it's the name of one of the most unique stories in the entire 007 literary canon. "Quantum of Solace," from the 1960 Ian Fleming short story collection FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, is an odd duck in that it doesn't feature any spy action at all and is a compelling tale of simple, human misery related to Bond at a dinner party.


The cover to the 2003 edition of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1960).

Many fans of the Bond books are not too fond of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and hold special vitriol for the two stories contained therein that I liked most, "Quantum" and "The Hildebrand Rarity," but due to the nature of the source material I seriously doubt that much of the content will be used for the film, if any. Here's the news item, followed by the Wikipedia's recap of the short story:

New James Bond movie will be named 'Quantum of Solace'
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Thursday, January 24th 2008, 9:06 AM
IVER HEATH, England - "Quantum of Solace" is the title of the new James Bond film, the 22nd Bond adventure.

The title was revealed to reporters Thursday at Pinewood Studios outside of London, where the movie is being filmed. Daniel Craig is returning as Agent 007. He picks up where 2006's "Casino Royale" left off, with Bond contemplating revenge after his betrayal by his true love, Vesper Lynd.

Filming began at Pinewood Studios earlier this month. Location shooting is planned in Austria, Italy and Panama. Judi Dench returns as the MI-6 boss M and Mathieu Amalric ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") plays the villain. Additions to the cast include Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko as mysterious Bond girl Camille.

"Quantum of Solace" is due to open in Britain and the United States on Nov. 7.

From Wikipedia:

"Quantum of Solace" is not a spy story and Bond appears only in the background. Told in the style of W Somerset Maugham, the tale has Bond attending a boring dinner party at the Government House in Nassau with a group of socialites he can't stand.

Bond makes an offensive remark after dinner when the other guests have left in order to stimulate conversation. This solicits a careful reply from the elderly Governor of The Bahamas who tells 007 a sad tale about a relationship between former civil servant Philip Masters stationed in Bermuda and air hostess Rhoda Llewellyn. After meeting aboard a flight to London the two eventually married but after a time Rhoda became unhappy with her life as a housewife. She then began a long open affair with the eldest son of a rich Bermudan family. As a result Masters' work deteriorated and he suffered a nervous breakdown. After recovering he was given a break from Bermuda by the governor and sent on an assignment to Washington to negotiate fishing rights with the US. At the same time the governor's wife had a talk with Rhoda just as her affair ended. Masters returned a few months later and decided to end his marriage, although he and Rhoda continued to appear as a happy couple in public. Masters returned alone to the UK, leaving a penniless Rhoda stranded in Bermuda, an act which he'd been incapable of carrying out merely months earlier. But Masters never recovered emotionally, his vital spark never relit. The governor goes on to tell Bond how after a time Rhoda married a rich Canadian and seems to be happy, telling Bond that his dull dinner companions whom he found so boring were Rhoda and her new husband.

While the story does not include action elements, as other Fleming tales do, it attempts to posit that Bond's adventures pale in comparison with real life drama. Bond reflects that the lives of the people he passes somewhat superficial judgments upon can in fact hide poignant episodes.

THE KILLING JOKE: MORE ON HEATH LEDGER AND THE CLOWN PRINCE OF CRIME

From today's Daily News:

Jack Nicholson warned Heath Ledger on 'Joker' role
BY JOE NEUMAIER
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, January 24th 2008, 3:18 AM


Jack Nicholson, who played the Joker in the 1989 'Batman' movie, says he warned Heath Ledger, below, about the part.

Heath Ledger thought landing the demanding role of the Joker was a dream come true - but now some think it was a nightmare that led to his tragic death.

Jack Nicholson, who played the Joker in 1989 - and who was furious he wasn't consulted about the creepy role - offered a cryptic comment when told Ledger was dead. "Well," Nicholson told reporters in London early Wednesday, "I warned him."
Though the remark was ambiguous, there's no question the role in the movie earmarked as this summer's blockbuster took a frightening toll. Ledger recently told reporters he "slept an average of two hours a night" while playing "a psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy ... I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going." Prescription drugs didn't help, he said.

Ledger's ghastly image as the Clown Prince of Crime in "Dark Knight" has been an Internet sensation since trailers were released in December, featuring Ledger in full death's-head mode.


His face chalk-white, his hair green and his mouth a sliced red grimace, the handsome 28-year-old Australian actor looked frighteningly true to the character in the Alan Moore graphic novel, "Batman: The Killing Joke." [BUNCHE NOTE: No he didn't!]
The movie wrapped filming in the fall - right after Ledger's breakup with actress Michelle Williams - and post-production work finished not long after.

While "Dark Knight" is the film that will stand as Ledger's cinematic gravestone, insiders say the flick, set for a July 18 release with Christian Bale as Batman, won't suffer from his death. "Ledger's portrayal of the Joker is already one of the most anticipated screen characters of the whole year," says Gitesh Pandya, editor of the movie tracking site boxofficeguru.com
"I think most of the audience will still be there. If anything, I would think the marketing of his character might be scaled down a bit. "The Joker is a character where you could go over-the-top with marketing. The studio might scale that back a bit in the next few months, just to be respectful."

