Wednesday, August 31, 2016

70’s Actual Hunger Games, or Thoughts on Soylent Green

In 2022 New York the population is at 40 million and the world is slowly dying.  A dystopian thriller done right, Soylent Green (1973), from Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! follows Charlton Heston as Detective Frank Thorn as he investigates a murder that ultimately leads to the truth about that tasty green plankton cracker.  Director Richard Fleischer of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Fantastic Voyage (1966) crafted a taut 70’s thriller for adults and starring adults.
Charlton Heston, who cemented his place in sci-fi screen history with his Academy Award winning performance as Blue Eyes aka Taylor in Planet of The Apes (1968) lives in a city rife with food, power and water shortages, while the social and economic elite live in fortified buildings much like Fiddler’s Green in George A. Romero’s Land of The Dead (2005) except without the zombies.  (Replace the zombies with poor people and you get the picture).  It’s a heavy handed juxtaposition of the 70’s high tech chrome and Lucite apartment interiors against Thorne’s tenement housing where people sleep on the stairs like a Dickensian slum.
Soylent Green is also the final film of Hollywood legend Edward G. Robinson of Double Indemnity (1944, and one of my all time favorite movies), Key Largo (1948), and with co-star Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments (1956).  He portrays Sol, Thorn’s retired roommate who remembers the world before and provides exposition.  His first line is “Bullshit” and I’m pretty certain it’s the only movie he swears in.
Look out for Brock Peters, Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Benjamin Sisko’s father, as Chief Hatcher and Joseph Cotton, you know, from Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), as Simonson, the murder victim.  Leigh Taylor-Young from I Love You Alice B. Toklas (1968) and the Village People’s only movie, Can’t Stop The Music (1980) portrays Shirl, the mistress/trophy wife.
In many ways the movie comes across like a particularly gloomy and sexist Twilight Zone episode where women are referred to as furniture and the cops are just as corrupt as the criminals they chase.  It’s a depiction of a broken society, produced at the center of the Watergate scandal, and a dark reflection of the growing dissatisfaction with American politics and leadership. Far be it from me to spoil a 43-year-old movie (he was dead the entire movie/really Keyser Soze/Tyler Durden) but the ending remains effective, logical and un-ironic.  There’s no revolution or even hint of a change, it’s too late for one.  



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hitchcock By Way of Wonka, or Thoughts on Gene Wilder in Silver Streak

The late great Gene Wilder (June 11, 1933 – August 29, 2016) found romance and mystery on the Silver Streak (1976), a train from Los Angeles to Chicago; where he starred as George Caldwell, book editor and accidental hero who witnesses a murder that nobody believes.  Director Arthur Hiller from Love Story (1970) and Author! Author! (1982) composed a classic Hitchock-inspired thriller with comedic overtones complete with lost Rembrandt letters, kidnapping, mistaken identities, and the infamous cow-milking scene.   Jill Clayburgh stars as Hilly Burns while Richard Pryor makes his first collaboration with Gene as Grover T. Muldoon, a streetwise petty thief George finds in the back of a police car that he happened to steal.
Gene is not as maniac as his signature performances in Young Frankenstein (1974) or The Producers (1968), and sadly, most of the humor has not aged well and will seem sexist and insensitive from a contemporary perspective, including a regrettable black face scene with Richard Pryor.  But the movie is carried by Gene Wilder’s natural amiability and the anticipation of his inevitable freak out after he’s pushed to far.
Look out for Ned Beatty from Deliverance (1972), Superman (1978) and with an IMDb page that goes back to 1972, Richard Kiel, Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and the Twilight Zone alien from “To Serve Man” (1962, it’s a cookbook!), Scatman Crothers from The Shining (1980) as a porter  and Patrick “No. 6“ McGoohan as Roger Devereau, and if that name doesn’t scream BAD GUY to you, then you need to watch more movies.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Monday, August 29, 2016

