Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Friday, December 28, 2007

Dewey Cox Rocks!

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Chris Parnell, Matt Besser, David Krumholz, Raymond J. Barry, and Kristen Wiig
Director: Jake Kasdan
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

"Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" is a broad spoof of rock star biopics that chronicles the career and life, times and personal struggles of legendary singer/songwriter/guitarist Dewey Cox, from his humble beginnings in Arkansas and the tragedy that set him on his path to stardom; his tough early years with his first wife; his rise to superstardom and how Elvis once was his opening act; his struggle with drug addiction (and how he once dropped acid with the Beatles in India); and how late in life he discovered the joy of family and bonded with the 35 or so children he'd fathered during his six decades in the music business, and ended his career back at the top of fame.


As is fitting for a send-up of films like "Walk the Line", "Ray", and "The Doors", the comedic heart of this movie is the wonderful songs. Just as the film paradies moves, so does the music poke fun at popular music throughout the second half of the 20th century. The songs are so well done that if you're not paying attention, you might think they're real hits from the time period they supposedly date from. Particularly funny is a double-entendre laden 1950s-style rock duet titled "Let's Duet", a 1960s protest song expressing solidarity with midgets titled "Let Me Hold You (Little Man)--a song that had me laughing so hard I missed several of the jokes that followed--and a send-up of Bob Dylan's rambling free-form songs.

Aside from a great line-up of funny songs, "Walk Hard" boasts some very funny performances from the entire cast, but star John C. Reilly (who sings and acts his heart out in every scene of the movie) and Tim Meadows (who plays his long-time drummer and friend who gets Dewey hooked on every conceivable drug) stand out in particular. Jack Black and Paul Rudd also has a very funny cameos as Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

The excellent performances grow from a well-done script that offers up humor ranging from screamingly obvious to so subtle you might miss it if you're not paying attention. The story arc of Dewey first coming unglued and then coming to terms with the fact he cut his brother in half with a machete runs through nearly the entire film, but it rears its head in several almost invisible ways, but if you spot them, you discover that this seemingly very simple, somewhat goofy spoof has some very intelligent aspects to it.

If you have a sense of humor and if you enjoyed movies like "Wake the Line" and "The Doors", you'll get a charge out of "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story". You'll like it twice as much if you enjoyed "This is Spinal Tap".



Friday, November 30, 2007

The Mysterious 'Ninja Death' Trilogy

"Ninja Death" is a film as mysterious as the ninja themselves.

Although I've done the same level of research that CNN does when vetting submitted questions for a Republican YouTube debate, I've been unable to discover much information about "Ninja Death". I've been able to identify a very small number of the actors in the film, I have no idea who directed it, originally produced it, or if it was even ever finished and released in its original homeland of China (or maybe Taiwan).


What I do know is that the "Ninja Death" trilogy was originally a REALLY long movie that was broken into three parts. Although a credit sequence was filmed--with ninja and each principal actor doing a couple of martial arts tricks and poses, no credits are listed on screen. The English dubbing seems to have run into financial difficulties, as the voice actors change a couple of different times throughout the movies--most noticably in "Ninja Death I" when the American/Australian voice actors are suddenly replaced by a bunch of British actors who all sound like they just got back from the Gay Pride Parade--so the lack of credits might be a result of the film being abandoned in the middle of the localization/export process.

Another theory I have is that the film wasn't even finished and released in its country of origin. It could be that the bloated running time of a little over four hours is where the film stood after its first cut by the now-anonymous director and editor... and that further editing would have taken place, but they never got to it. (There's an entire subplot with a farmer and his daugther that probably would have been cut if another editing pass has been done on the film when it was to be a single work.)

Whatever the case, "Ninja Death" was a production in trouble and it ran out of money at least once, perhaps even twice, and no one bothered to spend any money to completely finish it. Abandoned, and chopped into a "trilogy" it's now available in budget collections like the "Martial Arts 50 Movie Pack" (which is where I came by it/them). If anyone out there knows more about the history of the "Ninja Death" film/films, I'd love to hear from you. In the meantime, here's my take on the three movies.

But first... important facts learned in "Ninja Death": Ninjas vote Republican, and nothing says romance like somnambu-rape.

(By the way, the films has a very catchy main theme. As I'm typing these words, I'm finding myself whistling it. Of course, the movie also strangely uses random James Bond themes and possibly music from other sources I'm not familiar with, so it could be that the "Ninja Death Theme" I'm humming is also originally from somewhere else.)



Ninja Death I (1979? 1983? 1999?)
Starring: Lo Yiu, Luk Yee Fung, and Alexander Lou (based on web research; no names on film)
Director: None credited
Steve's Rating: Six of Ten Stars

The happy-go-lucky bouncer at a small-town Chinese brothel, Tiger (Lou), finds his life turned upside-down when secrets known only to his Kung Fu master (Fong) bring the Master and his hoard of fanatical, bloodthirsty ninja to town. As the ninjas are butchering beggars and prostitutes left and right, Tiger struggles to unlock his own mighty Ninja Power that lurks within his breast. But will he manage to do so in time, or will Ninja Death II" feature an all-new cast?

"Ninja Death I" is an example of what happens when a film project runs out of money and is abandoned. Not only do the voice actors change completely halfway through (suddenly, everyone in the film developes British accents, and the voice actor portraying Tiger goes from American and moderately talented to British and totally talent free), but no one even bothered placing English language credits over the extensive opening sequence or even to add a "To Be Continued" over the spinning Bad Guy at the abrupt end of the film. (And there's no doubt the film was made to have credits, becauze each major character gets to do goofy ninja stuff against a red background and then pose at the point the actor's name and the character he or she portrays should appear).

Speaking of Goofy Ninja Stuff... this film has it in spades! This is the kind of movie I was hoping to come across when I decared November Ninja Month. The film features an Evil Ninja Cult Leader (the "Grand Master") who has come to town with his band of black-clad ninjas, a red-clad, masked madman who is unleashed by the playing of a flute, and a band of prostitutes who are going to help him in his quest... which is to find a man with a plum flower tattooed on his chest. (And what better way to get a look at beefcake than to have an abundance of Japanese prostitutes on hand?)

And the ninjas are exactly the kind of ninjas you'd expect. They are creeping around in the forest and attacking people. They are running with tiny steps and in single file while holding their swords at awkward angles. They are killing Japanese lords while they are having sex. They are wiping out entire households. They are scamperring up ropes while barely hanging onto them. They are leaping into treetops from a standing start. They are performing acrobat tumbles for absolutely no reason. They are hiding deep, dark secrets. They are infiltrating the citizenry and each other's ranks, just because they can. They are killing beggars and whores just because they can. AND they are appearing and dissapearing under the cover of smoke boms! Ah, joy... Goofy Ninja Stuff in abundance!

In addition to the Goofy Ninja Stuff, this film has lots of silly and extreme martial arts training techniques and nonsensical "wisdom" from the martial arts master, not to mention lots of really badly translated dialogue that is made even funnier by the questionable talent of the voice actors.

On the downside, "Ninja Death I" is unnecessarily crude at times. I'm by no means a prude, but the unmotivated sex scenes and sexually charged behavior and language from some characters was more irritating than entertaining. (The extended sex scene during the explanation of "what is a ninja" was particularly obnoxious and dull. If you're going to put crap in your movie in search of an R or X rating, at least make it entertaining.)

"Ninja Death I" is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. It's not even that good a movie, but there are some nifty martial arts fight scenes and much silly Ninja Stuff! (Plus, this is the film that proves the statement "Ninjas Vote Republican". Why else would they kill all the beggars and Chinese prostitutes in the town?)



Ninja Death II (1979? 1983? 1999?)
Starring: Alexander Lou and Fei Meng (I think; no credits on film)
Director: Someone whose name was left off the credits
Steve's Rating: Three of Ten Stars

A young martial artist-in-training named Tiger (Lou) is being stalked by Evil Ninja. After his master and adopted father is defeated by Ninjas, almost killed, and then commits suicide by punching himself in the head for God-only-knows-what-reason as he hadn't finished telling telling everything he needed to know about his past, the deadly Masked Ninja, and why the Grand Master's Evil Ninja Cult that's out to kill him, Tiger continues to study the Art of the Ninja under new masters, including a pair of double-agents among the Grand Master's own ranks. But will he survive when he chooses to confront the Grand Master before his training is complete?

"Ninja Death II" is the middle part of a looong Chinese martial arts film that was divided into three seperate movies for export, and it feels like the middle of a long movie. Very little actually happens in the "film" and about 20 minutes are actually repeated footage from "Ninja Death I". (Oddly, these flashbacks don't do a whole lot to explain who the various players in the movie's plot are, so they're included more for padding than to catch up those who haven't seen the first installment in this trilogy.)

"Ninja Death II" also repeats the credit-less opening and closing sequences that were featured on the first film, but the voice actors (which suddenly became British halfway through "Ninja Death I") are back to being American. As a result, our hero, Tiger, is back to sounding like a doofus instead of a Gay Pride icon.

