Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Life Review

I have totally fallen off the face of the internet. Several things happened:

-I went to Japan for two weeks.
-I went to see Shudder to Think for an entire weekend.
-I went to a dozen Halloween parties.
-I bought a PS3...and 4 games.
-I sort-of fell in love.

Those events are listed in chronological order. And they are all fabulous.

I will be writing more in the upcoming weeks - I promise. I was trying to do NaNo but please see list above for reasons why it simply hasn't worked out. I'm in that early stage of the relationship (can I call it "blithesome"?) and it's wonderful. But I'm going to get back into the swing of things. I've been:

-reading the Stephen King "Dark Tower" series;
-watching loads of horror movies;
-playing tons of video games.

So, I have plenty of fodder for the blog cannon. And I think it's time I got the creative juices flowing again.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Band Review: Shudder to Think (part 2)

I just got back from the show. I'm 29 years old. And I still - and always will - love Craig Wedren.

You'll always be my number one, Craig. <3

Friday, October 3, 2008

Band Review: Shudder to Think

I wrote this completely corny review yesterday, and I am a little self-conscious about it, but whatever. I'm corny! I don't care. I'm seeing Shudder to Think tonight and I couldn't be more thrilled. So, enjoy! -n

In my teenage years, one of my favorite hobbies was to stay up all night watching MTV. This could happen any night, and occasionally fell in a Sunday, when they used to have a show called “120 Minutes.” It was an amalgam of what was considered “alternative” music, back when that genre was still relatively new. It was on one of these beloved night/mornings that I discovered a band that would change my life forever: Shudder to Think. The video was for “X-French T-shirt” on what remains my favorite album, Pony Express Record. And from the moment Craig Wedren’s voice poured out of those shitty RCA television speakers and started to Shake My Halo Down, I knew I was in love, and that nothing would ever be the same again.

When they broke up, it made me Grow Cold. I had finally been able to procure all of their albums, thanks largely to a used record store in Reading called “Warrior Music” – I hope that, somewhere, my old Saab still has their “Screw Corporate America!” bumper sticker I so affectionately placed on there – and they broke up. I was devastated, certain that it was The Saddest Day of My Life. I continued listening to them, and they remained my favorite band, despite the many bands that have ebbed and flowed in and out of my eclectic musical taste.

Then I heard The Call of the Playground: they were getting back together for a reunion tour. No way! It can’t be! I could not believe these Lies About the Sky. I, of course, bought tickets to both the Philadelphia and New York shows, determined to see them as much as I possibly could. I’ve been listening daily to every Day Ditty, and suddenly, this morning, while listening to “Just Really Wanna See You” from the First Love, Last Rites soundtrack, it hit me like a Love Catastrophe: I’m going to see Shudder to Think tomorrow.

Tomorrow night, I am going to walk into the TLA and see them perform, live, and I will most likely sob my heart out the entire show. Tomorrow, I am going to be in the same room as Craig Wedren and he is going to perform the songs that have helped me to get through some of my most awkward and painful moments. Tomorrow, I’m going to hear, in person, some of the words that, like the loving grip of a friend, squeezed my hand in my time of need. Tomorrow, my dear Earthquakes will Come Home. And I’m sorry to anyone who tries to love me ever again, for I am So Into You, Shudder to Think: you Own Me.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A word or two on PAX, before reality seeps back in.

so i just got back from PAX. it was...an incredible experience, to say the least. i got to check out (though not as much as i wanted to) a gorgeous new city, seattle. i FINALLY managed to make it to the west coast for the first time in my life. i got to see and play all kinds of awesome new video games as well as pick up loads of awesome (and lots of free!) merch. i got to see mc frontalot perform...AND he signed my cds...AND i got my picture taken with him. i got to see an amazing q&a with the penny arcade boys, as well as watch them play rock band (AWESOME!) and vs. excitebike. i got to experience the omegathon in all its geektastic glory. the creator of ninjatown recognized my patrick the wolfboy t-shirt and talked to me about art and franco (shawn says hi, guys!). i got to see a fantastic spore demo and realized IT IS COMING OUT NEXT WEEK - after YEARS of waiting for it. and...possibly the best part...i got to see a panel (and new exclusive stuff - live!) from the rooster teeth guys as well as get my stuff signed AND get my picture taken with them. they were...just...amazing. really fantastic.

i have to admit, i'm no stranger to conventions. this was, i think, my eighth year going to philadelphia's wizard world comic-con. it was my third year going to monster mania in cherry hill. it was my first year going to otakon. it was my first pax. (those last three all happened in this month of august, in fact.) while i love the comic book convention (it's got my favorite geek flea market) and the horror convention (there's nothing quite like breathlessly accusing tom savini of being a genius) and otakon was a blast (so much KAWAII), i can honestly say that PAX was the first time i felt like i was really home. i guess it's because of those four things - comics, horror movies, anime, and video games - i've been into video games the longest, since my mom used to haul crates over to arcade games at the mall so i could play them when i was 3 or 4 years old. it took going to PAX to bring back the full nostalgia of it for me and remind me how much of a gaming geek i am - and always have been - at heart. i also have a hard time choosing between watching movies, reading books, and playing video games (and even playing the guitar and knitting), but i think for a while i know which mode i'm going to be stuck on again.

the other thing that i want to comment on is just...seattle. WOW. i could never imagine wanting to live anywhere other than philadelphia. my second favorite city is boston, and my third, baltimore. but seattle...seattle just blew them all away. i could see myself living in dublin, and even belfast, but i could never imagine calling those places my home. the same with boston and baltimore. but seattle...i could see myself living in seattle and calling it my home, really. it's laid back, and from what i saw, it's just my style, from the clothes to the food to the attitude. i utterly loved it there. i'm not sure if i'll be singing the same tune in a few weeks, after i get back from japan, but these are just my rambling, sleep-deprived, jetlagged thoughts as i'm having them.

PAX changed me. it re-opened a place that i had in my heart that's been buried under failed relationships, japanese grammar, netflix queues, and complications of life. too much of my energy and passion is constantly misdirected. but i promise myself - i will never let that place get buried again.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Movie Review - Alpha Dog

I wasn’t interested in seeing Alpha Dog until I saw Emile Hirsch’s performance as the title character in Speed Racer, and even after seeing it, I still feel the latter is possibly the best delivery he’s ever given. But I will say one thing: I had no idea Justin Timberlake could act. Sure, I’ve seen his silly performances on Saturday Night Live, and I love Black Snake Moan, but let’s be serious – who was paying attention to him in that movie, really? Christina Ricci utterly consumed all focus. But Timerlake was given the chance to truly shine in this movie, bringing out a side of him I had never seen.

For anyone unfamiliar with the plot, Alpha Dog is based on a true story – that of “Jesse James Hollywood,” who was the youngest man to appear on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list. This tragic tale centers on Hirsch’s character, Johnny Truelove, and his relationship with one of his underlings, Jake Mazursky. Mazursky owes him money, and the two start a feud that leads to Truelove kidnapping Jake’s younger brother, Zack. Thinking this will blow over quickly, Truelove puts Frankie in charge of watching Zack. Frankie – played by Timberlake – and Zack both begin to take the situation lightly. Frankie starts to like the kid, and Zack, who had just gotten into a fight with his parents, loves the freedom (ironically) and the party-all-the-time lifestyle. He’s somewhat of a celebrity to all the kids, and the girls can’t keep their hands off of him. But when the reality of what has happened catches up with everyone – a seriousness evident as an undercurrent throughout the film with the reactions of the Mazursky parents, as well as Truelove’s father’s reaction to what’s going on – Truelove makes a drastic decision that shatters the rock-star lifestyle they’ve all been leading.

Touching, naïve, and tragic, Alpha Dog has many themes – the mentality of the “immortal and untouchable youth,” the fear of taking responsibility for one’s actions, and the herd mentality all combine for extraordinary characters and an unforgettable story. I wouldn’t recommend this to the overly-sensitive or the weak of stomach or heart, though. It’s a tragedy that will remain with you.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Movie Review - The Fountain

First and foremost, I’d like to make something clear. Had I not read the little sleeve the movie came in when Netflix shipped it to me, The Fountain would not have made a whole lot of sense. It describes the three iterations of the two main characters – in 16th century Spain, as soldier and Queen; in modern times, as scientist and sick wife; in 26th century space, as an astronaut and…er…a tree. However, if you don’t read that little blurb, or have no previous knowledge of the movie, the scenes in which the two main characters are in the future make very little sense. There is neither an introduction to, nor an explanation of, the scenes in which the “astronaut” and his tree are in a bubble in space and, given the context of the movie, it could mean something very different than what they were trying to accomplish.

