Saturday, January 31, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 11:20 Games "journalism" highlight of the day: "People" say THQ is closing.
  • 11:20 Wow, people.
  • 12:25 Dear UK: 1984 is still a dystopian novel
  • 08:59 King of the Screensavers www.halproject.com/ Well for movie geeks at least.
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Friday, January 30, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 19:54 Search term of the day: "aldo ray hairy chest", Umm.
  • 20:21 Umm, what!? tinyurl.com/assbsr
  • 20:22 And now John Martyn's dead. What a week. :(
  • 21:13 It's still possible to write something interesting about The Evil Dead after all these years: tinyurl.com/ccjqxv
  • 21:25 He is a horror writer, but he prefers to be called "a horrorist".I'm really trying to keep a straight face here.
  • 11:20 Games "journalism" highlight of the day: "People" say THQ is closing.
  • 11:20 Wow, people.
  • 12:25 Dear UK: 1984 is still a dystopian novel
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Short evisceration: Dance of the Dead (2008)

If you think the title of this entry is dire and unfunny, you haven't seen Dance of the Dead.

When the local gravedigger can't control the nightly zombie attacks anymore, a horde of the undead attacks a high school on prom night, to munch on the guts of more badly acted cliches than should be possible in a single movie. All that stands between the viewer's brains, real bad "alternative" rock, and death by annoyance is her ability to find the eject button for her DVD player.

If there's something worse than unfunny "comedies", it's unfunny "comedies" wasting a basically decent concept (here: Return of the Living Dead on prom night) on jokes that weren't all that funny when I heard them for the first time about fifty years ago.

Avoid.

 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

In short: Isolation (2005)

Dan (John Lynch), the owner of a run-down little farm somewhere at the ass-end of Ireland, has leased parts of his livestock to a scientist (Marcel Iures) for quite illegal genetic growth experiments.

Something like this is never a good idea, and when one of the experimental cows gives birth to a very, very hungry calf, things start to go very, very wrong. Dan, the scientist and two young people (Sean Harris & Ruth Negga) who had the misfortune of passing through, have to cope with a few problems, like flesheating cow embryos and a rather nasty kind of infection that does make it imprudent to leave the farm too soon.

Isolation is a much better film than its plot would let you think. What sounds like a very bad Troma comedy (and really, are there even watchable Troma comedies?), plays out as a dense and claustrophobic thriller with some nice and effective nods in the direction of body horror and the first Alien movie, all achieved without looking too derivative.

The trick here lies in the excellent execution. Director Billy O'Brien shot the film in the naturalistic, matter-of-fact style one knows from worthy UK social dramas like the films of Ken Loach, leaving everything as low-key as possible and mostly replacing the expected fountains of gore with the insinuation of gore and other oh-so-disgusting things of the sort that are always much harder to cope with when one is just imagining them. That tactic works out nicely. I for one couldn't escape a very unpleasant feeling of claustrophobia - and that's no small feat, seeing how seldom films get to me this way.

I'd be interested to hear what someone who is more of a country person has to say about the film, because I can't shake the feeling that a part of the movie's effect on me had to do with its grimy country setting (leading to thoughts like "Ew, why is she sticking her arm into that cow ass? Is that normal?" or "Look at all that mud!") which would have been unpleasant enough without any monsters.

This is highly recommended to people who have the stomach for it.

 

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 09:30 Michael Crichton tribute!? Everything that comes to (my) mind would just be very very mean.
  • 14:25 Kim Manners, one of the few great directors of episodic TV is dead. tinyurl.com/c83e5e
  • 15:25 If you're trying to sell something, this is how not to go about it: tinyurl.com/anjslj
  • 20:54 Naked Rashomon, huh? Okay...
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Midnight Movie (2008)

A few years ago, horror director Radford (Arthur Roberts) as well as the other inmates and staff disappeared from the psychiatric ward where he was secured after some (never explained to us) murders during the making of his last film, "The Darkness Beneath". All that was left were some "arcane symbols" (which won't be of any import later on) and lots and lots of blood.

The police has never been able to explain any of this nor find any trace of the disappeared (don't worry, we won't either). When a small cinema for some reason (nope, no details forthcoming in this movie) acquires a print of the film for a midnight showing, the handful of people in attendance soon have to fight off the movie killer who has the ability to step out of his film for a little bloodbath or two. Fortunately, "the cop who couldn't forget what he saw" and "the psychiatrist who couldn't forget what he saw, either" are there to help. Too bad they're both played by washed-up soap opera actors, and we all know how long those survive.

So in the end, everything will depend on designated Final Girl Bridget (Rebekah Brandes) and her stupid and annoying kid brother Timmy (Justin Baric).

I know that I am always moaning about the lack of ambition of contemporary American horror films, but what else am I to do with films like this that waste the potential of some of their basic concepts for just another retread of the 80s Supernatural Slasher formula.

What could be a playful romp through horror history ends up a mildly diverting slasher-by-the-numbers thanks to the inability or unwillingness of anyone in the production to think the things he does through. A little more context for the killer, some kind of reason for the supernatural would already go a long way to make the film better. I'd even be satisfied with the old "Radford was a satanist and was opening a gate to hell through his film" explanation - as it is, the film loses much potential impact and just looks lazy.

As lazy as the "homage" moments of the film are. Radford's film inside the film is obviously based on grimy 70s horror like Texas Chainsaw Massacre - so why is it in black and white? And does the black and white really have to look so damn fake? And why bother making it black and white when everything stays coloured when our heroine is dragged into the film? And while I'm asking questions, why make Radford's film a 70s horror piece when the rest of your film just screams 80s?

I was also bothered by the waste of good ideas when it came to characterization. As soon as something was done that made a character like the biker guy a little less cliched, he was killed off. And (again with the questions) why bother insinuating that our Final Girl is especially fit for that role because she survived abuse by her father when you then proceed not only to not make enough out of it, but also waste the promise of the character on the type of stupid, useless horror movie ending nobody except directors and producers likes?

