Re-thinking "Babel"

As a general rule, film critics at any level do not go back and second-guess themselves, at least not at length.

The reasons for this are myriad. The noble-sounding one, the one you hear most-often, is that it’s improper because movies are made for the first time you see them and thus that original set of impressions is the only honest one.

The significantly less noble-sounding one is also the one more likely to motivate the action: To “re-review” calls into question the delicate barrier that most critics, self-styled or otherwise, believe exists between their analysis and the “I liked it/didn’t like it” impressions of everyone else. So much of The Film Critic’s self-image comes from the facade of Immediate Intellectual Authority: Anyone can decide whether or not the movie was good after a few weeks of turning it over in their mind – The Film Critic is supposed to be better than that, posessed of a film-based intellectual so keen that his expertly-considered, fully-formed summation of quality is ready the moment the house lights come up.

In looking back over my reviews for the various Oscar nominated films this year, a nagging issue stands out that I cannot ignore: I was much, much, much too generous toward “Babel,” awarding it 7/10 at the time. That review will still stand, as it is the accurate representation of my feeling upon writing it. But as this re-thinking comes later, I have no issue with offering my revised thoughts.

Stated plainly: The movie just doesn’t work. It’s best segment, the one following Rinko Kikuchi’s deaf-mute Japanese teen, is the best partially because it feels like a seperate film and isn’t mired up in the increasingly annoying “main” stories. The acting is all fine, but the characters tend to be either unsympathetic, unintelligent or both. The film’s title and ham-fisted message-mongering imply some grand statement about how much worldwide trouble is caused by miscommunication, but in the actual onscreen action most of the trouble is caused by stupidity: “Hey, let’s shoot a rifle at a bus for target practice!” “I know, let’s illegally cross the US/Mexican border with two of the whitest tots in all of LA in the back seat and the most overwhelmingly shifty, unreliable relative at the party at the wheel hammered.

Innaritu’s heart is in the right place, and his skill is not in doubt. But his message is simultaneously confused and heavy-handed: Eventually it seems as though the film is holding it’s audience down, slapping it back-and-forth across the face but without any clear idea of what result it hopes to produce. If I had to re-rate it, it would recieve a 5/10, at best.

REVIEW: Breach

“Breach” is best-described as the “guy movie” version of “The Devil Wears Prada.” Strip away the basic trappings and it’s a character-driven “boss from hell” story elevated by the twist that the business happens to be FBI cloak-and-dagger and the boss happens to be Robert Hanssen, notorious as possibly the single greatest (and certainly most-damaging) traitor to the United States since Benedict Arnold.

Hanssen is central to the film, and is embodied by Chris Cooper in what I’m comfortable calling the best performance of his impressive career to date. But the actual story follows Eric O’Neill, (Ryan “see?? Told you I could act!” Phillipe,) the young agent in training plucked from routine surveillance duty and drafted to be the “mole” for an elite task force who are positive that Hanssen has been selling major secrets to enemy nations for decades but just can’t catch him. It’s his job to distract and monitor the almost supernaturally-alert Hanssen while the agents build their case, which entails getting alarmingly deep into Hanssen’s complex and dangerous world.

There’s great, sharp work here both by Phillipe and Laura Linney as O’Neil’s secret superior, but the film is dominated by Cooper’s powerful, endearing yet intensely unnerving turn as Hanssen. This is a villian who exudes control and contempt over all situations in which he’s present, but in Cooper’s hands the scariest thing about Hanssen is the lurking reminder that all this coiled rage and quiet power are a mere shadow of what he could be if he wasn’t such a sad-sack. He makes Hanssen into a would-be Atlas near his breaking point, straining under the crushing weight of his hurt-pride at being passed-over for career advancement and the explicitly Catholic guilt he feels at having pride to hurt in the first place… to say nothing of his myriad more tangible indiscretions. His indignation is expressed in mumbled half-tones, his clothing, skin and smile droop wearily from a tired frame, his hair is a sickly gray… and yet we’re still terrified whenever it seems O’Neill is about to be discovered – even though it’s not clear that Hanssen has any actual lethality in him.

