Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Extra Picture Perfect Wednesday: Beware the 31 Nights of Halloween!

Starting Friday, October 1, 2010,
at Terror Titans and Shades of Gray!

Picture Perfect Wednesday: Gloria Stuart

Gloria Stuart was one of the untold number of talented actresses who came close to stardom, but who never got that perfect part to launch from. She appeared in a couple dozen movies in the 1930s and 1940s, mostly from Twentieth Century-Fox and Universal Pictures before leaving the film business to return to stage acting and, later, a successful career as an artist. She returned to screen fame late in life when she had a role in James Cameron's mega-hit "Titanic."

Born on July 4, 1910, Stuart passed away on September 26, 2010. Matthew Coniam posted a nice farewell to her at Movietone News.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hitchcock revisits early style in 'Stage Fright'

Stage Fright (1950)
Starring: Jane Wyman, Richard Todd, Michael Wilding, Marlene Dietrich, and Alastair Sim
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

A flighty acting student (Wyman) tries to help a friend she thinks she's in love with (Todd) when it looks like he is being drawn into a murder cover-up by a manipulative diva (Dietrich). Things get even more complicated when she realizes she is actually in love with the police detective working to solve the murder (Wilding) and when she comes to fear that her friend was more than just an innocent bystander in the murder plot.

Although made in 1950, "Stage Fright" feels more like the movies Hitchcock made in the 1930s like "Young and Innocent" rather than his other films from around this same time, such as "Strangers on a Train". Maybe it's because of the English setting and characters, but for some reason, the mix of humor-to-suspense, the pacing of the story, and even the outcome, gives the film a tone that Hitchcock will never again use. Perhaps, as is suggested on the DVD commentary track, this film was Hitchcock's "goodbye" to England and that early part of his career, even if it came roughly a decade after his relocation to Hollywood. Everything I found so pleasant, charming, and oh-so-early-20th-century British about Hitchcock's early films are present in this

Some viewers may not like the quaintness of the film's characters, most of whom feel like they belong in an Agatha Christie novel, or perhaps even a detective novel directed at teenaged girls what with the central character been an independent-minded, if a naive and prone to over-romanticising everything, girl who is out to do the right thing, her way. (Although as far as that goes, this may well be one of the more "girl-friendly" mystery movies I've come across.)

However, it is that very quaint, old-fashioned nature of so many of the movies characters that make the villains seem all that more evil and twisted when their natures and motives come to light. The character played by Richard Todd--our young heroine's original love interest--seems all the more terrifying and threatening when his full psychopathic nature comes to light because he is surrounded by such otherwise gentle and fundementally well-mannered people. It is one of the most intense scenes in any Hitchcock film.

Another thing that works far better than it has a right to is the insta-romance featured in this picture. I've complained about this plot device in many films before--the one where characters meet and instantly fall in love because supposedly their Fated to be True Loves but in reality it's Dictated By Plot Needs--but here it actually works. Maybe I can buy into the sudden and complete romance between our heroine and the police detective because of the old-fashioned atmosphere that permeates the film, or maybe it's because of the clumsy and realistic way their relationship gets its start, but it was for once one I could buy into, and one that I found myself caring about when it looked like it was going to fall apart.

It could also be that I buy into the insta-romance because Jane Wyman's Eve and MIchael Wilding's "Ordinary" Smith are so likable both in the way they are acted and the way they are written that even my cynic's heart gave way to well-wishes and romantic impulses. The characters are charming and the actors have great on-screen charisma. Wyman and Wilding make perhaps one of the best couples to ever grace a Hitchcock film.

There is really only one downside to "Stage Fright", and it's one that critics and Hitchcock himself has slammed it for. The film opens with a "flashback" that we later learn isn't entirely true. Hithcock reportedly stated that he later regretted starting the movie that way, and critics have commented that a film should never include a flashback that's a lie. Personally, it didn't bother me that much, although I would have liked there to have been a clue or two that demonstrated the lie before it is explained to us so that I might have figured it out on my own, but perhaps my perspective is informed by the fact that I've sat through entire movies that turned out to be lies, such as "The Usual Suspects."

If you love the early Hitchcock movies, you need to check out "Stage Fright". Like so many of his British pictures, this is a sorely under-appreciated effort.

'Nurse Betty' features great performances

This review is part of Blogcabin's 30 dAyS oF cRaZy blog-a-thon.

Nurse Betty (2000)
Starring: Renee Zellweger, Morgan Freeman, Chris Rock, Greg Kinnear, Tia Texada, and Crispin Glover
Director: Neil LaBute
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

The shock of witnessing her husband's murder drives Betty (Zellweger) into a fantasy world where she believes she is the first love of her favorite soap opera character. She sets off for California to reunite with him. Meanwhile, two hired killers (Freeman and Rock) are tracking her, intending to eliminate the only witness to their crime and to recover drugs they believe she has stolen.

"Nurse Betty" is a sharply written comedy that delivers a multi layered message about how expectations and dreams drive us forward and shape our actions. Three of the film's major characters are in love with an ideal that has a physical counterpart but really doesn't exist outside their imagination. (Betty is in love with a kindhearted, romantic heart surgeon whose personality is very different from the actor who portrays him; Betty comes to represent the perfect woman to the hit man played by Morgan Freeman who falls in love with her picture as he tracks her westward; and Greg Kinnear comes to view Betty as his ticket to the next stage of his career, as he believes her to be a fantastically talented improv performer instead of a poor woman suffering from a dissociative disorder).

As is often the case when supported by a good script, every actor in this film is at their best. Even Chris Rock, who usually annoys the heck out of me, is funny at the right times and dramatic at the right times.

Of particular note in this stand-out cast is Morgan Freeman. While Freeman is playing the character he seems to play most often--a professional killer who is smarter and a little less psychotic than is typical for members of that profession--he is perhaps better here than any other of the times he's played it. While he usually manages to present a charming and somewhat sympathetic character no matter how amoral he ultimately turns out to be, his character here is one that you will find yourself having real sympathy for when all his hopes and dreams are shattered toward the end of the movie, and he ends up paying a heavy price for his life of violence.

This is one of those movies I sat down to watch with no idea what to suspect--the leads have all appeared in a wide variety of genres--but it was a pleasant surprise. The script is well written with not a single moment wasted, and every performer featured gives a top-notch performance. It's definitely worth checking out by anyone who enjoys a well-crafted romantic comedies. While "Nurse Betty" might not have a storybook ending, every character who deserves a happy ending gets one, and you're guaranteed to be left feeling warm and fuzzy as the end credits roll.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

'Sudden Impact' is weakest Dirty Harry film

Sudden Impact (1983)
Starring: Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A rape victim (Locke) is taking brutal revenge on her attackers, and SFPD's most rebellious police inspector, Harry Callahan (Eastwood) is trying to catch her.