The two main characters are played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. I feel they did a fantastic job portraying the lovers throughout the ages. But the weak connections, disjointed plot, and confusing timeline bogged down the movie and undermined their chemistry. The costumes and scenery are beautiful, but again, the disorientation and lack of explanation leave crucial information to the imagination, which is a sign of a poorly-developed design. And I’d rather use the word “scant” when I’m referencing Weisz’s wardrobe than when I’m discussing the amount of sense the story made.

The one really positive thing I will say about the movie is this: I really, really liked the ending. Weisz’s present-day character, the scientist's wife who was dying of cancer, had a beautiful view of what immortality was, and tried to explain it to Jackman, but he was too obsessed with finding a cure for her – and a cure for death – that he wouldn’t listen. It took him another 500 years – and a trip to a star nebula in space – to figure it out. The way they achieve their goal is very cool, but sadly, doesn’t make up for the time wasted to get there.

Movie Review - Punch-Drunk Love

SPOILER ALERT! There are spoilers in this review. Please don’t read it if you don’t want this movie spoiled for you.

When I first saw the trailers for Punch-Drunk Love, I was intrigued. I had seen Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the other movie they did around the same time, Red Dragon, and I was interested to see them in this movie as well. It took me much longer to see this film, obviously – I saw Red Dragon in the theater in 2002, but didn’t see Punch-Drunk Love until about two weeks ago.

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t waste my money on it – well, other than my Netflix fee.

Barry Egan, played by Adam Sandler, is an anguished, depressed, completely dejected salesman. He is cruelly verbally abused by his seven sisters, causing most of his depression, as well as extremely violent behavior, and a tendency to cry “for no reason.” His most obnoxious sister – aptly played by bitchy-as-hell Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known for her part as Chloe on 24 – is the worst offender, constantly riding his ass about going out on a blind date with one of her friends, played by Watson.

Utterly disjointed, connected only by scenes of oftentimes completely unnecessary and confusing violence, and excruciating in both its constant torture of Egan – who is thrown from one extremely bad situation to another – the movie is painful to watch. At a family dinner, he smashes three huge sliding-glass doors at the house of one of his sisters, and then confesses to one of his in-laws that he has a problem with crying, and proceeds to burst into tears. He calls a sex line – not surprising, considering he literally has no one to talk to who doesn’t completely insult, degrade, or curse at him – and the next day, the woman threatens to steal his identity when he tells her he can’t help her out financially. Her boss, played by Hoffman, sends thugs after Barry, and they proceed to rob him and beat him up. All of these things have massive build-up, with the only positive light in his life being points he gets from buying Weight Watchers foods which he plans to use to get Frequent Flyer miles using a loophole in the rules.

Not making any sense? It didn’t make any sense when I was watching it, either. The culmination of ridiculousness occurs when he is in bed with Watson, and they are making out, and he tells her that he wants to smash her face in, and commences more “pillow talk” in the form of describing all the violent things he wants to do to her. She responds in kind, and then they make a comment along the lines of “this is fun.” I’m sorry, but if I started kissing a darkly disturbed dude who was known to lie and had gotten us kicked out of a restaurant because he destroyed the bathroom (which, in all fairness, she found out later, BUT STILL), if he started talking about smashing my face in, I’d probably get the hell out of there pretty quickly.

At the end of the movie, all I could think was, “no movie has made me that depressed since There Will Be Blood.” Surprise! It was the same director, Paul Thomas Anderson. I also felt the same way about Boogie Nights, though don’t worry – I know that depressing stories about drug-addicted porn stars aren’t supposed to make me happy. In all fairness, I DID love Magnolia. But I’d still like to send him a personal thank-you: for making me depressed with poorly-constructed movies and setting my teeth on edge with horrible scores since 2007.

I’d like to add one more comment: this movie, aside from being one of the worst, was one of the cruelest I’ve ever seen. I would rank this in the same category as movies like Saw – the totally unnecessary and awful torture of people by other people, simply because they think they are superior. The only difference between the two is the amount of blood and the entertainment value – of which I think Saw had more of both. It may seem extreme to compare the two movies, but honestly, I couldn’t even crack a single smile through this entire film, and feared the ending would result in the main character’s suicide…which I felt would actually have been a relief. In comparison, sawing off one’s own foot seems mild.

Movie Review - The Fall

When I heard that Tarsem Singh, the director of The Cell, had done another movie entitled The Fall, I checked out the trailer. I was overwhelmed with how lovely it seemed, and finally got around to seeing it last night. It went well beyond any expectation I had for it.

The plot is simple, and the delivery both unique and fascinating. It is set in Los Angeles in 1915. A Hollywood stuntman, Roy, is hurt when trying to pull off a stunt. A quirky and curious little girl, Alexandria, has broken her arm while working in the orange orchards. She wanders around the hospital, searching for ways to alleviate boredom, and discovers Roy. In exchange for doing him favors – mostly stealing medicine – Roy tells her a magnificent story. Shown from the point of view of imagination, the story itself is intertwined with the lives of both characters.

First, let me say this: Lee Pace, the atheist brother of Jaye in the short-lived Wonderfalls, is stupendous in his role as Roy Walker. Roy suffers from more than physical injuries: his heart has been broken, and the pain he feels is so evident – and so accessible – throughout the entire film. His obvious inexperience with children is adorable in some scenes, terrifying in others. He underestimates the effect he has had on little Alexandria, and this oversight nearly causes the child her life. The final scenes with the two characters had me beside myself – their love for each other had me in tears. As for Catinca Untaru as Alexandria…what a fascinating child! It’s so hard to believe that someone so young could be so incredibly expressive and so fully capture the essence of confusion required of Alexandria, whose English is, as Roy says more than once, “gibberish.” The two performances were remarkable.

Second, and I expected no less: the scenery was breathtaking. The entire movie, which spanned 18 different countries (WHOA!), was so utterly gorgeous that I found myself repeatedly in awe. Two scenes in particular stand out in my mind: the scene with one of the secondary characters, known only as “the Mystic,” in which he is tattooed while his brothers sing – I don’t want to spoil the scene too much by giving it away – and Darwin realizes what is happening and forces out a gasp of surprise, barely shoving out the words, “they’re giving us directions!” The other scene is the wedding – I can’t even put it into words. Nothing like the conventional wedding one might imagine, the lack of noise found here is overwhelming. Again, I couldn’t help but cry through almost the entire scene, it was so fantastically beautiful.

This is how movies should be made. It was the kind of movie that simultaneously lifted my spirits because it reminded me of the beauty so inherent in the world, and yet broke my heart, for fear that I’ll never make anything this lovely in my lifetime. I enthusiastically recommend this movie to everyone.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Movie Review: Speed Racer

This weekend, Gina and I were discussing movies that do – and don’t – translate well to the cinematic medium. Throughout the night, we discussed the good (Hellboy, Casshern), the bad (Dune [take your pick], Ghost World), the ugly (Spawn, Troy), and the resounding (the Narnia and Lord of the Rings series). I had admitted a secret to her – it involved Dune – and we wandered down the path of writers and directors being into the movies they translate and how important it is for them to really dedicate the passion and adoration necessary to make a beautiful piece of work.

Speed Racer was one of those movies.

Yeah, I just compared Speed Racer to the Lord of the Rings. I went there. I called Speed Racer a motherfucking masterpiece. And I believe it with every fiber of my GO-MACH-GO-loving being.

It was the perfect homage to the cartoon. It had all of the kitschy elements of that darling classic: you had Spritle and Chim Chim, surprisingly not as annoying as you would imagine…in fact, they were refreshingly adorable, and while they did still have their random interludes (not as random as, say, driving through the countryside in top hats and monocles), they were funny and cute. I wasn’t sure why Sparky had an Australian accent, but the Racer parents were perfectly portrayed by Susan Sarandon and John Goodman. Speed and Trixie – I can’t even say enough about those two and how amazing they were. And don’t even get me started on Racer X. I would have paid the admission price alone to see Matthew Fox run around in black leather, which he does throughout the entire movie, except one scene in which he is FIGHTING IN HIS BOXERS. As Trixie says, “Hubba hubba!”

