Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Eyeshine

Johnny Yong Bosch is a personal hero of mine. From his voice work on anime shows like Bleach, Trigun, Code Geass, and Last Exile to his days as Adam the black power ranger on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. So was I surprised to find out he had a band? Not really. It just seems the bastard is even more multi-talented than I thought he was. The band is called Eyeshine and they aren't too shabby if you like the post-grunge pop kind of thing.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

One-Eyed Jacks

Marlon Brando only directed one movie in his entire career and that film is the pre-spaghetti western One-Eyed Jacks (1961). This film remains as one of the more overlooked and undervalued westerns, but we must remember that this is Marlon Brando territory so it is perhaps only fitting that this movie seems to be loved by other directors like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino while the average movie-goer has no idea this film exists. Is this a great film? I don't know. I know I liked it when I watched it. Really liked it. I could even see how this film might have impacted or at least foretold the coming of the spaghetti western because it does have that same sort of vibe. Had this film had more support then who knows what it could have been. 

Sam Peckinpah was originally slated to write the screenplay (based off a Rod Serling treatment of the novel The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones by Charles Neider) while Stanley Kubrick was slated as the director. Can you imagine Stanley Kubrick directing a Marlon Brando film? I mean, seriously. Assuming the film actually ever made it to theaters because the good lord knows that Kubrick certainly took his sweet time and Brando was ever so easy to work with... just what kind of legacy this film might have today? 

But none of that happened. Brando volunteered for the director's chair after Kubrick became unavailable and Guy Trosper (who the hell is he?) wrote the screenplay when Peckinpah got fired by Brando. Apparently, we have "studio disputes" to blame for a Kubrick-Brando vehicle not existing. Thanks a lot, assholes. 

Brando supposedly shot 300 minutes (or more) of footage for a director's cut that apparently no longer exists. Rumor has it that Brando destroyed the extra footage himself, but who really knows. After weeks of frustration, Brando was relieved (perhaps voluntarily) of his duties as director during production and the film was finished in a rush job. It's been suspected that the film's finale is where the true pressure of the studio's showed because the film ends on an uncharacteristically optimistic note (at least in regards to the rest of the film). 

Either way, I don't feel the ending hurt the film that much. Maybe a little, but not much. It may not have been what Brando wanted, but I don't think a three hundred minute western would have been much better. But I could be wrong. Maybe the 141 minute film I watched is really a butchered tragedy and I don't even know it. That's just what happens when footage gets destroyed and studios get bitchy. I really want to know what Brando's true vision was, but it's gone and Brando felt unsatisfied with the "finished" product and he never directed another film in his life. 

But this movie is pretty darn good. 

Karl Malden (playing the villainous Dad Longworth), Slim Pickens (playing a backwards hick with an inferiority complex), and Ben Johnson (a bank robber trying to rob a bank in Longworth's town with the help of the Rio Kid) all bring great supporting performances to the film and Brando's own performance (the Rio Kid - a Sergio Leone-sounding name if ever there was one) isn't minimized by the effects of him pulling double duty. The scenery isn't too shabby, either. It doesn't look like a first-timer directed it to me. 

The story itself may be a bit cliche, but it's a western and that comes with the territory a bit. 

Brando did well with this movie and it is a shame he didn't try his hand a directing another movie in his life. 

P.S. - Apparently, Guy Trosper wrote the screenplays for Birdman of Alcatraz, The Stratton Story, The Pride of St. Louis, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and Jailhouse Rock. I kind of feel like a douche for making fun of him. I love Birdman of Alcatraz

P.P.S. - I will say that there is actually one thing about this film that sort of bugged me. There is a pivotal scene early in the movie when Rio is betrayed by Dad and Rio ends up getting caught by the Mexican equivalent of the coppers and is forced to do heavy time. 

But the very next scene after the Rio Kid is captured shows the Rio Kid and his new prison buddy escaping some five years later. Perhaps some footage from the Kid's time in the pokie was filmed, but it obviously never survived the cutting room. Shame. 





Monday, February 25, 2013

Did You Watch The Oscars?

I didn't know they were on last night. I didn't even know what films, actors, or directors were nominated. And once I'd finally looked up the movies I realized that I had not seen any of them. This isn't very surprising. In fact, I've said before that I rarely go out and see new movies. Hell, I still haven't seen The King's Speech. I really want to see Django Unchained and Lincoln, but those are for my own reasons and not because the Oscars deemed an actor from them worthy of an award. Honestly, I just don't put much stock into the Oscars. That doesn't mean they are not important because they are. But not winning one or not even being nominated for one does not invalidate an entire career spent in the film industry, IMO. Of course, the actors probably like it because it gets them recognition (unless your name is Marlon Brando or George C. Scott).

