Monday, November 30, 2009

The Ring



(2002) *****

“Ninety percent of science fiction is crap,” legendary sci-fi author Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985) once admitted, “but then, ninety percent of everything is crap.” The observation (now known as “Sturgeon’s Law” or “Sturgeon’s Revelation”) is justifiably famous; his implicit point applies not just to sci-fi but to other ghettoized genres as well. In the wilderness of the popular arts, without the reassuring guiderails of an august critical establishment, a sci-fi fan (or a horror fan) is like a treasure hunter without a map, forced to navigate the uncharted waters of pulp and schlock in search of the remaining ten percent, the “flecks of gold dropped in the grass” that make it all worthwhile. Two years ago I gathered five examples of the far end of Sturgeon’s statistical bell curve for my so-called “Masterpiece Series”—Psycho (1960), Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Exorcist (1973), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and Alien (1979)—and now I’m ready to add a sixth.

Like those other movies, Gore Verbinski’s The Ring scales the high altitudes of art without ever losing sight of the basic mechanics of scare fiction; the elements are assembled with incredible skill, intricacy and delicacy (and an unerring sense of tone) but the chills and thrills are as coarse, direct and potent as the simplest campfire story igniting a pre-teen nervous system. The movie reaches effortlessly for the deepest themes and ambiguities of all ghost stories (and The Ring is, first and foremost, a ghost story in the richest sense) without ever abandoning the basic scare mechanics that fuel a horror fan’s nightmares. While you may never penetrate the sensual, criminal and historical mysteries at the movie’s core, you’ll know exactly which innocuous real-life phenomena to be terrified of; which mundane anxieties are being exquisitely re-tuned into instruments of fear.

“Have you heard about the videotape that kills you when you watch it?” Sixty-seven seconds and four lines into the classic dark-and-stormy-night opening (rendered in extreme low light* by ace cinematographer Bojan Bazelli), the story’s brilliant basic conceit is revealed, unleashing exactly that surreal alchemy by which the ordinary world comes apart, exposing avenues to the inexplicable and uncanny. Ghosts are storytellers, in any culture and any century, vengefully testifying, reaching back into the realm of the living with hatred and longing, but in our modern era, wouldn’t the spectral traces of the restless afterlife be recorded not in tea leaves or animal entrails (or in Kirlian images captured by Victorian cameras) but within the television screens, phones and videotapes that surround us? When six doomed, libido-driven teenagers (is there another kind in horror movies?) in a remote mountain cabin with a VCR “try to record the game” and, instead, pick up the emanations that turn an unlabeled VHS cassette into a lethal, confounding dispatch from beyond the grave, the timeless armatures of all ghost stories (from Homer to Shakespeare to Dickens) are transformed into a twenty-first-century fable, in which ethereal clues are literally hidden beyond the tracking edges of a video image.

The “deadly tape” motif is carried over from Hideo Nakata’s Japanese original, Ringu (1998) (which I have not seen), but Verbinski and screenwriter Ehren Kruger have successfully Americanized the story—although murky evidence of a curse from the Far East remains at the core of the new movie’s mystery investigation. The Ring doesn’t feel like a remake at all; the relentless structural perfection (by which layers of the mystery are penetrated at climactic half-hour act breaks) and the unusually subtle cultural and psychological depth lend an orchestral complexity and force to the scares. The ghost story draws powerful connections (metaphorical and real) between two shattered families, past and present, and two troubled children: Naomi Watts and Martin Henderson (as a Seattle journalist and her photographer ex-boyfriend) bring their professional skills to bear in a desperate race to solve the supernatural mystery before it kills them and their moody young son, but the mystery itself is a darker, gothic tale of an island horse farm, a lighthouse, an apparent suicide and a lonely girl trapped in a barn’s attic with only a television for companionship. The Dadaist imagery on the tape—the bugs and ladders, chairs and centipedes, mirrors and severed fingers and, finally, the ring (which you see “before you die” if you’re cursed) connect the broken families in a weave of sadness, estrangement and empathy that informs the video-broadcast metaphor: the suffering of a child is fundamentally solitary, but the effects can be broad beyond belief, and, in the end, as the otherworldly girl promises the baffled scientists who cruelly, fruitlessly examine her, “everyone will suffer.”