Tony Timpone, editor of the fantasy magazine Fangoria, said the movie should do well, despite the "cloud over it" from Ledger's death. "It's going to be tough, because the Joker is such an indelible character, and Heath was such an indelible actor. It could be tough to disassociate ourselves from reality. Because the movie looks like it's going to be so dark, and his life had such a dark end."

Critic and film historian Leonard Maltin said Ledger's death will heighten curiosity about the movie - and certainly won't hurt the box office. "This is sad and so different from any previous examples, because the film has such an enormous built-in audience; people will go anyway, but there's no question it could cast something of a pall over the film," Maltin said. "It says something about the curious nature of film, that someone can be so alive onscreen when we're all too aware that they've passed. It underscores how we're mortal, and films are immortal."

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KLAUS NOMI!


I love weird. I love music. I love weird music. So it should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that I love Klaus Nomi.

Yeah, yeah, I know. You probably have no idea who the fuck Klaus Nomi is and are wondering why this post is wishing a happy birthday to a guy (?) who looks like the Joker's queer baby brother. Well, lemme tell ya that Klaus was a singer for whom the word "unique" was coined, seeing as he was a short, gay Kraut who dressed like an androgynous Astro-Boy and could belt out operatic arias that would have made Luciano Pavorotti exclaim "Mama mia motherfuck!!!" Like some curious space alien freshly landed upon our green Earth from a distant galaxy, Nomi somehow managed to out-strange virtually every other whack job on the rock 'n' roll stage at the time; no mean feat considering that he emerged during the tail end of glam and the emergence of "new wave," a period that witnessed such acts as the B-52's, Skafish, the pre-"Whipit" Devo (when they were still balls out gonzo and not a dance music band), and the still bizarre David Bowie (around his "The Lodger" and "Scary Monsters" period, and just before he bottomed out with horseshit like "Let's Dance" and "China Girl").

Nomi's persona thoroughly embraced the "different," and despite his extraterrestrial appearance and chitinous tuxedo apparel he came off to me as nowhere near as affected as some of his contemporaries. Sure his movements were fey/robotic and his falsetto was just a notch shy of being considered a deadly weapon, but his theatrics were melded with heartfelt covers of old standards — one of the mainstays of the gay cabaret scene — in such a way as to make chestnuts like "The Twist," "You Don't Own Me," and "Ding Dong (The Witch Is Dead)" fresh and disturbingly cutting edge. His music was definitely not for all tastes, but those who took the time to give it a chance and make it past the initial shock were rewarded with one of the most beautiful of the post-punk era's musical experiences. In short: if you were a bit of an outsider, so was Klaus. And there you found common ground.

Klaus Nomi totally kicked my ass when I heard the live recording of his "Total Eclipse" on the URGH! A MUSIC WAR soundtrack when I was sixteen, a feat only compounded when I finally saw the elusive rockumentary while out of my mind on "jug-o-wine" (as some of my university compatriots dubbed it) when it ran on the USA Network's late, lamented NIGHT FLIGHT in 1986. And I know I'm not alone. How else could you explain Nomi turning up quite recently as a sonically-powered animated super-villain named "Klaus" on THE VENTURE BROTHERS, with a shirtless Iggy Pop along for the ride?


Klaus Nomi (with Iggy Pop) on THE VENTURE BROTHERS (2006).

So I would like to wish Klaus Nomi a very happy sixty-fourth birthday — despite him no longer being with us thanks to his untimely AIDS-related demise — and thank him for adding a bright spot into the life of a miserable teenager, some twenty-seven years past. By way of remembrance I just checked out the footage of his performances of "Total Eclipse" and "Nomi Song" on YouTube, and I urge you to do likewise and be prepared to scratch your head.

And here's the whole story on Herr Nomi from the Wikipedia:

Klaus Sperber (January 24, 1944 - August 6, 1983), better known as Klaus Nomi, was a German countertenor noted for remarkable vocal performances and an unusual, elfin stage persona. Nomi is remembered for bizarrely theatrical live performances, heavy make-up, unusual costumes, and a highly stylized signature hairdo which flaunted a receding hairline. His songs were equally unusual, ranging from synthesizer-laden interpretations of classic opera to covers of 1960s pop standards like Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and Lou Christie's "Lightnin' Strikes".

PERSONAL LIFE
Nomi was born Klaus Sperber in Immenstadt, Germany. His birthday is commonly observed as January 24, 1944. In his youth in the 1960s, he worked as an usher at the Deutsche Oper in West Berlin where he would sing on stage in front of the fire curtain after the shows for the other ushers and maintenance crew. Around that time he also sang operatic arias at a Berlin gay club called Kleist Casino. Nomi moved from Germany to New York City in the mid-1970s. He began his involvement with the art scene based in the East Village. According to Horn's documentary film, Nomi took singing lessons and supported himself working as a pastry chef.

Nomi died on August 6, 1983 in New York City, one of the first celebrities to die of an illness complicated by AIDS. His ashes were scattered over New York City.

