Saturday, October 27, 2007

Conan vs The Topless Women

via Kotaku and

So, there's gonna be a Conan game for the XBox 360 and the PS3. THQ's making it.
The design looks fantastic. It looks almost like a Frazetta painting brought to life. If there's a heaven, Robert E Howard wholeheartedly approves. Conan is thick and sinewy, in his fighting prime. And...there's bare bosoms in it.
Yes, breasts in a video game. Call the moral police.
Pulp entertainment has long had a tradition of womenfolk in next-to (or less than next-to) nothing and the ultra-capable hero who has to save them. Sure, in modern comics, the women stand shoulder to shoulder with the men, but is Wonder Woman a realistic model of a female warrior? I think not. With the low body fat that a highly-trained soldier such as herself would attain, something tells me that she'd be a little less top-heavy. The objectification of the female form hasn't quite evolved over the ages. Men like their breasts. So, the comic book female tends to look more like a pole dancer than a body builder.
Back in the days of Robert E Howard's pulp stories, though, the womenfolk were there almost as ornaments. They were objects to be won. So, in the game, you run around rescuing topless women. Since many of them were pleasure women or dancers, the pole dancer model applies in spades.
The fundies and the parents groups can't have their children looking at breasts. The kids might start getting ideas (the same ideas they get anyway, seeing as they're hormonal little monsters). So, rest assured, there will be protests. And stories on FOXNews. Somewhere, a woman will break out in tears because her son might some day see a naked breast. Oh, the horror...
While I'm sure there WILL be outrage over this (the game IS rated M, though), the born agains and bible thumpers are missing the point.
If you have to buy a sixty-dollar video game to see a pair of unleashed mammaries, you need to get your keister down to the local strip club and at least see them in person, folks.
That's my two cents worth, at least.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Can you Face the Horror?

Adam has lent me his lappy-top for some time now, entrusted its care to me. I brought it to him for the Horror Movie Marathon at the Drexel Grandview this past weekend.... Here are his thoughts:

Marathon time is always a special event for me. As long as I've lived in Cbus, I've tried to get time off to see the sci-and horror marathons.
The horror marathons have always been worth my time, starting at an unnamed competitor with Joe Neff at the helm. After said theater gave Neff the heave-ho, fans were presented with a choice. Go back to Brand X with new folks running the show or remain loyal to Joe and attend the Drexel Grandview with Neff and Bruce Bartoo of Ohio Sci-Fi Marathon fame.
I chose right. But, I'm a sucker for the personal touch. And Neff and Bartoo do that better than anyone in the Midwest.
The Two-Headed Marathon is now on its fourth year. While it still isn't a full 24 hours, I think that works to its credit. The tighter schedule forces out any films that might be weak or perceived as padding. The 13 hour marathon is lean, mean and straight to the point.
Considering how beat to heck I already am today, I can appreciate a less-is-more approach. But enough about me, let's talk movies.

11:16 pm
Finally underway. Trailers trailers trailers. MANIAC. NEAR DARK. Goodness, goodness me. I'm one of a handful of people who saw that one in the theater. TWINS. PAN'S LABYRINTH. Good schtuff, that one. Dunno if it's horror, but it's certainly better than THE LOVE BUG for this audience.
CRONOS. Love that one. Ron Perlman was soooo good in it.
THE SHE-BEAST! Yes. Classic cheese.
SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM! Yes yes yes. Love the two Blacula movies.
Ringo Starr? What the hell? Whoa. I haven't seen this one. SON OF DRACULA. I'm making a note on that one.

FREAKS starts to applause. Why? It's a substitute for ZOMBIE (aka ZOMBI 2, etc etc), the Lucio Fulci semi-classic. Frankly, we made out on that deal. It's a true classic.
Todd Browning was always fascinated by carnival culture (see his early films like THE UNKNOWN and THE UNHOLY THREE). FREAKS was the culmination of that love affair. He cast real sideshow performers in the film -- people the normal world would classify as freaks -- creating true poignance and pathos in a film most directors could only make as crass exploitation. That the films sympathetic characters are almost entirely the deformed and unusual is testament to Browning's affinity for his sideshow brethren. The so-called "normal" people are the deceivers and betrayers.
When the freaks band together to wreak vengeance on those that have wronged them, it's truly chilling. But it's also just desserts for the villains.