The film maintains a focus on it’s characters their intensely-insular circumstances, never trending over the line to try and make too many larger points or messages about it’s story. One couldn’t ask for a more potentially politically-loaded setup than the true story of an ultra-devout Opus Dei Catholic FBI agent who’s also a traitor to the country, but the film lets all of that speak for Hanssen’s character and motivation. Chris Cooper, above all else, needs to be on everybody’s short list for next years Best Actor prizes. Highly reccomended.


REVIEW: Ghost Rider

I’m in a position to garauntee few things in my life, but I feel comfortable garaunteeing you this: If you ever find yourself on the recieving end of a comic book devotee arguing the serious literary/cultural import of the medium, the first example they raise will never, ever be Ghost Rider. This is not meant as a slam to the eponymous Mssrs. Blaze, Ketch, Kale, Zarathos, etc; merely an admission of essential truth. While it’s true that there are characters like Superman who’s popularity can be substantially attributed to his embodiment of Joseph Campbell’s “heroic ideal” stretching all the way back through Christ, Arthur, Hercules, Moses and Gilgamesh; it is also true that there are characters like Ghost Rider… who can attribute his popularity to the fact that he rides a hell-spawned enchanted motorcycle and has a flaming skull for a head.

Don’t misunderstand – I’m not giving the character a hard time here, just laying things on the table: As superheroes go, Ghost Rider isn’t running in the same “tier” as Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker. He’s a singularly nifty-looking character with cool powers and a supernatural origin that ties him to some of the more consistently-nifty parts of the Marvel Universe, and that’s really more than enough. In it’s best moments, the source-material affected the sheen of a fun, flashy, somewhat-cheesy horror/action B-movie, so it’s appropriate that that’s the form it has arrived in on the big screen.

Nicholas Cage finally gets a chance to get his well-publicized desire to play a superhero out of his system for awhile as Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle-stunt daredevil who’s ability to cheat death may be the result of a hidden past: As a teenager, he sold his soul to Mephistopholes (Peter Fonda) to cure his father of cancer. As is often the case in these matters, Blaze wound up with the short end of the stick and is now cursed to a double-life as Ghost Rider, a skeletal being of “the fire element” charged to hunt down and collect on debts owed to The Devil (unlike in the comics, Fonda’s Mephistopholes seems to be Satan himself) and also posessed of a vigilante streak that compells him to dole out ironic punishments on sinners and lawbreakers.

The main arc of the film follows Blaze’s first “official” duty as the hot-headed warrior: Blackheart, (Wes Bentley,) the impatiently power-mad son of The Devil – attention genre filmmakers: can we PLEASE call a moratorium on this particular plotline? – is on Earth seeking a magic scroll which, if obtained, will let him claim the sold-souls of an entire blighted Cowboy-era town; a starting-point to establish his own franchise of Hell. At his side are a trio of Fallen Angels embodying (respectively) the elements of Wind, Water and Earth (“fire,” presumably, belongs to the guy who’s head is engulfed in it.) Standing in his way is Ghost Rider.

Occupying space somewhere in the middle of the modern superhero movie pantheon – it’s certainly doesn’t approach the majesty of “Spider-Man,” “Superman Returns” or “Batman Begins” but is infinitely-superior to rancid, soulless entries like “X-Men 3” or “Fantastic Four”“Ghost Rider” really shouldn’t work as well as it does. Oh, it’s riddled with issues, to be sure: Bently’s mincing, over-the-top turn as Blackheart makes for a weak main baddie, the hero seems occasionally too powerful (with powers too vaugely-defined) to be in any suspense and love-interest Eva Mendes… sorry, she’s still not much of an actress.

And yet it works, or at least it worked for me, in the same charming vein as those mid-80s action/horror/scifi hybrid flicks you can still occasionally catch at 3am on TBS (“Trancers” and “I Come In Peace” spring to mind,) at times resembling nothing so much as the finest movie Golan Globus never made.