Having said all this, I can't call Midnight Movie bad. It's technically competent enough, the acting's alright, the pacing works etc. It's just that I can see the potential for something excellent wasted in another 80s retread and I am quite tired of it. Well, at least it's a lot more watchable than Hatchet.

Daily Twitter Terror

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 10:57 The quality of a guitar pop band can be ascertained by the way they sing their "bah bah"s.
  • 11:57 Some mighty fine Bernie Wrightson art: tinyurl.com/alkbj7
  • 12:24 Please: Do not use the word "thinker" to describe Ayn Rand. Or "philosopher". Just don't.
  • 13:10 A fan sequel of my old-old beloved Starflight games! starflightgame.com/wordpress/
  • 14:01 David Berman stops making music, Am sad now.
  • 22:47 Best post about sex toys ever? ursulav.livejournal.com/850663.html
  • 23:08 Excellent essay about Howard's "Worms of the Earth": www.thecimmerian.com/?p=2903
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Monday, January 26, 2009

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

A certain Dr. Mirakle (Bela Lugosi) helps to keep a carnival in Paris classy. He is a scientist, you know, pulling in quite the crowd with his talk of evolution and the relationship between man and ape, even if he's annoying his public more than he's enlightening them. He keeps a gorilla (in fact, a costume that does not look like any monkey or ape I've ever seen but magically transforms into a laughably harmless looking chimp for close-ups) called Eric whom he claims he can talk to through some nonsense babble that seems to predict future ape related losses of dignity soon to come in Lugosi's career.

Secretly, Eric assists Mirakle in experiments to "scientifically" proof evolution by finding a woman with gorilla-compatible blood to - carry Eric's babies, I guess. The film does not make the latter part of the plan all that explicit, but it's not all that subtle about it either.

One day, charming young Camille (Sidney Fox) and her suitor Pierre Dupin (Leon Waycoff, hero and incredibly bad actor) stroll into the good doctor's little show. Mad scientist and murderous ape are both quite taken with Camille's button-like cuteness and there's not a long way from seeing her to abducting her for the good of science and a little bestiality.

 

Murders in the Rue Morgue is one of the less loved and less well known films of Universal's first horror cycle. This time, film history has been relatively fair - Rue Morgue just isn't in the same class as James Whale's Frankenstein films or Karl Freund's The Mummy. Most of the film's flaws can be nicely put on the shoulders of writer/director Robert Florey's script that only has its nicely pulpy crudeness going for it, but does not seem to have much of a clue about what to do with the few elements and scenes it takes from Poe's literary model nor have a lot of experience with the subtleties or basic concepts of plotting. Most of the scenes that are taken from Poe don't make a lot of sense in their new context and - even more problematically - the changes Florey makes are mostly for the worse. This is not as hurtful for the film as Leon Waycoff's puzzling inability to act at all (and imagine my surprise when I learned what a long career that guy had nonetheless), though. While one does not expect much acting or charisma from the romantic lead in a film of this age, Waycoff's oscillating between Shatner-like mugging and wood block imitations still comes as a bad surprise.

Fortunately there are reasons that make Rue Morgue worth the time in spite of its flaws. Bela - as always - does a fine job with the little he's given and gives Dr. Mirakle his standard undertone of wounded pride that somehow became plain homicidal madness. There are a few moments when you can see what kind of a person Mirakle must have been before he became a ranting maniac - those are most certainly not based on anything in the script, but part of a thoughtfulness and subtlety that was always present beneath the stage theatrics of Lugosi's acting, but sadly underused in his films. (I must admit, I always want Bela to be the hero of his films, based on impressions like this).

Karl Freund was working as director of photography here, and, comparing his track record with that of Robert Florey, it seems only fair to see him as responsible for all that goes well on the visual side of this film. He delivers some fine shots that still carry much of the dream-like artificiality of the Expressionist era and also had an ability to keep the camera moving (without being too showy with it) that was not typical for the films of the time, letting the film look much more dynamic than the script deserves.

So, if you are going into this without looking for a masterpiece, but keep your eyes open for the things Lugosi and Freund have to offer, you'll find a lesser Universal horror film that is still lively enough to keep you interested.

 

Music Monday 01

I've decided to retool my aborted Music Monday project in the laziest way possible (hello YouTube!).

Obviously, I have to start thusly:

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 03:12 I'd be much more interested in what Jonathan Blow has to say about game design,if I hadn't read the bad prose that's part of "Braid".
  • 03:14 Also, it would help if he knew the difference between "bad" and "not for me".In art, there are no universal rules.
  • 05:01 Wait, what? The free download of Area 51 is sponsored by the US Airforce!? Um, guys, that's a game ft.evil government conspiracies...
  • 05:18 Videogames news sites:"Countdown clock appears on page of game X" is not news,it's you not being journalists.
  • 07:57 You can really do the most fascinating things with LastFM: tinyurl.com/6zrgal
  • 16:53 Dylan in the Thin Wild Mercury Music phase!
  • 18:57 There will be a Bollywood Horror Collection Vol. 2 AND 3 this year! tinyurl.com/alaub6
  • 19:09 The SF/F cultural appropriation "discussion" that never ends, does in fact not end.Also, Will Shetterley is a slobbering idiot.
  • 20:32 I'm quite looking forward to the Sherlock Holmes re-imagination by Moffat. But why does it always have to be Moriarty?
  • 21:08 Ira Levin was right! tinyurl.com/adtfg5
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Sunday, January 25, 2009

A treat for the friend of Indie

in a very classical sense.

Indiecater Records is a small, but very fine label that sells their music DRM-free, in 256kb mp3s and for the kind of low prices which would probably lead to a lot more sales for digital music if more labels adopted this type of price point. Also, everything is fully sampleable, so you know what you're buying - mostly good stuff.