I've never seen an Ang Lee movie. Well, actually I have seen Hulk, but I didn't particularly care for that version. I've never seen Brokeback Mountain and don't plan to, really. I've no doubt it's a well-made movie and the performances by the late Heath Ledger and Jake "Is he still making movies?" Gyllenhaal are great, but I try to keep the movies I watch where dudes kiss to a minimum. Bromances aren't my bag. I know Ang Lee's bromance beat out Spielberg's Munich in 2006 so I wasn't completely surprised to hear that Ang Lee bested Spielberg again in the Best Director category with Life of Pi coming out over Lincoln

But I was surprised to hear that Argo won Best Picture. Why? Well, I don't know. I haven't seen any of the movies nominated so it seems silly to me that I should be surprised. I think it is because of my dislike for Ben Affleck, though. Of course, Armageddon, Good Will Hunting, and the films he has made with Kevin Smith are decent enough films and some of them are even really good or great, but I think I still hold a bias against him for Gigli and Pearl Harbor. I guess I should get over it, though. 

Anyway, I still say that some of the best films I've ever seen weren't even Oscar-nominated and that the Oscars don't get it right half the time. James Stewart only won one Oscar and that was for The Philadelphia Story. Paul Newman won only one and that was a sympathy award. Don't even talk about Al Pacino. That man should have an entire wall decorated with Oscars. At the very least, a small bookcase. Sometimes I wonder if I'm really watching the same movies that other people are. Maybe I'm just easily impressed. 

Anyway, I can't wait to see Django Unchained or Lincoln




Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rumbling Hearts: Kiminozo (Kimi ga Nozomu Eien)

It isn't very often I go out of my way to watch a chick flick. This is because I have an obsession with watching the saddest or most depressing anime out there and seeing if it was worth the hype. Naturally, I find this info out by ghosting on anime forum sites and basically seeing what pulled at the heartstrings of other people. Grave of the Fireflies was mentioned quite a few times next to Barefoot Gen and while I don't doubt that I'll give those a look-see sometime in the future, I'm in no mood to thoroughly destroy my will to live just yet. One show that came up on one of these sites was Rumbling Hearts: Kiminozo and I Googled it just like I Googled most of the other answers. 

This is the description given on Amazon:


"Friendship and faith, love and betrayal… And guilt. Rumbling Hearts weaves a tale not of superheroes or science fiction, but of the silent sufferings of any potential passerby. This is real life. Happy endings are bittersweet at best.

Meet four fast high school friends – Haruka, Takayuki, Mitsuki and Shinji. Life’s promise shines brightly on these companions, until one day a random accident leaves Haruka in a coma. Her boyfriend, Takayuki, cannot forgive himself and seems determined to follow Haruka into a comatose state. Mitsuki dedicates her life to taking care of this tragic young man, and the pair salvage what they can, falling into a self-destructive relationship floundering in guilt. When Haruka awakens three years too late suffering from anterograde amnesia, everyone has to act as if not a day has passed. Torn between his unhappy real-life train wreck with Mitsuki and the warm and fuzzy daydream high school romance with Haruka, Takayuki watches what little silver lining was left in life be mercilessly and methodically stripped away."


Yeah, it's about as happy a show as it sounds. Thank God it was only 14 episodes because I don't I could have stood much more. It is really depressing, to say the least. The show is actually based off of an adult Japanese visual novel and the path the show takes is just one of the paths you could take in the novel. That being said, this show is by no means "hentai" or "animated porno." There are a few sex scenes and a few scenes of nudity, but it's nothing you wouldn't see in Titanic. Still, this ain't a show for kids. 

I think the thing that made me watch this show was that it was about real life everyday people. Yeah, School Days was too, but I hated every single character in that show while I sort of felt a common bond with the main characters of Rumbling Hearts. It's kinda like an anime rendition of Terms of Endearment meets Goodbye Lenin!

Stories about people slipping into a coma and missing time are just about the saddest stories, I think. It's one thing if they never wake up, but how do they adjust to a changed world and a completely changed life if they do? Think about the film Cast Away. While Tom Hanks doesn't fall into a coma, he does miss a large portion of time from the outside world and when he finally escapes it almost seems like he should have just stayed on the island because everything is just so different and depressing in the real world. 

Stephen King's novel The Dead Zone also touches on this theme a bit, but takes it into a different direction. 

But Rumbling Hearts is not out to make any grand statement about life. Well, actually it is, but it does so without resorting to anything supernatural or anything too far out of the confines of everyday life. It just asks a very simple question: do you let your guilt over the past decide your future? 