Beyond his masterful storytelling gifts, Gore Verbinski is a spectacular visual talent in the tradition of Ridley Scott and David Fincher, and he excels at crafting traditionally evocative visuals by means of meticulously executed photography invisibly bolstered by wall-to-wall digital effects. (Anyone doubting these claims should re-aquaint themselves with his subsequent project, the glorious Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, which employs an orgy of ILM wizardry to transform a 1950s Disneyland ride into an irresistible, nearly-hallucenogenic adventure saga.) Eight different effects houses worked on The Ring, including Tippett Studios, Matte World Digital (who created Moesko Island and its lighthouse out of thin air, as also documented in this article) and especially Method Studios, who made the Ring Tape itself (see below)—but you can watch the whole movie without ever suspecting that it contains a single pixel; like Hans Zimmer’s haunting score, the digital technology propels the story without polluting our soulful gaze at the lonely, rain-drenched, bottle-green world it inhabits. Filled with countless memorable details—a blinking answering machine light; a panicked stallion galloping across a fog-bound ferryboat, the staccato video still of the ring that exactly intersects the DreamWorks logo’s moon for two frames (see top image above) in lieu of an opening title—this somber, ultimately heroic tale fulfils the highest potentials of horror movies without ever losing sight of its obligations to scare you senseless. If, as Sturgeon implied, only ten percent of horror is any good at all, it’s an even smaller portion that’s truly superb; that affirms our faith in the necessity of the macabre: The Ring unquestionably belongs to that rarefied breed.

(P.S.:The DVD of The Ring contains the complete, uninterrupted Ring Tape as a hidden “Easter Egg,” which I’ve extracted and posted on my website for your viewing unease.)


*I'm not kidding about "extreme low light." Watch the movie's opening sequence again (but only if you've seen it already; don't waste your first viewing of this excellent seven minutes on a mediocre YouTube clip): that's got to be the most dimly-lit suburban home I've ever seen. It's not shadowy or gothic—it's a perfectly ordinary, affluent house equipped with a normal complement of lamps—but it's nevertheless drowning in darkness.

Hysterical: David Thorne's Latest Prankery


From geekology, It's hard to top the 7-legged spider, but this is the latest from David Thorne. This time, an acquaintance asks for David's help creating some charts and graphics for a business venture. What happens? The exact same thing you wish you'd done to your boss a million times. Minus the desk-shitting.

Read the entire exchange here

Robert Downey Jr Might Make Only "Sherlock Holmes" and "Iron Man" Sequels


From worstpreviews, Robert Downey Jr recently revealed that he is planning to quit acting after making a few more films. In an interview with Empire magazine he has now revealed that he wouldn't mind if those films are only "Iron Man" and "Sherlock Holmes" installments.

"To tell you the truth, I would be happy to bounce back and forth between Sherlock Holmes and Tony Stark until I am forcibly retired," he said. "And also, fortunately, not unlike Iron Man, there is a way to continue along the lines of it and not become increasingly embarrassed by my greying hair and ropey muscles."

Downey added that future installments of "Sherlock Holmes" have already been planned out. "Between Guy [Ritchie] and me, the missus (producer Susan Downey) and Joel Silver (producer), we definitely know what we would like to do for the next two sequels," he said.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Monsturd


(2003)

I know this is post Horrorthon but after AC's urging Tony & I decided to press forward and watch Monsturd. What we found was a delightfully humorous and nearly nauseatingly disgusting film.


An escaped convict stumbles into some toxic goo mixed with doodie in the sewers and it turns him into a giant murderous shit man. The local authorites with the help of the feds set a trap baited with what else, corn & peanuts to trap the turd man. Their theory is if they can lure the turd out then force a horde of flies to attack it, the flies will eat the poop and destroy the monsturd.