 

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 14:25 "Sure I can sell you some pills that will greatly lessen the beating of your heart so that even a doctor would think you were dead.But why?"
  • 14:40 "Gosh - I always wanted to be a scientist - and how do I wind up? A car polisher!"
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jane Austen lovers rejoice! Jane Austen haters as well!

Now how could one improve the awesome work of art/terrible bore that is Pride & Prejudice?

If you are saying to yourself now: "Why, I'd add zombies, of course!", you are a person after my own heart. And fortunately, we are not alone.

A certain Seth Grahame-Smith did the good work of improving Pride & Prejudice to Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, an endeavor so glorious one can't help but link to the shop page (and wait impatiently until the book's release in April).

 

Via Cinema Suicide, where you'll also find a short but oh-so-sweet-as-in-"Braaaiiinss" excerpt.

 

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Daily Twitter Terror

  • 20:05 So, Vincent Price played Simone Templar (The Saint) on the radio? Terriffic!
  • 20:28 The Jean Paul Sartre Experience were a great band, weren't they?
  • 20:43 PacMan IF? Sure! tinyurl.com/9kw3ny
  • 21:25 Piranhas 3D. Sigh,
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Still just linkblogging

BUT this fine little blog post is one of the more interesting things about Fallout 3 I've read and makes me quite sad that it won't be in my budget until March.

What I am hoping for from Bethesda's next game (Elder Scrolls 5: The Scrollening?) is actually that they'll leave out the main quest completely. It has always been the worst written and worst designed part of their games, so - why not just cut it out completely and put the zots into designated writers for the rest of the game?

Of course, the exploration aspect sounds oh so very enticing to someone who put 130+ hours into Oblivion without ever doing more than the first three steps of the main quest that one does think about finding someone to mug.

Also, the linked post contains the awesome sentence "Essentially, it's Dubliners with guns.".

 

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Daily Twitter Terror

  • 11:30 "Hold Time", new record by M Ward is rather brilliant in that subtle, fragile way he has.With equally subtle sense for secret POP melodies.
  • 19:26 Wait, you can only follow 200 Blogs with Bloggers system? That's not very helpful.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Belated Poe birthday greetings

 

Yeah, that's Christopher Walken reading.

via eldritchhobbit

 

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Daily Twitter Terror

  • 11:50 "Did your uncle ever tell you about our hobby of vivisection? No? ...Never mind!"
  • 12:06 That film is actually called "Duplicate Jaani Dushman"? Love!
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 11:27 Aamir Khan's Body In The Making does sound kind of wrong, doesn't it?
  • 12:36 The new Bruce Springsteen: not great, but perfectly nice.
  • 12:36 Oops, there goes my assumed hipness.
  • 13:26 The new Khanate on the other hand does still sound like someone's time in hell. I think there's blues deconstruction in it this time.
  • 14:08 Guys, if your band is so "strongly anti-human" why don't you just, well, kill yourselves? Eh, no offense.
  • 14:29 The music biz is still full of sharks and asshats tinyurl.com/9qo8x5
  • 14:30 Said mix-CD is excellent, by the way.
  • 15:18 Why the hell is Amazon recommending a smattering of baby articles to me?
  • 17:23 Most excellent short piece on Poe princeofcairo.livejournal.com/135598.html
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Monday, January 19, 2009

In short: Aventuras Al Centro De La Tierra (1965)

After a couple that prefers snogging in a cave to walking through a cave has a meeting with a terrible creature which leads to a dead male and a mad female snogger, world famous scientist Professor Diaz (Jose Elias Moreno) comes to the obvious conclusion: somewhere in the snog-hating cave system must be the remnants of either some ancient civilization or some nice pre-historic creatures just waiting for a scientist to discover them.

Under this circumstances Diaz just has to mount an expedition, so he grabs himself a few random scientists - one even a woman (Kitty de Hoyos)! That makes two women in an expedition that also includes the Professor's female assistant Laura (Columba Dominguez) and a black man! Don't worry about those evil liberal mind control rays though (unless you want to buy some tinfoil - in that case, send me an email), the black guy's the cook and not allowed to say much, while one of the women is of rather dubious character and Laura the designated kidnap victim.

It turns out that there's really a lot going on in these caves: there are quite aggressive rubber bats, a blood-drinking cyclops, lava rivers, river rivers, snakes, random lizards and even more random armadillos, as well as giant spiders and even a fuzzy-furry, flying and swimming man-bat dude who takes quite a shine to Laura. Unfortunately, he does not know that most women don't like to eat raw rat and his shot at love does not end too well. As if this wasn't enough trouble for one expedition, the discovery of diamonds leads to...MURDER!

Directed by Alfredo B. Crevenna who was also responsible for Santo's epic fight against certain Martian invaders, Aventuras is a nice little adventure film with horror bits, stylistically not far from lucha movies of the same time, just without masked people, but still of a very agreeable pulpy snappiness.

The whole thing is very straightforward and does not lead to much deep philosophical thought for the viewer, nor does it present itself with great aesthetic flourishes. Instead the film tells a fine tale about a silly little expedition that meets a few equally silly (but cool) monsters in a cave. Which is obviously more than alright with me.

 

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 15:36 A DVD only featuring Johnny Lever "comedy"? Um, no thanks, dude. *runs away - very very fast*
  • 19:03 Best post about the newest skiffy cultural appropriation melt-down: tinyurl.com/77h8na
  • 19:06 Burnin Red Ivanhoe: Honestly excellent early 70s jazz prog rock from Denmark. Wonders never cease.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 12:45 Problem with old Airboy comics: You always want the evil invaders to win against that insufferable dolt. Go rat army, go!
  • 14:31 You "concur with the sentiments expressed in the attached tribute"? Yanno, that's one way to link to an obituary. A bad one.
  • 14:35 Calling someone "the Larry King of film bloggers" is supposed to be a compliment? Who knew!
  • 17:16 First movie watching in what? Nearly a week. The horror!?
  • 22:33 A rather fascinating post about the Pulp SF universe by the editor of Paizo lemuriapress.livejournal.com/61144.html
  • 22:39 Zombies! tinyurl.com/9ugr5h
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Unholy Women (2006)

Unholy Women is a nice little horror anthology movie consisting of three stories by different directors in wildly varying style and tone, connected through that hoary old chestnut, the Ebil Woe-man. I wouldn't be much surprised if the movie had something to do with one of the many Japanese supernatural TV shows we in the West usually don't get to see. Two of its directors did at least some work in that direction.