A big reason for that is writer/director Mark Steven Johnson, late of “Daredevil” (another lesser Marvel movie that “GR” is easily superior to.) Oh, he still has his flaws; chiefly an obvious love for the distinctly “comic-bookish” sort of extensive, convoluted background mythology that eventually has the film swimming in so many demons, prophecies and magic talismans as to become confounding. But he “gets” the material where it counts, and under his direction the film jumps from passable to downright joyous whenever Ghost Rider is doing his thing onscreen. He never makes the error of trying to “hide” or “downplay” how nutty the title character looks or acts, and the results are a series of “money” moments (the unquestionable highlight being GR’s applause-worthy confrontation with a police helicopter) that literally seem to have been ripped straight from the pages of the comics in the best sense possible. All told, it’s kind of odd to consider that a Marvel hero as out-there looking as Ghost Rider should show up onscreen looking more “like himself” than anyone in “Daredevil” or 80% of the X-Men, but thats the business for you.

But the main “quality infusion” comes directly from Cage, who’s passion for the material was never in doubt but who let’s the onscreen manifestation of such emerge in entirely unexpected ways. Cage’s strength as the onetime unlikeliest of action heroes is mixing his solid grasp of leading-man heroics with the half-mad quirks of a character actor, and he’s in rare form as the erratic, oddball Johnny Blaze. Settling into a characterization that owes more than a little to his Elvis-affected turn in “Wild At Heart” (to say nothing of “Vampire’s Kiss,”) he has Blaze’s eccentricity cranked up to levels not seen in the hero of a genre film since Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly.” A less-imaginative (or, if you like, more-conventional) characterization might be expected to have the human side of Ghost Rider knocking back Jim Bean to the strains of Johnny Cash; Cage has him wolfing down martini glasses full of jellybeans, tuning up his bikes to The Carpenters and obsessing over funny monkey videos (congratulations, kung-fu monkey from YouTube, you made it to the big screen!) The looks glimpsed on Cage’s face just before bursting into GR’s flames are priceless reminders of why he’s certainly valuable enough of a talent to be forgiven the occasional “Wicker Man” here and there.

“Ghost Rider” is a B-movie with A-list talent and top-flight FX, which I’d offer is the perfect fit for the angle on the character it’s taking, tone-wise (it seems much more reminiscient of the zanier 70s/80s incarnation of the character than it’s “edgier” upgrade in the early 90s.) In the end, it’s just a whole lot of fun, in the very specific way that only an action movie about a magical motorcyclist with a flaming skull-head fighting element-powered demons can be. No one’s going to confuse it with “Spider-Man 3” in a few months, sure, but then Ghost Rider is generally not confused for Spider-Man to begin with. For what it’s worth, I had a ball, and a few months from now I’ll be more than happy to seat it’s DVD alongside it’s cheesy, good-natured kindred spirits (it’d look nice next to “Highlander,” methinks.)


Joel Surnow’s "Half Hour News Hour"

You’re probably aware of Joel Surnow as the producer of “24,” the action series that most of us love for it’s excellent writing, exciting scenarios and clever, twisty plotting… and that so-called “conservatives” love for letting them vicariously live out a comfortably-naive empowerment fantasy wherein any terrorist threat can be dealt with simply through the right mix of macho red-tape-slashing, gunfire and Gitmo-lite “interrogation” – call it “Buffy: The Al-Qaeda Slayer.”

Coinciding almost too nicely with the recent (moronic) controversy over whether or not “24” is “causing” detainee abuse by soldiers in the field (object lesson kids: stupidity, especially in regards to censorship, knows no party lines) Surnow has more-or-less opted to officially “out” himself as the allegedly-rare breed known as the “Hollywood Conservative.” Granted, as “secrets” go this ranks somewhere around a former N’Sync member being gay on the “DUH!”-scale – Surnow and his show have been fetting rightie talk-show hosts for a few seasons now – but whatever, let him have his moment. Diversity of ideas in the media is overall a good thing, even if you disagree with them.

Anyway, the first new TV project to see the light of day from the freshly “outed” Surnow will be “Half Hour News Hour,” purportedly a “conservative alternative to The Daily Show” that’ll start airing this weekend. Those of you a little bit perplexed, having perhaps not realized that the broadly media-skewering “Daily Show” was somehow “liberal,” well, understand that the show will be running on Fox News Channel; which has perfected the art of calling the competition biased in order to soften the edge of it’s bias. Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to checking it out. I’m willing to hear from anyone, especially anyone I disagree with, especially if they can promise to be funny.

