Monday, August 28, 2006

TV on DVD - What's the Best???


The Onion A.V. Club recently named what they considered to be THE prime cuts of TV on DVD by singling out the best seasons of given shows available. Granted, this sort of stuff is all about the opinion, but I was a bit flabbergasted by some of their choices. I was less annoyed by their omissions mostly because I'm aware that my fixations are rarely in line with what "normal" people would choose.

For starters - and the choice with which I took greatest issue - was The Shield: Season Three. What!?!? I consider myself a Shield devotee, although I admittedly missed Season Five (which the A.V. Club - as well as many I know - says just freakin' rocks). But even taking that out of the equation, how the hell did they come up with Season Three as the pinnacle? It was easily the weakest, sprawling, aimless season of the series. Call me a traditionalist, but Season One still ranks as the show's high point, with even Season Two coming in at a close second (heck, even Season Four - the Glenn Close season - was superior if only for going in unexpected directions). Don't get me wrong...Season Three's got some great moments - most notably the madness Aceveda's forced to endure - but somewhere around the time Dutchboy strangled a cat just to see what it was like to kill something, I realized the show had lost some focus.

Edward Copeland often champions The Sopranos: Season Three and the A.V. Club seconds his motion. I dove into The Sopranos head on by viewing the first three seasons of Tony's antics back to back on DVD. By the time I hit Season Three, maybe I'd grown weary. My feeling at the time was that as a whole it wasn't as good as the first two, despite some great moments such as Melfi's rape (which the A.V. Club does indeed single out) as well as the classic "Pine Barrens" episode in which Christopher and Paulie get lost in the woods . Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. I'd need to sit down and devour the whole damn epic over again to know for certain. The A.V. Club does give props to Season One as a runner-up. I still feel as if I'm one of a handful of people totally digging on recent Sopranos. Season Five was so deceptively great that I didn't even realize how good it was 'til it was over. The recently screened first half of Season Six rocked my world if only because it dished up slices of The Sopranos we probably never expected or even wanted to see. Much of my opinion of the series is likely due to me not being a die-hard fan...for me it's mostly a series of "the moment". To be sure, Season Four must be the weakest of the lot.

Arrested Development: Season Two. I do adore AD, and again, I've not yet seen Season Three. I've viewed both of the previous seasons on DVD and intend to do the same with the third, which hits DVD this Tuesday. But between the first two, Season One comes up the tighter. In all fairness to those wacky Onion folk, they do single out "Good Grief!" as S2's highpoint - which it was. Who in a certain age bracket is not instantly swayed by the music of Vince Guaraldi? (Ahem...Chuck?)

M*A*S*H: Season Nine. Um, M*A*S*H without Henry Blake, Trapper John, Frank Burns and Klinger in a dress isn't my M*A*S*H. The only thing that makes latter M*A*S*H watchable is David Ogden Stiers. That is all.

The rest of the A.V. Club's choices are mostly series of which I've not seen nearly enough to comment on. Once upon a time I was an X-Files nut, but that dimmed somewhere around the middle of S2 when the series suddenly became this pop culture phenom and I stopped watching. Maybe S3 is the best, I don't know. Never even seen a single episode of NewsRadio or The Gilmore Girls. I am curious...any classic Trek fans out there? Is S2 better than S1? I've wanted to buy one of the TOS boxes for some time, and had been veering toward S1...but if S2 is the better of two, I'd like to know.

"So Mr. High and Mighty Morgue...what are your picks?" ...I thought you'd never ask...

First and foremost, Nip/Tuck: Season Two. I gushed about it only last week and won't do so again...but just this past Saturday I indulged in a five episode marathon from the middle of S2, and I knew as I addictively kept spinning discs that I could stand by those words. I love Nip/Tuck so much that, even though I didn't like it, I still want the Season Three DVD set (which, alongside Arrested Development: Season Three, hits shelves on Tuesday) . That's some sick fanboy devotion, yes it is.

Farscape: Season Three. There are a few Morgue attendants to whom this choice will come as no surprise. I love Farscape, but in particular I worship its third season. It's a near perfect, almost self-contained science fiction epic (each episode is like a chapter in a book) that hits so many action peaks and emotional valleys that it's something of a shame the series didn't just end with episode 3.22, "A Dog with Two Bones". The cast, the writers, the directors, the effects artists, the set designers - everyone involved with the creation of Farscape - were at the top of their game. Unfortunately, ADV Films, which releases Farscape on DVD, charges a whopping $150 retail for the Season Three set! Fortunately, ADV recently began releasing these mini-sets called "Starburst Editions", which actually contain numerous extras not present on the original releases. Purchase the three separate Collections of "Farscape: Starburst Edition Season 3", which retail for $24.95 apiece, and you get the whole season for half the boxset price. (Everything written above applies to the other three seasons as well, although ADV is still in the process of releasing the Season Four sets.)

Update! RE: Farscape Starburst Editions. Anyone who owns or is considering purchasing the Starburst sets should read this news from TV Shows on DVD.

Doctor Who: The Complete First Series. The remake, the reimagining, the continuation...whatever you wanna call it - this, alongside Battlestar Galactica: Season One, is essential new millenium sci-fi.

Aside from Star Trek, conspicuously absent from the Onion list were older TV series, which leads me to...

Soap: Season One. All four seasons of Soap are now on DVD, and with each successive purchase, I've felt less and less enthused. But Season One remains a classic sitcom comedy goldmine. If you're a fan of Arrested Development, you owe it to yourself to at least check out the first season of the series which likely inspired it. It ends on a cliffhanger, so you'll likely be drawn to Season Two...but take it from me - just stop before moving on to Season Three, OK?

Land of the Lost: Season One. The low-budget Saturday morning adventures of Marshall, Will & Holly - trapped in a dimension of dinosaurs, Pakuni and Sleestak - aren't for everyone...but if you're somewhere between 32ish and 40, this is a major blast from your '70s past that won't disappoint.

Twin Peaks: Season One. Technically it's incomplete as it doesn't contain the 90-minute Pilot Movie...and sure, it's only seven episodes long. These factors matter not. The first season, abbreviated though it may be, is one of, if not THE highlight of TV history (rivaled only by The Prisoner). And the "Previously On" tagged onto Episode One does a decent enough job of recapping so that you can easily immerse yourself into the material presented. If you're lost, you're weak and have no imagination. Supposedly Season Two will hit DVD later this year (maybe even with the Pilot). Who knows? Who cares? Season One is the shit.