CAREER
While he appeared in a satirical camp production of Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold with Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theater Company in 1972 ("Art After Midnight: The East Village Scene" by Steven Hager; 1986 St. Martin's Press), Klaus Nomi first came to the attention of New York City's art scene in 1978 with his performance in "New Wave Vaudeville", a four-night event MC'd by artist David McDermott. Klaus sang the aria Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix ("My heart opens to your voice") from Camille Saint-Saëns' 1877 opera Samson et Dalila, dressed in skin tight space suit with a clear plastic cape. His performance ended with a chaotic crash of strobe lights, smoke bombs, and loud electronic sound effects with Klaus backing away into the smoke. To quote Joey Arias, who was at the performance, "I still get goose pimples when I think about it... It was like he was from a different planet and his parents were calling him home. When the smoke cleared, he was gone." The reaction was so overwhelmingly positive that he was invited to perform at clubs all over New York City. He assembled a group of then up-and-coming artists around him which at times included Joey Arias, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, John McLaughlin (who also used the pseudonym "Johnny Sex") and Kenny Scharf.

David Bowie had been hearing about Nomi's performances in NYC and after meeting him and Joey Arias at the Mudd Club one night, he hired them as performers and back-up singers for his appearance on Saturday Night Live which aired on December 15, 1979. Nomi also collaborated with producer Man Parrish. The 1981 rock documentary film, Urgh! A Music War features Nomi's live performance of Total Eclipse.

INFLUENCE AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE
Filmmakers like Andrew Horn and writers like Jim Fouratt consider Nomi an important part of the 1980s East Village scene, which was a hotbed of development for punk rock, music, the visual arts, and the avant-garde. Although Nomi's work had not yet met with national commercial success at the time of his death, he garnered a cult following, mainly in New York and in France.

Andrew Horn's 2004 feature documentary about Nomi's life The Nomi Song released on Palm Pictures helped spur renewed interest in the singer, including an art exhibit in San Francisco at the New Langton gallery.

Nomi's influence can also be measured by references and homages to him in the work of later artists. British pop icon Morrissey used the song "Wayward Sisters"* as an introduction prior to appearing on stage to begin a concert for his Kill Uncle tour. He used the song "After the Fall" for the same purpose during his 2007 American tour. Morrissey included Nomi's song "Death" in his compilation of influential songs titled "Under the Influence". Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth wrote a "Hommage à Klaus Nomi" for countertenor and chamber ensemble. A fictionalised version of Klaus Nomi appears in a two-part episode of animated comedy/adventure series The Venture Bros. In "Showdown at Cremation Creek (Part I)," he appears as one of David Bowie's bodyguard henchmen (alongside an animated Iggy Pop, another Bowie collaborator). "Klaus" attacks his opponents with ultra-high-pitched singing and the over-sized bow tie of his famous costume, spun and ejected as a battering weapon. In "Showdown at Cremation Creek (Part II)," "Klaus" seems to have been killed after betraying Bowie in order to become a henchman of a villain known as The Phantom Limb.

Nomi's flamboyant cover of Lesley Gore's 1964 hit "You Don't Own Me" with a thick German accent is sometimes featured on The Rush Limbaugh Show as the Gay Update Theme. This was done after Gore's original was for a time adopted as the Feminist Update. Nomi does not change the gender (e.g. "Don't say I can't play with other boys").

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

GEE, WHAT A SHOCK!


Thanks to John Gibson for alerting me to this one. The question I have is will this study actually lead to any sort of consequences for their actions:

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer Wed Jan 23, 6:43 AM ET

WASHINGTON - A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration's position that the world community viewed Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

"The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world," Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.

"The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.

"Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.

ADVICE COLUMN QUOTE OF THE WEEK

From this morning's SAVAGE LOVE by Dan Savage:

Q. On my 21st birthday, my mother got so shitty drunk that she had to buy a pair of pants off a gas-station attendant after she pissed her own. She dropped her giant bag of pot in the limo. We put her to bed, and she got up and tried to screw my roommate. Then she fell out of the top bunk of his bed and hurt herself so bad she grabbed her car keys and left. She got a DWI on the way to the hospital, where they found out she broke her rib. What does all of this do to my psyche?—Please Answer Me

A. Nothing good, PAM. But I can't imagine that your mother's behavior on your 21st birthday did more damage to your psyche than your mother seeing her behavior recounted in a nationally syndicated sex-advice column is going to do to hers. So you're your mother's daughter after all, PAM.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: HEATH LEDGER FOUND DEAD IN HIS APARTMENT


In a totally unexpected piece of news, Heath Ledger, the actor who portrays the Joker in this summer's THE DARK KNIGHT, is dead. Here's all I've heard; more tomorrow as details become available.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Actor Heath Ledger is dead, the New York Police Department said Tuesday. Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment. The Academy Award nominated actor was 27.

Ledger's housekeeper found him dead in his Manhattan apartment, New York police said. He died at 3:26 p.m., they said.

The New York Fire Department received a call at 2:27 today responding to a "cardiac arrest call" in New York. They found an unresponsive male dead at the scene.