The acting was refreshing and the dialogue was a devoted tribute. With every scene, you can see how much everyone loved this movie – the writers and the actors. I had goose bumps for the first 20 minutes, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Speed’s mom told him how he “took her breath away” with his driving. And I’ll admit, when I saw the trailer, I thought the racing scenes were going to be over-the-top ridiculous, but when we went to see it again last night, I found myself looking forward to each of the races, and cheering Speed on.

If you liked the cartoon, there’s even more in store for you. The attention – and dedication – to detail was startling. The first announcer in the movie was the original voice for Speed in the English-dubbed cartoon. There’s a scene with a James Bond movie playing in the background. Cruncher Block has pet piranhas…in what appears to be a nod to the Mammoth Car. And a very enthusiastic high five to anyone who can spot the Tatsunoko logo in the movie! (Thanks, Gina!)

I can’t say enough good things about this movie – nor can I express how shocked I am that it’s getting destroyed by critics. The affection with which this movie was written, cast, and created takes my breath away. I haven’t been this excited about a movie since – holy shit, I’m going to fucking say it – Fight Club.

Go see it. Now. You can thank me later.


Gina's comment was so awesome that I felt the need to add it here for all to see:

"This movie...what else can I say about it? Sigh. Imagine all the characters from the cartoon. Got that picture? Ok. Then imagine them as having fully fleshed-out, multi-dimensional personalities and feelings. Then imagine those personalities and feelings of real people interacting with each other, loving each other, working through grief, fighting injustice. Pretty fucking awesome. The depth of these characters was, quite frankly, breathtaking. Especially given what they had to work with from the original. Then imagine Matthew Fox in his underwear with a silk drape artfully wrapped around his mouth, fighting ninjas. Sweet Christ, it was like Hanzo Hattori meets Playgirl.... Worth the $10 ticket price alone."

She's absolutely right - especially about Hirsch's portrayal of Speed. His innocence and naive simplicity - not to be confused with stupidity! - are truly like the cartoon character come to life.

Go, Speed, Go!

and for those of you who need more persuasion...HOTNESS:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Movie Review: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Sometimes things happen and you regret them later. Maybe you put too much sugar in your coffee, or performed some heavy flirting with a married guy, or pushed someone down a flight of stairs. Either way, there are things that happen that make you think to yourself, “I really wish I had a time machine right now.”

That’s the situation I’m currently in.

I was in the Superfresh a few weeks ago – the classy one down on South Street – and this obnoxious scene-tard was going on and on about movies while standing by the Redbox. “Oh, this is the BEST MOVIE I’ve seen in a LONG time,” he said, waving around a copy of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. I took it as some kind of dare, and rented it. If I had a time machine right now, I would go back in time and tell him his taste in movies sucks, because yeah, I got to see Marisa Tomei’s boobs, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is basically awesome in everything he’s ever been in (Happiness, anyone?), but that’s about all that was worth seeing in it, and it could have been compressed down to about an hour and a half or less.

(See? I’m not always happy with a longer movie. Take that, people who don’t agree with me that I Am Legend would have been better if it was longer and, you know, more coherent.)

Anyway, the movie wasn’t worth watching, that guy in Superfresh is a toolbox, and my coffee is way too sweet. But I’m seeing Matthew Fox in black leather tomorrow, so I don’t have a care in the world.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Movie Review: Expelled

First and foremost: sorry for the slacker-age. I've been soooo unbelievably busy that I've had very little time for myself. But I'd like to do something unprecedented here and write a review of a movie I haven't seen: the “most controversial” pile of dog-shit, by up-and-coming Michael-Moore-wannabe Ben Stein: Expelled.

Are you joking? Seriously. Is he kidding here? I really hope that, at the end, he jumps out of a cake that is shaped like a bible, and he’s got on fake wings and is wearing a halo and tutu and says “PSYCH!” Because for real, people. How did this happen? How did Ben Stein – Ben Stein! How did Ben Stein make a movie about intelligent design, and how is it that people are actually taking it seriously? This would be like me making a movie about how natural selection is bullshit and targeting only crackpots in my interviews for the movie and making sure I take kids in wheelchairs to K-Mart’s headquarters and OH WAIT! I’m not actually an expert on any of that, so why on earth would I make a movie about it?

I’m getting a bit off the mark here because I’m just so frustrated by the idea that any jerk-off with an assload of money can just make a movie about whatever because they are too bored, or haven’t gotten any attention in years, or whatever is going on in Ben Stein’s head. Come on. Ben Stein?!!? The monotone teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, who has been in such cinematic masterpieces as Dennis the Menace, My Girl 2, and (Myke, don’t die) Son of the Mask? How does anyone take this guy seriously – anyone without RED-EYE, I mean?

I’ll tell you what Ben Stein should be doing with his money: giving it to me. In large sums. After we battle it out, Jeopardy-style (I would love to say “Suck it, Stein!”) and then go on our merry way, never to have to face each other again. Because other people winning Ben Stein’s money is clearly the only good use that money ever got.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Movie Review: There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood was yet another traumatizing movie for me. I think part of it was the score, which had my teeth grinding mercilessly (thanks, Johnny Greenwood!), but another part of it was the endless suspense in the movie. It was building and releasing much like the pressure of oil shooting out of the earth, so I guess it was actually pretty accurate.

So there’s Daniel Day-Lewis, and he’s an oil tycoon, and in a series of unfortunate events, he and his adopted son, who doesn’t know he’s adopted, roll up on a miserable pile of land that is supposedly rich in oil, and basically proceed to get totally fucked.

Look, I could go more into it, but it’s a seriously long movie, and anything I would say would kind of ruin the plot, but I can assure you – it’s a great movie. I mean, if you like this sort of thing. It’s really long, and has a good plot (albeit slow), and the acting is fantastic, and did I mention it’s super-ultra-mega-cupcakes-long? Also: if you don’t like to see really violent scenes, don’t worry, you’ve got plenty of time to look away before they happen (men at the bottom of a deep hole while other men are sending heavy metal objects up and down with rope and technology FROM THE LATE 1800’S = a recipe for dental – and skull-related – disaster).

Oh, and if you want an idea of how great Daniel Day-Lewis is, I’ll quote my friend James: Cloverfield would have been better if it had a 200-foot-tall Daniel Day-Lewis in it as the monster.

Need I say more?

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

Everyone kept telling me I had to see No Country for Old Men. I didn’t know a thing about it, other than Tommy Lee Jones was in it and the Coen brothers directed it. Not finding it at all suspicious that no one had told me anything about it, I decided to watch it…alone. Hey, The Hudsucker Proxy was one of my favorite movies! So light-hearted and adorably fresh! This had to be great, right? Why, I’d bet my Pulitzer on it!

Sweet fancy Moses do I wish I could have turned back time and not watched that movie by myself. The first ten minutes alone had me feeling ill in the stomach. By the time I was halfway through the movie, I was wishing someone would come in and kill ME with one of those crazy punch-guns they use to kill cattle (though two nights later, when I woke up covered in sweat and saw a shadow under my door and swore Javier Bardem was standing outside and was about to punch in my lock and kill me, you can bet your ass I was wishing someone would certainly NOT come in and kill me with one of those crazy punch-guns!).

It was one of those movies full of graphic violence that was probably necessary, if you really take the time to think about it, because there are some things that you truly need in order to express the fathomless depths of how insane some of the characters you’re portraying really are. And it was also full of those moments where you think, well that was kind of unnecessary, but I guess that person was killed because of this, and suddenly you realize you just justified the actions of a serial killer to try to see his point of view, and you start to get that ill feeling in the stomach again because, well I mean, at least for me, I don’t want to be able to fully comprehend the reasoning of a serial killer.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a beautifully done movie. I have no arguments with the story, how the story was achieved, the character development (in fact, props to that one), the dialogue, anything other than I could have done with about 20 more minutes of Tommy Lee Jones. The movie just left me feeling ill and depressed afterwards. Which makes it pretty successful at achieving what it set out to do, I know.