What Is This, A Movie For Ants, Or I Watched Ant Man, So You Don’t Have To

 When, exactly are we going to reach peak superhero saturation?  I only ask because I’m curious as to what will come next.  Let’s compare the superhero genre to the popularity of westerns in the last century, and cite Stagecoach (1939) as an arbitrary starting point.  If we chart the end as John Wayne’s last Western and final movie The Shootist (1976, with Lauren Bacall), and start the modern superhero renaissance with Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), we can reasonably expect another 20 years of these movies.  Which may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your age and how much you enjoy watching the bad guys get beat down by masked men in capes.
Which brings us to Ant Man (2015), where Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang one of those good guy-bad guy Robin Hood hacker/cat burglars who stumbles on a magic suit.  Wait, did I say magic?  I meant secret high-tech military supersuit that shrinks the wearer to the size of an insect while retaining full size human strength (don’t ask).  And oh yeah, he can also control ants, so if you suffer from myrmecophobia, you’d best avoid this movie altogether.
The tiny people/giant world CGI scenes are remarkably effective because we aren’t used to seeing the world from that perspective, and the first half of the movie is a training montage as Scott learns how to use the suit and plays with ants.  Marvel movies have a consistent blend of action, romance and redemption, and Ant Man does not deviate from that winning formula in what is essentially an action movie remake of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).
I guess a tiny ant-sized power suit is no different than getting bit by a radioactive spider, but I still have a problem with the general physics of it.  Suspension of disbelief is a necessary prerequisite in most movies, and somehow it’s easier for me personally to accept say, the dead rising from the grave and eating brains than a miniature Iron Man suit, but that’s just me.
Also starring Michael Douglas de-aged with creepy uncanny valley CGI as Hank Pym, inventor of the Pym Particle, the shrinkifying serum, and Evangeline Lilly, Kate from Lost and Tauriel from The Hobbit (2008) as Hope Van Dyne, Hank’s daughter, scientist, and coincidentally, a martial arts expert.  Corey Stoll from The Strain is consistent and looks like he’s having fun as Darren Cross, an evil CEO and on the home front we have Judy Greer from Arrested Development, Archer and Cursed (2005) as Scott’s ex-wife Maggie and Bobby Cannavale, Gyp Rosetti from Boardwalk Empire and Joe from The Station Agent (2003) as Paxton, Maggie’s new fiancĂ© and also a cop investigating Scott.  Family’s complicated, but superhero movies are simplistic and formulaic, and Scott has an ant-suit to solve all his problems.



 my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Saturday, August 27, 2016

How the West Was Really Won, or Thoughts on Cowboys & Aliens

Having learned no lessons from the Wild Wild West remake (1999), Cowboys & Aliens (2011) returns to that unexplored and under-represented genre, the sci-fi western crossover.  Based on the graphic novel of the same name by director John Favreau, it’s a gritty post-modern western and CGI show reel that succeeds in telling two confusing stories that go nowhere and meet up somewhere near the finale.
Daniel Craig stars as Jake Lonergan, an amnesiac cowboy who wakes up in the desert with Jason Bourne outlaw fighting skills, who rides into a town controlled by gruff cattle baron Harrison Ford and besieged by, yep, aliens, like an American episode of Doctor Who.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with Cowboys & Aliens and it has an exceptional cast, including Olivia Wilde as Ella, who looks mighty fine in a prairie dress and a gun belt, Clancy Brown, the Kurgen as Meachum, Absolution’s preacher and Keith Carradine (David’s brother) as Sheriff John Taggart.  Also watch out for Walton Goggins from The Hateful Eight (2015) as Hunt, another outlaw pal of Jake's.
Much like aliens building the pyramids or spacemen in King Arthur’s Court, the sci-fi western seems to only work with time travel, which is a completely separate genre with its own set of rules.  Joss Whedon’s Firefly series and Serenity (2005) took western themes and brought them into space, which was a far more effective strategy than bringing futuristic elements into the past.  Westworld (1973) also transported the western to a modern 70’s time period and added killer robots, always a winning combination.  The Western is a uniquely American cultural icon and I think even in our cynical post-modern world it’s still confusing to viewers to mix horses and ray-guns.  And these days the western remains beloved and sentimental but has no contemporary relevance, it’s not how we see ourselves now.  We’re not lone gunmen in white hats, we’re superhero crime fighting billionaires.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Friday, August 26, 2016

Where Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, or Thoughts on Westworld

