Saturday, November 29, 2008

Australia (2008)

Based on my mixed feelings on the other Baz Luhrmann movies, and pretty weak advance reviews, my expectations were pretty low for this one, but it was reasonably satisfying in a kind of big, dopey, eager-to-please kind of way, the cinematic equivalent of a friendly dog. It's a love story between Nicole Kidman's Lady Sarah and Hugh Jackman's 'The Drover' and the two of them pour on the charisma and starpower. Plus, it's an attempt at national mythmaking, chronicling the rugged Outback wilderness of Australia, the Japanese raids on Darwin, and the discriminatory racial policies aimed at 'civilizing' the Aborigines that persisted for decades. Luhrmann directs the war scenes in an offhand, disinterested manner, because he's less interested in literal pyrotechnics as he is in his vistas and actors, which is kind of a nice Cukor-esque change from most modern movies in this budget. Also, excellent work from cinematographer Mandy Walker and composer David Hirschfelder.

While the basic Hollywood sweep of the movie is entertaining enough, at the same time there's something about this movie that has a very second-hand, been-there-seen-it quality to it. Luhrmann's goal was to basically make a new version of the kind of big romantic epics of the past, pulling from Red River and Giant and a little Gone With the Wind, plus some (yechhhh) Pearl Harbor too but without any real 21st century update to the material. The one area where the movie tries to apply a modern standard to the period details - criticizing the country's treatment of the Aborigines - is a nice try but something of a botch, because Luhrmann still makes them into magical/innocent/fairy creatures of wonder and difference and not ordinary human beings. Points for effort at least.

Plus, any movie in which a bad guy gets eaten by crocodiles is thumbs up in my book.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Canadian Meteor

Here's a pretty nifty video of a meteor striking somewhere around Edmonton, from a police car dashboard camera. I love the look of it, the kind of spontaneous majesty that no Hollywood effects artist could create.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Alphabet List

Mostly due to boredom, I decided to put together this list of my least favorite, most hated movies for each letter of the alphabet. And believe me, there's a reason why the likes of Pearl Harbor and Saw IV aren't on this list - the selectees are just that awful. ALso, please note that my choice for Y is, in fact, a perfectly OK Italian giallo thriller which is significantly better than the rest of the movies listed. Consider yourself lucky that most of them are obscure exploitation movies.

Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
The Brick Dollhouse (1967)
Crazy Fat Ethel II (1987)
Doomsday Machine (1972)
Emperor of Kung Fu (1980)
The Fog (2005)
Girl Gang (1954)
The Head Mistress (1968)
Invasion USA (1952)
Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)
Killers from Space (1954)

Laserblast (1978)
Monster A-Go Go (1965)
Nightmare in Wax (1969)
The Omega Code (1999)
Psyched by the 4-D Witch (1972)
Queen of Outer Space (1958)
Red Zone Cuba (1966)
Severe Visibility (2007)

Teenage Zombies (1959)
The Undead (1957)
A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973)
Wam Bam Thank You Spaceman (1975)
XXX (2002)

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)
Zombie Nightmare (1986)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Alphabet Meme

Craig Kennedy of Living in Cinema was nice enough to invite me to participate in a communal blog game where each participant is supposed to pick their favorite movie for each letter of the alphabet. But of course, that would be too easy (and a little boring - gentlemen, we can't all pick Vertigo for 'V') so my list is 26 of my favorite B horror movies (sorry Jaws, no A-level productions here). Enjoy!

A is for Audition, of a Japanese girl most meek;
B is for Basket Case, a boxed-up lonely freak.

C is for Cat People - when horny, she turns feline;
D is for Dawn of the Dead, the mindless consumer decline.

E is for Eaten Alive, with Robert Englund as Buck;
F is for Final Destination, death by bad luck.

G is for Grindhouse, which too few went to see;
H is for Halloween, starring the mask of Kirk, James T.

I is for Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a perfect paranoia pic;
J is for Jacob's Ladder, with a pre-Shyamalan trick.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space make mimes look sweet and gentle;
In The Little Shop of Horrors, it's the plant that makes Seymour go mental.

M is for Mad Love, with the brilliant Peter Lorre;
N is for Night of the Living Dead, the great, nightmarish, and gory.

O is for Onibaba, where samurai fall down a pit;
P is for Pulse, the American remake was shit.

Q: The Winged Serpent features a hungry Aztec god;
Re-Animator, meanwhile, explores the inner human bod.

S is for Street Trash, where bums are killed by booze;
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre family gets their meat through a tourist ruse.

U is for The Unknown, where Lon Chaney severs his arms;
V is for The Vampire Lovers, with Hammer's feminine charms.

W is for The Wizard of Gore, whose delayed slaughters entertain;
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes finally drives himself insane.

Les Yeux Sans Visage is the best I could find for a 'Y';
Lucio Fulci's Zombie drives wood through a woman's eye.

The Zombie makes a useful pet;
And he finishes up this alphabet.

(With apologies to Ogden Nash and the human race)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Awesome Photo

My good friend Joe White, who served as the director of photography of Repo! The Genetic Opera (now in release - it's worth taking a look at) just joined Facebook, and he chose this as his Facebook photo. He is not any of these three people.

More content coming soon!

Monday, November 10, 2008

November Update

Apologies once again for going so long without posting - apparently there are about thirty people out there who check this thing at least once a week for updates, and I'm letting you down. Also, do I know more than thirty people?

First of all, let's just consider the most magical event from this last week: Seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, we now have a President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama. If you had told me back in those cold, paranoid, anthrax-laden days back in September and October of 2001 that this would happen, I wouldn't have believed it. I still don't think it's quite sunk in.

In more ironic news we have this figure:

California Proposition 2 (humane treatment for farm animals): Yes 63.2%, No 36.8%
California Proposition 8 (bans same-sex marriage): Yes 52.3%, No 47.7%

So there're about a million of my fellow Californians who were more moved to aid lovable pigs and chickens than they were to leave committed gay and lesbian couples alone. Pretty sad, but that's a problem with direct democracy: it rewards sentimentality and fear-mongering in equal amounts.

I also intend to get back into the movie-reviewing game, but here's a sampling of what I thought about the movies I've seen in the last month or so:

New movies:
Appaloosa: 8/10
Religulous: 6/10
Quarantine: 5/10
Body of Lies: 4/10
Ghost Town: 7/10
W.: 5/10
Let the Right One In: 8/10
Repo! The Genetic Opera: 5/10
Zack and Miri Make a Porno: 5/10
The Lost Skeleton Returns Again: 7/10

Old movies:
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three: 8/10
Raw Force (1982): 7/10
Homicidal: 6/10
Strait-Jacket: 6/10
Midnight Cowboy: 8/10
The Stepfather: 7/10
Cat-Women of the Moon: 3/10