One final comment I’ll add here for the sake of a chuckle: I kept complaining that it was too literary at times, and that symbolism belonged in a Carson McCullers novel, not a Coen brothers movie. My friend Beth was the one who finally broke the news to me: it was based on a Cormac McCarthy novel. I kid you not, I nearly threw my backpack into the Schyulkill River when she said that. Had someone told me that beforehand, I would have a) done some research, b) been prepared for the movie, and c) possibly not even watched it. I supposed, in retrospect, it’s better that no one did tell me, but still. DAMN.

Movie Review: Re-Animator

Wow. Re-Animator. Just, wow. Kathy and I decided to watch it when we were sitting down to have some dinner, and it actually made her lose her appetite. (Sorry, Kathy!) I haven’t read the original story it’s based on, but I can see why many people didn’t take it seriously. The scene at the end with the head and the…well…yeah. You have to see it for yourself, really.

Re-Animator is the story of a mad doctor (not angry mad, like CRAZY I-can-totally-play-God-and-win mad) who has been dabbling in bringing the dead back to life. He was originally experimenting on animals, but with the help of his new, totally handsome and popular roommate, he starts experimenting on humans…with disastrous results.

I would be forced to say this isn’t necessarily your average zombie movie, either. I mean, I guess it is, technically – the scene towards the end in particular (with creative use of a fog machine!) might make it a zombie movie – but it’s more like a super campy mad doctor movie that happens to include re-animated corpses (and that oh-so-typical ending!).

I have to admit that despite the fact that I’ve used words like “campy” and “typical” and “totally,” I did enjoy this movie. I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites, but I would say that there’s a pretty good chance I will one day see the sequel. And that this time, when I meet Jeffrey Combs at a horror movie convention, I will shake his hand and say “well done, my boy!” Well done indeed.

Book Review: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Salutations, all! I am very sorry for my lack of updates, but life decided to kick me in the ass. I’ve been busy with work, school, family, and when I can fit them in, my friends, and I’ve been avoiding the internet as much as possible. But here I am! And I feel it is time for another review.

In contrast to my last review, I’d like to discuss Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I started my Murakami odyssey with Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World last year, and I was a smitten kitten after that. I didn’t have access to any of his other books, but I decided that, this term, I’d do an independent study in modern Japanese literature, and the teacher I chose to help me with it happens to LOVE Murakami, so it all worked out for the best. The second book I read by him was A Wild Sheep Chase, and while I originally thought it was lacking something, after having read Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and currently being enmeshed in Kafka on the Shore, I’m partially convinced that it’s simply a facet of his style to leave loose ends and to at times be vague and not necessarily satisfy the questions he himself has created within his own stories. There’s nothing wrong with that; I think that I was just more into the story of Wind-Up than I was Sheep.

Anyway, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was a remarkable tale of…wow. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It begins as a story of a missing cat, migrates to a missing wife, delves into the mysteries of the mind, makes a few brief detours into grisly war tales, returns to Japanese suburbia, and then, much like Hard-Boiled, dances in and out of what is “real” and what is “of the mind.” In my pursuits online, I’ve found many people using words like “MurakamiLand” and “MurakamiWorld” in their descriptions of his books, and those are charmingly accurate. Murakami doesn’t just write novels; he has created an entire universe in which characters come and go, have sex and murder, wax philosophical and…talk to cats. He is a compelling and unique author in both his style and voice.

But focusing on Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (that’s what this is supposed to be about, right?), I felt lovingly drawn to all of the characters in the book, especially the main character, Toru Okada, whose cat has mysteriously gone missing, and whose wife, Kumiko, goes missing soon after. Wait, scratch that – I was never lovingly drawn to Noboru Wataya, Kumiko’s brother. He’s a nasty piece of business. But I did love May Kasahara, and the strange mother and son known only as Nutmeg and Cinnamon. The colorful array of characters Murakami has created populate another part of his universe and dance in the hauntingly surrealistic ballet that is the chronicle of the wind-up bird.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to get into Murakami or Japanese literature in general. It can be a difficult read – surrealism and hard-boiled detective stories are not everyone’s cup of tea – but it’s worth it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Book Review: A Wild Sheep Chase

I don't get it. Am I supposed to?

Movie Review: Cloverfield

To everyone who talked a bunch of shit about J.J. and Lost and Alias (I totally think that show blows, so whatever) and viral marketing and SLUSHO: eat it. Cloverfield was awesome. As far as I’m concerned, it lived up to all the hype. I understand a lot of people had a lot of problems with it. Most of these people have not seen the movie. Let me address some of the things I’ve been hearing:

1) “You don’t get to see the monster.” Uhh, really? Who told you that? Because you absolutely see the monster. Like, a dozen times. And it’s scary. The ironic thing here is that everyone is complaining that it’s not Godzilla or Cthulhu and that it’s “stupid” because it’s not a well-known monster. These are the same exact people who are complaining that there’s nothing original in Hollywood these days and that everything is a remake. This goes to show that people will complain about anything, no matter how hypocritical it makes them look.

2) “They are using 9/11 to scare people.” Well, yeah. Anything taking place in a city, with collapsing buildings, that is even remotely realistic, is going to remind us of 9/11. So should we stop making movies like that for this reason? Should we continue to do things like pull out that scene in Spider-man 2, the one that was never shown, the one that was supposed to be the original trailer, in which he strings up the robbers’ get-away helicopter in a web between the two World Trade Center towers? Yeah, let’s just shit on everything and take out anything that reminds us of that and bury it and never remember it again. Because having movies in which buildings collapse is more disrespectful than trying to pretend like it never happened.

3) “The story is not clear/undeveloped/bad/stupid/it should have been a movie about them escaping and not about them going into the city.” Wow! I didn’t realize this was the latest Francis Ford Coppola movie, or an independent movie with a deep plot, and not actually AN AMERICAN MONSTER MOVIE. What the fuck were you looking for, Casablanca? The Usual Suspects? Are you seriously going into Cloverfield with these kinds of lofty standards? Are you looking for philosophy in Godzilla? Cry me a river. Go download it off the internet, cheap bastards.

4) “The ending is bad.” The ending is what? What did you want? You knew what the ending was going to be in the very beginning when they showed you the layout of the movie. The VERY ending is actually pretty awesome, because it gives you some insight into where the monster came from (though I have heard two very different ideas that are both awesome). But seriously, it’s a monster movie. If you want to see a GOOD monster movie with a GREAT plot that will absolutely suck you in and give you everything you ever needed, rent The Host. Otherwise, for serious, shut up.

Whew. Ok. Rage abated. And if you want to read an article that is hilarious and includes major spoilers, go to Encyclopedia Dramatica. Oh, and read their write-up of the last Harry Potter book, too.

Movie Review: Juno

Dear Ellen Page,

Seriously, you are so cute, I just want to eat your little face. I loved your portrayal of Juno, the itty-bitty pregnant teenager, who was sort of like a character from Napoleon Dynamite wrapped up in a modern version of someone John Cusack would have been in love with in any of those 80’s movies with a tablespoon of my own teenage years and a pinch of Kitty Pryde. The dialogue was witty, the love triangles were acute, and the adorability of Michael Cera rose to an all-new high. Seriously, I just can’t take that kid sometimes. He is so cute I want to laugh and cry at the same time. The two of you together in one movie made me want to hug things (much to the chagrin of my cats). The soundtrack was also a delightful treat, full of whimsical numbers that made me want to take a time machine and go back to the easy-going days of high school. Well, minus the teenage pregnancy. But plus the armchair on the lawn.

Your Pal,


PS, we should totally be friends!! I love you for real.

Movie Review: The Orphanage

The Orphanage is about a woman who is an orphan in…an orphanage. Right. And then she gets adopted and grows up and adopts a son of her own. And then she buys the shitty orphanage she grew up in and opens it up as a special needs orphanage. And then crazy ghosts come and kidnap her son, and the ending is horribly depressing, and I was so sad I couldn’t even cry. The end.