I once wrote that "Magnum Force" is the weakest link in the "Dirty Harry" cycle. I take it back. That dubious distiction properly goes to "Sudden Impact", a film without any likable characters (with the possible exception of Meathead the Dog); flat performances from most of the actors (even Eastwood); a story that relies waaay too much on coincidence to keep moving (yes, there always needs to be some sort of coincidental convergence of events and characters, but "Sudden Impact" features so many that it's just plain bad writing); and the end is out of step with the way Callahan has been portrayed in previous films, how he is portrayed in the final film in the series... and it's just a bad ending all-around. (Without providing too many spoilers, Harry pretty much abandons any moral high-ground he once may have been able to claim, because as the end credits roll in "Sudden Impact", he's no longer a good cop by any stretch of the imagination.)

To make the experience even worse, Sandra Locke appears to have received a talent-ectomy before filming on "Sudden Impact" began.

I remember liking this movie alot when I saw it as a kid some two decades ago. All I really remembered was the startling final shot of the main bad guy, and the scenes with Meathead. I really should have watched all the "Dirty Harry" movies again before condemning "Magnum Force." It's interesting how tastes change as we grow older.

Saturday Scream Queen: Gina Ramsden

Gina Ramsden is a dancer-turned-actress who has appeared in two fine horror movies from director Marc Fratto, including her starring turn as the reluctant zombie revolutionary Angela in "Zombies Anonymous".

Ramsden focuses most of her efforts on theatre work, and last year she turned down the opportunity to appear in another Fratto's films because she felt the part wasn't right for her. However, she has stated in interviews that she is considering other horror film roles. One hopes that she takes them, because horror films need to feature more actresses who have talent beyond just looking good.

It's a zombie movie of a different sort

Zombies Anonymous (aka "Last Rites for the Dead") (2008)
Starring: Gina Ramsden, Joshua Nelson, Christa McNamee, and Mary Jo Verruto
Director: Marc Fratto
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

The recently dead are rising into a state of undeath with their full faculties intact and society is struggling to cope. When Angela (Ramsden) is murdered by her abusive boyfriend (Nelson), she too rises from the dead. She first tries to conceal the fact that she is now dead so she can quietly carry on the business of living. Ultimately, she is forced to join other zombies in the fight for social justice and equal rights, in the violent battle against the anti-zombie movement led by the vicious Commandant (McNamee), and even to struggle against a cult of zombies that have become the monsters the living fear they are.

"Zombies Anonymous" is a cut above the vast majority of zombie movies from the past and present. It's got a better script, it's got superior camera work and make-up effects, and it's got a cast of very talented actors. In fact, it belongs on a level approaching "Dawn of the Dead" as far as the performance delivered by the cast and its effectiveness is delivering social commentary and satire while still remaining a perfectly straight and deadly serious horror movie. The intense plot twists and turns in the third act and the blood-drenched, dramatic climax is also one of the best finales to any zombie movie, period.

Director/screenwriter Marc Fratto has created a film that not only stands apart from most of the output from his fellow indie filmmakers but that also puts recent horror movies from major studios to shame. There may not be hoards of mindless, flesh-eating zombies roaming the streets in this film... but the monstrosity the unfortunate zombies in this story cause to be revealed in the average person is far more frightening. Like the best horror films (and sci-fi flicks for that matter), the worst monsters in the "Zombies Anonymous" aren't the creatures in the title but rather the humans that "fight" them.

First and foremost, Fratto made sure that he maximized the quality of the one thing that every indie producer has total control over: The script.

With the exception of a couple very minor logical flaws (ones that could perhaps even be dismissed as artifacts of a society falling apart in the face of a completely unexpected development but which feel more like plot conveniences if one is being perfectly objective), the script here is honed to perfection. The film is virtually free of padding and every line of dialogue is vibrant and necessary. Each major character even has their own unique way of speaking, the true hallmark of a well-written, well-polished script. The mirror it holds up to society and the issues of tolerance and how quickly we might all give way to bigotry are also explored in very clever ways--the zombies here are not threatening anyone but are as harmless as they were when they were fully alive yet they are still hated and abused, sometimes by those who used to be their friends and loved ones. Finally, the film offers some of the commentary on the modern, brand-name and consumption-driven business world. (Interestingly, the marketers and mega-corporations might well be the most accepting of the new "living dead" segment of the population in the film, as they quickly jump on the opportunity to market products to them. I'm not sure if it was a message that Fratto intended, but it's true that the smart businessman is the least bigoted person of all... your money spends the same no matter who you are.)

Second, Fratto didn't try to create scenes and effects that were beyond what he, his actors and special effects crew could effectively handle. Fratto also has an eye for staging and filming action, with the result that all the action and fight scenes in the film are convincing and realistic. The splatter effects are also extremely well done. (Angela's death at the beginning of the film was particularly excruciating and shocking.)

Finally, "Zombies Anonymous" features a cast of excellent actors. Almost everyone appearing clearly understands the different techniques that need to be employed when acting for a camera instead of an audience in a theatre (something all-too-rare among actors featured in low-budget films like this), and every important part is filled by someone with a level of talent that makes me hope they'll go onto bigger films and bigger paychecks in the future.

Gina Ramsden is particularly good in her part, portraying a character that could easily have come across either as a whiner or as a cliched battered woman if someone of lesser talent had been cast. Instead, Ramsden infuses Angela with a humanity and depth that makes the viewer feel deeply for her and gives the film an emotional center all-too-rarely found in zombie movies. We're already rooting for the zombies in this picture, but it’s the sympathy and emotional attachment to Angela that Ramsden's performance generates that really makes us hate the villains in this picture.

The final word is that "Zombies Anonymous" is the best zombie picture I've seen in years. With enough gore and violence to keep fans of modern zombie movie happy, enough character development, soul-wrenching horror and tragedy to keep fans of classic horror movies entertained, and enough intelligent content and social commentary to keep all but the most snobbish "intellectuals" engaged, this is a film all horror fans can appreciate.

You can also gain more information about the movie and see production stills by visiting the official website.

One of the greatest anime movies ever?

Lum - Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer (1984)
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

I just recently rewatched one of my all-time favorite Japanese cartoons for the first time in over five years. It was the second theatrical release based on Rumiko Takahasi's first hit comic book series, "Lum--Urusei Yatsura" (UY means "Obnoxious Aliens" in Japanese).