The show actually reminded me of the "Sometimes dead is better" quote from Stephen King's Pet Sematary. The story could have gone so much easier for Takayuki if Haruka had actually stayed in her coma. But would he have gotten over the guilt if she had stayed in a coma? Beats me, but it's a neat debating point, I suppose. Of course, you'd have to completely overlook Haruka's well-being, but that's the whole point of the debate. 

All in all, I don't regret watching it. It was a rather good show, but definitely a chick flick and thoroughly depressing. Worth it, though. 

Bring your pack of Kleenex if you want to give the show a try. 


Friday, February 22, 2013

My Favorite Authors

This is a list that should be taken with a grain of salt for a number of reasons. My tastes frequently change and I really do not do re-reads. I have yet to finish re-reading a book. Why bother re-reading books that I only read a few years ago when they are so many other titles out there? So saying that should hopefully put things in perspective. In fact, I should probably call this entry "My Favorite Authors... at the time I was reading them." I went through a period where I read about forty Stephen King books in three years. Mostly because I loved the books, but also because I was kind of scared to discover anyone else. I know that sounds silly, but the first time I picked up a book not by Stephen King (a Dean Koontz book, no less) I felt like it was almost a betrayal. But I really enjoyed that Dean Koontz book and from there I really vowed to myself to branch out. Admittedly, I don't branch out beyond the genre of horror that much. This isn't because I'm trying to limit myself, but because I just read what I like and I'm really not trying to impress anyone with my bookcase. So you basically see Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Richard Laymon, Brian Keene, Robert R. McCammon, and quite a few of the other horror guys decorating my bookcase. 


The few non-horror authors to have books in my collection include Nelson DeMille, Donald E. Westlake/Richard Stark, Mark Winegardner, Mario Puzo, Robert Ludlum, and George R.R. Martin. Am I forgetting any? Oh yeah. There's Dan Brown (yeah, I know, keep your snarky comments to yourself), Ray Bradbury (thanks to Joe Gould for boosting my Bradbury collection to twice its original size), John Grisham, Steven Shrewsbury, Thomas Harris, James Lee Burke, Frank Herbert, Dan Wells, Harper Lee, J.R.R. Tolkien, and James Rollins. 


Honestly, the list of books I have by non-horror authors is larger than I thought it would be now that I actually see it on paper. But I don't own many titles by these guys with the exception of maybe Puzo, DeMille, and Westlake. Like I said, horror is my preferred genre. If I'm also completely truthful then I should say that most of the books I get are impulse buys and I've got titles by each author I've listed that I haven't touched because I guess I'm just weird. Why buy something if I don't want to read it? Yeah, I ask myself the same thing all the time. But I figure the dowsing rod in my mind will lead me to it eventually and it's better to have a certain title for when that time comes then to have to look for it. Keep that in mind. 


I'm always looking for new authors to discover, too. So if you see a guy whose name is not mentioned it's because of one of two things: a) I haven't read them, b) I've never heard of them, c) I haven't read enough of their work to make an accurate assessment of their work, or d) I didn't like them. 


So without further adieu allow me to tell you just who my favorite authors are:



  1. Stephen King - Again, I don't read Stephen King all the time. In fact, I don't read him anymore unless he comes out with a new book because I read pretty much all of his books in such a relatively short time no too long ago. There are a few books that I haven't read like The Colorado Kid and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, but I'm not really in a hurry to get to those. 
  2. Dean Koontz - Okay, I don't read much Dean Koontz anymore, either. But I own more books by him then any other author with the exception of King. I've also been burned by Koontz just about more than any other author and his constant refusal to write about an intelligent cat for once gets on my nerves. But I've read a lot of books by him that I enjoyed. As of this moment I would probably rank him lower because a lot of his newer books are garbage, but his back catalog is the reason he is ranked so high. 
  3. Brian Keene - By all rights he should be number two because he is the only author on this list that I have read all of the books by him that I actually own. Okay, I'm a liar. I haven't read the Deadite Press version of Kill Whitey that came in the mail the other day. I have yet to read something by him that hasn't at least kept my interest. I think my least favorite book by him might have been Darkness on the Edge of Town because it seemed so much like The Mist, but I still enjoyed it to a degree. 
  4. Robert R. McCammon - Boy's Life and Swan Song are two of the greatest books I've ever read. If I ever decide to start re-reading books then these would be among the first two I'd re-visit. But his other works like Mystery Walk and Usher's Passing are pretty damn good, too. I have not read a lot of him and his earlier works like They Thirst really made me struggle and I couldn't finish them, but the books by him that I have read are freakin' epic. 
  5. Nelson DeMille - The Gold Coast is one of those desert island books for me. His John Corey books are pretty good, too. When I need a good laugh and a suspenseful adventure I always grab a DeMille book. But he's one of the few authors I'd actually be willing to read as a hardcover and I can't say that about most folks. 
  6. Jack Ketchum - Ketchum may or may not be the author that disturbs me the most, but he certainly wrote the book that disturbs me the most. I don't think anything will ever top The Girl Next Door. His brutal Off Season looks like Willy Wonka by comparison. I discovered Ketchum through King, but I dare say that my favorite Ketchum book might very well have more in common with Koontz because it is about a dog. Red is, as Bentley Little put it, a damn fine book. 
  7. Richard Laymon - Laymon is sort of hit and miss with me, but his hits are worth the odd miss. My first novel by him was In The Dark and I remember reading it my high school economics class and feeling like I was doing something nasty. I felt like everyone should be staring at me with ugly looks on their faces because there's just no way I should be able to read stuff like this in public. But no one knew who he was in my class and that is a damn sad thing. Laymon introduced me to extreme horror and he will always hold a soft spot in my heart. I even named my blog after one of his stories. 
  8. Bryan Smith - This guy is my current favorite author. I read one of his books a while ago called Soultaker and I remember liking well enough. When the whole thing with Leisure hit the fan his books were pulled from the shelves of my Books-A-Million and he fell off my radar for a while. However, once I managed to get a job and a debit card and shop via Amazon I really corrected my mistake of not reading anymore Bryan Smith. I've yet to read a bad book by him. I highly recommend The Killing Kind and Kayla and the Devil to anyone who will listen. Based on what I've read of Depraved I'd say the very same of this one, but I'll wait until I'm finished before stating that definitively. Once I read more of his work I'm sure he'll ascend up this list. I've got the Hard Rain hardcover of his novel Grimm Awakening and the Samhain paperback of his The Late Night Horror Show on the way so I can't wait to further boast about the awesomeness of Smith. He's a really cool guy and you could do worse than to befriend him on Facebook. 
  9. Joe Hill - The guy is extremely gifted, but he has only written two novels and one short story collection to date. I'm looking forward to NOS4A2, though. I don't read comics so I really can't say if Locke & Key is any good. I'd love for him to pump out some more novels and a few more short story collections so he can move higher up on my list. 
  10. Edward Lee - Lee is a fucked up guy and that's just about the nicest thing I can say about him. I haven't read as much of his work as I would like to, but what little I've read is very much in-your-face and almost right up my alley. I have not read much of his early work so I'm going to try and correct that because I've heard those books are infinitely better than his newer ones. I just remember reading Flesh Gothic (my first Lee book) and feeling like I desperately needed a shower after finishing each chapter. For that alone the sick bastard won some of my respect. 

Okay, feel free to tell me my list sucks. Again, remember that I have a long list of other authors I want to further explore and this list is very much subject to change. I've tried Peter Straub before and he didn't win me over with my first attempt at Ghost Story. That's why he is not on my list, but there's no reason to suggest he couldn't be on my list in the future. H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe are not on my list for the simple fact that I do not own anything by them. I love their works, but I think putting them on this list would make me feel a bit hypocritical. I feel like I have to own at least one book by an author, you know? 







Sunday, February 17, 2013

Zombieland

I like a lot of old movies and I rarely see new ones. So I am generally the last person that will go and see a movie in theaters. That's probably why I was unaware of this film's existence until a few weeks ago. That and it's also because most of my friends have an obsession for godawful Disney films and don't like the films I like. I'm not the type to go to the theaters alone so even if I had been aware of this I probably still would not have seen it in theaters because I probably could not have found anyone to appreciate this fine film. So if I see new movies it's typically with my parents or my brother. I have no shame. 

Don't get me wrong, though. I've still got my anime collection, my book collection, and a collection of great films to take my mind off my problems (lack of friends, poor social skills, no luck with the fairer sex, a minuscule number of blog followers, my apparent failure to understand the importance of Harry Potter to American Literature and Cinema, etc.).

But that's all I need. Okay, so maybe I need this chair. And this TV remote control. And this ashtray. But that's all I need. 

Shades of The Jerk, anyone? I know you know this. 

Anyway, so it was for these reasons that I felt a certain kinship with Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), the main character of Zombieland. And the fact that I love Twinkies (or fatty and terribly unhealthy sponge cakes, in general) is the reason I felt a real kinship with the Woody Harrelson's insane character Tallahassee. Of course, if Tallahassee's true love had been for Tastykakes then this movie would easily top The Godfather as my favorite film of all time. 

This movie is great. I don't think I really could talk about it without making it sound slightly less awesome than it really is. So ignore everything I say and just watch the movie. 

Seriously, ignore what I just said and finish reading my review. 