Ok, ok, I’ll back up. This is a movie produced by Guillermo Del Toro, and after Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, I should have accepted that this was going to be a depressing piece of work. I had no idea that it was going to be so bone-crushingly awful, though. It was marketed as a horror movie, but instead sapped me of my will to live. If I hadn’t immediately disassociated myself from my feelings when I realized exactly what was happening at the end, I probably would have stepped out in front of a car afterwards.

The main thing that pissed me off was that I saw through part of what was going on right from the start. The ghosts play a trick on the son and the son shows the mom how to play the game. I knew, right from there, that as soon as the son disappeared and the mom found her first clue, that she was supposed to play the game with them. I was practically yelling at the screen, and by the time she figured out what was going on, I had given up on any hope of her actually unraveling the mystery.

You know, I’m almost too disappointed in the movie to finish the review. The story was choppy, parts of it were totally unnecessary, it didn’t connect with other parts, and the advertising for it was misleading (which works sometimes for me, but most of the time, no way). I was glad they ended it the way that they did, because with Pan’s Labyrinth, they left it open to interpretation, and there is NO WAY I was going to stand for it if they left this one up to interpretation and I had to listen to people say how the two movies ended so happily because SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, that is TOTAL CRAP and it’s delusional to think there is ANYTHING happy about these endings.

Ok, enough of this, thinking about the movie is making me want to eat thumbtacks. Four thumbs down on this one, including my toes. Well, maybe not four, but at least one.

Movie Review: Volcano High

There are a lot of things I could say about Volcano High – it’s a colorful comic-book movie hailing from Korea. It was also remade into English with, uh, Snoop Dogg and a bunch of other rappers, which I wasn’t aware of until after I already saw it. I’m glad I opted for the Korean version, but that may have actually been pretty funny.

The main story is – the students at this high school are supernatural kids. They have powers. And the principal has…some kind of magical manuscript kind of thing. And whoever has it, has “the power.” And then something happens to the principal (something supernatural!) and the school gets turned upside down – all the students, and the teachers, are now vying for that power.

Hysterically enough, this movie reminded me of a film version of a book I read when I was kid, called The War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids. Yes, the book was as awesome as the title suggests. The book was a little less supernatural than the movie, but not by much. Either way, they were both completely over-the-top awesome.

I definitely recommend Volcano High as a fun movie to watch with some friends – so long as you don’t mind subtitles (or alternatively, maybe you LIKE Snoop Dogg and want to be regaled by his voice acting!). Two scary-Japanese-bees-sized thumbs up. (For those of you just joining us, that reference is from this horrifying piece of hilarity: http://www.cracked.com/article_15816_5-most-horrifying-bugs-in-world.html. Enjoy!)

Show Review: The O.C., Season 4

Yes, I’ll admit it – I’m addicted to The O.C. I was obsessed completely when I saw the first commercials. Something about Benjamin McKenzie just completely kicked my ass. I know many people think he’s – I don’t know, I guess they think he’s too pretty, or maybe they just dislike everyone on the show because, well, it’s The O.C. Many people tend to hate mainstream shows simply because they are mainstream. (I tend to dislike most mainstream shows simply because they appear totally unappetizing.) But whatever the reason, I love this freakin’ show, and that’s that.

I recently got to catch up on the series and watch season 4. I was going to avoid it, but I stumbled upon a review of it on Amazon.com one day, and it said that it went back to the roots of the original first season. I was intrigued by this. The first season was awesome – it was smart and funny – low on drama and high on quick wit. It was filled with one-liners from Ryan Atwood, Seth Cohen, Sandy Cohen…all my Newport favorites.

Seasons 2 and 3 were boring – it seemed they took out three parts wit and added equal parts drama. What?? STUPID. I wanted less Marissa and more…well, ok, anything other than Marissa and her annoyingly bad decisions and constant other boyfriends and blah blah blah. Who cares what she’s doing? The only thing I ever liked about her in the show was that she looked relatively normal – as compared to how she looked outside of the show, which was a total go-fug-yourself party. In a word: suckfest.

I will say one thing: the music was consistently awesome. Seasons 1 and 2 were by far the best (recall Halloween, Alaska and, of course, the love of my life, Aqueduct), but season 4 pulled out the stops with some amazing music – including Jason Schwartzman’s solo project, Coconut Records. Way to keep it fresh, dudes.

Season 4 went back to the basics. It had the same great rapport between the characters, the quick wit was back, Taylor Townsend was actually kind of cute, and best of all, Marissa was dead! Yay! There were a few overly dramatic moments – let’s have an earthquake and make like everyone’s dead! But other than that, it was right back to where we started…and that’s where it ended.

All in all: this was a great season and a great way to end the series. The last episode had me in tears…from the first beats of Phantom Planet’s “California,” to The O.C. and the line running through it, to the end, and the shot of the poolhouse. I was all choked up. I was going to miss Ryan Atwood especially. But at least they had a chance to wrap it all up…in a way that didn’t leave me wanting more, and gave a proper ending to the show.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Movie Review: Barking Dogs Never Bite

If you’re anything at all like me, you not only love movies, but you tend to fall in love with directors as well. You enjoy a certain style, the way the dialogue is brought to life in a scene, or the way a certain scene is shot. I end up liking a movie, looking into who “did it,” and following up by watching their other movies. I started, in this case, with The Host, a fantastic Korean monster movie directed and written by Joon-ho Bong. I moved on to his Memories of Murder, a movie about the first documented Korean serial killer, and from there I discovered the one I’m going to talk about here: Barking Dogs Never Bite.

Please note: this is not a movie for the animal lover who can’t bear to see a single moment of cruelty to animals. Trust me. I’m not one of those people, and some of the scenes made me cringe.

The story starts out with a man and his pregnant wife living in an apartment complex. He is working part time at a local university and trying frantically to secure a full time position. Between his periods of inactivity and his desperation to become full time, he is not quite sane, and snaps one night when a neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking.

One thing leads to another, and soon there are posters around town for not one, but two missing dogs. The girl who works at the municipal building becomes involved with the owners in trying to find the dogs, and through a cunning plot twist, the professor and the clerk end up befriending one another.

I don’t want to spoil anything about what happens to the dogs OR the people, but I’ll say that it’s definitely a quirky little movie and worth watching, especially if you’ve seen Bong’s other movies. You’ll enjoy the performance here by the clerk, who played the aunt in The Host, and was great in both movies. (Also, her best friend, who works in the coffee shop, is one of the women in jail in Chan-wook Park’s Lady Vengeance.) Keep an eye out for those! And enjoy.

Movie Review: The Crow II - City of Angels

I discovered a few months ago that there were 3 more Crow movies made after the original. Since the first one has always been near and dear to my heart, due to the proximity of its release to my teenage years as well as the stellar choices for the soundtrack, I was curious to see what kind of movies these other ones would be. I found all four of them and started in.

So far, the only one I’ve watched – aside from re-watching the first one again – was The Crow II – City of Angels. This one is about a man and his son who witness a murder and are then murdered by the same group of violence-happy troublemakers. This movie is set up almost identically to the first one – man and son are killed, man is resurrected, man takes his vengeance on bad guys starting at the bottom and ending at the top, guy at the top is a crazy nutjob who has a weirdo chick beside him who happens to be into the supernatural and tells him to kill the crow, etc. So, this wasn’t much in the originality department.

In fact, it wasn’t much in anything but the bad department. One of the main characters is Sara, the little girl from the first movie, who is now all grown up and totally, like, gothed-out, man, and she’s a tattoo artist. (She even has Gabriel the cat!) While her story is interesting, they try to play too much on sympathy for her. There’s even a scene where she tries to help out a young girl, who is then barely seen in the rest of the movie, but is in the ending, I suppose to pave the road for the third movie.

So I guess what I’m saying is, if you liked the story so much you wanted to see it played out in a cheesier way with different actors, you could probably rent this movie. Or you could just watch the original again. Or you could totally torture yourself and watch all four of them, which is what I eventually plan to do. Hey, I heard David Boreanaz is in the last movie – how bad can it be?*

*This is sarcasm. I’m not a Buffy or Angel fan, and I don’t find him to be at all attractive. Sorry for ruining the joke with an explanation, but I didn’t want any strangers thinking I was “one of those people.”