"Beautiful Dreamer" is every bit as good as I remember it. I don't necessarily recommend it to those unfamiliar with the cast of the "Lum" comic books, but I nonetheless place it among my all-time favourite animated features.

In this curious film, Lum, Shinobi, Ataru, and the rest of the central cast of the series find themselves the only beings left in perhaps the entire world. They later realize that the entire world has been reduced to a 2 km area around Ataru's house... and that's when things start to get really strange.

This film grabbed my attention immediately. The plot seemed to be something well beyond the standard 'Lum' wacky comedy that I'm used to from the graphic novels... there was a mystery here, and from the outset I was interested in seeing how it would be resolved. As the mystery deepend, the film actually started to get rather creepy--something I'd never thought possible for this particuarly property--and the mix of humour and mild horror was extremely effective. Even as the mystery reached its resolution, the creepiness deepened and for a time I wondered if it was going to be possible for the filmmakers to restore the light-hearted Lum-verse to its previous state.

They managed to do just that, and with a very ... and with a highly satisfying ending. What's even more remarkable, over the course of 'Beautiful Dreamer,' they breathed more life into Lum and Ataru than I thought could be possible; they've always been rather one dimensional characters to me--not it a bad way, but that's all they needed to be. But in 'Beautiful Dreamer,' we are shown another facet of Ataru, and Lum's character deepens as well.

Click here to read reviews of graphic novels by Rumiko Takahashi at the Shades of Gray blog.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A monster brings fractured family together

The Host (aka "Gwoemul" and "Monster") (2007)
Starring: Kang Ho, Hie-bong Byeon, Ah-Song Ko, Hae-il Park, and Du-na Bae
Director: Joon-ho Bong
Steve's Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

The Parks are a slightly dysfunctional family whose members never quite manage to acheive true success due to an everpresent combination of bad luck and various personality flaws. However, they must pull together and overcome their weaknesses when the baby of the family is abducted by a monster and only they can save her.

"The Host" is a monster movie that delivers equal amounts of suspense, humor and horror as it unfolds. In this, it is equal to other great monster movies from the original "Godzilla" to "Island of Terror", and through to "Slither". What sets this film apart from other monster movies is the Park family in this movie. The way NONE of them can ever quite manage to rise to whatever challenge is facing them is alternately funny, tragic, sad (sometimes all three at the same time), and so realistic that it gives this movie a totally unique quality. Although families drawing together to fight a monster threatening them--and ultimately triumphing exactly because they have drawn together-- is nothing new, I don't think there's ever been a movie family quite like the Parks before.

(Nowhere was the Park family trait of never quite crossing the threshold of success more clearly spelled out when the 7th-grader who the rest of the family is trying to rescue devises a way out of the monster's lair on her own... only to discover that all her work amounts to nothing when her rope made from the clothes of partially digested victims ends up being too short to be useful.)

This film is even more impressive because of the way the story resolves itself. The outcome of the climactic battle is in perfect keeping with everything we know about the Parks and their lives, but I still expected I very different ending than what was delivered.

With a good script, excellent special effects, decent acting, and some fantastic moments (the sequence where the monster attacks the crowds in the park along the Han River is one of the best monster attack scenes ever put on film,), the film could have rated a Nine or even Ten if not the way it starts to meander a bit as it closes in on its climax. Basically, the director and screenwriters felt the need to inject a nefarious conspiracy by the United States military into the film--probably so they wanted the International Community to know how kewl they are!--and it served no purpose other than to slow things down and detract from the film's center, the Park family. It's a testament to how strong everything else is that it stays on track and manages to pull together for its climax.

Aside from a single misstep motivated by the director's desire to be invited to cocaine-fueled orgies at Hugo Chavez's presidential palace (or maybe just to get a fan letter from Kim Jong-Ill), "The Host" is a spectacular monster movie with a unique flaire. Every horror fan should check it out, particularly if you enjoyed "Tremors" or "Slither".

'Midnight Limited' is a train of mystery

Midnight Limited (1940)
Starring: Marjorie Reyolds, John King, and George Cleveland
Director: Howard Bretherton
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

A "phantom bandit" is robbing passengers on the overnight night train from Albany to Montreal and then vanishing without a trace. Rail company detective (King) teams with the only person to get a look at the bandit's face (Reynolds) in hopes of bringing him to justice.

Poor John King. The man did have some talent for acting, but it seems like he always was cast against female co-stars who are so energetic they overwhelm him and make him look like a bump on a log when they share scenes. Such was the case in "Half a Sinner" and it happens to him again in "Midnight Limited". King isn't exactly bad, but he can't hold his own against the strong screen presence and powerful personality of Marjorie Reynolds.

King's drab personality stands out even more, because this is a badly done, boring movie. From the sets, to the sound effects (the Midnight Limited must be a marvel in train technology... never before has the world known such a quiet, stable train! All the cars must be mounted on Serta matresses!), to the poorly written dialogue and uneven pacing of the script, there really is nothing here that's done well. Except perhaps the running time. At just over an hour, "Midnight Limited" is dull but not tortorous to sit through.

Only the presense of the always delightful Reynolds and the mysterious drunk played with great flair by George Cleveland make this film watchable.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Picture Perfect Wednesday: Anna May Wong

Born in 1905, Anna May Wong (aka Liu-Tsong Wong) was the first Chinese-American movie star. Born to parents who ran a laundry service, her dreams of being an actress overcame both the disapproval of her conservative family and the deeply ingrained racism of the emerging film industry.

Although her name was a big draw with the public during the late silent movie period, and made she made a successful transition to talkies and became an even bigger star, Wong became frustrated with the racist attitudes of Hollywood that kept her from playing truly choice roles. She started making films both in Europe and the United States, thus also becoming the first international Chinese American movie star.

In 1935, Wong traveled to her ancestral homeland of China where she once again discovered that she was once again popular with movie-goers, but treated with disdain by the Chinese film community and even the very government. Once again, she ran head-long into institutional racism, this time from her "own people."

Wong wrote, "It's a pretty sad situation to be rejected by Chinese because I'm 'too American' and by American producers because they prefer other races to act Chinese parts."

In the late 1930s, Wong finally got her chance to play the non-stereotypical roles she had been desperate for her entire career. Paramount featured her in a string of B-movies that let her "play against type" and portray Chinese women who were successful business people or doctors.

As Japanese aggression spread across the Pacific and the facts about their brutality in occupied China came to light, Wong devoted her fame and fortune to assisting Chinese refugees and related causes. During the 1940s, she appeared only in a few movies, but they were all geared toward the war effort against Japan.