So, here’s how Fox has been “teasing” the show:–E3T2c

Okay, so… cute idea, haphazardly executed. Troublingly, SNL did the same basic schtick with Al Gore months ago… and it wasn’t all that funny then, either. Still, at least it demonstrates the glimmer of a “South Park”-style eagerness to raise a pre-emptive middle finger to your likely critics – though without 20th of Parker and Stone’s acute comic genius. Also, it doesn’t hold out much promise that the show will have the comic chops to withstand it’s most daunting critique: That it’s just a rip-off another popular show framed as an “alternative” to cover the copycat-factor. But, you never know…

…until you actually see footage from the show, which can now be seen here:

Hm. So… it’s “The Daily Show,” but with a mission-statement, flat hosts and jokes that were tired weeks ago. Oh, well. I’ll reserve final judgement until I see the whole thing, but… yeesh. Pity, it would make the discourse that much more interesting if “conservatives” had a humor-based sounding board for their POV on a forum larger than that of talk radio, but the caveat is that it’d have to be GOOD. Sadly, it would appear that Surnow’s people set out to do a right-wing “Daily Show” and instead have delivered a right-wing “Air America.”

Nicholas Cage: Good Guy

Once upon a time, you’d never picture Nicholas Cage as an action-hero. An oddball character actor best known for schizoid laid-back-guy-crazy-insane-guy rollercoaster performances, actually being a Coppola and a public love-affair with comic book collecting; it was considered a slick move of casting against-type to have him as co-lead of “The Rock” and a brilliant joke-within-a-joke to have in a Van Damme role in the has-to-be-a-spoof “Con-Air.” But, wouldn’t you know it, he had real chops for the material and his offbeat persona suited the increasingly surreal modern action genre just fine.

This Friday, Mr. Cage – who’s devotion to his living role as Hollywood’s premier leading-man comic book geek is so strong that he named himself after “Power Man” and christened his firstborn son “Kal-El” – realizes his long ambition of embodying a superhero in Mark Steven Johnson’s pleaseletitbegood film “Ghost Rider.” Cage has been doing the P.R. rounds for the flick, including this one over at which turned into, of all things, an impromptu impassiond rant from Cage in which he rises to the defense of the Comic Book Movie and – be still my beating heart! – kicks the ever-living HELL out of “Entertainment Weekly.”

Here’s a sample of Cage, just warming-up:
“Somebody asked me a question about “Do you think comic book movies get a bad rap?” And someone mentioned to me that there was a blurb in Entertainment Weekly — very condescendingly — “We get a kick out of watching Academy Award winners being in movies they have no business being seen in.” And I thought, “Well, that’s really shallow thinking, because they can’t get outside their own box.” They don’t understand the concept of what I would say is art. You have different styles and you can choose to be photo realistic like “World Trade Center” or you can be pop art illustrative.”

How long have I waited to hear this out of an industry A-lister? And it got better:
“It doesn’t take itself too seriously, of course, it’s funny, but it’s coming from Classic themes like Faust with Gerta or Thomas Mann or then “Beauty and the Beast” and it’s fascinating to take those story structures and reintroduce people to it in a pop art, contemporary manner. In a comic book especially, no less, which is fun and reaches a lot of people. Entertainment Weekly is the kind of magazine that is very condescending and they think in a very narrow box and they always have.”

And my personal favorite, after the SHH! interviewer asks Cage his opinions on the scarcity of scifi/fantasy genre films getting the nod around awards season:
“They deserve to, but the problem is you have people like Entertainment Weekly who don’t want to take the beret off their head and stop being so self important and pretentious about the little art film, which I love to, but open your mind.”

And, in summary:
“But Entertainment Weekly is more like a tabloid. So, if you are going to get a tabloid get the National Inquirer, because at least they have a horoscope. Why the extra dollar getting Entertainment Weekly when you can get a horoscope with the National Inquirer? (Laughs.)”

Nicholas Cage: Actor, action-star, defender of the artistic credibility of the Superhero Movie. I always suspected that he was one of the good guys, this proves it.

REVIEW: Hannibal Rising

Minor spoilers.