In 2005, the actor played Ennis Del Mar in "Brokeback Mountain," about two cowboys who had a secret relationship. The role earned him the Oscar nomination.

And, from the Associated Press:

NEW YORK (AP) - Heath Ledger was found dead Tuesday at a downtown Manhattan residence in a possible drug-related death, police said. He was 28. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Ledger had an appointment for a massage at the Manhattan apartment believed to be his home. The housekeeper who went to let Ledger know the masseuse was there found him dead at 3:26 p.m.

The Australian-born actor was an Oscar nominee for his role in "Brokeback Mountain" and has numerous other screen credits.


Monday, January 21, 2008

HOW TO PLAY AND SING THE BLUES

I got this one from my old pal John Gibson. Don't know who wrote it, but it's pretty much on the money.

How To Play And Sing The Blues

1. Most Blues begin with: "Woke up this morning..."

2. "I got a good woman" is not a good way to begin the Blues unless you stick something nasty with it like "I got a good woman with the meanest face in town."

3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes - sort of:
"I got a good woman with the meanest face in town.
Yeah, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town.
Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher, and she weigh 'bout 500 pound."

4. The Blues is not about choice. You stuck in a ditch ... and there ain't no way out.

5. Blues cars: an old Chevy, Ford, or Cadillac ... and broken-down old trucks. Blues don't travel in Volvos, BMWs, or SUVs. Most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train. Jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools ain't even in the running. Walkin' is a major part of the blues lifestyle. So is fixin' to die.

6. Teenagers can't sing the Blues. They ain't fixin' to die yet. Adults sing the Blues. In Blues, "adulthood" means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shoot a man in Memphis.

7. Blues can take place in New York City - but not in Hawaii - or anyplace in Canada. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are still great places to have the Blues. And you cannot have the blues anyplace that don't get no rain.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain't the Blues. However, a woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg skiing is not the blues. Breaking your leg 'cause a alligator chomped on it, is.

9. You can't have the Blues in a office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go out to the parking lot and sit by a dumpster.

10. Good places for the Blues:
a. highway
b. jailhouse
c. empty bed
d. bottom of a whiskey glass/bottle

Bad places for the Blues:
a. Nordstrom's
b. gallery openings
c. Ivy League colleges
d. golf courses

11. No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit ... unless of course you happen to be an old ethnic person ... and you slept in it.

12. Do you have the right to sing the Blues? Yes, if:
a. you older than dirt
b. you blind
c. you shot a man in Memphis
d. you can't be satisfied

No, if:
a. you have all your teeth
b. you were once blind but now can see
c. the man in Memphis lived
d. you have a 401K or trust fund

13. Blues is not a matter of color. It's a matter of bad luck. Tiger Woods can never sing the blues. Sonny Liston could. Poor, ugly white people get a leg up in the blues.

14. If you ask for whiskey and your darlin' give you water, that's the Blues. Acceptable Blues beverages are:
a. cheap wine
b. whiskey or bourbon
c. muddy water
d. nasty black coffee

The following are NOT Blues beverages:
a. Perrier
b. Chardonnay
c. Snapple
d. Slim Fast

15. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun house, it's a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is also a Blues way to die. So are the electric chair, substance abuse and dying lonely on a broken-down old cot.
You can't have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.

16. Some Blues names for women:
a. Sadie
b. Big Mama
c. Bessie
d. Fat River Dumpling

17. Some Blues names for men:
a. Joe
b. Willie
c. Little Willie
d. Big Willie

18. Persons with names like Amber, Jennifer, Tiffany, Debbie, and Heather can't sing the Blues no matter how many men they shoot in Memphis.

19. Make your own Blues name Starter Kit:
a. pick a name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.)
b. add the name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, etc..)
c. add the last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.) Examples: Blind Lemon Jefferson

20. No matter how tragic your life, if you own a computer you cannot sing the blues.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

VOX POPULI: IMDB READERS WEIGH IN ON THE CLOVERFIELD EFFECT


When I reported about how the handheld photography in CLOVERFIELD actually made me vomit , I figured that if I was thusly affected then there had to be others who shared my pain. Curious to see if that was the case I checked on the user comments section at the good old Internet Movie database and was shocked to see how many viewer's accounts involved motion sickness, headaches, and hurling. As I write this there are currently fifty-six pages of comments , too many for me to read in one sitting this afternoon, but here is a sampling of excerpts that directly address what I've come to call The Cloverfield Effect:

"If you get even remotely motion sick, do not go to see this movie. Alternatively, take some dramamine and hope it works for you, because it's basically 80-some minutes of J. J. Abrams pouring his hate on you by getting a camera guy with ADHD to shake the bajeesus out of the screen anytime someone sneezes."

"The entire movie the camera work is imitating a hand held so the viewer finds himself with a headache after the first fifteen minutes of shaking and often unable to discern what is going on in the movie."

"Although not for everyone (especially those with severe motion sickness), Cloverfield lives up to the hype and is a fabulous way to spend $15. Definitely a must see among the recent releases lately."