In this installment of the series, we are treated to boring, overlong sequences with Tiger trying to master the fighting style of Ninjas (which, in this film's conception is the "royal style" of Japan's nobility), we learn a few secrets about Tiger's history, and we have Tiger rape yet another girl while sleeping. (His first somnambu-rape was of a ninja call-girl in "Ninja Death I". Here, he forces himself upon an innocent peasant girl while dreaming about his first victim. And, just like the ninja call-girl, the peasant woman seems to fall in love with Tiger after being raped. Those wacky Chinese....) The only interesting plot developments occur when the Grand Master--who's the only Oriental villain with worse fashion sense than Fu Manchu--discovers the traitors in his ranks and sends his Ninja after them, and the Masked Ninja escapes and ends up on a fatal collision course with Tiger, who, unbeknownst to him, is the son of the Masked Ninja.

As for the fight scenes and Ninja Death Action that made "Ninja Death I" entertaining, we don't even get much of that here. With the exception of a fight where the Grand Master shows that he has big balls (in both senses of that), everything else in "Ninja Death II" is subplot material, filler material, and tasteless somnambu-rape scenes.

Speaking of rape.... For some reason, the filmmakers used James Bond theme music in both scenes involved forced sexual encounters. The first scene was in a Japanese household where the theme from "You Only Live Twice" is heard as a drunkard rapes the adopted mother of three boys as they watch. Then, we hear the theme from "Man With the Golden Gun" as Tiger rapes the peasant girl. And it's not downbeat or suspense-oriented versions of the tunes either... it's quiet, romantic renditions. Nothing says romance like somnambu-rape!)



Ninja Death III (1979? 1983? 1999?)
Starring: Alexander Lou, Fei Meng, and a buch of other actors whose names aren't on the credits
Director: Someone whose name was left off the credits
Steve's Rating: Four of Ten Stars

In the third installment of this epic tale of revenge, Tiger (Lou) discovers he's the son of the Japanese emporer's sister, completes his training in the martial arts style of the Imperial Japanese (and some other obscure fighting style that comes from who-knows-where), and joins his allies-- a blind Kung Fu master, three monks who live in barrels, a samurai, and a brother/sister pair of ninja--in a final battle to the death against the evil Grand Master and his cult of murderous Evil Ninja.

"Ninja Death III" is all about Kung Fu fighter and ninja killing. There's some plot here--including the soap operatic elements of Tiger and his mother being reunited--but it's so nonsensical and badly motivated that you're better off pretending it doesn't exist. The confusing isn't help any by the fact the characters are speaking lines so badly translated into English that in some places it's hard to grasp their meaning. (If you watch this film and can figure out why the Blind Master and Sakura, Tiger's Ninja Squeeze, decide to play a game of cross and double-cross with the Grand Master, drop me a line. It makes absolutely no sense to me.)

Although a step up from "Ninja Death II"--and it starts promisingly with a brief and useful recap of the previous films--this closing chapter dissapoints more than it entertains, despte the good fight scenes (where many of the bizarre excersizes Tiger's ninja trainer back in the first film subjected him to come in handy). The biggest dissapointment is the Masked Ninja. He is unleashed yet again, but we get very little payoff action- or storywise for all the buildup.

"Ninja Death III" is as full of goofiness as the first two chapters in the series, but I am hard-pressed to describe it as "good", or even recommend it for a Bad Movie Night; it's a little too stupid and some parts feel padded. (The best thing I can say about the film is that Tiger gets through it without raping a single girl in his sleep.)

I wonder, though, if this film couldn't be salvaged with better dubbing/translation and extensive editing. The creditless credit sequences seem to show that this film was abandoned while in process (at least as far as the exporting of it went), and I wonder if there is a single 95-minute good movie lurking within the 260-minute running time of the current the three installments.



Not all Germans fear Scientology cooties

A German associaton has honored Tom Cruise with an award. Perhaps it's just the elected officials in Germany who live in mortal terror of catching cooties because of weird cultist stars in a movie, being film in Germany, about a German Army officer whom they like to hold up as proof that they weren't all Nazis during WW2.

(I remain mostly unimpressed with Cruise (which may be why no one ever invites me to be on awards committees). And what is so brave about "Lions for Lambs" and "Valkyrie" while I'm on the subject?)

From IMDB.com...

Actor Tom Cruise will be honored for his "willingness to take risks in his movies" at an awards ceremony in Germany. The "Magnolia" star will be awarded the courage prize for pursuing "brave projects" at the 59th annual Bambi Awards in Dusseldorf on Thursday night.

The prize committee say Cruise has pursued brave projects that otherwise would not have been made, including his under-fire movie Valkyrie. Last month, Cruise was banned from shooting the movie - about a colonel who led an unsuccessful plot to assassinate Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler - in Bendlerblock in Berlin. The decision was later overturned.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Whatever your travel woes this holiday weekend, they can't be as bad as the ones depicted in this great Thanksgiving comedy.


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Starring: Steve Martin and John Candy
Director: John Hughes
Steve's Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

Neal Page (Martin), an over-acheiving, workaholic business man wants nothing more than to get back to his Chicago suburb home and celebrate Thanksgiving with his wife and three kids. Fate, and an unwanted, would-be helpful but constant screw-up Del (Candy) seems to conspire against Page at every turn, thwarting this simple desire and throwing Neal into the most stressful three days of travel of his life.

"Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" is perhaps the best film ever made by John Hughes. It's got a lightning-paced, hilarious script with some unexpected turns, a touching and family-values reaffirming ending (even if I also find it to be a very sad ending), and the diverse comedic talents of stars Martin and Candy are shining brighter here than in perhaps any other film they are featured in. (The movie, more than any other, shows what a loss Candy's premature death was to the world.)

This is a great holiday picture, and I'm sure it's going to stand the test of time as a comedy classic.



Saturday, October 27, 2007

How long before US politicos copy this idea?

An Italian government committee has proposed a law that would stop Italians from doing what I'm doing right now--reporting a bit of news to you, with commentary.

Sir Elton John would love that. So would the likes of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Clinton, John Edwards, and Joe Biden. The fascists, socialists, and modern-day Nazis in any number of Middle Eastern and Asian countries would love to see their lead followed as well.

Many high-ranking US politicians have been working very hard over the past two years to silence anyone of whom they do not approve or control. I wonder how long it will before we see laws over here that will make non-State Approved websites and posts illegal? After all, there seems to be a growing contempt for the First Amendment among the Ruling Class here in the United States.

Read about how it isn't just in China they're trying to silence critical voices on the web. (Before the Italian government makes sure you can't.)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Interpol's most wanted pedophile arrested!

We can ALMOST declare victory for the good guys! Now, the crowd counterparts to those in America that were all up-in-arms over their pedophile buddies being busted on "To Catch A Predator" will be swinging into action and attempt to make excuses and justifications for Neil.

Justice will havce been served when he's dead or in prison for a very, very long time.

At least, we can feel confident this monster has been caught, and he's not raping any more little boys. (And, maybe, we can start hoping that he's seeing a little action of the rape kind directed at himself in a Thai prison.)

From the NYT, the good word of a child-rapist apprehended.

[quote]
Thai Police Arrest Pedophile Suspect

By SETH MYDANS AND IAN AUSTEN

BANGKOK, Oct. 19 — At first, on the Internet, he was just a swirly face, something akin to a large multicolored lollipop that a man might give to a little boy.

Today, a blue shirt draped over his head, he was arrested and charged as a pedophile by the Thai police after computer experts unswirled the digitally altered face in a virtuoso act of electronic decoding.

The suspect, Christopher Paul Neil, 32, was caught after Interpol issued an unusual international appeal based on some 200 Internet pictures that showed the faceless man sexually abusing boys in Vietnam and Cambodia. Interpol said the man had abused a dozen boys in those countries, some as young as 6.

The Thai police said they had employed some high-tech unscrambling of their own, tracing Mr. Neil to a location outside Bangkok through the cellphone calls of a friend who was in contact with him.

Officials said Mr. Neil, who had been living in Asia for five years and teaching English in Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea, would be prosecuted here and then extradited to his home nation, Canada. The Canadian police force is weighing whether to charge Mr. Neil under a recent law that allows prosecution for sex crimes committed abroad.

But the Canadian authorities are also investigating his years as a teacher and counselor in Canada. Mr. Neil was born in British Columbia, and studied to be a priest there. As part of his training, he volunteered as teacher at a Roman Catholic elementary school in 2000 and 2001. He was eventually asked to leave his studies at Christ the King Seminary in Mission, British Columbia. “He just did not have the qualifications as a person,” Nicholas Ruh, the school’s rector told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation without elaborating.

He served as a volunteer chaplain and counselor at three air cadet summer training camps in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia between 1997 and 2000. The Canadian Armed Forces said that it has not received any complaints from parents or former cadets about Mr. Neil.