I’m endlessly enamored of the seemingly natural way in which the horror genre innevitably evolves it’s monsters into heroes, and thus watching the continued embodiment of this evolution in what has to be it’s most extreme form by way of Hannibal Lecter has been the source of great amusement to me for some time. I’ll defend forever my unabashed fondness for the lurid horror/high-camp of “Hannibal” for the way it leapt feet-first into the monster-to-hero metamorphosis; casting Thomas Harris’ reccurring character of a super-genius/cannibal as a dashing vigilante, riding to the “rescue” of a lady in distress while battling the minions of a 007-ready supervillian with the 007-ready plot to feed the “hero” to a horde of mutant, man-eating pigs. This was more than just turning a monster into a hero, as had been done with the vampires and werewolves and gill-men of the past… “Hannibal” turned an unrepentant serial killer into a comic-book superhero! Preposterous, insane, a sad commentary on our times, yes… and I loved every moment of it.

But even I was not prepared to sit down for a showing of “Hannibal Rising,” a feature-length exploration of what by now can only be referred to as Lecter’s superhero “origin-story,” and witness the sight of Young Hannibal (French actor Gaspard Ulliel) being trained in the fighting-arts of the Samurai. No, really. Hannibal Lecter: Master of Kung-Fu. In a practical sense, it does offer a quick explanation for some of the superhuman stealth abilities Lecter shows of later in the series, but onscreen one can’t escape the notion that the winking metaphor may be getting stretched too far.

After all, ever since Frank Miller set pen to paper redefining Daredevil more than two decades ago, no self-respecting non-superpowered superhero can do his thing without an explicit background in the martial-arts. And when one considers that Hannibal will eventually use these skills to storm (I’m not making this up) the houseboat “fortress” of a ranting supervillian, well… yes. “Hannibal Rising” finally takes the gag too far. But it does so with gusto and guns-a-blazing, so I’m willing to roll with it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. To the point of things: “Rising” opens in the waning days of WWII, finding Hannibal as a boy of about 10 fleeing his aristocratic family’s Lithuanian castle home to take shelter from the German shelling. Mom and Dad are deep-sixed quick, leaving Hannibal to care for his beloved baby sister Mischa. In short-order the children are set upon by a group of grimy wannabe-Nazis who, near-starving, opt to slake their hunger by cannibalizing little Mischa. Hannibal witnesses this gruesome act, but is powerless to prevent it; and we are meant to understand that it’s this singular event that sets him inexorably down the path to become what we already know him as from the earlier films.

Escaping from a Soviet orphanage in his late-teens, Hannibal sets down in France with his last living relative, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) – his deceased uncle’s Japanese wife – prodigies his way into medical school and promptly sets about his predictable goal: Track down Mischa’s still-living killers, who’ve since made quite a name for themselves as an arms-dealing/slave-trading cartel, and take ironic retribution using his medical skill, Muarasaki’s samurai instruction and a mounting interest in culinary refinement. Amidst all this he also finds time to hone his messin’-with-the-cops schtick opposite a war crimes inspector (Dominic West) who’s after the same bad guys; and to engage in borderline-incestuous flirtation with Murasaki, because… well, because she’s Gong Li.

This is all, undeniably, completely silly. And it gets dizzying when you try and remind yourself that once upon a time Lecter was just a recurring cameo in Thomas Harris’ gory-yet-essentially-serious police-procedurals “Red Dragon” and “Silence of The Lambs,” the later of which featured Anthony Hopkins in a scenery-chewing star turn that not only made his career but also turned “Hannibal the Cannibal” from supporting player to superstar, resulting in the whiplash tonal-shift of “Hannibal” and now “Rising,” which effectively renders the two “middle chapters” as atypical footnotes in the continuing saga of the preeminent superhero of the Age of Amorality. But taken on it’s own merits, and in the spirit of the brazen Grand Guignol additude it never stops to appologize for, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

It must be said that Ulliel never quite loses his French accent as Young Hannibal, but his eerie pan-Euro hiss is more than fitting with the feature that likely figured more into his winning of the lead role: An uncanny ability to mimic the signature leering grin remembered from Hopkins’ Lecter turns. He’s also posessed of an impressively lithe physique and balletic grace, which comes in handy for a script that has Lecter slinking through the shadows of Paris like a cross between a ninja and a ghost, throttling the minions bad-guy boss Vladas Grutas (Rhys Ifans) and, yes, hacking up a foe with a samurai sword. And Dominic West impresses in the thankless role of the Police Inspector who figures out fairly quickly what Hannibal is but isn’t quite as prescient on what he’s going to become.