I have the urge to beat down Joe Neff for being a black-hearted Red Sox fan. But, he hates the Yankess. He's not all bad, right?

12:30 am
Out in the lobby networking with the folks behind the marathon, Drexel alum Anna Biszaha showed up (in town from her new digs in Pittsburgh), and folks from the Drexel staff. These folk are the backbone of the film community and Columbus and I'm gladdened and lucky to know them.

12:59 am
Almost 1 am. Things are semi-on schedule. The lobby is filled with people grabbing grub and re-connecting. The marathon is a family affair, and we're glad to have this yearly reunion.

1:15 am
Trailers again. DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE. DON'T GO INTO THE BASEMENT. DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE. All very appropriate selections for out next film, THEM (aka ILS), a French-Romanian thriller that really doesn't make me eager to visit my relatives in Eastern Europe. A French couple are attacked in their new Romanian home by assailants they barely see and most definitely hear. That's all you need to know about the plot of THEM. Who They are and what motivates them is something not revealed until well into the film. I'm not about to give the lil' secret of ILS away. It's not especially shocking if you think about it, but it's creepy. It certainly doesn't work on everyone, particularly the folk of puffed-up bravado and over-confidence that Americans are braver than all foreigners. Frankly, were that the case, crime wouldn't exist in America. We all know that's not the case. We're conditioned to think of our country as being unsafe. I don't necessarily believe the hype on that, either.
The film works as a thriller, keeping things out of sight as often as possible. The unknown is scarier than the known. Simple math, there. As long as you don't see Them clearly, They can scare the bejeepers out of you.

3:21 am
I'm out in the lobby, writing away while the trailers play. The only film I haven't seen in the lineup is coming up next, TO THE DEVIL, A DAUGHTER. Gotta watch that.

4:52 am
Wow. Freaky deaky. TO THE DEVIL, A DAUGHTER is over. And the print we had was...unique. Certain things were missing (some 20 seconds of full-frontal nudity) and certain things were added (footage from a handful of movies including Sponge Bob's butt). Yes, indeedy, the power of Satan was in full effect on that one. The last of the Hammer films (at least for now -- there's allegedly a new one on its way), it stars Richard Widmark as an author and expert on Satanic groups who runs afoul of Father Michael Rayner (Christopher Lee) and his cult. Rayner and his followers have been raising Catherine (Nastassja Kinski) for some nefarious purpose until her father ,Henry Beddows (Denholm Elliot), places her in the care of Widmark and his friends. The rest of it is a confusing mess, but the mishmash craziness at the end definitely made it worthwhile.
PS...Christopher Lee is The Man. That is all.

5:15 am
BLACK SHEEP. Gotta sit in for this one just 'cause it's fun.

6:38 am
People liked BLACK SHEEP. It's goofy, which is always a plus at a marathon of any kind. Keeping it light and fun never disappoints at a group outing like a movie marathon. Killer sheep. Were-sheep. Do I really need to say more?
If you're not signed up on that premise alone, BLACK SHEEP is not for you.

6:56 am
As I've said before, the marathon is a family reunion. So, the breaks are full of animated discussions and exchanges of information. New generations of marathoids are introduced (We even have an attendee this year who's nine months pregnant. No. Really. We could have a new movie freak any moment.), life stories are updated. Fans and freaks network. It's a great thing, and it's half the reason to be here.

8:30 am
TOURIST TRAP is over. What a wonderful piece of schlock. Chuck Conners is uber-wonderful as the telekinetic, drag-dressing freak of a villain. The film is so no-budget that the best special effect is a pre-CHARLIE'S ANGELS Tanya Roberts in a tube top (That's Production Values, folks!). Trust me. This is NOT a good movie. But it's really fun with the right audience at the right time. This was the right time and the right people to see it with. We're all too worn out to worry about how bad it is. It's easier to lean back in our seats and enjoy it. I'm tired. I'm worn out. But we're not done, folks. We've got two films left, and I shall be there for both of 'em.