Jeez...I could list half a dozen more, but I won't. At this point, I'm mostly interested in your picks. Abduct the comments section...please...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rued Recommendations

Drop into Scanners and check out Jim Emerson's outstanding piece entitled "The Death of Film Criticism has been Greatly Exaggerated (Part One)". It's not only thought-provoking, but wittier than a sack of hungry ferrets. Assuming Part One feeds yer gerbil, go ahead and ingest "Nobody Knows Criticism (Part Two)".

Matt Zoller Seitz wants people to know about his indie film Home, which is now available on DVD. Come to think of it - having seen the film myself - so do I, which is why I'm posting the link.

Many are anticipating the release of Brian DePalma's The Black Dahlia, and Dennis Cozzalio's amassing some DePalma love over at Sergio Leone, including a piece on Mission to Mars by That Little Round-Headed Boy. DePalma's never been a big favorite of mine, but the older I get and the more opinions I read, the more I fear I'm just simply wrong.

The mighty Rick Reynolds has upped the Happiness ante by vowing to post weekly video podcasts every Monday in lieu of wordy words. Yay for the YouTube generation! The first two episodes, Bubzac & Meditate on This, can be downloaded directly onto your harddrive, viewed on YouTube, or subscribed to via iTunes (Rick really wants to make this easy for you). All options prove you can indeed get something for nothing in this life. Pertinent info is provided at The Church of Rick (currently masquerading as The Happiness Project).

Check out Jeanne's review of The Ron Clark Story, starring Matthew Perry, which recently played on TNT. It gets another play this Saturday at 11 PM (CST). Between Perry's performance in this flick and his upcoming regular role on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, I gotta give credit due when it's due: this guy - whom I used to loathe - has reinvented himself into someone I actually enjoy watching.

And for those of you who just want to look at pictures, check out the latest from my good friend Koda.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Doctors are In

Season Four of FX’s melodramatic black comedy Nip/Tuck begins on Sept. 5th. Disappointed with Season Three, and specifically by the finale, which included the revelation of the identity of the infamous Carver? Long-term disciples of the antics of Doctors McNamara & Troy (Dylan Walsh & Julian McMahon) felt betrayed, violated and used. We were all Ryan Murphy’s surgical tools, were we not? And yet we anxiously await S4, right? Of course we do. However drastically Nip/Tuck may have derailed, we'll give it another chance…as well we should.

Prior to the S3 train wreck, Murphy and Co. delivered two stellar seasons of some of the best high-concept television seen in years (and given the high quality of a lot of TV these days, that's saying something). When Nip/Tuck is “on”, nothing else is even remotely as satisfying. Not The Sopranos, not the recently laid-to-rest Six Feet Under – heck, not even the other Doctor who I gush about (no, not House).

Season One laid an ideal foundation which Season Two proceeded to bust into chunks by pulling everything and everyone apart, fracturing an already imperfect “family” into half a dozen splintered pieces. It’s not with any exaggeration that I say S2 of Nip/Tuck is one of the most slickly scripted, acted and filmed seasons of any TV show, ever. It was in fact so faultless that the S3 dip in quality was largely unsurprising. Even before it started, it was difficult to fathom that S2 could be topped, and certainly not by the season following it. Although it behooved the creators to give it a whirl, let’s face it: A show as edgy and daring as Nip/Tuck was destined to misfire sooner or later.

Like most viewers, I got sucked into the “Who’s the Carver?” zeitgeist – much of which was due to the expert seeding of the affair in the latter half of S2. Indeed, part of the fizzling of the storyline was due to it presiding over nearly half of the series. It built up to a “Who Shot J.R.?” level of suspense[1] . (Mildly noteworthy, though presumably unrelated, is Larry Hagman’s upcoming recurring presence.) The production team can’t really be blamed for riding the Carver gravy train and last year's finale delivered not only Nip/Tuck’s, but also FX’s biggest ratings ever with 5.7 million viewers. So while dramatically it may not have been sound, from a business standpoint someone had the right idea. Suffering through the Carver nonsense may have been painful, but it probably guaranteed us a few more years of the series.

I’ve not yet revisited S3, although I’ve gone back and viewed the last 30 or so minutes of the finale several times. It would be uncool to reveal the Carver’s identity to anyone who hasn’t seen it (so I won't), however I would like to posit a theory: S3 may very well work better if you know who the Carver is going into it. You’ll be spared the maddening moments of the finale in which you’re beating yourself up for spending too much time and thought on theories involving everyone but the obvious. Mind you, this theory doesn’t include S2's Carver buildup – that stuff works great not knowing a damn thing. But if you’re viewing Nip/Tuck on DVD, consider possibly spoiling yourself before spinning S3.

Some of Nip/Tuck’s strengths:

1) How rapidly it unfolds. What the show accomplishes in a single episode takes most series three installments to unveil; while a Nip/Tuck season may only be 13 episodes, by the time it ends it feels as if you’ve experienced 22.

2) What they’re able to get away with. For a series with commercial backing, it pushes more boundaries than anything on either HBO or Showtime. There’s something to be said for having just a few restrictions to work around and it makes for a creative atmosphere; you don’t always have to "see" a pair of tits to see a pair of tits. I often lovingly refer to it as “the most amoral show on TV”. [Note to the Parents Television Council: Just give up, OK? Or better yet…don’t. You folks give this show more publicity than FX can afford to.]

3) Murphy’s apparent ongoing mission to give jobs to actors whom nobody else seems to know what to do with. Joan Rivers, Alec Baldwin, Anne Heche, Jill Clayburgh, Kathy Baker, Julie Warner, Brittany Snow, Patti D’Arbanville, Geoffrey Lewis, J. E. Freeman & Brian Kerwin are just some of the familiar faces who’ve benefited from Murphy’s eye for utilizing underused talent. S4 looks to be taking the famous guest shots even further; in addition to Hagman, Catherine Deneuve, Richard Chamberlain, Melissa Gilbert, Kathleen Turner and Brooke Shields are only some of the names that you can - yet wouldn't - expect to see.

4) The plastic surgeries - as outrageous as they may often appear - are based at least in part on real-life cases.

5) Engaging storytelling and compelling characters, both of which keep you coming back week after week. Much of what makes the show work is rooted in a “What can they possibly do next?” mentality. It’s easy to focus on the frequent unpredictability of McMahon’s Dr. Troy, but the rest of the characters are just as wildly difficult to decipher. When a main character not named Troy fucks a RealDoll on the floor, one can safely say we’ve ventured far outside the boundaries of “been there, done that”.