Watch it. Even if you are sick of zombies this movie will have something for you. If the thought of seeing Bill Murray dress up like a zombie doesn't make you watch this movie then you just aren't human. 

Seriously (yep, I've used this word twice in three paragraphs), I did enjoy this movie and it does give hope to nerds like me everywhere. Well, I don't consider myself a nerd, but I do sound like one from time to time. I'm just one zombie apocalypse away from landing the smokin' hot babe of my dreams. So let's hurry up with Zombieland 2 before the real zombie apocalypse does happen. 






Last Exile (Rasuto Eguzairu)

I have a bad tendency to buy things on a spur of the moment. Not necessarily because I lack the funds, but because I lack any coherent idea of what I want to buy. So I just sort of pretend I'm out searching for water in the woods with a dowser when I'm shopping and whatever takes my fancy is what I'll get. This method usually works, too. And my dowsing method led me to Last Exile

Last Exile is a pretty unique show (to me, at least) in that it is the first steampunk series I've ever watched. If you don't know what that is then I'll give a brief explanation. Steampunk is typically futuristic, but it is also very much a tribute to the past. Steam-powered vehicles generally play a large part in the stories. If the vehicles aren't exactly steam-powered then they are often largely inspired by steam-powered vehicles. Steampunk generally serves as a sort of love letter to the 1800's and the settings are generally Victorian or of the sort that comprise the early American Westerns. Insert futuristic technology into the old age setting and you basically have steampunk. The Wild Wild West is the most obvious form of steampunk although it could be argued whether or not that show really is steampunk. 

But Last Exile is most assuredly a steampunk series and it is inspired by Roland Emmerich's The Patriot to a certain degree. 

Here is the quote: 

"Relocating to Tokyo allowed Murata to become more involved with the production of Last Exile, which was inspired by Roland Emmerich's American Revolutionary War epic The Patriot. Then-president of Gonzo and series planner Showji Murahama was particularly taken by the movie's battle scenes, during which the blue- and red-coated soldiers lined up to shoot each other down, row by row. 'He wanted to know if we could do that in an anime,' Murata recalls. 'At that time the story was going to be about troops fighting in space.' Although the setting changed considerably during development, The Patriot's military motif carried through. 'That's basically where the designs for those anachronistically beautiful outfits [worn by the Anatoray and Disith troops] came from.'"―Newtype USA, September 2004

This show also relies a bit on 3D and that made it feel like I was actually watching a movie instead a TV show. The graphics are very good and it really brought the show to life. 

Each episode name is a play on a chess term and the game itself is mentioned heavily throughout the series. I literally had no idea what a zugzwang was before I watched this show and now I know. I also had no idea who or what an Immelmann was (it's not a chess term) and I dare say that this anime has taught be a bit of history that I would not have known otherwise. 

The story itself is pretty neat, too. Claus Valca and Lavie Head are two kids that grew up together as orphans and they have have one dream: They want to cross the Grand Stream. Naturally, the Grand Stream does not exist on earth so this story does not take place on earth. It actually takes place on a planet not specifically named in the show, but it is officially called "Prester" by the creators. Prester is a world at war and the warring warring factions are the Anatoray and the Disith. Through either sheer luck or fate, Claus and Lavie find themselves in the middle of this war and it seems they must put their dream on hold as the two sides fight and the Sylvana seemingly hold them captive. Overlooking the battle from the skies is the mysterious Guild. The Guild serves as referees of sorts and they make sure that certain codes of chivalry are enforced, but the Guild have a darker purpose at heart: They want the mysterious item known as Exile. 

What the Guild doesn't count on is a man named Alex Row and his "Kill-Em-All" ship Sylvana. Alex seems hellbent on bringing down the Guild and doesn't seem to care for the squabbles between the Anatoray or the Disith. Indeed, Row's ship earned its name by battling against both enemies and allies and coming out on top each time. With Claus and Lavie on board to watch it all, they soon learn that there is more to the Guild and to Alex Row than meets the eye. 

I highly recommend this show to those who love steampunk or those who just really want to watch a well done anime. Johnny Yong Bosch, Steve Blum, Crispin Freeman, and Beau Billingslea all perform voice overs on the English dubbed version of this show so I can think of no better reason to watch it than for that. 





Friday, February 15, 2013

Survivor by J.F. Gonzalez

I admit I was slightly let down by this book. That's not saying it doesn't deserve its reputation because it does. This is a horrifying book, but it's not the masterpiece that Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door is (the book that pretty much all of the "esteemed" hardcore horror novels are compared to). There are a few flaws. Not having read the Leisure edition of this book I really can't comment on that version, but the Deadite Press version dubbed the "Author's Preferred Edition" had a few flaws that really grated on my nerves. There are two Chapter Thirteens (although the second Chapter Thirteen contains what should have been Chapter Fourteen material so the names are the same even though the contents are different) and a formatting error at the end of Chapter Twenty-One. I know Deadite isn't exactly perfect, but come on now and get with the program. This is just sloppy and lazy. Surely the author can't prefer this?