10:26 am
Yeah, MANIAC is a minor classic of the genre, but let's face it -- Joe Spinell's performance is a little over the top. Okay, it's somewhere beyond Shatner. But the movie's still great fun to watch. William Lustig's always been stuck in low-budget purgatory. But he can do things with a handful of pocket change that most directors need a huge budget to accomplish.

10:29 am
LOST BOYS trailer. A fine precursor to our final feature, NEAR DARK.
The film snaps right after the GINGER SNAPS trailer (how appropriate), necessitating a quickie splice before we can proceed (and we were doing really well on time...). NEAR DARK is apparently getting the remake treatment from the same folks who have done the remakes to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, AMITYVILLE HORROR and THE HITCHER. Looks-wise, they're not going to have to deviate much from their formula. Katherine Bigelow helped establish the visual dictionary that Michael Bay and his cronies follow. Cast-wise, though, the remake can't match the original. Adrian Pasdar puts in a fine performance, two decades before HEROES' Nathan Petrelli. The best parts of the ALIENS supporting cast (Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jeanette Goldstein) are the baddies, a group of Southern vampires who roam the open spaces of Texas. Jenny Wright (who pretty much disappeared after THE LAWNMOWER MAN) is the vampires' honey trap, May. NEAR DARK relies on the culture of the frontier South just as much as the modern world. It's almost a vampire Western, but our hero dwells more in the gray areas of morality than your stock white hat. He's a good man, but flawed enough that he ends up travelling with a group of homicidal bloodsuckers. These aren't your Universal-era vampires, though. The infection can be cured. When Pasdar's Caleb manages to save himself, he also tries to rescue May, incurring the wrath of the rest of her clan. The only part of the film that doesn't absolutely hold up is the very, very 80s soundtrack. I'm so glad we've abandoned cheesy synthesizers. That age rightfully died two decades ago, and good riddance.

Not everyone finishes a movie marathon, but that's not really a terrible thing. Not everyone is hardcore enough to stay up all night watching flicks. Those of us who do, well, we're a rare breed. And we're glad to have people like Bruce Bartoo, Joe Neff and Jeff Frank around to make our marathon dreams a reality. Sure, I'm exhausted. My reflexes are shot. I'm not thinking straight. And when I look at sunlight, I think I'm going to burst into flames. But, I wouldn't trade a Drexel marathon for anything.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sure it's early...

via Jamie:
But the nice folks behind The Dark Knight's web-presence have changed ever-so slightly in anticipation of Halloween:

Gotta love the reference to The Long Halloween.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anne Coulter's been HACKED!!!!

That's all I have to say.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Adam's affadavit on MICHAEL CLAYTON

It's official. I'm a Tony Gilroy fan now.
Michael Clayton, his latest script (and his directing debut) is so smart, it shows you the climax at the very beginning of the movie. And yet it doesn't spoil the ending. There's things going on that you don't yet know. Wheels turning.
Just like what's always going on with the title character.
Michael Clayton is a fixer. In the legal world, this means he's the firm's go-to guy when things need cleaned up. He's the guy who shows up when you have no plays. He's the lawyer of last resort. And he's good at his job. Great, even.
You first meet him racing to the home of some rich asshole in Westchester County outside of New York City. The rich guy has just hit someone with his Jaguar and left the scene of the accident. Being a rich asshole, he certainly can't be to blame for any of this. It's that dumb schmuck's fault for getting hit. Yeah, that's it.
Clayton gives the rich guy the skinny, which he's not going to like, and leaves. He's pissed about something, and it shows.
Then, his car blows up.