His was the latest in a series of highly publicized arrests of foreigners accused of abusing children in Southeast Asia. They include the British rock star Gary Glitter, who was imprisoned in Vietnam last year, and John Mark Karr, who was arrested here last year and falsely claimed to have killed the American child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey.

Some experts noted that children can be especially vulnerable to authority figures like teachers.

“We are seeing that quite a few of the foreigners who come here are taking jobs as teachers, putting themselves into situations where they are close to children in positions of trust,” said Richard Bridle, the Unicef deputy regional director for East Asia and the Pacific.

But others pointed out that most of those charged with abusing children have not been teachers and noted that foreigners make up a tiny percentage of abusers in Asia.

“Many of us who work in the trafficking field in Southeast Asia are concerned that the spotlight is too much on foreign tourists,” said Allan Dow, Communications Officer for the International Labor Organization’s Mekong Project to Combat Trafficking in Children and Women. “The vast majority — 90 percent — are abused at the hands of locals.”

The Thai arrest warrant was based on the testimony of a boy who said he was lured to Mr. Neil’s apartment by a Thai man. The police said the boy was one of three who came forward with information about Mr. Neil after the appeal showing the suspect’s decoded portraits was televised. They were aged 9, 13 and 14 when they were abused, the authorities said.

The Thai authorities said that Mr. Neil fled here from South Korea a week ago after Interpol distributed the portraits, which it said had been unraveled by German police experts.

Those pictures were published in newspapers here alongside a somewhat similar photograph of a bald man with glasses taken at immigration control in Bangkok, where all arriving passengers are photographed.

Newspapers also printed what officials said were chatty Internet postings by Mr. Neil on the social networking site MySpace.

“Been kicking around Asia for the past five years, teaching mainly and finding other forms of mischief,” reads a personal profile that describes the writer as “5 feet, 11 inches tall, slim and slender.”

“I love teaching, can’t get enough of it really,” the posting says.

[/quote]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Real-world monster has nowhere to hide


Child-raping scumbag Christopher Paul Neil at an airport in Thailand.

Last week, Interpol asked for help in catching a child-rapist. This week, they released not only a better photo of him, the fact they know what country he's hiding in, but also his name and nationality. If you know anything about the habits or whereabouts of 32-year-old Canadian Chrisopher Paul Neil, contact Interpol.

--BEGIN QUOTE--
A suspected paedophile who posted digitally obscured pictures on the Internet showing him raping young boys was identified by police Tuesday as a 32-year-old Canadian on the run in Thailand.

The Interpol detective leading the manhunt and the organisation's leader separately urged the fugitive to give himself up to the authorities, after his face became clear.

"He is now internationally known," case officer Mick Moran told AFP. "Really, there is no place for him to hide."

Interpol's secretary general Ronald Noble, called on alleged paedophile Canadian Christopher Paul Neil, nicknamed "Vico," to turn himself in.

"Our goal is for Christopher Paul Neil to turn himself in to local (Thai) authorities or to Canadian authorities and to return home to Canada," Noble told public broadcaster CBC.


Thai police and Interpol identified Neil as the suspect and said he arrived into Bangkok's main airport last Thursday.

Interpol says 200 photos have been circulating on the Internet, showing the man assaulting 12 different young boys.

They appeared to have been taken in Vietnam and Cambodia, countries that have gained reputations as destinations for sex tourism.

A special crimes unit in Germany was able to produce a picture of him from one of his photos that had been digitally swirled to disguise his face.

"We are confident that we can track him down," Moran said.

"Interpol's network is very large. I have no doubt that we will find him -- maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but definitely we will find him."


He said authorities were able to track him down thanks to an unprecedented global appeal by the International Criminal Police Organization based in Lyon, France.

"It basically broke this case for us," he said.

Some 350 people reportedly responded to its groundbreaking step last Monday of issuing the request for assistance on its website, where the agency posted the reconstructed picture of the suspect.

The agency said key information came from five different sources on three continents.

Thai police said they were working closely with Interpol.

"Thai police are collecting evidence and information from neighbouring countries and other Interpol members to seek a court order for an arrest warrant," police Colonel Apichart Suriboonya told AFP.


Interpol's Cambodian office said immigration officers were put on alert in case Neil tried to enter the country.

"We have alerted all of our international borders," Keo Vanthan, head of Interpol in Cambodia, told reporters in Phnom Penh, adding, however, that no arrest warrant has been issued for Neil.

Interpol says Neil was a teacher of English at a South Korean school, but that he flew to Bangkok on October 11, when security cameras at the airport documented his arrival at immigration.

That image -- released by Interpol -- shows him as balding and with glasses, although previous pictures had him with more hair and no glasses.

International police and prosecutors are still collating evidence to bring charges against the man Interpol has dubbed "Vico."

Moran said Interpol wanted to send a message around the world that sex crimes against children would not be tolerated.

"We wanted to make it very clear to everybody, especially to Western men who travel to this region to abuse children, that we won't tolerate it," he said
--END QUOTE--

Monday, October 8, 2007

Help catch a scumbag who rapes children

Interpol has issued a call for public help in catching a man who is seen raping children in hundreds of pictures that were posted to the internet.

You can read an article about the request on my "Rotten Tomatoes" page, where you can also see his face. (Digital enhancement was used to remove distortion on the posted images, so the world can see the face of this cowardly pervert.)

You can also go to Interpol's website to read the original statement and to see more pictures of him.

Please help law enforcement put this animal in a cage.

Friday, September 28, 2007

'The Kingdom' is surprisngly good

The Kingdom (2007)
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Ashraf Barhom, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, and Ali Suliman
Director: Peter Berg
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

Four FBI agents (Foxx, Cooper, Bateman, and Garner) travel to Saudi Arabia where they team with two Saudi police officers (Barhom and Suliman) to stop a deadly terrorist and his followers.


I went to see "The Kingdom" fully expecting to hate it. The Hollywood establishment seems obsessed with justifying or even excusing terrorists, and I expected this film to be a reflection of that. However, I was pleasently surprised. This movie shows terrorists exactly for the evil, psychopathic cowardly scum that that they are. It has none of the "one man's terrorist is another man's hero" crap that so many American "intellectuals" are so fond peddling.

The film also shows that the 75 years of Saudi Arabian and American governments have allowed the conditions that gave rise to the likes of the movie's "Abu Hamza" and the real-world Osama bin Ladens through their inaction and unwillingness to behave in anything but fashions that are self-serving and self-aggrandizing. In fact, the film has the rather accurate message that the American and Saudi governments are their own worst enemies--the American government being fawning toadies to the Saudis, and the Saudi government behaving like barbaric bullies.

My very favorite aspect of the film was the way the FBI agents and the Saudi state poilice officers ended up working together once politics and distrust was set aside, showing that good cop are good cop, no matter where in the world they are.

Almost every aspect of the film was very enjoyable, playing like a cross between "CSI: Riyadh" and an action flick, except for the very last minute or so, where we had to have some of the standard issue Hollywood moral equivilency dished out. Fortunately, the dose was not big enough to ruin the film, and it was so ludicrous that no intelligent person could do anything but snicker at it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

German ministers overcome fear
of Scientology cooties

I thought barring the "Valkyrie" crew from filming at certain spots because Cruise is a loony cultist as silly. It's nice to see someone come to their senses for once.

From the AP...

German defense ministry reverses "Valkyrie" decision

The German government has done an apparent about-face and will allow Tom Cruise to film key scenes of his movie "Valkyrie" at a location that had previously been placed off-limits to him.

A spokesman for the German Defense Ministry said Monday that after evaluating the script, officials had decided that it shed a light on the foundations of German democracy. (The film concerns a plot by a group of high-ranking military officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler in World War II; Cruise plays Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, a German officer regarded as the ringleader of the group.)

When filming began last month, German officials granted only limited cooperation due to Cruise's association with Scientology, which is officially regarded as a dangerous cult in Germany. However, on Monday officials said they were satisfied that the story of the plot and the previously barred filming site -- where von Stauffenberg was executed -- would receive respectful treatment.

Anti-Scientology groups voiced their anger over the decision. In an interview with "Time" magazine, Ursula Caberta, a government worker who monitors Scientology in Germany, said that the decision is like "handing a trophy to Scientology. [...] Tom Cruise is not just Tome Cruise, but a figurehead of an anti-constitutional organization, and he should be treated that way."

(Oh, make sure you read Ursula Caberta's quote with a thick German accent and increasing hysteria as you go. It conveys her inner nature, I think.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Godd analysis of the 2007 summer movies

It's very, very rare that I come across any entertaiment-related opinion piece that I agree with 100%, be it in print or in a blog. So, now that Nikki Finke has written one for "Hollywood Deadline Daily", I want to call attention to it!