TV shows and misogynist undertones aside, the film is well worth watching, if one isn't completely averse to Japanese horror.

It starts out with Rattle by Keita Amemiya, who is probably better known as the director of a few Kamen Rider films. It's the story of a young woman's terrible night. She is going to marry her boyfriend soon - after the divorce from his present wife is through, that is. Until then, she'll just have to survive the attention of a weird, knife-wielding woman dressed in red. At first, said woman seems to be her future husband's future ex-wife, then, after some more obvious supernatural occurrences have taken place, her future husband's future ex-wife's ghost, later one of those passerby ghosts who just happen to pounce on random people. Our heroine's night of screaming and running around finally leads her to the truth of the matter, in one of the more non-sensical and just plain silly twist endings of my movie watching career (with !bonus time travel without a cause). Well, nobody would have expected that explanation.

It is quite a shame about the ending - up to a point, Rattle is an unoriginal but solid genre piece, in the beginning nicely paced, with a few moments of rather clever sound design and an equally clever use of colour, held back from being something more by the terrible scenery chewing performance of the mad ghost woman's actress and the complete lack of motivation for her actions. The latter often works out nicely in Asian horror, but feels mostly incoherent here.

Fortunately, Rattle is the worst of the three stories.

The second one, Steel, tells of a young, painfully shy mechanic. One day (and very suddenly at that) his boss talks him into going out with his sister. Having never met the woman outside of a photograph (which turns out to leave out some important details), our hero is rather surprised when he meets the girl. She is wearing a brownish sack over her whole upper body, with no face or arms or much of her body above her mini-skirt visible. Even stranger is the way his boss is acting - he doesn't seem to think his sister's interesting fashion sense in the least strange or noteworthy; and hero boy is, of course, much too shy to just ask.

But, if you put two young people together, they are bound to fall in love or at least in lust, sack or no sack. After some abortive attempts at sex, which are made slightly problematic by her love of the old ultra-violence, the things she hides under her sack, and his tendency to either run away from her or try to kill her, the two outsiders slowly learn to love and trust each other...No, wait, it actually ends in a sack-themed variation on the vagina dentata. But it is still a happy ending.

Steel is a story that is bound to anger or irritate some viewers. It would be difficult not to find the story a little distasteful and the vagina dentata/woman in a sack business at least problematic, but I was won over very fast by director Takuji Suzuki's dry tone in the presentation of the utterly weird and wacky. The whole thing has some wonderfully funny moments derived from the kind of very Japanese humor that just takes something extremely weird and treats it with shrugging matter of factness, very much like our hero's boss.

In The Inheritance, the third and final episode, a freshly divorced woman and her young son return to her family home in the country. Her mother is still alive, but has not been in the most stable state of mind ever since her young son one night suddenly disappeared. Soon the grandmother isn't the only one in the house acting weird anymore. Something that she discover's in the old shed in the yard seems to break something inside the boy's mother and she's starting to act as erratically as her own mother. Then there's also the ghost of the boy's uncle and his connection to the shed for the child to cope with.

This last episode was directed by Keisuke Toyoshima, and "supervised" (whatever that may mean) by house-favourite Takashi Shimizu. The plot doesn't have a lot of surprises in store, but Toyoshima shows a very fine sense for mood and is able to present the kind of small gestures that are much more effective for me than things like spring-loaded cats. I was also quite taken by the unflinching way the film looks at child abuse - not so detailed as to be sensationalist, but with a well developed sense for the dreadfulness of the whole thing, the kind of dreadfulness that's a lot more difficult to take than ghosts.

So, even if the first story ends in a most irritating way, the other two episodes make Unholy Women well worth watching, unless you are one those people who just can't take looking at Asian people. You know, the kind of person all those American remakes of Asian films are made for (see also: things which are worse than death).

 

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 10:37 Computer maintenance is tedious.
  • 13:43 Errata by Jeff Vandermeer tinyurl.com/7bfen2
  • 13:56 I don't think someone who gives the demo of a game only to people who have already pre-ordered it does understand what demos are for.
  • 16:39 Pro-tip for people who blubber about novels as tools for moral education: Read some.Then, bugger off somewhere I can ignore you.
  • 22:07 Interesting fact: A have more individual visitors on my blog when I am not posting anything.
  • 23:21 Someone has the same problem with Braid (we call this problem Jonathan Blow) I have: www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/43121
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Friday, January 16, 2009

Junji Ito!

I will resume my usual blogging duties tomorrow, but it would be remiss not to link to news of a continuing scan(s)lation of Junji Ito's newish epic Hellstar Remina.

Everything else of import can be found here.

 

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 09:07 The Twitter Happiness score for houseinrlyeh is: 428. happytweets.com (This makes me a "not very happy" twitterer. Yay!)
  • 11:48 Dear British people, "1984" is a dystopian novel, not a utopian one. tinyurl.com/6w3k92
  • 11:56 Repo!The Genetic Opera would be quite good if the songs weren't as drab and monochrome as they are. Don't waste Anthony Stewart Head, idiots
  • 12:40 Newest attempt listening to a Jon Hassell album without moaning "Eso kitsch" and turning it off: Failed!
  • 13:33 It wouldn't hurt the WGA awards for Writing in Games if the writing in the nominated titles would actually be any good.
  • 13:34 Not talking about Dangerous Highschool Girls in Trouble here, of course.
  • 18:22 Bad: Patrick McGoohan is dead.
  • 18:23 Good: Bear/Monette have sold two sequels to their excellent "A Companion to Wolves"
  • 23:30 Those people are really diving into the Pinku. I approve. pinkeiga.com/
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 19:16 There's a Hulk manga by Kazuo Koike!
  • 20:23 Bah, Year's Best Fantasy and Horror is dead. At least Datlow'll make a Year's Best Horror for Nightshade books.
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 12:00 They're planning on remaking the Val Lewton productions? Please make it stop!
  • 12:55 You have to get out of here. Your vagina is haunted. www.the-isb.com/?p=980
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Monday, January 12, 2009

An Insee Thong link

I was thinking about writing about this fine piece of Thai cinema here, but I have nothing to add to Todd's fine piece about the film at Teleport City but agreement.