[1] I vividly recall the J.R. phenom from back in the day, but I’ve got no memory whatsoever of the public’s reaction to the Kristin Shepard reveal, something I can only attribute to it being perceived of as anticlimactic...and perhaps in these cases, isn’t it always? [Note to Ryan Murphy – once you’re done with Hagman, consider looking up Mary Crosby for a guest shot.]

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Absent-Minded Waiter

Classic short film starring Steve Martin, Buck Henry & Teri Garr.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Steel Yourself

Hot on the heels of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen's open letter to Luke Wilson, which was actually all about his brother Owen, comes a brand new open letter from those wacky Steely Dan guys.

This time around those zany nutjobs are appealing to writer/director Wes Anderson. They seem to think they can assist him in moving to a higher creative plane.

It's interesting to see Becker & Fagen so openly embracing the Internets, and using all both of them to speak to the world. These letters are pretty entertaining, and they clearly put much thought into them. Other than that, I'm rather perplexed by all of this. Maybe someone who is a bigger Steely Dan fan than I (I've got three or four of their CDs - Aja was always my favorite), can explain to me what all of this is about.

Personally, I'd like to see an open letter from Steely Dan to Mel Gibson, but maybe that's asking too much. Even better, the Dan need to start doing this regularly. They're one of those bands who, over the years, have proven that they've still "got it", so maybe they've earned the artistic right to say whatever the hell they wanna say.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Five Discussions for the Day

1. Snakes on a Plane opens this week. How might the word "finally" apply to its release? Discuss.

2. If you witnessed Boy George cleaning up garbage and had the opportunity to say something to him, what would you say? Discuss.

3. Meatloaf is dying to play a Doctor Who villain. Discuss.

4. There are an insane amount of TV series that have been released on DVD. The Love Boat is not one of them. Discuss.

5. Cole slaw. Is it still relevant? Discuss.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Steve Balderson Tragedy

How often do you visit the Morgue and find me trashing a movie? Almost never. Even rarer is the spectacle of me trashing an independent film. Indie films already have so much working against them it’s miraculous they even get made in the first place, which earns my automatic respect.

So it pains me to trash Steve Balderson’s Firecracker, a movie I saw at the Dobie in Austin last November, that’s now available on DVD. 20 minutes into Firecracker I came to a realization: Nothing that happens throughout the rest of this is going to get me to like it. Take that as you will throughout the remainder of this critique. The film lost me at hello.

On the other hand, this piece required far more effort than simply saying “It was a bad movie” and forgetting about it altogether. Perhaps my words are testament to Balderson’s work and maybe someday, in a particularly self-destructive mood, I’ll revisit Firecracker and see it in a different, more positive light. Roger Ebert gave it a whopping 3 & ½ stars, which I can only attribute to the notion that he was drunk, high or asleep as he viewed it (I wish I'd been any of the three during my viewing).

I appreciate deviations from the norm, and certainly that cannot be truer than in the realm of film where so much of the same is frequently displayed. There’s no question Firecracker deviates from the norm…unless you consider David Lynch films the norm, as do I. If so, you’ve already seen Firecracker in the various norms of Blue Velvet, The Elephant Man, Lost Highway, Twin Peaks, etc. I’m uncomfortable using a phrase like “rip-off” and yet it’s equally difficult to use the word “homage”. Firecracker bears heavy relation to Lynch’s ongoing oeuvre. It does not appear to contain anything original or anything that belongs to itself.

RE: Ebert’s review (click here to read it). Roger dislikes the bulk of Lynch’s work and I can’t reconcile his distaste for David with his praise of Firecracker. I love Ebert. I love Lynch. (Reconcile that, Ruediger!) Ebert’s portrait of the film is the movie I wanted to see but didn’t. Stranger still is the massive amount of positive press the film has received from other critics; Balderson is a salesman worthy of Dobbs himself.

If I met Balderson - without having any knowledge of his film - I’d likely get along with the guy like a house on fire. We’d have oodles of topics to geek out over together. After seeing Firecracker, however, this imagined meeting would consist of me squirming with unease, and Balderson wondering why I’ve got ants in my pants. No decent person I know enjoys telling a filmmaker face-to-face that their film sucked.

Firecracker tries to tell two intertwined stories.

The first involves a dysfunctional family: Mother Eleanor (Karen Black), eldest son David (Mike Patton, of Faith No More fame), younger son Jimmy (Jak Kendall) and a father whose name either wasn’t mentioned or I didn’t pick up on. The actor who plays him has a thankless role, as all he's required to do is be old and oblivious (sorta like the dad on Strangers with Candy but with slightly more movement). Eleanor meekly attempts to keep her boys from squabbling with a ho-hum, predictably Midwestern “the less said, maybe it’ll just go away” attitude. David is a world-class, violent asshole prick. Jimmy is a sensitive wannabe pianist. David doesn’t appreciate Jimmy...come to think of it neither did I, but more on that later.

The second story involves a traveling carnival and the freaks who inhabit it. The Enigma plays a key role, which comes across as pedantic as it reads. The show's main attraction is Sandra, a damaged singer (also played by Black). In charge of the weirdness is Frank, a nasty carnival barker (also played by Patton), who dresses like P.T. Barnum, but not on acid. So two of the four main characters are played by the same actors, which given the material isn’t intrinsically a terrible idea.

The storylines converge when both David & Jimmy develop very different obsessions with Sandra and the obsessions come to a head about 30 minutes into the picture. In all fairness I will not reveal precisely what happens.

There is a murder. There is an investigation. There is heartbreak. There is pain. There is betrayal. There is faith (no more?). None of these concepts are portrayed even remotely effectively as the picture languidly wants to hum along.

There are precisely three great performances in Firecracker...

1) Susan Traylor’s Ed, the cop investigating the murder. She is sexy without needing to be and true to the material without trying to be. If there’s any glue holding Firecracker together it’s Susan Traylor and she’s one of the few that darts between the two storylines. What’s unfortunate is the role requires her to show no emotion, thus giving the viewer no real hook. Ed is present only to investigate and in some ways is a narrator of sorts, but it isn’t a role a story like this can be built around (unlike Dale Cooper of Twin Peaks). Hope that Traylor gets plenty of work out of this. She’s an actress of whom we need to see more.

2) Mike Patton’s David. As atrociously horrendous as Patton’s performance as Frank is, he’s a godsend as David. Think Keanu Reeves in The Gift and you sorta get the idea.

3) Kathleen Wilhoite. You may not know her by name, but you’ve seen her in a dozen different things. Her screen time amounts to no more than five minutes, but she somehow grasps that the entire execution of Firecracker is laughable, and she’s inexplicably allowed to play it as such. Her big scene is with Traylor, so it perhaps goes without saying that it was the only scene that worked for me.