Go read "Putting Summer 2007 on the Therapy Couch". It's a column that's spot-on, and I hope more than just a few studio execs and creative talents read it and take it all to heart.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

American Filmmakers and the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

Over a year ago (May 1, 2006), i wrote the following quickie review for "Reviews and Stuff":


United 93
Director: Paul Greengrass
Steve's Rating: Ten of Ten

"United 93" is the true story of a group of brave Americans, who were onboard one of the planes hijacked by psychotics driven by religious fanaticism on September 11, 2001. Realizing what was happening, they chose to fight back, and they gave their lives to save hundreds of others.

I wasn't sure if I was going to see this movie, because I was certain it would be a politically correct love-fest full of moral equivelance and excuse-making for the terrorists. Thankfully, there was none of that. Instead, this movie is a pretty straight-forward retelling of the true events around and caused by a group of targeted victims who faught back and won; they may have died, but they stopped the Al-Qaeda goons from acheiving their objective.

This film should be required viewing for all students in public schools. It should be required viewing for all elected officials. It should be required viewing for all government employees. Every American should go see it, especially adults who have been heard whining, "It's too soon." (It may be too intense a film for young children--as the R rating reflects--but an adult should be able to handle the truth, and I think "United 93" is about as close to the truth as we're going to get while sitting safely in cushy movie-theater chairs.)

It's been almost five years since the events retold in "United 93" took place, and it's embarrassing that a British director helmed this movie. Hollywood needs to start making more serious movies like this, movies that show the truth about the terrorists and the truth about what can be acomplished if we chose to fight back instead of just lay down.


Looking at what was at the Venice Film festival last week and what is coming up in theaters, Hollywood stars and filmmakers still seem to have little interest in exposing the true evil that terrorists like al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Mahdi Army, and the Taliban embody. They are far more concerned with spreading propaganda on their behalf.

It's sad to see freedom of speech so ill used.

On a positive note, let me take a moment to congratulate Osama bin Laden on his triumphant second video in as many weeks. He looks better in that pillbox hat than Jackie Kennedy ever did, and I don't think a man with a full beard has ever crossdressed so effortlessly and successfully in the entire recorded history the world!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Osama appears in Jackie Kennedy's hat!

Untitled Osama Project (aka "The Return of Bin Laden" and "Do You Like Gladiator Movies?")
Starring: Osama bin Laden
Director: Name Withheld Due to Extreme Cowardice
Steve's Rating: Two of Ten Stars

Osama bin Laden has graced the world with a new vanity short film.

Unfortunately, it's like most vanity project sequels... it rehashes what we've already seen and it focuses more on the star's ego than communicating any worthwhile (or even relevant) artistic or political statement.

The only significant difference between this latest direct-to-video work from bin Laden and his previous work is that he has finally come out of the closet and is publically acknowledging his homosexuality. The most effeminate of the terrorist set spends the film dressed in a hat inspired by Jackie Kennedy's famous 1960s wardrobe, and a yellow summer dress. He has also dyed his beard a dark brown in an obvious attempt to recapture all those years he spent hiding his love of tender boy-flesh behind exploding minions and big guns.

Another minor change, tied to Osama now flaunting his homosexuality is that he has set aside some of his usual Islamo-fascist rhetoric in favor of the sort of wild conspiracy theories that frequent posters to "The Daily KOS" and "Democratic Underground" like to rant about--how the eeeeeevil corporations are to blame for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not Osama and his still-in-the-closet self-destructive followers. It's too bad that Osama doesn't realize that he would find a more sympathetic audience among Republicans and tailor his message accordingly; there are far more closet cases among politically active conservative than among Democrats and other Lefties. Once again, Osama misses the mark with these videos, preferring to preach to those already converted to his point of view... although in this case, missing the mark is risky for him. He might alienate his current fanbase--the self-destructive closet-cases who'd rather blow themselves up than admit they're flaming love-muffins--but he is not likely not gain many new converts.

No more is that more evident than in this line from the film where Osama says, "I invite you to embrace Islam."

Given the film and Osama's performance, I can only respond, "I invite you to fuck off."

Most Americans (and most Westerners, except perhaps for the loonies who bought copies of "Loose Change") share that sentiment, even the closeted homosexuals who might admire Osama's bravery for coming out. Although every kind soul congratulates Osama in finally recognizing his true nature, not even those who share his sexual orientation are willing to be his bitch and "submit to Islam."

Although I recognize Osama is taking a real chance by coming out so flamboyantly--and thus is sure to alienate much of his current fanbase made up of self-hating homosxuals who can't face their sexuality--I still can't give this film a better rating than Two Stars. Despite Osama's new transsexual look, and his conspiratorial rantings, he's just playing the same old character as before and delivering the same, mostly useless message.

The Two Stars are purely for Osama's bravery in coming out, and because he looks better in that hat than Jackie Kennedy ever did.

Friday, August 31, 2007

'Halloween' is horrible, horrible, horrible!

Halloween (2007)
Starring: Malcom McDowell, Tyler Mane, Daeg Faerch, Brad Dourif, and Scout Taylor-Compton
Director: Rob Zombie
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Michael Myers comes home for a "re-imagining" of his classic beginnings. Fans of the original film are going to wish he stayed away.


This sorry prequel/remake goes wrong almost immediately. It spends a great deal of time "humanizing" Michael Myers, showing us his awful childhood with an awfully cliched bad family with members who spout awfully bad dialogue. (In fact, there's barely a decent line of dialogue in the film, except perhaps those uttered by good old Dr. Loomis (played here by Malcolm McDowell, in the only performance that measures up to the original cast).

Why the filmmakers thought that Michael Myers needed to be given a reason to kill other than "he's an evil homicidal maniac" I'll never know. The first quarter of the movie is dedicated to undermining the otherworldly monstrousness that Michael Myers embodied in the original "Halloween" flicks, presenting him as a character that we should feel sympathy for. What's more, once the killing starts, we the viewers are put in the awkward position of feeling obligated to root for the bad guy because he's lashing out at those who made his life hell.

The filmmakers even decided they had to give a lame tie-in to Michael Myers childhood for his signature mask instead of the accidental origin that was presented in the original.

If you do go to see this film, don't make the mistake I did: It does NOT get better once the "he was just a poor widdle boy who lost his way" crap is behind us. There are a few "boo" scares, the splatter is well done, and the cinematography is impressive, but the awful dialogue gets even worse and several of the murders are so drawn out that they become boring. In balance, the last hour-and-a-half or so of the movie is even WORSE than the beginning.

I should have trusted my instincts. I KNEW this was going to be another crappy remake of a great John Carpenter film, and I was absolutely right.

I never imagined in my worst nightmares that it would make me wish I was watching "House of 1,000 Corpses", however.

I should have saved my time and money, and I strongly encourage you to not make the same mistake I did. The ONLY good thing about it is Malcolm McDowell... and he is simply not enough to make this a worthwhile movie.

For reviews of more horror movies, click here to visit Terror Titans.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

'Balls of Fury' exposes cluelessness of critics

Balls of Fury
Starring: Dan Fogler, George Lopez, Christopher Walken, Maggie Q, James Hong, and Thomas Lennon
Director: Ben Garant
Steve's Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A one-time child Ping-Pong star (Folger), who has been reduced to performing Ping-Pong tricks at a dinner theater--is recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the deadly underground table-tennis tournament hosted by reclusive Chinese crimelord and Ping-Pong effecianado Feng (Walken).



"Balls of Fury" is the best film I've seen on the big screen in several weeks. It's funny not only because it takes the harmless rec-room sport of table-tennis and turns it into a game of mortal combat, but also because it's a hilarious spoof of the 1970s-style martial arts movies, and even the Yellow Menace films from the 1930s and 1960s.

Contrary to what critics seem to think, this is more of a spoof of the traditional Chinese martial arts movie than it is a spoof of sports films. It's got all the cliches you'd expect from a Bruce Lee film, or a Shaw Bros. prodution from the 1970s, except instead of Kung Fu, we've got paddles and tiny white balls. (We get a little bit of Kung Fu, courtesy of the love interest played by Maggie Q. who also gives us a very attractive showing of skin.)


There's also some obvious nods to the Fu Manchu movies of the late 1960s, both through Christopher Walken's character and the location and nature of his stronghold.

Yet, most critics seem to have missed these fairly obvious cues.

This is another film that is getting bad reviews from a number of critics who simply don't have enough of a context to understand it. They are comparing it to movies like "Blades of Glory" when they should be considering it in the light of "Enter the Dragon". These same critics also missed the boat on "Nacho Libre" for much the same reasons--they simply aren't well-versed enough in genre pictures to properly judge a film that's primarily directed at lovers of B-movies.