Written and Directed by Michael Chrichton, writer of Jurassic Park (1993) and The Andromeda Strain (1971) in his directorial debut, Westworld (1973), is a virtual reality experience in an analog 70’s world with classic Star Trek technology.  Westworld, along with Medieval World and Roman World is an adult playground, much like Vegas, but with more robots and less casinos.  In Westworld you can play cowboy, shoot android outlaws and canoodle with barmaid sex-bots with no real-world consequences, provided you can afford it.  It’s all fun and games until a glitch in the system (the matrix?) causes all the androids to rebel and start killing all the guests.
The movie follows James Brolin (Josh’s dad, and Mr. Barbara Streisand) as John and Richard Benjamin from Catch-22 (1970) as Peter in 1880’s Westworld, with an equal emphasis on park management and the bank of computer techs behind the scenes.  It’s pre-Jurassic Park, and when you think about it, Jurassic Park follows the exact same plot except substituting dinosaurs for androids.  And really, I couldn't think of a better plot device except for perhaps android dinosaurs...
Yul Brynner reprises his acclaimed role as Kris from The Magnificent Seven (1960, and my most favorite western and greatest theme song of all time).  His graceful and balletic strut can seem very robotic under the right circumstances, and the Russian-born screen legend made a sinister pre-Terminator android.
Watch out for Majel Barrett, Mrs. Gene Roddenberry, Nurse Chapel, Lwaxana Troi and the voice of the Star Trek computers as Miss Carrie, the bordello madam.  Yul Brunner would return in the sequel, Future World (1976) with Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner (Gwynneth’s mom), this time with the robots running amuck on a space station.  Ed Harris plays Yul’s role in the 2016 HBO remake, scheduled to debut later this year.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Attack of The Killer Tire, or Thoughts on Rubber

 Rubber (2010), a French movie production set in America and filmed in English, is about the birth of a sentient tire with a compulsion to kill.  Reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s brain exploding Scanners (1981), except with an actual, non-CGI tire that rolls around the California desert, the movie goes out of its way to offer no explanation or reason for its existence.  It’s simply a living, breathing tire that enjoys watching TV, swimming, and killing people.  In that sense it’s no different than the audience investing a puppet with personality, which has been happening from King Kong to BB-88.
Rubber is experimental and self-referential, a literal movie within a movie where we as an audience watch another audience in the desert, as they, along with us, watch the story unfold.  In an interesting twist, the actors themselves are aware that they are actors but cannot stop performing if even a single person keeps watching.  The tire for his part, keeps on rolling down the road, looking for his next victim.
There is a tradition for killer things with no explanation, HItchcock’s The Birds (1961) being the classiest and most well regarded, along with John Carpenter’s Christine (1983).  The list degenerates from there with entries like Attack of The Killer Tomatoes (1978) and Death Bed (The Bed That Eats People, 1977), which incidentally inspired a fantastic Patton Oswalt riff.
Written and Directed by Quentin Dupieux, the movie was polarizing with the critics, and currently holds a 68% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It’s important to remember that this is a French film with a completely different narrative style and cultural intent than your average American horror movie.   In many ways Rubber bookends quite nicely with Bagdad CafĂ© (1987), another quietly surreal movie in the American Southwest by a European director. This is how the rest of the world sees America, a confusing land of mystery, reinvention and danger.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon)


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fingering Foul Fruit, or Thoughts on The Fancy New Gritty Tick Reboot on Amazon

 Now more than ever, we need the Tick.  It’s perfect timing, as we now find ourselves living in a superhero universe.  After Deadpool (2016) and the uneven Suicide Squad (2016), Amazon’s The Tick (2016) reboot is a refreshing parody that the world is finally ready to embrace.  From Ben Edlund, TV writer and director from Firefly, The Venture Bros, Supernatural, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Gotham, The Tick has been on the fringe of pop culture, first as an indie comic book, then a 90’s cartoon, and a live-action 2001 series with Patrick Warburton.
The new reboot is darker (well as dark as the Tick can get) with a clever potential Mr. Robot/Fight Club twist (don’t you love how we can speak in movie shorthand, it’s a thing we do, it’s why we’re friends), and follows Arthur’s story for the first time.  Arthur as you know is the sidekick, and has always been full-formed, a bunny suit wearing accountant (calm down, of course I know he’s a moth) and the relatively more responsible (at least he has an apartment) half of the superhero duo. 
Now portrayed by Griffin Newman as Arthur Everest (did he even have a last name before this reboot), he's not an accountant anymore, he's a conspiracy theory shut-in vigilante who’s off his meds (hence the maybe Mr. Reboot twist).  I’m embarrassed to admit that I never gave Arthur a second thought when I watched the cartoon; it always was so much fun watching the nigh-invulnerable Tick smashing rooftops and spouting his signature Adam West inspired non-sequiturs of justice.
British actor Peter Serafinowicz, who you may remember as Shaun’s flatmate Pete from Shaun of The Dead (2004) plays the Tick and, Valorie Curry from Veronica Mars plays Arthur’s sister Dot.  She’s now an EMT, which I’m sure will come in handy in upcoming episodes.  I’m looking forward to the return of American Maid/Captain Liberty, Die Fledermaus/BatManuel and hopefully, The Little Wooden Boy.  Incidentally, Batmanuel was played by Nestor Carbonell of Lost and currently Sheriff Romero from Bates Motel.