Indeed, the only possible redemption to be found in Firecracker is exemplified by Wilhoite’s performance. If the film is intended to be a black comedy, then maybe it’s brilliant. But the audience I saw it with viewed it as a serious drama, and I stifled guffaws on more than two handfuls of occasions so as not to potentially offend anyone around me.

The bad performances are countless - so countless that I will not count them. I will, however, single one out: Jak Kendall’s Jimmy. Jimmy should be the audience identification figure. He’s front and center for most of the film, and like Ed he’s one of the few that moves between the two storylines. But there’s absolutely nothing in his performance to make me give a toss about the kid. He seems doomed and I didn’t mind or care. I should’ve wanted the best for him as I did and do with Jeffrey Beaumont. He whines and pines and at one point an unspeakable act is committed against him and I didn't feel a drop of emotion.

Then there’s the matter of Karen Black. I LOVE old Karen Black movies...Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Day of the Locust, Nashville & Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean to name but a few. Unfortunately neither of her characters is incredible and neither is dire. Sadly I never once got past the fact that she was acting. She didn’t move me, and that’s precisely what both Eleanor and Sandra need to do in order to help this picture work.

David Lynch didn’t become “DAVID LYNCH” overnight. He did it over years of trying different things and applying varied techniques and both blossoming and failing as an artist. For every perfect Blue Velvet there’s a fractured Dune. For every triumph, there’s a misstep. One cannot ape Lynch’s canon via pressing "blend" and expect success. It simply doesn’t work that way. Nor can one hide behind the veil of “artistic integrity” and believe that whatever shit is flung at the wall will stick. As filmmakers, we need our iconic heroes for inspiration - but we do not need to be them.

There may be a great movie somewhere inside of Firecracker, but it wasn’t onscreen for me to see. I believe Steve Balderson could still have a great movie (or two or three) inside of him, but he needs to find his own voice. He needs to explore issues that matter to him, rather than rehash ideas that speak to him. His flair for the visual cannot be disputed, but it’s not enough to carry this concept.

It’s also possible that someone who’s never seen a David Lynch movie wouldn’t view it as I did and in fact may find it a work of originality and genius. Am I trying to tell people to avoid Firecracker? Not necessarily. If you are a wannabe filmmaker with grandiose, artsy aspirations, and you care to take my thoughts in context, this film could be invaluable. It’s a virtual “How-Not-To” of indie filmmaking; an exercise in excess that illustrates the great divide between a simplistic, flawed screenplay and an obnoxious, overwrought finished product.

Read my followup interview with Steve Balderson by clicking here!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Five Great Movies You May Not Have Seen…But Should

In the summertime, when the weather is hot
You can see a bunch of crap, or maybe not.

Have you become increasingly bored with what’s playing at your local cinema? Or maybe you’re dissatisfied with the New Release shelf at the video store? A Netflix subscription with an empty queue perhaps? With that in mind, here’s a subjective list of Five Great Movies You May Not Have Seen…But Should (in order of release, not greatness) – and they’re all available on DVD.

The Beguiled (1971) ‘71 was quite a year for Clint Eastwood. Play Misty for Me, his directorial debut, hit screens in November and a month later Harry Callaghan was unleashed for the first time. But that year also saw the release of one of the most unusual and lesser known flicks in Clint’s long career.

The Beguiled, set during the Civil War, introduces Corporal John McBurney (Eastwood), a wounded Union soldier who happens upon an all-girls school in the South headed by Martha Farnsworth (Geraldine Page). She decides rather than turn him over to Confederate forces, to take him in under the guise of recuperation.

One thing Farnsworth doesn’t count on is McBurney being as horny for female flesh as every woman & girl in the school is for the attentions of a man. It doesn’t take long for the recovering Corporal to make a series of escalating wrong moves and suddenly he’s not so coveted anymore. As despicable an anti-hero as Clint plays, you’ll eventually root for him over Page’s nasty bitch of a headmistress.

The Beguiled offers some truly bizarre, dream-like imagery and subtly intricate themes – including an incest angle – and its gobsmacking finale owes more to Edgar Allan Poe than Sergio Leone.

Fingers (1978) Of the films listed here, Fingers may be the only one that is not truly “great”, and yet this early performance by Harvey Keitel elevates it above and beyond the printed screenplay and solidified his ability to carry a film as a leading man.

He plays Jimmy Fingers, a man veering back and forth between two very different lives: an aspiring concert pianist and a thuggish collector of monies due for his ailing, faded mob boss father. Jimmy’s love of music emanates from respect for his deceased mother who also tickled the ivories; his mob ties, which he desperately desires to leave behind, exist only to honor his deluded father’s fantasy that he remains a force with which to be reckoned. Unfortunately for Jimmy, he makes a better Soprano than a Liberace.

Years before Reservoir Dogs, Bad Lieutenant and that other Piano movie, Keitel channeled themes and imagery from those future projects into Fingers. Great moments include a dual seduction/rape of a young Tanya Roberts, the pistol whipping of a pizzeria owner set to “Angel of the Morning”, and a proctology exam that manages yet another spin on the film’s title.

Speaking of The Sopranos, keep an eye out for a youngish Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) as well as Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior) as a piano mentor. By the way…a fun movie game called “Spot the Soprano” can be built around viewing mob flicks – just pick anything from The Godfather to the present.

Withnail & I (1987) Another movie game revolves around viewing this little gem. Dose on the poison of your choice every time a character onscreen imbibes. There’s a good chance you’ll pass out before the end credits roll. (This game is not recommended for first time viewers.)

Probably the most profound line ever written in regard to Withnail & I describes it as being "as deep as you want it to be or as shallow as you need it to be”. I don’t know who wrote that, but I cannot discuss the film without mentioning it.

Set in the final days of 1969, Withnail traces the antics of two out of work actors living in a filth-laden flat in London. To “escape all this hideousness”, they spend their time in booze and drug-addled hazes. With wits at an end, they head to the countryside for a weekend - never minding that they’re utterly ill equipped to deal with rural living. Aside from a surprise visit from Withnail’s Uncle Monty in the third act, those are the film’s major plot points.

In lieu of an actual plot, Withnail & I offers two stellar leads, the most infinitely quotable dialogue this side of The Big Lebowski, and a situation to which anyone who’s ever been in an insufferable friendship can relate. Richard E. Grant plays Withnail with a ferocious pomposity and Paul McGann breathes life into Marwood (the “I” of the title) as only the yin to Withnail’s yang could be played: quiet, reserved, thoughtful…and ready to explode in the possible moment where Withnail finally pushes him too far.