Show Review: Trigun

Schneegas kept telling me I had to see this awesome anime called Trigun – he wouldn’t give me any details, just kept saying that it was amazing and I should watch it. So when I finally reset my Netflix queue (I had 500 movies in it, and one day just deleted it and started over. Sometimes, you need to do that!), I put that at the top…and I am glad I did.

This is by far one of the best anime series I’ve ever seen. It centers around Vash the Stampede, the Humanoid Typhoon, who seems to wreak havoc wherever he goes. He is trailed by two members of the Bernardelli Insurance Company, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson. The rumors say that Vash is an insane killer – a monster in a red coat with a blonde Mohawk. He has become a worldwide liability for the insurance company, and these two have been sent to assess - and control - the damage. But as they come to terms with who the real Vash is, they discover that things are not at all what they seem. This surreal environment extends even further when we are introduced to the priest/gunman, Nicholas Wolfwood. When Vash and Wolfwood team up, they are unstoppable. But more often than not, some conflict is always getting in the way.

It’s easy to fall in love with these characters, especially when the bad guys start to line up around them. But this is one of those shows where even the villains are cool. (Schneegas still argues that Legato is the best character, but Wolfwood will always be my favorite.) And keep an eye out for Kuroneko-sama, the cat who appears in every episode!

The story begins on a bright note but descends into the deep, dark, and tragic; yet the cheerful and light-hearted nature of Vash consistently tries to shine through it all. The change in temperature of the show seems to confuse, and even repel, some viewers, but I like my anime in many layers, so it made me enjoy it all the more.

I highly recommend this show to everyone – whether you like your stories complex or simple, this is one that everyone can follow, enjoy, and love.

Movie Review: Pulse

I rented the re-make of the movie Pulse over the summer because 1) it was a horror movie and 2) Kristen Bell is in it, and she is totally adorable. But, it was a total flop, and I didn’t like it. When I discovered that it was a re-make, I rented the original Japanese, and…my opinion of the movie didn’t change.

Basically, the premise is a little different in the original, but it’s just as dry. There are people, and they are all separated by modern living, and idea is that we’re all depressed because we’re so isolated. But this is just the way that the “sickness” spreads – the actual problem is that someone found a gateway into the world of souls, and opened that gateway, and let one into our world. And this is the real problem – because these souls are feeding off of the living.

It’s a weird concept, and all in all, it doesn’t translate all that well to the screen. The movie is basically just replete with young adults killing themselves left and right – some jump off buildings, some hang themselves, others seems to just die of sheer ennui. In the end, I couldn’t even distinguish between the surviving characters or how they had met each other. Once they became “depressed,” it was hard to figure out what was going on.

If you’re looking for something scary, don’t rent this (or the re-make). They have their scary moments, but in the end, they didn’t deliver.

Movie Review: J.S.A. (Joint Security Area)

I rented J.S.A. (Joint Security Area) because I loved Chan-wook Park's vengeance trilogy - Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance - and I wanted to see more of his work. From the write-up, I was expecting something without much substance - something decent but lacking in the witty-plot-twist department, something with a good story but without much delivery. I was completely wrong.

This movie chronicles, and highlights, some of the problems that exist in the Korean psyche - whether it resides in the northern or southern division. It shows how this split affects the people - specifically those in the armed forces - and their morale. Not only that, it also weaves a rich tapestry of what life means for Koreans. Chan-wook Park always paints with a vibrant palette of characters, but he went above and beyond with this movie in developing not just characters but also the personification of a divided country.

It begins with a confusing situation – there has been some kind of scuffle between soldiers manning the border, and as a result, two North Korean soldiers are dead, and one South Korean soldier is imprisoned for the murders. The accused insists he was jumped while going to the bathroom, kidnapped, and murdered the kidnappers when he broke free. The only North Korean survivor of the situation has a different story - he claims the accused broke in and just began shooting for no reason. A Major has been chosen from the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commissions by the Korean government and is assigned to determine what has happened. She is Korean in heritage but not in citizenship, and it is interesting to see how little she knows about her country. She does manage to unravel the mystery, but not in the way they have intended her to. She wants to know the truth, and fights to uncover it. She interviews the surviving soldiers, growing more and more desperate to understand what they are covering up - and the truth of the matter is both shocking and heart wrenching.

This movie was a cinematic introduction for me to the international tensions between North and South Korea. Park has created a beautiful story here, one with deep and beautiful characters and a message that is at once deeply patriotic and yet personal. If you are looking for another masterpiece from this director, then trust me – J.S.A. delivers.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Movie Review: R-Point

Ok so there are these Korean guys, and it’s during the Vietnam War, and they’re missing, and the guys at headquarters get an urgent radio message from the missing guys, and so they send out a platoon of guys to go find them, except they fail to mention that freaky shit is happening at R-Point, which happens to be the name of the film. By freaky shit, I mean that this jawn is straight up fucking HAUNTED, bro. And seriously, no one should be going there to do anything, especially not to look for missing people, because if they are missing there, then let’s get serious, they are probably dead.

No one heeds the warnings I’m yelling at the television, and the platoon goes to R-Point to find their missing comrades. (Can I say comrades? I guess it depends if they are Northern or Southern Korean.) And here is where I’m going to drop a spoiler, because this was the first thing that got scary for me – I mean, parts of it were a little scary, but this was when I started actually paying attention. (I had become frustrated at their equivalence of a dumb blonde chick running UP the stairs away from a murderer. You don’t go to R-Point! Come on, dudes!) Anyway, here’s the spoiler: people start dying. I know, you’re shocked. And the first guy who dies, well, they call headquarters, and when they tell them the name of the guy who died, it turns out that he was one of the guys they were supposed to be looking for. “You assholes!” the general is yelling into the radio, “that guy is missing! What do you mean he’s dead? Did you find him?” That was the first scene that really scared me.

After that, I spent half the time reading subtitles and the other half of the time jumping at every sound my cats made and looking behind my couch every five seconds (I didn’t even bother looking in my loft – I just pretended like it wasn’t there). If you like psychological horror movies and you don’t mind some gore thrown in, then this would be a good movie for you. Translation: Tina, don’t watch this.

Movie Review: Tetsuo: the Iron Man

I described Tetsuo: the Iron Man to my friend as “taking acid and then getting really, REALLY angry.” Having never done that myself, I don’t know if it’s an accurate description, but it really made me feel like I was angrily hallucinating. Kind of like that scene in the Simpsons when Ralph Wiggum is on pills and he says, “I’m happy AND angry!” Except minus the happy, and double the angry.

It starts out with a man ripping open his own leg and inserting a piece of metal. Oh, and then there are some maggots. I sat down to watch this movie while eating a tuna sandwich and quickly regretted my choice of food, though I suppose some sort of pork or rump roast would have probably been less appetizing (or beef and broccoli – yech).

The movie spirals further and further out of control. The main character continues to sprout more and more pieces of metal and get angrier and more repulsive. He even grows a giant drill penis and tries to nail his girlfriend with it! That scene reminded me of the DRILL BRA in the upcoming film Machine Girl. Thinking about that made me happy, but that was the only thing that did.

It eventually ends with a huge angry duel and a lot of metal and angry music and crazy. Um, and oh yeah, there were some chase scenes first. And I finished my tuna sandwich.

I think I covered everything.

Movie Review: Death Bed: The Bed that Eats

When looking up random movies and clicking around, I discovered Death Bed: the Bed that Eats under one of those “if you like this, you’ll love this” options. I was curious, and after reading the IMDB plot summary, I simply had to see this movie. Ironically, after seeing it and talking about it, several people told me about a comedian who had done a skit about it, though he misnamed it Death Bed: the Bed that Eats People. Oh, no. It eats more than just people.

I was definitely not disappointed with this campy 70’s horror film. It truly is a movie about a bed that eats. It is divided into 4 different scenes – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert. And no, I’m not kidding. The first unlucky meal is a horny couple who just happen upon the bed…which is on the grounds of an abandoned mansion, with no people around for miles. But they just happen upon it, with a bucket of fried chicken and a bottle of wine. This is a pretty classy couple, as you can imagine.

Are you wondering how the bed eats people (and fried chicken in a bucket)? Well, I’m not going to tell you. Ok, I’ll tell a little. It involves some sort of digestive fluid being secreted and then the item being sucked into the bed. But the complete and total insanity and impossibility of the space-time continuum way this bed eats things – you’ll just have to see that for yourself.