As for the actual story... well, this is what it is about:

Lisa and her husband Brad are going off on a romantic getaway. Lisa has discovered that she is pregnant and she is going to use this getaway as a means to tell Brad the big news. But things go horribly wrong when Brad is arrested and Lisa is kidnapped by men who want to torture, rape and then ultimately kill her in a snuff film. But Lisa is a survivor and perhaps the most horrible atrocity in this book is the one she finds herself committing in order to survive...

The first half of this book reminded me of the climax of most Laymon novels. All of the shit just seems to hit the fan at once and it is very harrowing. Tough to read. However, the second half of the book sort of wanders around a bit and mostly rides off the adrenaline of the first half. Again, it's not a bad book, but you just have to plow through some slower reading in the second half and some peculiar errors for a so-called "Author's Preferred Edition."

I do recommend this for people who think they can take it. It's human horror... maybe not at its finest (that's The Girl Next Door), but certainly it's human horror worth noting and reading.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Being There

Peter Sellers seems to be a bit of a forgotten actor today, I think. The only place it seems that I find anyone who really knows about him is online. Of course, those that do know of Sellers will be most familiar with his The Pink Panther films. And perhaps a few folks will remember any of his multiple roles in Dr. Strangelove, but certainly no one outside of my age range from where I live does. 

Well, maybe I'm selling a few people short on this and some people have just kept their love for good movies seriously hidden. If so then allow me to tell you that it is okay to like good movies and to be open about it. This is an age of acceptance, people. 

The bottom line is that more people should watch good movies and be willing to talk about them with the people they know. And saying, "I liked it" isn't exactly talking about it. That's a statement, not a conversation. 

Anyway, I'm off topic a bit.

I'm going to talk about Being There, the greatest Peter Sellers movie you've probably never seen or heard about. Naturally, I have heard about it, watched it, and owned it because that's just how I roll.

This film was the last film released before the death of Peter Sellers. If not for the posthumous release of The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu then this movie Being There would undoubtedly have to be the greatest of swan songs for any actor to go out on. But it's not, damn it.

The story, much like the main character, is a very simple one. Chance is a gardener living on the estate of an old and dying millionaire. When the millionaire dies, Chance is forced to leave the estate and wander out into a world that he had previously only experienced through watching too much TV. Indeed, he had never left the estate before and does not know how to interact with people or drive a vehicle.

So Chance the gardener walks along and soon finds himself in the presence of a man (Melvyn Douglas) who holds the ear of the President of the United States (Jack Warden). Somehow this simple man who knows only about gardening and television becomes quoted in newspapers and makes appearances on television by doing nothing more than... well, just being there. His simple words are constantly mistaken for deep metaphors by politicians and power brokers and it is no stretch to wander just who the real simpletons are.

But Chance doesn't really care about politics or the economy. He doesn't even know what they are. He just wants to do some gardening and watch TV.

This movie is very much a drama with a few comedic moments, but the funny parts are pretty damn funny. If you watch this film expecting to play a buffoon like Clouseau then you'll be disappointed. Chance is no buffoon. Simple, yes. Buffoon, no.

Watch this movie. You'll like to watch.
























Friday, February 8, 2013

Hellsing (Herushingu)

I'm not a big vampire fan. I've only read a handful of books that featured them and only really like a few of the Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi movies but not much else. Next to zombies they are undoubtedly the most over-hyped and over-used type of creature in all of horror. I get the attraction, I suppose. They have sharp and pointy teeth and weird accents and a sense of tragic melancholy about their tortured immortality and so on and so forth. It's not scary to me, but I guess folks find them romantic or something like that. I personally think they're boring. 

However, vampires can be awesome if you take buckets full of blood, a half-baked story line, and a willingness to not take the whole vampire shtick so seriously and mix all that up into one pretty cool anime. 

Hellsing as a show is sort of an incoherent mess, but it has enough moments to make the show pretty memorable. The show kind of reminds me of those Chuck Norris or Sylvester Stallone movies in which the movies themselves are sort of crummy, but we are just watching because of the actors and that somehow makes the movies better. Of course, that feels like I'm selling the show a bit short to say that, but there really isn't a better or nicer way to say it. There are much better shows out there to watch in terms of story, but if you an want an over the top bloodfest and you've already seen Elfen Lied and When They Cry then you could do worse than to watch Hellsing. There's enough blood and foul language in this short thirteen episode show to make a Tarantino movie jealous. People are getting ripped in half and torn to shreds at multiple points during each episode. This show treats blood as a selling point and really brings it. 