But this evil scientist guy, Dr. Stern who is responsible for creating the thing wants it to live so he can study it. So he makes a deal with the turd to keep him safe until the annual chili cook-off where people will be pooping in force and the already giant fecal monster can gain strength from the townspeoples crap and amass more size. Some seriously crazy shit!


Just check out the theme song lyrics if you want to know just how silly this film is. So bad it's good.

Dawn of the Dead

(2004) ***1/2

As the world is overrun by a plague of fast-moving, ravenous zombies, a small group of disparate survivors seek shelter in a mall. Surrounded by a moat of zombies, they must make decisions as a group, and survival depends on making the right calls.

Umm, AWKWARD! I just don’t remember enough details about why I felt the way I did in response to watching this movie a month ago. Clearly I need to write up my reviews as quickly as possible and not give in to the wave of exhaustion and procrastination that sweeps over the blog in November. I remember loving the first half, feeling like the movie lost something in the second half, and my interest perking up as the credits rolled (that WAS awesome, wasn’t it?). I know all the boys gave DotD (2004) five stars, but even though I feel the pressure of their vastly superior zombie-related opinions, I can’t say I shared their experience (maybe because my expectations were too high?). As always in such situations, I remain open to the possibility that future viewings will convert me, and luckily I own the DVD (unrated director’s version, natch).

How I Got Back Into Shape Post Pregnancy

No, I'm kidding. That's not me.

I just wanted to share this article about becoming a cyborg and living forever. Apparently, if you can live on a calorie restricted diet and keep yourself in pretty good shape until 2045, you might have a chance to become a cyborg and live forever. 2045 is the projected date of the "Singularity":


Within a quarter century, nonbiological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. It will then soar past it because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge. Intelligent nanorobots will be deeply integrated in our bodies, our brains, and our environment, overcoming pollution and poverty, providing vastly extended longevity, full-immersion virtual reality incorporating all of the senses (like “The Matrix”), “experience beaming” (like “Being John Malkovich”), and vastly enhanced human intelligence. The result will be an intimate merger between the technology-creating species and the technological evolutionary process it spawned.


You all go on. I'm already rotting away, so I'm going to just keep eating.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Genius I tell you!


Octopunk and I were talking about this on the phone last night. There's a growing bilious reaction to James Cameron's upcoming Avatar. My favorite new stuff is on Gawker, here:

The Mounting Evidence That Avatar Will Suck, Part 1

The Mounting Evidence That Avatar Will Suck, Part 2: An Eyewitness Account

Anyway, are we not men? We are geeks! So we have to talk about this. My attitude is, Michelle Rodriguez...enough said. Thoughts? (If you can't see my cartoon above...and you want to...click to bigify it.)

Toy Story 3 trailer

The Messengers 2: The Scarecrow

(2009)**

John’s dream to operate a farm turns into a reality when he moves his family from Chicago to a remote Kansas setting. His quixotic notion of farm life is quickly altered as the realities of the job sink in. With dying crops, debt, and a huge crow problem, John struggles to keep up. After discovering an ugly-ass scarecrow hidden behind a wall in his barn, he quickly erects it despite the protestations of his wimpy young son who senses that something is wrong with it. It turns out that John should have listened to the wuss. Soon strange things begin to happen including the unexplained deaths of all the crows, spooky sounds at night, and a visit from the police asking about a missing person that had met with John the previous day. John begins to change as well and starts acting like a jerk. What is the connection between the scarecrow and the dark events unfolding on John’s farm?


Don't blame me!

I fell asleep during the final third of the original “The Messengers” and never went back to it. I managed to remain awake for this completely unrelated sequel, which was marginally entertaining despite its paint-by-numbers predictability. The scarecrow stuff was largely unimpressive and it was difficult to get a good view of the thing, which was no doubt intentional in order to conceal the film’s meager budget. Oddly enough there are a few sex scenes that rise to the level of soft core porn. In one inappropriate and uncomfortable scene John essentially rapes his wife (blame the scarecrow!). The Messengers 2 is the kind of film you might toss in at the 11th hour if you don’t have better options and you’ve been drinking wine from a box.