In 1952, Wong had her first and only major television role, starring in "The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong." a short-lived detective show for a long-defunct network. No copies of the episodes, scripts, or promotional materials for the program are known to exist. That series was also her final major acting job, as her health began to rapidly deteriorate afterwards, due to a number of ailments brought on by smoking, drinking, and chronic depression. She passed away in 1961 from a heart attack.

Anna May Wong was honored in 1960 with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, and an award named after her--the Anna May Wong Award of Excellence--is given out yearly at the Asian-American Arts Awards.

For more about Anna May Wong, check out this interesting website.

You can click here for more pictures of Anna May Wong at Cinema Steve, as well as information about how she may or may not have been the cause of earthquakes in the 1929 and 1942.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tectonic Tuesday: The Hiatus

Since April--not counting the requisite, culturally sensitive break for Ramadan--I have been undertaking a one-man effort to spread the truth revealed by the Imam, the most holy man in all of Iran and possibly the entire world, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi. It was He who revealed that immodest women cause earthquakes, as I explained in this post.

For the time being, however, I will not be posting weekly Case Studies. With the new Mohammed Mondays series at Shades of Gray, and Nine Days of the Ninja coming soon to all the blogs, I just don't have time to do the indepth research needed to keep Tectonic Tuesdays going. And I don't want to do anything but the most thorough job when it comes to the threat of immodest women, a threat even greater than global warming. (Al Gore would never get involved with shoddy research, and I want to be just like my role-model in crusading.)

But, as I put Tectonic Tuesday aside, I want to leave you with a few immodest women to watch out for.

A Rogues Gallery of Immodest Women

Beyonce is a fine singer, an actress of questionable talent, and a threat to the very ground beneath your feet when she prances around in next to nothing.

Carmen Electra, model-turned-actress, may tickle your funny bone in a range of comedies now, but how will you feel when her immodest ways brings your home down on top of you?

Even when she's dead, the threat of an immodest woman isn't lessened in this day of DVDs and streaming video. Ann Sheridan passed away in 1967, but many of her movies are still wildly available. And each time they are watched, an earthquake may be triggered!

Angie Harmon (currently starring in the "Rizzoli and Isles" television series) is a threat few consider. She keeps her clothes on most of the time, but she always portrays successful professional women who don't obey the demands and commands of men. Can anything be more immodest than that? (Plus, she's a Republican.)

'Johnny Sunshine' is full of violent sex

Johnny Sunshine: Maximum Violence (2008)
Starring: Shey Bland, Eric Halsell, John Patrick McCauley and Josh Winkerbean
Director: Matt Yaeger
Rating: Four of Ten

In a dark future world overrun with zombies, Johnny Sunshine (Bland) is the hottest star in the snuff porn/zombie porn business. the film followers her through a couple of typical blood-soaked, drug-addled workdays while the producer and distributor of her films, Max (Halsell), plots to sell her boyd and soul to a corrupt cop named Stein (McCauley) so he can secure his entry into a walled city as a full citizen.

"Johnny Sunshine" is a film that mixes the cyberpunk and zombie movie genres quite effectively. It's a natural mix, as heartless societies are the mainstay of both (at least in the "after the fall" mode). It's a film that I sat down to watch, expecting to love, despite its obvious low budget.

But, then the torture porn started. I'm not talking "torture porn' in the "Saw" sense here... I mean literal torture porn. Long sequences of it. Sequences where our "heroine" rips a man's tongue out with a pair of pliers while having sex with him, and another where she rapes a young woman to death with a crowbar.

It was horrible stuff, and it was beyond my tolerance limit. I'm already a little squeamish when it comes to movie violence, but throw in sex at the same time and you've made a movie that isn't for me.

The on-screen snuff porn aspect aside, there's an interesting storyline unfolding in the film that details the complete and total corruption of society, and it presents a healthy dose of George Romero-esque social satire on the whole reality TV movement that's been taking every media segment by storm. The story would have been a little stronger if there had been something likable about Johnny, but it's hard to care about the fate of a character after you've watched her rape a girl to death with a crowbar. The ending is in keeping with the tone of the film and Johnny's personality and it actually made me revise my overall opinion of the film upward. it's actually one of those rare perfect endings and it shows that screenwriter Sean-Michael Argo has a keen sense of story (crowbar-rape scenes aside).

The acting in the film is a better than average for what is usually found in this kind of movie made with this kind of budget and Shey Bland is an attractive and charismatic actress (which gives the Johnny Sunshine character more appeal that she might otherwise have had given the repulsive things she does). The make-up effects and fight scenes are average, which means they fight choreography leaves something to be desired and more than once it's obvious that blows don't connect due either to bad camera placement or actors not hitting their marks properly.

If you can stomach the repulsive sexual violence in this film, it is actually a nice little hybrid genre picture. It makes me wonder what director Matt Yaeger and writer Argo might come up with if they do a second movie. I see talent here, and I'm interested in seeing how it develops with experience. I likewise hope to see Shey Bland again in the future--this is her first and, so far, only film credit--as she appears to be an interesting and talented actress.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nice concepts, lousy execution

The Chosen One: Legend of the Raven (1998)
Starring: Carmen Electra, Debra Xavier, and Shauna Sand
Director: Lawrence Lanoff
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

"The Chosen: Legend of the Raven" is the story of a young woman (Electra) who is chosen by birthright and circumstance to take up her family mantle (represented by a necklace with mystical powers) to become the Raven fight against an Evil that threatens to swallow the world. The film depicts her transformation and her first battle against said evil, manifested in the Wolf (Xavier).

It's a nice concept with an exceedingly bad execution. The script is very nearly devoid of focus, the acting is almost universally bad (Xavier shows some glimmers of talent, or maybe just carries herself with natural intensity... but this is offset by Carmen Electra's thoroughly wooden and amateurish performance), and the fight scenes are as lame as any ever committed to film. There's not even anything remarkable about the camera work or costuming, and there's no humour to speak of. To top it off, the Raven's enemies seem more pathetic than truly threatening.

The only thing I can think of to recommend this film is that it did manage to hold my attention. Unlike many other poorly made films the creators here at least had a sense of pacing.My advice? Pass on this one unless you're the world's biggest fan of Carmen Electra or Shauna Sand.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Scream Queen: Irene Ware

Irene Ware is among one of the most under-appreciated actresses of the 1930s, both in her own time and now. She might not have had Fay Wray's pipes in the screaming department, but few damsels in distress have ever had the ability to light up the screen whenever they appeared... not to mention elevate entire movies by just being in them.