 

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1971)

At the moment of their triumph, Doctor Frankenstein (Dennis Price) and his assistant Morpho (Jess Franco himself, shaggy as always), are attacked and killed by Melissa (Anne Libert). This cloaked and mostly naked woman was - as we will later learn - born from the unholy combination of bird's egg and human sperm, a fact that explains the feathers placed on strategic places of her body and her claws as well as the cries of bird imitation coming from the film's soundtrack whenever she gets excited. I don't know about the cat sounds, her blindness or her sexualized appetite for cannibalism, though. Is it still cannibalism if the perpetrator is a bird woman?

The bird woman and an unnamed assistant have come to steal the Doctor's freshly perfected monster (Fernando Bilbao, sporting a look, but unfortunately not an acting ability, relatively close to Universal's Karloff incarnation - painted silver) for their master, the reincarnated magnetist Cagliostro (Howard Vernon). Cagliostro plans to use the monster to abduct women whom he'll then use to get the raw parts for the creation of the perfect woman he needs to breed a master race that will destroy mankind. The monster is also the chosen father of the new race, by the way.

Fortunately, Frankenstein wasn't quite dead when Melissa left him, so he has ample time to ramble on and on about his monster, evil and so on, begging his friend Doctor Seward (Alberto Dalbes) to put things right again, without going into any details before finally really dying and leaving Seward rather puzzled.

The dead Frankenstein's tendency to ramble on and on is something his daughter Vera (Beatriz Savon) - also a remarkable expert in mad science - will learn to hate. Although she's able to revive her old man for short times with an electro-magnetic gadget, it takes more than one try to get more information about his enemy out of him than long-winded rambling about said enemy's evilness and madness (and that from a guy who invented a silver monster).

She should have spared herself the stress, because the monster abducts her soon enough.

A session of Melissa ranting semi-religious sounding explanations of "the master's" will and Cagliostro staring bug-eyed later, Vera is under his mesmeric control. Now the only thing that stands between mankind and a cult of undead created by Cagliostro (reaching from the Halloween-masked to the plastic skeleton to a guy with pointy ears) is Doctor Seward. Oh dear.

 

Too many people still dislike Jess Franco's films, find them boring and illogical and call him a hack. One could get angry about it, if not for the fact that those Franco distractors are too be pitied for the things they are missing.

The fun with Erotic Rites of Frankenstein already starts when you are trying to find out which cut of it you have in front of you. Is it the normal European version with quite a bit of nakedness? Or the Spanish version, having clothes inserted where none belongs, and gifted with the first foray of Lina Romay into Franco's world in form of some rather pointless interludes that don't seem to have anything to do with the main plot (whatever this means in this case)? Or the naughty version for the naughty French with the naughty pornographic bits? In my case, it's the main European version, which is also supposed to be the best one.

And an excellent one it most certainly is. It's beautiful to look at if you come to with an open mind and it's also full of the dream-logic that is at the core of Franco's best work and made as hypnotic as Vernon is supposed to be by Franco's singular and strange brand of eroticism. It often seems to me here as if even Franco's well-known method (or tic, if you are unkind) of suddenly letting his camera rest for a stretch of time on some inanimate object has little to do with him getting distracted, as is often said, but more with him sexualizing objects in the same way he is sexualizing people.

This mood is par for the course in Franco's body of work, as is the pointlessness of the plot or the strange, anti-naturalistic way the man lets his actors do their work (just watch Anne Libert's fantastic/completely unhinged performance!). What's not so typical for a Franco film is the surprising amount of silliness here - there's always something happening (even if what is happening does not necessarily make any sense) and it is never quite clear how much of it you are meant to take at face value. The script seems to stem from the same kind of pulp sensibility that can be found in Paul Naschy's work, just realized here in a much more creative (and let's be honest: not boring) way.

If it weren't as obscure as it is, I'd recommend Erotic Rites of Frankenstein as a fine introduction to Franco's work. It's a treat in any case.

 

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  • 10:10 Azumi 2: Tries hard to be intelligent but is let down by its actors & dialogue. Shusuke Kaneko... *sighs*
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 11:31 Finally! A new edition of Emma Bull's Bone Dance is out in summer.
  • 12:21 I love me some of that Electric Viola!
  • 13:34 RIP Ray Dennis Steckler
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  • 17:36 Edward Gorey knew about recently deflowered girls tinyurl.com/96lvgt
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Friday, January 9, 2009

In more words than this thing deserves: Ssuperzam El Invencible (1971)

Three midgety aliens in silver suits with helmets featuring multi-colored lights (blinking!) crashland on Earth, proceed to ray-freeze (freeze-ray?) a dog. Superzan(m) rescues a woman (we'll never see her again, so don't worry) from a gangster-induced train accident. Afterwards, the film takes some time to visit a carnival show with Superzan - yay, female singer, then yay masked singer(!?), then yay b-listers of Los Campeones Justicieros being hugged (but in a manly way, don't worry, conservative readers) by the big S, afterwards yay Los Campos (without 'zan) fighting some other dudes, then yay Superzan actually doing something in his own movie again, namely fighting some gangsters who are of no import to anything else.