The film is simply one of the funniest, most perfect comedies ever made. In a time when Wedding Crashers is viewed by the masses as a comedic milestone, Withnail & I is a necessity. And it was executive produced by George Harrison…now go forward and “never attempt anything without the gloves”.

One True Thing (1998) Certainly Meryl Streep is one of the few actresses talented enough to play a woman dying of cancer and still manage to convince that she’s stronger in spirit and attitude than a healthy person could ever hope to be. Carl Franklin, a black man, directs One True Thing. Specific note of his race and sex was made only to illustrate that this may not be the chick flick it appears to be, or fare that can only be understood by the Middle Class white folk who inhabit the story. It isn’t even about a woman dying of cancer. What One True Thing is about, however, is the way we view the people closest to us, and how sometimes who we believe they are aren’t who they are at all.

Ellen Gulden (Renee Zellweger), a ruthless New York journalist, returns home for the holidays and learns her mother Kate (Streep) - whom she regards as a silly traditionalist – is dying. At the request of her writer/professor father George (William Hurt) – whom she blindly adores – Ellen begrudgingly agrees to stay and help care for Kate. George is too “busy” at the college and insists that Ellen put her burgeoning career on hold for the sake of the family. Over time, she learns her mother is not the naïve, vapid woman she’d always assumed, nor is her father the pillar of greatness that she’d always credited him.

Material that could fall under a “Movie of the Week” banner is elevated by an emotionally complex storyline and three incredible performances. Hurt delivers the unexpected, mostly because we’ve come to anticipate his deadpan delivery, but here it morphs into something fresh. Zellweger (post-Jerry Maguire, but pre-Bridget Jones) knocks it out of the ballpark as the film’s center, which is no mean feat when acting opposite a cancer-stricken Streep. And Meryl? Well, need her talents be sold to anyone?

Ravenous (1999) I’ve always wanted to meet the Fox exec who greenlit Ravenous - a period black comedy-horror-western about cannibalism, in which the main character, Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce), utters barely a word for the first 20 minutes. Something tells me this person no longer works at Fox…which is a shame, because Ravenous is the sort of risky fare studios fail to produce these days. Come to think of it, Ravenous was an anomaly back in ’99, too.

In the midst of the Mexican-American War, Boyd, having been branded a coward, is sent to Fort Spencer in the remote Sierra Nevadas, where quite literally nothing ever happens. That trend is bucked by the arrival of the mysterious Mr. Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle). Starving and near death, he tells a tale of survival involving Col. Ives – a member of his party who resorted to cannibalizing the rest of the expedition when the food ran out. Knowing much more about the film would spoil its manic twists and turns.

Ravenous is thematically a vampire movie in disguise, and its story echoes Louis and Lestat’s in Interview with the Vampire, only this is arguably a better film. One exceptional aspect is the collaborative score by composer Michael Nyman and indie pop maestro Damon Albarn (of Blur & Gorillaz fame - he even has a commentary track on the DVD!) It’s quirky yet majestic orchestral music that accentuates not only the western setting, but also the film’s wry sense of humor. The film is obviously not for all tastes, but if you’ve read this far and your interest is still piqued, it’s unlikely to disappoint.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Official: "Who" Two on Sci Fi


From Sci Fi Wire:

SCI FI Gets Who Season Two

SCI FI Channel and BBC Worldwide Americas announced a major licensing agreement for SCI FI to air the second season of the hit British SF series Doctor Who in the United States. The series will return to SCI FI on Sept. 29, kicking off with a two-hour premiere that will include "The Christmas Invasion" special in which David Tennant is introduced as the 10th Time Lord.

Billie Piper returns as the Doctor's feisty young companion, Rose Tyler, and together they will travel through time and space battling new and returning aliens and monsters.

Chris Regina, vice president of programming, SCI FI Channel, said in a statement: "Our audience has clearly embraced Doctor Who, and it has delivered a significant increase in viewers in the time period. We are looking forward to keeping the momentum going with David Tennant as the new Doctor."

Executive producer and lead writer Russell T Davies said in a separate statement: "We were delighted by the first season's success in the U.S. and can promise new thrills, new laughs, new heartbreak and some terrifying new aliens in season two."

Executive-produced by Davies and Julie Gardner, the second season of Doctor Who was the most popular program on Saturday nights when it aired on BBC One in the United Kingdom to critical acclaim.


The Sci Fi Schedulebot has changed slightly. The new schedule for Sept. 29th shows Doctor Who beginning at 8 PM (ET/PT) and running until 9:30. And then a second episode running from 9:30 to 10:30, with the same programming block repeated immediately thereafter. Unfortunately, titles are still not listed on the grid, however this looks to be a clear case of "The Christmas Invasion" being shown uncut - though likely heavy on commercial breaks - followed by "New Earth".

The BBC Doctor Who website also announced the start of filming for Season Three and posted the first gallery of images featuring 10th Doctor David Tennant's new costume and new companion Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jury Fury

Some weeks ago I was sent a summons by my government to serve for jury duty. I’d only ever been called once previous and that was in my early twenties at which time I was sent home with most everyone else who was there that day.

Wednesday was my day and I was eager to hopefully help some wrongfully accused unfortunate soul…or alternatively facilitate the nailing of some guilty bastard who’d retained the services of a sleazy defense attorney. Either way I wanted to do my part to aid our criminal justice system.

And I am not a morning person. I don’t even remember the last time I arose at 7 AM – although the times recent I’ve gone to bed at 7 (or even later) are countless. Many find a jury summons to be a huge pain in the ass of an inconvenience...and most of those people were down at the courthouse with me today. I was tired just like they were. My iced coffee hadn’t kicked in. No doubt I was missing the comfort of my bed and the warmth of my mate. But none of this made me want to wiggle out of throwing down my two cents. This was all part of my civic duty.

I didn’t talk to a single person today who wanted to be there, but I did listen to a bunch of people bitch about the entire process and devise and scheme and plot about how to “get out of it”. What a bunch of assholes. This one old woman said, “Eef they ayask me eef ah beleeve in the deth penulty, you kin be shore Ahm gonna tell ‘em ah shore do! Ah herd they keeled anuther one of ‘em layast weak!” She was practically slapped on the back in agreement by everyone around her. They all chuckled and chortled and it was quite the hootenanny.

I seethed. Now it’s not a matter of whether or not I believe in the death penalty…it’s a matter of old grammy rousing the masses into ignorance and carelessness. People listen to grammies because "they know best”. The whole “listen to your elders” thing is still pretty big down here. But these were potential jurors and they weren’t interested in justice or listening: If they were going to be forced into this, they were gonna be out for blood.