Irene Ware used $1,000 won in a 1926 beauty contest to move to Hollywood in search of show-business stardom. Like many actresses her day, she appeared in movies of every possible genre, but in almost every role she showed amazing grace and poise. These qualities shined especially brightly during her starring turns in "The Dark Hour", the "Return of Chandu" serial and "The Raven," one of the best films that Bela Lugosi appeared in.

As the 1930s wore on, Ware found herself getting smaller and smaller parts, rather than moving up the starlet food chain. In 1940, Irene Ware retired permanently from screen acting after marrying writer John Meehan. She passed away in 1993.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Molly Norris becomes a non-person, thanks to Muslim terrorists and their good friends in US government and media

Molly Norris, a cartoonist who drew fairly harmless and inoffensive cartoons in a local weekly paper, had her life destroyed because of idol-worshiping psychopaths bent on honoring their false God--The Prophet Mohammed (may piss be upon him)--with the blood of innocents.

Molly Norris never drew The Prophet Mohammed (may piss be upon him), nor did she create "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." Yet "Muslim holy men" have called for her head, the murderous idolaters who follow them are willing to follow their order, and the government of the United States of America is unwilling to do anything to protect one of their own citizens who has committed no crime whatsoever. In fact, the United States of America, through our state department, seems to be doing everything it can to validate the twisted and evil beliefs of Mohammadans around the globe. How else can you explain the apologetic stance taken over "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" and the official "great job, guys!" that was sent to Pakistan when they blocked web access to their nation around May 20, 2010?

The sick freaks who claim to be Muslims, and who honor The Prophet Mohammed (may piss be upon him) above even Allah himself, have destroyed Molly Norris. They have silenced her, completely and utterly. They might as well have killed her. And all the magazine that used to print her cartoon has to say about it is "we wish her the best."

You can read what will probably be one of the very few acknowledgement of complete and utter capitulation by the American media to terrorists, as Seattle Weekly editor Mark D. Fefer offers good-byes and so-longs to one of their victims.

I'd be surprised if any other media outlet even has that much to say, because they are too busy making excuses and offering justifications for the terrorists. And because they believe that if they bow to the terrorists, they will make them go away... like Fefer, they suffer under the delusion that appeasement will do anything but spur the madmen on.

If I had enough cartoons, EVERY DAY would be "Draw Mohammed Day" from here on in. This can't be allowed to happen. It shouldn't be allowed to happen to anyone, especially someone who didn't even DRAW the syphilitic pedophile known as The Prophet Mohammed (may piss be upon him).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Picture Perfect Wednesday:Paul Gulacy and Blood on Black Satin

This installment features a little more text than usual. Please bear with me.

Of Half-Remembered Horrors....

When I was a kid in the early 1980s, I got my hands on a few issues of "Creepy" and/or "Eerie" magazines and fragmented memories of the art for those stories have stuck with me-perhaps even haunted me--ever since.

One tale involved a guy who was either a real estate broker or just some poor schmuck who's car had broken down, who goes to visit a house on a hill that turns out to be a giant monster. I remember how the runner carpet in the hallway turns out to be a tongue.

Another take involved some kids and a bully who ends up locked in a fridge at the end. I think the art must have been by Tom Sutton, because I remember it being both scary and very ornate.

And then there's the story of a private detective or reporter or something like that who was fighting a killer in a jack-o-lantern mask, as he and a girl were trying to escape the clutches of a Satanic cult. I remember wishing I could have read the whole story--as what I was reading was but one chapter in a multi-part series--and I remember knowing that it would probably have been very cool, because it was by the same artist who was doing the James Bond-esque Kung Fu stuff over in "Master of Kung Fu," Paul Gulacy.

Of Horror Rediscovered....

Some 25-30 years later, I have finally gotten to read not only that half-remembered chapter with the Gulacy art, but the entire story, thanks to Joe Bloke's excellent Grantbridge Street and Other Misadventures blog.

Titled "Blood on Black Satin," it was a three-part series by Gulacy and writer Doug Moench, and it was well worth the decades-long wait. It's ever bit as excellent as the other masterworks these two collaborated on, such as the two "Six From Sirius" mini-series and their run on "Master of Kung Fu". It is perhaps some of the very best material to every appear in "Eerie," even if was printed during the magazine's twilight years in the 1980s.

Joe Bloke has posted crystal clear scans of the stories, and if you're a fan of gothic horror, I recommend you go read them. It's truly great stuff. Click on the links to read each chapter, and click on the sample illos to see larger versions. (The same is true of the scanned pages at Grantbridge Street.

Blood on Black Satin, Part One (from Eerie #109)

Blood on Black Satin, Part Two (from Eerie #110)

Blood on Black Satin, Part Three (from Eerie #111)

Click here to visit Paul Gulacy's website.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tectonic Tuesday: Milla Jovovich

When the Imam of Imams Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi gave the world his Allah-inspired revelation--"Many women who do not dress modestly [...] spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."--he could very well have been thinking of Milla Jovovich.

Seventeenth Case Study: Milla Jovovich

Milla Jovovich was born in the Ukraine in 1975, but immigrated to with her family to the West as political refugees, eventually settling in Sacramento, California. At the age of 11, Jovovich began a successful career as a photo model, and she quit school at the age of 12. In addition to modeling, she has stated in interviews that she spend her teenage years engaged in drug use, shopping mall vandalism, and credit-card fraud. She also first endangered the world at the tender young age of 16 where the combined outcome of her photo shoots, an appearance on tacky sit-com "Married...With Children" as a slutty foreign exchange student, and her mostly disrobed role in "Return to the Blue Lagoon" triggered earthquakes in California and on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Jovovich and her wanton ways may also be to blame for the massive eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, but such a connection is mere conjecture and may not be worthy of associating with the Grand Imam Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi's life-saving vision.

The only reason that Jovovich hasn't caused more devastation on Planet Earth is because she is strangely ignored by the film community, be they fans or critics. Instead, the attention goes to the equally threatening Angelina Jolie--whose lifestyle of sex, drugs, and boyfriends galore, as well as on-screen persona is actually somewhat tamer than what Jovovich has led--but that hasn't stopped Jovovich from causing earthquakes in 1997 (with her appearance in a costume consisting of nothing but Ace bandages in "The Fifth Element" bringing about the Qayen quake that left 50,000 people homeless), in 2002 (when she first appeared in a torn dress as zombie-killing lab-experiment-gone-wrong, Alice, in "Resident Evil" and caused the earthquake in Central Alaska that almost resulted in a massive ecological disaster by threatening a major oil pipeline) and in 2007 (when she reprised the role of Alice, wearing an even more revealing outfit in "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" and triggered a massive earthquake in Sumatra).