What's amazing about these critics missing the foundation of this film is that not only do they have numerous scenes mirroring "Enter the Dragon", not to mention much of the storyline, but they have a supporting cast of actors who have appeared in numerous Kung Fu action films over the years. There's also the fact that the main Chinese bad guy is being played by a white man, like Fu Manchu has been in every scrreen appearance--Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Peter Sellers, and Nicolas Cage are all as non-Asian as Christopher Walken.
"
While the film is more chuckle than laugh-inducing, it's nowhere near as bad as the "professionals" would have you believe. They simply do not understand what they are watching, and they are completely missing all but the most obvious slapstick and "Naked Gun"-esque jokes. It's rather sad to watch them revealed to be utterly clueless about genre films and therefore totally miss the essense of "Balls of Fury".

I suppose it can be said that this is a film with humor that's too low for the "real" critics to get, because it's poking fun at films that many of them haven't bothered to see.

Even allowing for cluelessness, I think many critics are dumping on this movie unfairly. The actors all show great comedic talent and timing. Even Maggie Q. (who is having a really good year, since this is the second quality film she's appeared in this summer, the first being "Live Free or Die Hard") who I suspect is mostly in the film for her hot body gets in some funny moments by playing off the martial arts film stereotypes. Fogler is hilarious as he bumbles his way through the storyline, ultimately ending up in a Ping-Pong battle to the death against Christopher Walken's unpredictable, wakcy-yet-menacing evil Chinese villian. James Hong is also very funny as he applies martial arts cliches to the "ancient art of Ping-Pong" and delivers motivational speeches full of similies that are anything but expected. (In fact, it's a toss-up as to who's funnier in the film, Walken or Hong. Both really earned their paychecks for this one.)

If you have a sense of humor and a love for class martial arts movies, I think you'll enjoy "Balls of Fury" immensely. Trust me. You don't want to take the word of the "experts" on this one. They truly don't know what they're talking about. (I recommend taking in a matinee, as it's cute but not exactly roof-raising. It's just not as bad as the critics would have you believe.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Accident on 'Valkyrie set'; Thetans at fault?

I wonder if the Scientologists will turn this into a recruiting drive? Maybe their Machines That Go Ping can prove that Thetans were involved!

(Or maybe the Germans will borrow some Machines That Go Ping and show that Tom Cruise needs some more auditing because the Xenu-created poltergeists are harming innocent people!)

From the BBC...

Eleven injured on Cruise film set

Eleven extras have been injured after falling off a truck on the German set of Tom Cruise's latest movie, "Valkyrie."

One man was seriously injured in the accident, which happened when the side of the vehicle burst open as it drove around a corner, Berlin police said.

The other 10 of were treated in hospital but later released. Police said there were "no findings to suggest anyone famous was involved".

Cruise stars in the real-life story of a plot to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944.

The truck, which was made to look like a Wehrmacht military vehicle, is now being inspected for technical defects as part of a police investigation.

"Valkyrie" has faced criticism in Germany, where crew were banned from filming at the former staff quarters where Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who led the plot, was executed.

Rumours circulated that the ban was imposed because of Germany's hostility towards Cruise's Scientologist beliefs.

A government spokesman later said the restriction was put in place to preserve the building's "dignity".

The building, known as the Bendler Block, is now a memorial for Third Reich resistance fighters.

"Valkyrie" - named after Operation Valkyrie, the codename of the failed 1944 plot to kill Hitler - is being directed by Bryan Singer and will co-star British actor Kenneth Branagh.

Filming, which began last month, was called off following the accident on Sunday night. Police said they did not know whether there would be further delays as a result.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Maybe these 'holy men' should shut up

When terroristic rantings backfire....


Despite being condemned by radical clerics, who issued a fatwa against it, the film "Khuda Kay Liye" ("In the Name of God") has become an unqualified hit in Pakistan, "Newsweek" is reporting on its website.

Produced by the Pakistani media conglomerate GEO TV Network, the film not only unfavorably depicts Muslim radicals but also the U.S. military, and takes on such issues as marital rape, forced marriage and jihad, the magazine says.

Concerned by the attacks on the film by local mullahs, theater owners are requiring ticket buyers to pass through metal-detection devices as they enter.

"It's heroic for the population to want to see this film," GEO TV chief Mir Ibrahim Rehman told "Newsweek" "We didn't want to make a popcorn film. We wanted this film to prompt a dialogue and discussion."



(Quoted from www.IMBD.com.)

One would think these psychotic freaks posing as learned holy men would have learned the lessons tought by the success of "The Satanic Verses." The sure-fire way to make something a commercial hit is for them to come out against it. Then again, one definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When idiots run the propaganda department....

Here's a photo laying bare the facts of a terrible, terrible war atrocity in Iraq:

An elderly Iraqi woman shows two bullets that she says hit her house following an early morning coalition forces raid in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City.

(Photo Credit: AFP/Wissam al-Okaili) 

DAMN THOSE AMERICAN BASTARDS! NOW THEY'RE SHOOTING AT LITTLE OLD LADIES! JUST LOOK AT THOSE BULLETS!!!!

JUST LOOK AT HOW... um... how pristine and brand-new and (more importantly) UNFIRED those bullets are.

What the hell?!

If those bullets "hit her house", they couldn't possibly have been shot from anything more deadly than a slingshot.

What kind of MORON is the editor who let this photo go by? What kind of MORON is the photographer who believed this bitch's lies about her house being shot at? (Actually, I'm sure "Wissam al-Okaili" is one of those closet-cases who work for al-Queerda and al-Jizzera and do their best to spread pro-Islamist propadanda at every opportunity. It's just our luck that so many of them are retards who can barely dress themselves.)

I don't know what excuse the wire service could possibly have for publishing this photo and trying to pass it off as a little old lady showing off bullets fired by eeeeeeevil Americans at her house.

Maybe they've hired Dan Rather as their editor?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dan Rather Reports: More Made Up Stuff?


This Tuesday (August 14, 2007), "Dan Rather Reports: The Trouble with Touch Screens" claims to present conclusive evidence of the failure of touch screen voting machines across the United States of America.

According to a press release from the network airing the show--HDNet--the episode, “The Trouble with Touch Screens”, will present new information showing that defective machines may have altered the outcome of multiple elections.

If it had been anyone but Dan "I don't care if my reporting is based on facts or not" Rather, I might think this could be an interesting bit of journalism. However, given that Rather has been shown to be an op-ed writer posing as a reporter, and has been unmasked as a tool of the Democrat Party's political machine (and just a tool in general), I wonder if it'll be worth the time to even bother downloading the teaser for the "controversial" report.

I'll predict right now: Rather's "investigation" will reveal that Democrats would have won each and every election held if not for the faulty voting machines. His "investigation" will further show that the machines were comissioned to be faulty, because the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy is everywhere!

If you're interested, a screener clip from the episode can be viewed here.

"Dan Rather Reports: The Trouble with Touch Screens” will air Tuesday, August 14 at 8:00 p.m. ET. The program also airs at 11:00 p.m. ET to accommodate west coast prime time.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Rush Hour 3
Starring: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Max von Sydow, NoƩmie Lenoir, Yvan Attaln, Jingchu Zhang, and Youki Kudoh
Director: Brett Ratner
Rating: Four of Ten Stars


Inspector Lee (Chan) and Detective Carter (Tucker) travel to Paris to unmask the secretive leadership of the powerful Chinese criminal organization, the Triads.


I know I saw "Rush Hour 2", but I can't remember a single thing about it. And I suspect it's going to be the same thing with "Rush Hour 3" in a few weeks, as there is nothing memorable about this film.

The acting is lackluster, although this is partly due to the weak script. Tucker's character is annoying rather than funny, Chan seems old and tired for most of the film (something that made me feel even more sorry for seeing this movie), and virtually none of the interplay between characters seemed to take place for any reason other than the script dictates they must do so. (The formula-dictated "falling out" of the two buddies in the film's second act is particularly pathetic and badly motivated.)

This misfired sequel only gets a rating as high as a 4 because it does have a couple of bright spots, and even an improvement over the original "Rush Hour" film.

When Ratner did "Rush Hour" ten years ago, it was dissapointed by the way he failed to take advantage of Chan's presense. It was shot like a standard action film, with Chan's fight scenes being filmed mostly in two-shots--with him and his opponent framed in the shot and most of his acrobatics and Prop-Fu happening at the edge of the screen. It was clear that Ratner had no idea how to make a film that took advantage of Chan's talents. That is not the case anymore, and the camera is pulled back far enough in all the fight scenes that we get the full effect of Chan's acrobatics--as well as Tucker's foray into comedic prop-fighting. Every action scene and fight scene are extremely well-staged and well-filmed, and they are the only truly excellent thing about the film. It's too bad they're surrounded by such garbage.

On the acting front, only Max von Sydow (as the Chief Justice of the World Court, who couldn't suck even if he tried) and Jingchu Zhang (as Soo Yung--the little kidnap victim that Lee and Carter rescued in the first film, now a teenager) give the only really good performances in the film, althogh in fairness to Chan and Tucker, von Sydow and Zhang weren't hampered by badly written scenes.

But, there has to have been more that went wrong here than just the script, because I remember having a sense of a real friendship developing between the Lee and Carter characters in the first film, but here I didn't get the impression of any sort of relationship between the two characters.