It’s so easy to forget I live in Texas due to the circles in which I travel. In a situation like this, one is reminded like a lightning bolt to the head. I made it a point not to discuss my politics with any of them, although in hindsight I wish I’d unloaded on that yapping bitch. She might’ve had a coronary. See? I can be out for blood, too.

This is what I get for being a smoker. Yes, dear reader...all of this occurred in the county provided smoking room.

This is what baffled me most. These people had been graciously provided a smoking room with cable TV – an extravagance to be sure. I was amazed that such an area even existed in this day and age. I thought for sure I’d have to go outside into the courtyard, but no…instead I get to hang out with Ma and Pa Kitler and watch The Price is Right. And all they did was bitch and moan. Smokers are supposed to be the cool people, the laid back ones…but now I know better and may even have been provided the impetus to quit. They’re just a bunch of redneck yokels, dissatisfied with the fact they’ve been given an air-conditioned area (think South Texas in August!) in which to huff and puff, watch Bob Barker and "suffer" through endless Wilford Brimley commercials. Maybe it was seeing people win all those cool prizes that sent them over the edge? I do not know and never will.

What I do know is that after several groups of 32 had been chosen, the clerk came out before lunch and made an announcement: “We’re sending 50 of you home.” Half the room automatically reached for their plastic juror buttons. I was confident that I would not be one of them...just as I hadn’t been on any of the previous lists of 32. I kicked back and relaxed. I was important to this process and I could do some good for Bexar [pronounced "bear" for the uninitiated] county. I cared and wanted to be there for my fellow citizens.

Guess who was one of the nifty 50? Yup. You have no idea how pissed I was. I didn’t want to go home. I’d have happily sat there ‘til 5 o’clock, waiting to be placed into a group of 32 just to find out if I was the right person for the job. And please understand that I had no intention of hoodwinking my way onto a jury. Had I been given the opportunity to be questioned and had I realized I’d be biased toward a case, I’d have said so and gone on my merry way, knowing that I’d taken it as far as was fairly possible.

As I walked away from the line to get my certification notice, guess who I spied still sitting there, still waiting to be selected, still part of the Not-50? Not only Old Ma Himmler, but also every single person from that smoking room. One of the smokers smiled at me as I exited and his dentures practically fell out of his craw as it gaped in my direction. This extra from Deliverance smiled because he thought I was lucky.

And all I could think about was the unlucky wrongfully accused unfortunate soul who might have this man 1/12th in charge of his or her fate.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pleasure & Pain (Part Two)

(Read Part One of this piece by clicking here.)

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) reared its bloated head a year after the first installment, and it is a direct sequel featuring three of the four members of the Cotton clan. It’s a mildly worthy, even if often misguided continuation of the story. As claustrophobic as the first movie is, Hellbound attempts the opposite by opening the story up with bigger effects and a larger playing field, all in the dimension of the Cenobites - a world that seems to indicate M.C. Escher is behind all of this madness. (Think Jim Henson’s Labyrinth for easily amused adults.)

Hellbound’s opening scenario echoes Frank’s first encounter with the Cenobites, only this time the man attempting to solve the puzzle is Elliott Spenser, a Captain in the British Army circa World War I. We do not know his reasons for doing so or even how he came to be in possession of the box. Upon its opening, tiny knives spring forth and slice a grid across his head, followed by tentacles hammering nails into the symmetrical pattern: The genesis of Pinhead. (More on the big guy later…)

The film’s most stimulating character is Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham of Rome), a psychiatrist obsessed with the Lament Configuration and the Cenobites. His interest is fueled by intellectual fascination and curiosity, as opposed to Frank’s pleasure seeking agenda from the first movie. One of his great lines - uttered after a hellish transformation to both his body and mind - “And to think, I hesitated”.

Frank himself returns in a scene that’s another Hellbound highlight: He’s reduced to spending eternity in a room full of beds on top of which lay naked, writhing female bodies covered in white sheets – only when the sheets are removed, the bodies disappear. When Kirsty begs him to reveal the whereabouts of her father, he offers up the classic “When you’re dead, you’re fuckin’ dead!” - which could be more of a key to understanding this world than the flippancy with which its delivered allows it to reveal.

Speaking of Kirsty’s father, Larry Cotton was to figure prominently in the film. Late in the game Andrew Robinson chose not to reprise the role, which led to some hasty rewrites. I’ve been unable to find precise details of “what might have been”, although one tidbit I found didn’t lead me to believe the film would have been much better if he had featured in the story. The movie eventually falls into a mish-mash of silly chases and popcorn science fiction and in the end fails to make much sense out of a series of promising setups. But even with its problems, nobody can ever accuse it of being boring, which leads me to...

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), a movie that’s nothing if not a snoozefest. Its central premise is the idea that Pinhead wants to escape his world and exist on Earth. After seeing his world in Hellbound, I cannot grasp why he’d want to do this – Earth is pretty tedious in comparison. Maybe the grass is always greener, even when you’re a supernatural being. The film’s utter cheeseitude can pretty much be summed up by a new Cenobite with compact discs lodged in his head - an image that confirmed major Hellraiser Shark-Jumpage. There isn’t much more to say about it, except that if you’re a Star Trek fan, Terry Farrell (DS9’s Dax) plays the central heroine (although if you're a Trek fan you probably already know this).

The fourth movie, Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), may have been good or even great at one point; one section of the film details the invention of the Lament Configuration and is set in the 18th Century, with some nice period costumes and so forth. But Miramax/Dimension interfered by reediting and butchering it over concerns that Pinhead didn’t appear until about 40 minutes into the picture. It ended up with an infamous “Directed by Alan Smithee” credit after director Kevin Yagher asked that his name be removed. I’ve always hoped for a Director’s Cut, but over the years it’s seeming less and less likely.

The new millennium saw Hellraiser go direct to video and since the year 2000 there’ve been four more installments. This is a moderately peculiar development as it’s an affliction that hasn’t struck the Freddy, Jason or Michael Myers franchises, no matter how far they’ve fallen.

Are these flicks any good? I must admit I’ve only seen the first two: Inferno (2000) & Hellseeker (2002). The former is like watching Bad Lieutenant on good acid and stars Craig Sheffer. The latter resembles an Elm Street flick in that it’s a blurred “what’s real and what’s not?” type of affair. It’s most noteworthy for featuring the return of Kirsty Cotton, again played by the lovely Ashley Laurence, and the film deserves props for bringing her back in an unexpected fashion that didn't degrade the series or Kirsty as a character.
Neither movie is great and both are needlessly obtuse, but ultimately they’re a few steps up from the schlockfests into which the theatrical films eventually devolved. They at least attempt to go for the gold, even if they can’t see the rainbow through the clouds.