Although she is now married and has children, Milla Jovovich is continuing to endanger the world with her immodest ways. She will perhaps bring about unimaginable devastation in the wake of her fourth "Resident Evil" movie, which is on track to being the most-seen and biggest grossing of them all.

When the earth cracks and cities crumble, it will be due to the immodesty of Milla Jovovich.

For more of Milla Jovovich being immodest, click here to visit Shades of Gray.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

'Halo and Sprocket' is a must-read

Halo and Sprocket: Welcome to Humanity (Amaze Ink/SLG Publishing, 2003)
Story and Art: Kerry Callen (with eight pages of pin-ups by other artists)
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

Halo and Sprocket: Natural Creatures (Amaze Ink/SLG Publishing, 2008)
Story and Art: Kerry Callen (with five pages of pin-ups and guest strips by other artists)
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

"Halo and Sprocket" is the story of Katie, a young single woman, and her two roommates, Halo the Angel and Sprocket the Robot. More accurately, it's a series of short stories, each revolving around some everyday activity or social convention so commonplace that most people don't even think twice about, but which may seem baffling or downright twisted to someone who has little or no understanding of human behavior or societal conventions.

And in each "Halo and Sprocket" tale, Katie is faced either with trying to explain some "fact of life" to a pair of genuinely interested pupils, or trying to deal with problems that arise from their attempts to implement what they have learned (or think they have learned). They are short, straight-forward tales that manage to be very insightful while poking fun at social standards and commonly held beliefs without being cruel, rather sweet in tone without being sappy, and even romantic without lapsing into sentimentality. Callen also shows himself to be master of just about every stripe of humor, from the lowest of slapstick humor to more convoluted gags involving metaphysics, philosophy, and even the alphabet.

Callen presents his stories with a clean, classical cartoon style, with expert comic timing through sharply written dialogue and perfectly designed panels and pages. It's another one of the countless comics that deserved to a much bigger success that it was. It deserved to consist of twenty volumes, instead of just the two.

The stories in the books run varying lengths, with the longest ones being 14 pages and the shortest ones being as a page, and each being just the right length to deliver Callen's punch lines. The first volume also includes a a collection of sketches and early comic strips that show the creative evolution of Katie and her two unusual roommates.

For more about "Halo and Sprocket," visit Kerry Callen's webite. You can read some Halo and Sprocket strips there, although my personal favorites are "About Face" (in which Sprocket tries to find a way to express anger) and "But is it Art" (in which the gang visits a street fair and Halo and Sprocket learn about artwork) from Volume One, and "Food for Thought" (where the gang goes on a picnic and Halo uses his divine powers to temporarily make Sprocket human) and "Trivial Consequences" where Katie sets out to first trick Halo into revealing secrets of the Universe and later to simply pull a practical joke on him) in Volume Two.

I think anyone who enjoys gentle, intelligent humor and well-drawn comics will find the "Halo and Sprocket" books worthy additions to their personal library.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Scream Queen: Helga Liné

Born in 1939, German actress Helga Liné spent her teenage years primarily as a circus acrobat and photo model, but when she moved to Spain at the age of 21, her acting career took off.

Between the years of 1960 and 1980, Liné appeared in over 100 movies, most of the horror films, but her acting talent, not to mention her great beauty and flame-red hair also graced thrillers, westerns, fantasy films, and sci-fi pictures.

All-aboard 'The Horror Express'!

Horror Express (1973)
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Sylvia Totorsa, Telly Savalas, and Helga Line
Director: Eugenio Martin
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

A British explorer (Lee) finds what he believes to be proof of Darwin's theory of evolution high in a frozen mountain glacier on a mountain in northern China. As he is transporting the frozen carcas back to the West on the Trans-Siberian express, a weasely collegue/competitor (Cushing) decides to get a look at the find, and inadvertently unleashes a horror that has lain dormant for tens of thousands of years. It quickly becomes apparent that no-one onboard the train is safe as it makes its way across the frozen wilderness....

"Horror Express" is another one of those movies I remember being scared by as a kid. Specifically, the scene where the Kozak leader (played by Telly Savalas(!)) and his men are battling the monster in a darkened traincar. This is one of those films that is exactly as scary as I remember it!

A bit slow-moving at times, "Horror Express" still provides plenty of chills and shocks... and even a couple of unexpected plot-twists. The lighting, camera-work, and special effects all help underscore the growing tension in the film--even if some of the FXs are a bit cheesy--and the actors are all very good, despite the fact that this is one of those international European production where a dozen different languages were being spoken on the set. Lee and Cushing in particular shine; I think this movie features some of the better performances given by either one of them.

I think this is a must-see if you're a fan of Cushing, Lee, or the Hammer Films-style of movies.

Friday, September 10, 2010

'Resident Evil: Afterlife' is best since original

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller, and Shawn Roberts
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

After destroying Umbrella Corp's headquarters with an army of clones, the sole surviving Alice (Jovovich) goes in search of Arcadia, the one place in the world where the zombies don't prey on the living. But Arcadia won't give up its secrets easily.

"Resident Evil: Afterlife" is, as some critics might say, a spectacular thrill-ride. The quiet moments in this film are few and far between, and even when they happen, they are pregnant with the promise that violence, mayhem, and bloodshed is about to erupt all over again. It works both as a video-game adaptation--like in previous installments of the series, you can feel the story progressing through "the levels" and this one even has obvious "boss encounters" along the way--and as an over-the-top action film.

Although I think this is the best film in the series since the original, it's not a horror movie; that's one aspect the first film had that this one doesn't. This is an exciting action film that's full of zombies... and even has a few scary moments here and there.

While I was entertained and engaged throughout the whole movie, nothing in it quite topped the opening sequence with all the Alices storming Umbrella HQ... for once, a "Resident Evil" film not only acknowledged but also lived up to the promise of the sequel hook at the end of the previous film. Some of the sequences came close--like Alice and Claire's fight against an axe-wielding super-zombie, and Alice's running battle with a hoard of zombies consisting of half the population of Los Angeles--but Anderson really gave the best the film had to offer in the first few minutes. (Or maybe I just feel that way because I've been hoping for that sequence for the past three years.)

Character-wise, there isn't much to say. Milla Jovovich is really the only person who has an opportunity to act in the film, even if it generally just consists of being a bad-ass. She is in nearly every scene, however, so it says quite a bit about her charisma and presence that she can carry an entire movie like she does here.