But the scene-stealer is Gong Li as the one woman who’s unnervingly-deliberate fusion of maternal warmth and sexual heat might be the last best hope of melting Lecter’s icy resolve. A living icon of Chinese cinema, she slips with dignity into her character even as she radiates a sense of being way too good for this kind of material – that rare actor who can elevate a B-movie by their presence rather than being diminished by the movie itself.

The bad guys are rotten to the core, the lady is a knockout, the whole thing looks like a lush period detective yarn and the “good guy” is a jack-of-all-trades flesh-eating psychopath. I can dig it.


Is Shawn Levy ready to join Geekdom’s most-hated?

Superhero fans who’d been anticipating fan-fave writer/director David Goyer’s long-gestating movie version of “The Flash” got some bad news last week, when Goyer out-of-the-blue announced he and Warner Bros. had parted-ways on the project.

Now, for those of you on the “outside,” lemme explain how this information is processed through that largely internet-based entity known as Geekdom. Here is the thought process: “Uh-oh! The Suits are at it again. The ‘cool’ director is out, surely to be replaced with a yes-man director who’ll do exactly what they tell him.. which is ALWAYS a bad thing.”

Why do geeks have this knee-jerk reaction to this sort of thind? Because it keeps happening. Here’s today’s news:

Your new director: Shawn Levy, recently late of the not-awful “Night at The Museum,” but previously best known as the helmer of generic and hopelessly-awful family comdies. “The Pink Panther,” “Cheaper By The Dozen” and “Just Married,” plus a string of TV work for Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. Translation: NOT on any fan’s list of director’s suitably for taking the reigns of what’s arguably the top-tier figure of the “b-list” (read: NOT Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman) DC properties.

Honestly.. I dunno, lets see some casting before I get “down” about this, but yeah.. this doesn’t bode well, and Levy/Warners may as well resign themselves to the fact that, as fandom is counted on to start the “buzz” about such projects, they will now be under a cloud of really, really bad buzz until at least a really good trailer shows up. That’s what happens, fair or not, when you put percieved “hacks” onto fan-fave comic projects. See: Tim Story, who would now have to retrieve and hand-deliver Osama bin Laden’s still-beating heart in order to stop the reflex-hatred of The Geekdom from following him around from project to project after “Fantastic Four.” As I liked “Museum,” and as he seems like an okay guy, I can’t help but feel a little bad on Levy’s behalf for preemptive pounding he’s about to take.

Anyway, the REAL story here is that this happened in the same week that Joss Whedon “dropped out” of Wonder Woman. It’s hard to see this (the removal of two fan-fave, vision-heavy, close-to-the-material filmmakers from WB superhero projects) as anything other than blowback from “Superman Returns'” innability to earn more money than “Pirates.” Levy may be a nice guy, but thus-far he’s no proven visionary and he’s certainly in no position to boss-around or even resist a producer. The message from Warners seems clear: “We’re playing it safe and broad from now on. No more visionaries, no more paying any mind to the ‘fanboys,’ no more striving for greatness. We tried that, made less money than we planned. So from now on, these things are on auto and’ll turn out however marketing says they will.”

Wanna have some fun? Here’s the AICN Talkback on this already:

So… any takers on which titan of mediocrity will be announced for Wonder Woman? I’m thinking somewhere in the range of Bret Ratner or Simon West…

REVIEW: The Messengers

Bangkok’s horror-wunderkind Pang Brothers (Danny and Oxide) come to the U.S. to serve up… well, a wretchedly formulaic Old Dark House ghost story that doesn’t have an original bone in it’s body (or even an original ghost in it’s cellar, really.)

Best-described as an “only the crappy parts” mash-up of “Amityville Horror” and every Asian horror movie since “The Ring,” here we have another tale of a city family (strong-Mom, patch-o-bad-luck-Dad, angry-teen-Daughter and a mute toddler) moving into a run-down old house in the country. Small town, everyone-knows-everyone, but no one knows what happened to the prior occupants of the house… other than they vanished mysteriously (the audience sees them, apparently, murdered in the opening prologue) and now the local kids think the place is haunted.