After roughly half of the film has been used for filler, Superzan returns to the plot and protects the aliens from random people with guns until everyone agrees that catholicism is just dandy. The end.

 

I have a lot of time for the adventures of luchadores and I also love me some superheros, but this first solo feature of super-powered, "flying", telepathic luchador Superzan is terrible even for an Agrasanchez production. It should be rather good fun with its effects either stolen from other films (black and white - nobody'll ever notice in a color film, I'm sure) or of the typical "we don't care" Agrasanchez variety, its midgets from Outer Space and its heart-warming (yeah, I'm being sarcastic here) tale about the just plain species-uniting wonderful awesomeness of religion, but just ends up being drab, crawling along with about as much elan as the director's cut of a later phase James Cameron film. And just don't start me ranting about Superzan's "comical" side-kick Johnny, who is of course black, lazy and stupid and victim of much speechifying by the Big S (and yes, our hero talks to his "friend" in a tone I wouldn't use on a child)...

I promised in one comment thread or the other that I was going to find something good to mention about Ssuperzam El Invencible. So, let's see what I got: Oh, yes! The multicolored lights on the aliens' helmets are quite colorful.

 

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 22:25 Bah, only brain-capacity for a short and slapdash review of excellent movie today. Woe is me.
  • 23:31 One of the most popular searchterms for my blog: "insect insertion down the skirt".I'm not Warren bloody Ellis!
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In short: The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2006)

This is another one of those very creative ultra low-budget productions that have incredible difficulties in finding any distribution at all. It hit the festival circuit some time in 2007 and is supposed to finally come out on DVD some time this year. Of course, that's what we heard last year too... And I must say, I do understand - why release something excellent and disturbing when you have Saw XIX to sell?

The Poughkeepsie Tapes disguises himself as a true crime doc about a serial killer with a strangely variable M.O., the sort that makes Hannibal Lecter look like some way too soft bore. Part of the killers ritual is the use of a (obviously cheap) videocamera to document his crimes and the parts of the film that don't consist of experts analyzing the case are supposed to be passages of these video tapes.

You can make nitpicks about some of the "expert" footage - not everyone seen there is an excellent actor and a few moments just don't feel right - but the writing and the tone of these segments is excellent enough to make for an effective film. The tapes themselves are to disturbing to be criticized. You won't find much else like those parts of the film anywhere else, the only parallel that came to my mind is Last House on Dead End Street's equally disturbing mixture of grimy footage and ritualized violence. Poughkeepsie Tapes is less explicit than the older film in what it actually shows of the violence, but the physically real feeling quality of the film material itself and the plain nastiness of the things we see and those things we imagine we're seeing combine to form a really unpleasant experience.

People with fragile dispositions should stay away from the film. It hit me on the kind of gut-level horror films seldom reach with me, and considering what kind of stuff I watch without being bothered, this says something - if about the film, me, or the state of mind I watched it in, I'm not completely sure.

Let's call this a rather excited recommendation for a disturbing time.

 

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 10:49 Why do I have to care about Schneider leaving Kraftwerk? They've only been their own cover band for years now.
  • 10:49 And are moneygrubbing bastards of Metallicaesque dimensions.
  • 11:30 Oh great, a laptop without a keyboard. Gotta love those Apple fans even gushing about that one.
  • 11:51 And gotta love those idiotic twitterers (=me) not realizing they're looking at The Onion.
  • 18:49 Damn, Ron Asheton's dead.
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In short: Uncle's Paradise (2006)

Pinkus, being softcore pornography and all, aren't not everybodies cup of tea, which often does not lead the pinku detractor to miss much. After all, much of the genre really is not worth much as films, as delightful as its love for every kind of perversion might or might not be.

But the pinku, as any other genre, should be judged by its best films and not by its worst. Uncle's Paradise is definitely one of the good films. It possesses a kind of ultra-low-budget magical realism with added soft-core charm I find as difficult to resist as is its humor - the kind of laconic shrug in the face of the supremely weird that is the other side of the more well known (in the West) hyperactive screaming and running around of Japanese humor.

Everything here is of a charming and rather melancholic low-key eccentricity that is best explained through the way the film pictures hell: as a cheap hotel where some not-very-attractive people will be nibbling on you for all eternity unless your girlfriend wins a game of rock, paper, scissors against its concierge/king.

What more could one want?

 

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

Ruka (Eihi Shiina, really making that stone-faced woman with a sword thing work) - when she's not busy cutting herself - is an especially effective member of a future Tokyo Police Force. Orphaned at a very young age, she's following in the footsteps of her father who himself had been a cop killed on duty. She is especially adept at slaughtering the so-called "engineers", serial killers/berserkers from whose wounds grow new and interesting killing devices and who can only be killed by destroying a strange key-shaped tumor hidden somewhere inside their bodies. Also, she rocket jumps.

Over the course of the film, Ruka learns the truth about the death of her father and gets infected with the engineer tumor key thingy herself. Oh, and she cuts quite a few people into pieces (queue very Japanese showers of the most Japanese looking blood).

 

Well, well, well, Tokyo Gore Police is not the perfect movie its trailer did promise, but it's still a mighty fun film when you are in the right frame of mind for it and are not afraid of lots and lots of interesting human and not-so-human bodily fluids (if you are, might I inquire what kind of business you have with a film having the word "gore" in its title?).

It's directed by The Machine Girl's special effects head Yoshihiro Nishimura (with a few blackly funny fake advertisements by Noboru Iguchi himself thrown in) with a lot of enthusiasm and very little money, but with a palpable love for Japanese genre cinema, fight manga, and everything that is fun about fucking with people's bodies.

The film is not as grandly brilliant as its sister movie was though, it's missing a little that film's heart. This doesn't mean that it does not have one, as far as gore movies go, this is an extreme film, but not a truly nasty one. I have the feeling that Nishimura is interested in gore mostly for the coolness factor of transformation, the pretty colors and the funness of the fake and less to live out some sadist crap fantasies (and yes, this is the difference between this film and ninety percent of Western gore movies for me).