In fact, while watching "Rush Hour 3", I found myself constantly wondering why Lee would put up with such an annoying and dimwitted person as Carter. Not to mention creepy... the reunion scene between Soo Yung and Carter when he hugs her and mutters "sooo young" made my skin crawl. (Although, given that child rapist Roman Polanski appears in a small part as a corrupt French police detecive, maybe the filmmakers thought it was funny to have a 30-something character hug an underage girl and make sexual comments about her.)

Despite some very well-done fight scenes, "Rush Hour 3" is a movie that's not worth your time. For once, the Chinese are fortunate that they are ruled by iron-fisted dictators. The film won't officially be imported to China, so no one will be wasting their hard-earned Yuans on it.



Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Man-Baby Speaks!

A sensitive soul in Belgium is seeking to get the 1932 graphic novel "Tintin in the Congo" banned. I spoke my main piece on this in Man-baby files suit over 'Tintin in the Congo'. Reuters carried a version of the article I quoted in that post that featured a quote from the Man-Baby himself, along with a sensible reaction from the company that holds the rights to the Tintin property:



"I want to put an end to sales of this cartoon book in shops, both for children and for adults. It's racist and it is filled with colonial-era propaganda," said Mbutu Mondondo Bienvenu, who lives in Brussels.

Bienvenu is also seeking symbolic damages of one euro ($1.38) from Moulinsart, the publisher that owns the rights to Tintin.

Belgian prosecutors said a motion had been filed at the beginning of August. A judge will examine the case, probably not before September, but a decision on whether to proceed could take six months, they said.

Belgium controlled the country that is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo until 1960.

Moulinsart said it was only aware of the action through the media. A spokesman argued the company was not in a position to remove the book from shelves as it controlled Tintin rights, but did not publish the novels.

"The book dates back to 1931 and has to be seen in the context of the time. We are surprised to see this complaint after so many years," the spokesman said.



I still think Lil' Mondondo is a crybaby, but I don't have the same level of contempt for him that I do for certain others who file suits like this. At least he's not trying to claim he's owed any financial compensation for mental anguish or any-such nonsense.

(Not that it matters for someone with my level of journalistic integrity, but I'm now wondering who got his name right, though. The order is different in the two sources. "Man-Baby" suffices, however.)

An overlooked sci-fi classic involving
time-traveling without pants

Idaho Transfer (1973)
Starring: Kelly Bohanon, Kevin Hearst, Caroline Hildebrand, and Keith Carradine
Director: Peter Fonda
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars


Time travel is a reality, but only if you don't wear pants.

Such is the case in "Idaho Transfer" where half a dozen young scientists partaking in an illicit time-travel experiment are stranded 57 years in the future after a mysterious disaster has wiped civilization (and possibly even human life) from the world.


Despite my amusement at the fact that the time machine only works if those using it take off their pants--the movie gives a rationale for the need to do so, but it's so laughable that the real reason had to have been the director liked to see young women in their panties--this is a dark, bleak film that ultimately conveys the message that there is no hope for humanity, no matter what we try. However, unlike many other movies of this kind, it's a message delivered by decent actors, with interesting visuals, and a script that although nearly devoid of action is never boring.

This is one of those films that doesn't deserve the obscurity it has been consigned to. Its fate was sealed the week of its release in 1973 when its distributor went bankrupt. It was released briefly to home video some 15 years later, but soon vanished again. It took nearly two additional decades for it to see a true wide release, and it is now available in a couple of different DVD editions that are easy to come by.

And this is a good thing, because not only is this a quality movie that deserves an audience... and one might even be able to assert that it's a true classic that's fallen through the cracks of the movie business.

"Idaho Transfer" carries a message that's just as timely now as it was in 1973. It will even speak to more people than it did back then, as there are even greater numbers of those are convinced that the world will come to an end the day after tomorrow, due to pollution, over-population, and sinister government plots that there were some 35 years ago.

If only the similarly-themed "An Inconvenient Truth" could have delivered its message with the same level of class as "Idaho Transfer", it might have been tolerable to sit through. Yes, one is a supposed documentary and the other is pure fiction, but the makers of "An Inconvenient Truth" could have taken a lesson or two from the 35 year old film "Idaho Transfer" in regards to delivering a message about the dangers of excessive exploitation of the planet. The chilling, quiet ending to "Idaho Transfer" and the pall that hangs over the entire film stays with you far longer than the with a megaphone-and- and-sledgehammer approach of "An Inconvenient Truth".

I highly recommend "Idaho Transfer" to those who like well-done but downbeat sci-fi films in the "end of the world" mold. I recommend the film even more highly if you're a member of the Cult of Al Gore and only wipe your ass with one piece of toilet paper at a time, and if you've stopped washing your hair to save energy. This is a movie that will speak volumes to you (pants or no pants).

"Idaho Transfer" is included in Mill Creek's 50-movie pack "Nightmare Worlds", and it's one of several reason why that set is a very worthwhile purchase.

(The film can also be had as a stand-alone DVD, but you'll be paying almost the same to get it that way as you will if you get "Nightmare Worlds" (at least if you order the set set from Amazon.com.) The smart money says you shoud get the Big Box with the 49 bonus movies--some of which are actually pretty darn good.)



Monday, August 6, 2007

Man-Baby files suit over 'Tintin in the Congo'

I love the Tintin graphic novels. Even now, I reread them every so often. My favorite ones are "The Broken Ear", "The Calculus Affair", "The Land of Black Gold" and "King Ottokar's Scepter".

In the past, I've said I think "Tintin in the Congo" is the worst of the lot and that even as a kid, I thought it was badly done. As an adult, I'll agree it's racist in its portrayal of blacks. Hell, even creator Herge was embarrassed by it in later years, sort of the same way Will Eisner was embarrased by his early portrayal of Ebony in "The Spirit" comics.

With the various reissues that are coming up toward the end of the year in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Herge's birth, I was going to pick up "Tintin in the Land of Soviets" (the one Tintin book I've never read), but I was going to ignore "Tintin in the Congo" (the only other Tintin book I've never owned).

But now, a thin-skinned man-baby is filing lawsuits to ease his sense of personal inadequacy. I hope hysterical, censorship-advocating retards like Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo manage to make "Tintin in the Congo" appear on best-seller lists around the world.

I wasn't going buy a copy--like I said, this is NOT a good Tintin book... it's worse than "Tintin in America"--but people like Little Miss Mondondo make me feel obligated to support Tintin's English-language publishers Little, Brown. I just pre-ordered the upcoming paperback edition of "Tintin in the Congo" from Amazon.com. (I'm not going to pay for a hardcover of a book that if it's as weak as memory tells me would get a 3 or 4 rating in a review here, but Mondondo and likeminded reprobates are obligating me to buy a copy of the book in one format or another.)

I encourage the rest of you reading this to the same by clicking here, or by heading down to your local bookstore and pre-ordering a copy of the paperback due for release in the United States Sept. 1. (Or, if you're elsewhere in the world, to buy a copy whereever you would.) I'd love to see this effort blow up in the faces of these jackasses and to see "Tintin in the Congo" to start selling like mad.

(And when I get my copy in early September, I'll do an actual review. Heck. I might as well do my own 100th anniversary celebration and do reviews of all the Tintin books.)

From AFP wire service... the tale of a "man" who blames a comic book for the sand in his vagina.


Tintin in trouble: Congolese man seek court ban on 'racist' graphic novel

A Congolese student has launched a court case denouncing the cartoon book "Tintin in the Congo" as racist, calling for its withdrawal from sale, the Brussels prosecutor's office said Tuesday.

It is not the first time that the book, featuring late Belgian author and illustrator Herge's popular red-headed boy journalist Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy, has raised hackles over its content.

The bookselling chain Borders announced last month that it was pulling copies of the 1930s book from the children's shelves in its US and British stores after Britain's Commission for Racial Equality described the book as containing "imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice."

In the latest case, Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, a political science student in Brussels, brought a complaint against publishers Moulinsart and persons unknown late last month, accusing them of breaching Belgium's racism laws, said Jos Colpin, spokesman for the public prosecutors.

"Tintin in the Congo", which first appeared in Belgian newspaper Le Vingtieme Siecle as a comic strip in 1930-1931, is part of the popular series "The Adventures of Tintin" by the Herge.

But its tale of boy reporter Tintin's trip with Snowy to what was then the Belgian Congo is seen as controversial because of its depiction of colonialism and racism, as well as casual violence towards animals.

On the official Tintin website the controversy is acknowledged.

"In his portrayal of the Belgian Congo, the young Herge reflects the colonial attitudes of the time," a website statement reads, under the headline "Shocking".

"He depicted the African people according to the bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the period - an interpretation that some of todays readers may find offensive."

Herge, real name Georges Remi 1907-1983, justified the book by saying it was merely a reflection of the naive views of the time. Some of the scenes were revised for later editions.