Skip back four days. Clayton's in trouble. He's in hock for loans his brother took out on a restaurant the two owned together. He's selling the fixtures and booze, trying to scrape enough up to pay the loan sharks.
He's unhappy at his job because, since he's the fixer, he has no equity in the firm. Things go south, say there's a big merger, and he's out on his ass since he has no official position. The restaurant was supposed to be his safety net, and now it's the noose with which he's apparently hung himself to the tune of seventy-five thousand dollars.
His oldest friend at the firm, Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson), has a break down at a deposition for the class action suit he's been working on. He confesses his love to one of the plaintiffs, strips naked, and chases the plaintiffs around in the parking lot.
Clayton is sent to Wisconsin to grab Arthur and get him back under control. Turns out that Arthur is bipolar and off his meds.
It also turns out that he's totally right about their big client being responsible for ungodly environmental damage that's continuing to kill people exposed to their defoliant, since it seeps right into the groundwater.
The corporation has a lot to lose in the lawsuit (the subjects of the class action are asking for $3,000,000,000 (That's three BILLION dollars...much cheddar, even for a major agri-corp). Their general counsel, Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), is looking to prove herself and maybe move up into the board room like her predecessor Don Jeffries (Ken Howard). If she can somehow settle the case for a manageable amount, she just might. She's got a problem, though.
Arthur has a memo, the proverbial smoking gun, that could blow the case right out of the water.

Where Michael Clayton shines most is in the performances of its three principals. Clooney, Wilkinson and Swinton are fantastic in it, as are Michael O'Keefe and Sydney Pollack in supporting roles.
The roles are classic movie star fodder, and allow each of the principals room to shine in their own unique way. Clayton is calm and collected, even in the face of peril. Edens is manic and obsessed, but fully on the side of angels now. Crowder is mannered to the point that she rehearses every word that's going to come out of her mouth before she leaves her house every morning.
All three roles offer plenty of star moments, and room for character as well. And, being that all three are fine actors in their own rights, they take advantage of that room to give mannered and deep performances.

Where Michael Clayton succeeds without any effort to shine is its smart, tightly-written script. The script is nearly transparent, fading into the background and letting the actors carry the material. There's no snappy dialogue, no forced patter. Everything feels natural and believable.
Lately, Gilroy's become a fairly adept writer. Who knew that the man behind the scripts for The Cutting Edge, The Devil's Advocate and Armageddon was going to churn out fare like the Jason Bourne movies and Michael Clayton? But he turns out to be a pretty damn good director his first time out. It's not a flashy movie at all. He sets up shots in similar ways to how Paul Greengrass framed the last two Bourne movies, but without the constantly swaying handheld effect. Things feel live, on the fly, very cinema verite.
The pacing is relentless as well. Gilroy and company trimmed out all the fat, giving you only the moments you need to see when you need to see them. You aren't dragged into minutia. Everything counts, be it Clayton reaching out to his estranged son or the final confrontation.
The ending is satisfying in a way few films are any more. The redemption that Clayton earns for himself is hard fought and comes at a great price. But the open-ended conclusion leaves much of the pending justice up to the viewer to decide and imagine. There's no feel-good moment or group hug or triumphant slow-clap. Just a lonely cab ride in the only direction that matters: away.
I'm not certain that Michael Clayton is going to be huge come awards time, but it's certainly a movie worthy of a view or two on the big screen (and an eventual DVD purchase).

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Radiohead's IN RAINBOWS is out!!!