Stephen King is Writing a Sequel to "The Shining"


From worstpreviews, Last Thursday, Stephen King was promoting his new "Under the Dome" novel at Toronto's Canon Theatre and also talked about his next book, which he said he has been working on since last summer. The new book will be called "Doctor Sleep" and that it will be a sequel to one of his most popular novels, "The Shining."

The reason for the follow-up is because the author believes that the first novel never explained what happened to young Danny and his psychic powers. And even though King ended his 1977 book on a positive note, he believes that the events that took place at the Overlook Hotel must have left Danny with lots of emotional scars.

The Torontoist was at the event and described what the author has in mind for the follow-up:

"Danny is now 40 years old and living in upstate New York, where he works as the equivalent of an orderly at a hospice for the terminally ill. Danny's real job is to visit with patients who are just about to pass on to the other side, and to help them make that journey with the aid of his mysterious powers. Danny also has a sideline in betting on the horses, a trick he learned from his buddy Dick Hallorann."

Exclusive: Read The Star Trek 2009 Scene Written For William Shatner



From trekmovie, Most fans can remember that one of the biggest debates around JJ Abrams Star Trek movie was about if it would (or should) include William Shatner. The film makers spoke of how they tried to find a way, but in the end felt it wouldn’t work. However, JJ Abrams revealed that Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman did write a scene for Shatner, and today we have that scene for you to read.

Putting Shatner into Star Trek (2009)
TrekMovie received the scene below from one of our trusted sources and it has been verified to be the scene written for Shatner (but never shown to Shatner). The “Alternate Scene B” actually creates alternative versions two scenes from the end of the movie: the moment between Spock Prime (Nimoy) and Spock (Quinto) in the hangar, plus the award ceremony with Kirk (Pine), Pike (Greenwood) and the Commandant (Tyler Perry).

Read the scene here

Peter Jackson Says Spielberg’s Tintin Has Finished Filming, Computer Animation Will Take Two Years, Updates on Hobbit


From slashfilm, Now this is truly bittersweet news to report. While in London for The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson updated the BBC on the status of Steven Spielberg’s Tintin and confirmed that filming is complete. The kicker? It’ll take about two years for the computer animation to be completed (remember this is a 3D motion-captured CG film).

I suppose we shouldn’t have expected any better when they announced that the film would be released on December 23, 2011—but I was still hoping that through some miracle we’d see the film earlier.

Jackson’s full comments on Tintin:

Tintin is great. It’s made. The movie is cut together and now [we] are turning it into a fully-rendered film… So the movie, to some degree, exists in a very rough state.

While improvements in computer processing may eventually allow them to complete the film sooner, I don’t suspect that Paramount will budge from their current release schedule. I’m just hoping we get annual releases for the other films in the trilogy to make up for this torturous wait.

Read the rest here

Exclusive: We have the rare, alternate opening sequence to the original 'Star Trek' series!



From ew, ‘Tis the season to be a Star Trek fan. JJ Abrams’ blockbuster Star Trek reboot just hit DVD. And on Dec. 15, CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment will release season three of Star Trek: The Original Series on Blu-ray. One of the extras includes a piece of pretty sweet Trek arcana that hard-core Trekkers/Trekkies (pick whichever one offends you the least) are going to eat up.

As almost everyone knows, each episode of Star Trek began with William Shatner’s James T. Kirk intoning the memorable preamble:

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before…

As it happens, however, a rare, alternate version of Trek’s pilot episode, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (actually the second pilot that was shot for Trek… oh, but that’s another story), began with a different opening monologue.

Watch it here

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are people taking a break from reviews or is everyone done?