Britain's Campaign for Racial Equality described the book as containing "imagery and words of hideous racial prejudice, where the 'savage natives' look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles,".

However sales of the comic book rocketed in Britain after the complaint.

'Delivery Boy Chronicles' is fun but flawed

Delivery Boy Chronicles (2007)
Starring: Ralph Price, Shawn Mullins, Kelly Hobbs, and Chet Dixon
Director: Stacey Childers
Rating: Five of Ten Stars


A group of slackers working as food delivery drivers struggle with the challenges of their dead-end job while looking for ways to make their dreams and aspirations come true... at least when they're not busy getting high.


"Delivery Boy Chronicles" is a loosely structured comedy that is more of a collection of sketches than a proper movie. The characters move from situation to situation as the film progresses, and while some of them tie together most do not. There is also little or no consequences to anything the characters get involved with, including the inadvertent abduction of a Dahli Lama-type character known as the Enlightened One.

The acting in "Delivery Boy Chronicles" is better than many low-budget films, and the dialogue is well written with each character having a distinct voice. Ralph Price (as would-be business magnate and inventor Mike) and Shawn Mullins (as the ever-sarcastic and bitter pothead drop-out) are the best of a fairly decent cast, showing excellent comic timing and delivering each line as if they really believe what they're saying. They also seem to be comfortable as screen actors, where I get the sense that co-stars Hobbs and Dixon might be more at home on stage. (Dixon's delivery in particular seems more like coming from a stage actor than someone who's used to film, despite the fact that he has numerous film credits to his name.)

However, actors can only do so much if they're dealing with a bad script. And, unfortunately, aside from some wellcrafted dialogue and a some funny situations, the script for "Delivery Boy Chronicles" is one that could have benefit ted from another full draft or two... and perhaps an additional rewriting of specific scenes once the shooting budget was set.

As it stands, the flaws with the film are such that they cause it to fall short of being a satisfying viewing experience.

First, there's the problem that the film's plot is very, very weak. Ostensibly, the plot is about Mike (Price) finally finding the hook he needs to get out of the food delivery business and into the ground floor of the business world. As a result, most of the other characters also have happy endings. But this story thread is hard to follow among all the other things going on, and the characters are poorly developed--none ever move beyond the broad stereotypes they represent (neo-hippie, capitalist, artist, anarchist)--so the audience can't share in Mike's satisfaction of finally building a "real life" because we just don't know enough about him. Further, it's not quite clear why Mike's ability to forge a path out of the delivery business gives the rest of the gang a chance to do the same. It also doesn't help matters than neither Mike nor any of the other characters ever seem to be totally down and out at any point in the film; since there are never any great lows for our "heroes," we can't muster great joy for them when everything works out.

Second, there are three times when the filmmakers attempt scenes that are beyond their means, something which can do great harm to a movie.

First, and least damaging, there's a scene where Mike is attacked by emus (or ostriches). Whether the filmmakers didn't want to expose the actor to actual bird-bites, whether a stunt person was unavailable/out of budget-reach, or whether the complete lack of long-shots can be explained by a reason I'm not quite grasping, the fact that Mike (or any actor) is never shown in the same frame as one of the birds make for very clumsy filmmaking. It's a minor problem, and it's one that could probably have been solved with a little more time and money. But, it keeps what should have been a gut-buster of a scene (and I've no doubt it was hilarious from beginning to end) from being little more than amusing.

There's also an outdoor music/counterculture festival that appears to be a big flop for the organizers, because of the tiny stage a band is performing on and the very few extras near it and around the "festival" area in general. I've seen the same mistake made on TV series and in other low budget films... if a scene calls for crowds, you're not going to be able to fake it with just a dozen or so people. You're going to need a hundred or more, and you're going to need the time and money to direct the extras properly and to get numerous shots to make sure your crowd appears much larger than it is. None of these were possible with "Deli every Boy Chronicles", either due to time or budget constraints. (And I'm certain the filmmakers weren't trying to make the festival look like a flop, because Tigg complains about the smell of incense wafting over the crowd, just before he notices the dreaded "mud people".)

The other scene that should have been scrapped and rewritten when the budget was known is the film's Big Finish where Magoo (Dixon) displays his giant "mouse-trap" game and Mike's career in business is launched. Since engineering and constructing a very elaborate construct was beyond the film's budget, the viewer gets to hear the sounds Magoo's device makes as it operates, while we see the reactions of the audience in attendance. The cartoony sound effects are amusing, but the scene is far from effective as far as the climax for a movie goes. (It would have been far better if the filmmakers had redone the scene in such a way that had Mike and Magoo preparing for the big exhibit, making their success evident but sparing themselves the embarrassment of trying to execute a scene they didn't have the money or crew for.)

"Delivery Boy Chronicles" is a well acted film with some very well-written dialogue. It's a truly charming movie that I want to like more than I do. Unfortunately, the end product is weighed down by a script that's a little too loose and by a couple of key scenes that don't come off right because the filmmakers had a vision that overreached their budget. The result is a funny film that is too flawed to rise above the low end of average. I had fun watching it, and I hope to see its stars--particularly Ralph Price and Shawn Mullins--in other films. This one might be a good addition to a Bad Move Night line-up, but it's not one I'd recommend for any other purpose, despite the fact it had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Elton John doesn't want you reading this!

Sir Elton John... grade-A jackass. Or maybe just a cranky old queen who'd be screaming at kids to get off his lawn if he didn't live behind tall walls.

From the Sun, a British newspaper which Sir Elton doesn't want anyone outside of Britain to read, either... because it's only accessible to the likes of me via the web, comes the following article. It illustrates that Sir Elton as as big a hypocrite as every other asshole who wants to control and censor what you and I can do on the 'net: He's all in favor of you buying HIS songs and paying for HIS concernts online--or you paying $40 to access forums on www.eltonjohn.com--but God Forbid that someone should do something that Sir Elton doesn't approve of or understand....

It's so nice that a member of the flamboyantly homosexual community can find common ground with radical Islamists and extremist Christian groups.

(For the record, I don't own an iPod and only reluctantly got a cellphone. I also share other things in common with Sir Elton. My latest commercial project also didn't sell all that well. However, I'm not going to blame the damn Internet for that, nor would I demand it be shut down!)

-- From "The Sun" --

Elton John says, "Shut down the internet!"

Pop legend Sir Elton John wants the internet CLOSED DOWN.

Never one to keep his opinions to himself, the Rocket Man has waded into cyberspace with all guns blazing.

He claims it is destroying good music, saying: “The internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff.

“Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision.

“It’s just a means to an end.

“We’re talking about things that are going to change the world and change the way people listen to music and that’s not going to happen with people blogging on the internet.

“I mean, get out there — communicate.

“Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet.

“Let’s get out in the streets and march and protest instead of sitting at home and blogging.

“I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span.

“There’s too much technology available.

“I’m sure, as far as music goes, it would be much more interesting than it is today.”

Multi-millionaire Elton, who turned 60 earlier this year, has admitted in the past that he is a bit behind the times. The Grammy award-winner was once quoted as saying: “I am the biggest technophobe of all time.

“I don’t have a mobile phone or an iPod or anything.

“I am such a Luddite when it comes to making music. All I can do is write at the piano.”

Sales of Elton’s last album The Captain & The Kid were disappointing — it barely shifted 100,000 copies. And in the past Sir Elt has opposed illegal downloading of his music from the net.

But the flamboyant singer has embraced the web in other ways.

The 60th birthday concert Sir Elton played to a 20,000-strong crowd at New York’s Madison Square Garden was streamed live over the internet.

The singer also announced earlier this year that his entire back catalogue of albums would be made available for digital download.

The internet has played a huge role in kick-starting the careers of some of Britain’s best new talent.

Sandi Thom shot to fame after broadcasting webcam concerts from her London basement flat, while both the Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen acknowledge the part played by the web in their success.

But Elton also complained about the quality of music being released.

He said: “In the early Seventies there were at least ten albums released every week that were fantastic. Now you’re lucky to find ten albums a year of that quality, and there are more albums released each week now than there were then.”

I guess that’s what Sir Elton would call a net loss . . .

-- END QUOTE --

Monday, July 23, 2007

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Mike Epps, Oded Fehr, Spencer Locke, and Christopher Egan
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Steve's Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Five years after an accident in a top secret lab unleashed a virus that turns dead bodies into flesh-hungry, violent zombies, the world is overrun with undead. Pockets of survivors still exist, and Claire Redfield (Larder) leads a convey from place to plance, attempting to gather them and form strength in numbers. She eventually crosses paths with Alice (Jovovich), who is on the run from the creators of the virus. They consider her their property, and they want to back. Will Alice be the salvation of Claire and her mobile community, or will she bring doom to them all?