"I thought I could tolerate all the shaking and stuff by thinking all those will only be part of the beginning. But it's not! The using-handycam-idea should stop right after the attack begins.. not many people like that motion sickness feeling. In fact, my friends and I left the cinema after about 30-40 minutes despite the fact that that is when the story starting to get interesting."

"First, the camera work was way too shaky. The attempt at trying to make the film as if thru a hand-held camera was CRAP. I actually became physically ill in the movie theater, getting a bad taste in my mouth and ended up puking slightly in the parking lot of the movie theater... NOT PLEASANT..."

"Common sense aside, the viewing experience is crude and downright torturing. It is actually physically nauseating. I kept wishing that the cam is just a deploy before the real movie begins. I was wrong. By the end of the movie, which is one of those wtf endings, I felt violently ill."

"Films are supposed to entertain. What is entertaining about blurs and streaks of blurs in motion on the big screen? Nothing. It's vomit inducing."

"I was struggling to avoid illness by the end. Are we sure Michael Bay had no involvement in this movie? Boneheaded plots and cameras on steroids are his speciality. Even my friends were looking up at the ceiling or trying other tricks to avoid motion sickness. One scene involves a flashing light that seemed bound to invoke seizures."

"The camera is shaking the entire time, not adding to the realism but giving you a headache. The person I went with loves rollercoasters and she even vomited outside of the theatre. Even I needed aspirin after the movie."

"Too many people in our theatre left the cinema due to motion sickness from the movie screen/camera constantly "jumping" and "zig-zagging."

"I went to see this movie at 12:01 A.M. on Friday morning, the first show, and thought the movie was great. Althoguh I will tell you that if you get motion sickness or easy headaches DO NOT see this film, and if you do move as far away from the screen as possible! My friend got a bad headache and we were halfway up in the biggest theater in at the place which probably holds about 300-400 people. I was not affected because I would just close my eyes for a moment if I felt like it was a lot of moving and it would help my eyes a lot."

"Left me Nauseous & Headachey-
I'm deducting 2 stars for how ill this movie made me. Why did NO one warn me that the ENTIRE film was shaky, hand-held video? (I thought it would just be the opening party scene.) "The Blair Witch Project" did the same thing to me."

I think you get the idea, but this final example sums up The Cloverfield Effect with absolute clarity:

Might Be Good-- IF You Could Sit Through It, 19 January 2008

Author: meforevermore from United States

Okay, this movie looked like it had a nice story, nice CGI, just looked good. Still think it probably is. If you never have headaches, motion sickness, and for god's sake you better not be epileptic.

I really, really wish I could have sat through it to the end but after 45 minutes I had to leave. I had a awful headache, my mother was two seconds from throwing up (a woman that has NEVER had motion sickness, she threw up when she got home), and my boyfriend DID throw up.

Forty-five minutes in he ran out of the theater, I followed to see what happened. Seven other people came literally running out while I was waiting for him and headed straight for the bathroom. While I was waiting a woman that worked in the theater (and about 6-7 ushers to clean) the first thing she asked, "You out of Cloverfeild?" I said yes and said people were running out, I heard her say to an usher "Everyone is getting sick, I can't believe this." She then explained to me that everyone watching this is getting motion sickness and they'll refund my money.

I want to make a quick point. I have only ever walked out of two movies before this. I have NEVER asked for my money back. This time I did. Talking to the woman at the ticket box, apparently the first night was even worse. She said her husband could only stand five minutes and had to leave.

I'm completely and utterly stunned that no one has talked about this in a movie review. It may be "artful" and "amazing" to some people, but if a movie screws up your head so bad that you've either got a massive headache, or you throw up, I just think SOMETHING might be a little wrong with it.

I've never had motion sickness, but the headache is killing me, and I still feel like the room is spinning. Maybe I can stand it as a rental and see it on the small screen, having that constant shaking taking up my entire vision was more than I want to bare. Still would like to see the end of the story though so I might rent it and see if a small screen helps.

Seriously consider your tolerance before viewing this film.

THE VOICE OF REASON IS SILENCED: R.I.P. SUZANNE PLESHETTE (1937-2008)


Television is a medium that seldom values female characters with great intelligence, but anyone who ever saw Suzanne Pleshette in action knew that she was indeed a treasure. I've always found intelligence sexy as hell, and when you wed that with dark hair, a lovely face, strong acting chops, impeccable comedic timing, and that husky voice you have one formidible lady. From the Associated Press:

Suzanne Pleshette Dies in Los Angeles

Jan 20, 2:05 AM (ET)

By BOB THOMAS

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Suzanne Pleshette, the beautiful, husky-voiced film and theater star best known for her role as Bob Newhart's sardonic wife on television's long-running "The Bob Newhart Show," has died, said her attorney Robert Finkelstein. She was 70. Pleshette, who underwent chemotherapy for lung cancer in 2006, died of respiratory failure Saturday evening at her Los Angeles home, said Finkelstein, who is also a family friend.

"The Bob Newhart Show, a hit throughout its six-year run, starred comedian Newhart as a Chicago psychiatrist surrounded by eccentric patients. Pleshette provided the voice of reason.