The Decade: 10 films that should never have been made



From cinemablend [excerpt], Almost as big a disappointment as Half-Blood Prince, Spider-Man 3 failed to break itself free of the “the third one always sucks” law of filmmaking. Sam Raimi had previously crafted two of my favorite superhero movies and three of my favorite horror films so expectations were running pretty high, but the sad truth of it is too many villains and studio interference sank what should have been the best in the series. The iconic Spider-Man villain Venom is officially ruined, and although there’s talk of a spin-off about the character, all future interactions with the webbed avenger have been crushed. I have one question: Who at the studio saw the emo hair dance scene and said, “Yes, this is totally OK?” There’s a special brand of bullets for people like that.

See the full list here

Yellow Submarine update


From slashfilm, This weekend, the 28th and 29th of November, there’s a huge Beatles convention taking place in Stamford, Connecticut. Amongst all of the merchandise sales and other such typical expo shenanigans, there’s also set to be an open audition for Beatlemaniacs wanting to try out for casting in what they’re calling “The Fab Four.” Of course, that the film “will be shot as a motion-capture feature like the current Disney release of A Christmas Carol” tells us everything we need to know - this is Robert Zemeckis‘ remake of Yellow Submarine.

There’s already some suspicion, though, that this casting call is nothing more than a publicity stunt. Zemeckis has already talked about the possibility of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr playing themselves in the film, there’s been a number of previous auditions, and even stories of name actors being up for the roles, perhaps even cast in them already.

REad the entire article here

Monday, November 23, 2009

Boston Super-Megafest!



I woke up extra-early Saturday morning due to my anticipation of Boston Super Megagfest (or because I had too much wine the night before). I’ve been attending this show for 20+ years and you simply never know what treasure you might discover. Following a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for a “Great One”, I sped towards Framingham, MA for the annual nerd jamboree. I purchased tickets early, which meant that I would be given access to the convention 1 hour before the general public.


When I saw the fat Sleestack I knew I was in the right place

Although I arrived at the show an hour earlier than the doors would open for the early birds, I was still met with a long line of other equally excited nerds. Because Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman) was one of the celebs attending, there was a spirited discussion about The Six Million Dollar Man going on behind me. Thankfully my phone was charged up and I surfed the internet and played Ms. Pacman to pass the time.



Finally the doors opened and there was a nerd stampede, which means that the line moved at a glacial pace as people entered the wondrous room of treasure. This young siren almost knocked me over in her eagerness to gain entrance,


I have crazy eyes

The fans did not disappoint and there were plenty of people dressed in (probably very expensive) costumes,




There was a cool display of monster props and I told Ben to go pose for me. As soon I snapped his picture I heard a voice mutter, “That’s a dollah”. I turned around to find the source of the voice and I spied a little old man behind a table looking at me. Confused I said, “Huh?” He repeated his statement, “It’s a dollah”. He must have realized that I had no idea what the hell he was saying so he added a little more, “We encouraged people to make a dollah donation to (something) if you take a pick-cha of the display”. Of course I only had $20s on me (stupid ATM) and I had to borrow the buck from a friend.


This picture cost me a buck


This guy was waiting to get an autograph from a former Playboy bunny - Earlier he farted near me

Although there are always a bunch of b-celebs at these things, I’m not usually too interested. I go to these shows for the collectibles but I decided to document some of the “famous” people. It’s difficult to get clear photos due to poor lighting and the fact that the celebs don’t like you to take their picture if you’re not forking over $25 so I had to shoot quickly.


Peter Tork posing with a fan bearing an eerie resemblance to Alice from The Brady Bunch


Elderly Oscar Goldman


Big Pussy seemed annoyed with me


Data is old


Cindy Morgan was the sexy chick from Tron and Caddyshack, now she's frumpy

Mickey Dolenz, Ray Park and a few other celebs would be showing up later, but I didn’t stick around. My friend attended a Mickey Dolenz panel and later watched Dolenz and Tork perform in an evening concert. He also attended a Spike (Buffy the Vampire) panel and said that the guy was terrific. On my way out I snapped a bunch of pictures of the very cool Batmobile,