The series, at least for now, is better off on video rather than the big screen where it could suffer far more evil (i.e. commercialized) fates. These low-budget Hellraiser flicks can afford experimentation and risk-taking even if they don’t always pay off. The original remains not only the best, but also the lowest-budgeted film in the entire saga – it was made for only $1,000,000. $20 mill isn’t necessary to tell a good story in the Cenobite universe; a smart script and a twisted imagination will go farther than piles of cash.

What somebody really needs to do is go back to the beginning, dissect the themes that made the first film work so well, and come up with a fresh spin on the material. As iconic as Pinhead is, Frank Cotton is still Hellraiser’s most intriguing character and I’d like to see Frank again in some form or fashion.

And what of our main man…he of all things hammered home? Is Pinhead necessary to Hellraiser or is there room for stories without him? That’s a toughie. He is not integral to the Hellraiser universe in the same way Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers are to theirs. He’s not the only Cenobite - just the most well spoken and best dressed (which actually counts for quite a bit). I’d rather see a good Hellraiser movie without Pinhead than a bad installment that featured him running all over the place.

On the other hand, Pinhead hasn’t suffered the undignified fates of many movie monsters. He’s always possessed immense intelligence and fortunately hasn’t been totally reduced to a wisecracking demonic entity, although there have been occasional derailments (Hell on Earth being the biggest transgressor). There's life [and death] in the old boy yet.

Both Inferno and Hellseeker seem to understand that the less we see of Pinhead, the more effective he is as a boogeyman, which hails back to Barker’s original vision. Go back and check out the credits of the first movie; Doug Bradley doesn’t play Pinhead – he plays “Lead Cenobite”. And Mrs. Voorhees was the killer in Friday the 13th, Freddy mostly lurked in dreamlike shadows in the first Elm Street, and don’t even get me started on Halloween’s Michael Myers, who really just needs to fucking die already.

Like most fans, I live with a hope that someday a Hellraiser flick is created that lives up to the inspired beauty of Barker's original vision. Unlike the other franchises mentioned here, Hellraiser rarely repeats itself nor has it been forced to fall back on hip gimmickry (New Nightmare anyone?) as a means of reinvention. My hope is likely rooted in one of "Lead Cenobite's" most infamous bits of dialogue:

We have such sights to show you!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pleasure & Pain (Part One)

It’s been my experience that people either really like Hellraiser or they find the entire concept to be just this side of ridiculous.

Which is fine - it is a fantastic premise and one that pretty much discounts most spiritual and secular beliefs in lieu of creating its own explanations for the realms outside of human experience. It may be easier to view the Hellraiser concept as elaborate fantasy rather than to think of it as horror. No other series of films can prepare a viewer for Hellraiser because there isn’t another series anything like it…although I suspect writer/director Clive Barker used A Nightmare on Elm Street in his pitch.

Of the four films that played theatrically - Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II, Hellraiser III: I Fling the CD Electric & Hellraiser: Muppets in Space - really only the first two merit serious attention.

The original remains the gold standard and in one sense it does rely on the tried and true: The most horrific concepts are often the most intimately staged. The bulk of Hellraiser takes place within the confines of an old house and revolves around four members of the Cotton family:

1. Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman, and later in the movie Oliver Smith), a hedonistic pleasure seeker with no conscience and even fewer morals.
2. Larry (Andrew Robinson, Dirty Harry’s Scorpio Killer), Frank’s square of an older brother.
3. Julia (Clare Higgins), Larry’s ice-cold wife and Frank’s ex-lover.
4. Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), the college-age daughter of Larry, niece of Frank and stepdaughter of Julia, who inadvertently gets caught up in and nearly pays for the sins of the adults – although the concept of sin in the world of Hellraiser is a dubious prospect at best.

When Frank Cotton discovers the puzzle box (or the Lament Configuration, as it later came to be known), he believes it to be the key to ultimate pleasure. Upon solving it, he discovers it’s more of a key to dimensions outside the earthly realm: Areas inhabited by beings known as Cenobites. Cenobites, in the words of their leader Pinhead (Doug Bradley), are “Explorers in the further regions of experience. Demons to some. Angels to others”. They subject Frank to all manner of gruesomeness, resulting in his eventual death…or so it would seem.

Some time later, Larry and Julia move into the house he owns with brother Frank – the same house in which Frank solved the puzzle and died in. A minor accident leads to Larry spilling some blood in the attic – blood that Frank absorbs and uses to somehow bring himself back from the dead, although it’s unclear exactly how this works. Was Frank ever really dead or was he existing in a dimension between life and death? Frank’s words “I escaped them [the Cenobites]!” give little explanation. In writer/director Clive Barker’s imagination, it seems the point of the goings-on is the exploration of the unknown and answers aren’t always given. Again, in order to accept this world you must play by its frequently bizarre and inconsistent rules.

It doesn’t take long for Frank to reintroduce Julia to his sadomasochism, and in order to become fully human again (at least in appearance) he needs the blood - and eventually the skin - of more people. She begrudgingly agrees to pick up strangers on the street and lure them back to the attic with promises of sex. Needless to say the promises aren’t kept and the men end up fueling the rebirth of Frank Cotton, an act which may have fatal consequences for Larry, Kirsty and even Julia herself.

It's interesting to note that the differences between the film and Barker's novella on which it's based, The Hellbound Heart, are fairly minor. Probably the most noteworthy is that Kirsty is not Larry Cotton's daughter, but rather a female friend who's carried the torch for him for many years. The text is also able to more clearly explore the pleasure/pain angle through detailed descriptions of Frank's experiences with the Cenobites. If the film wasn't such a spot-on adaptation in other respects, it might be an ideal candidate for remaking at some point in the future.

The film is squarely rooted in the human concept of the blurred lines between pleasure and pain - something that's perhaps also symbolized through the family - but with each sequel the series got further and further away from the idea. This is noteworthy, as I don’t believe the first movie said all there was to be said on what’s Frankly - sorry…couldn’t resist - a fascinating idea.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

The first words I recall reading about V for Vendetta were on Ain’t It Cool News, after one of its first public screenings at last year’s Harry Knowles-hosted ButtNumbAThon in Austin, TX: “A movie with the power to change the world!” If that were the case, there likely would’ve been rioting in the streets by now. And yet after seeing it twice (once at the theatre and again last night on DVD), it’s clear how a certain type of idealist would be moved to choose such words after viewing the piece.