The acting is so utterly over-the-top cheesy that you will be distracted from the amazing 70’s hairdos (and don’ts) of the actresses – and their wardrobes. There’s also a great scene detailing how the bed became so evil as well as a montage of just a few of the people it has eaten over the years. One of the victims is now trapped behind a painting in the room, and he is the narrator of this intriguing tale.

I won’t spoil the best part of the movie, but all I have to say is: skeleton hands. That scene alone, and the actor’s reaction, is enough reason to see this movie.

Book Review: A Personal Matter

Kenzaburo Oe’s novel A Personal Matter is one that is both private and traumatic. It details the life of Bird, a 27-year-old college dropout whose wife has just given birth to a deformed son. The child has a brain hernia, which means that even if he does live, he will most likely be a vegetable all his life. It would appear to Bird that the answer is obvious – let the child die, as opposed to dealing with the shame of having given birth to a monster. This sentiment is reflected in the view of his in-laws as well as the doctors at the hospital at which the baby is born. But then a divide occurs at the second, specialist hospital – those doctors want to keep the baby alive, and want to go so far as to perform an operation. Bird struggles with himself, trying to decide what to do – does he let the baby die? Or allow it to live, knowing it may never lead a normal life?

To me, this novel depicts the schizophrenia of a post-war Japan, with Western culture and traditions trying to bully their way in. Bird’s attitude is that there is no point in the child living if something is wrong with it. His shame is compounded by the way his mother-in-law treats him, and affirmed by the doctors in the first hospital. One of the doctors actually encourages him to take control and not allow the doctors in the second hospital to operate, saying that it is his choice. But in the second hospital, there is a more Western view – they feel that the life of the child must be prolonged no matter what. This is the attitude that is given, much to Bird’s chagrin.

Unable to face this problem alone, Bird seeks out an old girlfriend and holes up with her, giving in to alcohol and continuing to fight with himself to come to a decision. Would he rather let his misshapen son die rather than prolong the life of something that would cause him some much personal shame if others discovered it?

Distracted and tempted by the idea of letting the child die and running off to Africa, his life-long dream (well, the Africa part; I doubt it was his life-long dream to let his deformed child die), Bird stares into the face of his own mortality and the path he has chosen in life. Does he do what is responsible; does he save the life of the child and dedicate his life to him? Or does he run away from this problem, risking the chance that he may never stop running once he starts?

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll stop there. Bird is one of the most compelling, conflicted characters I have ever grown attached to. I was surprised and pleased with the ending of the book. I highly recommend it, especially for anyone interested in Japanese culture and/or modern Japanese literature.

Movie Review: Monster Squad

Monster Squad is basically a total pile of awesome. It’s an 80’s movie about a bunch of kids who are monster geeks and have a club (that is, of course, boys only) and pride themselves on their knowledge of monsters. Well, they’re in luck, because guess who’s coming to town? That’s right – Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Gillman, and…a Mummy! Thanks to their knowledge and 80’s American know-how, these kids are going to try to do what Van Helsing failed to do: send these icky monsters to the netherworld.

My second favorite part about this movie – other than the great one-liners, the predictable entrance of Phoebe to the club, and the ingenuous depiction of the monsters (impressive for the ‘80’s!) – was Rudy, the “tough guy” the boys recruit into the group because he is so cool. He passes their entrance exam and, while he is more of a peripheral member of the group, has some of the best lines in the entire movie. My favorite line is towards the end, when he is about to go kick some monster ass, and the boys ask where he’s going. He pulls out a crossbow and says, “I’m in the god damn club, aren’t I?”

Without a doubt, my favorite part of this movie was the character labeled only as “Scary German Guy.” He’s a creepy local who lives in a run-down house and the kids are terrified of him and are convinced HE is a monster. In the end, he helps them by translating Van Helsing’s diary (which Sean’s mom picked up at a yard sale) and also plays a critical role in the final battle.

You’ve probably already seen Monster Squad, but if you haven’t, my recommendation would be to rectify that problem. Post haste! Just don’t let creature steal your twinkie.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Movie Review: Lady Snowblood

WARNING: if you in any way love Quentin Tarantino, think that he is a god, make love to your copy of Pulp Fiction, or think Kill Bill is the best thing you’ve ever seen, don’t bother reading this review, because it is going to put your blood pressure through the roof, and I ain’t payin’ for your crappy hospital bill.

ANYWAY, I have never been a big Tarantino fan. I saw Reservoir Dogs and loved it, but everything else by him that I’ve seen, including the above-mentioned (ok, with the exception of Four Rooms and Grindhouse, in which the weakest parts were directed by him), I thought were total crap. Yes, folks, CRAP. I saw Battle Royale a few years ago, and over the summer, I watched Thriller: En Grym Film, and those made me dislike him even more. But nothing, no, NOTHING, made me hate him more than when I watched Lady Snowblood a few weeks ago.

Lady Snowblood is a Japanese ass-kicking extravaganza, with the protagonist being a mega-hot, kimono clad, tiny BADASS. Her father was brutally murdered and her mother forced to serve one of the murderers. After going to jail for, in turn, killing the killer, she got pregnant as quickly as she could and then sent her daughter off to train to get vengeance for the death of her parents (her mother died in childbirth). Snowblood trains her whole life, and then seeks her revenge, in one of the most amazing bloodbaths I have ever seen (one of the blurbs I read about the movie referred to it as a “violent ballet,” and that is the best way to describe it).

The movie starts in medias res, and the audience is given the background throughout the movie. Hmm, what does this all sound like? That’s right – almost everything, from the layout of the movie, to the camera shots, to the style of the music, to the ridiculous fountain-of-spraying-blood – all of the things Tarantino used in Kill Bill were present here, in this movie made in 1973. TARANTINO, YOU SUCK. Despite the fact that some die-hard fans know where he got these ideas from, I think that Kill Bill should be subtitled “An Homage to Lady Snowblood,” or maybe “I Stole this Right from Japan,” or even, “I Totally Freaking Suck.”

ANYWAY (picture me sighing before both of those), I think that Lady Snowblood is definitely one of the greatest vengeance films ever made. It’s definitely worth seeing. It is also definitely worth seeing, and then setting your Tarantino DVDs on fire. Take your pick!

Movie Review: Howard the Duck

I started watching movies at a very young age, and by movies, I'm referring to the kind that a kid my age never should have been watching. I saw the first Poltergeist when I was 6, Evil Dead when I was 8, and I had Young Guns II and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 memorized before I was old enough to be confirmed. Part of the credit for this can go to Prism, a now-defunct television channel that was like a tamer version of Cinemax – it was the best way to watch Flyers games, and they did have softcore porn after midnight (not that I would ever know anything like that from first-hand experience). One movie that will always be a dear one to my heart that was introduced to me thusly was the one, the only, Howard the Duck.

On New Year’s Day, sick as a dog, I decided to check through the On Demand options, and lo and behold, I found this gem of a movie I hadn’t seen since I was just a wee lass. It was every bit as delightful as I’d remembered it – from the hilarious word plays in the Duck World, to Leah Thompson’s kick-ass 80’s clothes and hair, to the campy monster at the end – who I remember being SO much scarier when I was a kid.

I had also completely forgotten Tim Robbins was in it – probably because I saw Jacob’s Ladder around the age of 12 or 13, and tried to erase that, and every memory I had of Tim Robbins, from my brain (other than The Hudsucker Proxy. You know, for kids!). He played a wonderful part as the bumbling friend of Leah Thompson/aspiring scientist who tried to help Howard get back to his home planet.

And let’s not forget Jeffrey Jones, in my mind forever walking down a street with his clothes torn by the Bueller’s dog. He plays another scientist trying to help Howard get home who is taken over by an evil alien spirit who wants to take over the planet. But Howard decides to – well, I won’t ruin it for you. This is a MUST-SEE comic-book-made-film that is one of my all-time favorites – I could never spoil something like that!

This movie is NOT available on dvd, though I have seen rumors on the internet that it will be released in February – rumors that are not supported by Amazon.com, who only have a VHS available for sale. This doesn’t make it not true, it just means that in my narrow search, I was unable to find proof. I did, however, find that picture posted above. It's from a site called "Must Have Films Dot Com," and apparently, the movie is for sale there for $15.95. I don’t know if I trust it, but hey, if anyone’s looking for a birthday gift idea for me, it’s March 8th, baby!