Speaking of fake, the film's budget obviously didn't stretch very far, so one has to live with gore of the rubbery sort. What the effects lack in realism they make up for with the kind of creativity Japanese pop culture is (in)famous for. I must say I prefer them this way.

Now would probably be a good time to talk about the script and the acting...Hm, the former is there, makes a certain amount of sense, has its heart in the right place, and does not torture us with much bad melodrama (what little is there works fine for me), so that's fine. The acting is fine as well, inasmuch it is needed it is done well enough - I'd even go as far as calling Eihi Shiina quite good, especially since Oneechanbara has finally taught me how much acting ability is actually needed for keeping her kind of pokerface. Also, I think I'm in love.

So, I'm happy, Tokyo is happy, and police privatization turns out not to be such a bright idea after all. If that's not a happy ending, I don't know what is.

 

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 12:58 Thanks, Israeli government, for bringing us your mass murders live on the web. tinyurl.com/7olpbo
  • 13:57 Tip for everyone moaning about being tired of zombie films: don't watch them.
  • 13:57 Brought to you by the Ministry of the Obvious.
  • 13:59 Blaktroniks: Now that's the kind of Hip Hop I can get behind. Sounds like not much else on the planet or beyond.
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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pyrokinesis (2000)

Junko Aoki (Akiko Yada) works in the postal department of a Toho office (yes, she works for the studio that's producing the film you are watching - feel the meta), trying to keep her head down and stay as uninvolved with others as possible. The woman has some emotional problems you see. Ever since she was a child, she has had the ability to project and ignite fire, but also trouble controlling her powers once she has started using them. Also, strong feelings let her give off an immense heat, enough that she needs to run to next body of water to lose a little steam.

A person can't stay completely alone forever. She has developed a crush on her colleague Tada (Hideaki Ito). The slow starting romance between the two is unfortunately soon disrupted when a bunch of hooligans who are already responsible for a small string of murders, kills Tada's younger sister.

The police arrests Kogure (Hidenori Tokuyama), the ringleader of the bastards, but with the help of his ex-D.A. father and a phony accusation of police brutality, he's not even going on trial - his tendency to tell just about anyone of his guilt stretching my suspension of disbelief here really to the limit.

Tada wants to kill Kogure, but Junko prevents him ruining his life. She makes him the offer to kill "punish" Kogure and his gang for their murders with the help of her powers. That way, nobody will find out about the motive for the killings. At first, Tada agrees, yet when the moment comes he intervenes, overcome with the thought of the senselessness of revenge.

In the ensuing argument, he accuses Junko of not really wanting to help him, but just looking for an excuse for using her powers. She runs away, and that very consequently; she leaves her job and apartment behind and goes on the run.

Junko's flight turns out to be not that bad of an idea - two cops, the experienced female Ishizu (Kaori Momoi, quite excellent as policewoman with brain and heart - which gives her two organs on her colleagues) and the younger Makihara (Ryuuji Harada) who knows Junko from her childhood are on the case, and not as skeptical as one would expect.

It's at this point that the film slowly loses in quality when it introduces more young people with ESP powers and the conspiracy of a shadowy organization of evil vigilantes, turning an intimate piece into something that can end in an explosion.

Not that director Shusuke Kaneko wouldn't know what to do with explosions - we are talking about the man who made the three brilliant Gamera films of the 90s here - but I don't think Pyrokinesis is completely successful in its marriage of the intimate and the loud.

Part of the problem lies in the film's characters. While Junko and Ishizu are complex and complicated enough to be interesting as persons, the baddies of the film lack in even the slightest bit of complexity. There's no discernible motive for their actions besides them being movie villains, letting the film's tone shift the more into the realm of the shonen manga the longer they are on screen.

Another difficulty Kaneko can't overcome is a budgetary one. Although special effects and locations look as good (and in case of the effects: gruesome) as a low budget can possible allow, most of the acting is rather bland. Idol Akiko Yada does a surprisingly good job as Junko and Kaori Momoi's Ishizu is delightful (I don't think she's capable of doing a bad acting job), but the rest of the acting just isn't there to pick up some of the script's slack.

Still, Pyrokinesis is worth two hours of your time, at least for the subtle moments of its first hour and Kaneko's ambition to be complex and complicated, even if the film can't completely keep up with his ambitions.

 

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 12:21 Evil Thomas Edison. Zombies. Love! tinyurl.com/8b7vbc
  • 19:27 Good Lord, the new Doctor Who does look a little too pretty in his promo photos. I was hoping for an old codger of an actor myself.
  • 19:28 "Get outta my TARDIS!". But hey, there's always the possibility he can act.
  • 19:29 I feel so old now
  • 19:33 "The director calls his style poetic realism." I call "Pretentious twat!"
  • 20:04 Proof you can review The Spirit as being bad without sounding like member of a lynchmob out for Miller: tinyurl.com/9ve87b
  • 21:20 Poe must be so proud www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol8no12/1521.htm
  • 21:46 Sarah Monette. Hamlet slash. You gotta love writers. truepenny.livejournal.com/621802.html
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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Billion Dollar Brain (1967)

Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) has finally left her Majesty's employ and is now working as one of those archetypal hard-boiled detectives. Well, as hard-boiled as one can get when one's filing cabinets contain cornflakes instead of liquor.

His old boss Colonel Ross (still Guy Doleman) would very much like to take Harry back into the fold, but the ex-agent has developed a certain distaste for the work, what with all the killing and doublecrossing. So it comes as a nice food-providing opportunity when a 60s computer voice phones him with instructions (and the promise of 400 pounds) for a little milk run into Finland. Why exactly someone would want a thermos bottle full of eggs delivered at this expense by someone like Harry is anybody's guess. Once in the land of vodka and high suicide rates, the Brit is a little surprised that the delivery goes to a hideously overacting woman called Anya (Francoise Dorleac) who's coming on to Harry as soon as she spots him and a certain Leo Newbigen (Karl Malden), an old acquaintance from Harry's time as a spy.