Along the way we more or less get introduced to the plot and primary characters. 

The show is essentially about a vampire named Alucard (I know it's unoriginal, but this show isn't exactly aspiring to achieving television greatness) and for some strange reason Alucard is serving the Hellsing Organization, an organization hellbent on protecting the British Empire from undead ghouls and Satanic freaks. Along with Alucard, the police girl Seras Victoria serves as the Hellsing Organization's other resident vampire after accepting the gift of "dark salvation" by the teeth of Alucard. Together, the two vampires and the Hellsing Organization try to weed out just who is creating the strange "freaks" that are trying to demolish the Hellsing Organization and the British Empire. 

This show is a very quick watch because it is so short, but it doesn't really have an ending. Of course, one could argue that there really isn't even much of a story, but I suppose that's all in the eye of the beholder. About six of the thirteen episodes of this show are not based on the manga because, at the time this show was being made, the source manga had not been completed so the creators of the show basically improvised the second half. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. With Trigun and Claymore it definitely worked. I'm not really sure if this show worked or not. 

More recently, a multi-part OVA was made entitled Hellsing Ultimate and I am very interested in seeing that show and just how it is different. This newer show is said to follow the manga so the show should be interesting just what the original ending of the show was supposed to be. I hear there's even neo-Nazis in the new show. Damn, vampires and neo-Nazis... where the hell do I sign up?

I just pray this time the story is a bit more coherent and the animation is a little bit better. I personally found Hellsing's style to be a bit "blocky" and the characters didn't really come alive to me. 

Again, there is a lot of foul language and violence and the story is a mess, but the show is worth it, I think. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Interview with Nicholas Vince: The Chattering Cenobite

The Ginger Nuts of Horror is a blog I like reading. The guy who runs it is pretty cool, too. He also had the honor of interviewing the Nick Vince, the guy who played the "Chattering Cenobite" in the first two Hellraiser films.

Give the interview a read here.


The Godfather Part III

Having recently re-watched all of The Godfather Trilogy, I thought a bit about reviewing them here. I changed my mind because doing would seem kind of pointless. The first two films are my favorite films of all time and are so well known that reviewing them would seem redundant. Of course, I do think that many people my age don't have respect for these films and prefer gory bloodbaths like De Palma's Scarface to the subdued and melancholy atmosphere of Coppola's famiglia movies. But that's something else entirely.

I mostly just want to talk about The Godfather Part III. It's one of the most hated sequels out there for a number of reasons, but it certainly seems that Sofia Coppola's performance (or lack thereof) takes the brunt of the criticism. I'm not exactly going to stand up for her, but I will say that criticism of her performance is unjustly harsh.

Of course, the first thing I want to talk about is Francis Ford Coppola himself.

Francis Ford Coppola is a family guy. Having watched so much of the bonus content on the extra Blu-ray disc, my opinions of him were reinforced. Coppola really brought warmth to these movies by really focusing on the family. All three films began with some sort of family occasion and party: the daughter's wedding, the part for the son, and the religious honor for Michael Corleone. In the midst of this the respective Dons of the Corleone Crime Syndicates are giving an ear to less than honest people, honoring requests to have people offed and so forth.

This dynamic is really what made the story and the movies so popular. It's like any other family... except this family is involved in gambling, prostitution, and the occasional murder. But it all revolves around the family, the dinner table, the quiet moments between father and son.

Coppola really put himself in these movies by having his daughter appear in all three films. She was the baby getting baptized in the first movie, she was the "child on ship" in the second movie, and the daughter of Michael Corleone in the third movie. She was also in her father's adaptation of The Outsiders. All of this fuels the fires of nepotism, but it isn't Sophia alone who has benefited from her doting father.

Francis Ford's father Carmine contributed to the score of all three films as well as Apocalypse Now and The Outsiders. Carmine Coppola also made appearances in all three films as a bandleader.

Francis's sister Talia Rose Coppola (Talia Shire) famously played Michael Corleone's sister Connie in all three films. Francis apparently chose Talia so she could get her foot in the door.

Gian-Carlo, before his untimely death at the age of 22 in 1986, had appeared both the first Godfather as well as The Conversation, Apocalypse Now Redux, and Rumble Fish.

The thing is... I don't have a problem with any of this. Sure, Sophia Coppola isn't the greatest actress in the world, but she clearly wasn't Francis's first choice. Wynona Ryder fell ill and he had to quickly find somebody. Since his daughter had been in the previous two films... why not put her in the third one as well? As Michael's daughter, no less. I'm kind of a superstitious guy and I can understand putting her in the third film, but I can also understand a little something that Al Pacino said in one of his interviews about the making of the third film.