Of course, the gimmick of 3D also helps, and it's a gimmick that's put to full and complete use in virtually every frame of the film. Some uses are subtle, some are funny, and some make the film's couple of "boo!-gotcha!" moments even more startling, but they are all very effective. I still don't like 3D--I had to move to another seat because the runner lights on the theater steps were reflecting off the glasses, and I once again ended up with a mild headache at the end--but I have to say that this is probably the best 3D movie I've yet to see, and it has managed to weaken my hostility ever-so-slightly.

If you liked other "Resident Evil" movies, if you like Milla Jovovich in her bad-ass comic-book warrior chick mode, and if you like the 3D gimmickery, I'm certain you'll love this movie.

It's all very Russian...

The Drums of Jeopardy (1931)
Starring: Warner Oland, June Collyer, Lloyd Hughes, Hale Hamilton, Wallace MacDonald, Clara Blandick, and Mischa Auer
Director: George B. Seitz
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When one of the men of the Petrov family makes his daugher pregnant, dumps her, and causes her to commit suicide, but then won't own up to his misdeed, Dr. Boris Karlov (Oland) sets out to gain revenge by seeing them all dead. He persues them halfway around the world, to America, where a secret service agent (Hamilton) and a feisty young American woman (Collyer) end up in the middle of this Russian struggle for survival and revenge.

"Drums of Jeopardy" is a nifty little thriller from the early takes of talkies that's jam-packed with meldodrama, action, and humor. Its fast-paced script hardly gives the viewers a chance to realize that just about everything in this film has become almost painfully cliche in the nearly eighty years since its original release, nor does it pause long enough to really let us consider how outrageous and dimwitted the "brilliant" plan of the Federal Agents who match wits with Karlov is. We're too busy hating the slimy Russian nobleman Prince Gregor (Wallace MacDonald) who not only impregnated and dumped a poor girl, refuses to live up to what he's done and ultimately tries to sell out everyone else to save his own skin; admiring the beauty of the resourceful young Kitty Connover (June Collyer), snickering at the comic relief provided by her sharp-tongued aunt (Clara Blandick), and grinning with sinister glee as Dr. Karlov delivers zingers and pulls tricks on the good guys that allows him to take a place among the great villains of movie history 's zingers as his evil plans fall into place (an honor deserved in no small part due to an excellent performance by character actor Warner Oland who is best remembered or playing Charlie Chan and for his role in "Werewolf of London").

Another remarkable aspect of this film that sets it apart from many of its contemporaries is that it has a villain that the viewer can relate to. His daughter was violated and tossed aside by the Petrovs, so, given that this is a melodramatic thriller and we're talking about Russians here, it's only natural he'd take elaborate and final revenge against not only the Petrovs but Russian nobility in general. Karlov is a character who is almost like a tragic hero in his stature within this film and he is must more interesting than most film villains from the early days of film.

I should note that as much as I enjoyed this film, I was a little dissapointed in some apsects of how the story unfolded. I've already commented on the moronic nature of the government agents in the film, but a bigger dissapointment was that Karlov didn't really get his full revenge and we don't get to see that rat bastard Gregor die a slow and painful death. (That alone makes me wish for a remake of this movie. I'd love to see Tim Thomerson as Karlov!)

Speaking of Karlov... yes, the villain of this movie is named Boris Karlov. Given that this film is based on an American novel that was originally published in 1920, I think we can chalk this up to one of those weird coincidences. Karloff was an obscure stage actor touring Canadian backwaters at the time the book was written. (Although at least one source claims that Karloff chose his screen name because of the novel.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fear-filled Phantasms: Closed Beaches

Why do some beaches "close" after Labor Day?

Because it's the start of Monster Mating Season.

'Urban Flesh: Rebirth Edition' brings underground classic to DVD, new century

Urban Flesh: Rebirth Edition (2007)
Starring: Martin Dubreuil, Mireille Leveque, Marie-Eve Petit, K.M Lavigne, Anthony Pereira, and Marc Vaillancourt
Director: Alexandre Michaud
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Four thrill-killers (Dubreuil, Petit, Pereira, and Vaillancourt) prowl a the night of a Canadian city in search of victims to kill... and to then eat raw. As a homicide detective (Lavigne) closes in on them, he and his wife (Leveque) are added to their menu.

"Urban Flesh" is something of an underground legend among fans of gore movies. It was made on a shoestring budget by Canadian filmmaker Alexandre Michaud with the intention of selling it through mail-order catalogues. However, it ended up banned in England, Germany, and the director's homeland of Canada... and I'm sure this has helped its cult status along greatly.

I've never seen the original version of the film, but I was recently supplied with a copy of the "Rebirth Edition" by director and co-writer Alexandre Michaud. This will mark the film's debut on DVD, and, as it will be distributed by Sub-Rosa Studios, it may even find its way to a wider audience than ever before.

The recut version of "Urban Flesh" was produced from digitized versions of the original videotapes, and there are a couple of places where the now ten-year-old tapes are showing that they were starting to decay. These are only minor flaws, however, and in general, the film looks pretty good for a shot-on-video film from that period. In fact, I'm very impressed with the overall quality of the movie, given that this was Michaud's first feature. It's a better work than some directors mount on their fourth or fifth tries.

In an interview that's included on the DVD, Michaud mentions that the recut "Rebirth Edition" has been shortened from its original run-time of 100 minutes. I have no sense of what was in the original, but I can say that this is one of those films that I had to take a step back from and acknowledge that I am not its target audience, because if I'd been doing the editing, I may have been tempted to shorten the film even further. Unfortunately, I'd probably have been cutting material that is the very thing that appeals to those who would seek this movie out.

The main point of this movie is its shocking gore, and I think "gorehounds" will get a tremendous kick out of it. As for myself, I found the extended scenes of our modern cannibals munching on entrails somewhat dull. I also found myself wondering if they'd ever heard of blood-born diseases, and if they were big fans of sushi before they took to eating the citizens of Montreal.

If you watch movies for gore, I think you'll enjoy this one quite a bit. If you watch movies for shocks and horror, I think you'll enjoy it as well. The film contains one of the most shockingly repulsive scenes I've ever come across in a movie, and all the way up to the point where it happens, I kept thinking Michaud would back off from it. But then, this IS a movie that was banned in three countries. (It's a scene that involves a pregnant woman and four cannibalistic psychopaths looking for "something different". Think of the absolutely most horrible implication of that, and you'll know what's in this movie.)

However, if you're picky about plot and structure, you might enjoy this movie a little less. It delivers the gore, it delivers horrific moments, and it even delivers some decent performances on the part of the actors, (who, for the most part are excellent at the absolute hardest kind of acting there is: They manage to come across as perfectly natural and as if they aren't acting), but it is very weak in the script department.