Four years after the show ended in 1978, Newhart went on to the equally successful "Newhart" series in which he was the proprietor of a New England inn populated by more eccentrics. When that show ended in 1990, Pleshette reprised her role - from the first show - in one of the most clever final episodes in TV history. It had Newhart waking up in the bedroom of his "The Bob Newhart Show" home with Pleshette at his side. He went on to tell her of the crazy dream he'd just had of running an inn filled with eccentrics. "If I'm in Timbuktu, I'll fly home to do that," Pleshette said of her reaction when Newhart told her how he was thinking of ending the show.


BUNCHE NOTE: when I saw this ending during its first airing, it totally blew my mind. One of the best ever!

Born Jan. 31, 1937, in New York City, Pleshette began her career as a stage actress after attending the city's High School of the Performing Arts and studying at its Neighborhood Playhouse. She was often picked for roles because of her beauty and her throaty voice. "When I was 4," she told an interviewer in 1994, "I was answering the phone, and (the callers) thought I was my father. So I often got quirky roles because I was never the conventional ingenue."

She met her future husband, Tom Poston, when they appeared together in the 1959 Broadway comedy "The Golden Fleecing," but didn't marry him until more than 40 years later. Although the two had a brief fling, they went on to marry others. By 2000 both were widowed and they got back together, marrying the following year. "He was such a wonderful man. He had fun every day of his life," Pleshette said after Poston died in April 2007.

Among her other Broadway roles was replacing Anne Bancroft in "The Miracle Worker," the 1959 drama about Helen Keller, in New York and on the road. Meanwhile, she had launched her film career with Jerry Lewis in 1958 in "The Geisha Boy." She went on to appear in numerous television shows, including "Have Gun, Will Travel,""Alfred Hitchcock Presents,""Playhouse 90" and "Naked City." By the early 1960s, Pleshette attracted a teenage following with her youthful roles in such films as "Rome Adventure,""Fate Is the Hunter,""Youngblood Hawke" and "A Distant Trumpet."

She married fellow teen favorite Troy Donahue, her co-star in "Rome Adventure," in 1964 but the union lasted less than a year. She was married to Texas oilman Tim Gallagher from 1968 until his death in 2000.

Pleshette matured in such films as Hitchcock's "The Birds" and the Disney comedies "The Ugly Dachshund,""Blackbeard's Ghost" and "The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin." Over the years, she also had a busy career in TV movies, including playing the title role in 1990's "Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean." More recently, she appeared in several episodes of the TV sitcoms "Will & Grace" and "8 Simple Rules ... For Dating My Teenage Daughter."

In a 1999 interview, Pleshette observed that being an actress was more important than being a star. "I'm an actress, and that's why I'm still here," she said. "Anybody who has the illusion that you can have a career as long as I have and be a star is kidding themselves."

TIM TUOHY WEIGHS IN ON THE BLAIR WITCH EXPERIENCE

When I wrote my review of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT a few days ago I honestly didn't expect the amount of responses I got. We all know that the film polarizes audiences, etc., etc., and by this point the feedback comments are just going round in circles and have devolved into juvenalia, so I'll let the following thoughts from my old Marvel Comics colleague Tim Tuohy serve as a coda for the whole thing. Take it away, Tim!

The Blair Witch Experience, or The Wicked Witch is Not Dead!

Once again, I am brought into the world of movie commentary by my good and sorely missed friend, the mocha love god, El Buncho. He was very kind to ask if I wanted to weigh in on the whole Blair Witch thing. I’m never one to miss an opportunity to duel cinematic swords with the great one, but I had to think long and hard on this one and decided what the fuck.

I know that I am going to be the object of his scorn but I must respectfully agree with every single point he made about the film and then disagree in the same breath. I loved the Blair Witch Project because I took it for what it was supposed to present. If you can get past the deceit of the film then this is one trip to the woods I want to miss.

I am also going to agree with another of El Buncho’s contributors, Jared. I assume he is the same Jared from our days at Marvel. What’s up? We are a jaded group. I am always amazed at Bunche’s encyclopedic film knowledge. As I previously wrote, he can pull out the most obscure movie references ever. And I think that is a failing in some ways. Can there be someone who is TOO well versed? Tom De Falco, as far as I’m concerned Marvel’s best Editor-in-Chief, used to tell all of the editors that every comic might be somebody’s first and has to be presented as such. Blair Witch was the first for a lot of people.

Blair Witch was derivative of many genre films and took inspiration from many sources. So did George Lucas for the first Star Wars; to my wife’s dismay, also known as Episode IV: A New Hope. What got me about Blair Witch was the execution. It was sloppy. It was weak. It was incompetent. To me, that was the point. Sometimes simplicity can be more effective than the biggest budget. The characters were annoying. Their predicament was self-inflicted. Their struggle was a series of missteps. They were real to me. To bring back another point that Jared made, where you saw the movie was also important. I saw it at my cousin’s apartment and the only light was from the TV itself. Mood Lighting.