Pacino said something along the lines of: "Coppola is so good at knowing exactly what the characters are thinking at any moment. I don't doubt that there is certainly more of Michael Corleone in him then there is in me."

So who better to play the daughter of Michael Corleone than the daughter of the man who knew what Michael was thinking and feeling so well? From this standpoint the casting of Sophia really makes perfect sense. All Francis would have to tell her is "just be a daughter like you are to me... except you have to kiss Andy Garcia a time or two." So there really wasn't much for her to do because the role was more or less tailor made for her. The choice of casting is Francis's fault, but I don't blame Sophia because she really did do what was asked of her. She played the daughter. Certainly, not exceedingly well, but she did what was asked of her and nothing more.

Would Wynona Ryder have done better with such a character? I guess we'll never know. But I think Sophia gets a little too much grief for her role.

The ultimate problem with the third movie (originally to be titled The Death of Michael Corleone but Paramount went shit-nuts and forced Coppola to change the title) is that it tries to get inside the head of an aging and regretful Michael Corleone. It tries to make Michael Corleone emotional... which is something we haven't seen since... well, ever. Michael gradually transforms into a ruthless and calculating zombie over the course of the first two films and it is almost impossible to know when he is actually telling the truth and not trying to "undress you with his eyes" as I've heard him described as doing. Michael is a shark.

So how can someone get inside Michael Corleone's head and make him appear as truly regretful and not like the asshole who had had his own brother killed in the second movie. The transition is almost impossible to make and I don't think it succeeded in this movie. I got the feeling that Al Pacino was trying to do his best, but I don't think Michael Colreone suffered enough or that Al really saw Corleone heading down the same path Coppola did. He should have been humbled a bit more. Oh, he lost so much and death followed him around, but I think he should have lost more. He should have been hated more. This movie was kind of a Michael Corleone pity party when it should have been a Michael Corleone gets his just deserts party. It isn't until the very end that Michael really feels the burn of his lifestyle, but is it too little too late? I guess that's up for debate. Michael loses his daughter and ends up all alone, dying in Sicily without a friend in the world. Perhaps it would have been more satisfying for me if Michael Corleone ended up getting killed with half an hour left in the film and Andy Garcia's character was left seeking vengeance and thus beginning a new era for the Corleone family. If nothing else, there should have some flashbacks to to the period between the second movie and this one to show just how Michael's descent into self-loathing and regret really began.

I just think Michael got off too easy as the semi-Scrooge type who vowed to change his life.

I should also mention that Andy Garcia's character did not exist in the book. Sonny's mistress was not pregnant in the book and therefore could not have given birth to an illegitimate child. Vincent Mancini is an impossible character. I get that these are Coppola's movies, but Puzo should have drawn a line. The first two films had been largely faithful to the book (with the exceptions of the parts of Part II that feature Michael's ascension as Don because the book doesn't feature any of that... Fredo is still very much alive at the end of Puzo's novel and the family is still in New York with Kay trying to cope with Michael's new life by praying with Vito's wife... something the first film sort of shied away from and instead showed Kay becoming horrified by Michael's turn), but I think that creating a character who could not exist at all in the book just goes against the grain for me. That is the biggest turnoff for me. Yes, I think Andy Garcia does okay, but his character is just Coppola trying to combine the features of all the sons with hopes of creating the answers to Michael's problems. I think that's laziness.

Anyway, I think I've covered most of what I've wanted to say. This film is very good if you can forgive its faults. You just have to sort of understand Coppola to really "get" this movie.










Friday, February 1, 2013

Darker Than Black: Gaiden

There is a four part OVA feature which more or less branches the first season of Darker Than Black to the sequel series Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor. Remember that the first season of Darker Than Black has one OVA episode to its credit, but that episode has nothing to do with this four part OVA dubbed "Darker Than Black Gaiden" and actually takes place somewhere during the last third of the original series. 

I really wish I would have watched this four part OVA before I had started Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor. Again, it's poor product placement to have a prequel series be placed after the final episodes of the show it is supposed to be a prequel to. Essentially, this OVA describes what the sequel show only hints at. It shows Yin becoming gradually possessed by some Gate being and how Hei separates from her and eventually winds up working with the CIA. It illuminates the ending of Darker Than Black: Gemini of the Meteor just a little bit. It even shows how Hei's mask ended up getting scratched. 

Having watched it, I have to say that I sort of like the second season of the show a little better because this OVA more less helps to establish the transition easier from one series to the next. 

I suppose it's not mandatory viewing if you plan on watching the second series, but this four part OVA is worth watching on its own so I recommend watching it before the second season.