You may or may not have heard (especially because it's almost immediately below this post -- I'm lazy) that Radiohead has a new album out. In Rainbows is not quite a new CD because there is no physical CD (yet -- but that super-deluxe disc box is coming in December).
The price? Damn reasonable, since you set it yourself.
The verdict? Well, it's Radiohead. Some folk will hate it, since they're still blazing the trail begun with Kid A and OK Computer. The stripped down, half-electronic warbling is something that some folk just love and others utterly despise. If you're in the latter group, don't expect to be swayed back to the fold. Just remember that they're absolutely amazing live, and you need tix to their next tour.
Track one is "15 Step", which begins with an almost marching drum sound and those lilting guitars that Radiohead's been known for for the last decade. It almost becomes a smooth jazz tune, though. That might tune people out before they delve deeper into the tracks. It's not a weak song by any means, but the almost sedate groove isn't necessarily what you use to get a crowd fired up.
"Bodysnatchers" might have been a more appropriate starting point. Distortion and real drums are the special of the day here. While the tempos for both songs are nearly identical, "Bodysnatchers" drives the music home with more force and urgency.
The action slows way down with the dreamy "Nude" and the once again lilting "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi". I can see both of these songs carrying more power live, but on the digital equivalent of a record, they're almost ephemeral constructions. They're not bad songs, but they're somewhat slight after the political charge of Hail to the Thief.
"All I Need", while down-tempo, carries some of the dramatic weight and power of Radiohead's aural-pharmatronic live show. I can see this one blowing minds at a concert, especially at the climax's crescendo.
"Faust Arp" is an almost folky side-step with a string accompaniment that drowns out Thom Yorke's voice. Still, it's a gorgeous sounding track.
It does little to prepare you for the thumping rhythm of "Reckoner". The drums seem almost more important than the guitars for the first 90 seconds of the song, when the style of play shifts and the rest of the instruments truly join in. Just when you think you know what you're listening to, the song changes gears and moves from a drone to an almost gospel-esque chant. One of the more interesting tracks for me (being a drummer, I'm all about the rhythm section), and another I'm certain will reformulate your brain chemistry live.
"House of Cards" betrays my age-old 45 Second Rule. If the song doesn't grab you in 45 seconds, it's not really right for airplay. It's not a bad song. Really. But out of the tracks on this album, it's the one I'd probably be least likely to listen to repeatedly.
"Jigsaw Falling Into Place", on the other hand, is the one I'm probably going to throw onto a few compilations. It's the most mainstream radio friendly of the songs, structure-wise (being almost straight-forward rock) and another that truly benefits from listening to LOUD.
The album's closer, "Videotape", seems soft and meek but evolves into an almost plodding drone. The vocals are more important here -- the music seems almost incidental to the process at points, repeating polyrhythms instead of finding a melody. Very odd track for beginning, middle or end.
As I said before, In Rainbows is unlikely to win new converts to the Radiohead fold. For diehard fans, this is yet another desert island disc that they'll be unable to live without. For the rest of the world, they might wonder what the point of it all is. They're missing out, but try explaining it to them and you'll find your arguments are falling on deaf ears.

NIN joins Radiohead in shrugging off the label chains

Yeah, the news is two days old. I didn't see it until late last night. Sue me.
Trent Reznor announced on the eighth that Nine Inch Nails is a free entity. After eighteen years of recording contracts, he too is on his own.
The RIAA have to be worried already. Two big guns have told them to go fuck themselves. Pretty soon, they'll be left with talentless pop hacks like Britney Spears.
It's a great time to be a music fan, folks.

Monday, October 01, 2007

What the new Radiohead album might mean...

via Jamie and
So, Radiohead has a new album coming out Oct. 101 (whoo-hooooo!). It's called In Rainbows and it may be the death knell of the RIAA and their obselete business model.
Sure, it's been tried before. Public Enemy tried the digital experiment, sans label. And unsigned bands have been throwing their tracks online for ages.
Radiohead going it alone is an event of some significance, though. They're still on the top of their game, and they're still critical darlings.
The mainstream press has already jumped all over the story. That means that mainstream music fans will know about the album, and might actually pay for the download. Then again, there's the legions of idiots who'll be trading it on Limewire and the torrents...
If Radiohead can achieve label-level success without major label distribution, the RIAA is over. Pure and simple. When an artist can control their material -- can control their own music from conception to delivery -- they have all that power that the RIAA has been trying to throw around. And the RIAA...well, they've got nothing.
Sure, Metallica will still sue the shit out of their fans after the RIAA is history. But the business model of the RIAA signatories might just be over. The labels might just implode.
This could be excellent for artists. No more seven-cent-per-unit-sold royalties. No more labels owning the masters. No more oppressive contracts. Freedom -- real creative and artistic freedom.
The labels have strangled recording artists for too long. Look at all the classic rock artists from the 50s and 60s who're starving without royalty payments. Look at the surviving Beatles no longer owning their songs. The current business model is a failure for the artists -- it only serves corporate greed.
It's time for a change. And maybe we've taken the first step in the right direction.