After getting over the dissapointment of the fact that "Resident Evil: Extinction" does NOT follow up on what seemed to be an obvious and very cool sequel set-up at the end of "Resident Evil: Apocalypse"--except with an brief exchange between Carlos (Fehr, the only returning castmember from the other film aside from Jovovich) and Alice--I came to appreciate this supposedly final film in the series for its "The Road Warrior Meets George Romero's Day of the Dead" vibe.

I can't praise the film for its script... it unfolds as though it was based on someone's "All Flesh Must Be Eaten" or "Dark Conspiracy" roleplaying campaign, as the fillm moves from horror-flavored, action-oriented horror encounter area to horror-flavored action-oriented encounter area. While the main story-thrust of the film is resolved and the main villain within reach gets his by the end of the film--and please say that's a spoiler... you KNOW that even before he shows up in the movie that the mad scientist is going to bite the dust during the final reel!--the film leaves so many dangling plot-threads that it feels more like the middle of a film series instead of the end. Just like a supposedly "climactic" session of a well-run (and continuing) roleplaying game session.

I also can't really praise the acting in this film, because I don't think there was any. (I know that's not true... the apparently lack of acting is acting in and of itself, as anyone who's seen more than two or three low-budget indie horror movies will confirm). But, the film is so devoid of anything but action that there's no need for the actors to do anything but run around and shoot off blanks and beat on extras in zombie make-up. Jovovich does a little acting when she first wakes up at what seems to be the beginning of first "Resident Evil" movie, and then later when she comes upon the cornerstone of Umbrella Corporation's latest project, but she isn't exactly required to stretch herself.

I am, however, impressed with movie's breakneck pace and how it kept me entertained... and even how it shocked and startled me with violent zombie attacks. The zombie crow sequence was also expertly staged and executed, and it was one of the scariest sequences I've seen in recent cinema. Yes, it was remincent of both "The Birds" and "Night of the Living Dead"... but I wouldn't have thought that borrowing from two such different classics could result in something so nifty.

There isn't a scrap of padding in the film. It promises to deliver zombies and lots of gory violence, and it delivers on that in spades. While part of me would have liked a slightly more structured plot, the overall film still worked for me. I also didn't mind the fact that the end of the film really isn't all that much of an ending--instead, it opens up branches to two possible sequels. Maybe that's because I've been running running roleplaying game campaigns for some 30 years now, and that's exactly how I like to "end" my campaigns. I want to always keep openings so the fun can continue, if the players are willing.

"Resident Evil: Extinction" is not a masterpiece. In fact, it's probably downright forgettable, and I am certain that in a week, my memories of it will be as vague as those I have of the first two, but while in the theater, I enjoyed myself immensely.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

'FBI ruined my career,' says Steven Seagal

I can't tell if it's ego or something else that's to blame for the extreme state of denial that's causing Steven Seagal to blame the FBI for his flagging career instead of string of bad, BAD choices he's made.


First, I'll give you the article from Reuters, where Seagal mounts a rather sad attempt to blame someone else for the state of this acting career. (It's so pathetic that it's almost on the scale of John Edwards' claim that "They're trying to shut me up.")

Afterwards, I'll give you a little film historical context on Seagal's career and the REAL reason why it's swirling down the metaphorical toilet.


Steven Seagal blames FBI for failing film career
Fri Aug 17, 2007 3:10PM EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Steven Seagal, whose action movies once were major box-office attractions, believes false allegations by FBI agents ruined his career, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

The comments in the Times are the first Seagal has made publicly about an investigation begun some five years ago by the FBI into accusations he intimidated a reporter and had ties to organized crime.

The Times said Seagal is demanding an apology from the FBI. A spokesman for the actor was not immediately available on Friday.

"False FBI accusations fueled thousands of articles saying that I terrorize journalists and associate with the Mafia," Seagal told the newspaper. "These kinds of inflammatory allegations scare studio heads and independent producers -- and kill careers."

Seagal, 56, was once a major star of action movies such as 1992's "Under Siege," which earned $156 million at worldwide box offices, but now he makes straight-to-DVD releases such as "Flight of Fury and "Attack Force."

The FBI investigation stemmed from Seagal's ties to former private detective Anthony Pellicano, who once was employed by many Hollywood stars, directors and producers, but is now in federal prison awaiting trial on wire-tapping and other charges.

The Pellicano investigation dates to 2002 when a free-lance reporter for the Los Angeles Times found a dead fish, a red rose and a note saying "Stop!" on her car. At the time, the reporter was researching Seagal and a former business partner.

Seagal told the Times that he and Pellicano had not been on speaking terms since the 1990s and the Times' story said his lawyers told FBI agents that by 2002, Seagal and Pellicano had become rivals in a bitter legal dispute.

The actor said in October 2004, an FBI official told him that federal agents knew he had nothing to do with the Pellicano investigation. Still, Seagal claims they have not publicly exonerated him.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment "because of the ongoing nature of the investigation" and referred calls to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney was not immediately available to comment.


I haven't been following any of the investigations mentinoned in the article. I have, however, been watching Seagal movies for many years and his career problems started well before 2002.

I've reviewed a number of Seagal's films for "Reviews and Stuff", and I'll be syndicating them here over the next couple of weeks. If you check them out, you'll see that the films Seagal headlined started getting bad in the mid-1990s.

It's true that "Half-Past Dead" and "The Foreigner" date from around the time when the FBI investigation supposedly ruined Seagal's career. I think, however, that the real cause for his professional woes is a lot closer to home than Seagal wants to admit. One can only associate one's name with consistently crappy movies for so long before there's no escaping the career consequences.

Seagal has the further problem that he needed to get away from the tough-guy, untouchable action star roles years ago. "Black Dawn" demonstrated that he can't even do his own fight scenes anymore. Somehow, I don't think he can blame the FBI for him getting old.

(And I'm not bashing Steven Seagal here. It pained me to see what he has been reduced to, because I really liked his early movies.)

You can read some of my reviews of Seagal films at Watching the Detectives by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tintin: For Adults Only!

Tintin in the Congo" is now being considered a book too racist for the kid's section at Borders.

And I don't think this is such a bad thing.

I'm a huge Tintin fan, and I usually roll my eyes at the hyper-sensitive people who are looking to take offense at the drop of a hat, but even as a kid, I could see "Tintin in the Congo" was more racist than entertaining.

I actually don't think it's a book that should be read by anyone. It's simply not very good. "Tintin in America" and earlier volumes in the series simply aren't that good... at the very least, they're horribly dated.

NEW YORK (AP) - "Tintin in the Congo," an illustrated work removed from the children's section of Borders Group Inc. stores in Britain because of allegations of racism, will receive similar treatment by the superstore chain in the United States.

"Borders is committed to carrying a wide range of materials and supporting our customers' right to choose what to read and what to buy. That said, we also are also committed to acting responsibly as a retailer and with sensitivity to all of the communities we serve," according to a Borders statement issued Monday.

"Therefore, with respect to the specific title 'Tintin in the Congo,' which could be considered offensive by some of our customers, we have decided to place this title in a section of our store intended primarily for adults - the graphic novels section. We believe adults have the capacity to evaluate this work within historical context and make their own decision whether to read it or not.

"Other 'Tintin' titles will remain in the children's section."

David Enright, a London-based human-rights lawyer, recently was shopping at Borders with his family when he came upon the book, first published in 1931, and opened it to find what he characterized as racist abuse.

"The material suggests to (children) that Africans are subhuman, that they are imbeciles, that they're half savage," Enright told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

In Britain, the book also will be stocked with graphic novels.

Ann Binkley, a spokeswoman for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Borders in the U.S., said no complaints have been received in this country. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers is publishing the book in the U.S. in September, one of many "Tintin" works being reissued to mark the centennial of author-cartoonist Herge, the pen name of Georges Remi.

"This particular title, one of three originally unpublished in the U.S., may be considered somewhat controversial, as it reflects the colonial attitudes of the time it was created," reads a statement on Little Brown's website.

"Herge depicts African peoples according to the stereotypes of the time period, but in this edition it will be contextualized for the reader in an explanatory preface."

The book is the second in a series of 23 tracing the adventures of Tintin, an intrepid reporter, and his dog, Snowy. The series has sold 220 million copies worldwide and been translated in 77 languages.

But "Tintin in the Congo" has been widely criticized as racist by fans and critics alike.

In it, Remi depicts the white hero's adventures in the Congo against the backdrop of an idiotic, chimpanzee-like native population that eventually comes to worship Tintin - and his dog - as gods.

Remi later said he was embarrassed by the book, and some editions have had the more objectionable content removed. When an unexpurgated edition was brought out in Britain in 2005, it came wrapped with a warning and was written with a foreword explaining the work's colonial context.

Africa was hardly the only part of the world portrayed in stereotypes by Remi. "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" was a rough take on Communist society, while "Tintin in America" was equally critical of capitalism in the U.S.

Remi, a native of Belgium, died in 1983. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson each plan to direct at least one film in a series of three movies based on the "Tintin" adventures.