To be fair again, if you don’t buy the premise, turn the TV off. My cousin didn’t and hated the movie. She had every single complaint that Bunche had, especially about the cast. Here’s my take on the cast. This is exactly what would’ve happened if three ill-prepared, ill-equipped, and ill-advised dumb-ass college students with delusions of grandeur walked into the woods. Would anyone really have thought it was a better movie if they had cell phones, GPS, laminated maps, and a backup plan? Doubt it? Were they stupid? Absolutely. Were they annoying? Again, if you fall for the premise, they are totally true to life and I think that is a stumbling block for a lot of people. We want to see strength and leadership in all people all of the time when we go to the movies. Everybody wants to be John McClane and get to yell “yippee-ki-yay, mother fucker”! We don’t want to see what could be ourselves in the same situation. How many times have we gotten snippy when somebody pointed out a stupid mistake or action we made? If you say never, then you can stop here and call your therapist or sponsor.

All those petty emotions and reactions were what made Blair Witch resonate with me. The movie was brought down to the baser human emotions of fear, anger, and vindictiveness and successfully exploited. There was another movie that had a similar take on feelings of helplessness that I enjoyed but was left slightly blah. I purchased The Perfect Storm solely because it was directed by Wolfgang Peterson and involved lots of water. If you saw Das Boot, you know where I’m coming from. Here’s my problem with that movie. They all die. How do we know that any of this is really what happened? We don’t. We hope that in the face of utter adversity, Capt. Clooney pointed the boat into the wave but we don’t know for sure. The same thing happened in that waste of money Open Water. In Blair Witch, everybody dies and you see it. You get the payoff and you get it hard. My wife commented that the most terrifying part was the end. Seeing the character standing in the corner and hearing the sound and scream as the screen went black was unnerving.

This is what you paid for. You’ve seen movies. You knew they were dead. But that was just something totally unexpected. Again, it goes back to believing the film is documentary footage and not a scripted piece.

It’s not a perfect movie. It has flaws. Spider-Man 3 was a movie that cost $300 million dollars and was one big flaw. I will cut two guys who spent $22,000 some slack. Sometimes a movie just strikes a chord with people. I am setting myself up for ridicule here: I love Event Horizon. There is not a single original thought in that film. Not one. And yet, there must have been something about that so un-original movie that inspired the impressive director Danny Boyle to completely rip off the ending for his own movie Sunshine

Why do I feel that some movies are there for just entertainment and others should be much more? I truly believe it has to do with the amount of time invested in it. If I invest 2 hours and am entertained, great. In the case of SP3, I spent 4 plus previous hours to have all those great moments all wiped away. If SP3 had been the first film in the series, in some alternate universe, then it wouldn’t have been the total cluster-fuck it was. There is a definite ratio of time to pleasure going on here.

Movies are a personal experience for every viewer. I enjoyed Blair Witch and El Buncho didn’t. That’s perfect. What is unfortunate is that he and I are no longer the target audience. Blair Witch might actually have been the last gasp at story telling, no matter how shoddy it was done. You got to know the characters and for better or worse you couldn’t stand them, but you knew them.

The Blair Witch Project was a single moment in time that will never be duplicated. All pop culture phenomena are. Will U2 ever sell as many copies as they did with the Joshua Tree? Will a single issue of the X-Men ever sell 8 million copies again? Will 2 guys ever make an 11,000% return on investment for a film? These things just happen.

One day, if Bunche asks, I will sit down and write something about when the whole Alien franchise took a nosedive.

Anyone can e-mail me with their thoughts at tjtuohy@comcast.net.

Later.

Friday, January 18, 2008

CLOVERFIELD (2008)

So I took the day off to see CLOVERFIELD, the new giant monster flick that's shot from the POV of a guy recording a titanic critter's rampage through New York City, and had perhaps the most unique experience I've yet had during a lifetime of moviegoing.

I showed up at the theater on Forty-Second Street — one of the new multiplex monstrosities that supplanted the row of lovely grindhouses from back in the days — for the 11:30AM show, met two friends, and went in search of seats. It was the first show of the day so there were very few people in the place, a pleasant happenstance that would not have occurred if I'd seen it at the multiplex near to me in Brooklyn, a place overrun every single day with drunks, indifferent parents shepherding gaggles of loud and unruly under-tens, the unemployed, kids ditching school, and the kind of "ghetto" audience that makes one embarrassed to be of any race.

The trailers soon began to run — including the awesome trailer for this summer's upcoming IRON MAN and a teaser for the next STAR TREK flick — and, strangely, the final two trailers even ran twice. Never had that happen before...

And then the movie started. There were no credits and the film just abruptly began, some text identifying the film as a classified bit of footage chronicling an event codenamed "Cloverfield." The handheld footage then begins, and about five minutes in the camera is handed to a lunkhead who's forced into being the videographer of a surprise party being thrown as a farewell to a yuppie — the more-or-less protagonist — who's leaving Manhattan to take a vice-president's position at his company's Japanese office. The (intentionally) inept cameraman captures the dynamics you'd expect from a downtown party, right down to the uncomfortable moments of friends and lovers fighting, getting drunk, and annoying each other, all within an apartment that would probably hold a market value of a couple mil (a la FRIENDS). This goes on for about fifteen minutes and then an unexplained giant monster strolls onto lower Manhattan, knocking a grossly under-scale Statue of Liberty's noggin onto Spring Street. From there it's a non-stop document of what it would be like if you were smack dab at ground zero when Godzilla showed up unannounced.