I. Wonder. What. Will. Happen.

Sure enough, the place is practically slathered in ectoplasm. Spooky noises abound, the electricity is funny and the furniture likes to break itself into pieces only to magically re-form once the adults come home. There’s something grimy and waterlogged-looking in the cellar, plus the requisite spider-walking little kid a’la “The Grudge” and a female wraith that manifests in water stains, and… well, it’s a little unclear, actually, how many spooks actually seem to be drifting about, and also exactly what they actually can and cannot do. At times it seems they need their new human housemates to open doors and solve mysteries for them, other times they are able to move around at will, they go from hostile to benign… oh, and they apparently have backup from a full murder of crows seemingly in a constant hover-pattern over the property.

There isn’t a plot twist you won’t guess, a mystery you won’t instantly solve, a scare that isn’t telegraphed from a hundred miles away. You’ll have it all figured out after a half hour, and then you’ll be mad because you’ve deduced what a crummy movie you’re about to suffer through the remainder of.

Danny, Oxide… what the HELL happened to you guys? I mean, I heard they re-shot the ending parts, fine… but how do you explain the 70+ minutes before that?


Mooninites Invade Boston

So… I write this blog based in Boston, which you may have heard had kind of an “issue” yesterday, as the entire security infrastructure of the city was nearly crippled as a result of, well.. an invasion by perennial “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” bad guys The Mooninites, basically.

Short version: A “guerilla marketing campaign” to help promote the cartoon and it’s upcoming feature film was launched sometime back involving hanging up “Lite Brite”-style renderings of the video-game-like Mooninite characters in various places around various cities. Since whoever designed the things made the (bad) decision to “power” them via a strip of batteries and protruding wires, someone here in town thought one was a bomb, called it in, sightings poured in and everyone freaked out. Bomb squad, the two indie-marketing guys arrested, the whole shebang.

First thing: Yes, Boston now looks profoundly stupid, and we deserve to. People will be teasing Mayor Tom Menino about this for years. “No, Mayor Menino, New York is NOT being attacked by giant monsters… that’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.” However…

Second thing: Whoever designed the things and put the battires and wires on the outside and didn’t even consider that someone might find it alarming-looking: MORON.

Bottom line: Both parties need to resolve this FAST before they look any sillier. Boston: Try to get back the tax money you spent, take Turner’s apology, slap the two kids who put them up on the wrist, don’t do anything stupid like asking them to cancel the show. Turner Broadcasting: Promise not to do it again, give Boston the money, apologize, don’t do anything stupid like canceling the show.

What’s interesting to me is how plainly this shows the “niche” nature of entertainment right now, generationally and otherwise. Think about it: If the cartoon character depicted was something pre-Internet universally-known like, say, Bugs Bunny… this never would’ve happened. Someone among the first-responders would’ve said “Hey, it’s Bugs Bunny. Somebody call Warner Bros and ask if this is some kind of commercial.” Warners would’ve said “yes, it’s a commercial,” situation defused, no panic, no problem. But now? Yes, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” has been on for five years and is a HUGE cultural hallmark for it’s target audience… but if you’re not IN it’s target audience of college-age-and-under YouTube devotees you’ve probably never heard of it, nor would you recognize a Mooninite if you saw one. All that would’ve needed to happen was for ONE person in the group of Boston first-responders to have recognized the icon as a TV cartoon character and this whole mess could’ve been avoided.

"Dead or Alive" online for FREE!


It’s not a leak or (as near as anyone can tell) an illegal-posting. It’s a direct-to-Google-Video release of Corey Yuen’s tongue-in-cheek movie version of “Dead or Alive,” the video game based chick-fight action/comedy I’ve been impatiently chasing after for at least a year now. And my birthday isn’t even for another few weeks!

Beautiful women kicking the crap out of eachother with wire-fu and samurai swords while dressed up like anime/cosplay fetish dolls. Thank you ma’am, may I have another?

Get it here:

Who knows how long this stays up, and I can’t figure a way to “save” it or anything and so far have only had the chance to watch about a 3rd of it… but I’d say this is probably semi-official, a novel attempt at building buzz for something that was pretty much trading on presumed B-movie silliness to begin with. In any case, so far it’s exactly the kind of silly/sexy fun I wanted from it. Well done.