Leo makes Harry the financially very attractive proposition of working for him, supposedly without any catches and even without corpses. This turns out to be far from the truth, yet Harry won't have much of a choicethan to agree to Leo's proposition after Colonel Ross has found a nice angle to get him back into his employ.

So the poor beleagered Mister Palmer infiltrates the organization his old friend is working for. In the course of his investigation, he'll meet its founder and leader, General Midwinter (Ed Begley), a Texan oil millionaire with all the fascist anti-communist capitalist evangelical madmen rethoric one would expect of someone of this type - when one is as European as Palmer, director Ken Russell, or me, that is. Also on his list of new acquaintances will be the Latvian revolutionary army (all six members of it), much fun 60s computer technology, an ex-nazi "scientist" and a scoop of chicks. People will also have the strange tendency to undress to their underwear in front of Harry, a proposition that is less than attractive when you keep Karl Malden and the return of Oscar Homolka's Colonel Stok in mind...

 

Billion Dollar Brain certainly is a change of pace after the first two Harry Palmer outings. Gone are any and all pretenses of realism or plot coherence of the more normal style. Your enjoyment of the film will probably hinge on two things: your willingness to make yourself at ease with a film of a completely different style than the first two of the trilogy had, and your opinion of director Ken Russell and his work. One can't say Russell isn't trying to reign his love for near-schizophrenic changes of tone, bombast and the least subtle visual metaphors this side of Eisenstein in a little; in comparison to some other Eurospy films Billion Dollar Brain looks downright reserved most of the time.

It is a very weird film nonetheless, at times consciously subverting the conventions of the spy film - for example by using Finland and Texas aka two of the least glamorous places on Earth as its main locations, or through the nature of its Big Bad - at others just playing along with them while giving them a spin into the surreal, and (this being a Ken Russell film) determined to show us at least drawn naked women if it isn't allowed to show us naked actresses.

This of course makes for a film that's a lot more interesting than thrilling which keeps with the talents of Russell who was much, but certainly no action director. The only weak point for those of us who can take the film as it wants to be taken should be the Grand Finale when Russell can't escape filming something that amounts to an action scene and only succeeds in presenting the viewer with a loud, metaphorically overheated chain of pictures that are as soon forgotten as they are seen, as loud and empty as what a Jerry Bruckheimer film would present today, and not much better for trying so hard to be meaningful. Some could also be troubled by the blunt and unsubtle way General Midwinter is portrayed, but I think in making fun of right-wingers unsubtle satire can be a useful tool; it's difficult to talk subtle of the unsubtle.

 

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  • 11:20 Waiting's a lot more fun on the net.
  • 11:20 I am declaring myself Minister of the Obvious. Obviously.
  • 15:06 The future of the past: tinyurl.com/8ej8dz (PDF!)
  • 21:21 One can't link to this poem too often: tinyurl.com/8hc3cs
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Friday, January 2, 2009

In short: Funeral in Berlin (1966)

Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) is still working rather reluctantly for one of the British intelligence services. His boss Ross (Guy Doleman) sends him into divided Berlin to help organize the defection of a Colonel Stok (Oskar Homolka), a man who is (quite ironically) responsible for the security of the Wall.

Palmer remains skeptical concerning the Colonel's real motives, but nobody cares much about his doubts.

Then there are some other complications Harry has to cope with, like former Nazis, the Mossad, and two million dollars in a Swiss bank account. All this should be enough to ruin anyone's cheer; Harry, not being someone who's in the game for small change, also hasn't lost that thing people in his business can only ill afford - a conscience.

Funeral in Berlin is not quite as good as The IPCRESS File. I blame director Guy Hamilton, whose work here is professional but not as inspired as Sidney J. Furie's work in the earlier film - just about what I'd expect from the director of Goldfinger. The film lacks some of the visual inventiveness and the stylized use of unstylishness of the first picture. It also starts out a little too slow for my taste and really gets its groove after the first thirty or forty minutes.

There's fortunately still a lot to like about the film. Once it gets going, the plot becomes clever and complicated enough to satisfy - the last thirty minutes are really quite flawlessly constructed and excellently paced, although they too are missing some of the more intriguing subtext of the first Palmer film. Additionally, the acting is classy throughout and grants most characters more depths than the script seems to contain.

The film also distinguishes itself by an excellent sense of detail: as a German, I'm always fascinated by the way foreign films show Germany. Often, this fascination turns to bemusement when a film shows itself to only nominally take place in Germany and instead bumbles through scenes of British and American actors trying badly to imitate a German accent, while extras scream phonetically learned German of dubious quality and sense ("Du Schweinhund!"). Not so here. This Berlin has a lot in common with real post-war Germany of the time. It's even populated with actual German actors - the sort who are able to act, even! This gives the film a quality of realism I can get behind, yet there are still some bizarre blunders, my favorite being the name of Palmer's old friend Johnny Vulkan (Paul Hubschmid) - I suppose we have Len Deighton's novel to thank for that?

I do sound rather lukewarm about the movie, don't I? Truth be told, if this weren't the sequel to The IPCRESS File I'd probably sound quite a bit more excited. This is an excellent film, it's just not quite as good or deep as my favorite old-school espionage movie.

 

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Daily Twitter Terror

  • 12:46 The Fleet Foxes thing is nice 'n' all...but album of the year? You're kidding, right?
  • 13:07 Romeo & Juliet vs The Living Dead, huh? Figures. tinyurl.com/7a6k8d
  • 17:28 Warning, contains nudity! Good lord, how frightening!
  • 18:12 So, a robot and a chimp make an exploitation movie: tinyurl.com/7jvu45
  • 19:12 Doing New Yeary things now. Have a Happy New Year Internets, wherever you are! :)
  • 01:38 Dunk! and on the Internet. Bad combination. Leaving the Internet again.
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