I'd like to be able to tell you more and give you something resembling a critique of CLOVERFIELD, but I can't. You see, the handheld photography gave me a raging migraine by about ten minutes in (just after the party footage began), and by about forty minutes in I was suffering from acute motion sickness, so much so that I hurriedly left my friends in the dark, hauled my ass to the men's room, and promptly threw up my breakfast. After voiding my stomach I left the theater, returned to the Vault and, still queasy, laid down on my bed until my wooziness passed.

So I didn't see the whole film. Forty minutes. That's it.

What I can tell you is that the flick's not bad by any means, nor is it great, stocked as it is with pretty and vapid types who would be right at home on any given CW network show, but as a giant monster junkie I couldn't help but love the film's POV concept. Unfortunately the motion sickness drove me from the theater before I could even get a really good look at the monster; I did get to see glimpses of random parts of its body and a brief look at its enraged face, but not enough to give me a clear picture of just what the fuck it is, and the giant monster fan in me weeps at having missed out.

So since I can't fairly say that I've seen CLOVERFIELD in its entirety I'm turning over this review to my old pal Mark G., a man who, if I had waited for another minute before leaving, would have been adorned in a kilt composed of a partially-digested Egg McMuffin. He knows his shit, and when it comes to having anyone fill in for me as a qualified guest reviewer Mark is right at the top of my very short list. Here's what Mark had to say:

CLOVERFIELD, a spoiler free recap.

Just got back from an afternoon showing of JJ Abrams' Cloverfield. Let me start with some disclosures. I don't watch LOST, so I'm not really an Abrams fanboy . I am however a huge fan of giant monster movies, particularly the Japanese (best) kind, and I think the American remake of GODZILLA is an absolutely horrific abomination of the cinema.

With that out of the way, I've got to say that I enjoyed CLOVERFIELD. I'm pretty happy with what I saw, and generally pleased with the movie as a whole. The biggest hurdle for the average viewer is definitely going to be Abrams' choice to show the entire movie through handheld video footage. It's a strong choice stylistically, and it sets the tone of the film as an intimate chronicle. It also means it looks like it was shot by an epileptic drinking Jolt Cola and doing lines of cocaine a lot of the time. Lots of shaky camerawork and grainy footage can make it hard to focus, especially when accompanied by booming sound effects. This film will definitely induce headaches in certain viewers, but I have to applaud the director's choice to present the film this way.

It's also a pretty bold choice to make a movie about Manhattan getting fucked up in the wake of 9/11. In an earlier post on the Vault, El Buncho questioned how New Yorkers in particular would feel about seeing their fair city under siege once again. There are definitely scenes that echo 9/11, particularly one of a building collapsing and a wall of dust rushing to engulf passersby, and a mass exodus on the Brooklyn Bridge. These are scenes that will jar unpleasant memories of that day for certain viewers. Cops and Firemen are not going to be rushing out in droves to see this film, and I can say with complete confidence that I think this film could trigger post traumatic stress syndrome in some viewers. But I don't think Abram's uses this point of view as a cheap gimmick; to me it was more of a commentary on the immediacy of events in this age of information, and it has an almost viral quality.

Since I'm not giving away anything by saying the Statue of Liberty gets beheaded, what struck me about that scene was the footage of people whipping out cell phone cameras to snap shots of the decapitated head as it lay in the middle of the street. Nothing that happens in CLOVERFIELD is that different from any other giant monster movie, except in the perspective. This is a movie about a monster attacking a city as seen through the people fleeing from it. That alone is interesting to me, like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, except that you actually get to see the monster and it's actually frightening. The creature itself is pretty cool looking, but that's all I'm going to say. My biggest fear was that it was going to look corny, like the Americanized iguana/alien/zilla did. Its origins are kept ambiguous, which I liked. We can presume it rose from the sea, covered in small crustacean like creatures that fall off it and attack people as it lumbers around. Abrams uses them sparingly, but their presence adds to the sense of chaos since it's not simply a matter of avoiding the giant monster; it brought some nasty parasites up from the deep with it too.

I feel a bit guilty saying this, but the destruction of NYC looks great. REALLY great. Strangely enough with all the hype surrounding the trailer for this movie, there's never any mention of Slusho (we do see a Slusho t-shirt and not so subtle Nokia product placement), nor do we ever find out what job our protagonist Rob is even moving to Japan for. Personally I found the whole Japan angle to be a subtle nod by Abrams to the Japanese kaiju film genre. This film is the film the American GODZILLA should have been. Abrams gives us a monster, and not some lame ass puff of smoke either. And for the record, Godzilla or Gamera would have kicked the Clovermonster’s ass from here to Hoboken.

"Aaargh! I'm gonna HURL!!!"