  
my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Cambodian Night Terrors in Baton Rouge, or Thoughts on the Shadow People

Reminiscent of the original waking up dead movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Shadow People (2013) begins with a prequel in Cambodia, referencing “Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome”, an actual medical condition prevalent in Southeast Asia.  Written and directed by Matthew Arnold, this taut and compact indie supernatural thriller features Dallas Roberts, who you may remember as Milton from The Walking Dead (boy did I hate Andrea when she chose The Governor over Michonne), as Charlie Crowe, a late night Louisiana radio talk show host.
The radio show narrative is a nice touch; radio has a rich storytelling history, from Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater production of The War of The Worlds (1938) to the Canadian zombie apocalypse broadcasted in Pontypool (2008), radio has been used to tell the audience the story, rather than having the filmmakers show us.  It’s different than ghost stories around the campfires, and Shadow People begins with a caller telling Charlie about his sleep paralysis and the mysterious black figures watching him from the corners.
The movie is loaded with fake Wikipedia articles and YouTube videos in a clever blending of found footage and traditional filmmaking.  The actual filming of the nightmarish shadow people is a very easy, dare I say cheap effect that is used sparingly.  The movie spends a lot of time trying to rationalize shadow people, citing radio waves and colors outside of our visual range in a sci-fi, X-Files explanation that seems superfluous and unnecessary.  Nightmare shadow people are scary enough, and easy enough for an audience to relate to, anything more becomes distracting.
With Alison Eastwood, (yes, that Eastwood, Clint’s daughter) as Sophie Lacombe, a CDC investigator.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).

Monday, August 22, 2016

What Do You Expect From A Giant Snake Movie, or Thoughts on Anaconda

Much like Children Shouldn’t Play WithDead Things (1972), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) or say, WolfCop (2014), Anaconda (1997) is one of those movies that tells you exactly what you’re in for, even before you buy the ticket.  If you do not want to see a movie about a giant snake, you have no business being there and if you’re disappointed, well whose fault is it really?
A lateral if not spiritual sequel to The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), Anaconda is a monster movie hiding in an action movie as a documentary film crew travels up the Amazon on searching for a lost tribe, “The People of The Mist” who, coincidentally, worship giant snakes.  Instead of a half-man, half-fish they find a giant anaconda, composed primarily of analog life-size snake models and a dash of the best CGI the 90’s had to offer (which is to say, unfortunate and dated by modern standards).
There’s a tradition of pop stars trying to break into movies, or make the jump from radio and music videos to the big screen.  Barbara Streisand and Dolly Parton made it look so easy in the ‘70s and in this movie Jennifer Lopez, like Madonna in Dick Tracy (1990), or Brittney Spears in Crossroads (2002), or Lady Gaga in American Horror Story: Hotel (2015), stars as Terri Lopez, the documentary film director. 
Eric Stolz plays Dr. Steven Cale, her handsome anthropologist boyfriend, Ice Cube is her camerman and Owen Wilson stars as Gary, the sound engineer.  Kari Wuhrer from Eight Legged Freaks (2002), Hellraiser: Deader (2005) and Sharknado 2 (2014) is Denise, the production manager and screen legend Jon Voight of Midnight Cowboy (1969), Coming Home (1978), Deliverance (1972) and Runaway Train (1985), who is sadly now more famous for being Angelina Jolie’s father, portrays Paul Serone, the Paraguayan snake hunter, in a hammy and movie stealing performance.
And look out for the cameo by Danny Trejo, El Tortuga (I’m currently re-watching Breaking Bad, Hank was such a badass and technically the only heroic character in the series, at least in the traditional sense), as a poacher who tangles with the wrong snake.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Saturday, August 20, 2016