Movie Review: White Noise 2: The Light

I wanted to watch White Noise 2: The Light (which I have been affectionately referring to as “WHITE NOISER”) for one main reason: because Nathan Fillion was in it. (This is also the reason I own Slither, which is something I will never regret. Thanks, Gina!) Yes, I did enjoy the first White Noise, but for me, it was scarier - but not as quality as - I'd hoped it would be. (I'd spoil it with my one major problem with the movie, but I don't want to be “that guy.”) Anyway, the first white noise wasn't bad, and while the trailer for the second movie made it look awesome, I tried not to get my hopes up - especially because I can't stand “the new” Starbuck, so much so that I refuse to learn the actress’s name. While the special effects and performance of Fillion were both up to par, the forced plot and general cheesiness of the movie (the ending is a crapshoot) made it definitely not one I'd recommend.

The movie starts out in a rather banal fashion - Fillion's got a loving wife, an adorable son, a house in the suburbs, and a watch with a typical message of love stamped on it. This all ends rather abruptly when his wife - who has been acting rather peculiarly - is suddenly and purposefully shot by a stranger who has marched into the diner looking for them. He kills Fillion's wife and son before apologizing to Fillion and then turning the gun on himself. What? What is going on here? No one is really sure – possibly not even the actors, who seem bewildered to be immersed in such a poor plot.

After the funerals, Fillion tries to kill himself. He is on his way to his wife and son (they literally show this part in a sort-of cheesy montage into "the light") but he is brought back from the dead at the hospital. After he recovers, he starts seeing weird things on television and computer screens with EVP (Electronical Voice Phenomenon) and he also begins to see what his doctor calls "auras" around people. Whenever he sees one of those auras, he later learns that person died. So he starts to try to save the people he sees the auras around. So this movie is not actually based on the “white noise” – which he can SEE, and doesn’t need to record and play back – but rather, these auras, or “the light.” Fancy.

Well, all of this predictably goes far more horribly than he could ever imagine. We eventually discover not only why the stranger kills his wife and son (a lead he gets by connecting the man's mysterious appearance in one of his son's videos with his own experience in saving people). The plot becomes a bit corny at this point. ("At this point?!?!" the crowd roars.) I'll leave the rest to your imagination, though if you want to know both the twist and the ending, I'd be more than happy to leave them in the comments.

In short: Fillion is awesome, and always worth watching in anything, so if you're like me, go for it. (Whoever said that Fillion was going to be the next Bruce Campbell, I am a staunch believer now.) But other than that, use your rental for something else - like possibly Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (no, it’s NOT called Death Bed: The Bed That Eats People), or even Volcano High (both coming soon).

Show Review: Red vs. Blue, Season 5

If you're anything like me, you started watching Red vs. Blue five years ago without ever having played Halo. Chances are, you're not; however, it didn't stop me from laughing my ass off when Sarge said, "how about it, Grif? El-chupa thingy?" or any other scene from seasons 1 and 2 (and mild laughter for seasons 3 and 4). I did finally play Halo this past summer, and my first order of business was to get drunk and drive around in the Warthog (well, I still call it the Puma). It was probably the one nice thing my ex ever did for me. He claims to have purchased a toy Warthog for me as a going away present back in July, but seeing as I've never actually laid eyes on this mythical gift, I can only assume his true going away present for me was sadness and a propensity for cervical cancer. Touché!

Who-ha discussions aside, I finally got around to watching season 5 on the day after new years day, when I was knee-deep in my own mucous. I hadn't laughed that hard in months. Between Tucker's alien baby, the return of Tex and Doc (and Andy the bomb, with one of the funniest lines of the entire season), another trip into the mind of Caboose, more time looping (and replicating) than you can shake a stick at, as well as Sheila and Lopez acting as awesome as ever, this season is a non-stop gut buster.

The best part of the entire season, for me, went beyond the inside jokes, for which I was more than qualified, having seen the first 2 seasons at least a dozen times. It even went beyond the alternate endings provided for us. No, it was more than that - well, it was the two things combined. The best part was the version of the ending which brought the entire show full circle from season 1 and affirmed my love for that sick bastard Church more than ever - though Grif, and his "greatest surrender ever" speech, is still my favorite moment from the whole show.

Ladies and gentlemen, if any doubt existed in your mind about season 5, please allow this review to dispel it. While seasons 3 and 4 paled in comparison to 1 and 2, you will be more than delighted with season 5, which will make you laugh - it'll make you cry - it'll make you want to change your voicemail to say, "Leave your lowdown at the ding-dong."

Enough said.

Artist Review: Regina Spektor

My ex-boyfriend ruined a lot of things for me: the Arcade Fire, my appetite, the delicate lining of my uterus, lazy Sunday afternoons, my fragile self-esteem, and jews, just to name a few. But these things are all temporarily ruined, thankfully - witness not only my recent biopsy-free visit to the OBGYN (take that, pre-cancer cells!) but also my sudden, immediate, and melancholy love for Regina Spektor.

Why am I mentioning my ex in all this? No, he didn't introduce me to her - that was done for me by my folk/anti-folk/bluegrass/tiny-Puerto-Rican-girl-loving friend, Chris. But Spektor's pirouetting voice reminds me so much of Joni Mitchell, a constant on my ex's mp3 player, that I got choked up when I first heard "Hotel Song" (also brutally reminding me of the fact that the ex was a cokehead...sigh).

Luckily, the ex was too focused on the manufactured sounds of Lily Allen to get into someone as talented and anti-establishment as Spektor. Her darling lyrics grip me in the way that only Fiona Apple (don't scoff, I'm referring to "Tidal") and Tori Amos (specifically referring here to "Tiny Earthquakes," still my favorite) have been able to do. I have never liked "chick singers" other than the three mentioned here - mainly due to the fact that I feel a lot of females tend to be what I said about Lily Allen, manufactured music (or that dreadful nightmare from Evanescence, Amy What’s-her-face, who, when interviewed, actually said that she didn’t realize that people were hearing her innermost thoughts, and hadn’t thought about the fact that her lyrics were exposing so much of her personal life. Uhhh???).

My introduction to Spektor was "Begin to Hope," followed by her first two albums – and I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with them all. On her first album, “Eleven Eleven,” some of the songs (to me) are reminiscent of Amanda of the Dresden Dolls. I've only just listened to the first two albums yesterday - and, well, ok, it's only my third day on the third album as well. But I'm qualified to write about this! Really! Rarely am I drawn in so quickly to an artist, especially a female one. But I'd say Spektor's got my attention.

It doesn't hurt that she's a beautiful little thing. Between her and Jessica the Bonita, I want to start an itty bitty pretty committee of love for the tiniest, cutest girls around.

The Experiment.

Hello! My name is Nicole, and I am going to try an experiment. I am writing this bio on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008. I have been writing reviews of things for a long time now, since about 2001. The reviews have been for movies, books, and concerts. But then I thought about it, and I got into reviewing other things unofficially - like people, bars, even the interblag. I have also watched so many movies that I've reached what I like to call Pedant Level - that place where a person starts throwing out director's names and comparing obscure movies to other equally obscure movies, much to the eye-rolling disgust of the people around them. So, I am going to use this blog as a sort of column. In it, I will review everything - movies, television shows, books, albums, celebrity personalities, friends, acquaintances, enemies (if I'm feeling like giving into the schadenfreude), internet phenomenon, local places of food and drink, toothpaste, knitting patterns, appliances, recipes, video games, computer parts and programs, events, cat litter, the us postal service, socks, professors, Gina's cats - whatever I feel like talking about, I'm going to try to write a review of it, whether or not I am qualified to do so (almost certainly not). I'm going to try to write 1 a day, making each one about 500 words or so. Part of the reason for this is that I finally reached my goal of movie-watching in a year - last year my goal was 180 and I surpassed 200 (with 232 movies viewed, whoa!). I'm going to start easy and try reviewing the movies and shows I've watched so far this year and possibly even the books I've read. I promise I will try to do this every day, and also promise that I will pretend that I get paid for it and that people actually read it.