Before going any further, let’s address the divide between the graphic novel and movie: they are different pieces and some who’ve been attached to the literary version (and undoubtedly only a handful of those have yet to see the film) didn’t or aren't going to like the movie incarnation and may even consider it an abomination. This is a valid viewpoint - but please don’t try to spoil it for the rest of us, or else I fear certain views central to both versions have been missed. Regardless of your feelings of book vs. movie, you should urge people to see this film so they can decide for themselves. (The flipside, of course, being that those who see and appreciate the film should perhaps look into the graphic novel as well.)

It’s also a valid viewpoint that no work of art based on a previous piece of art must ape its inspiration word for word, image for image or thought for thought. If it were necessary to do so, then the film version of The Wizard Of Oz is logically a travesty of incalculable proportions.

V: Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea Mr. Creedy…and ideas are bulletproof.

The movie version of V for Vendetta is a thing to be adored and admired. It’s not perfect mind you, but it’s a passionate work, brimming with thoughts and ideas. Some of its thoughts are silly and many of its ideas are ludicrous…yet it’s a comic book movie, and in that sense it remains true to its origins. It’s as subversive a piece of popcorn entertainment as anything I’ve seen in ages, and that alone makes it more important than a dozen Fahrenheit 9/11’s strung together.

V for Vendetta is less the story of the terrorist/freedom fighter V (Hugo Weaving) and his protégé Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman) and more the tale of a world gone mad. The central characters are less identifiable to the viewer than the postulated “New British Order” the film puts forth. Undeniably a Bush-era parable, it’s some scary crap what with John Hurt cast (nice touch there for 1984 fans[1]) as the Dubya-esque figure and all. No less than the original graphic novel’s writer Alan Moore heavily criticized this aspect of the movie, although I’d argue back that one aspect of V that never should have been changed is its inherent Britishness. To move the story across the pond might have been to admit filmmakers' defeat; keeping it in the UK whilst at the same time altering the political emphasis is something of a triumph. That we can clearly see Bush in John Hurt’s Chancellor Sutler is one of the film’s greatest achievements - or perhaps it just shows that one megalomaniacal politician looks the same as the next.

Evey Hammond: My father was a writer. You would've liked him. He used to say that artists use lies to tell the truth while politicians use them to cover it up.

Timelessness is the benchmark for judging the greatness of art and it remains to be seen whether or not V is a movie for the ages or merely a piece of present pop hysteria. The fact that a movie like this can even exist somewhat supports the latter over the former. Timeliness, however, may have been key to the many changes made to the film from its 25-year old source material. The original novel was steeped in anarchy and shades of gray. I’m not even sure anarchy is much of a solution to anything anymore (was it ever?) and the film leaves little doubt as to whether or not V was/is in the right in his actions.

Do we not currently exist in a world that’s become more black and white than ever before? In the words of our esteemed leader, “You’re either with us or you’re against us.” Everyone seems to know what a terrorist is these days: They’re brown people who keep copies of the Koran within arms reach at all times, right? Where V excels is in providing us with an avenue in which to question what defines a terrorist. It’s nearly impossible to not root for V. We want his plans to succeed and it’s only because he’s shown to us as one who's overcome great hurdles and loss of self-esteem that makes him someone to root for. How do we know that V’s skin isn’t/wasn’t brown underneath the Guy Fawkes mask? We don’t, and the color of V’s skin is less important than the ideas for which he fights.

V: People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

I took great issue with the above dialogue upon first seeing the film. I don’t think people and their governments should be afraid of each other; I believe they should respect one another. But that was six months ago and I realize now that I was imposing my brand of idealism on V for Vendetta. If we’re going to talk in black and white terms, I’m forced to agree with V on this one. And certainly I don’t currently see a government that’s particularly frightened of or even bothered with caring what its people think. If V was able to get me to think about such aspects of the world around me, he has succeeded in jumping out of the film and into my mind. Maybe those first words I read on Ain’t It Cool weren’t so hastily chosen after all? And I just gotta wonder what Oliver Stone thought of the movie?

A powerful aspect of the novel the film retains is a subplot concerning a woman who’s captured, experimented upon, tortured and eventually killed – all for being a lesbian. It’s this section that moved me to tears on both viewings. An aspect that was invented for the movie involves Stephen Fry’s closeted homosexual character Gordon and his fate echoes the above lesbian subplot – only it occurs prior to it in the movie and in some ways lessens the more powerful of the two stories. That Gordon is played by Fry, an openly gay actor, also somewhat lessens the particular plot development. This is brought up only to illustrate an area where the film fails since I’ve gone on and on about the areas where it succeeds. (It should also be noted I'm a big Stephen Fry fan.)

But for all its failures and/or successes, V for Vendetta is an important movie although I highly doubt it will change the world. Now that it’s out on DVD, it’s going to be viewed by unsuspecting folk who never gave it the time of day during its theatrical release. These people are going to talk with you about V for Vendetta and it’ll soon be coming to a party conversation near you. If there’s one DVD you need to rent and/or buy this weekend, it’s V for Vendetta. You should have an opinion on the film and be able to discuss it with a fair amount of intelligence, even if I’ve failed to do so here at the Morgue.

I’m looking forward to seeing how many Guy Fawkes masks inhabit the streets and parties of America this Halloween. And I’m looking even more forward to seeing what - if anything - goes down a few days later this November 5th (there’s a lotta zany folk out there).

And by all means, don’t ever let me catch you saying, “It’s not as good as the book” or I’ll go all V on your ass.

Evey Hammond: Does it have a happy ending?

V: As only celluloid can deliver.

[1] Interesting coincidence - this was Entry # 84 here at The Rued Morgue[2].

[2] V: There are no coincidences, Delia... only the illusion of coincidence.

To anyone considering reading the "Comments" section of this entry: It delves deep into Spoiler territory. You were warned!

Five Discussions for the Day

(Vaguely stealing an idea from The House Next Door.)

1. Heath Ledger as the Joker in the next Batman film. Discuss.

2. Andy Garcia is to film as Ted McGinley is to TV (ala Jump the Shark. com). Discuss.

3. Larry Hagman will be major guest star on Season Four of Nip/Tuck. Discuss.

4. Rumor has it that Sci Fi will play Doctor Who Season Two and Battlestar Galactica Season Three back-to-back beginning this October. Discuss.

5. Parker Posey would be great in the sack. Discuss.

(Real Morgue article forthcoming...)