And Flash Gordon Was There in Silver Underwear, or Thoughts on Claude Rains in The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man (1933), based on the 1897 novel by HG Wells, was directed by James Whale of Frankenstein (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935).  Claude Rains stars as Jack Griffin, the quintessential mad scientist searching for redemption.  You know Claude Rains from so many of your favorite films, including Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942), Prince John in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Sir John Talbot in The Wolf Man (1941), Senator Paine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Alex Sebastian in Notorious (1946), and Mr. Dryden in Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
Claude Rains returns to his native England, at least on film, and spends most of the movie wrapped in bandages, building audience participation.  You come into the theater knowing there’s an invisible man under all those wraps, and spend most of the time listening to Claude’s considerable oration skills.  It’s a brilliant performance based on gesture and voice, no different than wearing a mask or a creature suit or, more recently, Hugo Weaving as V in V For Vendetta (2005).
Of course the invisibility formula drives him violently mad, and it’s interesting how quickly the angry villagers, hysterical bar maids and plodding policemen accept the premise of an invisible man.   The invisibility reveal was accomplished with analog prop effects on fishing line and early matte prints where the actor wore a black velvet suit in front of a black velvet background.  The overall look is surprisingly effective, even for a modern audience, and the movie currently holds a perfect score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Also featuring Henry Travers, Clarence from Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), as Griffin’s mentor Dr. Cranley.  The most recent remake came from RoboCop (1987) director Paul Verhoeven came with Hollow Man (2000) staring Kevin Bacon and incidentally, Rhona Mitra in her big screen debut.


my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Friday, August 19, 2016

It’s A Small World (of Horror!), or Thoughts on The Cabin in The Woods

Produced and Written by a post-Buffy, pre-Avengers Joss Whedon, The Cabin in The Woods (2012), starts out as self-referential horror movie, adds some sci-fi elements, and suddenly morphs into a Westworld (1973)-style funhouse of Lovecraftian proportions.  TV Director Drew Goddard from Buffy, Angel, Alias, and Lost, (basically every TV show you loved in the 90’s, and Lost), presents two stories; a pair of middle manager/engineer types in a secret underground government bunker and an RV full of college kids on their way to a weekend cabin in the woods.  The cabin (of course) is straight out of The Evil Dead, and the two stories intersect in a clever nexus; it seems the underground bunker fellas are controlling events and the surroundings like No. 6 in The Prisoner.
The Cabin in The Woods presents the standard horror movie archetypes: the virgin, the whore, the athlete, the scholar, and the fool, but those archetypes extend across the entire film.  From Gary and Steve, the senior and middle bro managers with their office betting pool, the backwoods redneck gas station attendant to the very monsters; zombies, vampires, scary ghost children, giant snakes and an updated merman from Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954).  There’s even a basement full of talismans, old movies, journals, haunted music boxes, a conch shell (it summons the merman) and (a nice touch) a Hellraiser-esque puzzle sphere.  The film becomes more ambitious as it unfolds, and does its best to present the ultimate horror movie starring literally every monster.
Richard Jenkins from Six Feet Under and over a 100 credits on IMDb and Bradley Whitford, who will always be Josh from The West Wing, play Gary and Steve, the two bureaucratic puppet-masters, along with a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth as Curt, the Athlete (duh) and Dollhouse veteran Fran Kranz, who would go onto star in the indie vampire film Bloodsucking Bastards (2014) but made his big screen debut in 2001 in both Donnie Darko and Training Day, as Marty, the stoner best friend and Fool archetype. 
Jesse Williams as the Scholar, Kristen Connelly as Dana the Virgin and Anna Hutchinson as Jules the Whore complete the unlucky coeds in the cabin, along with a Sigourney Weaver cameo down below.  Also watch out for Buffy alum Tom Lenk and Amy Acker, who you may remember as Fred from Angel as two of the underground bunker office staff.
There’s something oddly reassuring about having one’s life and destiny controlled by a hidden and omniscient underground facility, it removes responsibility from your choices and allows a certain freedom or release.  But in that sense, The Cabin in The Woods is a metaphor for essentially every summer blockbuster and theme park; you have these huge, shiny franchises owned and operated by anonymous corporations, all for the purpose of entertaining you while making a profit.  The only difference is we don't end up sacrificed to the Old Ones, as far as we know.