“Batman” was decidedly less cool,



I picked up a few DVDs including a complete bootleg set of the Wonder Years for Whirlygirl as a reward for earning her Masters degree on Saturday. My greatest discovery, however, was two Mego KISS dolls. Mego KISS dolls are extremely difficult to find on the collector’s market due to high KISS and Mego collectors demand and the low quantities originally produced. Twenty years ago I acquired a Gene Simmons for $50. On today’s market single KISS dolls easily fetch hundreds of dollars loose; a set of all 4 in their originally boxes typically costs upwards of $2000 if you can even find them. One of the dealers had a Paul and an (extremely rare) Peter Criss (he was produced in much smaller quantities due to a rumor at the time that he was quitting the band). My jaw dropped when he told me I could have them for $10 each. I had $200 in my pocket and I wouldn’t have hesitated to spend it on this holy grail of Mego collectibles. For $20 I now have 3 out of 4 KISS dolls. Now I’m on the hunt for Ace.


"Where's Ace?"

All in all it was a fun day. I was somewhat disappointed in the wares but there was enough there to keep me entertained for 4 hours. I can’t wait for next year.


See ya next year!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Movie about dysthymic teens banks $140.7 million for third-biggest opening weekend ever


We're always sad

From ew[excerpt], Twilight Saga: New Moon grossed an astounding $140.7 million at the box office this weekend, exploding most industry expectations en route to the biggest autumn opening weekend in history and the third biggest three-day debut ever, according to early estimates from Hollywood.com Box Office. (The Dark Knight still retains the record for the biggest weekend debut with $158.4 million, and Spider-Man 3 is second with $151.1 million.) The second film in Summit Entertainment’s blockbuster franchise outright doubled Twilight’s opening weekend of $69.6 million, and it did so almost entirely with a female audience: A whopping 80 percent of New Moon tickets went to women. Theatergoers were evenly split between those under 21-years-old and over, and they were clearly satisfied, giving New Moon a solid “A-” CinemaScore rating. Despite the film’s sharp drop from its record-setting $72.7 million opening day — New Moon’s Saturday total was $43.2 million, and it’s estimated to take in $24.8 million on Sunday — it’s abundantly clear that Bella, Edward, and Jacob have plenty to howl about: Worldwide, New Moon raked in $258.8 million.

Vampires and werewolves weren’t the only champions at the box office, either. Sandra Bullock continued her stellar year, with her true-life sports drama The Blind Side clearing an estimated $34.5 million for second place. It’s the best opening gross of Bullock’s career — a record she set just five months ago when The Proposal took in $33.6 million — all the more remarkable considering 59 percent of the audience was women, making this one of the most lopsidedly female-driven weekends in Hollywood history. The Blind Side also tallied a terrific “A+” CinemaScore, which should bolster the film through the rest of the year as a true word-of-mouth hit.

Given this weekend’s massive box-office tsunami, it is actually rather impressive that mega-disaster movie 2012 only dropped 59 percent on its second weekend, taking in $26.5 million for $108.2 million total and third place. The weekend’s real casualty was the animated sci-fi comedy Planet 51, which managed to open at just $12.6 million for fourth place. At fifth, Disney’s A Christmas Carol continued to hold on strong, dropping 45 percent for $12.2 million and $79.8 million total. And Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire pulled in $11 million for sixth place on just 629 screens; after only three weeks of a limited, platform release, the Oscar favorite has grossed a stunning $21.4 million.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's that time of the year again!



I’ve been attending this collector show for the past 20 years and it’s always a blast! It's a great place to pick up bootlegs and collectibles and to see nerds who smell like urine. I’ll be sure to document it this year with lots of pictures of b-movie celebs. A few of the guests and props this year include,









Sheraton Framingham Hotel.

Saturday, Nov. 21th: 10:30am - 6:00pm
Sunday, Nov. 22th: 10:30am - 5:00pm


DIRECTIONS TO THE SHERATON FRAMINGHAM

From East

Follow the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) West to Exit 12.
Bear Left after the toll (turns into Route 9 West towards Framingham).
Stay in the right lane. The hotel is the first building on the right.