The climactic murder and killing session with the cop and his wife come about through coincidence rather than design on the part of the killers... and a coincidence that monumental is harder for me to suspend my disbelief over than that four gore-covered, bloodspattered murderers could wander city streets without attracting police attention, or leaving a trail of witnesses. Adn then there's the problem that the movie ends before it even seems close to being over. Our heroine (Mireille Leveque as the police detective's wife who is tortured and captured by the cannibals) is fighting back... and then the movie just ends. We don't learn her final fate, we don't learn what happens to all the killers... the movie's just over and way too many threads hanging for my tastes. (It DOES end on a very creepy image... but I still would have liked something that came close to approximating an ending.)

For all my complaining, however, I think this is a decent movie. In fact, it may even be a good movie, as it did leave me feeling creeped-out and just a little sickened. I'm certain it's a work that should appeal to its "gorehound" target audience, and it will even have an impact on those who aren't neccesarily big fans of gore (like me).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Adventures of Lemon Drop!

Lemon Drop (2010)
Starring: Ali Larter, Martin Kove, and Erica McIntyre
Director: Traktor
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Lemon Drop (Larter) is a sexy defender of cute animals, and when a pair of kittens are abducted from the pet store that serves as the front for her operation, she swings into immediate action. Clues lead her to a night club, but why would singing sensation Johnny Thunderbird (Kove) want to abduct kittens?

Absolut Vodka has a cute ad campaign going for their lemon flavored vodka, the center piece of which is an online short film that tries to look like one of those discarded drive-in B-movies that show up in less-than-perfect condition in the DVD multi-packs with titles like "Tough Dames" and "Drive-In Movie Classics."

Although it's not a "full-length movie" as banner ads at and elsewhere claim, it is still a cute little spoof. Although I'm usually a Three Olives kinda guy--with chocolate and cherry flavored vodkas being my favorites--I might reward them by giving their product a test next time I'm restocking the liquor cabinet. The jokes are funnier and the performances are better in this little ad are better than in some real movies I've been subjected to in recent years.

You can check out "Lemon Drop" without needing to go anywhere but here. Just click "play" on the imbedded video, below. (For what it's worth, it's strictly a soft-sell ad.)

(For more on Ali Larter and her recurring part in the "Resident Evil" series, click here to visit my Terror Titans blog.)

Picture Perfect Wednesday:Some Sugar with the Snails

That's not a long-lost, unacknowledged member of the Beatles, but rather actress Milla Jovovich during one of her many photo shoots as a model.

Although I made his post partly to remind everyone that Jovovich's latest movie, "Resident Evil: Afterlife", opens Friday, September 10, I just realized that I've been featuring her on Picture Perfect Wednesday with near-perfect three month intervals. I think I've just started a new tradition.)

For more Jovovich, as well as reviews of all the Resident Evil movies up to this point, click here to visit the Terror Titans blog.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tectonic Tuesday: Lindsay Lohan

Regular readers know of the Allah-inspired warning given us by Imam Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi: "Many women who do not dress modestly [...] spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes."

It's rare that such immediate and definite proof of the truth of his words can be found than what happened last week. Can anyone doubt he's right after this latest proof? Is it time to stop the Tectonic Tuesdays project, or will it continue to be necessary to post pictures of immodest women?

Sixteenth Case Study: Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan is a fallen child star who is so pathetic that she wasn't even on the Tectonic Tuesday's research team's list of possible candidates, although perhaps she should have been... like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, she spent her early career working on Walt Disney Corporation productions. She displayed a great deal of promise and her talent was unquestionable in films like "The Parent Trap" and "Mean Girls," but she threw it all away when she chose the life of a booze-addled party girl over that of a working actress. Despite repeated chances to get back on the straight and narrow, Lohan continued to flaunt both common sense and the courts showing her leniency following her intoxicated brushes with disaster and the law, and so she proved herself to be the dullest kind of immodest woman: The Stupid One.

But with the release of "Machete", where Lohan appears naked (with her hair strategically spirit-gummed to her breasts in a false pretense of maintaining some modesty), Lohan proved exactly how deadly even the most pathetic immodest woman can be. As she appeared on over 3000 movie screens across the United States this past Friday, a massive earthquake struck New Zealand. The cost in human lives and property is still being assessed, but parts of the island nation are still inaccessible.

Disregarding Lindsay Lohan as a threat was a mistake. She will most likely visit even greater terror upon the world, as her next movie project has her portraying a 1970s porn movie actress. The earth with tremble, buildings will fall... and all because of the immodesty of Lindsay Lohan.

Xtro: One of the creepiest monster flicks

Xtro (1983)
Starring: Bernice Steger, Phillip Seyer, Maryam D'Abo, and Simon Nash
Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

Three years after being abducted by aliens, Sam (Seyer) returns a very different man, and he passes his gooey, gory alien powers onto his young son (Nash).

When I first saw this movie as a kid, it freaked the heck out of me. The father coming back and spreading alien corruption throughout the household, the way the son was transformed, and the way he in turn went after the horny au-paire (D'Abo)... even the creepy way he made deadly things appear with his mental powers. It all seemed very, very scary.

I suspect someone watching the film with less jaded eyes than mine could still find "Xtro" scary. At this point, I find still find some of the movie quite disturbing--Sam's method of returning to human form was not something I recalled, and it is definately creepy; the alien egg-laying scene; and the final scene with the mother... well, up to a point with that one--but in general, I now view this film mostly with a sense of frustration because there are two fundamental things that spoil it for me.

First, there's the fact that there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of rhyme or reason to what the characters do, alien or otherwise. In fact, some of the things that happen are pure "Stupid Character Syndrom"--a character does something just to make sure the plot doesn't come to screeching halt, even if a vaguely intelligent person would take any one of numerous different options.

Second, the director and/or scriptwriter simply doesn't know when enough is enough, and this spoils a number of what otherwise would have been excellent, very scary moments. The movie's ending is the ultimate example of this. I won't go into details, because I would spoil it, but suffice to say, the filmmakers ruin a perfectly good ending. If they had been smart, the film would be about 5-10 seconds shorter.

On the upside, we do get to see D'Abo prance around in absolutely nothing, and the acting is uniformly bland (not quite bad... just flat) so no one stands out as good or bad. Gorehounds might also be impressed with a number of scenes in film. The "Return of Sam" scene is a standout in that sense. "Xtro" also features a well-done electronic score, and those are few and far between.

Nonethless, this is a film that clocks in at the low end of average... although I admit my reaction may partially be due to it not living up to my memories of it. (Maybe I'll get the courage to watch "The Exorcist" again. It's the only movie I walked out because it scared me too badly.)