my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Let Us Blind Them With Our Wickedness, or Thoughts on Ken Russell’s Gothic

You should know of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) and wife of Romantic Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, of Ozymandus, because you paid attention in High School English and love horror movies.  With any luck you’ve even read the book.  But you may not know that Shelley’s novel was inspired by a weekend party with Lord “Mad, Bad, an Dangerous to Know” Byron, and Director Ken Russell of The Devils (1971), Altered States (1980), and The Lair of The White Worm (1988) made a movie about it.
Gothic (1986) stars Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley, Julian Sands of Siesta (1987) as Percy Blythe Shelley, and Gabriel Byrne who coincidentally also starred in Siesta, perfectly cast as George Gordon Byron, more popularly known as Lord Byron, immortal poet and inspiration for Dracula and every vampire since.
A stylish literary script cobbled together with quotes from letters, poems and plays, Ken Russel depicts that fateful weekend at Byron’s Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva as a wild party with Romantic poets as 19th Century rock stars, getting high on ether and laudanum and trashing hotel rooms.  In between tantrums and flirtations they read each other ghost stories in a competition to frighten each other.  It is out of this contest that Mary Shelley is inspired to write Frankenstein.   Ken Russell decorates the mansion with a menagerie of goats, boa constrictors, and a collection of proto-steampunk sex-robots (The Difference Engine was published in 1990, so steampunk really wasn’t identified as a thing yet), just in case you might forget that you’re watching a Ken Russell film.
This weekend party has been filmed twice before: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935, with Elsa Lancaster in a sly cameo as Mary Shelley) and Haunted Summer (1988, with Alice Krige, The Borg Queen, as Mary Shelley).   Look out for Timothy Spall, who you know as Peter Pettigrew from Harry Potter as Dr. Polidori, take special note of the soundtrack by Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson, and if you don’t know who he is, I don't think we can be friends anymore.



my first novel? thanks for asking:)  it’s a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, supernatural martial arts shenanigans and a 24hr diner with the best pie in town

read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback from these fine (amazon) bookstores.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Fighting 80’s Snake-Dragon Cults, or Thoughts on Ken Russell’s The Lair of The White Worm

 The Lair of The White Worm (1988), a very liberal, let’s say inspired adaptation, of the 1911 novel of the same name by Bram Stoker, stars British superstar and Professional Englishman Hugh Grant in one of his first feature films.  From Director Ken Russell of The Devils (1971), Tommy (1975), Altered States (1980) and Gothic (1986), Hugh Grant portrays Lord James D’Ampton, the handsome scion of D’Ampton Manor, home of local legend of the D’Ampton Worm, and village mascot, and also the greatest theme song ever committed to film.
Peter Capaldi, who as you know would go on to become the Twelfth Doctor appears as Angus Flint, Scottish archeology student who finds a giant reptilian skull in the front garden of an English bed and breakfast run by two charming sisters.  Catherine Oxenberg, most famous for her portrayal of Amanda Carrington of Dynasty is Eve and Sammi Davis of Mona Lisa (1986), Hope and Glory (1987) and Four Rooms (1995) portrays Eve’s sister Mary.
Amanda Donohoe is a vision in her vintage E-type Jaguar as the eccentric Lady Sylvia Marsh, with an unhealthy fascination for snakes and a taste for random hitchhikers and thigh-high patent leather boots (it’s a Ken Russell film, after all).  Amanda Donohue would go on to LA Law (1990), The Madness of King George (1994) and also, anecdotally, dated Adam Ant and was featured in the Antmusic and Stand and Deliver videos.
Romantic and sentimental, this wacky horror-comedy with a snake-vampire that pre-dates the vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) features the signature Ken Russell flirty-blasphemous dream sequences complete with crucifixions, stewardess wrestling, topless nuns and giant albino serpent-worm-dragon thingys.  Like all Ken Russell movies it’s heavy on visual style, gloriously theatrical, a bit kinky, and not intended to be taken too seriously.



my first novel? thanks for asking:)  it’s a 4 volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, supernatural martial arts shenanigans and a 24hr diner with the best pie in town
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback from these fine (amazon) bookstores.